Ken Clarke did not say he won’t vote for the Conservatives

7 November 2019
What was claimed

Ian Austin, former Labour MP has said he won’t vote for Labour.

Our verdict

Correct. He also asked Labour voters to vote for the Conservatives.

What was claimed

Ken Clarke, former Conservative Chancellor said he won’t vote for the Conservatives.

Our verdict

Incorrect. Mr Clarke said he would not vote for the Conservatives if it campaigned as “some crazy right-wing nationalist organisation” but also said that “I don’t think that will be where we end up”.

Today Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott tweeted about media coverage of former Labour MP Ian Austin, claiming that it was unbalanced when contrasted with coverage of comments made recently by former Conservative MP and Chancellor Ken Clarke. 

While it’s true that the two sets of comments received different levels of media attention, Ms Abbott’s phrasing doesn’t portray them entirely accurately, overstating what Ken Clarke said and implying the two sets of comments to be more similar than they are.

Mr Austin didn’t just say he personally wouldn’t vote Labour this election; this morning he explicitly called on Labour voters to vote for the Conservatives.

Meanwhile Ken Clarke did not say he “won’t vote for the Conservatives.” He did say that it was a possibility that he would not, but that it would depend on the campaign the Conservative party ran, and that he did not expect them to run a campaign which would cost them his vote.

On 1 November he told Channel 4 News (after prefacing his statement with “I’m slightly teasing you and myself”) that his voting Conservative was “not as certain as it has been in previous elections.”

He added: “It depends what sort of campaign the party run. If we really do make ourselves the Brexit Party under our brand, my loyalty is going to be strained absolutely… I am not voting for some crazy right-wing nationalist organisation calling themselves a Conservative government—but that I think is laying it on a bit, I don't think that’s where we’ll wind up.”

It’s perfectly true to say, as Ms Abbott does, that Mr Clarke’s comments received relatively limited media attention while Mr Austin’s have been widely reported. And it’s a legitimate matter of opinion as to whether media coverage of the two events has shown an imbalance against Labour or not.

But presenting the two sets of comments in a way that makes them seem precisely equivalent, to justify that charge of imbalance, is misleading.

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