Tag Archives: IPSO

Humiliation for two more newspapers that falsely accused Vox Political of anti-Semitism

The Sun and The Express have joined the growing ranks of newspapers that have been ordered to publish a “clarification” after falsely accusing me of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

Press regulator IPSO published the rulings against those publications on January 3.

So now, with one ruling left to be published the score stands as follows: Vox Political – 4, libellous newspapers – 0.

The full ruling against The Sun can be found here. It has been ordered to publish a clarification as follows:

“A previous version of this article reported that Mr Sivier had said it was “not a big problem” if Jews were taken off a list of Holocaust survivors. He has contacted us to say that he was in fact referring to anti-Semitism in the Labour Party as not being a “big problem”. The article also reported that he said he did not know whether thousands or millions of people died in the Holocaust; he assures us this comment referred to him not knowing why the SWP had referred to “thousands” of victims on a pamphlet it had prepared, and that he accepts that around 17 million people died.”

There’s a lot wrong with it – the main issue being that it’s not a matter of me saying the newspaper was inaccurate; the factual evidence proves it was wrong.

The ruling against The Express is here. That publication must publish this clarification:

“Mr Sivier has contacted us to point out that his statement “I’m not going to comment” had been made in reference to not knowing whether the SWP had referred to “thousands” rather than “millions” of Holocaust victims on a flyer, and was not a reference to his own beliefs about the number of victims of the Holocaust. He also says that his reference to there not being a “big problem” was made in relation to the general issue of anti-Semitism on the left and not in reference to the specific issue of omitting Jews from the list of Holocaust survivors, as the SWP was alleged to have done on the flyer. Mr Sivier denies making any comments that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic and we are happy to make this position clear.”

Again, the fact show that this isn’t about what I said or denied; it’s about the facts of the matter which the Express ignored.

IPSO’s ruling also fails, in both cases, on a major point, referring to a comment by the late Tam Dalyell that Tony Blair, as prime minister, had been “unduly influenced” by “a cabal of Jewish advisors”. This had been raised by a commenter on this website, who put it forward as an example of left-wing anti-Semitism and demanded that I provide an opinion on it. In response, I stated that it was impossible to do so, as the commenter had provided no background information to either corroborate or disprove the claim. Therefore, “(without further information) concerns that Tony Blair was being ‘unduly influenced’ by ‘a cabal of Jewish advisors’ may have been entirely justified.”

IPSO’s adjudicators, in their ruling, stated that “The complainant said that he had not intended to suggest that this was accurate, but that it might theoretically be accurate.” This is a straightforward lie.

I have written to IPSO on many occasions pointing out the correct meaning of my words, despite the fact that it is self-evident to anybody who reads them. I wrote: “I said that a person hearing such a claim may have been entirely justified to be concerned – unless or until they had further information to corroborate or disprove it.”

There is no way this can be interpreted as me saying Mr Dalyell’s words “might theoretically be accurate” and IPSO’s adjudicators, being in full possession of the wealth of information I have provided to them, must have known this. Therefore they deliberately lied in their ruling.

There is one adjudication left outstanding – regarding The Sunday Times, the first newspaper to publish the false claims about me. I have made the facts of this matter clear, so it will be interesting to see whether the ruling changes in that case.

But I am also aware of the passage of time. Libel cases may not be initiated more than 12 months after publication of the words that form the basis of the complaint. As I mention above, those words were published on February 4 or 5 last year, and it is January 5 at the time of writing. I wonder whether IPSO has been deliberately running down the clock to make it impossible for me to take these newspapers to court.

Such court action would also have to prove that I have suffered serious harm – in this case, financial harm – due to the damage to my reputation. This would be difficult to prove as my income from This Site has always been low. In addition, the number of people visiting Vox Political skyrocketed after I started reporting that IPSO had adjudicated in my favour – first against The Mail and then against the Jewish Chronicle. So it could be argued that the IPSO rulings have achieved my aim and turned public opinion back to my favour. It could even be argued that I have benefited from this affair. It would be a twisted argument, but that’s British litigation for you.

It now seems unlikely in the extreme that anybody genuinely believes me to be an anti-Semite, or to harbour any ill-feeling toward Jewish people based on their religion or ethnicity. Anybody professing such a belief is likely to be doing it for political purposes.

