Haringey Council’s HDV – a planned project to transfer ownership of thousands of council houses for ‘gentrification’ and turf out the people living in them – has been hugely contentious over recent months.
Most recently – after the project was ‘put on ice’ following the decision of the council’s Labour leader Claire Kober to step down after May’s local elections amid claims of bullying, sexism and worse – the BBC has been severely criticised by Labour members and local opponents of the project for its one-sided coverage of the issues.
The background – allegations of BBC bias
In spite of allegations of bullying against Ms Kober – and her own admission in an email that she had compiled ‘dossiers’ against anti-HDV and left-wing applicants seeking to stand in the local elections – to the outrage of anti-HDV campaigners the BBC has often treated her still-uninvestigated claims as if proven, even though anti-HDV campaigners belong to all parties and none.
The BBC – like most of the ‘MSM‘ – has described democratic selections and deselections of candidates for the local elections in terms of a ‘Momentum purge’ or take-over, even though anti-HDV ‘centrist’ councillors have been reselected.
One of the most vocal critics of the changes – and the most ardent in claiming they involve bullying and intimidation – has been Nora Mulready.
As Ms Mulready’s Twitter profile notes, she is an ex-Labour member – having resigned from the party the day before she was due to face a disciplinary hearing over allegations of bullying. She wrote in the Daily Mail that she left because “I can no longer pretend this is my party“.
Nonetheless, she was given considerable airtime on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme to talk about the ‘brutality of the discourse…if you stand up to Momentum‘. The claim of ‘brutality’ was treated as fact by the show’s presenter, who questioned Labour MP Chris Williamson on whether it was “acceptable that Nora Mulready has resigned her membership because of claims of bullying and sexism“.
The complained-about councillor
On Monday evening, a serving Haringey councillor’s re-application (having already announced she was withdrawing her candidacy) was due to be discussed by Haringey Labour’s ‘Local Campaign Forum‘ (LCF), because of complaints made against her by local members.
The allegations lodged against her included complaints that she had given false information to a BBC journalist, who had then written an article giving a platform to her claims of intimidation by ‘Momentum’ and naming specific individuals.
The BBC journalist
The journalist in question took the remarkable step of – uninvited – emailing the LCF, from her official BBC email account, with ‘clarifications’ about her interactions with the councillor.
The lengthy email sent on Monday morning included a variety of information essentially defending the councillor and critical of claims made by a complainant. It is addressed to the Chair of the LCF, as well as to the ‘Procedures Secretary’ responsible for the local candidate selection process and a representative of Labour’s London regional office.
But they were not the first people to see it.
On Sunday night the very same details, in an email titled “Subject: Letter to the LCF re [redacted] from the BBC journalist who interviewed her” – the very same subject line in the eventual email to the LCF and even starting ‘Dear’ with the name of the LCF Chair – were sent to a pro-HDV, anti-Momentum ‘activist’.
Ms Nora Mulready.
Nora Mulready is not named in the complaint, so the email was sent to an unconnected third party.
The journalist’s email also made a significant claim:
“I also saw the actual emails” sent by an LCF officer to the councillor. Of the two relevant emails, one contains a line that is incontrovertible evidence that one of the claims made by the councillor to the BBC journalist – and included without qualification in the resulting article – was false.
In addition, the BBC journalist claimed that the emails to the councillor were intimidatory in tone – a subjective assessment of questionable compatibility with a ‘clarification’.
When asked by the SKWAWKBOX on Monday evening whether details of the email had been sent to Ms Mulready, the journalist at first denied it.
When asked why the councillor’s claim had been included in the article without comment when one of the emails sent to her showed that claim to be false, the journalist responded that she must not have seen the email.
When asked why she was including her subjective assessment of emails in her ‘clarification’ email – she was adamant that it was not an ‘intervention’ – the journalist responded that she must have been quoting an opinion given to her by someone else.
When we emailed her the screenshots of her emails that showed that she had proffered a personal opinion, had claimed to have seen the emails in which the evidence of a false claim by the councillor was clear – and had sent the email to Ms Mulready, although we invited her to provide an alternative interpretation if there was one – the journalist declined to comment further except to say:
Please contact the BBC press office.
Which we did, with questions about:
- the ethical acceptability of the journalist’s actions
- the conflict between the information available and the way the issues were presented
- whether the journalist was aware of the appearance of collusion between the BBC and anti-left factions that might be created if her email came to light
- whether the journalist had been aware that Ms Mulready had resigned from the Labour Party the day before a disciplinary hearing into allegations that she bullied a fellow local member
The BBC declined to comment this evening but has promised a response tomorrow.
For now, the SKWAWKBOX has obscured the name of the journalist – and of the councillor, who has so far not responded to requests for comment – until comment has been received from the BBC and the councillor or they fail to respond.
But the evidence already on hand shows that a BBC journalist, closely involved in the public presentation of the HDV issues and of the claims that have surrounded it, not only disclosed sensitive information to a prominent anti-Momentum campaigner but gave it to her before sending it to its intended recipients.
The BBC has been accused of bias in its presentation of the issues around the HDV, the supposed ‘purge’ of centrist councillors and the allegations that centrists – who have also been accused of bullying – have made against ‘Momentum’.
But if a key journalist involved in the coverage has been sharing information with the anti-left faction and defending a councillor from that faction who has been making such allegations – how can any of the BBC’s coverage of and commentary on events in Haringey be trusted?
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