Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mea Culpa

Yesterday Associated Newspaper, publishers of the Mail on Sunday, issued an apology to Tom Watson MP and paid damages over an article written by me which they published on 12 April about the Damian McBride emails. You can read the full statement on Tom's blog HERE.

I apologised to Tom at the time, and explained how the Mail on Sunday came to print a paragraph of the article which I had asked them to delete.

In the original text submitted to the Mail on Sunday I alleged that Tom had been copied in on the Damian McBride emails. I did so because I was told that by a senior Labour source that this was the case. I also published it on my blog in THIS post at 5.45 on the evening of 11 April. At 6.20pm I received a call from Guido Fawkes who told me that Tom Watson had not in fact been cc'd on the emails he had seen, although he was referred to. I immediately reworded the blogpost and wrote a replacement paragraph for the Mail on Sunday column, which was sent to them at 6.30pm. In retrospect, instead of amending the blogpost I should have written an Update at the bottom. However, I needed to get the Mail on Sunday piece corrected. Unfortunately, despite me sending it in what I assumed to be good time, the change wasn’t made so the wrong paragraph was printed. This was cockup, not conspiracy.

The following day, I sent Tom an email apologising for this. This email was sent entirely voluntarily, and way before I knew that Tom had instructed lawyers. I then added the text of the emailed apology to the original offending blogpost. I have said in the past that I apologise when I get things wrong, and did so then.

However, one apology does not seem enough for some people in the left of centre blogosphere, so let me repeat it again here. I got it wrong. I was acting on information from a good source which I had no reason to believe was unreliable. But that's immaterial. I got it wrong. I took immediate steps to address the error both on my own blog and with the Mail on Sunday. But, it still comes back to the fact that I got it wrong. Since Tom only took action against the Mail on Sunday I have to assume that he accepted my apology and the fact that I had done all in my power to correct things.

I do not take these issues lightly and have been horrified at some of the things which people with other agendas have written about me on certain left of centre blogs. Their gleeful reaction says more about them than it can ever do about me. But that's politics. That's blogging. If you can't stand the heat etc etc.


Anonymous said...

I'm so pleased Mr.Watson has accepted a substantial sum. I don't know how these poor MPs manage to rub along.
Power to the people!

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Aitken, Archer and Robert Maxwell immediately spring to mind. I don't know quite why.

Iain, it is a mighty tough hit to take.


Jenkins @ No10 said...

9 out of 10. :-)

golden_balls said...

it sounds like you think of yourself more of as a victim than anything else. You smeared tom watson with your blog and article.

You made a mistake a huge error take it on the chin admit you were wrong. which you now have with this blogpost.

I think other than being tory your an honourable person so i wouldn't worry about it too much.

Paul Burgin said...

"I do not take these issues lightly and have been horrified at some of the things which people with other agendas have written about me on certain left of centre blogs. Their gleeful reaction says more about them than it can ever do about me."

Iain, I am sorry that some who share my politics are like that and, as you know, some on the left think highly and respectfully of you as an opponent inc myself. That said I could say that some right-wing bloggers have the same attitudes to those on the left in terms that you have just used

Sunny said...

Oh Iain, I also started having a warm fuzzy feeling towards you again, until you decided to blame those nasty leftwing bloggers again for your mistake.

Oh well, don't break the habit of a lifetime hey?

That's politics indeed. I look forward to you remembering that next time when you accuse of someone else of being Pravda-esque just because they don't follow your editorial agenda.

And will you be letting this comment through this time? I can't remember what I wrote that was so offensive last time.

Iain Dale said...

Sunny, I did not blame Left wing bloggers at all. I said I was horrified at what certain people had said about me and my motives.

Anonymous said...

There is also another old adage, "you don't sue people who don't have money". Iain, the lesson being don't get rich.

Anonymous said...

Iain, the wider question here is about Carter-Ruck and Justice Eady and the 'chill wind' effect they will have on other reporting, not necessarily political in nature.

