Liberal Democrat Daisy Cooper calls for better checks on fake news

Expert statisticians should verify government information in order to stop the rise of “fake news”, an MP said today.

A motion at this weekend’s Liberal Democrat party conference is calling for more scrutiny of Government decision making to help stop the growth of conspiracy theories.

It argues the chair of watchdog UK Statistics Authority should provide regular comments on official figures released by the government during a crisis.

The proposed policy also calls for the UK’s political journalists to host regular press conferences at which they can choose members of the government or bodies to appear at.

Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “For far too long the dramatic rise in fake news and conspiracy theories has gone unchecked.

“However, the pandemic has driven home how vitally important it is for the public to be able to trust the advice they are getting from Government and other official sources.”

Ms Cooper claimed ministers have “misused and manipulated” figures throughout the coronavirus pandemic to meet “ridiculous targets”.

She added: “That is why we would like to see expert statisticians verify the information the Government is putting out, as well as members of government and other policy experts brought together to answer questions at the request of journalists.”

Ms Cooper, who became and MP at the December election, said the scientific evidence behind decision making must become more transparent in order to increase trust in politicians.

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It comes after surveys showed public trust in the UK government as a source of accurate information about coronavirus collapsed during the summer, compounded by Dominic Cummings affair.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock was accused by the head of the statistics watchdog for misleading the public over the numbers of tests carried out for Covid-19.

Sir David Norgrove, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, wrote in June that the way data on testing was being analysed and presented to the public had “limited value”.

The Lib Dem motion also argues politicians and political campaigns have: “A track record of misrepresenting statistics to manipulate messages rather than informing the public, and obfuscating facts in a manner that has eroded trust in polls, official statistics and news reporting amongst a large percentage of the population.”

It comes after the Lib Dems themselves faced criticism during the December 2019 election for misleading leaflets.

Leaflets were posted through the doors of hundreds of Londoners which wrongly credited trusted polling firm YouGov for data suggesting the party was neck-and-neck with the Tories.



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