David Baddiel has led criticism of Jeremy Corbyn for his pronunciation of Jeffrey Epstein’s surname as Twitter users accused him of making the paedophile sound ‘more Jewish’.
The Labour leader and Prime Minister Boris Johnson answered questions on the billionaire predator and his relationship with Prince Andrew during last night’s ITV election debate.
Both expressed sympathy for the victims of Epstein, the convicted sex offender who killed himself while facing trafficking charges.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was criticised last night for the way he pronounced ‘Epstein’
Though Boris Johnson pronounced Epstein correctly, Corbyn made the sound ‘Ep-schtine’, giving it what was described as a Germanic twist and sparking fury on social media.
When Twitter user Alec Feldman speculated that a Labour leader dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism had made Epstein sound ‘more Jewish’, comedian David Baddiel tweeted: ‘Every Jew watching noticed that.’
Viewers at home branded Corbyn an anti-Semite, with one nicknaming him ‘Jezbollah’ in a reference to his past remarks about his ‘friends’ in the Islamist paramilitary group Hezbollah.
As some people leapt to the politician’s defence, Twitter user @leekern13 wrote: ‘To the idiots saying ‘we should pronounce things the way they are spoken in their country – He was an AMERICAN. He was born in New York. He wasn’t German of generic ‘Jew’ – he was American and his name was Epstein. Corbyn tried to emphasise aliens. He otherised Jews. Again.’
The fury came after Johnson and Corbyn refused to back Prince Andrew when asked whether of not he is fit for purpose during their leadership debate.
During a quickfire round the last segment of the debate on ITV, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition were asked about the Duke of York.
Pictured: Prince Andrew and his friend, Jeffrey Epstein walking through New York
It comes as the prince is facing heavy criticism this week over his friendship with paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Hosting Tuesday night’s leadership debate in Salford, Julie Etchingham asked the Labour and Tory leaders: ‘Is Prince Andrew fit for purpose?’
Corbyn said: ‘Before we discuss Prince Andrew, I think we should discuss the victims that are there because of what Epstein was doing and I think there are very, very serious questions that must be answered and nobody should be above the law.’
Johnson said: ‘All our sympathy should be with the victims of Jeffrey Epstein and the law must certainly take its course.’
It came as follow-up to a question sent in by a viewer watching at home. The original question sent in to ITV was: ‘Is the Monarchy fit for purpose.’
Corbyn fired back that it ‘needs a bit of improvement’ but Johnson followed with ‘the institution of the monarchy is beyond reproach’.
Since Andrew’s Newsnight appearance five huge names – including Aon and KPMG – dropped their financial backing for his charity. He spoke with Emily Maitlis in the interview, which aired on the BBC on Saturday.
In the interview, Andrew denied having sex with Epstein trafficking victim Virginia Roberts, who said she slept with when she was 17.
Johnson (left) said the institution of the Monarchy is beyond reproach but Corbyn (right) said the Monarchy could do with some improvements
In his car crash interview, Andrew questioned whether a picture showing him with Ms Roberts – now Giuffre – was accurately showing him with his hand around her waist at the London home of Epstein’s girlfriend.
Viewers responded with fury at his claims, which included that he wasn’t sure whether it was taken in London because he wasn’t wearing a full suit.
Boris Johnson wins leaders’ debate… just: Voters back PM by 51% to 49% after Brexit-shy Jeremy Corbyn was jeered for refusing to say NINE times in bruising ITV face-off if he backs Leave or Remain
Boris Johnson edged a bruising first election TV debate tonight as Jeremy Corbyn was jeered by the audience for refusing nine times to spell out his position on Brexit.
With just over three weeks until the nation goes to the ballot boxes, the two leaders exchanged vicious barbs in the ITV special – but a poll suggested they fought each other effectively to a standstill.
A snap YouGov survey found 51 per cent thought Mr Johnson triumphed, with 49 per cent saying Mr Corbyn came out on top.
