COVID-19 Disinformation or rather Scrutiny of Politicians is vital

On Monday in the House of Commons two MPs asked Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport a question regarding Covid19-Disinformation. One of them was Rob Roberts who was one of the Conservative candidates in December who managed to beat the Labour Party and replaced David Hanson, a Labour MPs who had been their MP since 1992. The follow up question from Rob is the image above which thankfully received a reasonably balanced response from Oliver which went:

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. At this time we need trusted information more than ever. We all know that the media do not always get it right, but I pay tribute to the work of the news industry in providing much-needed information. We see that work in our national and local newspapers and in our local commercial and BBC radio stations, which bring together communities and provide reliable news. It is for that reason that we have designated people who work in the production and distribution of news as key workers. We are also addressing the keyword blocking that undermines the advertising revenue on which the sector so relies, as well as ensuring that the Government directly communicate their messages through advertising.

However along with Rob Roberts, another MP has made a comment on twitter which in his case was a specific attack on Piers Morgan. Now the reality is that many people including myself find Piers Morgan a very questionable person when it comes to a huge amount of his public expressions so when one of my friends retweeted the tweet from Simon Hoare I had mixed thoughts. Not because I disagreed with elements of the statement, but because I have real concerns when MPs start to attack people in such a manner. The tweet was sent out yesterday morning from the MP for North Dorset:

I’m afraid @piersmorgan is not acting as a journalist. As a barrack room lawyer? Yes. As a saloon bar bore? Yes. As a bully? Yes. As a show off? Undoubtedly. He is not a seeker after truth: he’s a male chicken

This was of course a tweet that he wrote and it could have related to any number of matters but as one of his local newspapers explained it as:

This came after the former Daily Mirror editor’s latest interview with a government minister. During the broadcast on Tuesday, April 28, Mr Morgan quizzed Victoria Atkins MP, who is a Home Office minister, on the government’s Operation Cygnus – a simulation exercise carried out by NHS England in October 2016 to estimate the impact of a hypothetical influenza pandemic on the United Kingdom. The interview reportedly sparked more than 700 complaints to Ofcom over Mr Morgan’s interviewing of Ms Atkins. This came just days after the 55-year-old was cleared by the regulator following around 4,000 complaints over his “well-known for his combative interviewing” of care minister Helen Whateley and health secretary Matt Hancock.

Now the reality is that unlike the views of Simon Hoare and Rob Roberts I personally believe that we need the media to play a very key role in our current situation. There has been a great deal of very positive roles played by some of the more credible media over recent weeks as expressed by Oliver Dowden in persuading the nation to go into lockdown but equally there are a number of very important failings by the Government that emerged early on and are continuing to emerge and these also need to be made clear. No matter how important it is for us as a nation to play a key part alongside the media, we need to ensure that mistakes are also explained, ideally with an apology from the Ministers, but given that very few of them seem willing to apologise or even admit these failings, it is vital that they are displayed alongside the need for us as a nation to respond appropriately. A few hours after the tweet from Simon Hoare, a person called Bee Finberg responded with this tweet which I felt was very good:

Why are you afraid of Piers Morgan, when he’s finally doing his job as a journalist: holding individuals to account? It’s the job of a real journalist to ask those awkward questions until they get a reasonable response.

Another person who I know who is also a journalist called Lisa Mainwaring was also on twitter this morning and she was referring to an American article under the title of “Is it a crime to mishandle a public health response” but her tweet was actually very good in its own context.

Interesting article about the #COVID19 pandemic sparking a wave of new laws to hold governments accountable for their public health responses during outbreaks. I think the court of public opinion is already holding leaders & decision makers accountable.

I just hope that in due course MPs like Simone Hoare and Rob Roberts will consider how best to be made accountable in a way that helps focus on their constituents first and foremost and then they will discover that the media will be able to focus on a wider range of themes. As I wrote on Mondays blog, I would like to see a Sussex wide communication from a number of our local MPs using technology such as video conferencing to enable us all to see and hear our MPs.

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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