Tag Archives: strategic

Failure of Arron Banks libel case shows SLAPP lawsuits CAN be beaten

Justice for Carole Cadwalladr: but will there be justice for Mike Sivier?

This is excellent news:

The multimillionaire Brexit backer Arron Banks has lost his libel action against the Observer and Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr, which was criticised as an attack on free speech.

Here’s the reason it’s good:

Campaigners for free speech and press freedom characterised the claim as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (Slapp) – an attempt to shut down public criticism.

You can read more details by following the link below. For This Writer, it is significant because Rachel Riley’s libel suit against me has also been described as a SLAPP case.

Back in 2019, I wrote:

According to a recent letter in The Guardian, abuse of defamation law, including through SLAPP lawsuits, has become a serious threat to press freedom and advocacy rights in a number of countries, including the UK.

The legal claim against me, issued on July 9 by lawyers acting for Rachel Riley, is a clear example of a SLAPP lawsuit, in which a wealthy individual is apparently abusing the law in an attempt to silence a journalist and distract from the issues being discussed.

I wish I had known about the Guardian letter because I would have added my name to it.

It calls on the government to consider new legislation to prevent the abuse of defamation law to silence public interest reporting.

It also urges ministers to take a clear public stance condemning such practices and supporting investigative journalism and independent media.

This ties in with the fact that I – an independent journalist (and carer) of limited means – am being sued by a very wealthy celebrity because UK defamation law allows it.

Ms Riley won’t have to compensate me if her case is disproved (although she may face an order to pay a contribution toward my costs – which may come in handy if there is a shortfall between what I raise here and the cost of my defence).

In fact, it seems she won’t lose anything more than dignity if she loses the case because she has taken out insurance against that eventuality.

I stand to win nothing. My case is purely defensive. I simply don’t have the resources to mount a counter-claim (unless anyone knows better).

So, in the absence of laws to stop the wealthy abusing the justice system, I must rely on donations by members of the public – or I can’t mount a defence.

Ms Riley seems to find this offensive. Apparently she considers this CrowdJustice campaign to be an aggravating factor in her case.

Personally, I think her case against me should be used as an aggravating factor in the evidence for reform to ban SLAPP lawsuits like this.

My CrowdJustice campaign is still running, after more than three years, and still welcoming donations. If you want to help:

Make a donation via the CrowdJustice page. Keep donating regularly until you see the total pass the amount I need.

Email your friends, asking them to pledge to the CrowdJustice site.

Post a link to Facebook, asking readers to pledge.

On Twitter, tweet in support, quoting the address of the appeal.

Use other social media in the same way.

And don’t forget that if you’re having trouble, or simply don’t like donating via CrowdJustice, you can always donate direct to me via the Vox Political PayPal button at the bottom of this article. But please remember to include a message telling me it’s for the crowdfund!

Above all, this shows that rich people, who try to abuse the UK’s flawed legal system for their own advantage, can be defeated.

I’m looking forward to doing that to another such person next month.

Source: Arron Banks loses libel action against reporter Carole Cadwalladr | Arron Banks | The Guardian

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.


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Burnham’s anti-welfare stance will lose him my vote

Will somebody from the Common Sense wing of the Labour Party please stand for the leadership?

Today The Guardian is reporting that leadership favourite Andy Burnham has decided to pander to big business rather than stand up for the common people.

He said he was prepared to support cuts to social security in order to counter claims that Labour gives scroungers an “easy ride”.

What stupidity!

He would do better to counter the claim that all political parties give an easy ride to lazy business bosses who exploit the working classes and hide their massive profits in tax havens – especially as he was making his speech at the HQ of tax avoidance tzars Ernst and Young.

The company, now branded EY, is one of the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms that have been helping the Tory Government rewrite tax law to make it possible for big business to use tax havens and avoid paying.

Regarding benefits, the simple fact is that the fraud rate is 0.7 per cent – a miniscule amount. People claiming benefits deserve to have them – especially as they have paid into the relevant fund for their whole lives; the money belongs to those people, not any government – Labour or Tory.

If Burnham really wanted to bring down the amount of benefit claims, he would have been telling businesses to buck up their ideas and start paying the living wage, rather than scrounging the rest of the money their employees need from the government.

He would have been telling landlords to start charging reasonable rents, rather than pushing them up and up and expecting the government to pay what tenants cannot afford in housing benefit.

And he would have been proposing a strategic remodelling of the system to prevent people falling into the kind of difficulties that force them to claim benefits – including a revamp of Health and Safety regulation to ensure that people do not fall prey to long-term illness caused by conditions at work.

Most important of all, he would be pledging to roll back the plan initiated by Margaret Thatcher, Keith Joseph and the rest of them back in the 1970s, to impose poverty and insecurity on the working people.

This Writer doesn’t see him doing any of that.

Will somebody step forward who can actually do the job?

Labour leadership favourite Andy Burnham has indicated he would support further welfare cuts, including government plans for a £23,000 cap on benefits if it has adequate safeguards.

At a speech in London, the shadow health secretary said he wanted to counter the perception his party wants to give “an easy ride” to people who do not want to help themselves.

“Labour does need to win back those people who have that feeling about us,” he told business leaders at the headquarters of EY (previously Ernst & Young) on Friday. He added that the party would not be re-elected unless it showed people it was on the side of those who wanted to “get on” and succeed.

