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Ealing envirocrime

They don’t like it up ’em!

You may remember that Evening Standard journalist Ellen Widdup is the one that managed to get a front page byline with her “Spy cameras in tins of beans” story last Tuesday (see previous posting). Now she has written to me asking me to delete that posting.

Fat chance.

When I got her e-mail yesterday the immortal words of Dad’s Army’s Corporal Jones sprang to mind. The second and penultimate paragraphs are very funny. The middle three are the rambling self-justification. Here is what she said:

I am writing to you regarding to your blog entry (posted below):

The reason for my correspondance (sic) is that I resent your implication that I cannot do my job and the slur on my professionalism. Clearly you are entitled to voice your opionion (sic) on the content of the Evening Standard article but I do not believe this should extend to slating my abilities as a reporter.

You do not know the background to how I came across this story so perhaps it would be an idea to fill you in so you can make a more educated comment on the content of the piece. The story was originally in the Mail on Sunday (prior to its appearance in the Standard) and the paper quoted directly from your own council magazine which read “To catch vandals and envirocriminals, cameras disguised as anything from tin cans to house bricks will instantly email images to the council’s CCTV control centre.” It also said that a council spokeswoman (from your press office at Ealing) had confirmed that “envirocriminal” extended to people who fail to put their bin out on the right day.

I needed to confirm the facts of this story before we ran anything so I telephoned your press office and spoke to an officer* about the content of the Mail on Sunday piece and asked for clarification on the word “envirocriminal” and for more information on what the council had proposed. She said she would get back to me. I then called her on another two ocassions (sic) and each time she failed to respond to my questions or meet my deadlines.

I was therefore forced to find an alternative method of confirming or denying the substance of the Mail on Sunday article. I tried to call Will Brooks but there was no response so I went through the list of councillors sitting on the Transport and Environment Committee until one of them answered my phone calls. That happened to be Virenda (sic) Sharma. Mr Sharma confirmed the story was true and gave me all the background information I needed to write the story. I had no reason to doubt that what he was telling me was true. I may also point out at this point that, at no stage, has Mr Sharma, complained that he has been misquoted or denied what he told me on that day. With this knowledge, I hope you can no[w] (sic) vent your anger elsewhere. Perhaps you would like to criticise your own incompetant (sic) press office who fail to respond to press queries of an urgent nature? Or perhaps you should speak to Mr Sharma because clearly he has a different understanding of the meeting than you do?

Either way I ask you to remove this entry to your blog immediately. It constitutes a slanderous attack on my abilities as a reporter and if it is not removed, you will be hearing from my lawyers.

Please confirm you have received this email. I look forward to hearing from you.

I will be taking her statements apart later but I thought that some of the people who wasted a lot of time last week trying to damp down her inaccurate and silly story might enjoy her making a fool of herself. More later.

*Note I edited out the name of an officer here as I don’t want to involve one of Ealing’s employees in my spat with a journalist.

5 replies on “They don’t like it up ’em!”

Iain,

Thanks for the comment.

The fighting fund story is accurate. The Mayor is intent on taking the tram to a public enquiry early next year although he knows that if it gets past the public enquiry he is unlikely to get the funding for the tram from central government. That has not stopped him spending £30 million on the tram to-date. Even New Labour think tank IPPR has come out against trams saying: “Drop tram dreams: cities must accept that showpiece transport projects are unlikely to catalyse economic growth and/or regeneration on their own.” The Treasury’s Eddington report also rubbished schemes like the West London Tram.

All three major parties in Ealing are against the tram now. Only the Greens are still using the old leftie argument that even if the tram isn’t really necessary won’t it be great if we spend £648 million in West London. I think that Gordon Brown has proved that squirting vast amounts of taxpayers’ cash around for ten years does not achieve much.

Anyway if the Mayor is to force a public enquiry then a budget of £775,000 to put together a case as lead objector and brief barristers, etc is very modest. We would rather not spend the money but we can’t really let the Mayor use a public enquiry as a platform and not put up the opposing arguments.

One might ask: why has the Mayor timed it like this? Could the Mayor want to use the public enquiry next spring as a platform to blather on about how how public transport friendly and green he is in the run up to the Mayoral elections in May 2008? Could the Mayor be aiming to use public funds to get himself re-elected?

Phil

Thanks Phil.

It seems perverse to spend lots of public money trying to stop others spending public money in your area – especially when it all will go to lawyers. Having said that I think the tram is a great idea. I was car-less and young in London once and schemes like this would have improved my life considerably.

The letter is phrased very interestingly…. who are her lawyers? The last time I looked it cost about 15K pounds to get a libel action up and running (and you cannot get legal aid for libel cases!). Usually the publishers of the publication will DEFEND a libel case against them or their staff (good publishers have “libel insurance”)….I would doubt that the publishers would spend any money on this, let alone the NUJ….Sounds like a lot of hot air to me. Anyway, we have solicitors and barristers in this country, not lawyers; this lady isn’t North American is she, perchance? I would suggest fighting fire with fire (attack being the best form of defence), I would make a direct complaint to her boss (an Assistant Editor probably), the Managing Editor, and the Publisher (the owner that is), I would also complain to the Press Complaints Commission, all about the inaccuracies in her reporting, write to the NUJ about her professional standards, and perhaps have your Solicitors draft her a latter about the implications of a Malicious Prosecution case against her.

I would aim for at least an unconditional apology….
As ever,
Honey.
P.S. If this doesn’t work, got for the jugular, write to the Publishers that Ealing Council will be withholding all further advertising from the publication–hit them where it hurts; the wallet. Publishers are money men and they cannot risk losing income. If this doesn’t work get other Conservative Councils together and collectively blacklist the publication.

PPS. My vote goes on the tram…no local emmissions; future-proof infrastructure. Come on, lets replace ALL the local buses with trams!!!! As for overcrowding on the streets, we could have a tram underpass under a giant pedestrianized central area linking the Arcadia and Ealing Shopping Centres, and Ealing Broadway station (no more buses, no more local pollution, economy of scale)…Boston, in Massachusetts have got this down to a ‘T’. We could even run the trams along the Uxbridge road on an elevated system with the cars running under them.
Just think…Ealing would be ahead of many other boroughs in London!

As ever,
Honey.

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