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Stiff Upper Lip: Who is Behind the Satirical “News” Website Being Promoted By Conservative Peer on GB News?

Byline Times digs into a new hard-right outfit boosted by Lord Bailey of Partygate

Photo: GB News screengrab

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Among the myriad accounts popping up in political Twitter circles, some may have noticed an interesting page that sprang up in March. ‘The Upper Lip News’ (TUL) is a new, right-leaning satirical news website, which in very little time at all has grabbed the attention of sympathetic commentators and broadcasters – as well as a Conservative peer. 

Billing itself as “Stiff News You Can’t Trust”, the website claims that it is a “satirical news site based in the UK with an aim to lighten public discourse – something desperately needed today”, going on to add that “While political debate is completely legitimate and necessary, sometimes a bit of comedy can provide some perspective”.

To give an indication of the kind of humour on offer, articles include; “Global Warming Over For Another Year”, “Wickes To Launch Range of DIY Gender Reassignment Tools Including Mastectomy Shears and Castration Chisels”, “Climate Protestors Call For A Stop To All Coal, Oil, and Nuclear Energy. Demand UK Grid To Be Run Entirely on ‘Girl Power’”, and “Man Who Hates GB News Actually Watches It For First Time”.

What’s more interesting, however, is the amount of attention this small outfit has already gathered from prominent Conservative figures, and the fact that, despite only joining Twitter four months ago, it has already accrued nearly 10,000 followers on the platform.

Its content has been widely shared by the libertarian right, including Toby Young, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom director Nile Gardener, and Reclaim Party deputy leader Martin Daubney.

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No Laughing Matter

While The Upper Lip News hasn’t had anywhere near as much time to establish itself as other right-wing outfits like Turning Point UK (more on them below), the direction it’s moving in seems fairly obvious already.

Though TUL presents itself as “satire”, the articles themselves appear to cater less to those seeking a quick laugh, but rather to people looking to have their biases confirmed, something the prominent accounts retweeting it seem happy to foster. 

Articles have been quote-tweeted by conservative figures, leading to a flurry of engagement – before people tell those critical they’re “an idiot” for not realising that it’s “satire”. Or alternatively, just agreeing with the face-value messaging.

For example, when Martin Daubney quote-tweeted an article claiming that “Furious BBC Staff Demand A Second Vote As Nigel Farage Wins TV Award”, commenters were quick to point out that the news article was not real, with one responding “counting down to the point where Martin pretends he knew it was a parody site all along”. Daubney responded with the ‘fishing pole and fish’ emoji (indicating he was reeling people in).

Elsewhere, commenters have replied with statements like “Loving The Upper Lip, very funny but serious points under the message”.  While the people behind The Upper Lip may argue that the site’s goal is to “lighten public discourse”, it appears that it will also handily double up as an effective way to harvest outrage clicks on social media, and further pollute the information space. As Private Eye has noted during an investigation into another outfit, Reasoned UK: “[It’s] not so much grassroots as Astroturf, perhaps”. 

This isn’t the first time that Conservatives have set up projects aimed at news dissemination on Twitter, often presenting themselves as neutral entities. As previously reported by Byline Times, the ‘strictly impartial’ Politics For All platform, which gathered over 100,000 followers, was also run by a Conservative supporter. Later, another page which was established, ‘Politics UK’, also turned out to be run by a local Young Conservatives Chair, with some of the same people from the original P4A account still involved.

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Courting Culture Warriors

The Upper Lip has also received a positive reception from right-wing outlets like Rupert Murdoch’s Talk TV, where they’ve featured on André Walker’s show more than once. Perhaps most notably, The Upper Lip has been endorsed on GB News by former London Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey, who recently received a peerage in Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list. 

An event run for Bailey’s 2021 mayoral campaign is currently facing a reopened police investigation, over the potentially law-breaking Christmas party held by his staff during lockdown. Shaun Bailey has denied illegality on his part, saying: “I gave a short speech to my team to thank them for their efforts and then left the room shortly afterwards…I was not aware that the gathering would develop as it did after I left and I have apologised unreservedly.”

Responding to Bailey’s praise, the Upper Lip’s pinned tweet proudly exclaims, “Big thanks to Shaun Bailey for nominating The Upper Lip for “Greatest Briton” on GB News tonight!”. 

In the associated clip, Bailey praises them, announcing his nominee for the competition as “The Upper Lip, a newly launched satirical website which is looking to bring much-needed humour to British public political discourse”, paraphrasing TUL’s ‘about’ page.

He adds: “You really need to check it out, it’s absolutely hilarious, run by two fantastic young men”, although he doesn’t directly name the people behind the site.

It’s not immediately apparent from the website, or from anybody endorsing it, who is running the project, or why so many prominent Conservative figures would flock to champion it so quickly.

