Richard Littlejohn's gutter piece exposes the Mail's hypocrisy
The Daily Mail has today published Richard Littlejohn’s regular column – in which he pretends to be angry about something – as its main comment article with pride of place next to the editorial column.
The piece itself sees Littlejohn employ his usual formula of fake outrage and dig-in-the-ribs, can-you-believe-it, pub bore humour in order to have fun with Labour’s ‘tombstone’ of election pledges. (An excerpt of John Crace’s superior piece on this in the Guardian is published on page 13 of the Mail, despite its distinctly ‘metropolitan elitist’ tone, which we know the Mail hates…)
More interesting than the Littlejohn piece is its headline:
Trust Labour? I’d rather trust Jimmy Savile to babysit
This is taken from one line in Littlejohn’s piece, which says:
“Trust Labour with the economy and the NHS? I’d rather have trusted Jimmy Savile to babysit.“
I think use of the past tense here actually increases the shock value, as it suggests the discovery that you left your child alone with a serial rapist.
Some might consider it in bad taste to liken your political rivals to the most notorious and hated pederast in modern British history.
Ah, his defenders might say, but Littlejohn was only using the Savile-babysitter idea as a rhetorical example of something you might later regret. This is plausible, since the author presumably did not mean to suggest that the Labour party would force the National Health Service and the economy to have sex with it.
Still, the association of the Labour party and Savile is a gutter-level way of arguing, and stands to the discredit of Littlejohn for writing it and the Mail for running it as a headline.
But perhaps I’m being too solemn. Shouldn’t I just see this as a joke, of the kind an ‘offensive’ comedian might make to win a guilty laugh?
Cut back to March of this year, and the following front page story in the Mail on Sunday:
The comparison by a BBC executive of the Jeremy Clarkson ‘punch-gate’ row with the Savile scandal had the Mail on Sunday virtually apoplectic. It said:
“The BBC launched an astonishing attack on Jeremy Clarkson yesterday, comparing him to sex offender Jimmy Savile and urging him to check into rehab.”
“The BBC finally lost the plot when someone described as ‘one of the most senior Corporation executives’ […] outrageously compared him with the sex monster Jimmy Savile. […]
“This comparison of Clarkson with Savile – which, unsurprisingly, has inflamed the petrolhead – is as unhinged as it is malicious. While the BBC is conducting its supposedly even-handed investigation (and why on earth need it take so long?) one of its executives is blackening his name.”
I’m afraid this throws all my earlier caveats to the wind. If the Mail can get in high dudgeon about the Savile comparison and ignore the context of the remark, it can’t protest when it makes the same comparison, in a far more direct and calculated way, about the Labour party, that it was rhetoric or ‘just a joke’.
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter
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