Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Lambeth South, has threatened to sue this website for libel – for a SECOND TIME.
Over the same story.
A news story which reported an official account from the local authority over which Reed himself used to preside.
The latest challenge from the MP for what was formerly known as Croydon North came a month ago, and was a repeat of the complaint that the Blairite politician first made when we reported an official answer from Lambeth Council.
This showed that officials had been ordered to “audit” the emails of a Labour councillor – and that the instruction had come from the then leader of the council, Reed himself.
When Reed first tried to gag Inside Croydon, the site’s editor, Steven Downes, stood by the story. “It’s based entirely on an official written answer given by Lambeth Council. There was nothing libellous about it,” Downes said.
“It has clearly made Reed uncomfortable for his conduct towards a party colleague to be more widely known.
“We stood by the report, and it remains published to this day.” The report in question is published here.
It was published in December 2013. It related how Kingsley Abrams then, like Reed, a councillor at Brixton Town Hall, was suspended from Lambeth’s Labour group in May 2012 as a result of an investigation which found that he had passed information to a group which was protesting against cuts being made to services at Reed’s “co-operative council”.
Trades unionist Abrams has subsequently quit the Labour Party and Lambeth Council.
At the time of the original publication of Inside Croydon’s Abrams-Reed article, we offered the MP the opportunity of a right of reply. More than once. Reed declined that opportunity.
We offered to publish the email which contained Reed’s complaint. He asked us not to do so, and – ironically given the nature of the news story which prompted his correspondence – we undertook to respect his confidentiality. Nothing further was heard thereafter from Reed or his lawyers.
Until late last month.
Reed’s latest outburst came after Inside Croydon had reported that Gavin Barwell, an MP in the Conservative Government for goodness sake, had offered support to striking journalists at the Croydon Guardian.
The strike began on Thursday, June 18.
As is routine, links to the previous day’s headlines were re-Tweeted the following morning, Saturday, June 20. This drew this somewhat tart response on Twitter from Reed, the Blairite MP: “As so often your ‘news’ is out of date and wrong.”
This is a false and malicious claim which, needless to say, Inside Croydon thoroughly rejects as inaccurate and deliberately designed to undermine this site’s reputation for holding the borough’s high and mighty to account.
Reed attached to his tweet a picture of himself posing with a couple of strikers and an NUJ banner.
He failed to address a question from us asking when the picture had been taken, preferring to indulge himself in spreading further falsehoods designed to damage this site’s reputation:
“Caught you out making up ‘news’ again eh?! I was proud to be NUJ shop steward for three years, doesn’t fit your twisted narrative,” he wrote.
Reed then switched to using Twitter private messages, out of sight of the public.
It might just be that Reed didn’t want his subsequent private messages to Inside Croydon to be seen more widely.
We are afraid he is about to be disappointed.
The former “NUJ shop steward” began by exhibiting his ignorance of basic libel law: all those making a claim of defamation need to do so within 12 months of publication.
Reed wrote: “Story you tweeted re Kingsley’s emails is factually wrong and potentially libellous. My lawyer advises you remove it now or he will be in touch.”
“Potentially libellous”? Seriously.
This was a Saturday morning, so our lawyer was not so readily available. Nonetheless, we replied: “You tried that before. Then tried to deny you’d made the threat. I shall report your threat.”
Reed then responded: “I shall ask my lawyer to contact you in that case. The law of the land applies to you too.”
We couldn’t agree more with the latter point. But Reed and his lawyers failed to lodge their claim within the time limit set by that law. Inside Croydon’s legal advisors believe that the reason they failed to act to be because Reed’s original threat of libel action was, and we quote, “utter bullshit”.
Mindful that Reed was trying it on with us, without grounds nor the backing of the law, our next messages sent to Reed stated: “Interesting that you’re brave enough to make claims in public forum, but choose to make your threats in private. There’s a name for people like that.”
We added: “Reckon that’ll make a great story: ‘Progress MP threatens blogger…’.”
This may have touched a nerve with Reed.
He wrote: “I’m entitled to protect myself from libel. Your further threats here hardly help your case I would suggest.
“I will not communicate with you further about this, the matter is now in the hands of my solicitor.”
Since when, despite Reed’s threats, we have heard nothing. Nada. Niet. From Reed, nor from his solicitor.
It might just be that Reed has been far too busy showing his support in the Labour leadership contest for uber-Blairite Liz Kendall, or his preferred Labour Mayoral candidate, Dame Tessa Jowell, or simply failing to oppose the Tory Government’s proposals on the Welfare Bill. But he did say that his lawyer would be in touch.
We advised Reed, the proud owner of a £900,000-valued house in Shirley Church Road, that Inside Croydon does not indulge in threats. We simply report on the conduct of those in public office or responsible for public money.
And we always try to keep our promises.
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