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Source: Labour List UK

Angela Rayner has demanded that the Conservative Party launch an investigation into a newsletter circulated by the Wellingborough Conservative Association urging its members to ‘weaponise’ fake news.

In a letter to Amanda Milling, Labour’s deputy leader called on the chair of the Tory Party to condemn the contents of the document – or confirm whether the advice it offers is now official Conservative Party policy.

“The public rightly expect honesty and integrity from political parties, elected politicians, candidates and local party activists,” Rayner said. “A Conservative Party newsletter that encourages members and politicians to openly lie raises serious questions that demand urgent answers.”

The letter from Rayner follows Keir Starmer raising the newsletter, which told Tory members that Donald Trump was successful because he “weaponises fake news”, in the latest Prime Minister’s Questions session this afternoon.

“I for one often wonder where the Prime Minister gets his advice. Well, now I know,” Starmer told parliament today. “My final question to the Prime Minister is this: is he the inspiration for the newsletter, or is he the author?”

The newsletter states: “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…

“Fake news often makes headlines and crowds out genuine news. Honest politicians therefore find themselves pushed off the front pages.”

It advises that aspiring politicians should “say the first thing that comes into your head” and suggests that this “will probably be nonsense, but it knocks your opponent out of his stride and takes away his headline”.

The newsletter adds: “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… Sometimes, it is better to give the WRONG answer at the RIGHT time, than the RIGHT answer at the WRONG time.”

The Conservative Party has been contacted for comment.

Below is the full text of the letter sent by Rayner.

Dear Amanda,

I am writing to you following deeply concerning reports regarding behaviour within one of the Conservative Party’s local associations in Wellingborough.

The allegations include:

An official newsletter has been circulated by Wellingborough Conservative Association praising Donald Trump’s dishonesty and lying, encouraging Conservatives to “make enough dubious claims” to ensure “honest speakers are overwhelmed”, and “weaponise fake news” in order to “crowd out” the truth.

That one young local Conservative activist who raised concerns about the content of the newsletter was removed from the Conservative candidates’ list and has received, “several threatening phone calls warning him that his political career would be destroyed if he did not fall into line”.

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:

1. Will you now launch an investigation into the actions of Wellingborough Conservative Association, including who wrote the newsletter, how it was paid for and who had oversight of?

2. Will disciplinary action be taken against any member of the Conservative Party who wrote, edited or distributed the newsletter?

3. Was the Member of Parliament for Wellingborough, Peter Bone MP, aware of the contents of this newsletter? If so, did he approve the contents of the newsletter and will he now make his position clear?

4. Is it true that a local activist, Jack Summers, was removed from a list of Conservative candidates because he raised concerns about the content of the leaflet? If so, who took this decision, and were you or staff at CCHQ aware of it?

5. Will an investigation be launched into allegations that Jack Summers has received “several threatening phone calls warning him his political career would be destroyed if he did not fall into line” after raising concerns about the contents of the newsletter?

6. Will you, as Chair of the Conservative Party publicly condemn the content of the newsletter and the threatening behaviour towards Jack Summers, and issue guidance to Conservative Associations and Conservative Party members, including Members of Parliament and local Councillors, about the importance of honesty and integrity in our politics?

7. If not, can you confirm whether it is now Conservative Party policy to “weaponise fake news” and censure party members who speak out against it, and have other Conservative MPs, local associations, party members and activists also been encouraged to do so?

After the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary refused to speak out when President Trump was claiming victory and alleging fraud in the US presidential election, this newsletter seems to demonstrate that the Conservative Party is copying from Donald Trump’s playbook and implementing a political strategy of weaponising fake news, making dishonest statements and telling brazen lies in order to “crowd out” and “overwhelm” the truth.

Given the importance of honesty and integrity in our politics, values which I am sure that you would want to uphold as Chair of the Conservative Party, I look forward to your early response to the questions I have asked.

Yours sincerely,

Angela Rayner MP
Deputy leader of the Labour Party and party chair

MIL OSI United Kingdom