It was that combination of attack lines that should have given the game away: the dead cat, to deflect from whatever might have been the latest topic of discussion, combined with making an accusation that would distract your opponents, forcing them to tie up resources rather than using them against you. And it was brought to light by the most predictable route: the Tories have activated a sleeper cell against Labour.
Milk, no sugar, hold the smears
Natalie Rowe warned us recently “I tweeted a few days ago that Dominic Cummings is going to ramp up the Jeremy Corbyn lie that he’s Anti-Semitic … I was told Dominic Cummings was plotting to wheel out more of the same, anti-Semitism lies against Corbyn/Labour”. All that was needed was the means to carry out the attack.
Until this morning, when Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, former teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, declared he had an exclusive, but from sometime last year. “A senior Labour politician changed the lyrics of the Beatles song ‘Hey Jude’ to ‘Hey Jews’ while his MP colleague repeatedly used the word ‘poof’ during a late-night bus journey last year”. Here was the anti-Semitism dead cat.
Then came the Wickham of old. “Dan Carden does not deny any of the specifics of the night in question”. Is it a “direct quote”, then? But do go on. “Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson condemns Dan Carden”. On the basis of what teaboy Wickham says? That’s never a good thing to do. But then came the scepticism.
The Mail on Sunday’s not even slightly celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges - a pal of The Great Guido - was not buying this one. “I'm no fan of Dan Carden. But I was told about the bus chant story soon after the incident was supposed to have happened and checked with a number of people who were on the bus. No-one corroborated it”.
All those hacks on the same coach, all with mobiles at the ready, and only Wickham heard it. Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads fame, who has encountered Wickham’s highly creative modus operandi in the past, responded “Alex Wickham has form for a false retelling of events. I witnessed him doing it live once, and captured the whole thing on audio, yet he still stuck to his story … In this case he's had 20 months between alleged event and retelling, because reasons”. His account is HERE; mine of the same event is HERE.
Dan Waddell, who knows a little about journalism, summed it up: “Take that Dan Carden story with enough salt to kill a slug. Guido’s lad is a proven fabricator”. But the Wickham intervention shows two things: One, that BuzzFeed News did not make the wisest of decisions when they took Wickham on, as I warned at the time, and Two, that he’s been activated in order not just to sling dead cats, but try and tie up Labour too.
After Wickham arrived at BuzzFeed, I showed how he’d invented a story about Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham when at the Fawkes blog. The hit jobs on the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr ended when Wickham left The Great Guido’s service, only to start up again at BuzzFeed, filled with predictably false claims. And last month I caught him out Bozo Brexit deal boosting. Now he’s gone full Fawkes.
BuzzFeed ended up buying a Tory sleeper cell. How’s that reputation looking now?
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