Posts Tagged ‘Lee Harpin’

BLACK AND WHITE

February 29, 2020

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ON THURSDAY, 20 February 2020 the Jewish Chronicle published an apology to the Liverpool Labour activist Audrey White.

The paper acknowledged that four articles published in February and March 2019 contained allegations that were untrue.

It agreed to pay damages and legal costs.

These payments add to the financial problems at the loss-making paper.

The settlement follows an intervention by Press Gang.

Audrey White asked us to review her case.

We prepared a report and sent it to the London law firm Bindmans, specialists in defamation law.

Bindmans wrote a pre-action letter to the Jewish Chronicle asking for damages, legal costs, an apology and an undertaking not to repeat the defamatory statements.

The Jewish Chronicle instructed solicitors and a settlement was reached.

Press Gang has been asked not to reveal the sums involved.

Audrey White said:

“I’m very grateful Press Gang took up my case.”

“In libel actions, the dice is loaded against ordinary people whose names have been blackened by powerful newspapers.”

“Organisations like Press Gang and Hacked Off really help to level the playing field.”

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BIAS
OUR INVESTIGATION into the Panorama programme was published on December 7 last year — five days before the general election.
It can be read here
Although it was an interim report, it found ten possible breaches of the BBC’s own Editorial Guidelines. 
We found Panorama guilty on nine counts and cleared it of one.
The programme broke the key BBC commitment to “achieving due impartiality”.
And failed to honour the BBC promise not to “knowingly and materially mislead its audiences.”
The BBC, of course, rejects these criticisms while Ofcom, the broadcasting watchdog which polices the Corporation, declined to investigate.
The Press Gang investigation continues … 

The offending articles were part of the Jewish Chronicle coverage of allegations made by supporters of the then Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, Louise Ellman.

They claimed she was being bullied by left-wing members. 

The Jewish Chronicle claimed White was part of a left wing plot to “oust” Ellman.  

Similar allegations were repeated in the Panorama programme Is Labour Anti-Semitic? broadcast in July last year.

White was not named in the broadcast. 

But her settlement with the Jewish Chronicle casts doubt on some of the claims made in the programme.

The paper’s settlement follows a damning ruling on the White case by the press watchdog, Ipso.

Ipso was blunt:

… the publication’s conduct during Ipso’s investigation was unacceptable.

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THE MOST serious allegation against Audrey White was that she had lied in order to join the Labour Party in 2015.

Jewish Chronicle Political Editor Lee Harpin claimed she’d been expelled in the 1980s as part of Neil Kinnock’s purge of Militant Tendency members.

When she joined the party in 2015, after Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader, Harpin said she’d given a false date of birth.

In fact, the Labour Party could find no record of anyone called Audrey White ever being expelled.

And when she joined the party in 2015 she had given her date of birth correctly.

It was only when she renewed her membership in August 2016 that she mistakenly entered an incorrect date.

However, this was ignored by Labour’s administration and her membership continued to record the correct date of birth.

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AUDREY WHITE
AUDREY WHITE is a celebrated trades union and women’s rights campaigner. Her campaign against sexual harassment at a Liverpool fashion store in the 1980s led to a change in employment law. The story was made into a film, Business As Usual, starring Glenda Jackson. 

“What’s important to note here,” White told Press Gang, “is that elements in the Labour Party machine had access to the mistake I made with my date of birth in 2016 — and made it available to the Jewish Chronicle in order to smear me.”

A second allegation was that she was among “a group of militants who repeatedly interrupted” the MP Louise Ellman during a constituency meeting.

In fact, a partial recording of this constituency meeting — which took place on 22 February 2019 — shows this to be untrue.

Ipso noted:

… it was apparent … that the MP had spoken in a consistent and conversational tone; the crowd had not been ‘rowdy’ as alleged.

This allegation — that constituency meetings were disrupted —  also featured in the Panorama programme Is Labour Anti-Semitic?

Panorama reporter John Ware stated that “in the wake of Mr Corbyn’s election there was an influx of new members. Some wanted [Louise Ellman] out. Party meetings descended into chaos”.

“This is nonsense,” says White.

She added:

What actually happened is that there was a power struggle between Louise Ellman’s old guard, who were now in a minority, and the new members who wanted to change political direction.

Some members of the old guard mounted a campaign — making allegations of bullying and anti-Semitism — in order to try and keep control of the constituency party.

There were complaints of anti-Semitism at constituency meetings but not one of them resulted in any kind of disciplinary action. 

There were complaints of bullying at constituency meetings but, again, not one of them resulted in any kind of disciplinary action.

Lee Harpin also claimed Audrey White had “received a number of formal warnings … over allegations of bullying against” other Labour members.

In fact, there was just one — concerning a case which did not involve either Louise  Ellman or anti-Semitism.

Harpin said White had falsely claimed a councillor was under investigation by police for her treatment of a disabled pensioner suffering from cancer.

Ipso found that the councillor had, in fact, been investigated by police — confirming White’s claim.

