Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

blueCBYpeople-blackmattePetitions and fake news

The day after the election, a petition entitled ‘Ruddy manipulation to Stop’ was started on the 38 Degrees website seeking to have the election result in Hastings referred to the Electoral Commission, questioning the number of recounts and trust in the proceedings. This petition was later withdrawn. 

The petition was circulated on the Hastings Creatives website – and elicited many responses – in line with the petition and in opposition (as well as assertions that this was not a matter for Hastings Creatives). And later, came comments about the claim of possible election fraud being totally unsubstantiated – and the petition being withdrawn by the person who posted it. At the time, 2,232 people had signed it out of a target 3,000.

“There didn’t seem to be any clear reason for complaining,” writes Nick Terdre, HOT’s editorial organiser. “And the line about ‘Ruddy manipulation’ seemed to imply that Amber Rudd was somehow involved. I thought at the time, this is how fake news gets created, people making vague and unsubstantiated claims and then knee-jerk reactions on social media getting them spread around.”

What actually happened

A statement was released by Labour candidate Peter Chowney’s agent, Eileen Masters, explaining what happened and saying that Chowney was quite satisfied after one recount that Rudd was the winner.

“And what a night it was. It was clear from early on that the result would be very close and inevitable that whoever lost would ask for a recount,” Masters wrote. “As Peter’s agent, I consulted him and Labour colleagues, and I could see Amber’s agent consulting her party, as we all prepared for a close result.

“The first count returned a Tory majority of 334 so I asked for a recount. Amber’s agent did not oppose it. (Rumours of three recounts called by Amber Rudd were untrue). While the recount was underway, I consulted Peter as to what he’d like to do if the result remained unchanged. He said he would concede, and that is what happened.

“Peter and I both congratulated Amber and it was all very civilised and grown-up. I’m aware that other versions of the truth have circulated but this is how it was. Huge congratulations to Peter for reducing the Tory majority from around 5,000 to under 350. A magnificent achievement. Amber won fair and square. Now please follow Peter’s example – shake Amber’s hand, congratulate her, and get on with promoting Labour values and policies ready for the next one – which may be soon.”

38 Degrees told HOT: “This petition was started on the Campaigns by You website by [an individual] from Hastings. The petition was taken down by [this person] after they received information that there was only one recount. The petition is no longer live on the Campaigns by You website.

“38 Degrees has a moderation process for petitions that are created on the Campaigns by Your platform. You can see the Terms and Conditions for using the platform here.”

Sign! Sign! Sign!

It is so easy to add our details and click ‘Sign’ on a host of online petitions every day. We can feel good for ‘making a difference’, but often our decision is based on a few lines of text, emotionally stirring words and photos with no idea of the bigger picture and opposing perspectives or the wider repercussions – and no ability, energy or time to do a thorough investigation of each petition that comes our way.

It’s still this question: what is spin, marketing, propaganda and what is truth?

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Posted 12:37 Wednesday, Jun 14, 2017 In: Election 2017


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  1. Andrew

    I spent quite a long time on various Facebook pages trying to refute the idea of there having been several recounts with the last one supposedly overturning a Labour win. There were certainly some dubious practices going on in Keele and Plymouth, but it helps no-one to have this kind of disinformation going around. The moral is ALWAYS check facts before reposting stories or signing petitions about issues you aren’t sure about.

    Comment by Andrew — Saturday, Jun 17, 2017 @ 17:55

  2. Chris Cormack

    Thanks for putting the record straight, Nick

    Comment by Chris Cormack — Thursday, Jun 15, 2017 @ 09:15

  3. Kay Green

    Interesting! Well I’ve certainly learned something here, because I was part of the link in the chain of that evolving story and no vague and unsubstantiated claims, no spin, marketing or propaganda were involved. When it sailed past me, dawn was breaking and the story was of three or four re-counts, but no info as to who called for what or anyone cheating. Afterwards, I looked back over that long, long night and worked out how the different messages abut a recount had come from different places, at different times and with different approximate figures to make it seem certain, in an exhausting and emotional night, to effectively (for a while) pose as multiple recounts.

    I suppose the bits about who called for the recounts and hints of fraud must have been added in the same way further down the line after I’d gone home to bed.

    So there’s a thing to remember when the blame starts flying around. You don’t need anyone to tell lies to start rumours – just a bunch of over-excited people with mobile phones, listening to their mates with one ear, their phones with the other and the TV with… whatever’s left over to listen with.

    Comment by Kay Green — Wednesday, Jun 14, 2017 @ 20:15

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