Source: Labour’s Andy Burnham suggests he might back further welfare cuts | Politics | The Guardian

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Government signals biggest disaster ever for Britain’s roads – privatisation

Gridlock: Under Coalition plans for transport, motorways and major 'A' roads will be clear - but the roads YOU use will look like this.

Gridlock: Under Coalition plans for transport, motorways and major ‘A’ roads will be clear – but the roads YOU use will look like this.

The Highways Agency is to be privatised, according to new government plans for the biggest disaster in the history of motoring in the UK.

The agency was formed under the last full Tory government in 1994 and operates, maintains and improves (ha ha) the strategic road network – the motorways and major ‘A’ roads that take one-third of the nation’s traffic, in terms of mileage. These are your roads – you pay for them with your taxes. They do not belong to the Conservatives and selling them off is nothing less than the theft of national assets.

The change should signal an end to Vehicle Excise Duty, otherwise known as road tax – but there is no mention of this in the Coalition government’s press release, so it seems likely that the Tories in charge of this project are hoping to siphon your tax money into private hands as profit again, as was the aim with their NHS privatisation.

It may also signal the arrival of tolls on the major roads, creating a two-tier road system: The motorways and ‘A’ roads for rich people and wealthy corporations; the other roads for less wealthy private citizens and smaller firms. Of course the other roads, maintained by local councils, will go to wrack and ruin as they become more clogged with traffic and the surfaces are worn down.

The press release states that the “reforms” (ha ha) will be “tackling decades of underinvestment in roads” and will be “backed by legislation” to ensure “future governments cannot walk away from these commitments”. That’s a mistake – no government may be tied by the decisions of its predecessor and the Coalition knows this. If Labour gets in, it could reverse everything.

The Coalition wants to make the Highways Agency an attractive prize for private investors, which is why it is providing – out of your tax money – “additional funding of £500 million for electric vehicles and £12 billion for road maintenance and resurfacing”.

(Chris Davies: Think how many hospitals you could build for £12.5 billion… Oh, but no – this is money for rich people so you couldn’t possibly contemplate putting it to good use!)

In order to sweeten the deal for future shareholders, the press release says “motorways and trunk roads will get extra lanes, smoother, quieter surfaces, improved junctions and new sections in key areas under the plan published today (16 July 2013) by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin”.

The £28 billion of total investment – £28 billion in a time of austerity that THEY have forced on US! Michael Meacher was right when he wrote “amazing how austerity is irrelevant when the government wants it to be” – includes “a trebling of funding for motorways and major A-roads… the biggest ever upgrade of the existing network.

“The focus will be on cutting congestion and minimising the environmental impact of roads, including an extra £500 million to make Britain a world leader in electric vehicle technology,” the press release says. The congestion will go onto the network of lesser ‘A’ roads, ‘B’ roads and the rest. Result: You will be late for work.

The release foolishly adds: “These measures complement record investment in rail” – an own-goal, considering the railways were sold off in the 1990s and cost the taxpayer more money now, in real terms, than we were paying for them then.

The government’s new command paper, ‘Action for roads’ details plans to turn the Highways Agency into a publicly-owned company with six-year funding certainty for capital projects and maintenance – underpinned by legislation “so future governments cannot walk away from these commitments”. This is impossible to guarantee. Why should a future government not simply repeal any such legislation?

“It is estimated that the reforms could save £600 million for the taxpayer.” Which taxpayer? The taxpayer having to pay road tax for improvements to routes s/he can no longer afford to use? The taxpayer having to use increasingly run-down minor roads to get about and having to pay more in Council Tax for repairs? The taxpayer in danger of losing their job because of lateness caused by increased congestion on those minor roads? Or the taxpayer who just had a £100,000 tax cut on their more-than-£1 million-a-year earnings?

You’d have to be really stupid to say this was a good idea.

“Today’s changes will bring an end to the short-term thinking that has blighted investment in England’s roads so that we can deliver the infrastructure our economy needs. Backed by the government’s £28 billion commitment, they will give us a road network fit for the 21st century and beyond,” said Mr McLoughlin.

“Our major roads are vital to the prosperity of our nation, connecting people to jobs and businesses to markets. They carry a third of all traffic and two thirds of all freight traffic but in recent decades we have failed to invest properly in them.

“That underinvestment has seen us fall behind many of our economic competitors. Since 1990, France has built more motorway miles than exist on our entire network, while Canada, Japan and Australia all spend four times more on their roads than we do.”

All of this reminds me very much of Ben Elton’s novel, Gridlock. Do you remember it? Here’s the reason, quoted from The Politics of Mobility: Transport, the Environment, and Public Policy by Geoff Vigar, page 175:

“The Minister of Transport, Digby Parkhurst, is portrayed as being in the pocket of the roads lobby, and a mythical ‘Global Motors Corporation’ in particular. This fictional association reflects a general view amongst many outside the transport policy world that the roads lobby has a relationship with central government transport officials that borders on the classic corporatist ‘iron triangles’ to be found in policy-making in the United States. This view is supported by various accounts of UK transport planning in the 1970s and 1980s where the activities of a roads lobby are held to be a critical factor in explaining transport policy (Hamer, 1987; Tyme, 1978; Wardroper, 1981).”

It seems, with the Tories back in power, those bad old days are back.

The Department for Transport intends to consult on these proposals in autumn 2013. For your own good, oppose them.