That being said, I will consult my legal advisors on possible action against IPSO if it persists in the lie, and I will continue raising funds to fight false claims of anti-Semitism against me. I may also consider using these funds to help other people who have also been falsely accused. These lies harm the fight against genuine anti-Semitism (which is increasing), and it is important to identify the perpetrators of these false complaints.

There are also other cases that I need to bring to court in the very near future. I’ll say more about that in a future article.

So these are important victories, and the failings of the adjudication won’t make any real difference. They support the fight against false accusations of anti-Semitism. And you can help that fight by contributing to my crowdfunding campaign – the details are directly below.

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Press regulator rules Jewish Chronicle WRONG to have called Vox Political writer ‘Holocaust denier’

What was it the Jewish Chronicle was saying about the Labour Party being an “existential threat” to Jewish people?

From a purely objective viewpoint (of course), it seems clear that the main threat to Jewish people is coming from rags like the Chronicle, making false claims about perfectly decent people like me.

It stirs up distrust in the community, you see.

And people like Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard should not be allowed to get away with it. This is why I am raising funds to take those who have libelled me to court, so a financial penalty can be imposed on them that is of equal weight to the damage they have caused. Regular readers of This Site will be aware of the existence of my JustGiving page, and I apologise for having to keep mentioning it, but if you have contributed already, please consider making a further donation, or ask a friend to do so.

The Jewish Chronicle had accused me of Holocaust denial, following up on an article in another newspaper (on which judgement is pending). I took the matter to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, which announced a ruling. This happened two weeks ago, but I had to wait for the all-clear to mention the fact. Here it is:

The complainant said that it was inaccurate for the article to say that he had said he “could not
comment” on whether thousands or millions of Jews died in the Holocaust because he ‘didn’t
know’. A commenter on the website had been listing incidents of anti-Semitism on the Left, and
had referred to a leaflet which he said omitted Jews from a list of Holocaust survivors, and put
the number of deaths from the Holocaust at thousands, rather than millions. In response to a
comment about the leaflet, the complainant had said “I’m not going to comment on ‘thousands’
instead of ‘millions’ because I don’t know, but the Nazi holocaust involved many other groups
as well as Jews, and it seems likely that the SWP was simply being ‘politically correct’”. He said
he was referring to not knowing why the leaflet made this claim, rather than to not knowing the
number of Jews who died.

The publication denied that the article was inaccurate. In respect of the ‘thousands or millions’
claim, its interpretation of the comments thread was plausible, and there was no significantly
inaccuracy.

The complainant had not expressly said that he “could not comment on whether thousands or
millions of Jews died in the Holocaust”. 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 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. This represented a failure to take care, in breach of Clause 1(i). The
article gave the impression that the complainant had said something which he had not, on a
subject liable to cause widespread offence.

As with MailOnline previously, IPSO has let me down as far as punishment is concerned.

The Jewish Chronicle gets off with a light slap on the wrist: “Having upheld the complaint… the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. The publication had offered a clarification which set out the complainant’s position in relation to the number of Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and on the meaning of his comments. This clarification made the complainant’s position clear, and addressed the article’s misleading presentation of his comments. This was sufficient to meet the terms… and should now be published.”

A full clarification, admitting that the paper had misled readers and apologising to me, would have been more appropriate.

And there are other outstanding matters that will now require a court ruling – which is why I am appealing for funds.

But for now, the score stands thus: Vox Political – TWO        Libellous newspapers – NIL.

Please be sure to share this information far and wide.

Visit our JustGiving page to help Vox Political’s Mike Sivier fight anti-Semitism libels in court


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One down: Press regulator rules against MailOnline in Vox Political ‘anti-Semitism’ case

This is a welcome victory.

But in the words of somebody much nastier than me: It is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it may well be the end of the beginning.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has upheld my complaint against MailOnline, that it misrepresented me in an article accusing me of Holocaust denial and other examples of anti-Semitism.

It is the first adjudication among five complaints against news organisations that made similar allegations against me on or around February 4. You’ll see the issues when you read the full adjudication below. IPSO was supposed to publish it on the organisation’s website last Thursday but, for some unaccountable reason, this has not happened. As I have assurances that it is not being challenged, I’m going ahead and publishing it here.

