You can bet this misrepresentation will be in every newspaper tomorrow
The Telegraph has picked up the line given by Conservative party HQ to suggest Lucy Powell, vice-chair of Labour’s election campaign, said Ed Miliband might break his election pledges despite having carved them into limestone. (Yes, this is a strange election.) The paper’s headline on its rolling election coverage reads:
“Ed Miliband could break ‘set in stone’ pledges, Labour campaign chief admits”
This is the line being spread by the Tory party after Ms Powell’s interview on BBC Radio 5:
— CCHQ Press Office (@CCHQPress) May 5, 2015
So what did Lucy Powell actually say? Here’s a transcript of the relevant part of the interview: (You can listen to it here)
Q: […] and then the Labour party say, we’re going to put it on a lump of stone. We’re literally going to carve it into a piece of limestone, our pledges. I mean, come on. It’s more like Monty Python politics all that.
Powell: No not at all. You have to find interesting ways to get across what it is you’re trying to say.
Q: Come on, you know. Carving it into stone.
Powell: The point we’re trying to make there is that Ed Miliband, who’s been really clear about this throughout the campaign, he stands by his pledges and his promises. He’s a man of principle –
Q: It’s the same as saying you’re going to make a policy. Either we believe politicians or we don’t, you know. If we do, then fine, we vote for them. If we don’t, the fact that they say I’m gonna carve it in stone, I’m gonna pass a law –
Powell: I don’t think anyone’s suggesting the fact that he’s carved them into stone means that he is absolutely not going to break them or anything like that.
Q: Was it a good idea to say that?
Powell: Yes! He’s highlighting a point that he’s been saying throughout this campaign, it was just another way of highlighting that. Which is that he’s a guy of principle, of decency, a guy who is tough and he is going to deliver on his promises he set out, unlike some of this opponents.”
As you can see, the context makes clear that Ms Powell was replying to a question about the act of carving these pledges in stone. She replies by saying that carving them into stone in itself doesn’t magically ensure the pledges won’t be broken. It’s merely a way (a bizarre way, admittedly) to demonstrate Labour’s commitment to keep its promises.
The fact that the questioner does not jump on her remark as a ‘gotcha’ suggests he didn’t misunderstand her in the way the Tories have misinterpreted her. She also says quite explicitly that Labour will keep its ‘pledges and promises’.
Even so, it’s a sure thing this quote will be in all the papers tomorrow – and in Tory party speeches – without the context, but with the misrepresentation.
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter
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