The Financial Times reported that during the TV leaders’ debate on November 19th, the Conservative party was accused of duping the public after rebranding one of its official Twitter accounts – @CCHQPress – into what appeared to be an independent fact checking service like those developed by independent organisations and media groups such as the BBC, the Guardian and Channel 4.
A Moseley reader draws attention to Peter Oborne’s perception of ‘a systemic dishonesty within Johnson’s campaigning machine‘
Oborne cites another attempt to dupe the public: “(Johnson’s) party deliberately doctored footage of the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, to make it look as if he was at a loss for words when asked about Labour’s Brexit position. In fact, Starmer had answered confidently and fluently. The video was a deliberate attempt to mislead voters. And when Piers Morgan tackled the Tory chairman, James Cleverly, on the issue, he refused to accept he’d done anything wrong, let alone apologise”.
Oborne: “As someone who has voted Conservative pretty well all my life, this upsets me. As the philosopher Sissela Bok has explained, political lying is a form of theft. It means that voters make democratic judgments on the basis of falsehoods. Their rights are stripped away”.
He has also charged many of the British media with ‘letting Johnson get away unchallenged with lies, falsehoods and fabrication’. His examination of Boris Johnson’s claims, published on November 18th, includes these instances:
- Some of the lies are tiny. During a visit to a hospital he tells doctors that he’s given up drink, when only the previous day he’d been filmed sipping whisky on a visit to a distillery. And sips beer on film the day after in a pub.
- But many are big. Johnson repeatedly claims that Britain’s continued membership of the EU costs an extra £1bn a month. False.
- He claims he is building 40 new hospitals. Sounds good. But it’s a lie that has already been exposed by fact-checkers, including the website Full Fact.
- Another misleading statement: “20,000 more police are operating on our streets to fight crime and bring crime down”. Recruitment will take place over three years and do no more than replace the drop in officer numbers seen since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.
- Jeremy Corbyn has “plans to wreck the economy with a £1.2 trillion spending plan”. Labour’s manifesto hasn’t been published, let alone fully costed. Johnson’s £1.2tn is a palpable fabrication.
- The Labour leader “thinks home ownership is a bad idea and is opposed to it”. I have been unable to find any evidence of Corbyn expressing this view.
- On his potential conflict of interest over his friend Jennifer Arcuri, who received £11,500 from an organisation he was responsible for as London mayor, Johnson said: “Everything was done with complete propriety and in the normal way.” We now know he failed to declare this friendship, and is being investigated by the Independent Office of Police Conduct.
- Johnson then told his TV audience that Corbyn “wouldn’t even stick up for this country when it came to the Salisbury poisonings” and that he sided with Russia. In the aftermath of the poisonings, Corbyn wrote in the Guardian: “Either this was a crime authored by the Russian state; or that state has allowed these deadly toxins to slip out of the control it has an obligation to exercise.” The Labour leader also stated that the Russian authorities must be held to account.
A friend said gloomily that he learnt nothing new from yesterday’s leaders’ debates. I agreed with that – apart from the production of the redacted NHS dossier, which has been overlooked in many media accounts.
Though I learnt nothing new the debate reinforced my view that one of the two participants is stable, honest, caring and visionary – and that the other is quite different.
A Moseley reader draws attention to an article by Peter Oborne, who marvels at media sycophancy: “Whatever Johnson does or says – however incompetent, immoral, ignorant or foolish – is strong, visionary and wise . . . We’ve seen nothing like this level of command and control of leading Fleet Street papers since the early years of Tony Blair, when editors and media bosses doffed their caps to Blair’s media advisers, Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson. That ended badly. The lack of criticism of New Labour helped create the hubris that led to the Iraq calamity”.
