How the Mail is doing its ‘Christmas banned’ outrage story


10:06 am - October 13th 2011

by Sunny Hundal    


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Word has reached this blog that the Daily Mail is planning its annual series of ‘Christmas banned outrage’ stories.

A source at a local council says the newspaper has been submitting FoI requests to councils asking how many primary schools put on ‘traditional nativity plays’ in 2010.

It also asks if a school did not put on a ‘traditional nativity play’, what did they do instead.

Our source said:

The info from our area shows that only around half of our schools put on on a “traditional” nativity play. The rest of the schools staged a mixture of carol concerts, plays about Santa, Xmas pantos, Christmas concerts etc. All schools (bar two) held a celebration that was blatantly Christmassy. The two that didn’t was due to severe weather.

The Daily Mail is also guilty of wasting taxpayers money on such FOI requests. The source added such requests can cost the taxpayers thousands of pounds in staff time to gather and put together the info for the newspaper.

As they started gathering and sending out information regarding Christmas, another FOI request from the Daily Mail landed across their desk, asking:

In relation to all Primary schools and Secondary schools in your council area:
1. How many primary schools and secondary schools had a sports day this year?
2. How many had races where children could win first place, second place, and third place?
3. As opposed to how many had ‘team’ games rather than individuals racing each other?

Surely this calls for an FOI request to all councils asking how much they spent answering FOI requests to the Daily Mail?

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Finding out how many 9 year olds sung ‘Little Donkey, Little Donkey’ this year is information that the public must know!

The answer to this should be ‘nothing’. FOI requests from the media such as this, should be charged by the local authority for the admin time required to answer the query. Full details of FOI costs can be found at: http://www.ico.gov.uk/for_organisations/freedom_of_information/information_request/costs.aspx

Daily Fail are still w*nkers, though.

3. So Much For Subtlety

It costs thousands for every Head to write two letters?

Ought to clarify – if the FOI request is estimated to cost more than £600, the request can be legitimately refused. Is should *never* cost £1000s.

The Mail’s request doesn’t even display a basic understanding of what primary schools do nowadays. My lad’s nativity play is generally a mix of nativity story, song and dance and other clever bits of innovation which are all designed around maximum pupil involvement in both the preparation and the actual event (e.g. a copule of years ago Harry Potter turned up on a cleverly designed zipwire to take up the nativity story).

So their question’s impossible to answer, as it will be for many schools, as well as being utterly ignorant of the real innovations in primary education.

The Daily Mail is also guilty of wasting taxpayers money on such FOI requests. The source added such requests can cost the taxpayers thousands of pounds in staff time to gather and put together the info for the newspaper…

Surely this calls for an FOI request to all councils asking how much they spent answering FOI requests to the Daily Mail?

FFS Sunny, please don’t go down this route.

FOI is one of the best things to happen to democracy and media in decades, and there are plenty in power who would love the excuse to either restrict it severely or charge prohibitive costs.

You and I might think info about Nativity plays is frivolous, many others don’t. But there are plenty others who think requests about forced marriages unit or MPs expenses are frivolous.

It’s not for you to pick and choose what information should be public domain and what shouldn’t.

Apart from anything else, it will be very useful to be able to quote something like this in future:

“around half of our schools put on on a “traditional” nativity play. The rest of the schools staged a mixture of carol concerts, plays about Santa, Xmas pantos, Christmas concerts etc. All schools (bar two) held a celebration that was blatantly Christmassy. The two that didn’t was due to severe weather.”

7. When I see the pale sunshine fade

I’d be less bothered about this if it was being done for Secularisation reasons.
But it’s not. It’s being done to appease Islam.

One religious delusion is not being replaced by Secular sanity…It’s being replaced by an even worse religious delusion.
CofE funstuffs is fine by me…It does not hack off heads, blow up trains and buses etc etc etc. But what’s replacing it certainly does!

“Surely this calls for an FOI request to all councils asking how much they spent answering FOI requests to the Daily Mail?”

It’s quite possible that you haven’t thought this through properly – but won’t that cost them even more money?

Anyway, chaps, the Heil’s obviously acting badly, but that’s what you get when you have proper FOI laws. You deal with the chaff as well as the wheat.

What AllyF said.

