Tag Archives: fake news

Russia report: If Russian influence over the UK is ‘the new normal’, shouldn’t someone be charged with treason?

Bosom buddies: Boris Johnson with Russian industrialist Alexander Temerko. All perfectly innocent?

Now we can all see why Boris Johnson did not want the so-called ‘Russia Report’ released before the general election last year.

The report – released today (July 21) by Parliament’s new Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) – shows that successive Conservative governments have welcomed Russian oligarchs “with open arms”, giving them access to political figures “at the highest levels” – and made absolutely no attempt to investigate Russian interference in referendums and elections; in fact, the Tories “actively avoided” doing so.

This has led, the report states, to the growth of an industry of “enablers” who are “de facto agents of the Russian state”. The report does not explicitly state that these enablers include Conservative government politicians, but its assertion that Russia had access to “the highest levels” of political figures certainly suggests that this is the case.

And the fact that Russia has influence “at the highest levels” seems to have made it almost impossible to organise a response.

The report refers to the defence of UK democratic processes as a “hot potato” over which no government organisation wanted to take the lead in conducting an assessment of Russian interference.

In its response to the report today, the Tory government has said it has seen no evidence of interference in (this is the example it gives) the Brexit referendum. It seems clear that there is a good reason for that: nobody was looking. The government has said it sees no reason to conduct a retrospective investigation into such interference, which looks like a tacit admission of guilt in the light of the report. Committee member Stewart Hosie said, “That is meaningless if they haven’t looked for it.”

The ISC states that “social media companies must take action and remove covert hostile state material. Government must ‘name and shame’ those who fail to act”. The latter demand seems unlikely to happen as it seems clear that the Tory government does not want to do anything.

One reason for that may be the fact that the Tories have been delighted to welcome Russian money and the oligarchs who owned it, “providing them with a means of recycling illicit finance through the London ‘laundromat’.”

It is unlikely that Russia actually interfered in the mechanics of voting in general elections or the Brexit referendum; the UK’s paper-based voting system “makes actual interference with the mechanism difficult” – but “we should not be complacent about other forms of interference”.

The report states that Russian influence seems to have been exerted prominently in the social media, whose bosses had no interest in preventing it.

It states: “There have been widespread allegations that Russia sought to influence voters in the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU: studies have pointed to the preponderance of pro-Brexit or anti-EU stories on RT and Sputnik, and the use of ‘bots’ and ‘trolls’, as evidence.

“The actual impact of such attempts on the result itself would be difficult – if not impossible – to prove. However what is clear is that the Government was slow to recognise the existence of the threat – only understanding it after the ‘hack and leak’ operation against the Democratic National Committee, when it should have been seen as early as 2014.

“As a result the Government did not take action to protect the UK’s process in 2016. The Committee has not been provided with any post-referendum assessment – in stark contrast to the US response to reports of interference in the 2016 presidential election. In our view there must be an analogous assessment of Russian interference in the EU referendum.”

In their statement, the Tories have made it clear that they will not conduct a retrospective investigation: “The Intelligence and Security Agencies produce and contribute to regular assessments of the threat posed by Hostile State Activity, including around potential interference in UK democratic processes.

“We keep such assessments under review and, where necessary, update them in response to new intelligence, including during democratic events such as elections and referendums.

“Where new information emerges, the Government will always consider the most appropriate use of any intelligence it develops or receives, including whether it is appropriate to make this public. Given this long standing approach, a retrospective assessment of the EU Referendum is not necessary.”

This is hardly encouraging, given that the ISC report makes it clear that the Tory government has deliberately avoided looking for Russian interference.

Labour has delivered the weak-ass response that we have come to expect from Keir Starmer’s sub-Tory party, courtesy of Lisa “I wouldn’t disclose plans to sell off the NHS” Nandy.

“The report is very clear that the Government has underestimated the response required to Russia and it is imperative we learn the lessons from the mistakes that have been made,” she said. “The Labour Party calls on the Government to study the conclusions of the report carefully and take the necessary steps to keep our country safe.”

