The fine line that divides hard fact from complete fiction

Bill Clinton says that he intends to tell the truth. However, he was lying when he said that
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ALTHOUGH WE are bombarded with news every day, it seems to me that we take very little of it in - indeed, that maybe the more we are bombarded the less we learn. So today I am going to conduct a little experiment. I'm going to present you with a few news stories from the last week or so. One of them is made up by me and is totally false. Which do you think it is?

1. In the wake of Derek Bentley's exoneration, the Home Office has now decided that he was therefore put to death unlawfully and that the charge of murdering Derek Bentley should be brought posthumously against Lord Goddard.

It is very rare to try men for murder after their death, but the Home Office argues that if a man can be pardoned posthumously, as Bentley was, someone else can also be found guilty posthumously. "We have witnesses who will swear that they heard Lord Goddard shout to the jury, `Let him have it, boys !' " says a Home Office official. "It's open and shut. And if Lord Goddard is found to be the murderer of Derek Bentley, then we shall go ahead and dig his body up and hang him. It may seem barbaric, but it is what a hanging judge like him would have wanted."

2. Paedophiles in the West Country are to be given preferential treatment over families when it comes to housing allocation, on the grounds that they present a smaller danger to children and society in general than many a British family. "This recent horrific case of family abuse in the West, not to mention the Fred West case, bears out what we have always thought," says a West country official, "that more damage is done by the father of the family than by almost any stranger. Not so long ago there were angry crowds in Yeovil protesting against the rehousing of a paedophile. I have never seen angry crowds protesting against family cruelty. This shows that angry crowds don't know what they're chanting about."

3. Bill Clinton says that he intends to tell the absolute truth in front of the Grand Jury. However, he was lying when he said that.

4. A well-known cookery writer has been blackballed by the profession for inventing a country and its cuisine. The writer had published two cookbooks featuring recipes from Manganesia, and had even opened a highly successful Manganesian Cafe in Hammersmith, featuring a blend of Spanish and African cooking as developed in the ex-Spanish colony of Manganesia. Following the revelation that cookery writer Justin Chambers had only invented the place under desperate pressure from a publisher to set a new cooking fashion, the Manganesian Cafe has now been booked solid for months ahead.

5. It has been secretly decided by the IOC, according to a leak, that the only way to deal with the drugs scandal in athletics, cycling, etc, is to come clean and have openly drug-assisted events in future.

"There will be two Olympic Games, a Drugs Olympics at which anyone can take anything chemical they like, and a normal Olympics at which only bananas and glucose will be allowed. Similarly, a drug-free Tour de France and an alternative drugged up Tour de France. Or Trip de France, maybe! Then the audience can come out in the open and decide which one they prefer. I know which one the drug sponsors will prefer. But the drugs scene was so bad on this year's Tour de France that some competitors were hallucinating very early on and imagining they were riding their bikes round Ireland."

6. The top football teams in the Scottish Premier Division have bought so many Danish, Finnish and Romanian players in the close season that some teams are in danger of taking the field without any Scottish players at all. Teams in the lower half of the division are threatening to sue their richer opponents under the Trades Description Act on the grounds that they are not "Scottish" in any meaningful sense.

7. After resisting for many years the idea of getting together again to write a musical based on the idea of the Beatles getting together again, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber are getting together again at last to write a musical about the reunion of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

8. Melvyn Bragg was not fired from Start the Week because of political beliefs, but because of a memo John Birt wrote five years ago. Tired of constant interference by titled BBC governors, he instituted an immutable rule: "No more peers in the BBC at any level. This is non-negotiable." So Bragg had to go.

Did you spot that the last item was fictitious? Well done! So were all the others, of course - or were they? Who can tell, these days?