When BuzzFeed News obtained the services of Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, soon to be former teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, there were many across the political spectrum who were prepared to give this deeply unpleasant individual their congratulations. Others took issue with anyone passing adverse comment on Wickham’s propensity to talk well, while lying badly.
Milk, no sugar, hold the smears
It was put to me that my view of Wickham would be more favourable, had I met the SOB. The idea that all the lying and smears would be forgotten was yet another self-awareness failure of the media establishment, and that view remains unchanged. And, as ever, to demonstrate this, the opposition has come riding to my rescue. Yes, Wickham has pulled a blatant whopper this morning, one he cannot possibly stand up.
The soon to be ex-teaboy was watching The Andy Marr Show™ this morning, and at one point told his followers “Everyone did a really good job of disguising that planted question”. His future colleague Mark Di Stefano concurred: “May’s acting… first class”. Wickham, clearly made up that he had someone else on board this fake ship, added “maybe she was surprised No10 managed to deliver an actual news line”.
What was the alleged “planted question”? We’ll get to that. BBC editor of live political programmes Rob Burley was perplexed. “What on earth do you mean? No planted questions”. Who to believe, someone who is open and candid on Twitter, or someone who is full value for his nickname of “Billy Liar”? It’s not such a tough one.
Burley and I do not always agree - see the Cambridge Analytica scandal, for instance - but he served some years as Marr Show editor. The idea that questions get planted for interviews is bunk. Still, back came Wickham. “It was clipped up and she gave out the news line almost before he’d finished asking the question!”
He’s been immersed in his Big Book Of Proper Journalism™, hasn’t he? This continued to make no headway with Burley, who repeated “Well I can tell you 100% categorically there was zero prior warning”. Then we got to find out about the alleged planted question.
Di Stefano explained “Theresa May flat out reveals what Trump told her she should do in the Brexit plan: ‘He told me I should sue the EU’” and continued “Marr set up this line with a clip. May delivered it as if she'd rehearsed it”. No, Mark. Just no.
Let’s take this nice and slowly. Marr showed a (quite long, because of Trump’s rambling) clip of The Donald saying he’d given Theresa May some advice, but that she had not taken it. Marr then asked the PM what the advice was. But what should have been obvious to these supposed media professionals is that the length of that clip was easily sufficient for Ms May to have the answer ready. There was no planting; none was necessary.
If Wickham and Di Stefano want to blame anyone for the PM having her answer ready, they should go after Trump for his verbal diarrhoea. Not Marr or the Beeb.
Perhaps the Fawkes teaboy is trying to get in on the row Sky News is having with the BBC over access to Ms May. If so, lying won’t get him a seat at this particular table. As for everyone else - d’you still think he’s worth trusting, and calling a real journalist? Er, no.