A Note on Conor Burns MP and his “Hacking” Claim

From the Independent, several days ago:

A Conservative MP and parliamentary aide to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has claimed his Twitter account was “hacked” after tweets were sent to the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, demanding publish details of the UK’s payment obligations to Brussels.

…Mr Burns was accused of embarrassing the UK and his boss the Foreign Secretary, by taking to social media to criticise the EU’s chief negotiator.

But hours later, the MP for Bournemouth West deleted the tweets and said: “Have been out on visits since 10am this morning. Home to find both twitter and email hacked. Passwords changed.”

The paper quotes law commentator David Allen Green as noting that the supposed hacker has an “impressive” knowledge of EU law.

Burns has not spoken about the matter in any further detail, despite social media users accusing him outright of making it up and an undertone of incredulity in some of the media reports. Did the hacker access confidential emails pertaining to government business? Have private messages from constituents been compromised? Burns appears to be under no pressure from journalists or party superiors to explain what exactly the alleged “hacking” entailed, or to substantiate his claim.

Expectations as regards truthfulness from politicians have perhaps never been particularly high, and only the most stern moralist would censure a public figure for a face-saving misrepresentation after some private embarrassment (“a bad reaction to medication” for an alcohol-related indiscretion, for example).

But in this instance, Burns has explained away a blunder in his performance as a public servant by presenting himself as the victim of an illegal hostile act. Surely this deserves a bit more interrogation than a giggle and a wink?

This is not a trivial matter. One recalls Lucy Allen’s inability to properly account for how the words “unless you die” were added at her end to a hostile email she received, or Nadine Dorries’s many and varied false allegations and vicious distortions. There are of course examples from the other parties, but it is not unreasonable to be particularly concerned with members of the party currently in power.

Politicians escaping scrutiny as regards kind of thing is corrosive – yet these days newspapers simply regurgitate Tweets rather than dig into what may or may not be true.

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