9 Things To Know About Ben Bradley's Tweet Libelling Jeremy Corbyn
The Conservative MP made a costly mistake when he alleged Jeremy Corbyn was paid by Czech spies – and accidentally set a new social media record.
Late on Saturday night, when most normal people were blind drunk, Conservative MP Ben Bradley issued a formal apology on Twitter for libelling Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Here's what's noteworthy about this unusual footnote in British political history:
1. It's quite unusual for a politician to actually start legal action against a rival politician, especially over a tweet.
Bradley made the libellous comments in a reply to the Twitter account @Far_Right_Watch, at the peak of press speculation regarding whether or not Corbyn provided information to the security services in former Eastern Bloc communist countries.
Corbyn's team has only ever accepted one fact: In 1986 the Labour leader met with a Czech diplomat who was also a spy, as part of a series of meetings with many representatives of foreign governments. There is no suggestion he was paid for information, as Bradley suggested.
What's unusual about this incident is that Corbyn actively chose to pursue legal action over comments by a fellow MP, made good on his threat, and claimed damages. Such incidents are rare in British politics: Politicians tend to view political attacks by their opponents as either part of the cost of doing business – and settle for an apology if they go further.
The original tweet was retweeted only a handful of times but was enormously amplified when leading voices on the left-wing of politics picked up on it, prompting Corbyn's team to act.
"Even though he'd deleted it, it had been reported and it was known he'd made the allegation and that still stood," a Labour source explained. "We felt it was important and it had still had enough pickup. He's not just some backbench MP, he's a vice chair of the party. He's got a senior role in the party structures."
2. Bradley's apology is probably the most retweeted tweet ever posted by a Conservative MP, which should give the party some unwanted guidance on how to go viral.
3. You can't bury an apology on Twitter. And if you try to hide it then you'll only amplify the message.
4. Ben Bradley prints out his apologies and takes a photo of them, rather than uploading them.
5. Unfortunately printing off apologies results in a dark, murky tweets which are hard to read. Luckily BuzzFeed News has sharpened the image to make it much easier to comprehend.
6. Labour forced him to include the words "please retweet".
7. We're not completely sure it's Ben Bradley's signature, since it was cut off halfway through.
8. This was an expensive mistake for Ben Bradley – and good news for a Mansfield food bank.
Labour sources say Bradley has paid damages of around £10,000 to a homelessness charity and a food bank in his Mansfield constituency, although no figure has been officially confirmed. If he picks up the entire bill himself that's a hefty sum – and could wipe out the part-time salary he has been given as vice chair of the Conservative party.