While the Tories and their press pals struggle to regain the initiative over the fallout from the Grenfell Tower fire, their stooges in the allegedly new media are trying desperately to smear the real new media players on the left who are causing the Press Establishment and their allies in Parliament such discomfort. This means trying to paint left of centre websites as purveyors of Fake News. But here a problem enters.
Claims to be a real journalist. No, don't laugh
The Tory stooges chosen to perform the hatchet job are the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, who are no strangers to spin, smears, and dishonesty. Worse, the alleged journalist leading the Fawkes charge is Staines’ newly anointed teaboy Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, who lies, more or less, whenever he draws breath. Their chosen target was the Skwawkbox blog.
Under the headline “FAKE NEWS”, Wickham tells readers “Prominent Corbynistas have been peddling false claims this afternoon … The [Skwawkbox] ‘story’ was also promoted by two other viral Corbynista sites Evolve Politics and Novara Media … These Corbynistas, who work closely with Jeremy Corbyn’s office, are lying to their readers. They are deliberately peddling knowingly false conspiracies … Astonishingly low stuff”.
Wickham backed this up with a Twitter excursion telling “There is a growing vogue to give credence to sites like Skwawkbox and Evolve Politics. The truth: they are liars”. But, as Captain Blackadder might have observed, there was only one thing wrong with this claim - it was bollocks. So let me put the Fawkes rabble straight on two key points.
Evolve Politics did NOT promote the story run by Skwawkbox. They challenged Wickham: “Complete lies Alex. We never promoted this story. Show us the screenshots or take this libellous statement down”. Sadly, Wickham is not big enough to admit his mistake, and the Fawkes, er, Fake News is still there. And there is more.
Skwawkbox has NEVER had any contact with Jeremy Corbyn’s office. There is NO contact between Evolve Politics and Corbyn’s office. And to save Wickham the trouble of finding his pants on fire again, The Canary has NO contact with Corbyn’s office.
What was that about Fake News and lying, Alex? And there is yet more: Wickham wrote another post yesterday, “New HS2 Bidder Mired In Price Collusion Scandal”, making claims about Hitachi and their takeover of Italian train builder and signalling provider Ansaldo, which also contained a significant amount of stuff that was totally made up.
This is the nub of Wickham’s claim: “Last year [Alistair] Dormer was involved in a messy dispute with the Italian rail regulator, which accused Hitachi of colluding to keep their bid for an Italian rail company artificially low. Dormer denied the allegations but it was a big scandal in Italy and Italian MPs were furious with Hitachi”. And guess what?
There was no involvement in the bid by any “Italian rail regulator”. Consob, which intervened on behalf of minority shareholders, is the Italian STOCK MARKET watchdog.
Could it get worse? It certainly could. The Fawkes blog does not provide a citation for the claims about Italian MPs, because there is no citation available. There was no “big scandal”, and there were no accounts of MPs being furious with Hitcahi.
Put directly, this fitted Wickham’s own claims “They are deliberately peddling knowingly false conspiracies … Astonishingly low stuff”, and “The truth: they are liars”.
And the lies peddled by Wickham do not end there. Back in February 2015, he infiltrated a Commons lobby event arranged by campaigning group Hacked Off, about which he span, smeared and lied. As that year’s General Election approached, he told highly misleading claims about Labour Party donors, and the power of his pals in the press.
That wasn’t all: Wickham was in the vanguard of smearing Sadiq Khan in the run-up to the 2016 London Mayoral election, making claims about Khan’s own statements and his alleged links to extremists which were, to no surprise, not true. He doubled down later in the year by lying about Labour’s attitude to Israel. And in the run-up to this month’s General Election, he ran a malicious and totally untrue story suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn was suffering from dementia.
Yet after all his spinning, smearing and lying, Alex Wickham still has the brass neck to call “liar” on others. Pass the sick bucket.