The article in the current edition of Private Eye about Simon Singh and the chiropractors is very worrying indeed. When are we going to have a statutory right to 'freedom of speech' ??

Anonymous said...

"However, one apology does not seem enough for some people in the left of centre blogosphere, so let me repeat it again here. I got it wrong."

So are you apologising for getting it wrong, or for smearing Tom's name ? This reads like an apology for the former and certainly not an apology for the latter.

Anonymous said...

Mind you, it might be sensible for Tom not to spend the money, just in case other stories trickle out from the book which Damien McBride is now no doubt working hard to complete for the Christmas present market...

Absolutely furious said...

I remember my daughter was very upset by a school report written by a particular teacher. He wouldn't back down, and after I told him that the report told me more about him than my daughter he was furious. Funny how they don't like being caught out in a lie:-)

Carl Eve said...

I hardly need remind you Iain, this is why some news organisations insist on double sourcing questionable (and actionable) information before printing/broadcasting it.

Whilst many on the right (and some on the left for that matter) criticise organisations like the BBC for it's slow response, whilst praising Sky to the, well, sky, it does mean there's a bit more likelihood that the info is correct.

Take some advice from a reporter: if you think someone can sue over something you've written, get a second source.

For the record, I'm not gloating. But I have pointed out to you before - and you've sniffily boasted - that you're not a journalist.

Perhaps being a proper journalist is not something to be sniffed at and you will, in future, do the old carpenter trick... measure twice, cut once.

Carl Eve

Cjcjc said...

Is it possible to smear someone with no reputation?

Still, as he helped bring Brown to power and thus destroy Labour he deserves some reward!

Iain Dale said...

Carl, I do agree with you. I can't tell you details about the sourcing for obvious reasons, but I didn't write it lightly. If you had had the same details I had, I suspect you;d have gone with it too.

HarveyR said...

Iain, I think you too have been "gleeful" at others discomfort from time to time.

I'm sure your apology was in earnest and you truly did regret the allegations being printed. But they were printed in a newspaper read by hundreds of thousands of people. I can quite understand why an personal apology wasn't deemed enough.

I know this particular article appeared in the dead tree press, but the episode should go to remind everyone, bloggers or commenters, that just because it's new and shiny, the internet does not absolve us from the law in relation to defamation. Just because we have a keyboard and a broadband connection, we don't have carte blanche to throw unsubstantiated allegations around.

no longer anonymous said...

Frankly Iain I think you should have stuck two fingers up to Hundal and I******. Nobody gives a toss what they think, especially the latter.

Unsworth said...

Some of the anonymous comments here are clearly penned by the mentally deficient. You've apologised, there's nothing more that can be said - or done. As this ghastly Government keeps saying - 'move on'.

Still, nice to see Her Lumliness get one over the dreadful Smith and Woolas duo. Wouldn't have happened if anyone with slightly lower profile had tried to rectify the crass initial decision, though. There's a lesson in that.

HF said...

Thanks Iain for the explanation.

The question running through my mind was why did that "senior Labour source" think they were right?

Praguetory said...

This is a stunning story. I didn't know that Tom Watson's reputation could be damaged further.

Sunny said...

I said I was horrified at what certain people had said about me and my motives.People are going to question your motives if you mis-represent them, as you have done with me on several occasions now. It's karma baby.

Jimmy said...

My memory may be faulty but was this the apology in which you accepted he wasn't actually cc'd but continued to suggest he must have known about them due to the proximity of his desk to McBride's?

kasou said...

We must wait till McBride needs some money, then we will maybe get the real story.

Sorry for doubting Mr Watson, but reading his words, seeing his style and knowing how his boss works....well who can some of us for wondering...hmmm seems Mr McBride ran 10 Downing ST all alone...yet another unelected person running no 10.

Hope we all remember Jeffrey Archer when the time comes..which I have no doubt it will..

