This comment piece in The Telegraph (Alfie Patten – the exploited face of broken Britain) is a catalogue of cranky complaints about crapulent Britain, with its record rates of teenage pregnancy, exploited children, useless parents, and shockingly sordid shenanigans in the hedgerows of sink housing estates.
It’s about the tabloid stink surrounding the ’13-year-old father’ story, which has more than a whiff of chequebook journalism about it. For The Telegraph, this is the latest example of Shameless Syndrome, the phenomenon of life imitating art, as Britain’s underclass get wise to the public appetite for sensational stories about debauched lifestyles on Council Estates.
Judith Woods pulls the classic journalist trick of pulling together several different recent stories (Shannon Matthews, Baby P, the Sheffield rape/incest case, among others) and allowing the reader to draw conclusions. It doesn’t take much of a push, because the average Telegraph reader already thinks Britain is broken.
The added dimension here is the presence of media consultant Max Clifford (is there only one of these in the whole of Broken Britain?), the Press Complaints Commission, and the possibility that The Sun has been taken in (again?) by someone pulling a fast one.
This is a story that – with the help of media consultants – will run and run. Alfie’s life, and that of Chantelle and Maisie, will be served up for consumption like a soap opera. It might seem like a reasonable trade-off, but he’d better not get used to the attention. Now it’s clear that there’s money to be made, his five minutes of fame won’t last.
Sooner or later, an 11-year-old boy will come forward, new baby in his arms, and an exclusive interview on his lips.
And hovering in the background will be his father, fielding calls from the press on his mobile and proudly touting his latest business interest.