Tory chairman James Cleverly defends party video amid 'fake news' claims

Posted On: 
6th November 2019

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly has defended his party over claims they created "fake news" by publishing a heavily edited video about Labour's Brexit policy.

James Cleverly has defended his party over claims they published a 'doctored' video
Credit: 
Baldo Sciacca

The Tories have come under fire after they were accused of "doctoring" a clip of Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer to make it appear that he was unclear about his party's position.

In the minute-long video, which has been viewed over one million times, the Conservatives inserted an extended pause following a question from GMB host Piers Morgan about the EU's willingness to negotiate a new Brexit deal with Labour.

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But in the original interview, Sir Keir responds immediately to the question, saying he had been in discussions with EU leaders for the past three years, adding: "So I know that a customs union and single market alignment, and protection of workers' rights and environmental rights and consumer rights is something that can be negotiated."

The heavy edit drew criticism from Piers Morgan himself, who said the party had "doctored" the video and asked why they had decided to "fake it".

Meanwhile, Tory minister Johnny Mercer also apologised for sharing the video with his Twitter followers and hit out at the "inexplicable" edit.

"It would appear this has inexplicably been doctored at the end. I apologise and will remove it," he tweeted. "The original interview was bad enough - I have no idea why this needed altering. I will call this out - whichever side does it, including my own. Sorry folks."

But a defiant Mr Cleverly hit back at the criticism on Wednesday, saying the video was intended to be "light-hearted" and "satirical".

And speaking to Mr Morgan, he denied his party had intended to mislead with the clip, saying instead they had been forced to "shorten" it for social media.

"I'll tell you why we clipped that video," he said. "It is because in the whole of that exchange, Sir Keir Starmer, who is the Shadow Brexit Secretary, was unable to credibly explain Labour's Brexit position, and that is why we had to shorten the video.

He added: "We edited it, just as you edit stuff on your programme, just like everyone else, because we needed to shorten the video."

'Empty-chaired'

Meanwhile, the Tory chairman attempted to defend their post, telling the BBC's Today Programme the party had also posted the full clip of the interview alongside the edited footage.

"What we did was we posted the full video within minutes of it being concluded, so people who follow our social media feeds could see the full video which was published pretty much contemperanously at the time," he said. 

"What we also do, and again this is not unique to us, what we also did was we put forward a light-hearted satirical video. Obviously so, with a comedy soundtrack highlighting the Labour Party's chaotic position on Brexit."

"We posted the full video. People who follow the social media feed of the Conservative Party will have seen the full video."

Mr Cleverly, who was touring the broadcast studios in an effort to firefight a series of controversies whichhit his party on Tuesday, was 'empty-chaired' by Sky News presenter Kay Burley after he failed to appear for a scheduled interview on her programme.

"I also wanted to ask him about the Grenfell incident, and of course you will know what was said by a member of the Cabinet, Rees-Mogg, talking about the people in Grenfell, suggesting he is smarter than they were which is why they stayed in their properties...and why on earth he is still in the cabinet.

She added: "I also wanted to ask him about the Welsh Secretary and calls for him to resign over the conduct of a former aide."