DEFINE IRONY: 7 times Tories were accused of ‘fake news’ as they set up a special unit to stop it

Theresa May has authorised a special unit to stop “fake news” – and a lot of people are making the same joke

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Will the fake news unit probe this Boris Johnson appearance in May 2016? We doubt it

Theresa May’s government is setting up a special unit to stop the spread of “fake news” – and a lot of people are making the same joke.

The deadly serious plan was announced tonight by Downing Street, whose spokesman declared: “We are living in an era of fake news”. [PMSL] He was, of course, talking about alleged Russian meddling in elections and disinformation that harms our national interests. But many, many Twitter users pointed out a few untruths closer to home.

 Lib Dem MP Tim Farron, of the anti-Brexit best for Britain group, said: “We look forward to the investigation in to Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and David Davis for misleading the people.”

So for posterity, then, here are seven of the most memorable times it was the Tories who stood accused of “fake news”.

1. Boris Johnson’s £350m Brexit battle bus

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The Vote Leave bus plastered a discredited slogan in 2ft letters

The now-infamous Vote Leave plastered a discredited slogan in 2ft letters on the side of a bus during the EU referendum . Britain does not send the EU £350million a week, and claims that it does have been repeatedly attacked by the UK Statistics Authority. The figure does not count the billions in payments that come back to the UK from the EU. It also pretends Britain’s £80million-a-week rebate is paid to Brussels, which it isn’t.

And of course it ignores multiple warnings that the economy will shrink after Brexit, lowering the total amount in the pot. That did not stop Boris Johnson going on tour on the bus and posing next to a sign which went even further, saying: “Let’s give our NHS the £350million the EU takes every week”.

2. Theresa May’s ‘not a U-turn’ U-turn

‘Nothing has changed’, Theresa May said, which was completely false

Theresa May made a humiliating climbdown during the election campaign over her ‘dementia tax’ manifesto pledge. The Tory leader was forced to water down the policy after a huge backlash, including from her own candidates.

The policy would have more than quadrupled the amount of assets someone can have before having to pay for social care, to £100,000. But it would have also made thousands more people count their home towards their assets – forcing many to sell up after they die.

U-turning on the policy, Mrs May said it would be modified to include an absolute cap on what people must pay over their lifetime. But she bizarrely told journalists there was no U-turn, declaring: “Nothing has changed! Nothing has changed!”

3. David Davis’ Brexit impact assessments

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David Davis said his invisible papers would “throw up if something has an impact”

David Davis was accused of misleading Parliament last year after saying he had no impact assessments on Brexit. For months the Brexit Secretary said officials were studying more than 50 sectors of the economy as Britain prepares to leave the EU.

But after Parliament voted to publish the reports, he said: “There’s no systematic impact assessment I’m aware of… The usefulness of such a detailed impact assessment is near zero.” He said there WERE reports on 58 sectors of the economy – they just don’t assess Brexit’s impact.

That was despite him previously insisting the work would “throw up if something has an impact”, “analyse the impact of our exit”, and “understand the impact of leaving the EU”.

4. Priti Patel’s meetings in Israel

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One of the many meetings Priti Patel held on her family holiday

Tory MP Priti Patel resigned as international development secretary last year after it emerged she held off-the-books meetings with Israeli politicians. She held meetings with a string of high-profile figures including the PM Benjamin Netanyahu on a “family holiday”.

In the midst of the row, her department issued a bizarre statement admitting Ms Patel’s defences of herself could be seen as misleading. After Ms Patel declared “Boris knew about the visit”, her officials admitted: “The Foreign Secretary did become aware of the visit, but not in advance.”

After Ms Patel said “the stuff that is out there is it”, when just two meetings were known about, her officials admitted she had actually met the Prime Minister of Israel and a string of other figures too.

5. Theresa May’s homelessness stats

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Theresa May selected her statistics very carefully at Prime Minister’s Questions

Last month, Theresa May used a brazenly misleading statistic to suggest homelessness fell under the Tories. Clashing with Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions, she said: “Statutory homelessness peaked under the Labour government and is down by over 50% since then.”

But although statutory homelessness did peak under Labour, its fall was under Labour too – before the Tories took power. The number of households accepted as statutorily homelessness has actually risen – from 10,100 in April-June 2010 to 14,400 in the same period of 2017.

And “statutory homelessness” is only a snapshot, covering people found to be both unintentionally homeless and in priority need. By comparison were 78,180 households in temporary accommodation on 30 June 2017 – up an eye-watering 63% since 2010. And England had 4,134 rough sleepers in autumn 2016 – more than double the 1,768 in 2010.

6. Jeremy Hunt’s NHS stats

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Jeremy Hunt has long clashed with doctors over his use of statistics

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was accused of misleading the public with his use of statistics during the 2016 junior doctors’ strike. He repeatedly used a key study to claim more people die on wards at the weekend, justifying his blueprint for a seven-day NHS.

But the study itself warned the “weekend” meant Friday to Monday inclusive, and any notion the study could be used to prevent deaths was “rash and misleading”. Britain’s top stroke doctors accused him of “misrepresenting statistics”.Another 3,500 doctors complained he had misled Parliament.

7. And finally… some things about Jeremy Corbyn

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Jeremy Corbyn is in the usual rough-and-tumble of fake news at election time
The many claims by the Tories about Jeremy Corbyn during the general election included:
  • He wanted to hike income tax from 20p to 25p, even though it was a 2015 suggestion not in the Labour manifesto
  • He said terror attacks “are our own fault”, even though he said there was nothing that reduced the guilt of the terrorists
  • He would cut the inheritance tax threshold to £425,000, even though it wasn’t a Labour policy, and was based on one unconfirmed news story

Read more here.

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