On the referendum #8: Unprofessional pundit – Adam Boulton

I thought a few weeks ago I would keep track of some pundits writing on the referendum (cf. the errors of Steve Richards here).

A few texts yesterday told me to read Adam Boulton’s Sunday Times column:

‘In anticipation of a Greek no, Britain’s “no” champions are urging Cameron to play hardball. They are cheered by the appointment of Dominic Cummings to kick-start the campaign. He is advocating a Syriza-style approach, suggesting that if Britain votes no it will still be possible to renegotiate and hold a second referendum to stay in. Cameron must crush this argument fast if he is not to be undermined among Tory activists. A “yes” vote in Greece followed by firm discipline for Athens would do that. In the meantime, he could point out that Cummings’s strategic brilliance at the education department led to him losing his job and almost cost the career of his master, Michael Gove.’

A few other hacks have called to say that a No10 spad is claiming I was fired from the DfE, while another one claims I was ‘secretly’ fired but allowed to claim I resigned. (Great message discipline Dre.)

If Boulton had googled or called, he would have realised he’d been lied to.

Facts? In September 2013 I told Gove I was resigning from the DfE  but would stay for a few months to help the transition to a new team. In October 2013, it was reported in a few places (first by Tim Shipman) that I’d resigned. I stayed until 31 January 2014 to help replacements figure out how the DfE worked. Boulton would have seen this immediately if he had googled instead of parroted a briefing.

Boulton’s Syriza analogy is also silly. My point about a second referendum had nothing to do with Syriza and was written before the Greek referendum had even been announced.

Boulton has been surly towards me since we were on a platform together discussing the media in 2003. He got cross about criticisms of media professionalism. He’s obviously still struggling with basic fact checking.

I can use Google. Up pops straight away a Boulton prediction on the euro from 2001: ‘Britons will come round to the idea [joining the euro] once they’ve handled euro money’, a line that was straight out of the Blairite spin doctors’ briefing notes at the time. Blairite pundits like Boulton – like their sources Mandelson, Clarke et al – need to be reminded of their duff predictions on the euro when they wheel out all the usual stale conventional wisdom in the coming referendum.

Adam – next time clowns in No10 tell you stuff about the referendum, check to see if it’s true before you repeat it…

Ps. AB responds on Twitter: ‘So there’s no reason to be so pompous, tendentious and offensive. We just see things from different perspectives.’ Odd that he sees correcting factual errors as ‘offensive’. It’s struck me many times over the years how thin-skinned some hacks can be given how they’re always criticising others. Tetlock’s seminal study on ‘political experts’ famously showed that the more a pundit is on TV, the more likely they are to be wrong AND not to admit they’re wrong.


2 thoughts on “On the referendum #8: Unprofessional pundit – Adam Boulton

  1. The misreading of the outcome of the Greek Referendum by the ‘ pundits ‘ was a clear indication of how they think they know better and how out of touch with reality they are . Even the bookmakers ( who generally are more accurate than the pundits – because it’s their money ) were influenced such that it was nearly 2 to 1 against a ‘No’ vote. I filled my boots. It dismays me how Political Journalists can be so wrong so often and still keep their jobs. Perhaps not to your taste but some stuff on the internet carries more weight and is ‘ serious’ – like this.


  2. Media pundits mostly talk to each other; political pundits mostly talk to each other about what they have been told by political people. “two-ways” are everywhere with journos talking to journos.

    They should try reporting facts and taking a range of external expert and lay views and letting viewers/listeners decide.

    … educate and inform…?


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