Monday, 29 March 2010

Oh, Richard...

The Daily Mail is currently serialising the new book by Richard Littlejohn.

This is odd. Littlejohn's columns are mainly reheated Mail stories with 'hilarious' catchphrases added, and his columns are then reheated into his books, so the Mail is actually re-publishing stuff it's already published twice before.

And how's this for a very resistable trail on the front of today's paper:

Many of Littlejohn's health and safety stories are made up, or at least wildly exaggerated or nothing to do with health and safety anyway.

The section of his book published today goes through dozens of 'examples'. He very often doesn't mention the place where these things are (supposed to be) happening, so it's hard to check the veracity. Indeed, a couple I have just tried to investigate via Google just brought me back to Littlejohn...

The headline of the extract today is:

I never imagined the town hall Nazis would go quite so mad

The intro says:

Here, he explains how the diversity Nazis have ruined our town halls ...

And in his actual text:

In Britain, the elf 'n' safety nazis are banning dancing because it's dangerous.

The Mail and Littlejohn like to pretend there's a new intolerance - on health and safety, the environment and diversity, among others - and yet dismiss these people as 'Nazis'. So where's the intolerance, really?

But back to the focus of his column and here's an example of Littlejohn absolutely, positively not making it up:

I thought ministers had repented when it was announced that councils were being encouraged to hire 'street football coordinators' but I was wrong.

Turns out the real purpose of these new jobsworths was not to encourage kids to play football, but to ban it.

The Communities Department sent out a 53-page memo, which included a warning that 'if not planned properly, football can be divisive and trigger conflict. Passions can get high and physical contact can easily lead to confrontations'.

'Street football coordinators' appears to be one 'street football coordinator' highlighted by the TaxPayers' Alliance in 2008 as an example of jobs of 'dubious value'.

Here's how the Mail reported it at the time:

An advert for a 'Street Football Coordinator' at Moray Council in Scotland calls for someone to 'assist in the planning, planning promotion and delivery of the street football project'.

So assisting in the planning and promotion of a street football project is actually, according to Littlejohn, banning it?

Here's how Moray Council themselves describe the project, which is still going:

Moray’s Street Football project has proved to be a tremendous success since its launch in September 2006. The project aims to provide young people with the opportunity to participate in sporting activities inside a portable pitch that is quick and easy to assemble.

Traditional coaching methods are removed to provide players freedom of expression, try new skills and ultimately become better players and people.

Street Sports is fast-paced, energetic and a lot of fun.

That doesn't sound like banning it either. Indeed, that sounds like a perfectly good project for young people.

The Street Football Coordinator job in Moray had a salary of under £20,000. Yes, it's public money, but it's still sickening to hear someone who reportedly earns over £700,000 a year complaining about it. Especially when 're-writing Daily Mail stories to add more inaccuracies and smugness' is as big a non-job as any.

And using this as an example of Labour waste seems a little odd since Moray Council has been run by an Independent/Conservative coalition since 2007.

And then there's the Communities Department's 53-page memo. His wording makes it sound as if the whole document is about the 'banning' of street football.

That's not true.

The document was called 'Guidance on meaningful interaction - How encouraging positive relationships between people can help build community cohesion' and was :

an attempt to set out what we know about meaningful interaction, based on research findings and the views of expert practitioners. It is aimed at local cohesion practitioners and policy planners and includes some good practice.

Hardly essential reading.

But there's no mention of 'Street Football Coordinators' or 'street football' in the whole document. Indeed, there's only five mentions of 'football' in total.

And the quote he uses was actually a comment from a youth worker involved in community cohesion projects about things that can go wrong:

'[Football can bring people together, but if not planned/organised properly can also be very divisive and trigger conflict; ie passions can get high during [the] game and physical contact/altercations during [the] game can easily lead to confrontations and fists [which] could increase the ‘them and us’ divide. Done properly, [this needs: an] assessment whether the two groups are ready to compete, ie no recent scores to settle; preparation work with both groups; [seeing] football [as] part of a wider intervention; staff/volunteers/spectators who support teams [and] encourage positive attitudes, not just about thrashing your opponent on the pitch.' (Youth Worker, written comment)

But Littejohn never makes this stuff up. Oh no:

Already some seaside councils have scrapped donkey rides on the grounds of animal cruelty and Punch and Judy because it glorifies domestic violence.

According to the Mail, People over 8st [were] banned from seaside donkey rides under animal cruelty rides - which is not the same as banning the rides altogether.

