Sunday, October 03, 2010

Yet Another Ridiculous Libel Case

You may remember that back at the end of August, Sally Bercow and I did a Sky News paper review together. Quite a lot of you enjoyed it. A few days later I was contacted by Sir Andrew Green, head of Migration Watch and asked if it was true that Sally had compared his organisation to Mosley and Hitler in a discussion about a research paper they had published. I told him I had no recollection of that, but if she had, I would have undoubtedly picked her up on it. I thought nothing more of it until I read on various sites yesterday that Sir Andrew had issued libel proceedings against Sally Bercow. He had instricted lawyers who wrote to Sally Bercow asking for an apology and costs. She's told him where to stick his letter and it seems as though it is now going to go to court. What a complete and utter waste of time. Here is what Sally Bercow actually 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."

So, no mention of Sir Andrew, and one mention of Migration Watch. Now I am not a lawyer, but I think I could easily rip holes in the argument that she had linked Migration Watch directly to Mosley and Hitler. No sensible person would, and I don't think she did. Had I thought she had done so I'd like to think I'd have had the nouse to take her on directly. In the event, I think I said something like "Migration Watch is a very respected pressure group across the political spectrum", something I believe to be true.

I think Andrew Green and Migration Watch do a brilliant job and they have played a major role in enabling politicians to discuss immigration as a mainstream issue. But on this I fear they have gone completely over the top.

To bring a libel action on this brings our libel law into disrepute and illustrates why the law needs to be reformed. Sally Bercow will no doubt now become yet another libel law cause celebre. I may not agree with her on much at all, but I would certainly defend her right to say what she says. It's a debating point, not a libel, and Migration Watch should be big enough to acknowledge that and take her on in debate, not the courts.

22 comments:

Tim said...

I think I agree. In my opinion the UK's current law on libel is a bit of a bullies charter that goes too far in suppressing freedom of expression.

It's no accident that we now have a phenomenon known as 'libel tourism' - it is a hallmark of imbalance.

rob's uncle said...

'nous' not 'nouse'.

Unsworth said...

Frankly anything which discomforts Mrs Speaker is probably no bad thing. However and as you indicate, this is a frivolous (and silly) action by someone who really ought to have been rather more canny.

simon said...

Quite right, Iain. She clearly refers to 'the story' - ie the newspaper article under discussion.

In any case, she is factually correct to say that the Nazis and the Blackshirts claimed migration caused unemployment. To say so doesn't imply that anybody else who makes the same (debatable) claim is ipso facto a Nazi.

People who use the law in this way are invariably scared of open debate. I'm surprised to see Andrew Green trying to stifle debate like this.

john in cheshire said...

If it was my decision, I would decide in favour of Andrew Green. You might have other preconceptions, but Bercow was deliberately conflating what Migrationwatch have concluded, and what Mosley was promoting. I hope he wins.

Colin said...

Who do you think she was referring to, if not Andrew Green and Migration Watch ?

Most reasonable people would recognise that, neither Andrew Green, nor Migration watch are in any way comparable with Hitler or Mosley.

On the other hand, plenty of left wing idiots feel they have carte blanche to smear decent people with this comparison, however oblique the reference.

If she doesn't think Andrew Green and Migration watch bear comparison with totalitarianism, why mention Hitler and Mosely in this context?

Ed. said...

Ok, we're made of sterner stuff; but 9/11 never happened on our soil.

charonqc said...

Iain - I think a few lawyers would welcome your common sense approach and good on you for doing so!

Frugal Dougal said...

She's free to say what she says, but comment is not free if she's going to talk about MigrationWatch and Mosley etc in such close proximity as to make it clear what you mean - or else leave yourself open to the obvious conclusions being drawn.

What does she have against MigrationWatch anyway? It's not as if in her line of work she sees cheap foreign labour leaving her out of profit.

tucola said...

Reading what was actually said, I would have thought that 'the bankers' would have more of a defamation claim...

Mirtha Tidville said...

This shameless slapper loves publicity and will do anything to get it...The office of Speaker should be respected not tarnished as it is presently with this hussy attached to it..

Wan said...

She did break Godwin's law... Not sure if you're able to be sued over that though.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

Wrinkled Weasel said...

