Guido doesn’t want to grouse too heavily about fake news in The Guardian, he’d be here all day, though Sunday’s example really does fly in the face of accuracy. In the Observer, Helena Horton celebrated that it was “game over” for animal cruelty lovers as the Ritz takes grouse off their menu “in victory for environment campaigners”. Horton claimed:
“those hoping to eat the tiny game bird in the gilded Ritz dining room in London will be out of luck this year, as the world-famous hotel has quietly removed it from the menu after an outcry from environmental campaigners.”
Just one problem: the restaurant is adamant this is absolutely not true. Multiple approaches by Guido and co-conspirators have received this emphatic denial from the restaurant’s PR team:
“Yorkshire Grouse is on the menu in the Ritz Restaurant and has been since 12 August.”
In other words, the story’s central claim is for the birds. So why did the Observer say otherwise?
Firstly it appears Helena Horton’s source was Luke Steele, who first tweeted the claim, however has mysteriously since deleted his post. He’s introduced to readers as “executive director of wildlife campaign group Wild Moors”, with the paper overlooking his previous convictions for attacks on laboratories and harassment and intimidation of lab workers. Perhaps not an entirely reliable starting point…
Then there’s Helena herself, who long-reading co-conspirators may remember. Back in 2019 while at the Telegraph she wrote a sensationalist piece claiming British trophy hunters were going to Iceland to hunt puffins, 100 at a time, and bringing their carcasses back to the UK. Guido did a fact check of this at the time and, once again, there was no foundation in truth. Repetitions of Helena’s claim were deleted by the Independent, Mirror and Metro, however her fake news stayed up.
The Countryside Alliance is reporting a much better year for grouse numbers this year – no doubt a relief for many living and working in otherwise very isolated Moorland communities. They have made a formal complaint to the Observer over the story. Based on her past precedent at the Telegraph, Guido doubts Helena will back down…
An internal investigation at the BBC has found its own Climate Editor, Justin Rowlatt, made a series of false claims during a Panorama broadcast last year. While presenting the documentary Wild Weather, which aired alongside COP26 back in November, Rowlatt claimed worldwide deaths from extreme weather events caused by climate change were rising – despite the opposite being true. He also insisted Madagascar was on the brink of the world’s first climate-induced famine, when in reality other unrelated factors were involved. Maybe Rowlatt just forgot to mention that. Or maybe his fanaticism got in the way, which wouldn’t be a surprise given he last made headlines for completely losing it during an interview with the PM…
BBC News released a statement saying “it accepted the wording in the programme was not as clear as it should have been and a public acknowledgement was put on the BBC’s Corrections and Clarifications website before the complaint reached the ECU [Editorial Complaints Unit ]”, with the ECU itself adding it was upholding viewer complaints because “the statement that Madagascar was on the brink of the world’s first climate-induced famine was presented without qualification”. Of course, this is the same Justin Rowlatt whose sister is a twice-arrested Insulate Britain loon. Keeping it in the family…
Compare what Mogg actually said:
AM: Let me turn then to the facts, because you describe what happened, the reaction, what happened as ‘fluff’. I buried my father on the week that one of those parties took place and it was a party, And he was an elder of the Church of Scotland. That church was locked and barred and we had a small gathering. Most of the family weren’t there. The other parishioners that he would love to have been there weren’t allowed to be there because we followed the rules. And I felt intensely angry about that. And I do not regard this as ‘fluff’.
JRM: Well. so two things. One is that I think closing the churches was in retrospect a great mistake. I do not think churches should be closed.
AM: We can agree about that. But do you regret the use of that word ‘fluff’?
JRM: The great saint whose body is in Westminster Cathedral, St. John Southworth, ministered to plague victims in the 1650s. And the mission of the church, I think, was made harder by closing the churches. But as regards what is happening now two years on, against what is going on in Ukraine, what is going on with cost of living crisis, one has to get a sense of perspective. What is going on in Ukraine is fundamental to the security of the Western world.
AM: It is, but I’m sorry-
JRM: And you are comparing this-
AM: If I may-
JRM: You are comparing this- no, I’m telling you why I said what I said. You are comparing this to a fine issued for something that happened two years ago, where the police have come to a view and they’ve come to a view that the Prime Minister has accepted, but which he thought at the time was within the rules. So I think we need to look at what is fundamental to the security of our nation and the security of the Western world.
AM: I’m really sorry, but thinking about what happened to my family – and I only use that because it happened to so many others up and down the country, similar kinds of things – and we find, I would say, that word ‘fluff’ quite offensive.
JRM: The Prime Minister set out, in his statement, how sorry he was for what happened and for making a mistake. But I still think that in comparison with the war in Ukraine, with a fundamental threat to the safety of the west from Putin, a fine for something that happened two years ago is not the most pressing political matter.
AM: Do you regret the use of the word ‘fluff’?
No, I don’t. I think it is getting a sense of proportion. The Daily Mail headline said ‘don’t forget there is a war on’ and this I think, is something we need to remember. We need a sense of perspective. That’s not to say that the Prime Minister and everybody, doesn’t have enormous sympathy for people whose family members died from COVID that- All deaths are sadnesses for they afflict, in all circumstances.
