Journalist Pippa Crerar has been announced as the new deputy political editor of the notionally left-wing Guardian. She is moving from the Evening Standard, the paper that helped Boris Johnson to two mayoral wins and is currently edited by former Tory Chancellor George Osborne, from next month.
Over the last few days, Ms Crerar has been active on social media on a number of contentious issues. She engaged as if factual with a Daily Telegraph story about Nicola Sturgeon that the SNP leader had dismissed as fake news [edit 26/1 – the Daily Mail, who also ran the story, has now admitted that it was false]:
More directly, however, she has commented controversially on the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) – the plan by Haringey Council to transfer a large number of council homes to the ownership of a ‘vehicle’ set up jointly with a private company.
A large number of councillors, residents, activists and local unions object strongly to the plan. Of those who support it, so strong is local feeling against it that several current councillors have either been deselected as candidates for May’s local elections because of their support for the HDV, or have decided not even to try to be reselected.
The NEC’s decision to ask Haringey councillors to halt the HDV is perfectly understandable, as local people and unions are concerned that ‘centrist’ councillors will try to accelerate the unpopular plan and so that it’s too far advanced to be reversed when they no longer have a majority.
It’s also entirely within Labour’s rules, which state:
The NEC vote to ‘urge’ Haringey Labour councillors to abandon the plan was unanimous, including the significant number of ‘moderates’ still on the committee, so it was not a contentious decision.
Ms Crerar went further, quoting a tweet by a hardline, pro-HDV ‘centrist’ in Haringey:
However, as even the hardliner made clear, the email contains no suggestion by the ‘Labour NEC’, but is a comment sent by an individual NEC member expressing her individual opinion that pro-HDV councillors are voting against party policy.
Neither does the email state that ‘any councillor who votes for HDV.. will effectively be kicked out [sic] party’. While such a result is possible under Labour’s rules, it is not automatic.
Not ‘the NEC’ and not ‘kicked out’, so the claim of extreme ‘control freakery’ is misplaced.
This is not the only problematic aspect of the comment, though. Ms Mulready, whom Ms Crerar quoted, has a history of anti-Islamic comments on Twitter and faces a hearing next week on charges of online bullying of an officer of a local CLP (constituency Labour party). She also has a clear axe to grind against the left/’Momentum’, as any quick perusal of her Twitter feed will reveal:
The apparently uncritical use of such a source by the deputy political editor of a national newspaper – especially a notionally ‘left’ one – is troubling.
We contacted Ms Crerar for comment:
We’re running a story shortly looking at your contributions on Twitter since the Guardian job was announced, in particular:
- your comments on the NEC/HDV and your use of Nora Mulready tweets, as she’s a problematic source
- your tweet about ‘the NEC’ when in fact it was an email sent by one member, not a statement or communication by the NEC
She responded by pointing out that she had recently covered,
men-only charity fundraisers, Boris Johnson’s NHS cash bid, Tessa Jowell’s cancer battle and David Cameron on Brexit.
My record as a reporter shows that I have covered all issues on my patch impartially and fairly.”
However, she did not respond regarding the imbalance of her HDV comments or her transformation of an individual’s email into an NEC policy.
The Guardian has recently switched to a ‘tabloid’ format in an effort to capture readers. It is to be hoped that the paper is not at the same time moving further away from its reader base and that Ms Crerar’s comments and articles as its deputy political error will reflect a more rounded approach to Labour matters.
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