Fat chance! And she knows it. The people of the UK needed a much more robust response, calling out Prime Minister Boris Johnson over his extremely strong ties with Russians – he plays tennis with them in return for donations to the Tory Party, remember – and demanding a full-strength investigation into connections between Conservative government members past and present and Russians in the UK – both private citizens and representatives of that country’s government.

I’ll say it again, for clarity:

What we need now is a comprehensive and independent investigation by law-enforcement agencies into connections between anybody who has been a member of a Conservative government over the past 10 years (including members of other parties who have allied with the Tories – the DUP and the Liberal Democrats) and Russians in the UK who have been here either as private citizens or as representatives of that countries government. Did – and do – these relationships pose a threat to the UK’s security and to its democracy?

And if so, should those who have created that threat be arrested and charged with treason?

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Facebook cancels Tory advert that faked a news story

Remember the advert for the Conservative Party on Facebook, mentioned on This Site, that included a ‘doctored’ BBC News headline?

Facebook has removed it from circulation.

But the advert is to remain ‘on file’ as an example of how the platform is “misused”.

Before being deactivated the adverts received between 222,000 and 510,000 views – part of the £250,000 of advertising the party has run on the site across the last year.

A spokesperson told the BBC the advert would be kept as an example in their ad library so “people can see how our tools were misused”.

This is bad news for the Conservative Party, as the social media platform’s decision means it will be harder for the Tories to hoodwink the public in the future.

Source: Conservative Party have advert removed by Facebook for putting a fake headline on a BBC news story | The Independent

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Tory ‘chicken’ image breaks Facebook rules. Where’s the slapdown?

An insulting visual comparison between Jeremy Corbyn and a chicken has not only led to the Conservative Party being “owned” by Kentucky Fried Chicken – it broke Facebook rules when the party posted it there.

Read the following, from a post on the Political Provocateur Plus Facebook page:

They demand their rights, and in that right is the desire to post images of Mr Corbyn in a chicken suit which they super imposed to create a meme, and in doing that they couldn’t even tag it to say it was fake or spoof which Full Fact all but demands. The failure to provide this ‘description’ is against FB Policy, which is:

”Policy (rule 2)

“Pages, groups and events must not impersonate or falsely represent a brand, entity or public figure. Where a Page, group or event is being used to express support for or interest in a brand, entity or public figure, it must make clear in the name or description that it is not an official representation.”

Effectively, the Conservative party have gone against FB regulations.

What are FULL FACT and FULL FACT NI going to do about it?

”Inaccurately tagged content – (Rule 4)

“Pages, groups and events must not inaccurately tag content or encourage users to inaccurately tag content.”

Government pushed through legislation that sought to regulate social media. It wasn’t the Labour Party, or the Green Party for example….And now they are getting away with posting content that goes against the very regulations that they helped create, it’s absolute hypocrisy.

Clearly this is one rule for them, and another for everyone else.

This Writer understands that the organisation that checks Facebook for this kind of thing, Full Fact, and was set up by a Conservative Party donor.

TruePublica has investigated it, and you can read the article – and Full Fact’s response – here.

The organisation was labelled “Faux Fact” in 2012 after being found to be misleading and showing “aggressive bias”.

Will it find against the Conservative Party for this apparently flagrant breach of Facebook rules?

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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How can we trust politicians’ vows to fight fake news if the culprits are their friends?

Boris Johnson’s forerunner Theresa May told us her government would fight ‘fake news’ – but did little or nothing about it. Now we see one of Mr Johnson’s friends is behind a propaganda network.

Will he do anything to stop it? Doubtful.

And this network, run by former Tory election advisor Lynton Crosby, is on Facebook.

The person in charge of identifying and removing ‘fake news’ from Facebook is former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

Why hasn’t he done anything about it? Is he too busy blocking access to innocent left-wing news pages?

The lobbying firm run by Boris Johnson’s close ally Sir Lynton Crosby has secretly built a network of unbranded “news” pages on Facebook for dozens of clients ranging from the Saudi government to major polluters, a Guardian investigation has found.

In the most complete account yet of CTF Partners’ outlook and strategy, current and former employees of the campaign consultancy have painted a picture of a business that appears to have professionalised online disinformation, taken on a series of controversial clients and faced incidents of misogynistic bullying in its headquarters.

