Monday, October 10, 2011

A cat-a-strophic tail

One wonders whom The Guardian detests most, Teresa May or Nigel Frage, although in this case May seems to have won the contest, with honours going to Farage. The occasion is May's conference speech, in which she made reference to an illegal immigrant who, allegedly, had been allowed to remain in this country under the Human Rights Act, having formed an attachment with a cat.

Of such trivia is modern politics made, and there it would have rested, but for a current claim - apparently initiated by Chris Huhne that May had lifted the reference from a speech given by Farage in Eastleigh last July. To bolster the claim, the local newspaper offers a YouTube recording and narrative which points to superficial resemblances in the accounts, with both speakers assuring their respective audiences that they were "not making this up".

Apart from the fact that both were making the story up (or retailing a made-up version) – and that the stories were wrong, although with different details – copycat behaviour by May is unlikely. Unlike Farage, she actually offers three examples of Human rights "sillies".

Two of these, including the reference to the cat man, are mentioned in a piece in The Daily Mirror on 13 July 2011, in which Teresa May is also mentioned (see above).

This, most likely was the source of Farage's story, the egregious UKIP leader referring to a case "a couple of weeks ago", which was then when it had appeared in the Mirror, even though it had actually been first reported in 2009. Because she was mentioned in the piece, May could well have seen it, and it would almost certainly have been included in her cuttings file. Like as not, this was the source of her anecdote at the Manchester conference.

What is fascinating, though, is that both politicians – relying on erroneous press reports – got the story wrong, although Farage went one better and embellished the story with errors of his own. But, attractive though the copycat story is to The Guardian, the odious Huhne's attempt at smearing May is probably misplaced.

Funnily enough, on 14th July 2011, a report was submitted to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee in the House of Commons, warning that the cat man story was wrong. But one would not expect Teresa May or any of her researchers to note anything said in or to Parliament.

One likes to think that she (or her researchers) took the Mirror to be a far more reliable source for, as we all know, everything we read in the MSM is true.