Saturday, 24 July 2010

Guardian prints Balls

Being something of a connoisseur of the art of the headline and the utter tosh the Grauniad has been publishing as 'news' since Labour was kicked out, Methuselah was pleasantly surprised at the candour of the front-page headline on Saturday's print edition:

Gove has plans for covert selective education - Balls

I really couldn't have put it any better myself. The ensuing waste of printer's ink was nonsense by any news editor's standards, but for a front-page lead it was pure and unmitigated Betty Swallocks.

The story, as the Guardian presented it, was that a "leaked government document questioned the admissions code that stops schools favouring children they believe are more likely to produce better results".

The inference one was supposed to draw was that Michael Gove, or one of his senior dastardly henchwonks, had authored this "leaked government document", thus implicating themselves in a secret conspiracy at Tory HQ to renege on assurances that plans for academies and free schools would remain committed to a comprehensive admissions policy. (From there it was but a short step to wheel out prospective Labour leader and useful idiot Ed Balls for a rentaquote marathon, and give that heroic sub-editor the opportunity for a subversive headline, not that any of the joyless, lemon-sucking Grolies would have noticed it.)

Except that in the fourth paragraph of this front page news story it turned out that the author was one Clare Simpson, "an education department official" (for which read, "progressive Sir Humphrey-type interfering civil servant unelected nobody") who had been briefing against her political masters to the teaching unions, with a slideshow presentation of her own devising. Had the whim taken Ms Simpson, the "leaked government document" might equally have claimed the moon was made of green cheese, for as much as it purported to represent the views of any elected member of parliament.

The sleight of hand lay in the ambiguity of the term "government". In the story, it meant anybody employed in the public sector, but the Guardian wanted its readers to think it referred to actual policy-makers. This might seem an obvious point, but it is an important one, given the timing, as the Guardians agenda eventually emerges in the seventh and ninth paragraph:

"The academies bill [is] expected to pass its final Commons stage on Monday... The document was leaked to the Guardian as Lib Dem backbenchers indicated they are prepared to rebel against the bill."

So anyway, I digress, all of that is but a sideshow to the main event, which is this: As a blog writer with a readership of about two, Methuselah both considers himself practically a senior cabinet minister, and also demands to be known as "The King of the World".

Grauniad, go do your thing!

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