They said that such was the culture of secrecy within the firm that staff working on online disinformation campaigns, which selectively promoted their clients’ viewpoints on anonymised Facebook pages that followed a common formula, used initials rather than full names on internal systems and often relied on personal email accounts to avoid their work being traced back to CTF and its clients.

Source: Revealed: Johnson ally’s firm secretly ran Facebook propaganda network | Politics | The Guardian

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Another own goal for Rachel Riley and her impressionable friends

One would have thought a woman who is keen to take dozens of people to court for libelling her would be more circumspect about defaming someone else, but that seems not to be the case for Rachel Riley and Tracy Ann Oberman.

It seems they have swallowed a Guido Fawkes fabrication about Jeremy Corbyn hook, line and sinker.

The Fawkes blog has published a smear piece for the D-Day 75th anniversary commemorations, claiming that Mr Corbyn endorsed calls for the UK to disarm during World War II, in an article he wrote in 2003.

But it neglects to mention that Mr Corbyn was reviewing a book about the late Labour MP George Lansbury, who did indeed call for disarmament at an alarming moment in history.

So Mr Corbyn did quote extracts from George Lansbury: At the Heart of Old Labour, as he does here and as Guido quotes: “As war broke out in 1939 he wrote ‘I am also quite certain that the first great nation that declares its willingness to share the world’s resources, territories and markets and also disarms will be the safest in the world’

But he also wrote – omitted by Guido: “George lived out his years in frenetic activity for peace travelling across Europe and the United States preaching pacifism and calling for a world conference on economic justice. He controversially met both Hitler and Mussolini in this effort, to no avail. The dogs of war were already out”. That is hardly a ringing endorsement for Mr Lansbury’s approach.

The paragraph that Guido claims shows Mr Corbyn’s support for George Lansbury’s views was in fact referring to the book, not the man: “I hope Tony Blair, on his travels on behalf of George Bush, reads at least that part of this wonderful work.

It was a comment on the book – and a dig at the warmongering of the then-Labour leader, who at the time was heavily involved in military adventures in the Middle East that ended up causing nothing but more trouble.

Ms Riley failed to check the context and swallowed Guido‘s story whole:

This is a woman, let’s not forget, who is currently suing Labour officer Laura Murray for defamation over her tweet following the egg attack on Jeremy Corbyn in March, in which she endorsed the opinion “If you don’t want eggs thrown at you, don’t be a Nazi” with the words “Good advice”. She is claiming that Ms Murray’s observation that she was calling Mr Corbyn a Nazi is “an appalling distortion of the truth”, we are told.

Yet her own Twitter feed shows her supporting an appalling distortion of the truth by the Guido Fawkes blog.

And so, it seems, did Ms Oberman:

(I am led to believe that both Ms Riley and Ms Oberman have taken to deleting some of their tweets. Please let me know if the tweet by Ms Oberman (above) disappears and I’ll replace it with the screenshot I took of it. Sauce for the goose…)

Look at the number of people who have supported Ms Riley and Ms Oberman – 478 in the former case, 247 in the latter. That’s a lot of gullible people who have been taken in by a lie – because people they revere have repeated it?

Fuller details of this affair may be found on Zelo Street.

These are the people who are trying to sue me for defamation. If you think they should not be allowed to get away with it – which seems clear from this evidence alone – please visit my CrowdJustice page and contribute to my defence fund. They have wealth; I do not.

Don’t let them buy a win if you don’t think they deserve it.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Tom Watson surveys his Twitter followers on Brexit and HuffPost thinks it means something

Manipulating the media: Tom Watson used to talk about fake news – now, it seems, he produces it.

The sheer muddle-headed stupidity of this is astounding.

The Huffington Post has reported the results of a survey of his Twitter followers by Tom Watson as if it represents the views of Labour Party members.

Tom Watson is a hugely divisive man whose pronouncements against current Labour policy have alienated him from huge numbers of the party membership.

Anyone who has actually criticised him on this behaviour tends to be blocked from viewing/responding to his Twitter account.