AM: So let’s talk about the word ‘contrition’. You’re a man of faith, you understand what contrition means, and you know the Prime Minister very well. Is he saying sorry for the fact that happened and people got cross about them, or is he actually sorry for his own behaviour? Is he contrite about his own behaviour, in your view?
JRM: I think he’s deeply contrite and I think he would not have had the event had he thought it broke the rules. He’s contrite because he made a mistake. And he has admitted that in the House of Commons today, I think his contrition is very genuine.
To how the Mirror is reporting his response:
Absolutely atrocious context stripping…
The Independent’s race correspondent Nadine White is refusing to apologise or retract claims she made about Prince William last night, despite video footage appearing to disprove the allegations… and the story’s original reporter even apologising for mishearing William’s quote in the first place.
Following William and Kate’s visit to the Ukrainian Culture Centre yesterday, White tweeted “Prince William said it’s rather normal to see war and bloodshed in Africa and Asia but not Europe”. The tweet was shared over 25,000 times. The only problem is video footage later revealed this was a complete misquote…
Here’s what William actually said:
“Everyone is horrified by what they are seeing. It’s really horrifying. The news every day, it’s just, it’s almost unfathomable. For our generation, it’s very alien to see this in Europe. We’re all right behind you. We’re thinking about you. We feel so useless.”
At no point in the video does William claim it was “rather normal to see war and bloodshed in Africa and Asia“. Making the obvious and benign claim that no one below the age of around 70 has experienced full-scale war in Europe is not the same thing as saying it’s “normal” in Africa. Despite this, White insists she’s “standing by everything tweeted previously [and] Nothing inaccurate was posted.” So far, she’s yet to provide any evidence to support this and the video evidence totally contradicts her second hand report. Even as the Express’s Richard Palmer, the reporter of the original story, says:
The Duke of Cambridge […] doesn’t appear to have compared it to conflicts in Africa and Asia. In the chaos, a remark he made was misheard, starting a social media storm. Apologies for reporting that online.
The Daily Mail and PA also later corrected the record and admitted the original claims were “inaccurate“. Still, nice to collect a few retweets…
UPDATE: Nadine White has posted an update thread claiming “the source of any misunderstanding lies with the correspondent and PA – and no one else.” She adds that “those of us who took the original PA report in good faith and who commented should not now be subject to any criticism, as this saga was not of our doing.” She nonetheless tweeted “nothing inaccurate was posted” an hour after Palmer admitted his mistake, and after the video was released…
This weekend’s papers were full of briefing and counter-briefing by friends and foes of Boris. MPs, whatever they may claim, are keen students of polling, particularly if they hold a marginal seat. This sensitive topic was the subject of a Sunday Times article, the reporters having clearly been briefed that Rishi Sunak supposedly has the best chance of reaching voters in the “Red Wall” seats that flipped to the Tories in 2019, and also outstrips his closest rivals in the South Eastern “Blue Wall” Tory heartlands. This seems counter-intuitive, and the spin became even more incredible when the story went on to claim that an unpublished private poll from “Focal Data” for the Hanover Communications public affairs firm had found that Sunak would beat Starmer, whereas Boris would cause an historic record-breaking swing to Labour and put the opposition party in government. The article claimed that:
“The poll echoes a Survation survey for the Labour Party, shared with MPs last week, which found that only by keeping Johnson in place could Starmer win the next election. If the Tories swapped Johnson for Sunak or Liz Truss, Starmer would lose.”
Only one problem with that claim: Survation say there is no such poll. The CEO of Survation Damian Lyons-Lowe tells Guido:
Survation have not conducted “hypothetical leader” private polling for the Labour Party as reported in The Sunday Times… We also don’t view simple “leader name switching voting intention” to be of much predictive value.
The mystery of these unpublished polls gets murkier. The CEO of Focaldata, Justin Ibbett, also denied having conducted such a poll, and points out “if we were briefing it we’d ensure they got our name right, Focaldata is one word.” Who benefits from briefing the Sunday paper most closely read by Tory MPs with fake polls that falsely inflate the electoral prospects of Rishi Sunak?
UPDATE: Justin Ibbett, CEO of Focaldata, who tweeted on Sunday that he had not conducted a poll regarding a “hypothetical leader” now says his firm did:
Survation have re-confirmed that they have not conducted any such poll. We have changed the headline accordingly. Guido has asked for a copy of the Focaldata’s polling data tables which, under British Polling Council rules, have to be supplied within 2 working days of a poll being leaked or published.
Outraged by Matt Hancock’s claim the UK never experienced a national PPE shortage, Shadow Health Minister Rosena Allin-Khan took to Twitter yesterday to disprove him; armed with a photo of a nurse dressed in improvised protective equipment fashioned from bin bags. It wasn’t long before multiple users pointed out the image was actually from a Spanish hospital last April. Allin-Khan is yet to delete the glaring error…
Dr Rosena ended up apologising after her last bout of viral Twitter fake news. This is becoming a pattern…
Not only was her photo error mistaken in geography, it served to undermine her political point too: showing that at the start of this pandemic every country around the world was facing an overwhelming surge in PPE demand and struggled to keep up. Guido points out Spain is currently run by the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party – Labour’s sister party. Very uncomradely criticism from Dr Rosena…
UPDATE 13.30: The Tweet is now gone.