During the hour-long debate Mr Johnson insisted he is determined to ‘get Brexit done’, and warned that all Labour had to offer was ‘dither and delay, deadlock and division’ by calling another referendum.
Despite their increasingly bitter rowing, at one point Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn paused to shake hands after being entreated to raise the tone of politics
The hour-long election debate took place in a glitzy studio set up by ITV at studios in Salford this evening and was a high-tempered affair
The two leaders exchanged vicious barbs in the ITV special – but a poll suggested they fought each other effectively to a standstill
‘We don’t know on which side Mr Corbyn will campaign. Will he campaign for Leave or Remain?’ he demanded, saying there was a ‘void at the heart of his policy.’
The audience in Salford laughed when Mr Corbyn claimed to have been ‘clear’ despite repeatedly ducking the question on whether he would support Leave or Remain.
The premier also laid into the veteran left-winger for doing a ‘deal’ with Nicola Sturgeon, saying he would need SNP support to govern – and was willing to meet their red line of allowing a new Scottish independence referendum.
During the hour-long debate Mr Johnson insisted he is determined to ‘get Brexit done’, and warned that all Labour had to offer was ‘dither and delay, deadlock and division’
The audience in Salford laughed when Mr Corbyn claimed to have been ‘clear’ despite repeatedly ducking the question on whether he would support Leave or Remain
Despite the hostiluty
And he said there had been a ‘failure in leadership’ by Mr Corbyn in tackling a wave of vile anti-Semitism that has been wracking his party.
But in bad-tempered exchanges – with each frequently being told off by presenter Julie Etchingham for overrunning their 30 seconds for an initial response to questions – Mr Corbyn said he was offering ‘real change’ and would deliver ‘for the many’.
He said he would negotiate another deal, a referendum would happen within six months, and he would ‘implement the choice’.
He said: ‘We will negotiate an agreement and we will put that alongside Remain in a referendum and our government will abide by that result. There will be a genuine choice put before the people of Britain and we will carry that out.’
Carrie Symonds leaving after the debate ended. The debate was held at ITV Studios at Media City, just weeks before the election
Mr Johnson insisted is is determined to ‘get Brexit done’, and warned that all Labour had to offer was ‘dither and delay, deadlock and division’ with more referendums. Mr Corbyn said he was offering ‘real change’ and would deliver ‘for the many’
With just over three weeks to go until the nation goes to the ballot boxes, the two leaders drew battle lines in the ITV special as they set out their pitch to voters
A snap YouGov survey found 51 per cent thought Mr Johnson triumphed, with 49 per cent saying Mr Corbyn came out on top
Mr Corbyn, who appeared to be struggling with a cold, also prompted laughter when he tried to defend what Mr Johnson described as Labour’s ‘crackpot plan’ for a four-day working week.
Handshake from hell! Body language expert JUDI JAMES watches THAT awkward interaction during the Boris Johnson-Jeremy Corbyn debate
By Judi James, body language expert for MailOnline
A body language high point of the hour was when the two men were asked by Julie to ‘look at one another and make a gesture’ , which could have been taken in the wrong way, but Boris immediately leapt across to Corbyn to grab his hand for a shake.
The cameras seemed taken unawares but the microphone picked up the resounding thump as Boris added a power ‘pat’ on Corbyn’s back.
Once their hands parted Corbyn stepped back in alarm, raising both hands in a gesture of shocked rejection.
Judi James writes that there was genuine animosity between Corbyn and Johnson during last night’s debates
Boris stuck to his theme of Brexit like a barnacle to a boat and in terms of selling his core message his determination probably paid off. He even said he’d leave Corbyn a copy of his Brexit plan as an Xmas gift although he also added a jar of damson jam might go down well.
The genuine animosity between these two men was as obvious from their body language tonight as it was when they walked together frostily during entrance to the Queen’s speech. Despite looking slightly more amused by his opponent, Boris continually flung a backward thumb-jerk in Corbyn’s direction in a gesture of dismissive ridicule while Corbyn spent the first half of the debate refusing to look in Boris’s direction lest he be turned into a pillar of stone.
