Tag Archives: Daily Mail

Moir Is Less

I’ve been out leafleting in my ward and meeting constituents for much of the day, so I’ve come home to Twittergeddon over the Jan Moir article appearing in the Daily Mail today promoting a vile innuendo about the death of the singer-actor Stephen Gately, a gay man whose untimely end is something the Mail can’t comprehend as a human tragedy. Moir has presented it instead as a tragedy of morals, a tragedy of celebrity life and a tragedy of being gay. What a callous and stupid woman.

I’ve read the article (online, observing the changes of headline and the removal of advertising) and Moir’s puppety statement (Paul Dacre pulls her strings) in which she says:

“In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones.”

Arrogantly put, Miss Moir. (I’d say Ms Moir but the Mail doesn’t approve of that kind of political-correctness-gone-mad, and I read on her website that she lives with her boyfriend so she’s probably not married. Hang on – presumably the Mail doesn’t approve of that kind of thing either. Note to Mr Dacre: One of your lady columnists appears to be living in sin, sin I tell you. Please explain).

Whether the Mail likes it or not, the internet does exist and has a valuable purpose – the democratisation of news and information. The debate has moved from the newsprint pages to allow people an immediate ability to agree and disagree on the issues of the day, via Twitter for example. Gone are the days where a debate would meander along for a few days on the letters page, and that is all to the good. The debate moves faster and stronger now and can no longer be controlled by editorial barons like Mr Dacre. You and your paper are not what you were, Mr D, and it’s my sincere hope you will both become less and less with every day and month.

Miss Moir affects shock that anyone could have thought her article had ” homophobic and bigoted undertones”. Of course not. They were overtones, typical Daily Mail homophobic and bigoted overtones, clear as a clanging bell. Just read the last line of the whole article: “The ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see.” 

The post-mortem on Stephen Gately has shown death by natural causes. Gately’s mother has spoken of a hereditary heart condition (Moir seems to suggest that the poor woman is kidding herself) that was probably the cause of his death aged 33. Not enough to satisfy Miss Moir. She suggests there was a rushed post mortem, perhaps a cover-up. 

She then goes on to state, with all the confidence of one who knows the damage they want to inflict: “Another real sadness about Gately’s death is that it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships. Gay activists are always calling for tolerance and understanding about same-sex relationships, arguing that they are just the same as heterosexual marriages.”

 

Actually, for the information of Miss Moir and those of her opinion, it’s not tolerance LGBT activists call for. ‘Tolerance’ suggests LGBT people are yours to patronise from above. ‘Understanding’ suggests we are somehow socially deficient, at a permanent disadvantage as human beings.

 

We want equality and equal rights as human beings and citizens. Same-sex relationships are every bit as valid as heterosexual marriages, and heterosexual relationships in general.

 

Moir goes out of her way to take a sour potshot at the ‘happy ever after myth’ of civil partnerships. Are ‘heterosexual marriages’ 100% successful? Perhaps she doesn’t know that, as she is not married to the man she lives with. But she doesn’t tell Mail readers that. Oh no. 

 

I doubt the many, many complaints that have gone to the Press Complaints Commission will get very far, but they have been worthwhile  – as with Twitter – as an expression of public contempt for poison pen journalism like Miss Moir’s.

 

She also makes a living, when she isn’t a paid extremist for the Mail, as a restaurant critic.  She’d better watch out from now on for any gay waiters. I’ve known several over the years and if people aggravate them … well … who knows what might end up in the soup? 

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Daily Mail Dale Fail

It’s always interesting to observe the off-balance reaction of Conservatives when they are attacked by their own side, particularly around issues of sexuality. But on this occasion, I have some sympathy and respect, and I don’t think the reaction is at all off-balance. It’s the attack that’s way off-balance, and it’s no surprise to see it emanating from that bastion of all that’s putrid and poisonous, the Daily Mail.

Tory blogger and political publisher Iain Dale has blogged about a diary story in the Daily Mail which, on the face of it, draws sneering attention to the fact he is a gay man seeking to enter elected politics.  The Ephraim Hardcastle diary has this to say:

“Overtly gay Tory blogger Iain Dale has reached the final stage of parliamentary selection for Bracknell, telling PinkNews: ‘I hope any PinkNews readers who live in Bracknell will come to the open primary on October 17 to select their new candidate. You don’t even have to be a Conservative to attend.’

“Isn’t it charming how homosexuals rally like-minded chaps to their cause?”

Dale has written to the editor, Paul Dacre (see p 721 of Alastair Campbell’s diaries to read about my brush with Dacre). He has also made a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission. Dale rightly complains about being described as “overtly gay”. What does overtly gay mean? militant? flamboyant? predatory? dangerous? camp as Christmas?

Dale says on his blog “I’m afraid I have had it with the Daily Mail and their particular brand of hate”.

