The Jewish Chronicle caught bang to rights

JVL Introduction

When claims of Labour antisemitism are properly scrutinised they fall apart time after time.

Attacks on Jeremy Corbyn often highlight a claim that Louise Ellman ‘was driven out of the Party by antisemites’ . Such claims often rely on accounts like those published in the Jewish Chronicle in February and March 2019. The press regulator, IPSO, has examined these articles and found them to be a tissue of lies.

IPSO is not renowned for the ferocity of its rulings which makes this one truly exceptional.

Rabbi Mirvis wrote in his letter to the Times “as supporters of the Labour leadership have hounded parliamentarians, party members and even staff out of the party for facing down anti-Jewish racism”.

Maybe he will apologise in the light of this ruling?

3rd December 21.20: As of now the JC has made no effort to correct the article it published last March. You can still see it in all its unapologised-for glory here.

This article was originally published by Jewish Chronicle on Fri 29 Nov 2019. Read the original here.

IPSO upholds Labour activist’s accuracy complaint against JC

Following publication of four articles headlined “Ex-Militant Tendency activist accused of bullying Louise Ellman lied about date of birth to rejoin Labour”, published online on 25 February 2019; “Plot to oust MP Ellman spearheaded by a former member of the Trotskyist Militant Tendency”, published online on 25 February 2019; “’Bullied’ Louise Ellman nears exit”, published in print on 1 March 2019; “Labour MP Dame Louise Ellman ‘considering her future’ in party amid rumours of more resignations”, published online on 1 March 2019, Audrey White complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Jewish Chronicle breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complaint was upheld, and IPSO required the Jewish Chronicle to publish this adjudication.

The articles reported that the complainant had been “expelled” from the Labour Party in the 1980s, by the then leadership. It said that she had then “lied” about her date of birth on her application to re-join the Party in 2015, “on the day Jeremy Corbyn became leader.” The articles also claimed that during the complainant’s local Constituency Labour Party (CLP) meeting, the complainant had been “amongst a group of militants who repeatedly interrupted” their MP while she delivered a speech. The articles also said that the complainant had “received a number of formal warnings from the Party over allegations of bullying against Party members “, and said that she had “falsely claimed that a Labour councillor was under investigation by the police for having ‘cruelly taunted’ a ‘disabled pensioner suffering from cancer’”. One article reported that the complainant had been a member of the Socialist Party.

The complainant denied all the allegations made against her, as set out above. She provided a copy of an email from the Governance and Legal Unit of the Labour Party, which stated that the Party had been “unable to trace a surviving record of a previous membership” or that the complainant was in the past “expelled from membership”. This correspondence also confirmed that “no change” had been made to her membership record”, which continued to record the complainant’s correct date of birth.  The complainant said that she had received one formal warning from the Labour Party, but this did not refer to allegations of bullying.

The newspaper said that it had relied upon confidential sources to report that the complainant had been “expelled” from the Labour Party in the 1980s, and had subsequently “lied” on her application to re-join, by use of a “false” date of birth.

The Committee wished to explain that publications are entitled to make use of anonymous sources and to protect their identity in line with their obligations under Clause 14 (Confidential sources). However, in this instance, the newspaper had not taken any additional steps to investigate or corroborate the source’s claim that the complainant had been “expelled” from the Labour Party in the 1980s, nor had it produced any evidence to support this easily verifiable claim. Similarly, it had produced no evidence that the complainant had, in fact, entered an incorrect date of birth in her application to re-join the Party in 2015, and had done so intentionally. The newspaper had not been able to demonstrate that it had taken care over the accuracy of the article on these two points; the result was a breach of Clause 1 (i).