Hacked Off said...

The thing is, that Tom Watson SHOULD have known what McBride was up to. It was his job to know.

The Penguin

Thats News said...

But what is it, exactly, that these left-of-centre bloggers are saying, Iain?

"It was Iain's fault for believing what a member of the Labour Party told him."

Right-o, chaps! We'll all take you at your word. We'll never believe anything a Labour Party members tells us, ever again. Is that OK for you leftwing bloaters, I mean bloggers?

In the meantime

"Look, mum, no talents!” says Gordon Brown

Lexander said...

Ian, yet again like your honesty. Let us all know if you need a bob or two to keep going! (joke). I bet the Mail are going to keep an eye on him for ever more. I would if I was N.Ed.

Plato said...

Tom Watson remains an odious all-you-can-eat curry smearer IMHO.

They doth protest too much.

Kate said...

Iain ((((hugs))))

Chris Paul said...

All very well Iain. But you did repeat this same smear live on TV and radio several times. As did Nadine Dorries MP. And Paul Staines had to have the plug pulled him and an on air apology when he not only repeated similar but also smeared Peter Hain on that same day.

Not to mention a general drip, drip, drip of smearage that is less specific but nasty for example about the health of the Prime Minister. When the behaviour you're attacking is stupid (but actually unrealised) smearing from McBride it seems quite extraordinary to get stuck in with smearage against 3rd parties, even with so-called reliable sources.

As I recall you also repeated the claim that McBride and Draper had not shelved their stupid japes. Claiming they still planned to use the material even a few days before the revelations. As far as I know that claim has never been stood up. Perhaps you can apologise for repeating that?

As we all know now even if we did not know then there is a hell of a lot of smearage going on within parties as well as between parties. If your supposedly high-up and reliable Labour source was "at it" smearing Watson you should surely now "out" that person and let them be kicked out of what position(s) it is they hold.

Word ver : Mings xx

Iain Dale said...

Chris Paul, you are wrong, as usual. I did not repeat the allegation against Tom Watson on any radio or TV programme at all after I found out it was wrong. In fact, to any journalist who phoned me about it I explained what had happened and they didn't run with it.

JuliaM said...

"You made a mistake a huge error take it on the chin admit you were wrong."

Golden_balls, take a look at the title of this post.

Then see if you know anyone who speaks Latin who can help you with it...

"Frankly Iain I think you should have stuck two fingers up to Hundal and I******. Nobody gives a toss what they think, especially the latter."


"I didn't know that Tom Watson's reputation could be damaged further."

Oh, there's always more bottom in the barrel than you think, when it comes to NuLab...

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Tom Watson has suddenly opened the floodgates on the comments section of his blog, in reply to the reproduced press release.

Do you know, all the comments are nice about him!

He must really be a wonderful fellow, the kind that travels up to Fife, just to deliver a present - why he's a bit like the Milk Tray Man!

I have not seen a critical comment on his blog at all and Iain, you get lots. What a decent all-round regular bloke he must be and what a rotter you are.

He can return to the Commons with his head held high and when he does, I hope he gets the clap he so richly deserves.

Chris Paul said...

winctSeems to me that you really must now out the vicious smear merchant. Which is what yourself and Staines claimed the venal lobby should be doing after all.

Chris Paul said...

Sorry Iain, I didn't say you did it after you knew and nor was it my intention to suggest that. That would have been unforgiveable and I fully accept you would not and did not do that.

The fact was you had been repeating it over and over again all day before you knew. Before you knew it was EITHER trur OR false. You didn't know either way but you repeated some hearsay. Often. That was my point.

If my prose is unclear I apologise. In fact I can see it is. Substitute "had repeated" for "did repeat" to get my intended sense in better form. Apologies.

Your source could have been Hazel Blears herself for all I care Iain you shouldn't have been so trusting in such a febrile atmosphere and you should now out your source. The pretenders had McBride cornered and Draper critically wounded and they were gunning for Watson too. Is clear.

