Those who tuned in to watch The Andy Marr Show (tm) yesterday morning will have seen yet another appearance on the paper review sofa by Sarah Baxter of the Murdoch Sunday Times, who exudes reasonableness, but would not be where she is without having taken Don Rupioni’s shilling. She duly took the opportunity presented by this live TV offering to push a story which her paper was running, and which was not true.
Last week, as Zelo Street regulars will need no reminder, following elections to Liverpool Wavertree CLP, most of the positions were filled by supporters of the Momentum group, which is unswerving in its commitment to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. As a result, the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate has wasted no time in ascribing all manner of frightening behaviour to the group, much of which has not happened.
So it was with the Liverpool Wavertree CLP elections: sitting MP Luciana Berger was said to have been threatened with deselection - she wasn’t - and ordered to apologise for being insufficiently loyal to Jezza - which also did not happen. The press’ attack on the Wavertree CLP winners was not helped when one of them spoke to the press when he was not authorised to do so, but there was still no deselection threat.
That did not deter Ms Baxter, who reminded fellow paper reviewer Stephen Bush of the Staggers of all the terrible things that had happened to Ms Berger. She had good reason to do so: her paper was pushing a wholly fictitious story which was duly pushed via Twitter. “Moderate Labour MPs are poised to stand down triggering a string of potentially damaging by-elections” was the claim. But it didn’t stand up.
The story did not ring true: Labour’s poll ratings would suggest anyone standing down and triggering a by-election would not harm the party one jot. All that would happen is that the MPs which the Sunday Times claimed were “moderate” would be replaced in every case by another Labour MP - who, if we’re following the Murdoch Corbyn-bashing playbook, would not fall into that category. The idea would be totally self-defeating.
Moreover, the use of Ms Berger’s photo on the Tweet was pure invention: despite all the press coverage suggesting she would be ousted - she won’t be - the story was so speculative that she had very clearly not been asked before the rush to publication. So it was that she had to give the Murdoch goons the hard word: “This is nonsense. Please remove my picture from your Tweet. I’m not going anywhere” she replied.
The result? The Sunday Times has now deleted the offending Tweet, which is as close as the Murdoch mafiosi will get to admitting they were pushing yet another pack of lies. Thus the “story” that included a Times editorial last Friday claiming dishonestly that the new CLP officers had “lost no time in demanding an apology” from Ms Berger finally ran out of road.
The Times and Sunday Times set great store by the standard of their journalism. The suggestion that they are still papers of record is a significant part of their appeal. But here, they have been manipulated as part of the Murdoch assault on the Labour leadership, taking a totally untrue claim manufactured by a known liar at the Guido Fawkes blog and boldly promoting it as fact. They got caught. And now they are bust.
Rupert Murdoch - coarsening British Political discourse since 1969. And he’s still at it.