On Monday 4 September Novara media, the pro-Corbyn ‘alternative’ media platform, released a video interview with ‘Thomas Wellington’, the ‘founder’ of new Tory youth group Activate. An impressive coup, especially for a hard-left publication. There was just one small problem. ‘Thomas Wellington’ literally doesn’t exist. Instead Novara interviewed one of their own team, London Young Labour campaign officer and Momentum activist Fraser Watt, posing as a young conservative. This isn’t idle speculation, Watt did eventually admit to us that the interview was faked by him and Novara and that he was impersonating ‘Thomas Wellington’.
Fake Novara media interview with Activate supposed leader ‘Thomas Wellington’
None of our contacts within Activate had a clue who ‘Thomas Wellington’ was, and it was pointed out that he bore a strong physical resemblance to left-wing activist Fraser Watt.
London Young Labour campaigns officer and Novara media staffer Fraser Watt
Watt had posted several links to the interview from his Twitter feed shortly after it was released, and one of his flatmates actively identified him from the video. His Facebook feed made it clear he was actively involved with Novara.
Fraser Watt positively identified as ‘Thomas Wellington’ by his housemate
At this point we got in touch with Watt to ask if he had impersonated Activate leader ‘Thomas Wellington’ in the Novana interview. In response Watt deactivated his Twitter account and set his Facebook account to private. We were then sent a link to Twitter account @TommoWellington as proof Wellington was a real person. The account was clearly a fake. All Tweets prior to 5 September had been deleted, making it highly likely that an existing account had been adopted (past Tweets deleted, name and Twitter handle changed) to make Wellington’s account. On top of this the vast majority of the accounts recent Twitter followers were fake, and fitted the pattern of having been purchased on mass.
At this point we again approached Watt for comment. After some considerable time spent prevaricating he admitted, as the evidence became incontestable, that he had been impersonating fake Activate leader ‘Thomas Wellington’ in the Norvara Media interview. He provided us with a statement, which we will reproduce fully below. The statement admitted that Watt and Norvara Media had staged the interview, which he claimed was intended to be a satirical ‘parody of Activate’.
Statement by Fraser Watt – for the record we think any activists who joked about gassing people are fucking idiots.
Unfortunately we find this explanation unconvincing. If the video was intended to be satirical why didn’t Watt admit this as soon as we contacted him, instead of responding by hiding all his social media accounts? And why did they go to the trouble of creating a fake Twitter account for Thomas Wellington? And on a more basic level where was the comedy element in the video? We suspect it was more likely an attempt to make young conservatives look ridiculous (as if we needed the help) and/or to give Norvara an exclusive. Either way it certainly takes ‘Fake News’ to a whole new level.
In any case judging by the YouTube comments plenty of people took the video to be real:
UPDATE: In response to our story Activate gave us the following statement: “It is a shame that Momentum are resorting to such underhanded and potentially illegal tactics such as impersonated the leadership of our organisation. I also hope that the Labour party will be investigating this as a potential breach of their constitution. Kinder gentler politics indeed.”