Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Keir Starmer

there was a large bin full to the brim with shredded documents spilling on to the floor. In Corbyn’s office was a sleeping bag. “You could not have pictured a more symbolic scene”

Anonymous Member of Starmer’s Team, The Guardian

Facts

On 4 April 2023 Jessica Elgot, The Guardian’s Deputy Political Editor, published a story claiming Corbyn’s team left their offices in chaos when Sir Keir Starmer took over as Labour leader.

“In one room there were assorted revolutionary flags including one from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. In the next room there was a large bin full to the brim with shredded documents spilling on to the floor. In Corbyn’s office was a sleeping bag” Elgot wrote, citing anonymous sources.

The following day Alex Nunns, a member of Corbyn’s team, published a series of photographs taken of the office as they were leaving. They show the offices stripped bare, but otherwise perfectly tidy. 

The Guardian then amended its article to include the line, in parenthesis; “Members of Corbyn’s team have disputed details in this account, saying the offices were left tidily.” It made no mention of the photographs. 

Just 4 days earlier The Times had published a story, also citing anonymous sources from Starmer’s office. 

“The hard left had got the band back together, said a breathless Labour official: Corbyn’s closest aides had reunited in the office of Lutfur Rahman, the mayor of Tower Hamlets, forming an ensemble cast of Team Starmer’s pantomime villains,” wrote Times columnist Patrick Maguire

“All were apparently ensconced in Rahman’s office, planning the Corbyn comeback: an audacious run for London mayor against Labour’s Sadiq Khan,” Maguire wrote

Unlike The Guardian, The Times checked out the story. It turned out to be false. Maguire noted that: “With this political morality tale, asserted confidently as fact, there was only one problem: not a word of it was true. 

Verdict

The examples are petty, but they suggest  a readiness by Starmer’s office to feed highly questionable stories to the press and a disturbing readiness of the press, at least in the case of The Guardian, to repeat them unchallenged. 

We emailed the Labour press office offering them the chance to respond. We received no response.

Client Journalism

This website has recorded numerous examples of client journalism from Conservative journalists during  the Tory period in power.  Here we have an early case of Labour client journalism from the Guardian, which appears to have given credibility to a false and malicious account of the state of Jeremy Corbyn’s office without checking it was true.  The Times was told a comparable story about Corbyn aides, but checked it out and exposed it as false.

We emailed Jessica Elgot to offer her the opportunity to respond and asked if she had contacted Corbyn’s team for comment before publishing the article. She passed our email to the Guardian press office who responded 

“We stand by our report about the former Labour leader’s offices, which was based on first-person evidence provided by multiple sources. The article was amended three days after publication to include reference to members of Jeremy Corbyn’s team saying the offices were left in a tidy state.” 

We later reiterated our initial question asking if Jessica Elgot had approached Corbyn’s team for comment to which the Guardian press office responded “We have nothing to add”.

Published 28 Jun 2024
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