The strange case of the assault at the Liberal Democrat spring conference

During last weekend’s Liberal Democrat spring conference, allegations were circulating on Twitter that an elderly delegate in a motorised wheelchair had been assaulted by protesters and had been hospitalised:

If the allegation is true, then it’s a disgrace.

But is it true?  A Google search can find no evidence of any such event.  Strange – if it happened, you would have thought that the press would know about it and the right-wing tabloids would be all over it.  The media would have been there, outside the conference, and in a politically-charged atmosphere somebody would have spoken to the press. But there’s nothing.

So, a story that none of the media picked up? Or an attempt at spin by some members of a party renowned for its sordid electoral tactics, led by a man widely regarded as serially dishonest?

I’d be fascinated to find any hard evidence.



2 thoughts on “The strange case of the assault at the Liberal Democrat spring conference

  1. The tweet you cite is a classic “friend of a friend” thing.

    @Wokingspidey, @MsNoeticat (the one who called all the protesters “retarded fucktards), and @binny_Uk appear to have been having a conversation by Twitter (and possibly in real life, as they were all at the conference I think).

    Ben Mathis says: “just spoke to a woman in a wheelchair who was assaulted and taken to hospital. They can protest but I’ll abuse them all I like” (I took a screenshot, including the dialogue.)

    While it shouldn’t be assumed that it didn’t happen (obviously if the woman herself comes forward and says it did, it did) it’s nothing Ben witnessed, it’s something someone told him had happened elsewhere on a previous day.

    Mechanically, we know people repeating stories that are or that become urban legends tend to truncate: Ben Mathis is more likely to have spoken to someone who spoke to the woman in the wheelchair – or even this could have turned into the classic legend “I’d hate to have to come through that crowd in a wheelchair” into “Someone who had to come through that crowd in a wheelchair was assaulted” into “And she had to be taken to hospital!” just for the extra drama.

    Ben Mathis claims “They aren’t “disaffected Lib Dems,” they’re fully paid-up long-term hard leftists” so he’s clearly not sympathetic to the protest itself (in an earlier tweet he calls them “Trots” and he clearly has no problem with @MsNoeticats outright abuse).

  2. Thank you for this. I agree it looks like a probable scenario – I’m interested in how rumours spread when they are congruent with the position of the people spreading them. It’s almost as if they wanted the story to be true.

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