Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson has been forced to deny that she gleefully shot squirrels with a slingshot after a joke story went viral. "Jo Swinson blasted by animal rights charities after 'harrowing' footage found on private Facebook" ran the headline of a mocked-up Mirror article.
The story – posted on Twitter and written by a very realistically-named "Wurrance Telephene" – claims the "Liberal Democrat leader can clearly be seen loading a slingshot with pebbles and firing them at squirrels in her garden". It quotes an RSPCA spokesperson, extremely believably, as saying, "I've never seen anyone so alive with twisted pleasure at the thought of harming another living creature. The glee is palpable."
When questioned about it on LBC, rather than taking it as a joke, the Lib Dem leader raised concerns over fake news.
"This sort of fake news is surprising to me. This isn't the only one of the very fake news stories… They're quite sophisticated and people do believe them."
A quick scroll through the replies to the story on Twitter confirm that there are a few internet-illiterate boomers who didn't get the joke.
"I do think it's worrying… there are questions about the role of publishers in circulating these things that aren't true. It's very difficult to prevent its spread," said Swinson.
Too right. Fake news publishers should hang their heads in shame, and leading a party that has been accused of routinely publishing misleading polls during the election campaign – and then refusing to apologise for it – shouldn't stop you from saying it loud and proud!
Presumably "gags on Twitter" will be to blame when Swinson doesn't storm her way into Downing Street, and not YouGov polling that shows the more voters see of her, the less they like her.