Compared to some of his bumbling, rambling appearances on the election trail, Boris was a man on fire tonight. His eye-gaze was focused and moved seamlessly between the audience and the cameras. His biggest weakness in terms of technique was his trait of reading his opening and ending remarks from notes rather than memorizing his key points or reading them from auto-cue like Corbyn.
Mr Corbyn said: ‘It is about reducing the working week all across the economy, paid for by productivity increases all across Britain.’
At one stage Mr Johnson quipped that the Labour leader had ‘found a magic money forest’ as they were both accused of splurging money.
However, Mr Johnson was also heckled as he insisted on turning the discussion back to Brexit at all opportunities. And the PM – who is in the process of divorcing his second wife – dodged directly answering a query about the importance of personal integrity.
The pair clashed bitterly over the NHS, with Mr Corbyn accusing the government of wanting to ‘sell out’ the health service in a trade deal with the US. He waved around a sheaf of FOI requests he said demonstrated there had been ‘secret meetings’.
Mr Johnson insisted the idea was ‘total invention’.
‘It is completely untrue. There are no circumstances whatever in which this Government or any Conservative government will put the NHS on the table in any trade negotiation,’ he said.
He said the NHS was ‘one of the single most brilliant and beautiful things about this country’.
Both men were subject to anger in the studio, with one member of the audience called Fahad raging that they had ‘degraded’ the debate and adding: ‘How can this nation trust you?’
Despite their increasingly bitter rowing, at one point Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn paused to shake hands after being entreated to raise the tone of politics.
During a quickfire round of questions, the leaders were asked whether they thought the monarchy was ‘fit for purpose’.
‘It needs a bit of improvement,’ Mr Corbyn said.
The PM responded: ‘The institution of the monarchy is beyond reproach.’
But asked by Etchingham whether they thought Prince Andrew, who has been embroiled in scandal over his BBC interview about his links to Jeffrey Epstein, Mr Corbyn said there were ‘very serious questions that need to be answered’.
And Mr Johnson said; ‘The law must certainly take its course.’
Mr Corbyn, asked to rule out a second Scottish independence referendum before the end of the first year of a Labour government, said: ‘I’ve said there would be no deal with the SNP, there would be no support for a Scottish referendum in the early years of the next Labour government because I want to invest in Scotland and give Scotland the £70billion it needs in capital investment.’
He said it was ‘their choice’ if the SNP leadership ‘chooses to put the Conservative government back in office’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson answers questions during the ITV Leaders Debate at Media Centre in Salford last night
Leader of the main opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn during an election head-to-head debate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Mr Johnson retorted: ‘I listened very carefully as I always do to Mr Corbyn – I didn’t hear him say he was going to rule out a referendum on Scotland. Did you?’
The Prime Minister claimed his Brexit deal allows the whole of the UK to come out of the EU, adding: ‘Northern Ireland is part of the customs territory of the UK. It’s there in black and white.’
PM-hopefuls clash over preserving the Union
Audience member John Firth asked Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn whether they believed the Union of the United Kingdom was worth sacrificing for Brexit.
Mr Johnson was unequivocal as he said that preserving the Union was more important than the UK leaving the EU.
But he insisted that his Brexit deal would preserve the Union as he categorically ruled out holding a second referendum on Scottish independence.
Mr Corbyn was less clear as he said he hoped ‘the Union is not going to be broken up or sacrificed in this way’ because of Brexit.
Mr Johnson repeatedly claimed that Mr Corbyn would hold a second Scottish independence vote if the Labour leader becomes PM.
He claimed that Mr Corbyn had already done a deal with the SNP to prop up his government in return for a fresh referendum.
But Mr Corbyn hit back and said: ‘There is not going to be a coalition between Labour and anybody else. There are no deals that have been done and no deals will be done.’
However, he suggested he would not stand in the way of a referendum but insisted one would not be held in the first year of a Labour government.
The snap poll by YouGov – who interviewed 1,646 people – estimated that 51 per cent of the public believed Mr Johnson won the debate compared to 49 per cent for Mr Corbyn.
