Arriving home a few days ago, I picked up the Stronger In Europe leaflet that had dropped through my letterbox, and almost dropped my wallet (and you can imagine how tightly I cling to that) to see my picture at the top of it. After all I’d not been asked, nor had I given my permission, nor am I backing either campaign in the EU referendum.
Yet the quote attached to the picture is accurate. I did say it. It is on a leaflet headlined, “What experts are saying about the EU referendum”. Here’s a picture of it.
My frustration is the impression this gives that I am backing the ‘in’ campaign. It doesn’t say that overtly, but certainly by the mass of tweets (and some abuse) I’ve received, many people read it as meaning that.
However, as a journalist, I have taken quotes people have said on television and used them, without their permission – it’s standard form, so while it’s frustrating, it’s par for the course.
Most importantly, I’m lucky enough to have my own routes to communicate with people, with a decent Twitter and Facebook following and 11 million people getting my weekly email. So (as I’m doing by bashing this out), I’m able to correct the potential misimpression.
What the quotes relates to…
A few weeks ago I was on ITV’s The Agenda with George Osborne. Unsurprisingly the subject of the referendum came up and I was asked about it. I explained that there are no facts, no rights or wrong, it’s all about assessing risk and your attitude to that (sadly no longer on the ITV Hub, or I’d link so you could see it yourself).
Then the presenter Tom Bradby pushed me to come out with a view, asking on the balance of probabilities will we be better or worse off if we leave the EU.
When asked a direct question, I try to answer (I’m not a politician), so said, “On balance of probability, it is more likely we’ll have less money in our pockets if we vote to leave”. And that’s the quote in the leaflet.
On its own it isn’t actually a glowing endorsement – just in the context of the leaflet it seems more. From memory, I then went on to explain that this doesn’t mean it will happen, it’s simply that on a 50-50 assessment, I think that is the more likely outcome, but of course no one truly knows.
Being misquoted (spot the difference)…
So having seen the leaflet I put out on Twitter the following to clarify:
“Again. No I wasn’t aware I’d be used in the Stronger In Europe leaflet, nor was my permission asked” and that tweet included a link to this image of my post on Facebook to explain further…
The most amusing element of all this is the Guido Fawkes political blogging website then wrote a story on this saying that I had “blasted” the ‘in’ campaign for treating me this way and in it they reproduced this quote…
Now can you spot the difference between what it says and what I actually said. It is identical in every way but one…
Got it yet?
OK here goes…
Yes, it’s missing the phrase “The quote is accurate”. So actually this was a true misquote, as I very deliberately included a note of its accuracy (the last thing I want to get involved in is a spat about calling one side or the other a liar).
Thankfully after I pointed this out on Twitter, they have now corrected this omission on their site.
Where do I stand over the EU vote?
There was a rather flattering but scary poll a few months ago which had me as the most trusted person over the EU vote. So I can’t be surprised at the Stronger In Europe side trying to tap into that using the quote. I’m sure had I answered the other way the ‘Out’ campaign would have too.
After all this having tried to keep clear, I think it’s best I clarify my position. So I’ve decided the best way to clear this up is to write something on ‘how to decide how to vote’.
What people keep asking me is what are the facts if we leave – there are very few – so I want to go through what we know and what we don’t know. I won’t aim at changing anyone’s mind who has already decided, more the piece will be a simple route to help give the undecided the tools to see what is right for them.
I currently aim to publish by Monday 6 June (giving me enough time to think it through carefully and polish). I’ll publish it here and will remind you in the weekly email. Update note that guide is now live here… How to vote in the EU referendum