Now here's a thing, Huw
The inflammatory mistranslation by Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, now of Politico but formerly teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, has finally been called into question by the Guardian, but not before the less principled end of the hack and pundit spectrum had made hay with it, in its usual creative manner.
Cole doesn't know any better. Peston should
This included the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, another Fawkes alumnus now pretending to be a real journalist as political editor of the Murdoch Sun, who invented some more of those “sources” as he Tweeted “Government officials simply referring to Castex clanger as ‘the punishment letter’. Astonishing unforced error by Paris”.
Well, it would be, were it true. But as so often with Master Cole’s Oeuvre, it isn’t. Moreover, Cole doesn’t know any better. But one who should know better is ITV political editor Robert Peston, who has demonstrated the art of not opening the window in no style at all. “The fishing dispute between France and the UK looks pretty intractable. A senior French source told me [Boris Johnson]’s government is in breach of Brexit treaty commitments. A UK government member said ‘rubbish, no we’re not’”. Try opening the window.
But no, the window was not for opening. “And [Boris Johnson] tries to calm the fishing row with France”. No, not opening the window. And then came Wickham’s whopper. “[Boris Johnson] is visibly angry at the letter sent by French pm [Jean Castex] to [Ursula von der Leyen] about the fishing row which said the UK should be punished for leaving the EU. This will run”. Open the window now? No, he was going to double down.
“Yes I know the PM’s interpretation of Castex’s resonant phrase is contentious, and that what the French pm wrote was that it is ‘crucial to show clearly to the European public’ that ‘there is more damage from leaving European Union than from remaining inside’. But few can quibble that Castex’s stress on the importance of ‘showing’ the costs of leaving the EU by imposing penalties on the UK in this fishing dispute will feel like a political threat, even if some think that the costs in a more general sense are obvious”. Who few quibble?
He was still at it this morning. “'We’re not going to roll over” says [Liz Truss], about fishing dispute with France, on Today. Not really the language of de-escalation”. Not really the language of investigative journalism either. No sign of opening the window.
Meanwhile, the BBC’s Katya Adler (note: not Laura Kuenssberg) had revisited that translation. “French PM's missive did not, as has been suggested by UK gov and parts of UK press, demand GB be punished for, or damaged by, leaving the EU”. For which Alex Taylor in Paris was grateful. “Not everyone in UK media blindly swallowing Johnson/ Politico line unchallenged”. But too many in the UK media have taken Wickham on trust.
Robert Peston is in a position of not merely privilege, but responsibility. Yet he still won’t open the window. So he goes wrong. And so do all who trust him. That’s not good enough.
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