The ruling regarding the alleged statement about a “cabal of Jewish advisors” to Tony Blair is wrong; I did not suggest that anyone could be justified in suggesting that Mr Blair was influenced in such a way – I stated that anyone hearing such a claim could be justified in being concerned about it, at least until they were presented with the evidence on the matter. There is, therefore, a world of difference between what MailOnline – and now IPSO – attributed to me and the fact of the matter, and claims that the publication’s interpretation of my words is reasonable are false. I will have to pursue this in the courts.

The punishment is completely inappropriate. Ordering MailOnline to do something it had already offered to do – and which I had rejected because it was not enough – is frankly pathetic. MailOnline has been found to have been inaccurate in its reporting of me and should be forced to admit that it was wrong and apologise.

IPSO’s view is that “the Committee decided that the footnote clarification was sufficient on this occasion… [and] there is no requirement for MailOnline to publish the decision; it will be published on our website. Again, were the Committee to have considered that the breach of the Code was such that [publication of] an adjudication was required, the publication would have been required to publish this in a position determined by the Committee.” Weak.

The ruling in my favour over the false claim of Holocaust denial is very interesting, as the original allegation came from a leaked Labour Party report on me. Labour has raised several charges of anti-Semitism against me – among which, Holocaust denial is notable for its absence. But the Information Commissioner’s Office has ordered the party to provide me with all the information it holds about me, after it was found to have broken the law by failing to honour a Subject Access Request I sent out in February – so I will see the information that led to the news outlet’s claim (or I will know that Labour has not sent all the information required of it).

That will have a huge bearing on the outcome of Labour’s investigation. As the party has been caught lying about me, this casts a shadow over all its other claims.

But the main benefit to come from this will arise when I launch my court cases against the organisations that have lied about me but are not subject to IPSO regulation. Having a ruling in my favour here will weigh heavily against my opponents in that arena.

But I need the funds to be able to do that, which is why I have a JustGiving page dedicated to that purpose.

If you want to help put an end to frivolous, lying accusations of anti-Semitism, please visit the page at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/mike-sivier and donate some cash. I’m hoping to raise £25,000 and have a long way to go.

Here’s the IPSO adjudication:

