This conundrum appears to have been taxing the likes of Countdown numbers person Rachel Riley, whose day job is in the third of those categories, with hopefully a little bit in the second as a result. None of that is happening right now. But there is always that social media presence to fall back on. And so it came to pass.
Shortly after noon yesterday, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog posted a pretentiously billed “Exclusive … Guido Investigation” titled “Labour Sources Say Bastani Out Of The Labour Party”. Readers not yet asleep were told “Labour sources tell Guido that the founder of Novara Media and well known advocate of communism, Aaron Bastani, is no longer a member of the Labour Party”.
Sadly for The Great Guido, there was nothing “exclusive” about this supposed news. Bastani Tweeted later in the afternoon that “In light of claims I was suspended from Labour, which are complete nonsense, here is an email I sent to my local CLP Secretary after ending my membership a while back. This is the reality of politics in real life, mostly civilised & cordial. A million miles away from Twitter!” And that should have been that.
Fawkes over-eggs pudding in order to burnish undeserved reputation, film at 11. But it seems that Ms Riley, who has in the past claimed to be hot on Fake News, had no problem quoting a borderline Fake News site, quote Tweeting the Fawkes massive and adding “One of the biggest ringleaders of left wing antisemitism”.
James Foster was one of many who concluded that Ms Riley may have crossed the defamation line with that one: not merely making a claim that someone had said something that could be construed as anti-Semitic, but that he was a “ringleader”. Foster’s conclusion was put directly: “Wow. Bold claim. Time to speak to legals [Aaron Bastani]”.
Bastani’s response suggested he may do just that: “I just wanted to read a book on Chinese foreign policy today. Ah well”. Ms Riley, meanwhile, appeared confident that she would prevail: “Lots of legal brains … commenting here, so: 1) You can’t sue someone for saying something that is arguably true 2) Yes I do have a lawyer, thanks for asking. He’s the one who forced Bastani to apologise to Maajid for his anti-Muslim bigotry”.
Let’s take that one nice and slowly. One, “arguably true” is not the test. She would have to show that Bastani was part of some kind of organised anti-Semitic behaviour. Two, the apology given to Maajid Nawaz meant that Bastani avoided having to risk losing rather more than his shirt: Ms Riley knows how this game is played. And Three, the Nawaz case is a spectacular false equivalence: “My lawyer won that one, so he wins every time”.
That wasn’t what happened when she and her pal Tracy Ann Oberman went after barrister Jane Heybroek. One day, Rachel Riley will run out of road. I’ll just leave that one there.
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