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What the papers have to say about April Fool's Day.

April Fool's Day is upon us, and with it a host of fake newspaper stories. If, like me, you've had an early start and are finding it all a little confusing, here is a guide to what not to believe.

To be updated through the morning -- let us know if we've missed any!



Top marks for effort go to the Guardian, which has run a story on a brand new Labour campaign strategy.

In an audacious new election strategy, Labour is set to embrace Gordon Brown's reputation for anger and physical aggression, presenting the Prime Minister as a hard man, unafraid of confrontation, who is willing to take on David Cameron in "a bare-knuckle fistfight for the future of Britain", the Guardian has learned.

The paper reports that strategists are considering engineering a "high-profile incident of violence on the campaign trail", and that another tactic being discussed is "provoking a physical confrontation" at the TV leadership debates.

Brilliant -- and PoliticalBetting was nearly taken in.


Another good 'un from the left-wing journal, which reports that "Tribune is facing a hostile takeover bid" from none other than Alexander Lebedev.

Mr Lebedev, who also owns the London Evening Standard and the Independent, as well as Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, has offered to buy 75 per cent of the magazine's shares for a nominal payment of £1.50, 50 per cent more than he paid for the Evening Standard, valuing the magazine at £2.

The story plays it so straight that I was very nearly had. Special mention for the plethora of references to how great Tribune is ("prestigious", "revamped website and marketing strategy", "institution of British journalism"). It almost makes you wonder whether the paper is hinting . . .


Speaking of Lebedev . . . the Independent reports that a second Hadron Collider will be built on the Circle Line.

Health and safety advisers to London Underground are understood to be concerned about the proposal, and have raised the prospect of a mini black hole being created at Westminster when the two proton beams collide to re-create the conditions of the Big Bang.

Inventive? Yes. Plausible? Hell no.


The Telegraph reports that specially trained ferrets are helping to bring broadband to rural "dead-zone" areas.

Jon James, director of broadband for Virgin Media, said: "For hundreds of years, ferrets have helped humans in various jobs. Our decision to use them is due to their strong nesting instinct, their long, lean build and inquisitive nature, and for their ability to get down holes. We initially kept the trial low-key as we wanted to assess how well the ferrets fitted into our operations before revealing this enterprising scheme."

It almost sounds plausible when the story gives examples of ferrets being used to lay cables in the past, but one look at the picture of a ferret in a minature reflective jacket, and all doubt is dispelled.

Is this a joke?

We were fairly sure that this story from the Sun was an April Fool's Day stunt:

A flying fish gets its own back on an angler by leaping from the water -- and slapping her in the face.

Jodi Barnes was left with a sore cheek when she and a bunch of pals went fishing with BOWS AND ARROWS.

Fishing? With a bow and arrows? Would they not even try to make their report sound convincing?

But lo and behold, the Daily Mail runs the same story: "Revenge of the carp: Fish hunted by woman armed with bow and arrow leaps out of the water to smack her in the face".

Commenters on both stories have been hasty to point out that they aren't taken in, berating the shoddy Photoshopping. But a co-ordinated sting -- really? Seems unlikely. Perhaps we should all watch out for vengeful flying fish.

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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.