Apologies for the title.
“Nosey council chiefs were accused of losing the plot yesterday after applicants for allotments were quizzed about their sex lives”, says the Express today. “A survey attached to the application form asks would-be gardeners about their race, religion and sexual orientation.” Note to “Daily Express Reporter” – sexual orientation ≠ sex life. Knowing whether someone is gay or bisexual or straight tells you no more about their sex life than whether they’re single or in a relationship. Anyway.
“City of Lincoln Council bosses are also keen to know if they think lesbians should be allowed allotments, too.”
Really? The council was unsure whether or not lesbians should be allowed allotments? Ok, fair enough, if that was true that might be a legitimately scandalous story, though not for the reasons the Express thinks. Of course, it’s not. As ever, none of this story actually holds up to scrutiny.
In fact, if you go on the Lincoln Council website, after applying for an allotment, the website simply gives you the option of filling out a confidential form unconnected to your application, so the council can make sure their site caters to everyone in the city, and one of the questions is on sexual orientation. Nowhere does the council say “So, lesbians being allowed to keep vegetable gardens, good idea or bad idea?” In fact, according to a council spokesman in the Lincolnshire Echo, the reason diversity and equality questions are useful in this case is that a lot of elderly and disabled people have allotments, and they want to make sure the sites are accessible for them. The other questions, on gender and religion and race, simply come with the standard form.
The Daily Express also claims that “while filling it out is optional, the site doesn’t make that immediately clear“, which is funny, because the very first page of the survey says “If you do not wish to take part in this confidential survey, please press Cancel and you will be redirected to the Council’s homepage.“* That seems pretty immediately clear to me.
So where did this bizarre digression about lesbians come from? Well, it seems like this article has been churned from one in The Sun, which has in turn been churned from the article in the Lincolnshire Echo. In the Lincolnshire Echo, a TaxPayers’ Alliance “grassroots manager” (a contradiction in terms, surely?) said this:
“This is local authority nonsense at its worst. Although it’s easy to poke fun at, it is costing us money and taking up the time of officers within the council.
“As our supporter asked, who cares how many Christians or lesbians or black people want allotments?”
By the time it reached the Express however, it had been cut down to:
“Who cares how many lesbians want allotments?”
which then got mangled by whatever poor soul got roped in to play “Daily Express Reporter” for the day into “Should lesbians get allotments?”
So perhaps that’s an important lesson for the future. If you want the Daily Express to parrot your ideas, TPA, make sure you avoid all those tricky things like rhetorical questions. You’ll just confuse them.
* To double check this story, I had to fill out an allotment form on the Lincoln Council website. If anyone from the council is reading this, sorry about for the application for an allotment registered to “Fake Name, 1 Not A Real Street”.