Those who answered ‘don’t know’ were removed from the result, with the result well within the margin of error.
The detailed findings showed that Mr Corbyn was seen as marginally more trustworthy – by 45 per cent to 40 per cent and more in touch with ‘ordinary people’.
But Mr Johnson was more likeable by 54 per cent to 37 per cent, and seen as more prime ministerial by 54 per cent to 29 per cent.
The PM was viewed as having performed best on Brexit by a big margin of 63 per cent to 27 per cent, and on government spending by 50 per cent to 35 per cent.
Mr Corbyn did outperform Mr Johnson on perceptions of the NHS exchanges, by 54 per cent to 38 per cent.
Chris Curtis, YouGov’s political research manager, said: ‘Our snap poll shows that the public is divided on who won the debate, with most Labour voters thinking Jeremy Corbyn won, most Conservative voters thinking Boris Johnson won, and very few people changing their minds.
‘But given the Conservatives went into this debate in the lead, they will hope the lack of a knockout blow means they can maintain this until voting day.’
Speaking after the debate, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said: ‘Well, there is no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is a better debater than Boris Johnson.
‘But on the key issue of the day, Brexit, nine times Jeremy Corbyn would not say as Prime Minister that a second referendum that he’d call, whether he’d vote Leave or Remain. ‘That is a failure of leadership.’
The PM was handed a major boost earlier with a poll showing the Tories surging into an 18-point lead over Labour, helped by crumbling Brexit Party support – enough to give him the outright majority he craves.
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn shook hands on stage at tonight’s TV debate as they promised to restore trust in British politics
But Mr Corbyn’s team were aware that his underdog status meant that even just holding his own in the exchanges this evening could help turn the tables.
Boris Johnson says he would get Jeremy Corbyn a pot of JAM for Christmas
Boris Johnson tonight said he would give Jeremy Corbyn a pot Damson jam for Christmas after the two leaders were told to put politics aside and play nice at the close of tonight’s TV debate.
Before their closing remarks, the prime ministerial hopefuls were asked what Christmas presents they would buy for each other.
Mr Corbyn said: ‘I know Mr Johnson likes a good read, so what I would probably leave under the tree for him would be A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and he could then understand how nasty Scrooge was.’
Responding, Mr Johnson said: ‘I would probably leave a copy – since you want a literary reference – a copy of my brilliant Brexit deal.’
Pressed by host Julie Etchingham to give a non-political answer, Mr Johnson said: ‘Mr Corbyn shares my love of plants and trees. I think maybe some damson jam,’ to which Mr Corbyn said: ‘I love damson jam.’
It is the first time in UK political history that the two prospective candidates for PM have gone head-to-head on television during a campaign. In 2010, David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg were involved in the equivalent battle.
A dramatic Kantar poll published earlier found the Tories were up eight points on 45 per cent, with Labour trailing far behind and stalled on 27 per cent.
Most of the Conservative advance over the past week was down to plummeting ratings for the Brexit Party.
It was down seven points to just 2 per cent after Nigel Farage withdrew more than half his candidates to avoid splitting the Eurosceptic vote on December 12.
The lead would be enough to deliver a big majority for Mr Johnson if it was replicated evenly across the country.
However, a separate survey for YouGov was slightly less rosy for the Tories – showing their advantage coming down from 17 points at the end of last week to a still healthy 12 points.
Mr Johnson travelled with his partner Carrie Symonds to the event – their first joint appearance of the election campaign.
This morning the premier posed in Jimmy Egan’s Boxing Academy in Manchester – with ‘Get Brexit Done’ across his boxing gloves.
Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn opted for a more leisurely pre-debate routine, posting pictures of himself visiting a barber for a beard trim.
As he arrived at the venue this evening he said he had braced himself for the face-off by ‘eating a Caesar salad’ and ‘drinking cups of tea’.
Mr Johnson has promised to launch a full-frontal political attack on Mr Corbyn with an ultimatum to stop ‘dithering’ on his Brexit plans.