The combination of these two claims, and their adoption by the publication as fact, gave rise to the clear impression that the complainant, in her recent dealings with the Labour Party, had acted with an intention to deceive. This impression was furthered in the first article, which claimed that the complainant had used a “false” date of birth to re-join the Party “on the day Jeremy Corbyn became leader”, which suggested that the complainant’s actions had been politically motivated. Upon receipt of the correspondence from the Governance and Legal Unit of the Labour Party, the newspaper had not offered to correct these significantly misleading claims, in breach of Clause 1 (ii).

The Committee listened to the partial recording of the CLP meeting provided during IPSO’s investigation. It was apparent to the Committee that the MP had spoken in a consistent and conversational tone; the crowd had not been “rowdy”, as alleged. In any event, the statement from the former Mayor of Liverpool, which the newspaper had referenced in support of the claim that the complainant had “repeatedly interrupted” the MP while she had delivered her speech, clearly did not demonstrate that the complainant, or a group which she was a part of, had conducted themselves in this way. The statement provided by the newspaper supported the complainant’s position that she had responded to an open invitation to ask questions. The publication of this claim represented a further failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, in breach of Clause 1 (i) and gave a significantly misleading impression of the complainant’s conduct towards the Labour MP during the meeting, which the newspaper had not offered to correct, in breach of Clause 1 (ii).

The newspaper had provided a letter from the Labour Party, in which the complainant had been issued with a formal warning regarding her conduct. It stated that the complainant’s comments and actions had “caused offence” and “upset and distress” to the individuals concerned. Given the nature of this alleged conduct, it was not a failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information, to report that an allegation of “bullying”, made against the complainant, had resulted in her receiving a formal warning from the Labour Party. Yet, the newspaper had not been able to produce any further evidence to demonstrate that the complainant had received a “number” of warnings following allegations of bullying, as claimed. The single letter produced by the newspaper did not support this claim, and accordingly there was a breach of Clause 1 (i).  To report that the complainant had received multiple warnings from the Party was significant, as it gave credibility to a central thrust of the articles, which was that the complainant’s conduct in relation to her dealings with individuals within the Labour Party had consistently fallen below the standards expected. No correction had been offered to address this significantly misleading claim, in breach of Clause 1 (ii).
It was plainly not “false” to claim this; during IPSO’s investigation the complainant had provided correspondence between the alleged victim and the Hate Crime Support Service, which referred to the actions taken by the police in respect of the “hate incident” allegation. The publication had published a claim the accuracy of which it could not defend; the result was a breach of Clause 1 (i). The articles’ claim that the complainant had made “false” allegations concerning the actions of the police, was significant given its seriousness, and furthered the misleading impression of the complainant’s conduct towards Labour politicians. Upon receipt of the correspondence provided by the complainant, the newspaper had not offered to correct this significantly inaccurate claim, in breach of Clause 1 (ii).

The newspaper had produced no evidence to demonstrate that the complainant had been a member of the Socialist Party. The Committee did not accept that a person showing support for the values of a political Party, was the same as showing support by way of membership. This factual assertion, which the newspaper had failed to defend, represented a breach of Clause 1(i), and the failure to correct the error represented a breach of Clause 1(ii).

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.

Comments (4)

  • Jenny K says:

    IPSO’s criticisms couldn’t have been stronger. But don’t assume the JC will change its ways because of them…

  • Alasdair MacVarish says:

    the JC continually purveys lies as does the chief rabbi whose paid job is to peddle myths and untruths. Were he and the supporting archbishop to only relay what they know to be true, they would be silent on Saturday and Sunday to everyone’s benefit.

  • Derek Taylor says:

    Surely as this ruling has been transmitted to the errant newspaper, and this organ has not retracted, shown regret or even admitted its failings this should be nationally publicised as the original article/ news offering has almost certainly prejudiced the Labour Party during a run up to an important general election.

  • Sue Glanville says:

    Do you make sure that your communications like the above are pushed into the BBC and the Guardian? I don’t know how one does this but it is really necessary to correct the biases which still appear in what are supposed to be our best media.

    [We try, we really do! – JVL wed ed]

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