Yeah, so…we’re having a general election. For the third time. In four years. If anyone needs me, I’ll be out in the garden burning my framed copy of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 and weeping for what could have been…
(You’d Be Forgiven For Being Surprised It Wasn’t More)
Just kidding. Like most others, I’ve been glued to Twitter, mindlessly scrolling and promising myself that next week I’ll go on a social media detox. Next week. Definitely next week.
I’m sure most of you noticed a strange change in branding for the official Twitter for the Conservative Party’s press office a couple of weeks ago – they changed their handle to FactCheckUK during the Leader’s Debate on November 19th, and spent the evening tweeting their policy ideas but presented as though they were neutral facts.
“This is fine,” I thought. “Just a stupid idea. They won’t do anything like that again.” Even Twitter condemned the account and warned that they would be taken down if they tried to do it again.
Literally the next day, they uploaded a fake Labour manifesto at the same time Labour were launching the real one, and tried to pass it off as actual Labour policy. They even paid Google so that the fake manifesto was at the top of search results. The website declares in bold headlines that the Labour party has “no real plans for Brexit”, right under considerably smaller writing stating that this is a “website by the Conservative Party.”
The clownery doesn’t end there. Facebook had to remove a Conservative Party video advert because they had taken footage of BBC reporters Laura Kuenssberg and Huw Edwards, in violation of intellectual property rights, and edited it to make them appear to endorse Conservative policy. Google has had to ban eight different Tory campaign ads, though their grounds for doing this were not disclosed.
Essentially the same day, the PM was accused of plagiarising a blog post by anonymous legal blogger the Secret Barrister about the perpetrator of the London Bridge attack (the exact words in the blogger’s accusation were “weapons grade shithousery, a term I find immensely pleasing). Boris made a 16-tweet-thread that was suspiciously similar to a blog post made only a day earlier, even citing the same resources on prison reform and quoting the same judge. Crucially, however, Boris comes to the conclusion that the whole thing is the Labour Party’s fault, whilst the Secret Barrister takes a more nuanced stance.
All of this whiffs of desperation to me. The Conservatives clearly don’t trust their own message – if their plans were truly what was best for the people, why not let them stand on their own merit? Why lie and pass yourself off as neutral conveyers of facts?
Whilst it’s hardly surprising for any politician to massage statements about policy, it’s another thing to mislead the public on what is fact and what is policy, who supports them, and the materials their opponents have released in their own campaigns – it’s verging on dystopian. If you come across any claims about any party, left or right, that surprise you, please, please take six seconds to google it and check whether or not it’s true. Sites like Snopes and real fact-checking service Full Fact UK are working overtime. In fact, Full Fact is a charity, and could probably use a donation. Meanwhile, I’m going to hide in a cave where I don’t ever have to hear the words “deal” or “oven-ready” ever again. Goodbye.