Monday, 6 January 2014

“When is a horde not a horde”?

This post is contributed by my friend John Cole, who is also writing a letter of complaint to the Press Council.  I hope he is one of many and shall publish their response.  It is a source of constant regret and surprise to me that so many of my acquaintances, all seemingly decent people, continue to  buy the Daily Mail.  I do wish they would cancel their orders  and write  to the Mail and tell them why.

“When is a horde not a horde”?  

The Euro-phobic right-wing media have been running a series of scare stories regarding the UK about to be swamped by a huge influx of economic migrants from Romania and Bulgaria. 

From the start of this year workers from those two countries have been free to come to our islands to find work – all as part of the “single European market”.   UKIP has seen this as an opportunity to stoke up anti-immigrant feeling and the Conservative Party (reverting to “nasty” type) feels obliged to follow and engage in the narrative for fear of losing more of its core vote.  

The  right-wing tabloids plus the “Telegraph” have seen fit to give the pot a good stir and at the same time toss in a few lies for good measure.  The following is a classic example – for which I am indebted to Jon Danzig, formerly an investigative journalist with the BBC.

On December 31st the ”Daily Mail” ran a headline:  “Sold Out!  Flights and buses full as Romanians and Bulgarians head for the UK” .   Under the headline the Mail reported that

ñ  one airline had doubled its flights to meet demand
ñ  such was demand that tickets were selling at £3,000 each
ñ  buses from Bulgaria to London were fully booked until January 9th

Jon Danzig made enquiries and was able to establish the following:

ñ  Easyjet reported that traffic from Romania and Bulgaria was “nothing out of the normal”
ñ  WizzAir reported: “The claims of the Daily Mail that we doubled our flights and that no low fares are available ...are complete rubbish”

The bus operator Balkan Horn told Danzig that:

ñ  seats were available on the bus for Friday 3rd January from Sofia to London
ñ  “most of the passengers are returning back to the UK following the Christmas break.  We actually have less bookings than this time last year”.
ñ  Danzig found he could book a seat from Bucharest on the 7th January for 157 Euros.

Thanks to Jon Danzig we can see that the Mail story is a tissue of lies.  It is all part of a media frenzy to set the agenda.  Sadly the BBC collaborated in this by making the influx of Bulgarians and Romanians its lead news item on  Radio 4 throughout New Years Day.   But it was a non-story.  It was confected.  

The first plane into Luton Airport from Romania in January 1st had a capacity of 180, of which 40 seats were empty.  The vast majority of Romanians arriving were those returning to existing jobs  after  spending Christmas in Romania.  One of the few exceptions was a new arrival, Viktor who was set upon by the large media scrum.  Viktor apparently exhausted himself in giving countless interviews.

Conclusion?  The only horde was the media pack.

(if you Google “Jon Danzig” you can access his blog  - this item is under the EU ROPE side-heading)


  1. Good old Keith Vaz was there to greet this single immigrant who had come to work but I did not see any rebuttal by him of the canard that thousands were waiting to join him!

  2. There is now a new blog about the Daily Mail claims that buses and planes from Bulgaria and Romania to the UK were full. 'Buses, planes, Bulgaria, Romania and The Daily Mail' Go to EU-ROPE dot com.

    1. Thanks John. Your site is very comprehensive. The Mail seems good at shamelessly arguing that black is white.

  3. Now a major new update to my investigation into the Daily Mail's article about Romanians and Bulgarians coming to the UK from 1st January. 'Daily Mail: Trick or Truth? You Decide' Or just go to EU-ROPE dot COM.

    1. An astonishingly thorough and detailed investigation. I hope you'll alert us to the response of your complaint to the Press Complaints Commission, although I hope that won't be necessary, because it should receive widespread publicity, not least in the Daily Mail.

