Richard Littlejohn: Stupider Than You Thought

Just when you think Richard Littlejohn couldn’t possibly look more stupid than he normally does, he goes and does this:

Badly timed attack
The chief executive of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health has accused me of making up stories about elf’n’safety.

Never mind that he can point to only one example, a story which came not from my imagination, but from the Rotary Club of Stranraer, which was told that it would have to employ a lifeguard and a ‘trained outdoor specialist’ if it intended to use a footpath alongside Loch Ryan.

He also, rather unfortunately, chose the day on which we learned that the traditional cheese-rolling contest in Gloucestershire had been cancelled this year on grounds of elf’n’safety.

Sometimes, even I can’t make it up.

The sheer stupidity of Richard Littlejohn really does beggar belief. Firstly, the article written by the Chief Executive of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health – Rob Strange – for the media section of The Independent does only include one example:

Last year, the Daily Mail ran, on average, at least one negative health and safety story every week. The Richard Littlejohn column has been particularly acerbic…to the point of making it up. One column rolled its eyes at the news that a coastal footpath had “fallen foul of elf ‘n’ safety”, amid concerns that someone might fall in a loch and drown. Apparently, a lifeguard would need to be present at all times. A quick phone call to the local authority revealed that the walk, considered unsuitable for toddlers, had simply been left out of a local guide to family walks. The lifeguard was pure fiction.

However, this isn’t – as Littlejohn suggests – because he could only find one example, rather he only picks out one example for the sake of brevity. The Health and Safety Executive have made several responses to the Daily Mail regarding Littlejohn’s inaccuracies and ‘flippant approach to health and safety’. So, his argument that only one mistake has been found is about as accurate as his normal arguments.

However, this is a mere prelude to the very best part of the response from Littlejohn: his smug comment that it was a badly timed attack, as it was made on the day that ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ banned ‘traditional cheese-rolling’. This is of course, like so many of his ‘elf ‘n’ safety have banned…’ stories, absolute rubbish. He took the story from the Daily Mail (surprise, surprise, his idea of research is thumbing through the Mail or repeating stories that are emailed to him) and it was a typical Daily Mail story about health and safety: a complete lie.

As TabloidWatch points out:

Yes, this year’s race at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester has been cancelled. But:

“The organisers of the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake regret to announce that the 2010 event has been cancelled.,/p>

The attendance at the event has far outgrown the location where it has traditionally been held for several hundred years: last year more than 15,000 people tried to attend (according to official estimates) which is more than three times the capacity of the site.”

So the organisers cancelled it. Not ‘health and safety killjoys’ then?

And it’s nothing to do with the actual cheese-roll race itself, which the Mail seems to imply.

So, Richard Littlejohn argues that he doesn’t make up Health and Safety stories and that he has been unfairly criticised, by making up another health and safety myth in his column. You really couldn’t make that up. Richard Littlejohn instead of making Rob Strange look silly has actually validated Strange’s argument in the Independent:

This formula of exaggeration, half-truth, generalisation and myth-making has created a great British joke, the one about “elf n safety gone mad”. It’s entered our social fabric, something to be shared and tut-tutted at over breakfast tables, in bars and, worse, in workplaces across the country…

You wouldn’t know it from reading our newspapers but Britain has seen an 81 per cent fall in workplace deaths and a 72 per cent fall in other reported workplace injuries over the past 35 years. We benefit from having one of the best safety records in Europe…

Mark Twain once said that “a lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes”. It’s time to call in the big health and safety lie from its travels before it leads to tragedy and hurt. And it’s time to give truth a chance to put on its shoes.

Littlejohn, repeating a health and safety lie first published by the Daily Mail in the UK – whilst he lives in Florida – makes the Twain quotation highly appropriate in this instance.

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