So the following headline – and the article to which it links – should be read with extreme caution, it seems to me.

Others have been more forthright in their condemnation:

Exactly. It isn’t valid. It’s fake news.

And Tom Watson has to go, before he tries to do any more damage.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Sunday Times reporter disgraces himself AGAIN – and Labour MPs let him lead them by the nose

The Sunday Times reporter who published ‘fake news’ claims that Jeremy Corbyn’s office had interfered in more than 100 anti-Semitism investigations and that the Labour leader had an “anti-Semite army” has put his foot in it again.

Gabriel Pogrund responded to criticism of the story he co-wrote in the April 7 edition of that “newspaper” by tweeting another leaked Labour document – a letter from general secretary Jennie Formby, discussing the coverage. Unfortunately his own commentary completely misrepresents that letter, according to another Twitter user.

Here’s Mr Pogrund’s tweet. Take screenshots quickly because it may not stay up for long!

He went on to state that “Formby also says the most extreme abuse highlighted by The Sunday Times “is being treated extremely seriously by the Party and we hope the NCC will hear it soon as a matter of urgency.” Refers to abuse of Jewish MPs Margaret Hodge and Ruth Smeeth”.

And he tweeted, “BUT Formby doesn’t say why Labour readmitted members who spread conspiracy theories re. Rothschilds controlling the world, Theresa May plotting Manchester bombing abd Jews plotting 9/11. Or why “Heil Hitler” member has not been expelled. (Labour denies none of the above.)”

His claims have been comprehensively debunked by a Twitter user going by the handle “leftworks”. Here’s the thread:

You can see that there is clear cause to doubt Mr Pogrund’s integrity in this matter (as there has been previously).

But it seems he has done his damage.

According to the Huffington Post‘s Paul Waugh (himself no friend to Mr Corbyn), the usual suspects were causing trouble over the false information in the Sunday Times at this week’s meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party – treating it as if it were true.

And Stella Creasy retweeted details of a motion that went before the PLP – again treating the “revelations” in the ST fiction as though they were accurate:

The motion goes far beyond what should be required at the moment.

The demand for information allowing MPs to establish for themselves whether the information in the ST story is accurate is reasonable – MPs want to put their minds at ease.

But there’s no reason to lump a demand for the party leadership to publish its response to the EHRC investigation on alleged Labour anti-Semitism. That is a separate matter from this.

There’s no reason to demand a statement of solidarity with the treacherous Jewish Labour Movement which, under the terms of Labour Party membership, should by rights have its affiliation removed and the memberships of those members of that organisation who are also members of Labour revoked, as they have made it clear, not only that they will not help get a Labour government elected – they will actively try to prevent the election of a Labour governent led by Jeremy Corbyn. That’s against party rules.

And there is no reason to “commit to a fully independent complaints process for all allegations of racism, bullying and harassment by party members”. That said, This Writer thinks it is an excellent idea, as the party’s National Constitutional Committee has proved completely incapable of acting properly in this matter – hence its nickname: “National Kangaroo Court”.

Of course, the format of this independent complaints process would be contentious, and no MP with an interest in the result of complaints would be able to contribute to the process of deciding what form it takes. That means no member of Labour Friends of Israel, the Jewish Labour Movement, or MP claiming to have been abused could decide how abuse allegations are handled.

There are ways of handling complaints that could be independent and impartial – and you should take close note of the fact that the word “impartial” was omitted from the motion – but I have serious doubts that they will be considered.

Yet again we see Labour MPs acting improperly in the wake of allegations against the party’s leadership.

And then they complain when local members call for their removal.


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Mainstream news reporters: If you can’t provide evidence for claims, then those claims are FALSE

Prove it: If you see a political claim being put forward without evidence – in the social or mainstream media – feel free to post this in response, so everyone knows.

It’s past time we put an end to un-evidenced claims from so-called news reporters who are politically biased.

Claims attributed to “a source” or “an official” have as much authority as claims attributed to Merlin, Darth Vader or Robin Hood and it’s time we stopped putting up with them.

