‘Just like you edit stuff on your programme’: Tory minister scrambles to defend doctored video in bruising Piers Morgan interview on GMB

‘We needed to shorten the video’, James Cleverly claims – arguing tampered clip was merely ‘light-hearted, satirical’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 06 November 2019 11:40
James Cleverly responds to criticisms of the conservative party for editing an interview with Labour's Kier Starmer

The Conservative chairman has been ridiculed after denying the party “doctored” a video to portray a senior Labour figure stumbling on Brexit – insisting it had merely been shortened.

James Cleverly faced a storm of criticism after the social media clip showed Keir Starmer appearing to falter when, in reality, he had provided a full answer to the question he was asked.

But, quizzed on why the video had been tampered with, Mr Cleverly refused to apologise or even accept it was misleading.

Instead, he claimed: “We edited the video, just like you edit stuff on your programme, just like everybody else, because we needed to shorten the video.”

In a separate interview, Mr Cleverly also argued the version posted on social media was simply “a light-hearted satirical video, and obviously so”.

His responses drew ridicule in the interviews conducted on ITV’s Good Morning Britain show and on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

On GMB, Piers Morgan said it was clear the Tories had “doctored the video” – while, on Radio 4, Nick Robinson suggested the clip was “untrue, a lie”.

Even a Conservative minister, Johnny Mercer, has attacked the meddling with Sir Keir’s interview, saying: “I will call this out, whichever side does it, including my own.”

The controversial clip, also from a GMB interview, featured Sir Keir explaining Labour’s policy of negotiating a new Brexit deal for a referendum within six months, with Remain as the other option.

He was asked: “Why would the EU give you a good deal if they’re know that you’re actively going to campaign against it, which is clearly what most of you are going to be doing?”

Conservative Party edit footage of Keir Starmer to show him struggling to answer question

The footage released by the Tories was edited to show Sir Keir looking confused and pausing for several seconds, suggesting he had not answered the question. The video was captioned: “Labour has no plan for Brexit.”

But in the actual interview, Sir Keir responded to the question immediately, saying: “I have been talking to the EU, to political leaders across the EU 27 countries, for three years and I know very well what the parameters are of any deal that they would do with a Labour government.”

Ahead of the launch of Boris Johnson’s election campaign later on Wednesday, Mr Cleverly was instead forced to defend a series of damaging early gaffes.

He backed Jacob Rees-Mogg, after he said a lack of “common sense” led to the deaths of the Grenfell victims who failed to flee the blazing building.

“Jacob recognises that what he said was wrong and caused a huge amount of hurt and distress,” Mr Cleverly told the BBC. “He has apologised unreservedly.”

The Conservative chairman said no-one could “credibly” know what decisions those “trapped” in the tower faced that evening.

Mr Cleverly also acknowledged that a no-deal Brexit remains the “default setting” at the end of 2020, if the UK fails to strike a trade deal with the EU, if it leaves its political structures on 31 January.

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