Sometimes the Mail doesn't quite hit the target - they manage to get all steamed up about something done by someone somewhere, which is clearly all the fault of liberal bastards, but they don't quite create the level of absurd logic required to process that 2+2=503. That sort of story I regard as a 'single down to third man' type of tale - sure, it's effective, it keeps the scoreboard ticking over, but it's not really something to marvel at.
This kind of shit, on the other hand, is a creamy cover drive blasted past the despairing dive of a fielder's fingertips, racing off to the boundary and flying into a stack of plastic pint glasses. You don't even have to run for this one: just stand there, hold the pose and admire the classical grace of the shot.
What do I mean? I mean this:
Teachers should tell boys the joys of teen fatherhood, government advice reveals
The simple response is to say "That's bollocks" and jam the paper down the train toilet in disgust - and believe me, it's often tempting - but no, let's look at it in a bit more detail.
As we saw last week, the Mail is a cunning old fox when it's at its best, even apparently fooling an intellectual titan like Melanie Phillips with its fiendishly misleading headline/intro combos. Here's the intro:
Teachers have been instructed to tell teenage boys about the pleasures of early fatherhood.
Government advice tells them to discuss 'parenting aims and aspirations' with the youngsters.
Teenagers should be equipped with the necessary 'skills, knowledge and attitudes' to prepare them to bring up babies, said the Department of Health.
Lessons should include 'the enjoyment of fatherhood'.
This is simply discussing the idea of fatherhood in itself with teenagers, not telling them to be dads while they're still at school. But that's not the impression we were given by the headline and first sentence, is it? But see what the Mail has brilliantly done - implying that 'early fatherhood' is the same as 'teen fatherhood'. Which it isn't. So, a sensible discussion about being a dad when you're a young man, along with the responsibilities and joys thereof, becomes TEH EVIL LEFTIST GOVERNMENT WANTS TEEN BOYS TO BE FATHERS. Wonderful.
By the way, what is this document so coyly referred to in the story? Is it one of the official guidance pamphlets and publications produced by the Teenage Pregnancy Unit (many of which look at strategies to reduce teen pregnancy, by the way)? No, I can't find it there. Ah, here it is.
Ah look, a booklet of pictures by a photographer, designed to make young dads feel like they can really be a part of their children's lives. Doesn't this kind of sound like a good thing, given the extensive research that shows that parents and children do better if the dad's around? No, the Mail says it's pictures of CHILDREN with babies and dismisses it as encouraging teen boys to turn into that 13-year-old dad/not dad. Obviously. And how recent is this 'timely' advice by the way? The Mail says:
The advice, produced six years agopregnancy unit, was designed for teachers and health professionals 'over the next few years' and remains the current Whitehall guidance.
Aha. There we go, very timely this six-year-old advice. But then I get the impression that what has been spliced together is this booklet with some other guidelines, though that isn't explained by the Mail. That may be less to do with the false impression they want to give than the fact that the people who spoonfed them the story did that themselves.
Want to know where this story actually came from? Here's the clue:
However, the Tories warned that the guidelines from the Government's Teenage Pregnancy Unit glamourised teen parenthood and condoned irresponsible sex.
The publication in question includes pictures of boys with babies and was described by Cathy Hamlyn, then head of the pregnancy unit, as a 'timely resource'. Miss Hamlyn said 'popular attitudes to teenage fathers have been shaped by the examples which the media have chosen to feature'.
Have a quick look online, and what do you know, almost exactly the same story has appeared in the Telegraph, albeit slightly less screechingly than it is in the Mail. What on earth could be going on here then...?
Of course. So now it becomes clear. Wonderful shot by the Mail, and you can't fault the footwork, but the applause must really go to the non-striker at the Conservative Party, who provided the ammunition and watched its willing drones do exactly what they wanted.