It took nearly a year, but The Sunday Times has at last admitted that it was wrong to characterise me as an anti-Semite and a Holocaust denier in an article last February.
It was the publication that launched a wave of similar stories in the mainstream media – the origin of the claims – and it is the last such publication to publish a correction.
The Mail, the Jewish Chronicle, The Express and The Sun have all admitted inaccuracies in their own versions of the story.
In its current edition (dated Sunday, January 13, 2019), under Corrections & Clarifications, the newspaper published the following [boldings mine]:
“The following correction is published after an upheld ruling by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
“In an article (“Labour welcomes back banned activists and Holocaust denier”, News, February 4, 2018) we misinterpreted Mike Sivier as having said he was not pretending the omission of Jews from a list of Holocaust survivors was a big problem, when what he had said was not a big problem was anti-semitism in the Labour Party. What he had said about Jews being omitted from the list was that this may have been “political correctness”.
“We also reported him as having said, in a discussion about a leaflet which described the Holocaust as having thousands not millions of victims and which did not mention Jews at all, that he was not going to comment on whether thousands or millions of Jews had died in the Holocaust as he didn’t know, when in fact what he had said was “I’m not going to comment on ‘thousands’ instead of ‘millions’ because I don’t know.” We are happy to make clear Mr Sivier’s position that what he meant was that he did not know why the leaflet had used those numbers, not that he didn’t know how many Jews had died in the Holocaust..
“These claims formed the basis for the headline’s suggestion that Mr Sivier was a “Holocaust denier” and we are happy to put on record his position that this is not the case.“
For clarity, I think you deserve to see the relevant parts of the IPSO ruling on this case – and I have a few observations of my own about parts of this story as well. Here’s IPSO [again, boldings mine]:
“The complainant had not directly said that he was “’not going to comment’ on whether thousands or millions of Jews died in the Holocaust as ‘I don’t know’”. There was no reference in the discussion surrounding the leaflet to “whether thousands or millions of Jews died in the Holocaust”, because the leaflet had explicitly not referred to Jews among the victims of the Holocaust; the discussion had centred on the reasons for the omission of Jews from the list, which the complainant had said may have been for ‘politically correct’ reasons, but there was no discussion of the number of Jews who had died. The publication was entitled to give its own interpretation of what the complainant had meant by his comments. However, the article did not make clear that it was reporting the publication’s interpretation of the complainant’s comments – they were presented as direct comments in relation to specific claims, when in fact separate comments had been juxtaposed. Because the comment thread was publicly available, this represented a failure to take care… The article gave the impression that the complainant had said something which he had not, on a subject liable to cause widespread offence.
“The complainant had suggested that omitting Jews from a list of Holocaust survivors in a leaflet may have been for “’politically correct’” reasons. However, he had not explicitly stated that he was “‘not pretending it was a big problem’ if Jews were omitted from a list of Holocaust survivors”, as the article said. Claiming that the complainant had said this, when his comments were publicly available, represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article.
“The Committee considered that the question of whether the complainant was a “Holocaust denier” had formed part of his complaint, as set out in his correspondence with the publication prior to contacting IPSO, where he questioned whether he was the “Holocaust denier” the article had referred to… It was clear that this characterisation referred to the complainant: the headline had referred to “banned activists and [a] Holocaust denier” being welcomed back into the Labour Party, and it was clear that the other individuals referred to were members of “’proscribed’” groups. The complainant was the only individual named in reference to any claims around the Holocaust. The publication claimed that this characterisation was not misleading based on the complainant’s expressed views and actions. However, the sole basis provided for this characterisation within the article itself was the complainant’s comments on his website. The Committee found, above, that the publication had failed to take care over the presentation of these comments, creating the misleading impression that the complainant had made statements which he had not. The Committee considered that there was a consequent failure to take care over the basis provided for the claim that the complainant was a “Holocaust denier”… The Committee did not consider that the publication had provided a sufficient basis for asserting that the complainant was a “Holocaust denier”, either in the article, or in the evidence subsequently submitted for the Committee’s consideration… It did not consider that the publication had provided a basis for this characterisation, and… a clarification was required to indicate that the basis provided for the characterisation in the article had been presented in a misleading manner, and to put on record the complainant’s position that he did not deny the Holocaust.”
I should clarify the point I was making when I wrote, “I’m not going to comment on ‘thousands’ instead of ‘millions’ because I don’t know.” I had been asked why the creators of a leaflet discussing the Holocaust had stated that thousands of people had died, rather than millions. My statement was that I didn’t know why those people had done that. How could I? I had nothing to do with it.
My comment about them being “politically correct” when omitting Jews from the list of Holocaust victims was prompted by the fact that the leaflet listed people of other ethnicities that had also been victims of the Nazi Holocaust. There were 17 million victims in total, of which six million were Jewish, according to the most widely-accepted figures (with which I agree). I was speculating – because that’s all I could do, not having had anything to do with the creation of the leaflet – that those who were responsible may have wanted to raise awareness of groups whose persecution at Nazi hands doesn’t get as much attention.
