Newspaper’s embarrassing slip over article describing Labour’s John Stonehouse as a Tory MP

  • The Observer mistakenly described a disgraced Labour politician as a Tory MP  
  • John Stonehouse was linked to problems in today’s Conservative Party
  • The disgraced politician was in Harold Wilson’s Labour government in the 1970s
  • The column was amended to say he paved the way for today’s ‘sleazy members’

The left-wing Observer newspaper has come under fire for mistakenly describing a disgraced Labour politician as a Tory MP.

John Stonehouse, the 1970s minister who tried to fake his own death and is the subject of a new ITV drama, formed the basis of a column this weekend linking his scandals to problems in today’s Conservative Party.

Catherine Bennett’s article was on The Guardian’s website under a headline stating that he had ‘paved the way for today’s sleazy Tory MPs’. 

It said his ‘rackety life and faked death’ now seem ‘almost quaint compared with the brazenness of members of his party today’ and was also in print. But the MP was in Harold Wilson’s Labour government.

Catherine Bennett’s article was on The Guardian’s website under a headline stating that John Stonehouse had ‘paved the way for today’s sleazy Tory MPs’

Amid a flurry of corrections on social media, the column was amended online to say Stonehouse paved the way for all today’s ‘sleazy members’.

The scandal-hit politician is portrayed by Matthew Macfadyen in ITV’s dramatization of the story, The Real Stonehouse, which documents his fall from grace. 

Gossip columnist for The Spectator magazine, Steerpike, said: ‘You might have thought that, while watching the series, claims about Soviet contacts and prostitutes in Czechoslovakia might have given Bennett and her Observer colleagues pause for thought. 

John Stonehouse, the 1970s minister who tried to fake his own death is the subject of a new ITV drama (Pictured: Matthew Macfadyen in ITV’s dramatization of the story, The Real Stonehouse)

Clearly not.’ A correction at the bottom of the online version of Catherine Bennett’s article states: ‘The headline and subheading of this article were amended on January 7, 2023 because in an early version they suggested John Stonehouse was a Tory MP.

‘The columnist did not describe Stonehouse as a Tory, nor misunderstand his party affiliation, but the detail that he was a Labour politician has also been added to avoid any possible confusion.’ 

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