Thursday, October 07, 2010

Sally Bercow & Migration Watch Come to a No Score Draw

Migration Watch have just released a statement which draws a line under their libel dispute with Sally Bercow.

In a discussion programme on Sky News on 18 August, Mrs Bercow associated Migrationwatch with Mosley and Hitler. When we heard about this, we asked for a copy of the program and obtained a transcript of precisely what she had said. After taking advice from counsel we asked our solicitors to write to her seeking an apology and an undertaking not to repeat such an allegation. In their response, solicitors for Mrs Bercow said that she "did not intend to (and did not) allege that Migrationwatch is a fascist or racist organisation", that she was expressing an honest opinion about the handling of a Migrationwatch report by the Daily Express and that she had a right to do so in a democratic society.

Migrationwatch are strongly in favour of free speech. We accept her assurances about her intentions, and consider that important and sensitive issues such as immigration should be debated without descending into derogatory language and associations.

In view of the assurance contained in her solicitor’s letter, we do not intend to take the matter further.
Good.

UPDATE: Twitter seems to have gone beserk with people saying this was not a no score draw and it was total capitulation by Migration Watch. I'm not sure that ties in with their statement, but there you go. Those who are having a go at me might like to remember the blogpost I wrote last week where I made clear my support for Sally Bercow's position vis a vis Migration Watch's threats.

However, as a commenter points out, few people would take any notice of Sally Bercow's thoughts were she not married to the Speaker - something which must constantly give her pause for thought. I rather like her and I enjoy our broadcasting jousts, but let's not kid ourselves as to why she's invited onto these programmes, because it certainly isn't for her incisive left of centre political analysis!

31 comments:

George said...

Perhaps Ms Bercow would now like to maintain a dignified silence as befitting the wife of the Speaker.

startledcod said...

I know, I know, its much better settled this way but, on the otherhand, wouldn't it have been great is someone had slapped down the very silly motormouth who only gets asked for her views because she is married to the Speaker.

Maybe, just maybe, she will keep more of her silly views to herself now. We can only hope ...........

jules.williamson said...

Godwin's Law:

"Given enough time, all discussions - regardless of topic or scope - inevitably end up being about Hitler and the Nazis... Whoever mentions the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress."

Duncan said...

In other words, MigrationWatch were all mouth and no trousers, and didn't have a case to put. Well done Sally, up yours fascists.

godwyns said...

I am quite afraid of saying anything about this incase MigrationWatch may finds fault with it...

On Mrs. Bercow; would this be her avenue out of public show-casing?
After creating a first lady at No 10, it seems this people are on to create another: first lady in the parliament.

A said...

They can't spell programme. Are they foreign or something?

Tapestry said...

All very New Labour. Nothing can be stated about any subject without reference to mass murder, political extremism and other viewpoint-holders being criminal to hold their views.

No pressure.

Well done Migration Watch for refusing to become victims of Blairite casual reputation-trashing.

Carl Legge said...

Not a score draw at all. MW made threats. SB pushed back. MW backed down. SB wins.

I wonder how many times MW have made threats of litigation to silence critics, it's an abuse of a broken libel system that needs reforming. It's also a form of bullying for an organisation to take on individuals in this way. They stopped because their case had no merit, which they knew in advance.

I also wonder about the patronising people who say SB should not air her views. She's married to the Speaker not the Speaker herself. She's not owned by her husband. I'd hope those attitudes were now dead - obviously not with the Daily Mail brigade and their like.

If you don't like her or her views, don't listen. You can because it's a free country: despite you.

jimmy.p said...

The real 'fascists' are the people like Silly Bercow who try to close down debate on legitimate issues such as immigration by smearing their opponents. Usually the smears are fired off becaause they have very little substance to back up their own argument.

Ben said...

Threatening legal action and then withdrawing that threat?

If you think that's a draw it's a bloody good thing you're in publishing and not law.

slack---line said...

Hmm, you received a letter from Ms Bercow's solicitors (which do NOT contain assurances here) and in light of this the Migration Watch lawyers drop the matter.

This isn't a "No Score Draw" in any sense of the phrase whatsoever. The Migration Watch lawyers have decided that they would loose in court and have therefore backed down!

That you claim to support free speech yet have attempted to use libel laws to threaten someone who expressed and opinion is grossly contradictory in the first place!

Duncan said...

And it turns out that this is complete hogwash, a statement released early to try to define the story in MW's favour, when in fact Sally Bercow has not made any undertaking, and MW have simply dropped their threat because they had no case.

Iain you ought to be ashamed at being complicit in this smear on a friend of yours and your tacit support for a bullying abusive organisation like MW.

THIS is exactly why we need libel reform in the UK.

Ewan said...

So if someone threatens to sue you for the emotional trauma of reading this nonsensical post, you tell them where to stick it, and they drop the whole thing, that's a 'draw'?

Migration Watch, for whatever else you might think about them, tried to abuse the libel process, and got called on it. This is a straight-forward defeat for them, and one they completely brought on themselves.

Matt said...

Ah, bless! They are coming out of the woodwork to defend the indefensible!

Which all seemed to say the same thing. "We think Sally Bercow is wonderful. She should be allowed to say whatever she wants to because, well she just SHOULD, right?"

Twig said...

"We accept her assurances about her intentions, and consider that important and sensitive issues such as immigration should be debated without descending into derogatory language and associations."

Exactly.

A shot across the bows if ever I saw one.
...

enhughesiasm said...

Good grief, Iain. Is it not a little patronising to say that she's only listened to because she is married to the Speaker? Where exactly does your authority as a semi-public figure come from?

No offence intended, but it is facile to say that someone is only listened to for such-and-such a reason... anyone with any influence whatsoever could be reduced down to that level!

