The untouched Angela Eagle office window
The broken and boarded up communal stairwell window
5th September 2016
To set the scene, when it first occurred to us that 12+ large circulation newspapers had become foreseeably and avoidably laced with inaccuracies – falsehoods that seemed to have taken on a life of their own – which were being repeated and enlarged upon across national TV and radio channels, we felt the situation had got out of control.
If left unchallenged, it had the potential to unfairly influence the September Labour Leadership Ballot – particularly because there seemed to be little or no desire to amend, retract or apologise on the part of the newspapers involved.
On 25th July, after having earlier witnessed our MP Angela Eagle directly linking what most people perceived as a random act of criminal damage to Jeremy Corbyn and to a politically-motivated attack…
“This isn’t the kind of gentler politics that we were promised. I think Jeremy Corbyn needs to condemn these acts and he also needs to ensure that people who are supporting him don’t continue to behave this way in the future…”
…we sent an email to Angela Eagle expressing our concerns…
From: Paul Cardin
Date: Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 12:36 AM
Subject: Sherlock House. Press articles
Dear Angela Eagle,
Please explain what measures you and your team are taking to set the record straight re: numerous false stories relating to ‘Angela Eagle’s Broken Office Window / Attacks On Angela Eagle’s Office’, which have appeared in local and national newspapers and on TV and radio – stories by which your purpose, that of ousting Jeremy Corbyn, may gain traction and may be advanced unfairly through wholesale dishonesty and a persistent failure to retract on the part of numerous news organisations.
I am a constituent of yours and have physically visited the site of the above incident. This email is intended to place you on notice that I will be contacting the press regulator IPSO in order to lodge what I believe is a well-founded complaint.
Please follow these links for further details on the nature of my complaint and for further details on how wholesale dishonesty on the part of the news organisations has manifested itself:
I would greatly appreciate it if you responded with your intentions as soon as possible in order to allow me to proceed with my complaint and to limit the damage that is accumulating to both your reputation and that of the UK’s media and printed press organisations,
There has never been any response to this email
On 26th July 2016 we went ahead and sent the following complaint to IPSO – the Independent Press Standards Organisation:
|Thank you for your complaint
|Your complaint has been received and will now be assessed by IPSO. Your complaint and personal details are below for your information:
|Material published in print and/or online
|Name of publication(s)
The Daily Telegraph
Brick thrown through Angela Eagle’s office window after she announces Labour leadership bid,
Date of article
The headline clearly stated, ‘Brick thrown through Angela Eagle’s office window after she announces Labour leadership bid’. The article immediately linked this incident to a separate issue concerning abusive phone calls, as follows: “Angela Eagle has had a brick thrown through the window of her constituency office and been inundated with abusive phone calls after announcing her bid to become Labour leader” A photograph was reproduced to support the subject matter of the article but it was incorrectly captioned as follows: “Angela Eagle MP’s constituency office in Manor Road, Liscard, where a brick was thrown at the windows this morning”. This photograph was a picture of the windows to a communal stairwell and was NOT Angela Eagle’s constituency office as stated. The photograph had been supplied by a Trinity Mirror employee, Lorna Hughes, who works locally for the Liverpool Echo. I am a constituent of Angela Eagle MP and I live in Wallasey, close to the location where the incident occurred. On 16th July 2016, I visited ‘Sherlock House’, Manor Road, the building and street where Angela Eagle’s constituency office is located. The building itself does not belong in its entirety to Angela Eagle or to the Labour Party. The building is a shared building with separate, rented offices and adjoining communal areas. At the time of the incident, the building was occupied by 7 different businesses according to a search carried out on the Companies House website. One of these businesses is dedicated to administration matters concerning Angela Eagle’s ongoing party political function. Physically, Angela Eagle’s office is located in one small room on the ground floor of this building, and at the south eastern elevation of the building, which is to the rear of Sherlock House, the furthest distance from Manor Road. The building entrance is located on the north western elevation on Manor Road. The window which was broken was not Angela Eagle’s office window. This factual information has been provided by Merseyside Police to the journalist Peter Hitchens, who repeated it in his Mail on Sunday Blog both in print and online on Sunday 24th July 2016, advising readers to bear this in mind when watching coverage of the leadership contest. The window pane which was broken was situated on a different elevation of the building to that of Angela Eagle’s office. The window pane itself was the bottom left pane of a series of 12 separate windows positioned at the centre of the north eastern elevation of the building. These windows are positioned to allow light to fall upon Sherlock House’s central communal stairwell linking the ground and first floors. There are only two floors to the building to my knowledge, visible from the outside. After reading several newspaper headlines and reports, it therefore became clear to me upon inspecting the building that the information carried on The Daily Telegraph’s website was inaccurate. The integrity of this story was not helped by the fact that the broken window had been temporarily patched up using a board containing the legend “Remain”. Whether deliberate or not, when reproduced in newspapers, the image of the broken window covered by a “Remain” sign may have attributed a political purpose to the attack on the window.