Nice to see the "as usual" smear coming out to play when you get just a tiny bit of deserved heat. Like Paul I regard you as a worthwhile read and a man breaking stories from time to time too. But you were way out of order that day. Which to be fair is not like you. Biased naturally. Not always introduced properly as a Tory naturally. But not usually a purveyor of unchecked yet highly specific "facts".

No comment I see on your other claim - viz that there was proof that these smears had not been shelved.

Word ver: "flounce", well "flouns" actually, but who cares about these little details?

Chris Paul said...

Wrinkled weasel: You should look at Nadine's comments if you want to see a heavily edited crop of praise singers. Read a few from "Rachel" and could hardly believe there was such a person.

Incidentally it is quite hard to imagine what reasonable OT but negative comment anyone could sensibly make about Watson winning this case. Attacking or smearing him on such an occasion would be a bit off and rather counter-productive don't you think?

jailhouselawyer said...

It took the Left Wing blogosphere to force a belated apology. What a shame it came too late for you to bully an Old Soldier into removing a true comment I made on his blog, when you threatened him with libel.

Iain Dale Lies and Libel

Bardirect said...

He wouldn't be entitled to damages just because of an untruthful statement - it has to be defamatory and damage his reputation but what reputation do such MP's have now - zilch.

I don't understand why the Mail in the current frenzy didn't fancy taking a punt on defending this one looking for disclosure of his e mail and cross examining him about his reputation or lack thereof.

This suggests to me that the substantial award was rather modest.

Tony said...


I think that may be the worst legal analysis I've ever seen.

It didn't even rise to the level of idle speculation, let alone informed commentary.

The Grim Reaper said...

Derek Draper's merry band of window-lickers seem to be running amok on this thread. Funnily enough, not a single one of them has actually put their name forward. As for Sunny Hundal and Chris Paul, I would take a Devil's Kitchen style view on these two - namely that they should go drown themselves.

Ayayay said...

You could always get your own back.

Watson is displaying a libellous comment (#2) underneath the article. Mixing you up with a certain other blogger

Anonymous said...

Have you donated the fee you recieved from the Mail to charity?

Why do you feel that your Labour "source" should be protected - given that the only thing they were a source of was a lie. Given that your mole works in No 10 or the Cabinet Office (otherwise why did you believe that they were in a position to provide you with accurate information?) do you consider it appropriate that a liar should continue in such a position - or do you perhaps want to keep them there for further use/manipulation?

Wrinkled Weasel said...


Having used "anonymous" sources myself, assuming you have satisfied yourself they are bona fide, a problem can occur when the pressure is on.

Sometimes a source will bottle. And there is nothing you can do but to apologise and look a bit weak. This is the strength of the MSM over the lone blogger. I have covered potentially explosive stories in years gone by in the MSM and if you work for a Newspaper, you have the advice and the back-up of an editorial board and the editor, and ultimately, the owner. I am not privy to Iain's position with the Mail on Sunday, but I suspect he had no such support. Correct me if I am wrong, Iain, but I guess you just filed the story.

Carl Eve said...

Iain said: Carl, I do agree with you. I can't tell you details about the sourcing for obvious reasons, but I didn't write it lightly. If you had had the same details I had, I suspect you;d have gone with it too."

No - I would not. Even on my local paper, if I have something where the paper and I could get sued I either make sure I have some form of privilege or I second or even third source it.

It's all fine and fun to have something heft to write, but it's dangerously easy to get carried away and forget the big question - can I get sued for this and could I stand in a court and have a cast iron defence.

Good old fashioned journalism training would have made you stop and think, regardless of how good the single source was.

I repeat, take some sincerely meant advice from a journo - double source, get in cast iron with some legal cover and always be prepared to fight in court.

Or, you could just do as you regularly do, poo-poo the advice of those you don't like and swan along to the next car crash.