But Mr Corbyn is laying out a populist hard-Left platform, after he pledged to spend up to £100billion nationalising chunks of BT to provide free broadband for everyone.
In fresh evidence that Labour is abandoning the traditional centre ground, shadow chancellor John McDonnell today vowed to target ‘obscene’ billionaires, force private firms to slash pay for top executives, and oust companies from the London Stock Exchange if they do not meet climate change targets.
The Prime Minister issued a challenge to his Labour counterpart warning that failure to answer on key points would leave the public with ‘no choice but to conclude that Corbyn’s Labour, propped up by the SNP, will mean dither, delay and uncertainty’.
In a letter published by the Tories last night he set Mr Corbyn four questions to answer: how he would vote in a second Brexit referendum, what Labour’s position on freedom of movement is, how much he would pay the EU for ‘market access’, and whether all of his MPs would back his Brexit policy.
The Kantar poll this evening found the Tories were up eight points on 45 per cent, with Labour trailing far behind and stalled on 27 per cent
Tory sources said the Prime Minister would use the debate to hammer home his central message that only the Conservatives can be relied upon to deliver Brexit – while also raising concerns about Labour’s opposition to immigration controls.
But Mr McDonnell made clear that Labour is also spoiling for a fight, declaring war on the wealthy and business in a speech in London earlier.
Jeremy Corbyn accuses Boris Johnson of plotting to sell off the NHS to the US in post-Brexit trade deal
Jeremy Corbyn tonight accused Boris Johnson of plotting to sell of the NHS to the US in a post-Brexit trade deal as the two men were pushed on their plans for the health service.
The Labour leader claimed the Prime Minister had engaged in ‘secret meetings’ with the US about giving firms access to the NHS.
He brandished redacted documents he said had been obtained from the government under the Freedom of Information Act which detailed the meetings.
Mr Corbyn said: ‘What we know of what Mr Johnson has done is a series of secret meetings with the United States in which they were proposing to open up our NHS markets as they call them to American companies.’
Mr Johnson dismissed the claims as he said: ‘This is an absolute invention. It is completely untrue.
‘There are no circumstances whatever in which this Government or any Conservative government will put the NHS on the table in any trade negotiation.’
The two men were then asked, other than providing more funding, how they intended to ensure the health service will be able to meet future demand.
Mr Corbyn described the NHS as a ‘wonderful, brilliant institution’ while Mr Johson said it was ‘beautiful’ and one of the most ‘brilliant things about our society’.
He vowed to target ‘obscene’ billionaires, force private firms to slash pay for top executives, and oust companies from the London Stock Exchange if they do not meet climate change targets.
In a fresh lurch to the Left, the shadow chancellor said it was ‘obscene’ that people could become billionaires, saying ‘no-one deserves to have that kind of money’.
The veteran socialist said bosses at firms with public sector contracts should not be paid more than around £350,000.
He hailed Labour’s proposals to force medium-sized firms to give 10 per cent of their shares to workers, and bolster union power by having a third of their board made up of staff. Companies who fail to meet objectives to tackle climate change also faced being ‘delisted’ from the stock exchange.
And Mr McDonnell vowed to neuter the ‘Big Four’ accountancy companies, saying he would create a new state-backed auditor to stop them behaving like a ‘cartel’.
The assault on corporate governance provoked alarm among business groups, who warned that Labour risks ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ and trying to manage the economy ‘by diktat’.
The extraordinary platform is more evidence that Labour is gearing up to unveil a much more dramatic manifesto on Thursday than their offering two years ago.
Last week Mr Corbyn pledged to nationalise huge chunks of BT and offer free broadband to every household – despite warnings it would cost £100billion and require the state to take control of huge swathes of other businesses such as Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Sky.
Tonight’s ITV debate from Salford was the first time the two largest party leaders have squared off on live television in an election debate.
Previous debates have featured a wider array of leaders, but Theresa May refused to take part ahead of the 2017 election where she lost the Tory majority.