The latest I’ve seen is from Robert Peston, who quotes an “official with access to internal figures” to claim the Labour Party has lost 150,000 members since its peak.

Who is this official? How do they have access to the figures? Has Mr Peston obtained – or even sought – corroboration of the claim?

We don’t know. So we must conclude that the official doesn’t exist and the claim is false.

Furthermore, we have access to information from a named official who we know has access to the figures – Labour general secretary Jennie Formby – and who says the claim is not true. She did it in response to recent claims in the Mail:

I’ve created a little banner (above) that you can use to highlight unevidenced claims when they appear in the mainstream or social media. Feel free to use it.

Let’s swing the spotlight to point out the fakers.


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Daily Mail website flagged as fake news by Microsoft mobile web browser

A new feature on the mobile version of Microsoft’s Edge web browser has flagged the entire Daily Mail website, Mail Online, as fake news.

The site has been given a credibility rating of one out of five by Newsguard.

Visitors see a statement asserting that “this website generally fails to maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability” and “has been forced to pay damages in numerous high-profile cases”.

That is certainly This Writer’s experience of that website, although Mail Online wasn’t forced to pay damages to me. I wonder how I missed out on that? Perhaps I’m not rich enough already and didn’t have enough clout.

According to The Guardian, “NewsGuard is run by news industry veterans and says it is trying to establish industry-standard benchmarks for which news websites should be trusted. It employs analysts to manually check whether sites meet a series of journalistic standards, making all its judgements public and inviting outlets to respond to criticism and improve their standards to gain a higher rating.”

Some believe this may lead to legal action between Mail Online and Microsoft:

But there is a strong precedent for the rating. My case is just one example; the website Tabloid Corrections has found that the Mail is the most unreliable news source in the UK for the third year in a row, having been sanctioned more times by press regulator IPSO than any other title.

The site states: “The right-wing tabloid is the worst offender for the third year in a row, chalking up 28 offences in 2018. This puts it ten clear of The Times, which moves up three places to 2nd with 18 sanctions. The Sun stays at 3rd with 16, then the Daily Mirror with 10, the Daily Express and the Daily Telegraph with 7 each, and the Daily Star with 4.

“Almost all of the offences involved inaccurate reporting. Four of the Mail’s and two of The Sun’s violations didn’t involve accuracy of reporting and were against other clauses of the Editors’ Code of Practice (e.g. invasion of privacy, harassment).

“Although the Mail is the worst performer, it has improved on 2017 in terms of number of offences. Last year, the paper broke the rules 50 times. The bad news for the Rothermere-owned publication is that its total for this year would still have placed it first in both 2016 and 2017.”

I don’t think Mail Online will suffer much as a result of this – because I think most people consider it little more than a humour comic in any case. They read it to laugh at the nonsense. And, sadly, some read it to ogle the images in the extremely sexist newsroll down the right-hand column of that site’s layout.

As I write this, the BBC’s Politics Live has been covering the issue of fake news – without mentioning the Mail Online case once. Instead it focused on a Facebook post that claimed to refer to the UK Parliament but had its origins in the US political system. It’s perfectly reasonable to do so, although the omission is questionable.

The issue is one that This Site has highlighted recently – that anyone claiming to quote facts about political issues must provide proof, usually in the form of references to their sources. Then readers can check those sources.

If there aren’t any references then you assume the claim isn’t true – and draw your own conclusions about the person or organisation making it.

To blazes with Brexit – it’s being handled by a government that used PUBLIC MONEY to undermine the Opposition

Jeremy Corbyn: According to the Tory government-funded “Integrity Initiative”, he’s a puppet of Putin. The problem with that claim lies in the fact that the organisation making it is funded to the Tories to do so.

Theresa May’s Conservative government spent £2.25 million of our money funding a “fake news” campaign to undermine the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn – after claiming it was clamping down on fake news.

We’ve just spent months debating whether Mrs May’s handling of Brexit is acceptable but now it should be clear that the only thing she should be allowed to handle in the future is prison food.

Misuse of public funds is an offence.

