Sunday, 30 December 2012

Littlejohn and 'callous indifference'

In March 2011, this blog noted:

You know that when Richard Littlejohn begins one of his columns sounding as if he's being sincere and caring, it won't last long.

In that case, he was writing about the Japanese tsunami. He started by saying that no one could fail to be moved by the scenes of destruction, before labelling the Japanese 'militantly racist' and recounting his dead grandfather's experiences during the Second World War.

On 27 December, Littlejohn decided to write about the death of three people - including two children - in an accident on the M6 on Christmas Day:

Saddest story of the week was the death of two young brothers, aged four and ten, in a crash on the northbound M6 in Staffordshire on Christmas morning. Their mother, who was driving the car, survived, but another woman passenger was also killed.

They were on their way to a family wedding when their Ford Focus came off the road and struck a tree.

Police immediately closed the motorway in both directions as rescuers and an air ambulance raced to the scene.

And when he begins sounding sincere, you know it won't last long...

We all appreciate that in the event of a fatal accident the emergency services must be given room to do their job. But patience begins to wear gossamer thin when the road remains closed for hours on end for no good reason...

There is no visible debris, so why couldn’t one or two lanes have been opened at the earliest opportunity?

Most of these people will have been on their way to spend Christmas Day with friends and family.

With no public transport available they had no choice but to take the car.

There can be no justification for forcing them to spend a moment longer than absolutely necessary stuck on the M6.

This, of course, fits into the Littlejohn narrative about over-the-top policing and 'health and safety Nazis'. But it's hard to imagine how this tragedy could lead someone into a rant about the inconvenience of road closures.

Littlejohn says:

There will probably be those who will accuse me of using these tragic deaths as a stick to beat the police. I can’t help that...

But ruining the Christmas Day of thousands of other people by forcing them to spend hours stranded in their cars unnecessarily was an act of callous indifference on the part of the police.

'Callous indifference' indeed.

Littlejohn appears not to have spoken to the police or the Highways Agency, nor does he seem to have been anywhere near the scene of the accident.

Photographer Michael Rawlins was there, and he has blogged about how many of Littlejohn's assumptions are as ill-informed as you might expect.

For example, Littlejohn says:

The accident on the M6 happened at 11.25am. Though the southbound carriage-way was reopened in the afternoon, the northbound carriageway stayed shut for several hours until early evening.

Rawlins points out that the soutbound carriage only re-opened around 2:30pm because:

the 3 bodies had only just been removed from the scene some 10 minutes earlier...It stands to reason that the southbound carriageway would also remain closed until this had happened, the last thing you need is an accident on the opposite carriageway because someone was rubbernecking.

Littlejohn also refers to a:

three-lane tailback of stationary cars and lorries stretching goodness knows how many miles into the distance.

A photo taken by Rawlins (at 2pm) one mile south of the accident shows:

vehicles are travelling south on the north bound carriageway... escorted by a Highways Agency vehicle not shown in this picture. If the blue sign is about a mile from the accident and other than the truck on the inside lane there is no stationary traffic then this debunks Littlejohn’s statement somewhat.

Rawlins adds:

I’m sure there were some tailbacks at Jct14 to the south but I drove from there up to the crash site along the diversion route and it wasn’t any busier than a normal weekday evening.

The real tragedy is that 3 people lost their lives on Christmas Day, families have lost 3 very loved people. The bigger tragedy is Littlejohn gets away with spouting this rubbish.

The anonymous police blogger Nathan Constable has also written about Littlejohn's article, labelling it 'horrible' and a 'poor-taste cheap shot'. He writes:

it’s not “just one vehicle involved” – the witnesses and other motorists have just watched this horror story unfold in front of their eyes and most will not have the desensitisation that the emergency service people have.

It is quite likely that the first few cars in the now huge queue will have witnesses on board. They will quite possibly be traumatised as well as having important information to share. You don’t just wave people on and hope they think to call in later.

He goes on:

So it’s not “just one vehicle involved” is it Mr Littlejohn? Emergency service personnel don’t just pack up and go home for tea and medals. In the incident I dealt with six months ago I went home and cried and I am about as cynical as they come.

And even if it was “just one vehicle involved” we still need to find out how and why this happened.

Was another driver driving dangerously?
Did they perform a manoeuvre so dangerous it was criminal?
Is someone else responsible?
Have the mechanics of the car been tampered with?
Is it murder?
Is it suicide?

You see – its not as simple as saying that “everything points to it being a tragic accident” within an hour of getting there. 

He adds:

The arrogance and ignorance it must take to write something like this simply staggers me.


  1. "I can't stand foreigners, they're so militantly racist."

  2. As usual, a well written piece, but unfortunately not one the distant narcissist Littlejohn will ever respond to.

  3. I work for an electricity utility company and recently attended an incident where a car had knocked down a streetlight. Several hours later the car was still covered in blood, the reporting of these accidents is terribly sanitized. It must be extremely traumatic for the emergency services to deal with these events on a regular basis. They deserve all the respect and patience in the world.

  4. Crossword clue in the daily mail. "Daily Mail, Say" 9 letters. Hatemonger doesn't fit.

    1. Then I should try a less "challenging" crossword.

  5. I crashed my car a few years ago - a fairly straightforward shunt with no casualties - and had to report to the local police station for an interview with a traffic officer. She arrived a few minutes late - she'd been dealing with a "particularly nasty" crash on the motorway. As she escorted me to the interview room and got her stuff together to take my statement, the way she acted was one of the abiding memories of that incident.

    On the one hand, a hardworking young officer who was diligently going about a job she'd done many times before. But in her eyes and her expression you could see what she'd just seen was really weighing on her, whatever it was. I could tell that she just wanted 5 more minutes to deal with that, and not the idiot who she had to interview about stacking his car into parked traffic. Something terribly sad, but also weary, as if she'd seen it happen too many times already. In the interview she broke off for 15 minutes to go get something - I didn't question it, I just thought "take all the time you need".

    I remember my crash whenever I'm tired, at the end of the day and second guess "should I be driving now?", every time I brake coming up to traffic. But I actually remember her face every time I get in the car for a long journey, and all the horrible things she must've dealt with day in day out. Just in the name of trying to keep people safe on the roads.

    And if I find myself in traffic after an accident has caused a jam somewhere, I will turn on some music, I may get frustrated at rubberneckers, but the police and the HATOs I just say the same thing. "Take all the time you need". Because I would never want to do that job, and deal with what they see, under the glare of 100 impatient drivers who can't see how their journey time is not the important issue anymore.

  6. personally I think Littlejohn justs spouts rubbish and sits back and waits for the reaction, because I don't think he really believes half of what he says. I don't think any sane person will drive up to the scene of a fatal accident and be ccomplaining about the delay he has to spend in the traffic


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