Stephen Wigmore said...

Sally Bercow is a silly woman and her supportes are hypocrites.

It's one thing to say she's the speaker's wife and hence she can say her own views but we all know she is only invited onto media because she is the speaker's wife. Before bercow was made speaker no one had heard of her and she has done nothing of note in between.

Since people only care about her views because she is the wife of the speaker she should act with some decorum befitting that role.

Ewan said...

And as for "I'm not sure that ties in with their statement", you're right, it doesn't. It does, however, tie in with the truth.

Migration Watch tried some blatant and transparent spin and you totally failed to notice.

Ewan said...

"We think Sally Bercow is wonderful. She should be allowed to say whatever she wants to because, well she just SHOULD, right?"

Er, well no, actually. She should be able to say whatever she wants if it's true, and/or fair comment, because everyone should. It's a fundamental right in a free society, and necessary to the democratic process.

She shouldn't be able to libel people, and if she had libelled Migration Watch they'd be quite right to sue, but she didn't and they wouldn't be, which is why they've folded like a napkin at the first hint of resistance.

Of course, if they really feel they've been wronged, they should make good on their (apparently empty) threat and take it to court. But they won't.

Pam said...

Good heavens, sin't this 'she is only asked to do things because she's the Speaker's wife' thing getting a bit thin? In the media world who ISN'T asked to do things initially because someone knows them?

Have you never been asked to do something on the radio because someone knows you rather than auditioning for it Iain? I certainly have!

She'd soon stop being asked if she didn't deliver what was required.

Deano said...

So the bully threatens legal action, and when they back down that's a 'score draw'? Seems to me that by your definition they couldn't lose Iain... Seems to me that organisations like this are quite happy to dish it out, but are remarkably thin-skinned when they are subject to any criticism.
One of the reasons we fought the last war was to protect the principle of free speech, a principle that organisations that are quick to rush to their libel lawyers seem to have rather little respect for.

Peter_Mathews_French_Estate_Agent said...

Should be Sallys no drawers score.

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Chardonnay Chap said...

First off, Iain, you base your claim for a 'draw' purely on Migration Watch's statement. You didn't stop to consider whether this represent Ms Bercow fairly. This is what Sally Bercow said:

This right wing think tank Migration Watch has conducted a study which has revealed that youth unemployment is down to migration which is obviously grossly simplistic. The main reason for youth unemployment is the recession which was caused by the bankers and the bankers are more responsible than the migrants, and it’s fairly dangerous propaganda this kind of story. It is exactly what Mosley said in the 30s and Hitler argued in Germany.

Quoted from Jack of Kent's blog. Whether she "associated Migrationwatch with Mosley and Hitler" is a matter of opinion - and in mine, Migration Watch have something of a case here. They do not have a case at all in claiming that solicitors for Mrs Bercow said that she "did not intend to (and did not) allege that Migrationwatch is a fascist or racist organisation" represents Mrs Bercow and her lawyers backing down. Her words really cannot be understood as implying that, and Migration Watch have made fools of themselves in trying to sue for libel against a claim which wasn't made.

As for whether Mrs Bercow is worth taking note of, she is on the approved list of candidates for members of Parliament for the Labour party and may therefore be considered as a future politician. That she has sharper elbows when it comes to getting noticed that her rivals could be seen as entirely to her credit. But if I may venture my own opinion for a second time, perhaps we should ignore party candidates who fail to persuade the electorate. They're just windbags and should be ignored. Wouldn't you say so, Iain?

Alister said...

I didn't hear/see the show, but where I do have a problem is with people who try to shut down any debate on immigration. If you or Sally had said that referring to Hitler/Mosley was utterly the wrong thing to do when discussing immigration and that the country needs to have a proper grown up debate on the issues; then I would be happy.

The fact that the comments were made either directly or indirectly does not matter as the damage has been done. This is the same tactic as saying "you're playing the race card", basically shutting down debate which is wrong. Iain can you please try and persuade Sally not to use these tactics, if you can't, call her out on it.

Jimmy said...

"So the bully threatens legal action, and when they back down that's a 'score draw'?"

That's nothing. When Mad Nads and Guido did it last year they claimed it as a win.

Deano said...

If you or Sally had said that referring to Hitler/Mosley was utterly the wrong thing to do when discussing immigration and that the country needs to have a proper grown up debate on the issues; then I would be happy.

How is it possible to have any kind of debate when a secretly funded organisation can hire expensive libel lawyers to shut up anyone who dares question it?

Deano said...

If you or Sally had said that referring to Hitler/Mosley was utterly the wrong thing to do when discussing immigration and that the country needs to have a proper grown up debate on the issues; then I would be happy.

How is it possible to have any kind of debate when a secretly funded organisation can hire expensive libel lawyers to shut up anyone who dares question it?

Iain Dale said...

Chardonnay Chap

Like others you seem to be under the impression that I supported Migration Watch on this. I did not. I supported Sally Bercow as evidenced by the blogpost I wrote last week.

Rather undermines your point, doesn't it?

Neuroskeptic said...

Iain: Who you support is one thing, calling this a "No Score Draw" is quite another, because it's just plain wrong.

As I said on Jack of Kent's blog:

How is this a draw?

"We asked our solicitors to write to her seeking an apology and an undertaking not to repeat such an allegation. In their response, solicitors for Mrs Bercow [complied with neither request]. Migrationwatch are strongly in favour of free speech [so in light of the fact that our legal action to prevent this failed] we accept her assurances about her intentions, and consider that important and sensitive issues such as immigration should be debated without descending into derogatory language and associations.

In view of the assurance [not the one we asked for] contained in her solicitor’s letter, we do not intend to take the matter further."

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