Independent corrects claim former top civil servant ‘voted for Brexit’

11 September 2023
What was claimed

Foreign office mandarin under fire for saying day after referendum: I voted for Brexit.

Our verdict

This headline is inaccurate and has been corrected. Lord McDonald actually told the BBC that he revealed to colleagues following the EU referendum that he had voted to remain.

“Foreign office mandarin under fire for saying day after referendum: I voted for Brexit”.

A headline published on the Independent’s website which wrongly claimed that a former top civil servant revealed he “voted for Brexit” has been corrected after Full Fact contacted the newspaper. This incorrect claim was also posted by the newspaper on X (formerly known as Twitter), but has now been deleted.

As the article accompanying the headline correctly explains, Simon McDonald, now Lord McDonald of Salford—who served as permanent under-secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and head of the Diplomatic Service from 2015 to 2020—told the BBC in a recent documentary that following the EU referendum he told his colleagues that he had voted to remain.

Lord McDonald said that on the morning after the referendum “On this solitary occasion I decided to tell my colleagues and therefore let ministers know that I voted to remain in the European Union.”

He added that he was “trying to convey a message to a group of people, most of whom I felt had voted to remain in the EU, that their personal feelings were beside the point.”

Although the Independent’s headline incorrectly stated that Lord McDonald had voted to leave the EU, the article’s first paragraph correctly said that he “has admitted revealing to ministers and colleagues that he voted to remain in the European Union.”

The headline has now been corrected to read that Lord McDonald “voted Remain”.

Headline-writers should ensure headlines are accurate and support the body of the article. If headlines are inaccurate or don’t reflect the body of the article, it is possible that people will be misled, considering headlines are often the only part of an article that people read. We’re grateful to The Independent for promptly correcting the error.

Image courtesy of Roger Harris

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As detailed in our fact check, The Independent amended its article and added a footnote

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