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 02821-18 Sivier v MailOnline
Summary of Complaint
1. Mike Sivier complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that MailOnline breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Journalist accused of anti-Semitism and ex Militant member among the far-left activists who have been let back into Labour after Corbynistas tightened their grip on the party”, published on 4 February 2018.
2. The article reported on “secret documents” seen by a different publication, which showed that the Labour Party had allowed “far left activists” back into the party. It said that the complainant was being given back his membership after being “expelled…over claims he had posted anti-Semitic abuse online”. The article said that the complainant “reportedly said it ‘may be entirely justified’ to say Tony Blair had been ‘unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers’”, and that he also “said he was ‘not pretending it was a big problem’ if Jews were omitted from a list of Holocaust survivors”. It went on to say that, according to the other publication, the complainant “claimed ‘I’m not going to comment’ on whether thousands or millions of Jews died in the Holocaust as ‘I don’t know’”.
3. The complainant said that he had not been “expelled” from the Labour Party: he had been suspended while an investigation was carried out into allegations that he had posted material which might be interpreted as anti-Semitic – not for posting “abuse”. He said that another commenter on his website had stated that a Labour politician had said that Tony Blair was “unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers”. He said that, without further context, it was impossible to analyse this claim; he had replied saying “I would point out that (without further information) concerns that Tony Blair was being ‘unduly influenced’ by a ‘cabal of Jewish advisers’ may have been entirely justified”.
4. The complainant said that the other comments reported had been distorted by being removed from their context, and denied that they were anti-Semitic. A commenter on the website had been listing incidents of anti-Semitism on the Left, and had referred to a leaflet which he said omitted Jews from a list of Holocaust survivors, and put the number of deaths from the Holocaust at thousands, rather than millions. The complainant denied having said that he didn’t know whether thousands or millions of Jews died in the Holocaust. Rather, in response to a comment about the leaflet, he had said “I’m not going to comment on ‘thousands’ instead of ‘millions’ because I don’t know,
but the Nazi holocaust involved many other groups as well as Jews, and it seems likely that the SWP was simply being ‘politically correct’”. He said he was referring to not knowing whether the leaflet made this claim, rather than to not knowing the number of Jews who died. He had gone on to say “Nobody has said anti-Semitism on the left doesn’t exist…But it isn’t organised and is mostly the work of aberrant individuals”. The commenter had then accused the complainant of “pretending that there isn’t a problem”. The complainant had replied “I’m not pretending there isn’t a problem, I’m just not pretending it’s a big problem”. His comment that he was “not pretending it was a big problem” had been referring to the problem of anti-Semitism on the Left in general, and not to the omission of Jews from the list.
5. The publication denied that the use of the word “expelled” was significantly misleading; the article did not suggest that the complainant had been permanently removed from the party, as its entire premise was that he and others had been readmitted. It nevertheless removed this word from the article and substituted the word “suspended” in its place. It also denied that the term “abuse” was misleading since the allegations related to the posting of content which might be interpreted as anti-Semitic. In addition, the publication said that it had accurately reported the complainant’s comments in relation to the “cabal of Jewish advisers”.
6. The publication said that the article was entirely accurate in reporting the complainant’s other comments; the interpretation that had been made of the comments was reasonable. It acknowledged that the complainant may have a different interpretation of the comments, and offered to publish a footnote clarification as follows:
Since first publication Mr Sivier has contacted us and asked us to point out that his refusal to comment on the issue of why the SWP flyer referred to “thousands” rather than “millions” was a reference to the choice of wording by the SWP on their flyer and not a reference to the number of victims of the Holocaust. He also says that the reference to there not being a “big problem” was directed to the general issue of anti-Semitism on the left and not the specific issue of omitting Jews from the list of Holocaust survivors. Mr Sivier denies making any comments that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic and we are happy to make his position clear.
It also offered to publish a standalone clarification on its website as follows:
An article on 4 February entitled “Journalist accused of anti-Semitism and an ex Militant member among the far-left activists who have been let back into
Labour after Corbynistas tightened their grip on the party” reported on allegedly anti-Semitic comments made by mike Sivier. We now understand that Mr Sivier denies that these comments could be interpreted as anti-Semitic and we are happy make his position clear.
7. The complainant denied that the article contained a reasonable interpretation of his comments. In reference to the claim regarding the number of Holocaust victims, his original comment had made clear, through the use of quotation marks, that he was referring to the use of the words in the leaflet, rather than to his own beliefs. The commenter had said that the complainant was “defending the indefensible, and pretending that there isn’t a problem” with anti-Semitism on the Left, and it was in response to this that he had said “I’m not pretending there isn’t a problem, though. I’m simply not pretending it’s a big problem”.
Relevant Code Provisions
Clause 1 (Accuracy) i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text. ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator. iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for. iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
8. The Committee noted that the article had reported claims about the complainant which had previously been published elsewhere, and had presented them in this light. However, the comments which the article reported on were publicly available, and the publication was responsible for reporting them accurately.
9. The article had originally stated that the complainant had been “expelled” by the party. The Committee acknowledged that, read alone, this might suggest that he had been permanently barred. However, the sub-headline indicated that he had been ‘suspended’, and the article made clear that he was eligible to be readmitted; indeed, this was the premise of the article. In these
circumstances, stating that he had been “expelled” was not significantly misleading, and there was no failure to take care over this claim. Similarly, it was not misleading for the article to say that the complainant had been expelled “over claims” of “abuse”: the suspension had related to allegations of anti-Semitic comments made online, which the publication was entitled to characterise as “abuse” when the basis for this was made clear. In addition, the newspaper had not stated as fact that he had in fact engaged in “abuse”, but had stated that he was suspended “over claims” of such behaviour. There was no breach of Clause 1 on these points.
10. 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.” This comment was accurately reported by the publication, and it was entitled to rely on the words the complainant had used. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
11. 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 publication may have inferred this meaning from the complainant’s comments, but it reported this as something he had said. The article did not make clear that it was reporting the publication’s interpretation of the complainant’s comments; they were presented as direct quotations. Because the comment thread was publicly available, this represented a failure to take care, in breach of Clause 1(i). The article gave the impression that the complainant had said something which he had not, on a subject liable to cause widespread offence, a clarification was required to avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii).
12. As set out above, 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 omitting Jews from the list was “not a big problem”, as the article said Claiming that the complainant had said this, when his comments were publicly available, his represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, in breach of Clause 1(i). Because the article gave the misleading impression that the complainant had made a claim that he had not made, it required clarification to avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii).
13. The footnote clarification addressed the two inaccuracies identified in the article, and made clear the complainant’s position with respect to these two points. It was therefore sufficient to address the inaccuracy and avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii). The Committee welcomed the offer of a standalone clarification; however, the footnote correction was sufficient to address the inaccuracies in the article, and the Committee did not require a standalone correction in this instance.
Conclusions
14. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1(i).
Remedial action required
15. The publication had offered a footnote clarification which set out the complainant’s position in relation to his comments. This clarification addressed the inaccuracies within the article, and was sufficient to meet the terms of Clause 1(ii). It should now be published.

