Impress has issued an adjudication on this article. It is frankly perverse. For the SKWAWKBOX's comment on it, see here. As this blog believes in independent, Leveson-compliant regulation, the adjudication wording is as follows: Correction of article published on THE SKWAWKBOX, 6 August 2018: In an article first published on 6 August 2018 under the headline “EXCL: TIMES’ STAR WITNESS FOR WIRRAL ‘MILITANT’ BULLYING STORY – WASN’T PRESENT”, the SKWAWKBOX had implied that the Sunday Times had falsely claimed that Moira McLaughlin was an eyewitness to an incident of alleged bullying of two female campaigners by a male councillor, which may have resulted in some readers believing Ms McLaughlin had herself lied or been disingenuous when speaking to the Sunday Times. In fact, neither the Sunday Times nor Moira McLaughlin had claimed that Moira McLaughlin was an eyewitness to the incident. In doing so, the article had misrepresented and/or distorted the facts, which led to a breach of Code Clause 1.4 (Accuracy) of the IMPRESS Standards Code. Click here to read the full adjudication by IMPRESS.
Last weekend, the Sunday Times ran a major article amplifying the smear campaign against Labour members in the Merseyside borough of Wirral, claiming that the ‘ghost of Militant’ was being seen again in alleged bullying and abuse of poor ‘centrists’ by left-wing Labour members.
At the heart of its story was Rock Ferry councillor Moira McLaughlin, described as a close, even ever-present ally of Birkenhead MP Frank Field, who had resigned the Labour whip just days earlier while making similar allegations of bullying and abuse:
The article referenced Field, who recently resigned the Labour named a male councillor and then made allegations of abusive behaviour, building its claims around Ms McLaughlin’s description of events – in particular her claims about the behaviour of a male councillor:
Ms McLaughlin then went on to compare the current situation on the Wirral to 1980s ‘Militant’:
But there are problems with the article and the evidence it uses – in particular that Ms McLaughlin was not present when the events she describes took place.
The evidence comes in the form of an exchange on Facebook, which Ms McLaughlin began with a comment on a post by one of the women allegedly ‘reduced to tears’:
When the original poster engaged, Ms McLaughlin had no idea what was supposed to have happened:
In addition it’s worth noting that the last commenter shown above – who only joined the party recently – resorts immediately to abusive language, but toward Labour members and not toward the woman who made the original post.
The Sunday Times article also mentioned the resignation of Mike Sullivan, repeating the claims in his resignation letter that Wirral Labour is full of bullying ‘parasites’. As the SKWAWKBOX revealed last week, according to the properties of the resignation letter the author was not Mike Sullivan but ‘public affairs strategist‘ Martin Liptrot, a close ally of Wirral’s council leader Phil Davies, who has come out in support of Frank Field.
Mr Liptrot was also named as the man ‘helping police with their enquiries’ with regard to a late-night double assault on the platform of a Liverpool rail station.
The SKWAWKBOX spoke to Moira McLaughlin, who claimed that the Facebook exchange was about a different event of which she was ignorant at the time, before saying that she does not want to receive any further contact under any circumstances.
But the SKWAWKBOX also spoke to the original poster, who confirmed categorically that the post had been about the incident involving the male councillor alleged to have reduced her to tears, who has vigorously denied the accusation. The woman also repeatedly emphasised that,
I absolutely adore Frank. I support him 100% and he supports me.
The author of the Sunday Times piece has been contacted for comment about the fact that Ms McLaughlin was not present and invited to comment.
The Times has called the SKWAWKBOX ‘fake news’, while also using this blog’s information without credit.
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