As the accusations fly over Vote Leave apparently ignoring the moratorium in referendum campaigning following the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, one self-proclaimed truth-teller has emerged from the row covered in rather more than confusion. To no surprise at all, that individual is Dominic Cummings, former chief polecat to Michael “Oiky” Gove at the Department for Education. Dom, it seems, has messed up big time.
After the Observer reported that “Key figures working with the official campaign for Brexit planned to pump out controversial pro-Leave advertisements to millions of voters via Facebook the day after the Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in June 2016, despite an agreement by all sides to suspend national activities out of respect, it has emerged”, MPs lined up to condemn Vote Leave for its actions.
Cummings goings wrong again
“Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley who knew Cox well, said it was ‘utterly despicable’. Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, called on Michael Gove and Boris Johnson - who led Vote Leave - to come clean and reveal what they knew”. Watson’s choice of words suggests he knows rather more about what they know.
So in strode Cummings to put everyone straight. “More fake news - claims we kept advertising during the ‘pause’ after Jo Cox’s murder. Wrong. The spreadsheet data from Facebook reflects when the ads were created, not when they were shown. AIQ was putting stuff into the system during the pause, not running ads. Again this false meme is already around the world. Alistair [sic] 45 minutes Campbell is ranting about moral cesspits. But yet again it’s fake news”. There was, however, a problem.
Researcher Sophie Germain has observed “AIQ posted ads for Vote Leave right after Jo Cox's murder, when both sides agreed to stop campaigning 16-19 June. Not for Vote Leave. These ads were *designed* to run from 17-23 June. One reached up to half a million”. She had even broken down the detail.
“Posted for Vote Leave on: 16 June (no timestamp or end date): 4 ads. Reach: over half a million 17 June: 23 ads, including 6 that ran 17-23 June. Reach: *over 4 million* 18 June: 26 ads (no end date). Reach: *over 5 million* 19 June: 3 ads. Reach: 3000. Ads like this [example advert shown]”. And what kinds of adverts were getting the big hits?
As if you need to ask. “What was so important, that Vote Leave would break a campaign suspension set to mourn the murder of an MP? Vote Leave to save polar bears, 17 June. Reach: 100,000. Video about Turkey joining the EU, 18 June. Reach: 999,000”. Right in the middle of the supposed moratorium on campaigning - another Turkey scare.
Ms Germain also includes a link, pointing out that “The spreadsheets are searchable”.
So the question for Dominic Cummings is this: if those adverts didn’t go out, how did they achieve that reach? That’s quite apart from the “Turkey joining the EU” claims being totally untrue, of course. But we won’t be hearing the answer to that - well, not until Dom’s had time to invent yet another fog of bluster and blame.
Vote Leave’s big hitters once again caught lying? I’ll just leave that one there.