The Select Committee doing the inquiry into fake news asked me to give evidence over a month ago.
I said I would be happy to but explained that I could not do those dates and also explained legal issues re the Electoral Commission’s 3rd inquiry which means that lawyers of multiple parties have told me to keep my trap shut until they’ve finished, which is unlikely for months to come.
I also made clear I was happy to give evidence once this snag was out of the way.
Instead of discussing dates in a cooperative way, they went silent for weeks then threatened me this morning with a ‘Summons’. (They have also published claims today about the attitude of the ICO and EC towards me giving evidence which those organisations have never told me.)
I said that if they took such a foolish step — and an unnecessary one given I wanted to give evidence — they would be demonstrating their priority was grandstanding PR, not truth-seeking. I also suggested they bring Wylie and Zoolander back to the Committee to explain the multiple factual errors and inconsistencies in their stories so we could all be clear about what exactly they are really claiming. So far the inquiry on fake news has helped spread fake news across the world.
Minutes later they sent their Summons and asked for confirmation I will change my mind and appear on the date they already knew I could not make.
No, of course not.
I said that if they issued a Summons instead of discussing possible dates like reasonable people, then it would be obvious they are not interested in friendly cooperation to uncover the truth. So I will not give evidence to this Committee under any circumstances. (I may to other Committees depending on behaviour.)
One of the many things about government that could be improved is changes to the Committee process and powers. They should, like in America, have the power to compel attendance (!), but they should also have processes that push them towards truth-seeking behaviour rather than the usual trivialising grandstanding. Committees also need resources for specialist help as they are unable to question witnesses properly on many issues.
If they really wanted to get to the bottom of things, they would have continued discussions over dates, not sent an ineffectual Summons to the media. Their desire for a quick headline has robbed them of hours of TV…
Ps. For those who missed it, Facebook analysed Vote Leave advertising on Facebook during the referendum and concluded that not only did Vote Leave NOT use the data wrongly appropriated by CA, but that we COULD NOT HAVE DONE. So far, no correction from Observer/C4.