He asks us to imagine that Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister last week, put there by 93,000 mainly left-wing Labour members, and:
- that he then reshaped the Cabinet to make sure it was filled with personal loyalists, immediately sacking almost every centrist minister,
- that within minutes of kissing the hand of the Queen, he breached royal protocolby briefing the press about what the monarch had told him in private,
- that he committed himself to investing tens of billions of pounds in extra government spending within days of entering office, sending the pound into free-fall, hitting a two-year low,
- that he’d just ditched his wife of twenty-six years standing, and the mother of his four children, and installed in Downing Street a 31-year old girlfriend,
- that his new home secretary had been forced to resign in disgracejust two years earlier for secret meetings with a foreign government – and that he knew this, but still appointed her,
- that his education secretary had also been recently dismissed in disgrace for a gross breach of national security,
- that the new transport secretary had been found to have had a second job under a pseudonym while an MP – something he admitted to only after years of publicly denying the claims
- and that his most senior adviser was in contempt of parliamentafter refusing to appear before and give evidence to a select committee.
Oborne (right) continues: “all this is exactly what happened within days of Johnson entering No 10 last week. The collapsed pound. The girlfriend trouble. The dodgy cabinet appointments. The royal indiscretion”.
He asks us to imagine the media response if Jeremy Corbyn had acted in this way – “The outrage. The fury. The disbelief. The mockery. The newspaper headlines would be universally hostile. Chaos in Downing Street. Corbyn and his government would be flayed alive”.
Instead, Boris Johnson has been widely praised for ‘an almost faultless move into Downing Street’:
“It’s been a good week for Boris Johnson’s government,” drooled Christopher Hope, chief political correspondent for the Daily Telegraph. The Spectator praised Johnson as a man “dismissed as a philandering clown” but who has “confounded” his critics “at every stage”. The Times discerned Johnson’s “decisive action” in creating his new cabinet. The Telegraph opined that Johnson’s no-deal strategy sent a ‘clear message to the EU’ ”.
Oborne asks: “could it be that the rules of political reporting have changed?”
Rule 1: However incompetent, immoral, ignorant or foolish – Johnson is strong, visionary and wise.
Rule 2: Only Johnson’s opponents can be ruled offside, and only he is allowed to score the goals.
And ends, “It’s time Fleet Street woke up and asked difficult questions about Johnson’s Brexit plans. If Brexit goes wrong, Johnson won’t be forgiven – nor will the papers that backed him. It’s time to end the sycophancy”.
Peter Oborne won best commentary/blogging in 2017 and was named freelancer of the year in 2016 at the Online Media Awards for articles he wrote for Middle East Eye. He also was British Press Awards Columnist of the Year 2013. He resigned as chief political columnist of the Daily Telegraph in 2015. His books include The Triumph of the Political Class, The Rise of Political Lying, and Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran.
Propaganda pervading the Times online today
And seven articles headlined:
- Labour’s hate files expose Jeremy Corbyn’s anti‑semite army: no reference made to the support given by many Jewish people recently* and in the past.
- Vile anti-semitic taunts met with ‘a slap on the wrist’. (Labour files, local elections)
- Official blocked bid to bar Labour candidate accused of abuse
- Corbyn climbs aboard as May tries to save her sinking ship
- Matt Hancock: Tories must attract youth or face defeat . . . his party must bridge the generation gap if it is to avoid handing the keys to No 10 to Jeremy Corbyn
- Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn dance close, cudgels hidden, locked in a dangerous embrace, each hopes the other will suffer more.
- The war for Labour’s iron throne: like Game of Thrones, the party’s left and right are locked in an eternal power struggle.
Taking Peter Oborne’s words about Corbyn’s manifesto out of context, many will agree that once again, as expected, “Jeremy Corbyn is being traduced and misrepresented, by the establishment and its mouthpieces . . . That is wrong – and a betrayal of British democracy”.
Even YouGov buries this unpopular finding today in its extensive array of small-print spreadsheet pages, instead preferring to focus on another section of the poll.
At present, only Peter Edwards of Labour List reports, reluctantly no doubt, that Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters (‘camp’) will be cheered by the results of a 1,100 person poll carried out by YouGov for Election Data.
A 52% majority say they will definitely or “probably” back him in any future vote.
Peter Edwards more happily directs readers to the 46% who say they will vote against the “veteran socialist” – youthful Edwards-speak for ‘has been’?
