This is the first of four posts by Timothy Pinto of Taylor Wessing where he provides analysis of the key provisions of the UK's Defamation Act 2013 and its likely practical implications under English law. The four posts will cover: Serious harm, Truth and Honest opinion, Privilege, Intermediary liability, and Other key provisions.
This post is one of a series that seeks to dispel the myth that everyone who ends up in court is a scumbag criminal. It is another example of how easy it is for good guys to end up in court. It is another case that illustrates why everyone should be entitled to independent, quality, legal representation and the chance to go to trial and clear their name.
David Cameron has started his re-election campaign by sending out a private questionnaire and personal letter to targeted voters in marginal seats with leading questions on cutting benefits,encouraging immigration and freezing petrol. My story is in this week’s Tribune magazine.
The survey bears all the “dog whistle” hallmarks of libel trigger happy Lynton Crosby and the execution of Giles Kenningham, now at Conservative Central Office.
The survey also wants to get hold of e-mail addresses of all the participants for future use by Conservative Central Office. It purports to be a simple request to evaluate how the government is doing to help families and asking for advice on how to continue existing policies. The tenor of Cameron’s letter is couched in party political terms.
He says: “Even with the enormous deficit we inherited from the last government forcing us to make tough decisions in every area, I am committed to doing everything possible to help families with the cost of living in these tough times. So I’d like to know what you think about some of the steps we’ve taken so far – and I’d like to know your ideas about what more the Government can do to help families like yours.”
There follows a detailed questionnaire on the economy, welfare benefits. And direct questions on attitudes to life and to political leadership – such as whether or not you believe in rugged individualism without the support of state and that people can get on regardless of background or not.
The choice is between “How well I do in life is first and foremost down to me. OR How well I do in life is primarily decided by forces outside of my control.”
The main economic question is slanted against Labour saying : “Even before the banking crisis hit in 2008, the UK was borrowing too much money to pay for public services and public sector jobs that, in the long-term, we couldn’t afford.” Some of the choices are extraordinary – such as a question asking whether a two tier benefit system should be introduced – and existing benefits cut by more than half for those who have only just started paying tax and national insurance.
Voters are invited to put in figures for benefit levels, new caps for the “bedroom tax”,and to comment on evicting council tenants who earn too much money.
David Cameron’s and Ed Miliband’s leadership the questionnaire proposes a dramatic choice. People are asked to choose between “We need leaders who are prepared to listen and to do what people really want” or “We need leaders who will stick to what they believe is right, even if it is unpopular.”
Three rather different questions are asked on immigration, same sex marriage and education - one definitely pre UKIP surge. The immigration question is ” On balance immigration has been a good thing for this country”. The other on education looks like it had been inserted by Michael Gove: ” Educational standards have been steadily improving in recent years”.
Altogether a very interesting disclosure from a Labour marginal seat in the Midlands. One wonders what that Lynton Crosby fan (NOT)
@LordAshcroft would make of it for fairness and as a tactic. It does suggest Labour need to wake up and small the coffee on campaigning double-quick and start working hard in these marginal seats.
The huge scale of the activities of the Oxford paedophile ring revealed yesterday when seven men were convicted of 43 charges of rape, child prostitution and trafficking is but the tip of the iceberg.
Extraordinary figures revealed earlier that police forces across England and Wales are engaged in more than 30 separate investigations into suspected child sexual abuse and exploitation.
A report by my colleague Nick Fielding for Exaro News ( see http://www.exaronews.com/articles/4961/police-abandon-probe-into-cyril-smith-s-sexual-abuse-of-boys ) reveals the former MP linked to child sex abuse cases at the Elm Guest House in Richmond,London to Rochdale where he was an MP is now off the hook. Full details on the site.
This is despite offers from the NSPCC charity to provide a dedicated line for victims and growing evidence that Sir Cyril’s illegal activities involving young boys appear to be on a similar scale to the late Jimmy Savile’s abuse of young girls which are being vigorously pursued by the Met Police ‘s Operation Yewtree.
Greater Manchester police’s decision will add to the considerable disquiet on the internet that there could be yet another Establishment cover up over child sexual abuse cases when it comes to senior politicians. It will probably also calm the nerves of at least three Liberal Democrat peers who started their political careers in the London borough of Richmond in the aftermath of the Elm Guest House scandal which they conveniently would like to forget.
Public trust that the police will properly investigate these historic scandals is paramount. Great Manchester Police have done people a grave disservice by letting off the hook someone whom they now acknowledge would have been prosecuted for a string of offences. It has been shown by the reactions of dismay, anger and suspicion to this post on Twitter.
