Some of the argument about fact and fiction in the EU referendum campaign is the normal, everyday political stuff trying to bend the facts to suit your purposes. The £350 million a day sent to Brussels claim by the Leave side is in this category – ultimately wrong, but based on a grain of truth.
However there are some things that are just plain wrong. No debate ought to be needed. We saw two of them yesterday.
First, Penny Mordaunt tweeted this:
No UK PM can veto NATO ally Turkey's accession, PM telling the public it won't be my problem is no comfort at all. #bbcqt @vote_leave
— Penny Mordaunt MP (@PennyMordaunt) June 19, 2016
This – as pretty much every person replying to her pointed out – is wrong. She even was told this by a MP – Chris Philp – from her own party, in public on Twitter. The ITV’s Europe Correspondent James Mates tweeted Article 49 of the Treaty of Lisbon to her to point out her mistake. Her tweet even had a sarcastic hashtag – #MordauntFacts – all of its own in response.
So can we give Mordaunt the benefit of the doubt? No, absolutely not. She said precisely the same on 22nd May. The reaction was identical. She was told it was wrong. And then, a few weeks later, she pops up and says the same. She is either incredibly stupid, or unpleasantly mendacious. Considering Vote Leave’s scaremongering on Turkey I suspect it’s the latter. Now 12 hours on the tweet still is on Mordaunt’s profile, and she has tweeted other things since.
Yesterday’s second example is from Douglas Carswell, who tweeted this:
Quite something that the extremist Jobbik party in Hungary wants us to Remain. You want political union w/ them? pic.twitter.com/GTICzdRQNZ
— Douglas Carswell (@DouglasCarswell) June 19, 2016
You would hope Carswell, reputedly one of the intellectual big beasts of the Leave side, would know what party governed Hungary, but even if not it doesn’t take much Googling to learn that Viktor Orbán is not from the far-right Jobbik Party, but from Fidesz – the main party on the right in Hungary. That’s also the same Orbán who stood beside Cameron against the nomination of Juncker as Commission President in 2014 (Carswell was still a Tory at that stage).
Here, as in the Mordaunt case, plenty of people have told Carswell of his error. James Mates of ITV tried here too, as did Rob Ford from Manchester University who, having written a well known book about UKIP, ought to be known to Carswell. You’d think that with people like that pointing out a simple error Carswell would politely correct his error, but despite having tweeted since the error, the original tweet still stands.
We have reached some very strange place in UK politics where even things that are easily provable one way or another – the procedure for a country to join the EU, or the party affiliation of a Hungarian politician – are not only wrongly written about by UK politicians, but repeatedly, and then not removed or corrected when the clear, obvious and blatant error is pointed out.
[UPDATE 20.6.16, 1300]
Orbán’s spokesman has joined the fray, asking Carswell to correct the error. No reply yet. Unsurprisingly. And as a result of this tweet to Carswell asking why the error was still on his profile… I got blocked:
@rapscallion – that’s not even *remotely* similar, because even the term to “control borders” is open to debate. Is it that checks happen? The criteria on who to let in? That argument is like the £350 million one (or not) that I mention above – it is not clear. Please come back to me if there’s a clear, simple, error that Cameron has made that’s akin to these two I state above.
When are you going to point out Cameron’s whoppers then Jon?
You know the one surely?
The one that says we can control our borders whilst within the EU, when we know we can’t