If you agree that we should have a Freedom of Information Act, then the Daily Mail are as entitled to make requests as anybody else is. You can’t pick and choose who is allowed to use it based on whether or not you agree with them FFS. If the requests are genuinely vexatious or – which these are clearly not – then there are already rules in place that can be invoked to deny them.

I actually find it slightly disturbing that these requests have been released to the public, and the behaviour of the officials concerned is reprehensible. If people are put off making queries to officials as a result of this article, fearing they might be leaked, then you will have undermined open government.

10. Chaise Guevara

@ 7

“I’d be less bothered about this if it was being done for Secularisation reasons.
But it’s not. It’s being done to appease Islam.”

The Daily Mail is making FOI requests to appease Islam? They’re obviously taking a very different approach than usual.

Or maybe you saw the words “Christmas” and “banned” and decided to reply without, y’know, reading the article or even the bloody title. It would go a long way towards explaining how people managed to get suckered in by stories about Christmas being cancelled.

I did some work on this last year in relation to the TPA. Each request sent out to all local authorities costs around £108k to handle as an average. A fifth of all requests to Birmingham City Council alone come from national papers and one Telegraph hack alone cost £6000 out of a total cost of £55k last year. This isn’t exposing anything, it is just lazy journalism paid for by the council tax payers.

http://politicalhackuk.blogspot.com/2010/10/what-alliance-costs-tax-payer-and-cost.html

@7 Reads story about the Mail lying and claiming Christmas is banned. Concludes Christmas is banned to appease Islam. Priceless.

What is behind the right’s obsession with school sports days? As a child I hated them (and I wasn’t even particularly bad at sport). They were just very boring and always focused on the least exciting sports. Nothing fun like football, cricket or rugby. Personally I’d scrap them to save the kids the tedium.

Just from the questions asked you can guess what sort of story the Mail was hoping to construct. You can also tell that even if the ‘wrong’ answer returns the result of just 1 that they’re still gonna run with the same line regardless.

15. Richard Wilson

AllyF is absolutely spot on with this. You’re sounding dangerously close to suggesting that freedom of information isn’t for the likes of “wankers” – only for people with the right intentions. The point of FOI is not that getting the “right” sort of information, for the right reasons, into the public domain is sometimes good. It’s that, in general, and with certain very narrow (albeit predictably overused) exceptions, democracy benefits when as much information as possible is available to the public about how their government works.

Based on previous form the Daily Mail will likely paint a very slanted and distorted picture of the information that comes back from their FOI requests. But if the councils do what they’re supposed to do and simultaneously publish the full information independently, this data won’t just be there for the private use of the Daily Mail. Bloggers and “factcheck” reporters will be able to track what the councils actually said against what the Daily Mail said they said, helping to build the evidence base about the true nature of the Daily Mail’s character. Given that the The Daily Mail will doubtless have their “Christmas is banned” tirade regardless of the facts, surely it’s better for the subsequent debate to take place against a backdrop of more information rather than less?

16. Chaise Guevara

@ 14 Cylux

“Just from the questions asked you can guess what sort of story the Mail was hoping to construct. You can also tell that even if the ‘wrong’ answer returns the result of just 1 that they’re still gonna run with the same line regardless.”

Hell yes. They’ll probably take the information above, then hamfistedly link it together with a genuinely crap-sounding event at a single school somewhere:

Only Half Of Schools Celebrate Nativity… While Children Forced To Take Part In Diversity Week!

Or some such rubbish.

17. the a&e charge nurse

Items about Christmas in October – it’s true what they say, winterval seems to come earlier every year?

But no one is calling for FOI to be banned. I just want to know how many hours councils around the country wasted dealing with Daily Mail enquiries.

Ah, the Daily Mail…

20. Chaise Guevara

Agree with Sunny here – it’s not that FOI requests are bad, the issue is that the Mail is one of the worst offenders for complaining about local authorities wasting resources, and yet it’s deliberately wasting their time just so it can get some figures to massage into a “Christians being oppressed” outrage story.

I think I’ll suggest that my parish council bans Christmas. We don’t do anything anyway and the publicity might wake up some of our parishoners.

If the Councils have any sense, they will think carefully about whether they know the answer to such questions. Do Councils really survey what their schools do? A school is a separate public authority for the purposes of FOI, and so the appropriate answer to such an FOI request is to tell the Daily Mail to ask the schools individually.

