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23 February 2022

MPs’ Wikipedia pages get whitewashed

Awkward references to Azerbaijan and the company involved in the Post Office scandal have been conveniently wiped.

By The Chatterer

The Parliament WikiEdits Twitter bot sends a tweet any time a Wikipedia page is edited from within the Palace of Westminster (using sets of IP addresses that are publicly listed as being located within the Houses of Parliament). It always makes for interesting reading — often just the occasional bit of Brasso on an MP’s page, but sometimes something more whiffy emerges. 

At 4.03pm yesterday afternoon (22 February), the Wikipedia article for the Conservative MP Bob Blackman was anonymously edited to remove a section referring to his work as chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Azerbaijan. The section referenced, among other media reports dating back to 2013, an investigation by Open Democracy which found that Blackman had been hosted on trips to Azerbaijan by the country’s government seven times since 2011, and in which Blackman himself was quoted as saying: “On a regular basis, I put down positions on behalf of our good friends in Azerbaijan.”

Another politician who has good friends in Azerbaijan is Vladimir Putin, who sells the corrupt and authoritarian regime billions of dollars’ worth of arms. The president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, travelled to meet his Russian counterpart this week to sign a “declaration on allied interaction”. Aliyev, who has been president for 18 years after taking over from his father, declared that the “new realities in the region, I am sure, will usher ample opportunities”.

The Chatterer makes no suggestion of course that Blackman edited his own Wikipedia page — only that the edit happened just as the government discussed in the deleted section was signing a new accord with Putin. 

Nor was this the only edit with a connection to the news. At 5.22pm yesterday the page for Gillian Keegan, a health minister, was edited to remove a section which quoted a question asked in the House of Lords concerning the accountability of her husband, Michael Keegan, who was chief executive of Fujitsu UK when the company’s Horizon IT system was misreporting the takings in post offices across the country, leading hundreds of sub-postmasters to lose their jobs and savings. Some were prosecuted and jailed, and at least one person affected later killed themselves. 

Again, the Chatterer makes no suggestion that Keegan edited her own Wikipedia page — only that the edit took place while the public inquiry into the Horizon disaster was hearing from those affected.

Back in 2001, when concepts such as shame and accountability were still in daily use, officials at the Department for Transport resigned when it was revealed that they discussed, as the 9/11 attacks were underway, whether it would be “a good day to bury bad news”. It could be that there are some in Westminster who see the start of a shooting war in Europe as a similar opportunity.

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Blackman and Keegan have been approached for comment but could not be reached.

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