The so-called Institute of Statecraft – based in an old Victorian mill in Fife, Scotland – runs a programme called the Integrity Initiative using military intelligence specialists and £2.25 million of our cash to post false information on the social media about Mr Corbyn and Labour.

According to the Daily Record, “The ‘think tank’ is supposed to counter Russian online propaganda by forming ‘clusters’ of friendly journalists and ‘key influencers’ throughout Europe who use social media to hit back against disinformation.”

But it seems clear the organisation used the money handed to it by the Foreign Office for party political purposes: “One tweet quotes a newspaper article calling Corbyn a ‘useful idiot’, that goes on to state: His open visceral anti-Westernism helped the Kremlin cause, as surely as if he had been secretly peddling Westminster tittle-tattle for money.’

“Another added: ‘It’s time for the Corbyn left to confront its Putin problem.’ A further message refers to an ‘alleged British Corbyn supporter’ who ‘wants to vote for Putin’.”

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry wants to know exactly what has been going on. She said: “It is one of the cardinal rules of British public life that official resources should not be used for party political purposes.

“So it is simply outrageous that the clearly mis-named ‘Integrity Initiative’ – funded by the Foreign Office to the tune of £2.25 million over the past two years – has routinely been using its Twitter feed to disseminate personal attacks and smears against the Leader of the Opposition, the Labour Party and Labour officials.

“And this cannot be dismissed as something outside the Government’s control, given the application for funding agreed by the Foreign Office last year stated explicitly that it would be used in part to expand ‘the impact of the Integrity Initiative website…and Twitter/social media accounts’.

“So the Government must now answer the following questions: Why did the Foreign Office allow public money to be spent on attempting to discredit Her Majesty’s Opposition? Did they know this was happening? If not, why not? And if they did, how on earth can they justify it?”

Labour MP Chris Williamson had tabled a Parliamentary question about the Institute for Statecraft, and received the following answer from FCO minister Alan Duncan: “The Institute for Statecraft is an independent, Scottish, charitable body whose work seeks to improve governance and enhance national security. They launched the Integrity Initiative in 2015 to defend democracy against disinformation.

“In financial year 2017/18, the FCO funded the Institute for Statecraft’s Integrity Initiative £296,500. This financial year, the FCO is funding a further £1,961,000. Both have been funded through grant agreements.”

Clearly, this answer is untrue. If the “Integrity Initiative” was intended “to defend democracy against disinformation”, then it had no business posting disinformation to the social media (in fact, nobody has any business posting disinformation to the social media).

An angry Mr Williamson, after the current revelations were published, said the Tories were “using public money to subvert democracy”.

Bizarrely, it is less than a year since Theresa May announced the creation of a “rapid response social media capability” intended to respond to the scourge of fake news, based in the Cabinet Office.

At the time, I wrote: “This is not an attempt to ensure a ‘fact-based public debate’. It is a bid to hijack the news and turn it into Tory propaganda.”

It seems I was right – they’ve just outsourced that function.

The Twitterati have, of course, been abuzz – and who can blame them?

Here’s a very good point:

This is quite right – it would be a list of people who peddle fake news that would be invaluable to those of us who want to stamp it out, although I think it would be better to hand it over to proper investigators, rather than the Cabinet Office organisation, in whatever form it currently takes.

For those of you who may have been convinced that Mr Corbyn really was a Russian puppet, here’s a quick response:

https://twitter.com/ToryFibs/status/1071821310806900736

Of course, senior members of the Labour Party are incandescent with rage:

But there is another level to this – the lack of interest exhibited by the mainstream media. This story has been in two Scottish newspapers – the Sunday Mail and the Daily Record – and on a few social media sites like Vox Political. And that’s all. It is a huge story as it involves the misuse of public funds for party political purposes.

Why are the newspapers and broadcasters not covering it (as if we didn’t know the answer already)?

Yes, we should expect democracy to be defended.

Just not by right-wingers like those running the BBC and most of the print news media – or by our democratically-elected government.

Yet this is the government that wants to push us all through Brexit, in the name of democracy.

It doesn’t stack up. We need an election to get the Tories out of office, and then a police investigation to find out who authorised the Foreign Office to fund this offence.

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