Actually this could be very useful provided we get access to the data to the data as well. It could demonstrate exactly the opposite of what the fail is attempting to show, we’ll just need to pay attention to them lying about the stats and ensure we get the raw data as well.

What will be interesting is if the stats come back showing the vast majority of schools do do some form of nativety play. How will they spin it? I am seeing somethng like this…..

WINTERVAL: The great backlash begins.

Politically correct local councilors were forced onto the back foot last night as it was revelaed that growing public anger at the sidelining of traditional Christian values had FORCED schools to return to traditional Christmas activities such as nativety plays. In particular Birmingham City Council, which was famously behind the rebranding of Christmas as Winterval in order to not offend its Muslim population revealed that 98% of its schools had marked Christmas with a play. Traditionalists welcomed the news, rent a gob MP A.N. Other said “I am glad to see that Christmas is back on the agenda after so many years of trendy liberals trying to ban it.” Inspired by this new campaign a facebook group has been set up calling for the return of conkers to schools.
Ad nausium, ad infinitum

“interesting is if the stats come back showing the vast majority of schools do do some form of nativety play. ”

They’ll probably lie about it, which is why its important to get the raw data.

I’m 25. I went to a CofE Primary School, that took it’s faith pretty seriously (too seriously tbh – perhaps why I ended up atheist…).

When I did my nativity play in 1992, the storyline was a bizarre mix of themes that seemed to straddle time and subject matter seemlessly. Loosely based around a little angel trying to work out what all this fuss (xmas) was about. It included snow fairies, a rather pagan-esque (now I think about it) Jack Frost, a load of clowns, 3 teddy bears, a group of chefs, some children singing about their presents as well as Mary, Joseph, Gabriel and 3 wise men.

Now I would be happy to defend this utterly incoherent play on the basis that it got all the kids involved in something that we would never have done until we got to high school.

Would the Daily Mail call this a traditional nativity play though? I certainly don’t remember this being the way it was in the Bible and believe me the religious education at the school generally is something the Daily Mail would be pretty approving of (daily prayers, hymns etc in assemby, regular church visits and forced ritualistic bullying of the few ethnic minority kids – only joking on the latter one).

@24 “interesting is if the stats come back showing the vast majority of schools do do some form of nativety play. ”

Spin it as: As many as 3 out of every 10 schools do not have any traditional nativity play. Then it sounds a lot.

28. Chaise Guevara

@ 27 Tom

“Spin it as: As many as 3 out of every 10 schools do not have any traditional nativity play. Then it sounds a lot.”

Yup, and if the percentage is so small that it doesn’t sound impressive even then, just present it as an absolute figure.

I wonder how many Muslim. Jewish, Hindu etc. schools are included in this?

29. the a&e charge nurse

[26] school plays have got nothing to do with the message, or even the children for that matter – no, they are all about managing the irreconcilable expectations of pushy parents – they are, and always have been a dreaded event in the lives of most ordinary families?

Birmingham’s 1998 Winterval promotion of a new shopping centre is probably the best example of a Mail style smear. The festival which covered late autumn, winter through to February included celebrations of all the relevant religious events.

A Christian bigot, probably totally unaware of the full event, gets quoted and suddenly Birmingham is into not celebrating Christmas for fear of offending Muslims. Having worked in Southall – I know that Muslims like Christmas as their culture is into gift giving and it gave the opportunity to discuss how families and different traditions celebrate.

Wikipedia below gives some of the details.

The extended Winterval the following year included: Hallowe’en; Guy Fawkes Night; Diwali; Ramadan and Eid; Hanukkah; Advent, Christmas, and Boxing Day; New Year’s Eve; and Chinese New Year.

Posters were displayed, advertising Christmas events, with the word “Christmas” in large type, and the “Winterval 98″ logo only as a footnote.

Church of England leaders in Birmingham criticised the 1998 “Winterval” concept.

Mark Santer, then Bishop of Birmingham, said in a message to his parishes, “I confess I laughed out loud when our city council came out with Winterval as a way of not talking about Christmas. No doubt it was a well-meaning attempt not to offend, not to exclude, not to say anything at all. …

Now it seems, the secular world, which expresses respect for all, is actually embarrassed by faith. Or perhaps it is Christianity which is censored.”

The Archdeacon of Aston called it “a totally unnecessary example of political correctness to avoid sensitivities people simply do not have”.