Well said, though I would have to agree with his pessimistic view that he’s unlikely to get anywhere with Dacre or the PCC. Dacre after all, as well as editing the Mail, is Chair of the Editor’s Code of Practice Committee, which ‘reviews and revises the voluntary code of standards overseen by the Press Complaints Commission’. When he was elevated to that giddy height, he said “I am a passionate supporter of the principle of self-regulation, Press Freedom and a Code which reflects both the concerns of newspapers and needs of the public which it serves.”

Or in other words, he believes that papers should be able to print whatever suits their agenda. Fair enough for papers to have an agenda, but in this case, the Dale diary story is typical of the Mail’s “brand of hate”. The subtext is: here is a homosexual with the effrontery to want to stand for Parliament, he’s obviously trying to get others of his sort to infiltrate the selection process in Bracknell, let’s try and ‘queer’ the pitch, guffaw, guffaw. 

The Mail should be ashamed but of course it won’t be. When I was a press officer, of the Labour persuasion, I regularly had to deal with Mail hacks who seemed to have long ago crossed the line of fair reporting to glory in inflicting misery and damage on people in politics. I was the defender, so to make my job more difficult and theirs easier, they would call at times that would make it all but impossible to sort out and present the facts – late at night, last thing on a Friday afternoon, twenty minutes before the paper went to bed, you get the picture. Even when the facts were presented to the sneering voice on the other end of the phone, they rarely appeared intact in the story, or an inaccurate story appeared despite having been doggedly knocked down for not being accurate or not a story at all. 

I don’t share Iain Dale’s political views but he has a right to them. He also has a right to be respected as a person of experience and character who wants to serve people as an elected politician. His sexuality should not be imposed by others as the issue that defines his candidacy, it should be his values and his policies. 

I was born very near Bracknell and know it well. Obviously I would like to see Labour winning there, but that doesn’t stop me wishing Iain Dale good luck in the open primary, particularly if unfair obstacles are being set up for him, as seems the case. I hope none of his fellow candidates in the primary are engaging in smear tactics. Primaries are a positive attempt to break away from the backstabbing and backroom dealing that only contributes to cynicism about politics, so it would be depressing to see such behaviour creeping in. It should be for the people of Bracknell to make their decision in the primary and then their choice in the general election, not narrow-minded Daily Mail journalists.

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Blériot and the Wokingham Whale

Today marks the centenary of Louis Blériot’s 22 mile flight across the English Channel between Calais and Dover. An important moment in aviation, it was the first flight across a large body of water in a heavier-than-air craft.

Blériot’s flight was inspired by a competition organised by the Daily Mail, with a prize of £1000 – about £90,000 in today’s money. A rare example of the Mail welcoming a foreigner on to British soil without wailing that the country is doomed. No doubt Lord Northcliffe was grinding his teeth as he wrote the Frenchman’s name out on the cheque.

This is what Mail reporter Harry Harper had to say when he watched the aviateur take off for Dover:

“Again I felt that overpowering rush of excitement which I find almost everyone has experienced who has seen a man fly. It is an exhilaration, a thrill, an ecstasy. Just as children jump and clap their hands to see a kite mount, so, when the machine leaves the ground and with a soaring movement really flies upon its speeding wings, one feels impelled to shout, to rush after it, to do anything which will relieve the overcharged emotion.”

As with most aviation competitions (the Mail staged a series), a lot of attempts were made at flight by other would-be aviators, in an array of contraptions. You probably remember those early silent films where intrepid souls with huge moustaches attempt to take to the air sitting in something that appears to have been fashioned out of kites and coathangers, and which very quickly crashes, collapses or shakes to pieces.

It is one of those forgotten fledgling aviators that I think of today. Coming from Berkshire as I do, I want to pay tribute to A. M. Farbrother and his improbable invention, the Wokingham Whale. What a name for an aircraft!

Farbrother was a joiner in Wokingham, Berkshire who designed and built the Whale in 1909 or 10 to compete in one of the Mail’s competitions. He sold his house to finance his project, and accepted donations from the people of Wokingham, who seem to have been rather proud that they were helping to carve a niche for Wokingham in the field of aviation.

 

A M Farbrother's Wokingham Whale

A M Farbrother's Wokingham Whale

Though Farbrother’s great monster resembled an airship, in fact it was designed to have wings, and the 66 foot gondola was capable of extending to more than twice that length. It was designed with an 80 horsepower engine which would power a rotoscope or propeller capable of 1200 revolutions per minute. Inside there were to be seats, electric lights and lavatories (“for navigation over seas and other waters”) as well as ‘self-balancing’ hammocks, suggesting that Farbrother was envisioning an age of long distance passenger aviation that was still many years away.

 

The Whale did in fact make it the dozen miles from Wokingham to Windsor, but only on the back of a Pickfords removal cart. As with many of the eccentric and unworkable aircraft of the Edwardian era, it did excite curiosity from the national press, but only for a time.

The Wokingham Whale was doomed to stay on terra firma until it was broken up, along with Farbrother’s dreams.

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