It seems the Press Association has accused Jeremy Corbyn of pretending it misrepresented his words – for absolutely no reason at all.
Mr Corbyn suggested there had been “mischievous misreporting” of his opinions on whether Labour should block a vote on a second Scottish independence referendum – but never mentioned the Press Association, which carried out an interview with him, from which his words were taken out-of-context by others including BBC News and ITV News.
Here’s what Mr Corbyn said – as reported by the Press Association:
He was saying that the question of whether a second referendum should be held is for the Scottish Parliament, not Westminster. If MSPs supported it, then that is, indeed, “absolutely fine”.
He didn’t say that he was “absolutely fine” with the idea of Scottish independence.
Here’s how ITV News reported the story on its website:
“Jeremy Corbyn is happy for Scotland to go to the polls in a second vote on independence. Credit: PA” – where did he say that?
Answer: He didn’t.
And look at the comment from Jackie Baillie, claiming Mr Corbyn had undermined Scottish Labour’s work campaigning against a second referendum. He hadn’t.
Nothing he said in that PA interview suggested that Labour doesn’t oppose a second referendum; simply that Labour in Westminster would not oppose democracy, if that was what MSPs supported.
Here’s the BBC News report:
“Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said that another referendum on Scottish independence would be “absolutely fine”… But Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has said her party would oppose any attempt to hold a referendum.” What’s “but” doing there? The two statements do not oppose each other.
“Mr Corbyn told the Press Association it was not the job of Labour ‘to prevent people holding referenda’.” He said it wasn’t the job of Westminster Labour to prevent one in Scotland, if that was what MSPs supported. The clarity is in the statement (in the PA extract, above, when asked what if there was a vote in the Commons [bolding mine]): “We wouldn’t block it.”
Are we clear on this? Mr Corbyn said if a vote for a second Scottish independence referendum was passed, in the Scottish Parliament, Labour in Westminster would not oppose the democratically-voiced will of MSPs – but his words were distorted in news reports on the BBC and ITV websites (for example; there may have been many more).
Now let’s move to the Today Programme interview on Radio 4 on Monday morning (March 13), in which the following was said:
So he said the Labour Party does not support another Scottish referendum, but if the Scottish Parliament decided to have a referendum it would be wrong for Westminster [boldings mine again] to block it. And he said there had been “a bit of mischievous misreporting going on there” without naming any of the mischief-making reporters.
So why, then, did Press Association editor-in-chief Peter Clifton immediately claim Mr Corbyn had cast doubt on his organisation’s impartiality? It’s clear he had not, and there are plenty of other, obvious, examples of exactly the kind of misrepresentation Mr Corbyn described.
Here’s The Guardian, quoting Mr Clifton (in a piece which, by the way, is just as “mischievous” as the BBC and ITV articles – it features one audio clip captioned “Jeremy Corbyn: I oppose second Scottish independence referendum – audio” followed by a video clip captioned “Jeremy Corbyn: second Scottish referendum would be ‘absolutely fine’”):
Peter Clifton, the Press Association’s editor-in-chief, said: “The only mischievous thing about this episode is the suggestion that PA has done anything beyond what it always does – accurately report what politicians say to us in an entirely impartial way.”
Given that there was no such suggestion by Mr Corbyn, doesn’t it seem more likely that – by complaining – Mr Clifton has made himself and his organisation guilty of exactly the kind of mischief that he was bemoaning?
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