The right-wing newspaper’s Labour-bashing frontpage story has been ripped apart online, with commentators pointing to flaws and double standards.
Amid an outpour of scandal involving allegations of porn-watching, sexism and misogyny within Tory ranks this week, the Daily Mail attempted to hit back, publishing what it refers to as a ‘damning six-page dossier’ under the headline ‘Labour’s lockdown lies and hypocrisy.’
According to the Mail’s report, Angela Rayner was at Sir Keir’s ‘beergate’ event – despite denying it, and Starmer flouted lockdown guidance at his own birthday bash… with cake!
The article speaks of a “sensational U-turn”, in which “Labour acknowledged that Angela Rayner was at the ‘beergate’ event on April 30, 2021.”
‘Desperate and ridiculous’
The Mail’s article has subsequently been ripped apart online, branded ‘desperate’ and ‘ridiculous’ and recognised for its own hypocrisy.
Adam Bienkov, political editor and correspondent at Byline Times, notes how the Mail says Keir Starmer “flouted lockdown guidance” at the start of September 2020, by being given birthday cake.
In pointing out that the UK wasn’t in lockdown at the start of September 2020, Bienkov sparked debate about the accuracy and motives of the article.
As the Institute for Government’s lockdown timeline testifies, on August 14, 2020, a time when Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme was in full throttle encouraging everyone to flock back to restaurants and pubs, lockdown restrictions were eased further, including the reopening of indoor theatres, bowling alleys and soft play. It wasn’t until September 14, when the ‘rule of six’ was implemented, banning indoor and outdoor social gatherings above six.
The Daily Mail’s article contends that Labour sources confirmed that staff had presented Sir Keir with two birthday cakes in September 2020, when Covid guidance stated that people ‘should not hold or attend celebrations’ where social distancing would be difficult. However, it does not elaborate on how many people attended the alleged flouted lockdown guidance ‘bash’, and if social distancing wasn’t maintained. In fact, the newspaper article even admits it doesn’t know how many people helped Starmer eat his cake, writing: “The government also said people should not ‘socialise indoors in groups of more than two households.’ It was not clear last night how many others helped Sir Keir to eat the cakes in his office.”
Hypocrisy and double standards
Others pointed to the hypocrisy and double standards of the story in relation to the Daily Mail’s frontpages on the dates in question.
On September 2, 2020, Keir Starmer’s birthday, the Mail published a frontpage splash about Britain’s children returning to school failing to be matched by the nation’s workforce, with the largest railway stations remaining “eerily empty during what was once rush hour.”
While on June 19, 2020, when Boris Johnson reportedly had a birthday party with up to 30 guests, despite the rules forbidding social gathering indoors at the time, the Daily Mail ran with a frontpage splash reading, ‘How many more corona fiascos?’ The article described a “damaging U-turn” in which the then health secretary Matt Hancock said the virus tracing app – which the government had spent months developing – would not work on millions of phones.
The prospect of the Daily Mail’s ‘six-page dossier’ on so-called ‘Labour hypocrisy’ being used to divert attention away from the “real problems at Westminster” has been raised.
In a Facebook post, Guardian columnist Owen Jones refers to the story as ‘desperate’, writing: “As part of operation ‘Deflect from Tory scandal by spreading the shit around’, the Daily Mail is obsessing over a work event that didn’t violate restrictions, and a birthday celebration held when the UK wasn’t under lockdown rules.
“Desperate, desperate stuff.”
And it’s certainly been a grim couple of weeks for Tory party. Following the quitting of a Conservative MP convicted of sexual assault, the party is investigating claims that a Tory MP watched pornography on his phone in the House of Commons chamber. Meanwhile, Labour’s deputy leader was falsely accused of a “Basic Instinct” ploy to distract Boris Johnson by crossing and uncrossing her legs in parliament in article in the Mail on Sunday, and a string of the Conservative party’s female MPs complained about sexism and misogyny within its ranks.
With the local elections taking place next week, amid reports that senior Tories fear Johnson is set to be trounced as the public punishes him for Partygate lockdown law-breaking – of which he has been officially fined for – the right-wing, Tory-supporting tabloid needed something big in the pipeline to divert from the controversy currently engulfing the government.
As one social media user wrote: “I’m starting to have my suspicions that maybe the Daily Mail has an agenda…”
To which another responded: “Interestingly, it’s an agenda that keeps Partygate front and centre but says “they did it too.” Suggests Conservatives have given up on hoping public will get bored with it.”
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward
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