As the media establishment collectively blinked in surprise at the vehemently adverse comment passed on its woeful lack of moral standards, after BuzzFeed UK appointed Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham to be its new senior political correspondent yesterday, those passing that adverse comment began to unearth Wickham’s dismal back catalogue. But it was not yet complete: there was the saga of Jared O’Mara to come.
Milk, no sugar, hold the smears
O’Mara pulled off one of the shocks of last year’s General Election, wresting Sheffield Hallam from former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and completing a Labour clean sweep in the Steel City. This seriously pissed off the local Lib Dems, who would prove instrumental in the campaign by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog - led by Wickham - to get O’Mara unseated.
O’Mara’s digital past, going back around fifteen years, was unearthed and paraded before our free and fearless press, while the actions of Tory MP and party vice-chairman Ben Bradley, which happened rather less than 15 years ago and included some most unfortunate statements, were duly swept under the carpet.
Meanwhile, Wickham, as the Fawkes “news editor” (no, don’t laugh) was front and centre of a sustained campaign to get O’Mara. After the new MP’s digital past was unearthed, readers saw “Tories And Lib Dems Call On Labour To Suspend Whip From Jared”. Then came “Labour Suspend Whip From O’Mara”. The MP was declared a “Wrong ‘Un”.
Then Wickham began to overreach himself. The introduction of Sophie Evans, described as a “victim” of O’Mara, was part of this - she had had previous with the MP, but one look at her Twitter feed showed she was a seriously unreliable witness. The Fawkes rabble and their pals did manage to con the BBC into featuring her, though.
Jared O'Mara - now reinstated as a Labour MP
After that came the calls for O’Mara to resign, and then Wickham lost it completely. Sheffield Labour was going to discuss O’Mara’s future, and “Local Labour figures already have their eyes on Jared’s seat”. The Fawkes blog claimed dishonestly “O’Mara Has Not Helped A Single Constituent In Months”. Lying. That’s what BuzzFeed have bought into.
Wickham was not finished with making it up: soon after came “Local Labour Members Demand End To Jared Investigation So He Can Be Deselected”. No citation was given, because the Fawkes teaboy had invented the lot. Same with “Jared’s Local Labour Members Want Sheffield By-Election On May 3”. No citation once more.
Then came an actual true fact, and the point that Wickham gave away his one consistent source. “Lib Dems Fundraising For Sheffield Hallam By-Election”. Local Lib Dems were the main Fawkes source - along with Ms Evans. The rest was mostly invention.
Wickham claimed there was going to be a by-election. He claimed Labour members wanted one. He span a whole pack of lies about O’Mara’s conduct as an MP. So when O’Mara was reinstated yesterday with a formal warning, the Fawkes teaboy was bust.
That is what passes for “journalism” at the Fawkes blog. It is what earns its practitioner promotion. It is what earns its practitioner the plaudits of others in the media establishment. And it is why that establishment has a serious problem.