Why is Michael Fish lying about base-jumping, and why are people printing it?

The iconic weatherman, 68, famous for mis-calling the Great Storm, did not jump off a tower block.

You may have seen a "viral video" going around yesterday, showing veteran weatherman Michael Fish base-jumping to raise awareness of climate change. The Mirror reported it (Look, a flying Fish! Watch weatherman Michael Fish B.A.S.E jump for climate change awareness), as did the Express (WATCH: ICONIC WEATHERMAN MICHAEL FISH PARACHUTES OFF A BLOCK OF FLATS), while the Huffington Post even ran an op-ed from Michael (Why I Did a Base-Jump to Highlight Climate Change).

The only problem is he did no such thing. The video shows Michael Fish standing at the top of a tower; cuts to a distance-shot of a man jumping off the tower; and then cuts back to Michael Fish standing on the ground.

The stunt was arranged by "ethical clothing company" Rapanui, who confirmed that at no point did Fish actually jump from a tower; instead, it was a "qualified base-jumper" named Dan Witchalls.

The whole thing smells a bit funky. On the one hand, Rapanui were certainly off-base in sending out their press release, which states, in no uncertain terms:

Michael Fish MBE, the iconic British TV weatherman, has completed a B.A.S.E. jump from a London tower block to raise awareness of climate change.

Fish, who is 68 years old and, made the freefall jump from the rooftop, landing by parachute on the ground more than 200 feet below. Fish trained with experienced urban B.A.S.E jumpers prior to the jump.

On the other, while Rapanui have no technical obligation not to lie to the press to further their brand, the Mirror, Express and Huffington Post probably oughtn't to be uncritically reprinting false press releases. And Michael Fish certainly shouldn't be writing intense first-person accounts of an event which never actually happened:

We gained access in a way that might be, shall we say, frowned upon by the police. That, plus the fact that we had a little crosswind on our hands (I had forecast that earlier but nobody would listen, by the way) made for quite a tense atmosphere on the roof. I have to say, there was a part of me that wasn't quite so keen as I had been discussing the idea a month earlier when we last met. Nevertheless, when it came down to it, the training kicked in and it was all over very quickly.

Michael Fish, pretending to base-jump.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.