  4. My latest article, '13 reasons why am taking the Daily Mail to the Press Complaints Commission' has had over 80,000 readers in less than two weeks. See:

    The issue was raised this week in the House of Lords. See my YouTube video

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. The above comment was deleted because of errors in setting out. Here is a tidier version of the PCC's response to the complaint.

      On Fri, Mar 14, 2014 at 5:19 PM, Simon Yip wrote:

      I write further to your complaint to the Press Complaints Commission about the article headlined “Sold out! Flights and buses full as Romanians head for the UK” published by the Daily Mail on 31 December 2013.

      At the time you wrote to us, we were already investigating the article following an earlier complaint. That investigation has now been concluded on the basis that the complaint was resolved between the complainant and the newspaper. The following summary of the complaint will be published on our website:

      Mr William Galloway complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had published inaccurate information in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complainant said that the newspaper had incorrectly claimed that flights from Romania to London were full, and that seats were selling for up to £3000. The complainant had been able to find available spaces on these flights at reasonable prices. While some flights did cost up to £3000, these were indirect flights which went via countries outside Europe.

      The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the publication of the following clarification in both the print and online Corrections and Clarifications column:

      An article on December 31 reported information provided by local travel agents that there was limited availability on flights and buses to London from Romania and Bulgaria in January this year, despite one airline doubling the number of flights. We have since been made aware that some reasonably priced flights and seats on buses were available from Bucharest and Sofia at that time. We are also happy to clarify that some of the additional flights were put in place before January 1. (Cl 1 )

      The following update was added to the online article:

      UPDATE: Our reporters in Bucharest and Sofia were informed by travel agents and on websites within the countries that there was very limited availability on flights and buses to London at the start of the new year. We have since been made aware, however, that some readers were able to find a larger number of flights leaving Bucharest and Sofia at the beginning of January with availability, with fares starting from £122. We understand that some seats on buses bound for London were also available at the time. We are happy to clarify that some of the additional flights were put in place before January 1. (Cl 1 )

      I should make clear that the above outcome reflects a resolution that the complainant considered to be a satisfactory response to his complaint; it is not a PCC ruling. In instances where a complaint has been resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant, the Commission does not generally rule on the matter. If you do not feel that the actions taken by the newspaper are sufficient to address the concerns you raised in your complaint, I would be grateful if you could inform us in the next seven days. It would be helpful if you could explain why you consider the actions to be insufficient

    3. And here is John's comment on that pretty feeble "resolution" of the complaint.

      Dear Simon Yip,

      I am surprised that the original complainant (Wm. Galloway) found that the steps taken by the newspaper (Daily Mail) to add a "clarification" to the original story were sufficient for him. They are not sufficient for me.

      I think the resolution brought about by the PCC for me defines the term "edentic".

      My strong perception is that the "Daily Mail" chose to run a headline scare story that would pander to the prejudices of its readers (not to mention its owner & editor). The story was both bald & stark. It was attention-seeking and in the effort to be lurid the facts were simply made up. See for example, the obtaining of a high-price quote to fly from Bucharest or Sofia to London by the dishonest expedient of routing the flight via some extra-European airport (possibly JFK or the like). This is deliberately misleading - a shabby trick. Yet the PCC and Mr Galoway think that this can be resolved via a "clarification".

      For me a "clarification" is woefully inadequate. The "Mail" got its story and impacted on the consciousness of its readers. Very few readers are going to bother reading a "clarification". I will bet the PCC a pound to a penny that the "clarification" was printed with only a small fraction of the prominence of the original article.

      The newspaper should have been made to grovel and apologise for its deliberate dishonesty. Instead it has been given the lightest of taps on the wrist.

      Since I have no faith whatsoever in your organisation to deal with this matter in an effective and proportionate fashion I do not ask you to take this matter further. This is a reflection on you and no indication from me that "I am satisfied" .

      Yours faithfully

      John Cole.

      I believe Jon Danzig is "incandescent" (John's word) and is to take the matter further. I'll keep you posted