Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Keir Starmer

“Starmer and Labour have no plan to stop the boats. Instead they want to extend our borders to the Mediterranean by joining an EU quota sharing scheme, which would open our doors to more than 100,000 illegal migrants to the UK” 

Jonathan Gullis MP, Facebook advert

Facts

Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis ran a Facebook advert from the 12th – 17th January 2024 that claimed “Starmer and Labour have no plan to stop the boats. Instead they want to extend our borders to the Mediterranean by joining an EU quota sharing scheme, which would open our doors to more than 100,000 illegal migrants to the UK.”

The statement is accompanied by a short clip of Gullis on GB News, where he likewise claimed that Starmer would “allow 100,00-plus illegal migrants to come through the Mediterranean into the UK…” 

Notably, the clip is edited to exclude a section of the interview where presenter Tom Harwood points out the 100,00 figure is a Conservative Party figure, and not a number the Labour Party has ever committed to.

Conservative ministers have repeatedly shared the claim that Labour plans to take “100,000” migrants, see all similar posts here.

As Full Fact Notes notes: “This is misleading. The 100,000 figure is a Conservative party estimate which is not reliable, because it makes several assumptions and appears to misinterpret a recent EU agreement on relocating asylum seekers. We don’t know how many migrants the UK might take under a future returns deal with the EU – Labour has not said what such a deal would involve, or how many migrants it would accept.”

Verdict

Jonathan Gullis has misled anyone who was exposed to the Facebook advert. He has spread misinformation across social media. 

We emailed Jonathan Gullis’ office and the Stoke-on-Trent conservative party offering them the chance to respond. The email was received, but no reply. 

Additional Note

Jonathan Gullis made his initial false statement on GB News. He then promoted his false statement in a Facebook advertisement that ran for 5 days in early January. He used a clip from his conversation on GB News in which he made the original false claim. It is important to note that  he removed from that clip the section of the interview where presenter Tom Harwood points out the 100,00 figure is a Conservative Party figure, and not a number the Labour Party has ever committed to. 

We reached out to Mr Gullis and the Stoke-on-Trent conservative party asking the following question:

“In addition to our analysis we would also question why in the video attached to the advert you excluded the intervention by Tom Harwood explaining that the 100,000 figure was false?”

As of publishing we are yet to receive a response.

Note on Political Advertising

Neither the Electoral Commission nor the Advertising Standards Authority has the power to regulate false statements made by candidates in their non-broadcast promotional material.

We called the ASA. A spokesman said that, outside of legal issues such as hate speech, non-broadcast political ads aren’t regulated. Any legal issues would be regulated by law enforcement, not the ASA.

The ASA has published a series of articles (2019, 2020, 2023) calling for non-broadcast political advertising to be regulated. Reasonably enough it says that as a non-statutory regulator funded primarily by advertisers, it is not the right body to lead political advertising regulation.

We also asked the Electoral Commission whether it was fair to say “that misleading content within political digital advertisements exist in an unregulated grey area?”

The Electoral Commission responded as follows: 

“It is illegal to make a false statement about the personal character of a candidate in order to influence the result of an election. Rules about defamation also apply to election materials. But beyond that there is nothing in law regarding the content, style or presentation of campaign material. As you say, the Commission’s remit when it comes to campaign material relates to whether material has an imprint, and to the money spent and received by campaigners. Guidance on the law for parties and campaigners is on our website, and we also have guidance on digital imprints.

“Voters do sometimes express concerns to us about the presentation, labelling or layout of campaign material. We encourage all campaigners to undertake their vital role responsibly and transparently.”

Published 28 Jun 2024
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