The council responded that “Christmas is the very heart of Winterval”, saying that Christmas-themed events were prominent among those included in Winterval, and that Christmas-related words and symbols were prominent in its publicity material.

While the Winterval season was longer than the Christmas season, Christmas was the focus of the relevant portion of Winterval. A statement from Birmingham Council explained:

There was a banner saying Merry Christmas across the front of the council house, Christmas lights, Christmas trees in the main civil squares, regular carol-singing sessions by school choirs, and the Lord Mayor sent a Christmas card with a traditional Christmas scene wishing everyone a Merry Christmas

The classic Mail story I like is ‘French Buy White Cliffs of Dover’ which turns out the French had made a bid for the ferry port.

The picture used to support the story shows the white cliffs and a Spitfire flying over them.

It turns out that the plane they used for the picture is actually Polish.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1249194/Dover-symbol-British-sovereignty-sold-French-help-reduce-debt.html

32. douglas clark

Seems to me that the Act was established to allow the general public to find stuff out, not to save the Daily Mail the costs of journalism?

33. Chaise Guevara

@ 30

“There was a banner saying Merry Christmas across the front of the council house, Christmas lights, Christmas trees in the main civil squares, regular carol-singing sessions by school choirs, and the Lord Mayor sent a Christmas card with a traditional Christmas scene wishing everyone a Merry Christmas”

I remember reading that. It’s an awesome quote. You feel it should end with “…so put that in your pipe and smoke it!”

@31: “It turns out that the plane they used for the picture is actually Polish. ”

14 nationalities were represented among the pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain in that late summer of 1940:
http://www.battleofbritainbeacon.org/faqs/foreign-pilots-battle-of-britain.cfm

Polish pilots were the largest contingent from beyond Britain. The second largest contingent was from New Zealand.

Jeez. There are two hippy “groups” in building. I say groups, they are non-working benefits folks who spend all day blogging and submitting FOI requests about the most innane things. So this “FOI requests waste money” cuts all ways.

36. Chaise Guevara

@ 35

Eh?

Chaise,

I think he is asserting that Daily Mail journalist are hippies, who do no work, but spend their time blogging and putting in FoI requests?

Doesn’t seem over likely to me, but if so, it proves once more how evil Paul Dacre must be to produce what he does with staff like that…

Or he could just be an idiot with a very peculiarly stupid political position (for a start, no social-right winger should do anything other than support FoI – it challenges government for God’s (insert relative alternative figure of belief here if preferred) sake!


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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    How the Daily Mail is planning its next ‘Christmas banned’ outrage | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/F2ycjXYX via @libcon #pressreform

  88. #pressreform

    How the Daily Mail is planning its next ‘Christmas banned’ outrage | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/F2ycjXYX via @libcon #pressreform

  89. Jonathan Davis

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  90. Jonathan Davis

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  91. Hootee McBoob

    How the Daily Mail is planning its next 'Christmas banned' outrage http://t.co/KQwipKA2

  92. Hootee McBoob

    How the Daily Mail is planning its next 'Christmas banned' outrage http://t.co/KQwipKA2

  93. Pavitar Padam

    RT “@sunny_hundal: The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/4nFbkIwX”

  94. Pavitar Padam

    RT “@sunny_hundal: The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/4nFbkIwX”

  95. Amar'e Hoskins

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  96. Amar'e Hoskins

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  97. Tim Ireland

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  98. Tim Ireland

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  99. Masu

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  100. Masu

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  101. Stuart Harrison

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  102. Stuart Harrison

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  103. Kerin Cosford

    How the Daily Mail is planning its next 'Christmas banned' outrage http://t.co/KQwipKA2

  104. Jackie

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  105. Tim Ireland

    Daily Mail hassling cash-strapped councils. This is not what Jesus meant about fishing, Failers http://t.co/DFZVh86S

  106. Jamie Thunder

    Oh boy MT @sunny_hundal: The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. http://t.co/o7rTepJa

  107. Leigh Molnár

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  108. Ally Fogg

    @Sunny_Hundal Is @libcon now campaigning against Freedom of Information? Certainly bloody looks like it. #stupid http://t.co/rrlux5i4

  109. Human 3,450,385,917

    How the Daily Mail is planning its next 'Christmas banned' outrage http://t.co/KQwipKA2