However, Labour’s NEC issued a formal warning to White about this incident.

It said she had made a number of comments “regarding a separate resolved complaint within which you were not originally involved.”

It added that her comments “… have caused offence and may have damaged the Party’s reputation …”

Ipso said the Jewish Chronicle was unable to provide any evidence to back up its allegation that there had been other warnings.

All four of the Jewish Chronicle articles were written by the paper’s Political Editor, Lee Harpin. 

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APOLOGY
THE FULL Jewish Chronicle apology states reads:
In February and March 2019, we published articles which made allegations about Mrs Audrey White, some of which were untrue.
We have already published the IPSO adjudication in relation to these articles and have agreed to pay a sum in damages to Mrs White and her legal costs.
We apologise for the distress caused.

Before joining the paper, he was a senior editorial figure at the Daily Mirror group.

Between 2006 and 2012 he was head of news at the People.

He was arrested in 2015 by detectives investigating phone hacking.

The CPS decided there was “insufficient evidence” to prosecute.

In the early 2000as he also worked for the News of the World when both Rebekah Wade and Andy Coulson were editors. 

Ipso found that Harpin’s Jewish Chronicle articles about Audrey White breached its Editorial Code. 

Ipso’s Complaints Committee ordered the paper to publish a summary of its ruling in the White v Jewish Chronicle case.

It added:

The committee expressed significant concerns about the newspaper’s handling of this complaint.

The newspaper had failed, on a number of occasions, to answer questions put to it by Ipso and it was regrettable the newspaper’s responses had been delayed.”

The Committee considered that the publication’s conduct during Ipso’s investigation was unacceptable.

The Committee’s concerns have been drawn to the attention of Ipso’s Standards department.

Following the ruling, the Jewish Chronicle removed all four articles from its online database.

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THE SETTLEMENT comes at a difficult time for the Jewish Chronicle and its editor Stephen Pollard.

The White payment follows a £50,000 payment to the charity Interpal last year.

The Jewish Chronicle had falsely accused it of having links to terrorist activity.

These payouts are doing little to help the paper’s precarious financial position.

Circulation and advertising revenue are falling.

The weeklypaper no longer gives details of circulation but the last audited figures in 2018 showed just over 20,000 copies a week.

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LIBEL PRONE
JEWISH CHRONICLE editor Stephen Pollard, 55, is no stranger to libel actions, many of them involving the portrayal of Muslims and Muslim organisations.
In 2008 he wrote a Spectator article attacking a conference on Islam, branding the organisers “fascist” and claiming the conference had “a racist and genocidal programme”. The magazine later apologised and paid libel damages.
Pollard’s stint as Jewish Chronicle editor has also seen some notable libel setbacks.
In 2012 the Chronicle paid substantial damages to the trustees of the Muslim charity Human Appeal International after it suggested the USA believed it was a terrorist organisation. It also falsely accused the charity of diverting donations to terrorist groups.
In 2019 the paper had to pay £50,000 in damages after falsely suggesting the Muslim charity Interpal had links to terrorist activity.
Photo: Jewish Chronicle 

More than 7,000 of these were free copies.

After posting a £91,000 profit in 2015, the Chronicle lost £460,000 in 2016, £1.1m in 2017 and £1.5m in 2018.

It also had a £2.6m black hole in its pension fund.

In June 2018 the paper was rescued by a consortium of unnamed donors.

Stephen Pollard wrote that “… the future of the paper has been secured …”

The paper’s auditors were less optimistic.

In the accounts for the year ended June 2018, they noted that the rescue package only allowed:

… the debts to the pension fund to be cleared and to fund the group’s activities until these become profitable.

They added:

These matters … indicate that a material uncertainly exists that may cast doubt on the group’s ability to continue as a going concern.

In February 2020 the paper announced it was merging with the weekly free-sheet, the Jewish News.

The Jewish News also has its financial problems.

In 2018 its balance sheet showed a negative worth of minus £1.5m.

Like the Jewish Chronicle, it’s also had to pay libel damages.

In February 2018 it lost an action brought by Baroness Warsi over a claim that she excused Islamic State terrorists.

The paper paid £20,000 in damages.

In August 2018 the paper’s foreign editor, Stephen Oryszczuk criticised the paper’s coverage of Jeremy Corbyn.

Oryszczuk told The Canary website:

Some of the phraseology I take a giant step back from, vicious personal phrases like ‘Corbynite contempt for Jews’ which is one step away from calling him a Jew hater.

It’s repulsive. This is a dedicated anti-racist we’re trashing.

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Notes
1
The IPSO ruling, White v Jewish Chronicle is here.
2
This is the fifth instalment of the Press Gang series Is The BBC Anti-Labour?
The previous four articles are
— an introductory article: it can be found
here
— the second, BBC v Ofcom, is here
— article three, Indictment, is here
— the fourth, Scriptease, is here
In addition, an interim report has been published. It’s available
here.

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Published: 29 February 2020
© Press Gang
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CORRECTIONS
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