Still not saying sorry for his disgraceful late night Twitter attack on the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, BBC star politics host Andrew Neil has now found himself embroiled in another controversy, this time concerning the increasingly alt-right Spectator magazine, where the unappealing bevy of hate merchants have been dutifully rubbishing the withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU.
So it was that the anonymous Steerpike - back in the day, this was the domain of the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, who this weekend strolled, or perhaps that should read waddled, across London from the Baby Shard to Northcliffe House to join the Mail on Sunday - brought forth “The top 40 horrors lurking in the small print of Theresa May’s Brexit deal”. What was not brought forth was any fact checking.
Still, it did promote the accepted Speccy line - “This week, Theresa May’s Government teetered on the point of collapse over her proposed Brexit deal” - and gave readers what they wanted to hear. The problem was that much of the Steerpike article was plain flat wrong, to the extent that 10 Downing Street requested, and was given, the right of reply.
Serially dishonest Spectator editor Fraser Nelson put a brave face on it as he told his followers “No10 has written 40 rebuttals to Mr Steerpike’s 40 horrors of the Brexit deal. Delighted to publish them here”. The problem, as Nelson knows all too well, is that of the lie being halfway around the world before the truth has got its socks on.
Hence the response of George Peretz QC, who told “Worth a read: but unfortunate that @FraserNelson and @spectator decided to publish the original without fact-checking - many of Mr Steerpike’s errors are serious and would have been corrected by any EU lawyer. The debate is febrile enough without spreading false ‘horrors’”. Peretz knows a little about trade, economics, competition and tax.
Rowena Kay regretted, though, that this was all too late. “I suspect that that was the intention [publishing without fact checking]. Just set him free and worry later. Take a look at the replies to the rebuttal tweet. The people who want to believe the original still do. It has done its job”. The comments whining about Olly Robbins prove her point.
These were not the only Euro-myths out there, as Charles Tannock reminded us: “Brexiteers are always keen on arguments that support hard Brexit and whether they are verifiable or not is of secondary importance as they know Euro myths have an extraordinarily long shelf life once circulated in the media. I'm still rebutting some years after disproving them”. Then there was the backstop role of Andrew Neil.
James O’Brien put it directly: “The Spectator ceased to be an organ of note when @FraserNelson elected to go after the Breitbart clicks. Tragic to observe. Somewhat more concerning when you remember that Mr BBC Impartiality himself, @afneil, chairs the publishing company for the Barclay brothers”. The alt-right swerve of the Speccy.
Yet that same chairman not only remains on the roster of BBC hosts, the Corporation is prepared to wipe his backside for him. Not a good look.
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