  110. Mike Hack

    How the Daily Mail is planning its next 'Christmas banned' outrage http://t.co/KQwipKA2

  111. russellbryan

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  112. Mrs Fong

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  113. Nick Drew

    Lazy time-wasters MT: @bloggerheads:Mail hassling cash-strapped councils. Not what Jesus meant about fishing, Failers. http://t.co/avhPPbao

  114. Martyn Norris

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  115. Andrew Fairbairn

    How the Daily Mail is planning its next 'Christmas banned' outrage http://t.co/KQwipKA2

  116. D.O.R.C

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  117. Webble Twosh

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  118. Stuart Harrison

    "Surely this calls for an FOI request to all councils asking how much they spent answering FOIs from the Daily Mail?" http://t.co/ugalDMwQ

  119. Luther Blissett

    RT @sunny_hundal The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/pJpfqn3w #EDL

  120. Top Trending US

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  121. Brother Nex

    Craziness. And how is it responsibility of councils to know this? MT @bloggerheads: DM hassling cash-strapped councils http://t.co/Hkqd5bZi

  122. K Rob

    How the Daily Mail is planning its next ‘Christmas banned’ outrage | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/BLkUVpiW via @libcon

  123. Christopher Love

    How the Daily Mail is planning its next 'Christmas banned' outrage http://t.co/KQwipKA2

  124. Focal Point

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  125. Sam Barnett-Cormack

    How the Daily Mail is planning its next 'Christmas banned' outrage http://t.co/KQwipKA2

  126. David Munday

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  127. Ian Mullin

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  128. Andy McGregor

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  129. BantheEDL

    The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story. Here's how we know http://t.co/DRWzc9H5

  130. Cribsheet 13.10.11 | Education News

    […] Christmas has come early at the Daily Mail. According to Liberal Conspiracy’s […]

  131. Rebecca Moses

    RT @libcon: How the Daily Mail is planning its next 'Christmas banned' outrage http://t.co/HZWqLfRN

  132. Natasha Laudon

    http://t.co/tWM7rbhj How the Daily Mail is planning its next 'Christmas banned' outrage …

  133. Simon Virr

    Gets earlier every year. MT @sunny_hundal The Daily Mail is planning its annual ‘Christmas banned!’ story http://t.co/TgsPw1gM

  134. James Lock

    How the Daily Mail is planning its next ‘Christmas banned’ outrage | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/VXjOicqA via @libcon

  135. Dick Mandrake

    Here's what the Mail is getting us for Christmas – a "They've Banned Nativity" lie. Didn't they get us this last year? http://t.co/fRPbSjuF

  136. Alice Pink

    Here's what the Mail is getting us for Christmas – a "They've Banned Nativity" lie. Didn't they get us this last year? http://t.co/fRPbSjuF

  137. BroughtonLass

    Here's what the Mail is getting us for Christmas – a "They've Banned Nativity" lie. Didn't they get us this last year? http://t.co/fRPbSjuF

  138. Zander Conkle

    How the Daily Mail is planning its next 'Christmas banned' outrage … http://t.co/ZkjycULa

  139. Paul Malpas

    How the Daily Mail is planning its next 'Christmas banned' outrage http://t.co/KQwipKA2

  140. Lauren Reid

    How the Mail is doing its ‘Christmas banned’ outrage story | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/XGqgUmFs via @libcon

  141. Welshracer

    Daily Mail bans Christmas http://t.co/upUGhrNq

  142. SplashMan™ ( Paul )

    Daily Mail bans Christmas http://t.co/upUGhrNq

  143. Andrew Stuart

    How the Mail is doing its ‘Christmas banned’ outrage story | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/JvFfOyMN via @libcon << Happy Holidays ;)

  144. tony wood

    Daily Mail bans Christmas http://t.co/upUGhrNq

  145. April Pardoe

    Daily Mail bans Christmas http://t.co/upUGhrNq

  146. Gender Agenda

    How the Mail prepares for the festive season -the ‘Christmas banned’ outrage story! | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/x3wubqNE via @libcon

  147. Christmas Banned – no post this year.. | series-vos.com

    […] There is more here too: http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/10/13/how-the-daily-mail-is-planning-its-next-christmas-banned-out… […]

  148. Brett T

    http://t.co/cvGWUpzE < Yet more racist #farright #DailyMail torrent of lies & twisted logic.





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