One ally of the PM acknowledged that it was a ‘risk’ to take on an opponent who is lagging far behind in the polls.
Mr Corbyn posed for photographs with members of the public as he arrived for the debate in Salford tonight
HOW DID TONIGHT’S ITV DEBATE WORK?
The two leaders went head-to-head in a television studio for the first time tonight on ITV.
The hour-long debate, hosted by Julie Etchingham, was split into two halves, with the first devoted to Brexit.
ITV viewers submitted questions which were chosen to ‘broadly reflect a range of society, from different political backgrounds,’ according to the broadcaster.
There was a live audience of around 200 people at Media City in Salford.
Both leaders stood behind lecterns, side by side on the stage.
They had one minute each to make an opening statement and another 45 seconds for a closing statement.
‘Corbyn has nothing to lose,’ the source said.
‘I’ll be sleeping a lot easier once it’s over.’
The Liberal Democrats and SNP yesterday lost a High Court challenge to have Jo Swinson and Nicola Sturgeon included in the debate. The two parties claimed ITV’s decision was unlawful because it breached impartiality rules. Lawyers for the Lib Dems claimed that with Labour sitting on the fence on Brexit, ‘the voice of Remain has been excluded’ from the debate.
But two judges ruled that the decision was not open to challenge in the courts and that the parties’ only recourse was to complain to Ofcom.
Tonight’s hour-long debate – with Julie Etchingham as the moderator – was split into two halves, with the first devoted to Brexit.
Both sides expected the debate to be the first time that many voters engage with the election arguments.
The first televised election debates in 2010 attracted audiences of close to ten million.
Tory strategists have told Mr Johnson to go after Mr Corbyn over his attempt to sit on the fence during the Brexit debate.
In his letter to Mr Corbyn last night, the PM said voters had a ‘right to know’ what Labour planned to do on key issues facing the country.
He added: ‘So far in this campaign, you have ducked those questions.’
While Mr Johnson hammered his opponent on Brexit, Tory strategists also urged him to also use the debate to paint a positive vision of life after Brexit.
He stressed his commitment to investing in public services like the NHS, schools and the police.
Jeremy Corbyn forced to defend his record on tackling anti-Semitism in the Labour Party as he and Boris Johnson face questions about their character
Jeremy Corbyn was tonight forced to defend his handling of the Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis as he and Boris Johnson faced searching questions about their personal character.
Mr Corbyn’s leadership of Labour has been repeatedly rocked by accusations of anti-Semitism within the party and he has been personally criticised for his apparent failure to act quickly enough to deal with the issue.
Tonight he tried to defend his record after it was brought up during his crunch TV election showdown with Mr Johnson.
Directed to answer about anti-Semitism complaints against the Labour Party, Mr Corbyn insisted that he took the matter ‘very, very seriously’.
He told the ITV audience: ‘Anti-Semitism is an absolute evil and scourge within our society.
‘Racism in any form is a scourge in our society. I have taken action in my party where anyone who has committed any anti-Semitic acts or made any anti-Semitic statements, they either suspended or expelled from the party and investigated every single case.
‘We do take this very, very seriously indeed.’
Mr Johnson faced questions about his own character and suitability to be prime minister but when he was asked about ‘telling the truth in politics’, the premier chose to attack Mr Corbyn’s leadership.
He said: ‘It’s a complete failure of leadership what’s happened with anti-Semitism, but the failure of leadership is even worse when you look at what is happening on their Brexit policy.’
Boris Johnson had it all to lose – and though both sides will claim a moral victory his team will now breathe easier says STEPHEN GLOVER for the Daily Mail
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn travelled to Salford to take part in last night’s leadership debate in front of a studio audience of some 200 people, and millions of television viewers, in very different political circumstances.
The Labour leader unquestionably arrived as the underdog. His personal ratings are lower than for any other political leader in living memory.
His party may have gained a few points at the expense of the Lib Dems in recent weeks, but it has so far failed to make any inroads against the Tories.