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Sun forced to print front-page correction over Corbyn claim

Ipso made the ruling about the Sun’s Jeremy Corbyn front page that was published on 15 September.


Oh dear, how sad. Just when Rupert Murdoch is chumming up with David Cameron again, his biggest newsrag has been ordered to publish a front-page apology for misleading the public with a political story.

Bang goes any credibility the Dirty Digger might have had. It’ll be a blue Christmas (in more ways than one) for him.

And a merry Christmas for Labour.

The Sun has been forced to print a front-page correction over a claim that the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was willing to join the privy council because his party stood to benefit financially.

The press watchdog said the paper had made “significantly misleading” claims in its front-page story, published on 15 September and had only made an offer to correct them at the eleventh hour.

The Sun reported that Corbyn “will kiss the Queen’s hand on bended knee in a humiliating personal climbdown”. It said he had become a privy counsellor so he can “grab £6.2m” of state cash.

But, after a complaint from a former Labour party staff member, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) said that there was not a formal connection beteen Corbyn’s position on the council and the allocation of funding for opposition parties – called Short money.

It said, therefore, that the story was inaccurate, in contravention of clause one of its editorial code.

Because the misleading information was “repeated throughout the article” and appeared on the front page, Ipso ordered that notice of the adjudication also appear on the front of the paper.

Source: Sun forced to print front-page correction over Corbyn claim | Media | The Guardian

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Alistair Carmichael ‘leaked Sturgeon memo thinking it was true’

We already know that the civil servant who wrote the controversial ‘Memogate’ memo believed that it was accurate. Now the MP who leaked it has said the same.

The only people who have cast any doubt on the document are those who have an interest in doing so.

If the civil servant had not declared his belief that the information he had written was factually accurate – by which, let’s by clear, he meant it was what he had been told by the French consul-general – then This Writer would be more willing to give Nicola Sturgeon the benefit of the doubt.

The civil servant did express concerns that the consul-general had misheard the information he had imparted – but, looking at the actual content of that information, it is hard to find any way this could be true. There is no language barrier between three people who are all perfectly fluent in English, for example.

So this issue still comes down to whether you believe a civil servant with an impeccable record for honesty, absolutely no reason to fabricate any information, and no reason to believe he could get away with any such fabrication at the time he communicated the message he did, or three people who were directly involved in what appears to be a politically incendiary conversation, all of whom would have had very strong reasons for being conservative with the truth, if that conversation really did take place as recorded.

You be the judge.

Alistair Carmichael has told a special court he leaked a confidential memo that claimed Nicola Sturgeon secretly wanted a Tory general election victory because he believed it was true.

The former Scotland secretary told an election court in Edinburgh he believed the so-called Frenchgate memo was “politically explosive”, because it confirmed that the first minister wanted David Cameron to win in the belief it would further her quest for Scottish independence.

Carmichael denied he had intended to smear Sturgeon when he authorised his special adviser Euan Roddin to leak the memo. He said that until she forcefully denied it was accurate within minutes of the Daily Telegraph publishing it, he felt it revealed facts that were of critical public importance.

“A smear is where you say something about somebody else, an opinion which is untrue and which you know to be untrue,” he said. The memo “was saying something about Scottish nationalists that I believed to be true”.