As for the Punch and Judy claim, well, that's also nonsense. A silly Lib Dem Councillor in Colchester tried to get a Punch and Judy performer to tone down the slapstick. When he included a likeness of her in his show, she went on a personal mission to try to ban Punch and Judy.

But when Colchester's:

Arts & Leisure Committee voted on the motion to put Mr. Punch on the banned list the Chair of the committee drew one supporting vote, the oppostion parties united to oppose it and - most tellingly - Councillor Jenny Stevens own political colleagues abstained leaving her embarrassingly exposed.

Nevertheless the myth that Mr. Punch had been 'banned' by the authorities for not being politically correct duly entered contemporary folklore.

Indeed, it has.

If there are any other examples of Littlejohn 'making it up' in today's article, please do leave details in the comments.


  1. A nice deconstruction. Always good to see the man who "couldn't make it up" making it up!

  2. The 'Healthy weight advisor' exists, but he doesn't seem to have read the job description - looks like it's just a name for a general health co-ordinator role...

    And this line's appalling:

    "At one stage, I worked out there were more people in Britain earning a good living from AIDS than were actually dying from it."


  3. Some town halls are very, very old indeed. As are some other public buildings.

    If you hold an event in Brighton Pavilion, for example, you cannot have dancing. Even if it's your wedding reception.

    This is simply because repetitive movements cause vibration and damage the structure.

    Could this be what Littlecock is on about?

  4. I really hate this attitude to Health and Safety that the Mail and Littlejohn promotes. The whole point of Health and Safety is to protect the worker/average person from unscrupulous working practices. The impression I get from the average Mail report on such things is that they would be quite happy for all such legislation to be dropped, which is quite something coming from the average Journo who has most likely not had a job in a factory or a similarly potentially dangerous workplace.

    So what is their angle in promoting such a viewpoint?

  5. I image the average Mail reader would like to go back to the time when children worked down the mines, or young boys were sent up chimneys.

  6. DBC - You may be right.

    Littlejohn added this into his bit about football:

    'How long before they legislate on the use of jumpers for goalposts? You won't be able to use jumpers from budget retailers because they're made by slave labour in the Third World'.

    Yeh, boo to wanting to stop slave labour.

  7. Workplace deaths down 72% and workplace injuries down 81% in 35 years. But yeah, let's scrap all that elf'n'safety nonsense. I'm sure people like Littlejohn would be happy to explain to the grieving families that getting rid of the legislation that would have saved their loved one's life was a good thing.

  8. "Diversity Nazis" never fails to make me smirk. It's like he actually doesn't know what Nazis were.

    My favourite bit was the "even he couldn't make up" though. It's almost a tacit admission that his columns are full of fabricated bollocks. Though admittedly he didn't make it up himself.

  9. Luckily there is one newspaper that does take health and safety matters seriously. This is the Mirror, and especially the Penman & Sommerlad investigation team. Over the last few months they have been running many articles on the subject of industrial safety and the risks to workers. You cab see a selection of their articles here:-

  10. I doubt Littlejohn cares if these stories are true or not, his bank balance tells him all he needs to know. He gets away with it time after time and simply rakes in the cash.

    Nice work if you can get it.

  11. I notice someone pointed out in the comments that many of the councils that LittleJohn attacks are actually controlled by the Tories or Lib dems but LittleJohn's supporters have rushed to give the comment 600 red arrows.

    I would love to kno what stats LittleJohn used to support his stupid comment about AIDs. Given it is estimated that 80,000 people have the AIDS virus in the UK is he really claiming 80,000 + people earning good salaries either caring for people with AIDs or doing preventive work?

  12. Ah but Crispin, he only mentions people dying from it. Never mind the number of AIDS-related deaths that might have been avoided as a result of these people working to care for/help people with AIDS.

  13. I like to think that there's a parallel universe somewhere where Littlejohn spends his days as a barely coherent bag of wind frothing in a basement. No one pays attention to him and he certainly doesn't get paid for his outpourings. It's quite a consoling belief...

  14. Today's puff-piece for his latest pile of crap is also full of uncheckable stories. Pensioners prosecuted for protesting a Gay Pride march, a Scotsman wanting the hokey-cokey banned, another pensioner prosecuted for putting a jokey anti-Jehovah's Witnesses sign on her garden ever, no names, no dates, no location other than the most general vicinity. I hope you don't mind, but I've posted to the column, using your excellent piece as a source for several links which will give the facts on various of the Littledong Lies.


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