Tuesday, 9 February 2010

No, the White Cliffs of Dover are not being sold

From Sunday's News of the World:

Clever headline, terrible photoshopping. But the Government want to sell the White Cliffs of Dover? To the French? Really? Apparently so:

broke Britain needs the cash and Dover - with a price tag in the region of £500 million - is just one of the nation's treasures up for sale.

Oh so now it's the whole town and not just the cliffs?

It led to this really awful song re-write suggesting the understanding of French in the News of the World office isn't that great:

There'll be bleu birds over/Le blanc cliffs de Dover/Tomorrow, just vous wait et see.


Naturally the Mail wouldn't miss an opportunity to write a 'look how Britain is being destroyed now' article and so followed up with:

Their story also begins with a bit of war-related flag-waving:

For generations Dover has stood as an indomitable symbol of Britain’s freedom and independence.

The town, with its white cliffs, port and sprawling castle stood at the very edge of the nation’s frontier with the Continent.

But now part of that proud history is up for sale and the leading bidder is revealed as the former age-old enemy – France.

And it's clear from the vast majority of the 700-plus comments currently on the Mail's article that many people haven't read much further than that.

Because, as both papers eventually explain, this is actually only about the port and its possible privatisation. Not the town. Or the cliffs.

The comments are staggering, ranging from the frothing illiterates:

To the mad conspiracy theorists:

And the conspiracy theory about it all being to do with immigration gets several airings:

So the readers have misunderstood what is actually happening, partly because the papers have deliberately presented it in such a slanted way - especially in the headlines.

Few of the comment-writers even seem to have considered the fact that idea of selling a whole town or some cliffs to another country is plainly ridiculous.

But the NotW had more:

We can reveal the leading bidder is the Nord-pas-de-Calais regional council, which also owns the port of Calais.

They even quoted a band-wagon jumping PPC, Charles Elphicke, who commented:

'We are the nation's front line. The people of Dover have a clear message for him [Gordon Brown] - hands off our port, hands off the English border, hands off the White Cliffs. He can take a hike.'

The Dover Harbour Board were so concerned at the coverage they issued a press release:

Weekend statements in some UK newspapers suggesting that the Port of Dover is being sold to the French port of Calais have been described by the Port’s Chief Executive, Bob Goldfield, as total fabrication and extremely misleading.

Surely not?

Commenting on the various reports he said that, 'we are in the very early stages of the procedure and the actual sales process will not begin until the Secretary of State gives his approval and that is unlikely to be in the next few weeks.'

He went on to state, 'our advisors and our Board have not had any conversations with the Port of Calais on this matter and no such conversations are planned or expected.'


(Chris Spann's take on this story is available at Spann's Blog)


  1. Carol of Durham's remark is particularly amusing given that French was indeed the courtly language of England way back when. If it's any consolation for her, the Moors dominated Spain for centuries and the net result was them borrowing a few words from Arabic and winding up with a bunch of names with a zed on the end!

  2. I would have thought Daily Mail readers would support this. After all most of them seem to want to live in Provence anyway.

  3. I think my favourite is the one who thinks Germany has won WWII because France owns one of our cliffs.

  4. This is an outrage! Gordon must not be allowed to sell entire towns to Johnny foreigner? What next? Gibraltor to the Spanish? The Falklands to the Argies? We're going to be sold as slaves to help clear the national debt. Mark my words.

  5. Chris - one of the comments did make that exact point about the Falklands!

  6. To get the best insight into the scary mind of Mail readers, it's always worth sorting the comments in order of ratings, with the least popular first. One of the lowest-rated comments on this story is loathed by readers simply for poiting out the truth:

    Can you read? We're not selling the country or Dover for that matter. Only the company that runs the port. I don't see any difference between that and selling off gas, electricity, rail...oh wait that was done under the Tories and doesn't count presumably?
    - Colin Runeckles, Ilford, Essex, 7/2/2010

    Yesterday I noticed that the least-liked comment on the story about the Asian police officer who was jailed for corruption read "This man is a disgrace to his uniform, but please don't use this thread to bash Muslims."

    Cue hundreds of negative ratings and dozens of anti-Muslim posts.

  7. PrimlyStable - yes, depressing, isn't it? I mean, you could dismiss some of the more extreme posts as the random ravings of an uneducated lunatic, until you notice that those exact same posts have had 15 squillion positive ratings, and the few which try to introduce an element of reason into the proceedings are hugely marked down.

  8. I think, in the eyes of the Mail readers, any comments which seem to detract from the frothing-at-the-mouth story/comments is simply mushy, floppy wristed left-wing propaganda.

    Whats disturbing is the fact that so many people refuse to read between the lines even when it's plain as day. It's like they genuinly believe The Mail is some kind of beacon for truth and reason. Now that really is disturbing.

    Surely the humna-rights act must mean we should lock these people up for their own safety. Imagine that reported in the Mail!


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