The case centres on Carmichael’s decision in March to allow Roddin to leak a memo that allegedly summarised Sturgeon’s comments to the French ambassador Sylvie Bermann. The first minister allegedly said she did not believe Ed Miliband, then the Labour leader, was prime ministerial material, and that she would prefer to see the Tories win.

Carmichael said he trusted the honesty of the Scotland Office civil servant who had drawn up the memo, and the account Pierre Alain Coffinier, the French diplomat who briefed the civil servant, gave about the ambassador’s meeting with the first minister.

Source: Alistair Carmichael ‘leaked Sturgeon memo thinking it was true’ | Politics | The Guardian

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No, no, no, Nicola Sturgeon. Memogate ruling does NOT mean the story was ‘untrue’

10-Cameron-Sturgeon-Getty

Nicola Sturgeon has been crowing after the Independent Press Standards Organisation upheld her complaint about the ‘Memogate’ story that caused such a stir for the Daily Telegraph in April.

Ipso has ruled that the story – based on a memo that was leaked, we later learned, on the orders of the Coalition’s then-Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael – was “significantly misleading” because “the newspaper had failed to make clear that it did not know whether the account the memorandum presented was true”. It stops short of any suggestion that the story was false.

This means we still do not know whether the account in the memo was true.

A Cabinet Office investigation revealed that the civil servant who wrote the memo had a spotless record of accuracy and believed that it was accurate because it set down what he was told, faithfully.

But the SNP distortion machine has rolled into action to claim that Ipso’s ruling supports Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that the memo – and the story – were not true. This is a claim that we cannot accept on trust because, as one of the people involved, she has something to gain by making it.

In fact, none of the statements made by people who took part in the conversations mentioned in the memo may be taken at face value. The only person whose account may be considered impartial is the civil servant who wrote the memo – but everyone seems very keen to dismiss what he said.

According to The Guardian, Sturgeon said: “Subsequent events have proven conclusively that the story was entirely untrue, and today’s ruling simply underlines that.” This is a lie. They did not; it does not.

“They [the press] have a duty to ensure, as far as possible, that the stories they present to readers are fair, balanced and – above all – accurate. The Daily Telegraph, in failing to carry out the most elementary of journalistic checks and balances, failed in this case to meet that duty.”

Which checks and balances would these be, Nicola? Do you mean the Telegraph reporters didn’t ask you if the memo was accurate? Now, why do you think that would be? Could it be because the memo said you secretly wanted David Cameron to be the next Prime Minister, while open claiming you wanted Miliband – suggesting you were lying to the public? You’re too intelligent not to understand that this means anything you said about it would be suspicious.

Why are you insulting the public’s intelligence by claiming otherwise?

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Mail editor is new chairman of press complaints organisation – Pride’s Purge

Paul Dacre: He looks as though even he can't believe the news.

Paul Dacre: He looks as though even he can’t believe the news.

Oh, for goodness’ sake.

Despite the fact that his publication (you can’t call it a newspaper) has attracted more complaints than any other rag, Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has been named as the chairman of the organisation where, in future, you’ll be making those very complaints.

Here’s Tom Pride on the matter:

Imagine you wanted to complain to the brand new press regulation body about an article a tabloid newspaper like – say – the Daily Mail has published.

You’d need to send your complaint to the new chair of the Editors’ Code of Practice at the newly set up Independent Press Standards Organisation.

Let’s just check who that might be.

Oh yes, here we are.

That would be a certain Paul Dacre.

Who also happens to be the editor of the Daily Mail.

Do these people think we’re thick? Or what?

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‘Mandatory reconsideration’ – more money-saving by sending the sick to their deaths

National disgrace: The green benches were almost empty during yesterday's debate on the DWP's new 'mandatory reconsideration' regime - and the potential number of deaths it is causing.

National disgrace: The green benches were almost empty during yesterday’s debate on the DWP’s new ‘mandatory reconsideration’ regime – and the potential number of deaths it is causing.

It is hard to know where to start. Perhaps with DWP minister Mike Penning’s failure to answer the questions raised in yesterday’s adjournment debate on the ESA ‘mandatory reconsideration’ process, despite having prior notice of Sheila Gilmore’s entire presentation? Perhaps with the DWP’s failure to release accurate statistics, which is especially appalling as press officer Richard Caseby attacked a newspaper for inaccuracies very recently? Perhaps with the DWP’s continuing denial of the deaths caused by its increasingly-bizarre and unreasonable attempts to save money?