But he sourly admits that “the leader is clearly ahead on the candidate for whom activists would consider backing”.
Let’s end positively: the intelligent articulate independent minded Peter Oborne (with reference to the Syria vote) remarked on Corbyn in words which are here paraphrased and applied more generally:
Despite bitter hostility from many on his own side he stands his ground and courteously sets out his honest doubts . . . the only politician who deserves to emerge with an enhanced reputation – Jeremy Corbyn.
There is no denying that he emerges as a man of moral courage, integrity and principle. Mr Corbyn performs the role which every leader of the Opposition is expected to perform, according to British constitutional textbooks: he held the Government to account.
At last we have an Opposition leader who does his job by opposing the government and asking the right questions with increasing vigour. Throughout the debates, Jeremy Corbyn is calm, resolute and precise — especially creditable given that he was unsupported by some disloyal Labour MPs.
“British service men and women will now be in harm’s way and the loss of innocent lives is sadly almost inevitable” – @jeremycorbyn
After recording Jeremy Corbyn’s earlier well-judged ‘rebellions’ on Iraq, Libya etc and noting that the ‘anti-war lobby’ makes lucid points about the risk of civilian casualties, the lack of ground troops and any viable political strategy for the future health of Syria, Oborne regrets that Corbyn’s motives were ‘traduced’ by David Cameron on Tuesday night. He adds:
“It is, of course, utterly essential in a parliamentary democracy such as ours that these arguments should be heard. But over recent decades, British policy has been marred by an unfortunate convention – an unwritten rule that both the main political parties should agree about foreign affairs. It is most unfortunate that when he does so, his motives should be traduced in the way that David Cameron did on Tuesday night”.
Read the man’s uneasy face snapped on that day – will his decision boomerang as one cartoonist has suggested?
Thanks to Scottish councillor, Linda Kelly and Felicity Arbuthnot who forwarded the list writing: “using the word bloody in its literal sense: Labour’ s bloody list of shame!”
Labour for: They were: Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East), Kevin Barron (Rother Valley), Margaret Beckett (Derby South), Hilary Benn (Leeds Central), Luciana Berger (Liverpool Wavertree), Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South & Cleveland East), Ben Bradshaw (Exeter), Chris Bryant (Rhondda), Alan Campbell (Tynemouth), Jenny Chapman (Darlington), Vernon Coaker (Gedling), Ann Coffey (Stockport), Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford), Neil Coyle (Bermondsey & Old Southwark), Mary Creagh (Wakefield), Stella Creasy (Walthamstow), Simon Danczuk (Rochdale), Wayne David (Caerphilly), Gloria De Piero (Ashfield), Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South & Penarth), Jim Dowd (Lewisham West & Penge), Michael Dugher (Barnsley East), Angela Eagle (Wallasey), Maria Eagle (Garston & Halewood), Louise Ellman (Liverpool Riverside), Frank Field (Birkenhead), Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar & Limehouse), Colleen Fletcher (Coventry North East), Caroline Flint (Don Valley), Harriet Harman (Camberwell & Peckham), Margaret Hodge (Barking), George Howarth (Knowsley), Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central), Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central), Alan Johnson (Hull West & Hessle), Graham Jones (Hyndburn), Helen Jones (Warrington North), Kevan Jones (Durham North), Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South), Liz Kendall (Leicester West), Dr Peter Kyle (Hove), Chris Leslie (Nottingham East), Holly Lynch (Halifax), Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham & Morden), Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East), Conor McGinn (St Helens North), Alison McGovern (Wirral South), Bridget Phillipson (Houghton & Sunderland South), Jamie Reed (Copeland), Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East), Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West), Joan Ryan (Enfield North), Lucy Powell (Manchester Central), Ruth Smeeth (Stoke-on-Trent North), Angela Smith (Penistone & Stocksbridge), John Spellar (Warley), Gisela Stuart (Birmingham Edgbaston), Gareth Thomas (Harrow West), Anna Turley (Redcar), Chuka Umunna (Streatham), Keith Vaz (Leicester East), Tom Watson (West Bromwich East), Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) and John Woodcock (Barrow & Furness).