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Tory MP takes aim at GB News’ – and her own party’s – indulgence of conspiracy theories in Manchester

Nicola Richards, UK Parliament

Tory MP for West Bromwich East Nicola Richards has taken aim at conspiracies spread by GB news, as well as by her own party, during a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

During a session hosted by the Antisemitism Policy Trust, and covering antisemitic conspiracy theories, The Guardian’s deputy political editor Peter Walker reports that Richards “castigated” GB News for sometimes “indulging/alluding to such theories.”

One GB News host to have attracted Richards’ attention in the past is Beverley Turner, who posted a now-deleted Tweet on her personal account in July which seemed to support the popular fringe theory that covid was genetically engineered to affect certain ethnic groups less than others, including “Ashkenazi Jews (Fauci anyone?).”

Richards, who co-chairs the all-party parliamentary group against antisemitism, said of that Tweet at the time: “The answer to the question Bev poses in her tweet is that no self-respecting publisher or broadcaster would share this antisemitic conspiratorial fantasy, and neither should she.”

In Manchester, Richards also criticised GB News host Neil Oliver for spreading “pro-Russia propaganda lines,” although she said this took place on his own YouTube channel rather than on the broadcaster itself, Walker reports.

In an uncharacteristically forthright move at a conference that, thus far, has been marked by saying as little as possible about as little as possible, Richards went on to, gently, criticise her own party for occasionally being economical with the truth

Walker says that, when asked if the government risks encouraging conspiracy theories by promising to ban “a fictitious version of 15-minute cities,” Richards said this worries her. There is “a responsibility to make sure we are taking ahout [sic] facts”, she added.

Transport minister Mark Harper had yesterday, somewhat implausibly, described the notion of living within walking distance of everyday conveniences as a “sinister” attempt by local councils to dictate “how often you can go to the shops.”

There was a further run in with reality for the party last night when Sophie Ridge pulled energy secretary Claire Coutinho up over her conference speech, which erroneously suggested Labour planned to bring in a meat tax. “You didn’t write that did you?” queried a stunned Ridge.

Richards seems to be establishing herself as something of a champion of fact-checking within the party over the course of the conference. Prior to today’s intervention on antisemitic conspiracies and apocalyptic visions of 15-minute cities, she took to Twitter/X last night to retweet a correction of a long-retracted 1987 Times article that had claimed the smallpox vaccine “triggered AIDS virus.”

Richards also met up with the Terrence Higgins Trust while she was in Manchester. The MP had previously supported the charity’s campaign to correct a Daily Mail comment piece in which Iceland chair and high-profile Tory defector Richard Walker claimed three of the supermarket’s staff had been infected with HIV in needle attacks.

Walker has since said the claims were made “in error,” noting that “such needlestick occurrences are vanishingly rare and have not happened for many years,” and the Mail has amended the story.

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