Saturday, 21 March 2009

Mail's D-Day campaign farce

The Independent has an interesting story today (We'll fight Brown on the beaches) that, sadly, doesn't have the courage of its convictions.

The story reads (abridged, but these are the important bits, with my bold):

Survivors of D-Day reacted angrily yesterday to what they claimed was a belated attempt to politicise and hijack a nine-month campaign to take British veterans to mark the 65th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

A public appeal for funds to take 500 ex-service personnel to the commemorations in France, launched in The Independent on 6 June last year, has been assured of success for weeks.
But Peter Hodge, secretary of the Normandy Veterans Association (NVA), said: "Ministers on the beaches is not really what we wanted or needed. We never complained about the Government not giving us money. We wanted this to be between the veterans and the British people. The public response to our appeal, first publicised in The Independent, has already been fantastic."
After reading The Independent's story about the appeal, the advertising executive Trevor Beattie took up the cause...[he] said: "Everyone who wants to support these magnificent men is very welcome. But it would have been courteous to recognise all that has already been done by Peter Hodge and myself and The Independent. Most of all I object to the clear attempt to hijack and politicise our campaign. This was never about attacking Labour or Gordon Brown. It was always about supporting our veterans in a practical way."
Mr Hodge wrote to every British newspaper last May asking them to highlight the plight of the veterans. In 2004, the Labour Government paid for veterans to travel to the 60th anniversary, and he said this was more than any previous government, Labour or Conservative, had done. The NVA accepted that the Government could not pay again, so it appealed directly to the public to help raise funds for a "last parade" of D-Day survivors in 2009.

The only national newspaper to respond to Mr Hodge's letter at the time was The Independent. "The truth is that it is rather too late to be raising funds now," Mr Hodge said yesterday. "We are talking about elderly people and that means you have to plan well in advance. Luckily, thanks to Mr Beattie and others, we already look like we will have all the money we need."

So there you have it. The NVA tried to kick start this campaign 9 months ago and the Indy was the only newspaper that bothered. All the money was then raised. But like Voldemort, who is the un-named evil who can not be named?

Step forward the Daily Mail. 'The Great Betrayal' it thundered on the front page on the 18 March edition, with the continuation: Ministers are treating the anniversary with disdain. The editorial said it was 'dishonouring the heroes of D-Day' and blamed 'petty-minded, mean-spirited ministers'.

On 20 March, the Mail led with the story again (The tide is turning). Suddenly, it became clear that Gordon Brown hadn't been invited by the French organisers, so the question of him going or not was rather moot. The PM's spokesman is quoted saying: 'If it were decided by the organisers that heads of government should be there, then the Prime Minister would be pleased to be there.'

The Mail claimed this was a 'u-turn' and marked a 'triumphant first day for the Daily Mail's D-Day campaign'.

They go on to claim 'the veterans themselves voiced their delight and thanks for the magnificent response to the Daily Mail's fund-raising appeal - and called a halt to further fund-raising. Generous readers donated £70,000 on the first day of our campaign'.

Now, let me repeat what Peter Hodge said in the Indy story: 'The truth is that it is rather too late to be raising funds now'.

So what is the Mail going to do with the £70,000 it has apparently raised, if the veterans said they have all the money they need?

There is something so despicably cynical about the way the Mail has run this campaign. It chose to ignore the veterans' plea a year ago, and once the money had all been raised by other people, it cranks up a campaign knowing it will be able to claim success.

This isn't the first time the Mail has done this - it launched its anti-plastic bag crusade at the time Marks & Spencer had pre-announced it was going to charge for bags, then claimed the M&S move was in response to their campaign.

But this is a more important issue. They love to promote themselves as patriotic and they love a chance to bash the Government on an issue like this because it fits their anti-immigration agenda of Britain not being what it once was - they can claim the Goverment doesn't care about British history and doesn't care about people who fought for the country. It's the thread that runs through all their coverage of political correctness, Islam and immigration.

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