Yes, I agree with Tim Stanley, The Telegraph does publish a range of views... from right-wing to hard right.
In a battle between a Tory and a Telegraph leader writer, it's reasonable to want them both to lose.
A Conservative MP in a fight with a Telegraph leader-writer is the Twitter equivalent of a Dalek taking on a Cyberman — any sensible person wants both to get fucked. So it was that I found myself dreaming last night of Telegraph writer and haunted mannequin Tim Stanley and former Theresa May advisor and aggressively generic MP Neil O’Brien solving their differences by hoying each other with lump hammers in the bleak coliseum of a pub carpark.
Triggered by a mind-bogglingly tone-deaf Telegraph leader — perhaps written by Stanley and the gang of goblins he fronts — O’Brien tweeted a thread of some of the many dangerously wrong things The Telegraph has put out during the pandemic:
Tim couldn’t hold back from responding to O’Brien, frustrated perhaps that a Tory MP no less would dare to criticise his paper, the official fanzine for right-wing headbangers everywhere:
Stanley’s short thread involves more strawmen than Wickerman week on Summerisle — O’Brien wasn’t suggesting that he could veto what The Telegraph publishes nor that only his own opinion is allowed — but the bigger issue is that he pushes the old idea that his paper platforms a range of opinions. It doesn’t.
There was a time when The Telegraph did feature a range of views, even if that range was relatively limited going from mushy centre-left to hard hard-right, but that era is long gone. The paper’s comment pages are run by a former Tax Payer’s Alliance staffer and its top columnists hew to a line of what they would call “Covid scepticism” but what is actually dangerous denial, powered by their atavistic worship of the market.
Allison Pearson, who began her pattern of lying about the NHS during the 2019 General Election, continued on that path through 2020. On her conspiracy theory-friendly podcast Planet Normal and in her increasingly unhinged columns, she has given succour to those who want to ditch masks, ditch lockdowns, and watch the death toll rise because they are basically bored with all this now. The crowd gathered outside a hospital on New Year’s Eve claiming that Covid is a hoax are the logical consequence of the kind of rhetoric Pearson peddles.
Back in April, at the height of the first wave, Pearson claimed unemployment was a bigger danger than the virus. In June, she wrote the quarantines for travellers and the closure of pubs were excessive because Covid “exclusively existed in hospitals and care homes”, writing later that month that she would not “demean" herself by wearing a mask. On September 22, Pearson published a column saying she hoped her son and everyone in his student house would get Covid, having written earlier in the same month that not seeing granny was more likely to kill her than exposure to the virus. In November, as the death toll was rising again, she wrote that the government is “pretending a deadly pandemic is sweeping the land” and castigated MPs for not voting to stop the second lockdown.
Pearson is just one Telegraph columnist and, no doubt, Stanley would argue that she’s just one voice among many at the paper. The trouble is those voices have been a chorus dedicated to backing the government while simultaneously undermining the response to the pandemic, however incompetent because the newspaper serves the interests of capital above all. The Telegraph sings the tune of the right and the far-right. What differences in opinion it hosts are on questions like, “How much should we punish the poor for being poor? A bit or a lot?”.
Of course, Tim Stanley believes The Telegraph is a force for good; it fits with his political outlook (a dusty combination of Catholic guilt and spite) and it pays his wages. I worked for The Telegraph for a time — on a bad contract and serving the role of mildly centre-left counterweight on the now-dead Telegraph Blogs section — and I knew Tim then as I had a little at university, where he was already a controversialist.
Wayback when Stanley was a Labour Parliamentary candidate but the time I knew him at The Telegraph he was a long way into his metamorphosis into a tweedy Tory hack. He’s a company man who plays up a cartoon-version of himself for the benefit of his editors and the people who book him on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. It must be a hollow kind of existence, but wouldn’t you want to play a character if you had to make your money by working at The Telegraph, Britain’s premier racist fanzine?