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6:31pm on Saturday, 6th December, 2014:

A Reminder


I take The Guardian every Saturday because my wife and I like to have something to opine about to each other at the weekend. This morning, I was reminded why I stopped taking it during the week.

So, the story is that a woman who was breast-feeding in Claridge's was asked to cover up the baby with a napkin. Not only is this ridiculous, but at the moment it's illegal for businesses in general to discriminate against breast-feeding. UKIP leader Nigel Farage was asked on the radio what he thought, and he said that in his view private businesses ought to be allowed to make rules about what goes on on their property. When asked if that meant women should have to go to the toilet to breast-feed, he said, "Or perhaps sit in the corner, or whatever it might be — that's up to Claridges.". This was reported in The Guardian under the headline: "Just sit in the corner. Farage advice to breastfeeders."

Well no, that wasn't his advice. His point was that in his opinion businesses should be able to make rules about behaviour, such as how ostentatious women are about breast-feeding. He wasn't making a point about breast-feeding so much about whether businesses should be able to set rules about conduct that trump national laws. If The Guardian had challenged him on that basis, well that would have been the proper response. They could have legitimately asked where he'd draw the line. Could a restaurant ban you from looking out of the window, or for reading a newspaper upside-down? Could it enforce a dress code in which required everyone to wear a sporran? They didn't do that, though. They took a cheap shot designed to help The Guardian's readership to feel good about disliking UKIP (as if they need either the excuse or the encouragement).

Quoting people out of context for the sake of a headline is something I expect of tabloid newspapers, but not the quality press. On this evidence, it'll be a while yet before I start taking The Guardian every day again.

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Copyright © 2014 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).