Yesterday we noted how The Telegraph’s most senior political journalists twice reported that David Davis had been excluded from the party leadership’s 9.15am strategy meeting. What The Telegraph wrote was simply false and interviewed by Andrew Marr this morning, David Davis confirmed it was false. Unfortunately The Sunday Telegraph makes more mischief this morning. This is the headline that appears on today’s front page:
But if you read what Liam Fox actually said to reporter Melissa Kite he did not say that David Davis had been selfish. These are Dr Fox’s words so you can judge for yourself whether Ms Kite and the newspaper have been fair:
"Many of us feel very similarly to David but his way of highlighting it, calling a by-election, was a personal decision, it wasn’t something that was taken in consultation with the shadow cabinet.
I think there’s still a fair amount of mileage in the battle in Parliament at the moment. We’ve still got a fair amount of fighting to do, in the Lords and in the Commons."
Asked what he would have said to him if he had been consulted, Dr Fox replied: "I think the reason he wasn’t consulting colleagues is he didn’t want to be talked out of it. He made up his mind.
"David has very strong views. He’s decided that’s how he would like to highlight it. Obviously that’s his personal decision and, as David Cameron said, it’s a courageous thing to do because you never know what will happen in a by-election. But it was not a collective decision."
Dr Fox, a one-time rival of Mr Davis in the 2005 leadership campaign, which saw Mr Cameron elevated, appeared to suggest that Mr Davis had better get used to life on the back benches if he were to re-take his seat. "When he comes back to the House of Commons, I imagine he will want to continue pressing on these issues, issues of personal liberty being eroded."
Asked whether it would not seem odd to have such a big hitter on the back benches, Dr Fox said: "No. One of the things that’s been a great tragedy in recent years is the lack of senior politicians on the back benches. I think Parliament actually benefits from having people of experience on the back benches, rather than it just being a training ground for young, ambitious newcomers."
Asked whether he thought the decision selfish, Dr Fox replied: "I think it’s clearly a decision he made for himself. It is evidently not something I would have done. It wasn’t something that was decided collectively, so David takes responsibility for that action."
Liam Fox made it clear that David Davis made the decision alone but he certainly did not use the word "selfish" and, in our opinion, did not even imply that he thought David Davis was acting selfishly. [Liam Fox was speaking to The Sunday Telegraph in advance of an interim report from Frederick Forsyth on defence matters – reported perfectly fairly here by Sean Rayment].
This is not the first time that Melissa Kite has been guilty of sloppy and sensationalist journalism. She recently speculated that Oliver Heald should be demoted from the shadow cabinet even though he isn’t in the shadow cabinet. Last year Alan Duncan accused Ms Kite of "shoddy" journalism after she had written a trouble-making story about David Cameron wanting to demote William Hague. A little earlier she had tried to derail the launch of Iain Duncan Smith’s Breakdown Britain report with a spurious story about the former party leader’s view of gay parenting. If a Tory wants to be interviewed for The Sunday Telegraph they’d be wise to deal with the newspaper’s PolEd, Patrick Hennessy.