The woman was talking utter codswallop, but it is not against the law to talk like an arsehole - yet or to copy and paste cliches - and of course it should not be, or we would all be in jail.

gordon-bennett said...

Read the extract you showed from what sb said again slowly and carefully and you will see that she is saying that Migration Watch is saying the same sort of thing as moseley and hitler.

gordon-bennett said...

Here's a clearer presentation of my argument.

sb 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."

If you delete the sub paras I have square bracketed in the above quote:

"This right wing think tank Migration Watch has conducted a study which has revealed that youth unemployment is down to migration [ ... ] and it’s fairly dangerous propaganda this kind of story. It is exactly what Mosley said in the 30s and Hitler argued in Germany."

Clameur de Haro said...

Well, I take your point, Iain, and I'm no lawyer either: but firstly, and in direct contradiction of what you say, M'Lady Squeaker specifically mentions MWUK by name in her first sentence, provided it has been correctly transcripted.

Secondly, there are not too many words, and more importantly, no change of subject-matter, between the mention of MWUK by name and the allusions to & comparisons with the racial policies of Hitler and Mussolini.

If I was not aware of (a) MWUK generally, b) the specific study quoted specifically, and c) the unsavoury nature of M'Lady Squeaker, I might be led to think that MWUK, Hitler and Mussolini were similar: so it's surely possible to at least argue defamation by innuendo.

Be that as it may, MWUK ought to be able to accept this as a necessary concomitant of a free press and freedom of speech.

Rather than line the pockets of the lawyers, though, they ought to go for Madam Squeaker for not being able to rebut the findings, not being able to counter the argument, and only able to respond by an ad hominem attack. No wonder she's a (failed) Labour apparatchik.

Tapestry said...

It's all conkers anyway. The minimum wage was predicted to cause youth unemployment to surge. And it has done.

Britain's minimum wage is approaching US$10 an hour. In the US it's $7. That was up from $5 in 2007. Tipped jobs are minimumd at $2. Imagine how many kids could get jobs at $2 an hour in restaurants and so on, and get stacks of tips.

The minimum wage in Britain should be halved. An hour of work in the UK produces one third less than an hour worked in the US. We have priced ourselves out of work which is why 6 million are sitting idle at home.

If tax and Nat ins is removed on low pay, GBP 4 an hour would give a 40 hour week's work GBP 160 to take home. Now come on. That's better than social security. If social security is adapted so that it is removed gradually if someone is in work, the millions would get back to work.

Immigration is only the problem, in that many immigrant workers will accept lower wages and not complain. Many kids are kept on trial work, and paid for less hours than they work anyway. Under 21 minimum wage should be GBP 3, and employment rights reduced until people are over 30.

Matt said...

Sorry, Iain, but I can't agree with you on this one.

What Sally Bercow did was an old trick, much used by people who think they are being clever. But aren't.

From the quote you gave it would seem that one interpretation of what Sally Bercow was doing was to mention Migration Watch and then, in a run-on sentence, mention Hitler and Mosley."

"Of course," she might argue: "Some people might draw an inference that Migration Watch and it's founder are, indeed, like Hitler and Mosley, but, of course, I have not said that."

No, merely put that particular bit of poison into people's minds. Not, of course, that she intended to do that, God forbid.

Roger Thornhill said...

Sure, Migration Watch is being daft in this lawsuit. Better they just replied to SB and, you know, debated the issue.

That said, when another "protected species" gets compared unfavourably, I wonder if the Left will run to their side and condemn attempts to gag or threaten.

Talia Poppy said...

Well - how's this... When I noticed Sally B was being sued for libel I had empathy. It annoys me when people abuse/exploit our libel laws for a fast buck (and I notice media cases as I'm suing a large publisher for their bad faith behaviours including fraudulent misrepresentation and economic duress when they pulled my book at the last minute, in the way that they pulled it). However when I read what you say she said I lost that empathy as it does look, prima facie, like she alligns this group with Nazis and she's taking a nasty swipe - my guess is a Court would agree. I don't know Migrationwatch but what she said was v influencial and made me initially think negatively of them until I reread her words several times...just my thoughts.

................................. said...

It couldn't even be libel, if anything it's slander.

Manfarang said...

Does this Migration Watch organisation want to stop migration from South Africa, Australia or America?
I thought not.