The detailed findings showed that Mr Corbyn was seen as marginally more trustworthy – by 45 per cent to 40 per cent and more in touch with ‘ordinary people’
Moreover, he hasn’t enjoyed the most inspired of campaigns while trying to bamboozle the electorate with increasingly far-fetched financial inducements.
He can also appear unappealingly testy when put under pressure, as he showed in a recent interview on Channel 4 News.
But Boris, despite being the favoured contender, will have caused advisers some palpitations during intense rehearsals for the ITV shoot-out. He is sometimes vague and waffly when pressed on facts and, although he is far cleverer than Mr Corbyn, his mind does not always operate swiftly when his back is against the wall.
His aides must have also hoped that the Prime Minister wouldn’t come across as an entitled and arrogant Old Etonian and former Oxford University ‘Bullingdon boy’ patronising the older, and in many ways less gifted, Labour leader.
Many Conservative supporters will have had their hearts in the mouths as the debate kicked off at 8pm yesterday. Would Boris somehow contrive to undermine the Tories’ advantage?
Twitter threatens to BAN the Tory Party after their press team ‘attempts to mislead’ public by changing their online name to FactCheckUK during election debate
By Darren Boyle for MailOnline
The Tory Party press office was warned last night by Twitter that they face ‘decisive corrective action’ if they repeat a name-change stunt they pulled during the ITV election debate.
The party re branded its Twitter feed for several hours, changing the name from CCHQPress to FactCheckUK during the debate.
The action was heavily criticised as the re branded account could have fooled potential voters that the messages praising Boris Johnson could have been coming from an independent fact checking organisation, rather than the Conservative Party.
The Conservative Party press office changed their Twitter handle to FactCheckUK ahead of tonight’s debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn
The microblogging site warned the Conservative Party about their actions which were in breach of the company’s terms and conditions.
According to the company: ‘Twitter is committed to facilitating healthy debate throughout the UK general election.
‘We have global rules in place that prohibit behavior that can mislead people, including those with verified accounts.
‘Any further attempts to mislead people by editing verified profile information – in a manner seen during the UK Election Debate – will result in decisive corrective action.’
The move was described as ‘inappropriate and misleading’ by fact-checking organisation Full Fact
The Tory Party stunt was widely criticised by fact-checking organisation Full Fact.
In a tweet, the organisation said: ‘It is inappropriate and misleading for the Conservative press office to rename their twitter account “factcheckUK” during this debate.
‘Please do not mistake it for an independent fact checking service such as @FullFact, @FactCheck or @FactCheckNI.’
The @CCHQpress account is verified by Twitter, displaying a blue tick which is intended to denote that a user is genuine.
Unsurprisingly, the FactCheckUK verdict was Boris Johnson was the ‘clear winner’
Unsurprisingly, the FactCheckUK account found that Boris Johnson ‘won’ the debate with Mr Corbyn.
The Liberal Democrat press office posted an image suggesting they were reporting the account to Twitter for ‘pretending to be me or someone else’.
They tweeted: ‘And people wonder why trust in politics has been eroded @CCHQPress’.
Labour’s David Lammy tweeted: ‘The Conservative Party press office @CCHQPress rebranding themselves as “FactCheckUK” shows what disdain this party and this government has for the truth.
‘The Electoral Commission must investigate and punish this blatant attempt to decieve the public.’
Meanwhile, some other Twitter users also changed their display names to factcheckUK and posted critical comments about Mr Johnson.
Others changed their display name CCHQ Press Office, while Tony Blair’s former spokesperson Alastair Campbell changed his display name to Boris Johnson and tweeted: “I won’t get Brexit done £FactCheck”
The Conservative Party has been contacted for comment. MailOnline has also contacted Twitter for a comment.
In the event, the gladiatorial contest probably came out much as the leaders’ respective sidekicks would have expected. Of course, each side will claim a moral victory as is inevitably the case on such occasions, with spin doctors offering frantic and wildly partisan briefings at the end of play.
