By John Dales
While I admire the Evening Standard’s campaigning about illiteracy and the dispossessed, I’m dismayed at its one-sided pseudo-campaign about Westminster City Council’s parking proposals.
This is typified in Monday’s Standard by a news article and an editorial fashioned from a predictable, politically opportunistic, and self-serving letter from Labour Councillors calling for the Conservative leader to resign.
Underlining this bias, the ‘Facts & Figures’ briefing I’ve seen devotes 20 pages to personal opinion and one to ‘research’. The only relevant ‘fact’ revealed by the former is that people prefer not to pay to park (shock!), while the caveated figures in the Centre for Economics and Business Research report, based on many assumptions, aren’t ‘economic facts’ by any definition. Yet the Standard made lurid headlines from them on 7 December.
As for its attacks on the Council, the Standard should surely be above personal mockery (‘Hey! Cllr Barrow is weirdo who probably has an old parking meter at home’) and mere innuendo about the purpose of the parking proposals.
Obscured by the self-interest, self-pity and self-righteousness, there are of course some really important issues. One is the impact on staff earning low pay for unsociable hours. Another is the impact on residents. Another is that the ‘VIP’ days have shown – by ‘economic facts’ known as till receipts – that having fewer cars around can have a positive impact on West End businesses. But sadly, as Sam Leith said in an unrelated piece in Monday’s Standard, ‘the big issues just get lost in all this outrage’.
More balance, please.