Someone out there in right-leaning media land either has an incomplete memory when it comes to recent landmark libel cases, or they have not seen the glaring parallel. The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog have been so keen to put the boot in on London Mayor Sadiq Khan that they have sailed precariously close to the chill wind of law - as press reform campaigners know all too well.
Under the heading “City Hall Contracts Given To Labour Donor Who Gave Half-A-Million … SADIQ HANDS MASSIVE CITY HALL CONTRACT TO PARTY DONOR”, readers are told “Sadiq Khan has granted lucrative contracts to a firm that donates to his party, Guido can reveal. Ecotricity was handed contracts worth £400,000 of taxpayers’ money every year by the current Mayor. Labour-donor Ecotricity is run by Dale Vince”. There is more.
“Sadiq has said that Ecotricity now provides all of the electricity for the Greater London Authority. Coincidentally, according to the Electoral Commission, Ecotricity has given £515,000 to the Labour Party since 2014 - £45,000 of this was during Sadiq Khan’s Mayoral bid. Added to this, just before the last mayoral election, Dale Vince was one of the business leaders who signed a public letter in support of Sadiq Khan”. Ri-i-i-ight.
Had Sadiq Khan personally awarded the contract, and done so to Vince in person, rather than the GLA grant the contract to Ecotricity, The Great Guido might have had a point. But he most likely didn’t, in which case they haven’t. Moreover, the “£45,000 of this was during Sadiq Khan’s Mayoral bid” is irrelevant, unless the money went to fund that bid.
This matters because we have been here before. In October 2008, the Daily Mail ran the front page story “Met Boss in new ‘Cash for friend’ storm”. It accused businessman Andy Miller of winning a lucrative IT contract with the Met unfairly through his friendship with then Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair. But he hadn’t.
Miller wrote to the Mail’s editor, then the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, told him he was wrong, and requested an apology. The Vagina Monologue declined the request and legal battle was then joined, taking up several years before the Guardian reported in November 2014 that the Mail was now facing a potential £3million legal bill.
The report adds “Miller’s lawyers, Simons Muirhead and Burton, agreed a conditional fee agreement to act on his behalf. Miller had to take out insurance to cover his legal fees in case he lost”. Moreover, Miller was firmly of the opinion that, had he still been in control of the company at the centre of the Mail’s accusations, it would have been driven out of business as a result. Dale Vince may want to familiarise himself with the case.
Because if Ecotricity were to suffer as a result of the Fawkes nudge-nudgery, that might add a little spice to proceedings. Unless Sadiq Khan intervened personally in the contract award, then there is a logic leap here that the Fawkes rabble are unlikely to make.
Might be best pulling the post and saying sorry - for starters. Another fine mess.
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