Bad week for The Guardian

Given their holier than thou attitude, you would think the Guardian would be more careful with shoddy sources and blatant agendas, writes our UK Political Editor Harry Cole

Whoops: Toynbee and co. drop yet more clangers
Harry Cole
On 7 February 2012 17:17

Flicking through the Guardian yesterday, you could have been forgiven for thinking a little historical revisionism was going on.

One can only presume that the Guardian’s Economic Leader Writer Aditya Chakrabortty had spent the weekend tripping off his bonce and re-hydrating with a delicious pint of delusion. Whatever happened, it resulted in him penning a: “Stop Being Mean To Gordon!” rant that actually tries to argue that “Brown had the right diagnosis and did largely the right things”.

Chakrabortty’s piece would have been enough for a full round of mocking, but the fun and games did not stop there. Last night we learnt that the Independent Police Complaints Commission had more bad news for the paper.

The IPCC ruled that the police had not leaked the telephone number of the murdered schoolgirl Millie Dowler to the now defunct News of the World. Allegations of payment for it from the paper to the legal authorities had been a key strand of the Guardian’s attacks on News International.

The IPCC ruled that the rumour had been started by a rogue police officer who had suggested the leak to an unnamed MP, who we can only presume was Labour's Tom Watson, who was leading the charge, and it was then passed on to the Guardian’s Nick Davies.

This is not the first significant detail that Nick Davies has, perhaps willfully, got wrong in the Guardian‘s campaign against Murdoch. It’s almost as damning as their assertion that the News of the World had deleted voice-mails from Dowler’s phone.

No one is denying that the hacking of her phone was horrific, but it was the added details that the Guardian threw into the mix, only to unravel, that pushed the fate of the paper over the edge.

This is all especially embarrassing given the high standards that the paper’s editor Alan Rusbridger claimed to Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry that the Guardian feel they adhere to. They genuinely believe that they are better than their rival, more successful, papers. His hacks have sneered at the tabloids for single sourcing stories, and crafting pieces around their agendas. What has Nick Davies done here, if not that?

And what about the rest of the Guardian staff? Are these high standards enforced across the board or are standards slipping at York Way? This morning, I noted on the Guido Fawkes’ Blog that the Guardian was publishing comment “on the basis of second-hand, un-sourced “leaks” from a website already widely derided for spouting nonsense.”

This wasn’t some young cub who had dropped the ball, but the Guardian’s star columnist Polly Toynbee who is paid £130,000 to tell hand wringing metropolitan hypocrites what to think once a week.

Toynbee had lifted one of the internet’s more crackers contributors' claims to have leaks about the NHS reforms. Upon investigation, the website of Dr Eoin Clarke that she relied upon to make her point about the evils of introducing market efficiency into health-care contained no evidence of any leak. No documentation, no emails, no text. All there was was a vague reference to having “seen” evidence.

How widespread is The Guardian’s shoddy sourcing Mr. Rusbridger?

And their slack Tuesday didn’t stop there. Step forward another Guardian star George “£62,007pa” Monbiot. The green agitator, who once declared that “the science has been settled” around climate change, had the audacity to use his own column today to accuse other people of being thick.

Monbiot’s weekly rambling was a diatribe against the right in which he claimed that left-wingers were superior intellectually. “...conservatism thrives on low intelligence and poor information. But the liberals in politics on both sides of the Atlantic continue to back off, yielding to the supremacy of the stupid.” He rails against the right by saying that lefties are too polite and should assert their obvious superiority.

Though he clearly believes this anyway, Monbiot wasn’t clever enough to check his facts though, somewhat weakening his argument. The original claim was based on a report entitled “Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes: Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact” It’s caused a little bit of a stir on both sides of the Atlantic this week but has been comprehensively discredited.

Dr William M. Briggs, Adjunct Professor of Statistical Science at Cornell University says that the report is, “A contender for the worst use of statistics in an original paper ever”. Pretty damning you might think, but not so much so that the Guardian won’t use it to craft their agenda.

So two columns both flawed by terrible sourcing blunders, but what about the higher moral standards that Alan Rusbridger softly declared he enforced while on the stand?

Well just look at the paper’s muted coverage of the overthrowing of Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed. Again, in a rage, I took to the Guido Fawkes Blog to decry double standards. Until very recently, until he started locking up judges, the Guardian was one of Nasheed’s biggest cheerleaders because of his green agenda.

Nasheed’s strong words on man-made global warming were music to metropolitan liberal ears. They even suggested in one edition in 2009 that he might be able to “save the world”. Today’s silence hardly covers themselves in glory, but then they were publishing pieces in defence of Gadaffi just last month. And at the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, they were running pieces extolling the virtues of Communist East Germany.

It won’t be long before the pages of Comment is Free are plastered with pieces defending locking up judges: no doubt there will be a green angle.

Next time you hear one of the paper’s sanctimonious hacks decrying the tabloids for their methods, point the culprit back to this week’s truly awesome display of standards. Well not even this week. It’s only Tuesday, after all.

Harry Cole is the UK Political Editor for The Commentator and the News Editor for the Guido Fawkes Blog. He tweets at @MrHarryCole

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