Over the course of the summer I felt forced to make a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission over three blogs the New Statesman had run
concerning me. The main part of that complaint was upheld recently as a breach of Clause 1 of the Editor’s Code; accuracy. This right of reply
blog was my remedy under the ruling.
In the series of blogs, the NS suggested that I supported the Tea Party and was a social conservative. Neither was true but the NS kept repeating it. In blog after blog. Three of these were published by the time I felt I had no option than to go to the PCC with the interview transcript.
Otherwise, my name would be associated with the Tea Party and with things I simply don’t believe.
Here are links to the three blogs: the titles say it all:
Apparently I “identified closely with Sarah Palin’s socially conservative agenda”, I “love Palin power” “not all Tories lament the rise of the American right” (and I was one of those who didn’t), I had “revealed [my] admiration for …the troupe of Mama Grizzlies in the Tea
Party”, I “didn’t share [David Cameron’s] distaste” for the US culture wars on abortion, and I had described Sarah Palin as “a remarkable
figure”, (the quote “It broke my heart when she melted down politically” being somehow omitted from that last description).
The fact was, upon being asked the question “Do you take inspiration from the Tea Party?” the interview transcript shows that my next words
were “No, not at all.” I described the movement as a “hodge podge” mix of fiscal conservatism and candidates who were “off their rockers”
(again, a direct quote).
The sole socially conservative viewpoint I share with Sarah Palin is that I am pro-life, but unlike her, I’m also against the death penalty, for gun control, for generous immigration policies, for gay marriage, and indeed socially liberal on a wide range of issues. Contrary to the “backbench problem” blog I made the point in my transcript that the culture wars in America were an awful thing we didn’t want or need over here, and free votes on issues like abortion made it apolitical. I also said “it wouldn’t even be in my mind” to attempt to ban abortion, as I knew that would have no support with the public.
I am still a bit bewildered why, when providing a transcript that clearly said “No, not at all” when asked if I took inspiration from the
Tea Party, the NS refused to correct the record. Looking back on my correspondence with the PCC, I actually said that I did not want a
magazine correction printed nor did I want to embarrass the magazine.
The NS offered a “right of reply” blog but refused to run any correction or admit that they had been in any way misleading about my views.
Clearly then, I was forced into having the PCC adjudicate, because this “right of reply” would merely be my word against the magazine’s had the
PCC not ruled that they did breach Article One of the Editors’ Code, and were misleading about what I said.
The PCC ruling states: “Her critical comments on Sarah Palin’s political career, for example, had not been adequately outlined, and nor had the
magazine suggested, as the complainant did in the interview – that she did not endorse all Sarah Palin’s choices (and did not take inspiration
from the Tea Party).
It was also clear that the claim about her identification with the social conservatism attributed to Sarah Palin only related to one issue:
the complainant’s pro-life position. The broad assertion that she identified “closely with Palin’s socially conservative agenda” was, therefore, misleading, as it could imply agreement over a range of views.
On balance, the Commission considered that readers may well have been misled by the summary of the complainant’s views as provided by the blog postings. This represented a breach of Clause 1 of the Code.
That decision makes this right of reply blog meaningful, as a voluntary correction would also have done in its place. Without either, it would
just have been the word of a disgruntled “Mama Grizzly” — and I didn’t want to be seen as a bear with a sore head!
I remain a great admirer of the NS and I’m grateful to the NS and the PCC for the opportunity of this blog and to be able to move on. Tea anyone?
For the full PCC ruling see: PCC rules that New Statesman offers sufficient remedy to breach of Editors’ Code on blogs about Louise Mensch MP