Some press gotchas make for good stories. Many at least cause a little amusement. But some serve only to confirm the desperate and downwards trajectory of what passes for journalism within our free and fearless press nowadays. And it is into this last category that today’s attack on Labour MP Andrew Gwynne has fallen.
Andrew Gwynne MP
Gwynne, who represents the south-east Manchester Denton and Reddish constituency, has found himself the subject of an article from the Telegraph’s alleged chief political correspondent, Christopher “No” Hope, which tells readers “Labour MP Andrew Gwynne admits he is member of Facebook group where anti-Semitic posts are shared”.
No Hope ... and no credibility
Yes, the efforts to associate Labour MPs with anti-Semitism has not died down, despite the press and its outriders covering themselves in rather more than confusion last week when the attempt to claim that Jeremy Corbyn was meeting “the wrong kind of Jews” backfired on them all so spectacularly. So what evidence does Hope have for us?
“Andrew Gwynne, the shadow Housing secretary, was listed as members of the ‘Labour Supporters’ page on the social media website late last week … The Labour MP for Denton and Reddish has now said he will seek to remove his name from the group after he was approached by The Sunday Telegraph … Mr Corbyn, the Labour leader, deleted his personal Facebook page last month after he was found to be a member of groups where anti-Semitic messages were posted”. So not very much, then.
The idea that the Labour Party has any kind of control over Facebook groups which others have set up is fanciful in the extreme. Moreover, Facebook users cannot always prevent others from adding them to groups, and hence the potential for the cheap gotcha. On top of all that, knowing what others are posting in any kind of sizeable Facebook group is next to impossible. So the blowback at the Tel’s cheap stunt has been immediate.
Gwynne himself has stated unequivocally “The @Telegraph is running a story. I was added to this Facebook group without my knowledge or permission. I DO NOT support the posts and I ABHOR anti-Semitism. It has absolutely NO place in the Labour Party or in society. End of”. His fellow MP Lyn Brown snapped “What utter vile … tosh!! They know that MPs get added to Facebook pages without permission or knowledge all the time. @GwynneMP is no racist. End of. Yet another reason not to read the Torygraph”. Quite.
And that part of the press which knows Gwynne was equally unimpressed, with Jennifer Williams of the Manchester Evening News telling “FWIW I’ve known Andrew for over a decade and never for a second have I ever, ever had cause to think that he’s a racist of any kind. FB is a problem”, and her MEN colleague Rob Williams confirming “This is either a nasty little stitch up or just really poor journalism. Being added to a Facebook group is not an endorsement of said group”. Probably a bit of both.
Worse for the Tel, not only have the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog taken no interest in the story - despite running a slew of anti-Semitism allegations against Labour recently - Christopher Hope has not even bothered to reference it on his Twitter feed. It’s that much of an embarrassment to him.
The Telegraph has now ventured beyond desperate. But you knew that already.