Fact-checking acronyms and last night’s political ding-dong…

Acronyms are tricky beasts (AATB). Sometimes their meaning is obvious, sometimes so familiar the attendant phrase evaporates, as with the BBC.

Other collections of letters are not so easy to spot, and here is one: CCHQ. That acronym stands for Conservative Campaign Headquarters, useful to know last night when the Tories rebranded their Twitter account as factcheckUK@CCHQPress, accompanied by a big blue tick.

In a cynical little exercise, the Tories pretended to be an independent fact-checking service running an eye over everything Jeremy Corbyn said during the leaders’ debate on ITV (more of which, accompanied by much sighing, in a moment).

Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, went on the airwaves this morning to defend this act of trickery, saying no one had been fooled. Well, I say he did, but not on my airwaves as two wearisome syllables in, I switched to BBC Radio 3. God but that man is annoying.

The thing is, if people weren’t fooled, why bother with such a stunt? The aim clearly was to fool people and muddy the paddling pool of politics by copying the form and appearance of a genuine fact-checking service.

I’d like to think that pulling such a low trick would put people off the Tories; but if they’re not repelled by the sight of Boris Johnson regurgitating lies like an over-stuffed penguin, then perhaps they won’t care about this digital duplicity.

Fact-checking services by newspapers and broadcasters do an important job. The Washington Post runs everything Donald Trump says against a factual ruler, and last month concluded that Trump had made 13,435 false or misleading claims over 993 days.

Everything nowadays is clouded in such a toxic fog. No one can spot the facts in this moral murk. So they chose the ‘fact’ that most appeals to them.

As the Tories’ tawdry tomfoolery gained plenty of attention, it will probably be considered a hit by whoever dreamed it up (presumably it was Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s political adviser and spinner of dark arts).

As to the debate itself, a confession: I didn’t watch the whole thing, lacking the moral courage for such endurance. Three minutes of edited highlights were more than enough.

One takeaway from this Johnson v Corbyn bout was the reaction of the studio audience to what both men said. Corbyn’s baffling position on Brexit raised a laugh; as did Johnson’s claim to be a dedicated follower of the truth.

Both leaders deserved that mockery: Corbyn because his position on Brexit is more frayed than an ancient pair of jeans; and Johnson because everyone knows he can’t open his mouth without a lie falling out.

In football terms, hardly my mother tongue, this was a goalless draw. The usual suspect newspapers today declared Johnson as the winner, but they’d say that if he stood there in his over-sized Union Jack Y-fronts singing “God Save Brexit”.

Everyone knows that “Getting Brexit Done” is another of those lies (Brexit won’t be done for years). Along with the one about needing this election because Parliament stopped Brexit. It didn’t and MPs were becoming more favourable to Johnson’s deal, merely asking for a sensible amount of time to scan the small print.

Do these debates change people’s minds? Mine can’t be changed when it comes to Boris Johnson (too impossibly awful and duplicitous). As for Jeremy Corbyn (genuinely passionate about the NHS, but hopeless on Brexit and a touch sanctimonious), it’s still a case of wait and see.

Last night I did consider setting up my own politician-checking account called TwatCheck, but sadly there just isn’t the time.

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