Littlejohn's usual form involves taking some fairly innocent real-life event, removing a few key facts, then using it to support his twisted world-view: "gypsies given com-pen-say-shun to buy free mobile phones under elf-N-safety rules to protect Yuman Rites because of Cherie Blair", that kind of thing.
In today's column he gives up on such subtleties and instead opts for being what can best be described as a "lying sack of shit".
"During the General Election campaign, David Cameron promised that his government would help people who did the right thing. How does that square with the news that Lance Corporal Craig Baker and his family have been refused a council house after he returned home to Bracknell following a tour of duty in Afghanistan? Especially as any Afghan climbing off the back of a lorry in Dover goes automatically to the top of the housing list."Really Richard? Really? "Any Afghan climbing off the back of a lorry in Dover goes automatically to the top of the housing list"? This isn't even twisting the truth, this is simply making things up. And if you make something up, know it's not true but present it as if it is, that makes you a liar. Not a journalist, not a commentator, a liar.
When our hypothetical Afghan jumps off the back of a lorry in Dover, he's not allowed to go on the council housing list. That's because in 2001 responsibility for housing asylum seekers was taken away from councils and handed to the UK Border Agency. UKBA "has a contract with housing providers rather than tenancy agreements with asylum seekers, who are excluded from social housing lists".
In other words, the Afghan arriving in Dover will not even be on the same list as Lance Corporal Baker, let alone able to automatically go to the top of it. So the plight of the Baker family and the status of the Afghan have literally nothing in common. They are totally unrelated. The fact that the UKBA will try to find somewhere for the Afghan to live temporarily while his asylum application is handled will have absolutely no bearing on whether or not Bracknell Council find the Bakers a suitable home.
But let's give Littlejohn the benefit of the doubt and say he was talking about the longer term. What then? Well, if our Afghan friend's asylum application was successful - and as the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal ruled last year that the level of "indiscriminate violence" in Afghanistan was not enough to permit Afghans to claim general humanitarian protection in the United Kingdom it's far from a given that refugee status will be granted - he could then apply for council housing under the same system as Lance Corporal Baker and his family.
How would he get to the top of the council housing list? By waiting, just like everyone else. There is no legal way for any kind of immigrant to "automatically" get priority over anybody else on the list, other than by fulfilling the same factors that apply to everyone else, British, European, Afghan or whatever. To say otherwise isn't just distorting the truth, it's lying.
In order to be accurate, Littlejohn should have written:
"During the General Election campaign, David Cameron promised that his government would help people who did the right thing. How does that square with the news that Lance Corporal Craig Baker and his family have been refused a council house after he returned home to Bracknell following a tour of duty in Afghanistan? Especially as any Afghan climbing off the back of a lorry in Dover can be added to the council housing list and treated like everyone else on it provided he successfully applies for refugee status. While his asylum application is pending he would be temporarily housed under a system that has nothing to do with the one Lance Corporal Baker is applying under."But that wouldn't have supported his narrative. It wouldn't have pandered to the prejudices of his readership. It wouldn't have been his "unique style".
The PCC are always reluctant to take action against columnists on matters of accuracy as people know when they read a column they are getting opinion rather than news. But on this occassion Littlejohn has simply made something up, and done so in a clear attempt to create a "them and us" society and reinforce urban myths about foreigners. Such lies would not be out of place in a BNP leaflet, yet here they are in one of Britain's best-known and longest-running newspapers.
David English must be turning in his grave.
I've just submitted a complaint to the PCC. Full text is below, I'll keep you posted on any reply I receive:
In his column published on Tuesday 28 September, Richard Littlejohn mentions the case of a former soldier who has been unable to secure council housing from his local authority. In the article he states that: "any Afghan climbing off the back of a lorry in Dover goes automatically to the top of the housing list."
This is a breach of section 1 clause 1 of the Code of Practice:
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
Littlejohn's comments are clearly inaccurate and misleading.
No "Afghan climbing off the back of a lorry in Dover" will "automatically" be moved to the front of the queue for a council house. For one thing, asylum seekers are not even allowed to join a council's housing list until their application has been processed and they have been granted permission to remain in the country. Even after that has happened, there is no mechanism for them to be "automatically" given priority over anybody else.
To state otherwise is inaccurate. This is not a case of a commentator expressing an opinion that some people may be uncomfortable with; Littlejohn's claim has absolutely no basis in truth, and is therefore in breach of the Code.
In addition, publishing such a grossly inaccurate statment flies in the face of the Commission's own guidance to editiors on the issue of asylum seekers: "the Commission – in previous adjudications under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code – has underlined the danger that inaccurate, misleading or distorted reporting may generate an atmosphere of fear and hostility that is not borne out by the facts."