|Mr Paul Cardin
|We will be in touch with you again once we have had a chance to assess the information that you have submitted. If you do need to send us any further information or attachments please do so by replying to this email. If you have not heard from us in three working days, please call us on 0300 123 22 20 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
|The Independent Press Standards Organisation C.I.C is a Community Interest Company
limited by guarantee and registered in England and Wales with registered number 02538909.
||© Copyright 2016. IPSO. All rights reserved.
Later that evening we also sent some supporting information:
From: Paul Cardin
Date: Wed, Jul 27, 2016 at 12:22 AM
Subject: Re: Web Complaint Received
To: IPSO <email@example.com>
Further to the complaint I lodged this evening regarding the Daily Telegraph [and Independent] article[s] concerning Angela Eagle’s office window, please find some further information attached below.
This is in the form of a link to a blog post that I wrote and published on 16th July 2016. This gives further context to the story and much of it consists of information which does not appear to have been explored or reported upon by Daily Telegraph [and Independent] journalists or their colleagues who may have visited the site.
There is a link to a key YouTube video, followed by details of the nearby street scene, CCTV points, maps, photographs of ‘Sherlock House’, details of local businesses, a link to Merseyside Police crime figures, etc.
As you are probably aware, there were many more newspapers who ran with inaccurate stories regarding this incident, however my online complaint seemed to be limited to TWO separate titles.
With the leadership bid currently in full flow and coming to a head in September, I feel this issue needs to be addressed properly and urgently.
With your agreement, I would like to broaden this complaint to include more newspaper titles in an attempt to reduce the initial impact of the published inaccuracies. These falsehoods are in the hands of professional politicians and are being built upon and magnified and in my opinion used cynically to support / decry the leadership bids on both sides.
The broken window incident has been prominently covered and, if allowed to stand uncorrected, there is a clear and present danger that the inaccurate information will unfairly influence the minds of voters. Some titles e.g. the Guardian are correcting their wording after realising that they got it wrong the first time around. This goes some way towards an admission of culpability, but does not go far enough in my opinion because the initial damage was too great.
In my opinion, a clear retraction and full, prominent apology needs to be made in order that Labour leadership voters can make their own decision, and one that has not been swayed by irresponsible, inaccurate reporting.
Many thanks and I look forward to hearing from you,
After a misunderstanding and some confusion, during which IPSO’s Executive ruled on the wrong story (which turned out to be a refusal anyway) we eventually received a verdict on the correct article which had appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 11th July 2016, as follows:
From: Ciaran Cronin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, Aug 15, 2016 at 11:07 AM
Subject: Independent Press Standards Organisation – Our reference [IPSO: #07320-16#]
To: Paul Cardin
Dear Mr Cardin,
First may I apologise for our error in relation to our previous assessment of your complaint. We have now received your complaint about an article headlined “Brick thrown through Angela Eagle’s office window after she announces Labour leadership bid”, published by The Daily Telegraph on 12 July 2016.
