In April of this year and then again in August, the SKWAWKBOX published articles detailing testimony by MPs and shadow ministers about ‘in your face’, ‘abusive’ behaviour by centrist MP Wes Streeting toward Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott in a House of Commons corridor.
Streeting had threatened legal action against this blog for the first article, which the SKWAWKBOX refused to delete – and threatened legal action before the publication of the second article, which was published regardless.
Some time after the second article, Streeting and his lawyers lodged a complaint with IMPRESS, the UK’s only Leveson-compliant press regulator, to which the SKWAWKBOX subscribes, claiming the article was ‘distorted and misleading’.
In order to do so, they had to confirm that he will not take legal action over the information contained.
A minute ago, IMPRESS published its findings. The regulator assessed the article against its criteria and found no evidence for any inaccuracy. The regulator also verified the SKWAWKBOX’s parliamentary sources and confirmed their credibility in the course of its investigation.
IMPRESS did find that the SKWAWKBOX should have given Streeting longer than the four hours he had to provide his own comments.
This blog disputes this finding, as press enquiries to the SKWAWKBOX from other publications have provided as little as thirty minutes to respond. Streeting was active on social media well after the enquiry was sent and had a track record of non-response to SKWAWKBOX enquiries.
IMPRESS judged that there was no urgency in publication to require a short response time. Again, this blog disputes this – an enquiry to Streeting and other MPs the previous month received no response, but was instead sent straight to the Huffington Post as evidence of supposed ‘bullying and intimidation’ for a pre-emptive article and an open letter, signed by MPs including Streeting, claiming bullying and intimidation because of the enquiry.
The April enquiry could have been used in the same way – and this risk grew the more time Streeting had before publication.
IMPRESS found that a deadline for response should have been provided – even though the SKWAWKBOX demonstrated that the provision of a deadline in the above enquiry was used by Streeting, other MPs and the media as evidence of ‘bullying and intimidation’. This blog considers this finding to be self-evidently flawed in its dismissal of relevant context.
However, IMPRESS is the UK’s only independent regulator and is free to make its own decision.
The following facts are worthy of note:
- IMPRESS found that a part of the process should have been different – but made no findings of inaccuracy, misrepresentation or distortion
- Streeting could have taken his claim to court but chose instead to waive that option in order to make a complaint to IMPRESS; this meant that neither he nor his two alleged witnesses had to testify under oath in order to state their case
- Streeting has not complained to IMPRESS about the even more detailed information contained in the second article and cannot now take legal action without breaking his commitment to IMPRESS
- the SKWAWKBOX stands absolutely by the accuracy of its articles and nothing in the IMPRESS finding undermines that accuracy
Wes Streeting complained to IMPRESS that the first of two SKWAWKBOX articles about the behaviour ascribed to him by multiple parliamentarian witnesses was inaccurate, distorted and a misrepresentation.
The regulator did not support his complaint.
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