(Apparently they’re “anecdotal” so they don’t count. Does everybody recall when Iain Duncan Smith used similarly anecdotal evidence to support his claim that his benefit cap was “supporting” people into work, last year?)

The debate was brought to Parliament by Labour’s Sheila Gilmore who, in her own words, has been trying to get a succession of useless Conservative ministers to acknowledge the homicidal nature of their incapacity benefit “reforms” ever since she was elected. This was her sixth debate on the subject.

Yesterday’s debate was about the stress and poverty caused by the government’s decision to impose ‘mandatory reconsideration’ on ESA claimants who have been found fit for work and want to appeal against the decision. The benefit – originally paid at the ‘assessment’ rate – is cut off during the reconsideration period, meaning that claimants have no income whatsoever; housing benefit and council tax reduction claimants have their claims interrupted during this time.

People might be able to accommodate this if the reconsideration period lasted the maximum of two weeks that was implied when the new system was introduced, but it doesn’t take a maximum of two weeks.

The average length of time an ESA claimant – a person who is so seriously ill that he or she cannot work for a living, remember – has to wait for a decision after ‘mandatory reconsideration’ is seven to 10 weeks.

That puts a different complexion on matters.

Ms Gilmore called on Mr Penning to confirm the length of time claimants are being made to wait for a decision after ‘mandatory reconsideration’ – and asked when the DWP will publish statistics on average times and the total number of claimants who are waiting for a decision (rumoured to be 700,000 at this time).

She said the minister had defended a decision not to set a time limit on reconsiderations, despite concern from the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council that the absence of such a limit could have the effect of “delaying indefinitely the exercise of the right of appeal to an independent tribunal”.

Oh yes – claimants can apply for Jobseekers’ Allowance in the meantime – but this has a high level of conditionality. They have to be available for work, actively seeking work, attending work-focused interviews, searching for jobs and making a minimum number of applications every week.

What these Conservative DWP ministers are saying is that sick people waiting for an ESA decision must undergo a process that is itself extremely stressful, can worsen existing physical or mental conditions, and can lead to them being sanctioned or refused benefit altogether for failing to meet the requirements of Job Centre Plus advisors (who are not, let’s be honest, the most sympathetic people in the country).

Most who have applied for JSA have been refused outright or failed to attend necessary appointments due to their various conditions; or they did not apply, either because they could not face the trial of another benefit application or because they did not know they could.

They were forced to turn to the food banks that the DWP has accused of “misleading and emotionally manipulative publicity-seeking” and “aggressively marketing their services”, rather than being vitally important now that the government has reneged on its responsibility to citizens.

Or they turned to high-interest loans – run, undoubtedly, by some of the Conservative Party’s most faithful donors – and amassed debts at such high interest rates that they would struggle to repay them, even after being provided backdated payments. “One constituent sold off his few remaining possessions to survive,” said Ms Gilmore.

The Tories have engineered a situation where people who are seriously ill can be found too fit for ESA and too sick or disabled for JSA.

Ms Gilmore said she had been told by previous minister Mark Hoban – last September – that claimants could request “flexible conditionality”, to ease these pressures – but the DWP’s benefits director acknowledged in April – seven months later – that “not all advisors had been aware of this”.

So claimants had been deprived of a right to extra help because DWP ministers had not provided accurate information to them or to employees.

Ms Gilmore said, “It is hard to have confidence in the Department, given that previous assurances were clearly unfounded,” and it is interesting that this should be revealed in the same week that the useless ex-Murdoch yellow-press spin-machine detritus DWP press officer Caseby (Dick to his… well, to everybody) claimed The Guardian should be blackballed from new press regulation authority IPSO for failing to print, you guessed it, accurate information from the DWP.

Ms Gilmore also pointed out the cost to the taxpayer of all this hustling of claimants between benefits: “There is also an administration cost involved in a claimant receiving the assessment rate of ESA, ceasing to receive it, claiming JSA and then potentially claiming the assessment rate of ESA again. These are significant costs when multiplied by the number of people involved. In addition, if everybody claimed JSA successfully, they would receive benefit at exactly the same rate as they would have been getting on ESA, so if there are any savings to be anticipated, is it because ministers thought that people would, in fact, struggle to claim JSA during the reconsideration process, given that administration costs are likely to outweigh anything else?