Just as David Cameron could do without any further distractions Lynton Crosby, his top strategist for the 2015 general election, is about to become embroiled in a lengthy and costly libel action 10,500 miles away from Downing Street.
Mr Crosby the aggressive campaign adviser who helped Boris Johnson win the last London mayoral election and well-known for his ” dog whistle” techniques to woo voters is about to cause a furore in Australia in a trial that a judge says is already ” heading down the path of a famous defamation.”
He is the latest top figure after Lord McAlpine, the former Tory treasurer, decided to sue people for Twitter defamation ( in his case wrongly accused of being a paedophile), to take his chances in the courts. The interesting thing is this case is that it centres around his very election techniques that helped right wingers win power in Australia and could become controversial over here. He is also a tweeter himself (
@LyntonKCrosby)- at least while he was helping Boris Johnson’s campaign. Indeed his tweets were quite sharp about the BBC, and the Left during the campaign and he also got into trouble (not on Twitter) over describing the Muslim voter in uncharitable terms – something which he denies.
The full story of the impending libel action is revealed in some detail on the Inforrm blog (http://inforrm.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/news-conservative-strategist-lynton-crosby-and-an-australian-twitter-libel-action/) .
The man being sued by Crosby is an Australian defence minister, Mike Kelly (
in the Labor government who tweeted that Mr Crosby had used unethical polling techniques to help win the election for the Liberals. The damaging tweet said: ““always grate [sic] to hear moralizing from Crosby, Textor, Steal and Gnash. The mob who introduced push polling to Aus.”
Crosby took exception to this as push polling is illegal in Australia as it attempts to change people’s opinions by pretending to conduct a neutral poll. As Inforrm reports ” Crosby and his company claimed his opponents said he “ had introduced a polling technique that had the deceitful purpose of deliberately influencing voters with material slanted against the opposing candidate. They seek aggravated damages because they say Dr Kelly failed to apologise, used sensational language and published the tweet knowing it was false, or with reckless indifference to its truth or falsity.”
But Mr Kelly is not backing down despite losing an attempt to have the libel thrown out and being ordered to pay $100,000 costs. He has got the financial backing of the New South Wales Labor Party and both sides will be back in court on June 7.
So Mr Crosby is about to be a bit distracted just when he should be advising Cameron on how to handle the rise of Ukip. But there is also interesting side to this story. Will Crosby launch similar type actions against prominent Labour tweeters here – if they dare attack him during the 2015 election campaign. Will Tom Watson, Labour’s campaign manager,a prolific tweeter and man prepared to take on the wrath of Murdoch, find himself in the centre of a fresh row.
Whatever happens there no seems a much bigger chance of what former party Tory deputy chairman
@LordAshcroft tweeted only a week ago ( “Lynton Crosby becoming the story. Dirty linen/public. Whatever the merits not good for the Tories.” This was not about this story but the blogosphere could be about to get a lot more controversial, nastier and dangerous during the 2015 election.
On the day the purple spots of UKIP started to pop up across the English shires, one former prominent Conservative councillor got even more than just a drubbing at the polls.
Brian Coleman, former mayor of Barnet, former chair of the London Assembly and chair of the London fire brigade, pleaded guilty to assaulting a woman cafe owner who tried to film him breaking his own parking regulations.
Rather than acknowledge that he was breaking the law and the hypocrisy of what he was doing, Coleman resorted to violence that might be associated with a common street brawler. He hit her and grabbed her breast in his attempt to snatch her Iphone..
The representative of the party of law and order ended up with a £1400 fine and restitution for injuries to Helen Michael. For all the gory details of the hearing and the remarkable silence from his fellow Tory councillors in Barnet, read the detailed and tremendous account by Mrs Angry, on her very popular Broken Barnet blog ( http://wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.co.uk ).
Frankly after Mr Coleman’s attack on decent firefighters in London, his botched privatisation of the London fire service through AssetCo and his rude attacks on other Barnet citizens, including a desperate single mum, justice was done.
I am sure it is only a matter of time before Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, feels moved to disown his behaviour. Or perhaps not . it is too embarrassing for Tory words.
I think The Independent were brave to publish this article and the lady who wrote the original correspondence which launched the investigation into Stuart Hall was very brave indeed. Please read the entire article.
While most of the media are portraying the crimes Stuart Hall has pleaded guilty to as inappropriate kissing and groping this article betrays the lie to all that and indicates possible collusion with others in the establishment.