Mail readers attack paper’s ‘Hypocrisy’ slurs on Nick Clegg

by Stephen Tall on October 10, 2010

Ah, the Daily Mail and its stable-mate the Mail on Sunday: bastions of enlightened reason and liberal decency. Or something. Today, the paper takes it upon itself to scream ‘Hypocrisy’ at Nick Clegg.

Not on grounds of policy, but because of the options Miriam and he are considering for their eldest child’s school, including a voluntary-aided Catholic school in London, the Oratory: as the Mail so subtly fulminates, ‘Nick Clegg is an atheist whose party doesn’t believe in school selection. So where does he want to send his sons… the same exclusive Catholic school as the Blairs’.

You can gauge the extent of the Mail’s self-righteous fury from the comparison of Nick Clegg to Tony Blair. The only thing missing from the usual Mail checklist-of-outrage is the accusation that Nick Clegg causes cancer. Next week, perhaps.

What do the Mail’s online readers make of the paper’s tirade? Here are the top three ‘best rated’ comments so far submitted:

Why is atheist Nick Clegg considering sending his son to an exclusive Catholic school?
erm – his wife is Catholic.
– Paul, Richmond, 9/10/2010 23:39

Why is Nick Clegg considering sending his son to a Catholic school? Could it be something to do with the fact that his wife is a Catholic?
– Jane Cook, Ashford, Middlesex, 9/10/2010 23:39

As an atheist myself married to a catholic, one of the requirements of the catholic faith is that our kids are raised Catholics, and going to a Catholic school would form part of that. i was aware of this and agreed to it before we married. It doesn’t change anything for me or my beliefs. However I am very impressed by faith schools. They generally do better for the kids concerned, and they teach discipline and values. We should be encouraging all schools to to that level rather than trying to get rid of them because we don’t believe. Each to their own.
– realist, uk, 10/10/2010 2:08

Mail readers are a little less prepared to be outraged, it seems, than their paper gives them credit for.

The accusation of ‘hypocrisy’ is, of course, nonsense. It has never been Lib Dem policy to have faith schools removed from state funding. Rather, the party has a long-standing commitment that all faith schools must comply with the national requirements that are placed on all non-faith schools: the teaching of the national curriculum, and a fair admissions policy.

As for Nick Clegg’s own views on faith schools, they are hardly a secret. Within a month of his election as party leader in 2007, he set them out plainly:

If we are to create a society in which everyone has a fair chance in life, we need to focus on education, above all. Faith schools have an important role to play in that, and I am keen that they become engines of integration, not of segregation. I would like to see faith schools working together, so you get a network of different schools and faiths. That way children will grow up in an environment where they are aware of the plurality of faiths and views around them.

Equally, Nick has also made clear his own firmly held view that, while there is an important role for faith schools within the national education system, he will expect them to hold to common standards of tolerance — for example, that faith schools should have a requirement to have an anti-homophobic bullying policy at their school.

The Mail has its headline, and doubtless there will be many among its readership who take their name-calling at face value. That’s life, and I’m sure Nick Clegg accepts it with a shrug.

Look at it this way: the next time the Mail decides to go over-the-top in its denunciation of the Lib Dem leader, more people are likely to look sceptically at the justification for the paper’s claims. If you shout too loudly, and too often, people learn to just shut their ears.