“I am sure that cannot be the case,” she added. Of course that’s exactly what ministers wanted.

Her point was as follows: Why not amend the law so that ESA claimants can continue to receive the benefit at the assessment rate during the reconsideration process? “The only way that could be more expensive for the Government would be if ministers expected sick and disabled people to go without any benefit — and I am sure that that cannot be the case,” she said, ramming home her previous point about benefit savings.

Reinstating assessment-rate ESA during ‘mandatory reconsideration’ would be simpler than setting a time limit and may be an incentive for the government to speed up the process, she added.

Finally, she called on Mr Penning to publish the number of successful reconsiderations, rather than lumping them in with original decisions so it is impossible to tell exactly what has happened. She said this was particularly important because the DWP has been celebrating a drop in the number of appeals.

Her claim was that it is premature to celebrate a drop in appeals – or to claim the DWP was making more correct decisions – when the number of successful applications for ‘mandatory reconsideration’ was not known and many cases may still be caught up in the process as part of the enormous backlog built up by the Department.

Mr Penning made no offer to reinstate assessment-rate ESA during the reconsideration period.

He made no offer to impose a time limit on reconsiderations.

He made no attempt to confirm the size of the ‘mandatory reconsideration’ backlog or the length of time taken to reach decisions.

His response was about as inhuman as he could make it, within the Chamber of the House of Commons:

“I would rather have slightly more delays than have decisions incorrectly taken and then turned over at tribunal.”

This is an admission that he would rather push sick people into unendurable poverty, debt, stress and possibly towards suicide than make his department do its job properly.

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Naughty, naughty Daily Mail! Miliband story creates torrent of complaints

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Cast your mind back to October last year and you may remember the big controversy was the way the Daily Mail shot off its (metaphorical) mouth about Labour leader Ed Miliband’s father in spectacular fashion – and spectacularly shot itself in the foot by doing so.

The ill-judged article – it claimed that Mr Miliband (senior), who immigrated here from abroad and loved his adopted nation, was “unpatriotic” – generated a storm of protest on factual grounds and built a groundswell of sympathy for Mr Miliband (junior).

Yesterday, the Press Complaints Commission released its monthly complaint summary for January 2014. The PCC is dominated by Daily Mail personnel – Paul Dacre, the Mail’s editor, sits on the PressBoF committee that dominates the PCC and also chairs the Editors’ Code Committee. Meanwhile, one of the three directors of the company that owns both the PCC and its planned successor, IPSO, is Peter Wright, editor emeritus at the Mail group – so it should be no surprise that the most interesting part of the report was tucked away at the end.

This was an acknowledgement that the PCC had received no less than 14 complaints from third parties (people not involved in the story) about the Ralph Miliband article, ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’. In its summary, Inforrm’s Blog stated: “We suspect this was one of the most complained-about stories of the last 12 months or so, but of course that’s not really clear from the PCC data.”

Thanks to the number-crunchers at Inforrm, we can see that the Daily Mail incurred 12 breaches of the Editors’ Code – more than double the five incurred by its nearest rival: The Mail on Sunday.

That’s right. Mail Group newspapers dominate the table with 53.1 per cent of the total number of breaches recorded against national newspapers and large regionals.

But it seems Inforrm is right to say the PCC exists “mainly to protect [its] paymasters from censure, keeping the public at arms length with a cynical strategy of ‘complaint’ fatigue’, that means Code breaches are not properly recorded and adjudications are avoided at all costs”. All the complaints against the Mail were said to have been resolved away with sufficient remedial action.

We learn two things from this:

  • The Press Complaints Commission is worse than useless at policing the UK’s print media.
  • The reading public is nowhere near as stupid as the Mail‘s bosses would like to think. People of all political persuasions genuinely despised the Mail for its treatment of Mr Miliband. Former Conservative cabinet minister John Moore said: “The Daily Mail is telling lies about a good man who I knew. The people of this country are good and decent too. They do not want the Daily Mail attacking the dead relatives of politicians to make political points.”

Will the Mail learn from this huge error?

Don’t count on it.

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