The Sun's Tuesday front page has been rubbished by experts and even its own source, after it tried to smear new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn by branding the republican a "hypocrite" for kissing the Queen's hand to secure more than £6m of taxpayer funds.
The Murdoch-owned paper, which reluctantly backed Blairite candidate Liz Kendall for the party's top job, accused Corbyn of having suffered a "humiliating personal climbdown" for agreeing to join Her Majesty's Privy Council.
It claimed that public funds awarded to opposition parties in Parliament - dubbed "Short money" - was dependent on top Commons incumbents kissing the Queen's hand on bended knee and mocked the anti-monarchist as "U-turning" for financial benefit.
Corbyn "agreed to be one of Her Majesty's Privy Councillors so he can get his hands on £6.2m of state cash", The Sun claimed in its Tuesday morning splash.
But a constitutional expert, Parliamentary research briefings and the paper's own singular source all piled in to rebuke the Corbyn story, revealing that the taxpayers' funds doled out to political parties are not in fact reliant on leaders gracing Queen Elizabeth II's hand with a kiss.
Richard Gordon QC, a 'Silk' for over ten years, distanced himself from the piece on Tuesday, telling The Huffington Post UK that his quote used to justify the paper accusing Corbyn of grappling for funds had nothing to do with Short money.
Despite two pages of the newspaper being propped up on supposition credited to the expert lawyer, Gordon said of the Sun journalist he spoke to the day before: "I didn't give a view of Short money."
Catherine Haddon, from the Institute for Government, said journalists from the paper had confused separate issues to do with Privy Council status and party leaders' access to Short money, wrongly attacking Corbyn with their front page story.
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Haddon told HuffPost UK that the £6m Labour is entitled to claim for research support for front-bench spokespeople, assistance in the Whips’ offices and staff for the Leader of the Opposition had no bearing on whether Corbyn became a Privy Councillor or not.
"A leader is often given Privy Council status so they can be fully briefed on national security issues", she said. "But this has nothing to do with Short money."
"It is strong convention that the Leader of the Opposition has been a Privy Counsellor, but it is not constitutionally binding."
She cited Winston Churchill, who, in 1948, himself turned down the offer of attending some briefings so he could critique the government on foreign policy matters.
Corbyn became Labour leader on Saturday
"Although there may well have been a debate about what aspects of the role would have been curtailed by his not being a privy counsellor, the example of Churchill in 1948 shows that this is down to political judgement, not a constitutional restriction and not one that has a direct impact on Short money."
The funding takes its name from ex Labour MP Ted Short, who was instrumental in its introduction as leader of the House of Commons in the 1970s.
But Tuesday's original piece prompted a fierce backlash from social media users, who took to Twitter to decry the smear against Corbyn.
— mcsleazy (@mcsleazy) September 14, 2015
@Glinner The Sun's anti-Corbyn pieces represent a rich man telling the working classes why they should stay poor.
— Chris (@BlueprintPod) September 15, 2015
The Sun's pathetic fear of Corbyn is laughable.
— Tom (@MrDungeonDragon) September 15, 2015
I really hope The Sun/The Mail etc keep up their obvious front page lies. It can only hasten their demise.
— Steven Meiklejohn (@keepindirtclean) September 15, 2015
Graham Linehan, writer of popular shows Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd, responded to a social media faux-pas from the BBC Newsbeat Twitter account that also occurred on Tuesday, writing: "Good quick response from BBC Newsbeat there. Don't expect same from The Sun."
Good quick response from BBC Newsbeat there. Don't expect same from The Sun https://t.co/ewLXv7GCfv
— Graham Linehan (@Glinner) September 15, 2015
The story was published as Tony Gallagher started his first day as editor of the paper, having left his job as joint deputy editor at the Daily Mail.
Gallagher began work at the tabloid on Tuesday
A spokesperson for The Sun said: "Our story asserted that there would have been a constitutional crisis in the event that Jeremy Corbyn had refused to be a member of the Privy Council. This was confirmed by a QC, who we quoted accurately."
Despite experts claiming it was factually inaccurate to suggest Corbyn's access to Short money depended on Privy Council membership, the spokesperson added: "If he had refused to be a Privy Councillor, Corbyn would have been unable to be a fully serving Leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition."
"There would have been a huge debate about his ability to carry out the job, and the funding allocated to both his Office and his Party would have been legitimately brought into question," they maintained. "The story stands."
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