When Times hack Andrew Norfolk appeared this morning on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme to defend his part in the Tower Hamlets Muslim fostering case, the campaign progressed not necessarily to his advantage. He and his bosses may still be convinced that they did the right thing, but the way in which Norfolk’s claims have been shown to be at variance with reality have not benefited his reputation.
Andrew Norfolk - not out of the woods by any means
So some kind of recovery operation was called for, and happily the Times, perhaps anticipating continued criticism of its actions, provided it in its front page lead today. “Left failing to confront truth of sex crimes … Sacked Labour frontbencher accuses her party” reads the headline, and it soon becomes apparent that Rotherham MP Sarah Champion has, for a second time, been suckered by the Murdoch press.
This is not helped by Norfolk, whose name appears alone on the by-line, asserting “The MP for Rotherham was dismissed from the shadow cabinet by Jeremy Corbyn last month” and then doubling down with “In her first interview since being dismissed”. So let’s take this nice and slowly: Sarah Champion resigned from the Labour front bench. She was not dismissed. We know this as it was extensively reported at the time.
The Guardian went with “Sarah Champion resigns as shadow equalities minister”. Sky News told viewers “Sarah Champion resigns from Labour shadow cabinet over Pakistani rapists column in The Sun”. Business Insider asserted that “Labour shadow minister quits after writing Sun article profiling British Pakistani men as rapists”. The Independent chose “Sarah Champion resigns as Labour equalities spokesperson after writing Sun article on British Pakistani men”. The BBC told that “Sarah Champion quits Labour front bench over rape article”. Even the Guido Fawkes blog said she resigned.
Worse for Norfolk, what Ms Champion is quoted as saying does not stand up the claim in the headline. That ethnic minority communities may not live among white British people in some northern towns, while there is less of a divide in London, does not mean that “The left” is failing to confront anything. And his Today appearance was instructive.
Here’s what he said in explanation of the more inflammatory detail: “We reported what a local authority employee reported and what we discovered as a results of further investigations … These are difficult and sensitive issues. My job as a reporter, when matters on the face of it raise serious concerns are brought to our attention, my job is to investigate them. And when you discover issues that you believe are in the public interest to explore and expose ... I think we did our job as a newspaper”.
It is in the public interest to give a full picture of events, especially when any aspect of the story could prove sensitive. The Case Management Order, made public later last week, suggests that a less than full picture was given - and that this less than full disclosure resulted in more hatred directed as Tower Hamlets council, and Muslims generally.
Andrew Norfolk may only be obeying orders. Sarah Champion has been used by the Murdoch mafiosi once more: whether her being used was voluntary is not known.
But the result is known: more Labour bashing from a highly partisan newspaper.