The simple fact was that the commenter to This Site who had challenged me about it had not provided enough information for me to offer a stronger opinion. This is also relevant to another aspect of the original story in The Sunday Times that it did not correct.
Here’s the IPSO ruling again:
“In response to a commenter referring to comments by a Labour politician stating that Tony Blair was “unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers”, the complainant had written “(without further information) concerns that Tony Blair was being ‘unduly influenced’ by ‘a cabal of Jewish advisors’ may have been entirely justified.” The article did not give a misleading impression of the substance of this comment, and the publication was entitled to rely on the words the complainant had used, which it had not presented in a misleading manner.”
It should be clear that I was saying anyone hearing that assertion would be justified in feeling concerned about it, in the absence of further information to confirm or deny it. But my words, quoted accurately by IPSO, were perverted by the newspaper. It stated that I had said it “may be entirely justified” to say that Tony Blair was controlled by a “cabal of Jewish activists”. If I had intended that, I would have said it.
A better explanation for IPSO’s decision on this aspect of the matter is actually elsewhere in its ruling, where it stated, “The publication was entitled to give its own interpretation of what the complainant had meant by his comments.” IPSO reckons the Sunday Times’ interpretation of this point is reasonable; I do not.
This is a huge victory for the fight against false allegations of anti-Semitism.
But that struggle continues. The Sunday Times published its story after a member or officer of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee leaked a confidential report about me to one of the newspaper’s reporters. The paper published what it would have considered to be the strongest evidence against me that had been included in that report – and now it has had to admit that they were false.
But Labour still expelled me from the party, at a hearing before members of its National Constitutional Committee last November. The evidence against me – in total – was that “someone said they were upset” by articles I had written.
And the original allegations had been sent to Labour by an extremist fringe group that masquerades as a charity, called the Campaign Against Antisemitism. It had made its false claims just days before local elections at which I was campaigning to become a county councillor, and I believe the intention was to corruptly influence the result of that election to stop me taking a council seat.
This is what we must resist – false claims against innocent people, made to create political advantage. That is what this is about – not anti-Semitism, but power.
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Excellent news Mike
Well done mate
Well done, Mike. Absolutely delighted for you.
At last. Vindication!!! Mike is Innocent. Well done for continuing your fight Mike. Now for an appeal to Labour against falsely finding against you.
Excellent news Mike, and well done! You have actually made a significant contribution to those of Jewish background (like myself) who have been disturbed by the misuse of anti-semitism for political reasons. The media Reform Group:
‘The Media Reform Coalition has conducted in-depth research on the controversy surrounding antisemitism in the Labour Party, focusing on media coverage of the crisis during the summer of 2018. Following extensive case study research, we identified myriad inaccuracies and distortions in online and television news including marked skews in sourcing, omission of essential context or right of reply, misquotation, and false assertions made either by journalists themselves or sources whose contentious claims were neither challenged nor countered. Overall, our findings were consistent with a disinformation paradigm. ‘
You have shown more discernment on this issue than some in the Jewish community itself.
Great news Mike
For me, this exemplifies the reason for the Tories saying that the “Freedom of The Press” must be sacrosanct. They use the right wing press as a political tool, preserving the right wings’ propaganda machine intact. Well done Mike for sticking to it and exposing this curvature of the facts for their own purpose of attacking anyone who does not blindly follow the right wing propaganda. More power to you mate!
Forgive me, what us “corrupt” about the lobby group’s actions? Did they make this report covertly, using undue pressure or financial leverage?
Do you have info that should be reported to the Charity Commission? Are they basically a caucus masquerading as a benevolent cause?
Surely you are going to appeal the expulsion? Have you posted this to LP sites?
You’re a little behind the times, it seems.
From the article: “It had made its false claims just days before local elections at which I was campaigning to become a county councillor, and I believe the intention was to corruptly influence the result of that election to stop me taking a council seat.” Seems corrupt to me.
this is brilliant news mike but the fight is not over yet
Excellent news…let us hope the Labour party see fit to put the record straight and come down hard on those corrupt enough to make these false allegations within the party too.It does not help bone fide cases of Ante-Semitism. I’m still waiting for an outright apology by our Conservative MP Chris Davies, who used these false allegations himself against you.
Email to Jenny Formby
If the evidence presented below is accurate then it would appear the judgement against Mike Sivier is unsound. I suggest his expulsion is rescinded whilst this new evidence is investigated. This will save a considerable amount on court proceedings, money better spent on elections, and embarrassment for the Party.
Sent from my iPad
Great news in a week when so much has been dreadful Very, very pleased for you, and it is another victory for many, like your epic battles with the DWP., too.