However, a reverse IP search could offer part of an explanation. The process checks a domain name to find out all the sites hosted at the same IP address on web server.

Doing so for The Upper Lip reveals that its address is, at time of writing, shared with only four other websites. Three of these share links; Turning Point UK, The Point News (Turning Point’s news site), and Reasoned UK (an outfit fronted by Brexiteer Darren Grimes).


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Who are Turning Point?

Turning Point UK (TPUK) is an offshoot of the right-wing activist group in the US – Turning Point USA, which has strong ties to former US president Donald Trump. TPUSA describes itself as an organisation established to challenge what it claims is a “left-leaning bias in our institutions and wide society”, and to “expose the far left and end the tyranny of woke ideology”. 

It has become a prominent force fighting culture war issues on American campuses, and has been described by Hope Not Hate as “mainstreaming extreme views”. Turning Point denies these claims.  

TPUK has recently been involved in street demonstrations, being a primary organiser of anti-Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) protests outside the Honour Oak pub in South London, where they’ve been joined by GB News hosts Calvin Robinson and Laurence Fox. Turning Point has referred to drag acts and trans people as “groomers” on social media, telling them to “stay away from our kids”. 

The protests themselves are part of a current campaign among the right and far-right, who are collectively weaponising extremist claims that the LGBTQ+ community and drag queens are “paedophiles”, “groomers”, and “sexualising children” – a common trope in both the UK and the US. 

The phenomenon has been described by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network as trans people being “slandered in the same way homosexual men were slandered in the 70s, and for the same reason: to deny them safety and equal rights”. 

The Anti-Defamation League similarly explains that “Anti-LGBTQ+ figures do not use terms such as “grooming” and “groomer” legitimately. Instead, they imply or explicitly claim that LGBTQ+ people are paedophiles who are preying on children by discussing issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity”.

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Conservative Connections

Conservative MPs Priti Patel and Jacob Rees-Mogg were among those welcoming the launch of TPUK.

The group’s chairman was, until 2019, Conservative donor George Farmer (Owens’ husband). And its CEO until 2021 was Oliver (Ollie) Anisfeld – the son of former Brexit Party MEP Lance Forman. The current TPUK honorary president is Conservative MP Marco Longhi. 

The former Chief Operating Officer of TPUK was Jack Ross, who held the position until 2021. Ross is also the co-founder of Reasoned UK, the “online grassroots organisation and video channel” formed in 2020. Acting as a platform for Darren Grimes, Reasoned UK produces similar content to Turning Point, and, as with TPUK, the stated goal is to “challenge the pervasive left-wing bias in online content”.

Grimes, now potentially linked to The Upper Lip, was associated with TPUK in its early stages, becoming involved while he was employed by the free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), which he left shortly before forming Reasoned UK. The group has links to both the Tufton Street think tank clique and to Turning Point. 

As previously reported by Private Eye, the company behind the “grassroots organisation” Reasoned UK is an entity called Media & Activism, based in Borehamwood. The sole director of Media & Activism is Oliver Anisfeld, the former CEO of Turning Point. 


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Turning Point Deny Links

A spokesperson for Turning Point UK told Byline Times: “TPUK has no involvement with the Upper Lip. We have shared the odd article that we find amusing, but our funding and finances are separate. We do, however, wish them the best of luck”. The group also stated, in relation to Shaun Bailey’s comments that “Jack was not the individual referred to” and that “while Ollie is one of our founders, he currently has no involvement with TPUK”. 

Turning Point say they “are not a far-right group”, however, opposition party members have recently called on Conservative MPs to cut ties with the organisation due to the extreme nature of the views it promotes, describing drag acts as “groomers” and comparing schools to “Maoist indoctrination camps”. 

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran told the Guardian previously: “As a Liberal, it is deeply concerning that a member of parliament from any party is associating with a group that promotes harmful and regressive ideas about women and minority groups”. 

Labour Party Chair Anneliese Dodds added it was “extremely concerning to see senior Conservatives associating themselves with what looks to most people an awful lot like a far-right group.”

The Conservative Party has been repeatedly accused of courting far-right rhetoric, and the Prime Minister’s personal views regarding gender, crime, drugs and migration are said by those close to him to be deeply socially conservative. 

Conservative Party Deputy Chair Lee Anderson has already intimated that the next Conservative General Election campaign is likely to be run on a mix of “culture war issues and trans debate”. 

Shaun Bailey, Darren Grimes, Oliver Anisfeld, and the Upper Lip News were approached for comment. 

Turning Point UK is not associated with the UK charity and social enterprise Turning Point, which specialises in dealing with substance abuse, learning disability, and mental health issues.

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