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Reflections on a long hard week for the Daily Mail

October 6, 2013

The recent spat between Ed Miliband and the Daily Mail may have come as a surprise to some, who may not have associated this rag with the Murdoch obscenities that have dragged down the reputation of the British press of late. Some may even have considered the Daily Mail to be a “respectable” broadsheet, presenting a relatively right-wing viewpoint to a relatively balanced, informed and open-minded readership. Well, I am glad we have a free press. I am glad papers like the Daily Mail spout their rhetoric without restriction and without apology. Why? Because, in a free, relatively fair and relatively progressive, humane and open society (I am talking on a world-wide scale here ranging from North Korea to Finland), it’s important to know what bigots, xenophobes, racists, sexists, disablists, homophobes are actually saying and thinking… so that you can counter-punch with all your weight and might.

My first brush with the Daily Mail came when I faced the wrong end of an

Daily Fail

Employment Tribunal: I was falsely accused of sex discrimination in the workplace… because I allegedly gave male colleagues new executive chairs, but left a hapless female colleague with a chair that made farting noises when she sat on it. You can imagine, the free press had a field day (with The Sun publishing a picture of an Executive chair with cartoon farts coming out of it). It even made “Have I Got News for You?” and various other satirical programmes, around the world, for a couple of crazy weeks in March 2006 (google it- the internet never forgets- this is how the Guardian recorded the denouement http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2006/apr/10/schools.education). One of my senior (retired) female members of staff wrote to the Mail in defence of my chivalry… the fact they also published a picture of her reclining on a chaise longue is neither here nor there… they were supportive of me, and totally dismissive of a litigious process that allowed “women” to make such “spurious claims”.  Even when the Mail support you, it makes you feel very uneasy indeed.

My next collision came in 2011, as CEO of ASDAN Education. Michael Gove, supported by Alison Wolf, had begun the process of eliminating all qualifications from school league table reckoning that “weren’t academic enough”. ASDAN’s qualifications did not fit Gove’s narrow view of what constituted an academic qualification, so it came as no surprise to get, one day, a call from one of the Daily Mail editorial team. They expressed “concern” that young people could get a GCSE in claiming the dole… of course, nothing could be further from the truth. I spent an hour explaining the power of our qualifications to engage, motivate, equip weak learners with the skills they need to succeed in academic qualifications, how our qualifications did not replace GCSEs, but supplemented and complemented an academic or vocational diet with the accredited competencies to do better in both. Mail 2 Well… I could have been talking Chinese… well, actually, left wing “pinkie” liberal garbage.

The story that was published played to the right wing gallery… what more could I have expected? Reasonable-ness? A fair hearing? A balanced piece of reporting? Both sides of a complex argument? No. I am not naive. I am not jaundiced. But what particularly upset me were the readers’ comments which followed the on-line version of the story. “Cripes!”, I thought, maybe there really are intelligent and well-educated people in this country who would like to repatriate me to India because of my father’s Goan heritage. Maybe there is a swathe of middle England who fear a meritocracy…. who fear societal change.

The Daily Mail likes to confusticate politics with patriotism, hence the attack on Miliband’s father… Their assumption is anyone with vaguely socialist principles wishes to destroy Britain and the values that underpin British society….well, actually, what socialists like Miliband Senior might have been wanting to do is help build a better, fairer British society by QUESTIONING and REBUILDING values… Of course this is a threat to inherited wealth, inherited power and influence and the privileges enjoyed by a ruling class. If that is the case, BRING IT ON!

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