I’d say Mr Johnson performed at least as well as his cheerleaders could have hoped, and avoided the gaffes some of them may have feared. He was at times eloquent, always energetic, and exuded the optimism which is undoubtedly part of his electoral appeal.
He also went out of his way to be polite to his opposite number and, when the occasion arose, bounded to shake his hand with more exuberance and good grace than, for his part, Mr Corbyn showed. Nor was he often at a loss for a cogent answer.
Meanwhile, although the Labour leader hardly made a hash of things, whether his, and his party’s, standing in the country will have improved may be seriously doubted. He was often his curmudgeonly, slightly schoolmasterly, tired-looking and sometimes evasive self.
On Brexit, which dominated the first part of the proceedings — and to which subject Mr Johnson returned whenever he could — the PM was admirably single-minded about his ‘oven-ready’ deal which ‘delivers everything we wanted’.
By contrast, although he was pressed several times, Mr Corbyn refused to say whether he would campaign for or against the deal with the EU, which he claims he could negotiate in a matter of only three months.
So three-and-a-half years after the EU referendum, the country still doesn’t know what the leader of the Opposition thinks about Brexit. He had the brass neck repeatedly to use the word ‘clear’ to describe a policy that is about as murky as it could be — on one occasion attracting laughter.
All he could do to distract attention from his confusion was to repeat the lie that the NHS was up for sale to the U.S. in a future trade deal, which Mr Johnson emphatically, and I thought convincingly, denied. Mr Corbyn even asserted that such a deal would take seven years to complete. Where did he pluck that figure from?
Of course, the Labour leader made his usual comments about a divided society, and ‘the tax cuts that have been handed to the super rich’ — all of which will resonate well in some quarters.
But on the potentially delicate subject of the NHS — over which the Tories have, after all, presided for more than nine years — I don’t think Mr Corbyn was able to establish the advantage that he would have hoped.
He was also characteristically slippery about any possible future parliamentary pact that Labour might make with the Scottish Nationalists over a second independence referendum, saying only that it was not a matter that he would address ‘in the early years’ of a Labour government.
Needless to say, there were many subjects that did not come up in the relatively short time available — and which might have exposed Mr Corbyn’s dangerously revolutionary ideas.
There was no mention of Nato, or Britain’s unilateral nuclear deterrent, which Mr Corbyn seems ready to negotiate away.
Anti-Semitism — over which Labour is desperately vulnerable — received only a glancing reference, as did immigration, where Labour appears keen to adopt an open-door policy without admitting as much.
But on such policies that did come up, Boris Johnson was generally the master of his brief. He was funny, too, and got more laughs than Corbyn.
He quipped that the Labour leader had not just a money tree but a ‘money forest’. And under the eye of the always steely and glacially competent moderator, Julie Etchingham, he suggested that he might put a jar of damson jam under Mr Corbyn’s Christmas tree.
For all the media razzmatazz surrounding these events, I don’t suppose that what happened last night in Salford will affect the outcome of the election in any very significant way. And that will be a relief to both parties. Survival is, above all other considerations, the main object of the exercise.
After Theresa May had ignominiously ducked a debate during the 2017 election campaign, Boris knew that he had to show up on this occasion. He and his supporters will be relieved that, far from blotting his copy-book, he put in a more than solid performance.
As for Mr Corbyn, he failed to change the political weather. Such a prize has been attained only once before in a similar debate by Nick Clegg, the then Lib Dem leader, during the 2010 general election campaign.
Now both men will prepare themselves for a rematch under the auspices of the BBC on December 6, only six days before election day. The stakes will be even higher than they were last night. The two leaders will want to exchange the knock-out blows that neither of them succeeded in landing in Salford.
But, on this showing, I believe that Boris Johnson will have advanced his cause in the public mind as someone who can deliver Brexit — an issue which continues to cloud Mr Corbyn’s mind — and govern as a prime minister who is competent, human and down to earth.
With nearly three weeks to go, much can still go wrong. Perhaps it will. But after the PM’s bullish performance last night, I confess I am more optimistic about the outcome than I have so far been.