Veteran reporter and pundit Peter Oborne may be a small-c conservative, but he is a ferocious defender of good journalism, and an unswerving opponent of hacks who allow themselves to be manipulated by anonymous sources, becoming stenographers to the powerful and unscrupulous in Government. As a result, he has today had published a stinging rebuke to those who have allowed themselves to be thus manipulated.
Behold the burning trouser man
And to no surprise at all, his article, headlined “British journalists have become part of [Boris] Johnson’s fake news machine … It’s chilling. From the Mail, The Times to the BBC and ITN, everyone is peddling Downing Street’s lies and smears. They’re turning their readers into dupes” has been published at Open Democracy. Because the Daily Mail, where he has a column, would not have dared carry the piece.
Not even in the marginally less paranoid world of Geordie Greig would the calling out of so many supposedly reputable journalists be allowed. And what a roll of shame we have: Glen Owen, the Mail on Sunday’s political editor. Tim Shipman of the Sunday Times. Robert Peston of ITV. Laura Kuenssberg of the BBC. James Forsyth of the Spectator.
And while Oborne stops short of naming names - mostly - it is with the certainly of night following day that the presence behind all the lies and spin which those august figures are parading below their own bylines is Dominic Cummings, chief polecat to alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. Much of what Cummings is having put out there is at best misleading, and at worst downright untrue.
This matter more than ever right now, with Bozo The Clown’s Brexit deal up for debate by the Commons. MPs are being bullied into accepting a timetable of no more than three days for its debate. The chorus of “Get Brexit Done” (was there ever a more dishonest prospectus laid before the House?) is being hammered home by not only compliant hacks, but also reinforced by on-message Tory MPs and ministers.
And when it is deemed necessary to viciously smear MPs who may be considered insufficiently loyal to Bozo’s cause, those named above, and more, will obediently let their followers and readers know what “A Senior Downing Street Source” - in other words, Cummings, or someone on his behalf - had decided to smear them with.
Worse, Cummings is if anything a more tainted Number 10 spinner than Andy Coulson, taken into Downing Street by Young Dave against the advice of many in the press who knew the backstory. Coulson had some seriously dodgy associates. He would later be found guilty of phone hacking and go to jail. But Andy Coulson was never found to be in contempt of Parliament. Cummings has. The media should leave him well alone.
Instead, as Oborne observes, because they don’t want to lose access to the pearls of wisdom imparted by “A Senior Downing Street Source”, they play along with Polecat Dom and his dirty little game. They help Cummings sling his litany of dead cats on the table of news. They publish his lies as if they were unvarnished truth. And they maintain his deniability, and lack of accountability, as a source. It is time this stopped.
Dominic Cummings and his pals have to be called out. Because if they are not, it will get worse. How much lying will it take for the Westminster media pack to do its job?
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