After Vote Leave, the official EU referendum Leave campaign, was found by the Electoral Commission to have broken the law, was fined, and had some of its luminaries referred to the Police, the problems that the BBC had had reporting and analysing that campaign got a whole lot worse. And the row over their approach isn’t dying down just yet.
As Zelo Street regulars will know, the Beeb had previously claimed that VL only broke the rules, not the law. It was apparent that their political editor Laura Kuenssberg had been briefed by VL, and most likely Matthew Elliott, a co-founder of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, an organisation that trades in falsehood and misinformation.
Following the EC rulings, VL has decreed that it will appeal, and has put out its own spin, especially on the assertion by the EC that VL refused to cooperate with its investigation. This has taken the form of one email, shorn of context, released via the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog.
Thus the scene is set. Enter former Kipper Suzanne Evans, someone with significant previous for being economical with the actualité. Interviewed on the BBC Daily Politics, she used the email to suggest that the EC were in the wrong, that it was they who had declined to talk to VL, and not the other way around.
The thought that the email, where the EC tells VL it already has sufficient evidence to proceed, might have come late in the day when VL knew they were about to get the wrong end of the decision and belatedly decided to cooperate - only to find they were too late - is not allowed to enter. Context. Double check anything coming from chez Fawkes.
Adam Bienkov of Business Insider was not convinced. “But there’s a difference between broadcasting and debating a balance of opposing views (which few people object to) and broadcasting and tweeting something which is demonstrably untrue in the name of ‘balance’. You can’t balance facts. Something is either true or it isn’t”.
What say editor of live political programmes Rob Burley? “The whole discussion here about VL/EC and Elliot is disputed. The respective sides say different things about it and it’s not resolved”. No, the discussion has been shifted by VL and their pals at the Fawkes blog into discussing what, without context, is no more than a dead cat.
Carole Cadwalladr of the Observer had, by now, been dragged into the developing row. “It's not ‘disputed’. The Electoral Commission is the legal regulator and it found Vote Leave had broken the law. That's like calling a murder verdict ‘disputed’. The murderer might dispute it but he's still guilty”. Jessica Simor intervened to mention Elliott’s dishonesty.
“And here Matthew Elliot says the High Court has found Vote Leave conduct lawful when a judgment PENDING on a different issue (legality of cross donations of goods & services). Plus saying Grimes was never in the Vote Leave office”. Matthew Elliot was caught by Channel 4 News’ Michael Crick. He lied his way out of it.
That the BBC is not getting all of this was demonstrated by an exchange between Tim Poole and Burley, where the former muses “I think @RobBurl is referring specifically to point about VL disputing EC's assertion that VL refused interviews. That point alone *is* disputed (as well as the finding). Q is: Does what EC say about the interviews, *specifically*, have same legal standing as their findings?”
Burley confirms this is the case. “Thanks - this is what is being discussed in the clip. Telling that people aren’t even bothering to watch the tweeted clip they criticise”. Well, I’ve seen the clip, as I suspect have Bienkov, Ms Cadwalladr and Ms Simor.
Without the full context of the email that VL leaked via the Fawkes rabble, and which Suzanne Evans tries to put up as part of a narrative that suggests this is a disputational point - it isn’t - it is utterly worthless as evidence.
Once again, let me spell this out: Vote Leave have tried to frame the Electoral Commission findings as somehow flawed, and that this is a disputational matter. They have zero evidence to back up the first point, and an equal amount to support the second. The email taken out of context is a dead cat, and should have been identified as such the moment it was raised by Ms Evans. It should have been put into context, or dismissed.
The BBC has, again, danced to the tune given it by Matthew Elliott - someone who you could not trust as far as he could be usefully chucked - and the Guido Fawkes blog, a borderline Fake News site. Thus the exasperation of so many observers.
This should not be difficult to grasp. One can only hope that grasping takes place soon.