The Tories stand accused of a secret policy to “openly lie” after a local party newsletter urges would-be politicians to ape Donald Trump and “weaponise fake news”.
Will East Devon Tories be singing from the same hymn sheet? Saying the first thing that comes into their head is “the tell”. – Owl
Rachel Wearmouth www.huffingtonpost.co.uk
In a document circulated to activists, Wellingborough Conservatives urge campaigners to “say the first thing that comes into your head” as “you can live that down later”.
Labour has accused the party of having a policy to “openly lie” to the public.
In a section calling for grassroots campaigners of Boris Johnson’s party to “learn” from Trump, the document says the president successfully managed to “weaponise fake news”.
“Trump has learnt that a ‘lie can go round the whole world before the truth can get its boots on’,” it says.
“If you make enough dubious claims, fast enough, honest speakers are overwhelmed. If someone tweets ten dubious claims per day and it takes you a week to disprove each one, then you are doomed.
“Trump uses this tactic to dominate the news and to crowd out legitimate politicians.”
The local party then instructs campaigners to “say the first thing that comes into your head”.
It says: “It’ll probably be nonsense, but it knocks your opponent out of his stride and takes away his headline.
“You then have a few seconds (possibly minutes) to reword it, say that you mis-spoke, were mis-heard, or whatever.
“You may get a bad headline saying that you spoke something silly, but you can live that down. Meanwhile your opponent is knocked off the news-feed.
“It runs counter to everything that traditional politicians are taught – viz. never say anything that is not 100% accurate. The problem is that 100% right, two weeks late equals defeat.
“Sometimes, it is better to give the WRONG answer at the RIGHT time, than the RIGHT answer at the WRONG time.”
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has written to Tory Party chair Amanda Milling, called for an urgent investigation.
Her letter calls for Milling to take disciplinary action, and says: “The public rightly expect honesty and integrity from political parties, elected politicians, candidates and local party activists.
“A Conservative Party newsletter that encourages members and politicians to openly lie raises serious questions that demand urgent answers.”
Labour leader Keir Starmer also raised the document with prime minister Boris Johnson in the Commons on Wednesday.
Holding aloft the newsletter, he told MPs: “It gives a lot of advice to wannabe politicians.
“It says this: ‘Say the first thing that comes into your head – it’ll probably be nonsense, you may get a bad headline, but if you make enough dubious claims fast enough, you can get away with it’.
“And it includes, the December edition, the advice: ‘Sometimes it’s better to give the wrong answer at the right time, rather than right answer at the wrong time.’ So my final question to the Prime Minister is this: is he the inspiration for the newsletter or is he the author?”
Johnson did not address the document directly, but replied: “I think what the people of this country would love to hear from (Starmer) in this season of goodwill is any kind of point of view at all on some of the key issues.”