I think you should now report the CAA to the police. Corruptly affecting the outcome of the electoral process by smearing a candidate is explicitly illegal, and now you have been completely cleared of their accusations, you have sufficient evidence to have them prosecuted.
I did that at the time and the police wouldn’t have anything to do with it. I have no faith in the officers concerned and there’s nobody else who deals with such matters at Dyfed Powys Police.
Not wishing you to take on any more strife in what must have been to say at the least a wearing battle on your energy and emotion,but:
– maybe consider re-attempting police action ref scuppering electoral process
– go through police complaint process if same happens
– make complaint intention known from the start if same was to happen
I foresee 1) either different outcome or 2) potential exposure of wrong process (twice) if same outcome with different outcome in due course
Mike – you should take this up with the police Commisioner as far as the police are concerned – but making an official complaint should be lodged – it is an attack on our electoral system as well as an attack on you. The accusations effectively shut you down in the campaign during the election.
Excellent news, Mike! Congratulations, I’m so pleased for you.
So if LP, has also: ” …. failed to take care over the presentation of these [allegations] creating the misleading impression that the complainant had made statements which he had not …” – then when do the LP get to admit their mistakes, apologise profusely, compensate for causing pain and anxiety by not doing their job properly, and get to enact policy and procedures to ensure this never, ever happens again?
They now, thanks to Mike’s and other’s suffering, have the evidence of these smear campaign tactics. So when will the LP stop apologising for nothing, man-up and fight back against this odious threat to our free speech and democracy?
If the Labour Party had learnt any thing from poor old Ken Livingston’s excommunication then this should NOT have happened! People must not be cowed into silence by the Israeli govt’s internet censorship hit squad, or this govt’s Integrity Initiative’s ersatz outrage! You know that, when you back down, they double-down.
A whole nation’s people is being systematically murdered or deliberately snipered in the knees to disabled for life – as young boys and girls bravely still protest the death and destruction around their homes are locked up in freezing military cells and intimidated by grown soldiers for months on end – doctors and medics shot dead whilst loading wounded civilian protesters into ambulances – Palestinian homes summarily flattened by military bulldozers with a demolition notice thrown on the ground as their warning, their land plundered by those ‘brave’ soldiers defending themselves against sticks and stones levelled at them by kids, whilst the rest of the world murmurs platitudes and crosses to the other side of the street so they don’t have to watch! FFS!
If I was a LP member, then this is the sort of issue that might make me want to leave! The LP needs to get their act together, sharpish, and STOP apologising.
BTW – if anyone wants to know why no action was taken against people committing crimes of subverting our democracy immediately prior to voting then, like me, feel free to contact them and (politely) ask them why and what they ARE going to do about this.
Sir / Madam
I believe a serious crime was reported to your station concerning an attempt to corrupt our election process.
I understand that you are aware that Mike Sivier was blatantly libelled in the media (I believe he may be taking out a private action in this regard). Libel that interfered with an imminent election process which I believe resulted in him being temporarily suspended from his political affiliation, and therefore unable to participate in the SW election process!!
Nevertheless, it appears that your officers, when presented with the evidence, pooh-poohed the serious allegation of political interference and have so far done little to follow up, investigate, or begin constructing a case against the alleged offender despite the seriousness of the accusation.
Therefore, I would be grateful to know the exact reasons for your organisation’s apparent failure to act further? Especially since Mike, after a long and arduous campaign, has been completely exonerated of the libellous accusations that were made by at least four lame-stream national newspapers who have all published full retractions apologising to Mike for failing to properly report the facts and their erroneous assumptions of his guilt.
This development therefore only adds to the overwhelming suspicion that the libel was indeed baseless, maliciously premeditated, politically-motivated and thus an illegal intrusion on our democracy!
So as servants and protectors of the public good, surely the written evidence existing in the public space overwhelmingly supports the allegation of a crime and the perpetrator of the original libel(s) is known, so can I sincerely ask you: when are your boys going to act? How much evidence do you require? And if you are certain that you are still unable to proceed for whatever reason, then may I ask you what evidence is extant and the reason(s) for your department’s inaction?
Thanks in advance for your kind assurances on this important crime.
Good news and I’m heartily pleased for you. It should of course, never have taken place in the first place but your victory could help in exonerating others who have wrongly been smeared falsely.
Thank you for contacting Dyfed Powys Police. Your contact form has been referred to the Professional Standards Department as it has been deemed as being a complaint. Having viewed the content of your enquiry it is not entirely clear to me whether you are making a complaint or requesting an update on an investigation.
Furthermore it is not clear what you [sic] involvement or interest in this matter is. As such Data Protection Regulations prevent me from making any comments or releasing information in regards to this matter.
Swyddog Cwynion a Chamymddwyn – Complaints and Misconduct Officer
Adran Safonau Proffesiynol – Professional Standards Department
Rhif Ffon/Phone: 101
E-bost / e-mail: [email protected]
Obviously it’s not enough to be a citizen concerned about our electoral law nor democracy!?