On receipt of a complaint, IPSO’s Executive staff reviews it to ensure that it falls within our remit, and represents a possible breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The Executive has now completed an assessment of your complaint under the terms of the Code. Having considered the points you have raised in full, we have concluded that your complaint does not raise a possible breach of the Code.
You complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) that the article inaccurately conflated the incident of a brick being thrown through Angela Eagle’s office window with the abusive phone calls that Angela Eagle has received following the announcement of her bid to become Labour leader. While the article did link the two incidents in terms of highlighting that they both occurred after she confirmed that she would attempt to become Labour leader, there was no suggestion contained in the article that the abusive phone calls and brick-throwing incident were carried out by the same person, or that anybody worked together to carry out these acts. For these reasons, we did not consider that the article was inaccurate in this way; as such, your complaint did not raise a possible breach of Clause 1.
You also complained under Clause 1 that it was inaccurate for the article to report that a brick was thrown through Angela Eagle’s Liverpool constituency office window as it was thrown through the communal entrance of a shared building. In circumstances where a brick was thrown through the window of her office building, the article was not inaccurate. As such we could not consider this aspect of your complaint as a possible breach of Clause 1.
You are entitled to request that the Executive’s decision to reject your complaint be reviewed by IPSO’s Complaints Committee. To do so you will need to write to us within seven days, setting out the reasons why you believe the decision should be reviewed. Please note that we are unable to accept requests for review made more than seven days following the date of this email.
We would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider the points you have raised, and have shared this correspondence with the newspaper to make it aware of your concerns.
Cc The Daily Telegraph
1 Farringdon Street
|Tel: 0300 123 2220
The falsehoods were still out there, still needed challenging and we responded, asking IPSO’s Complaints Committee to review the Executive’s decision. Although to us it was an ‘open and shut’ case, we went into as much forensic detail as we could:
From: Paul Cardin
Date: Tue, Aug 16, 2016 at 9:53 PM
Subject: Re: Independent Press Standards Organisation – Our reference [IPSO: #07320-16#]
To: Ciaran Cronin <email@example.com>
Dear Mr Cronin,
I am writing to request that the executive reviews my original complaint. Here are the reasons why I believe this decision should be reviewed.
Citing the IPSO Editors Code of Practice (Section 1 Accuracy):
- i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
12th July 2016 Daily Telegraph Headline:
I believe it was careless and inaccurate of The Daily Telegraph to misleadingly state that Angela Eagle’s office window was attacked. Angela Eagle’s office window was not attacked.
I believe it was careless and inaccurate for The Daily Telegraph to misleadingly state that Angela Eagle’s Office window was broken – because in fact it was a shared stairwell window on another side of the building that was broken. The fact that Angela Eagle’s office window was not attacked or broken could have been verified by persons visiting the site to photograph the damage and take interviews. It could have been easily confirmed and verified on 12th July – by press visitors to Sherlock House – that Angela Eagle’s office window had not been attacked or broken.
Angela Eagle’s office itself is on a different side to the building – the rear – furthest from Manor Road. It is on a different side to the shared stairwell window. I believe it is inaccurate to imply that the whole of the building can be regarded as “Angela Eagle’s Office” and to justify the reporting inaccuracies in these terms – because the building is shared by 6 or 7 going concerns and has a shared entrance, reception and stairwell.
I believe it was careless and inflammatory of The Daily Telegraph to compound the inaccuracies by stating more than once that Angela Eagle’s office window had been broken by somebody throwing a brick.
The Daily Telegraph is a large circulation newspaper and to allow an inaccurate headline and the accompanying inaccurate statements within the body of the article to be published was irresponsible and was an unfair misrepresentation of the true situation on the ground at Sherlock House, Manor Road, Wallasey..
I believe it was somewhat irresponsible for The Daily Telegraph to plant falsehoods into the minds of its readers by failing to make adequate surveys when visiting the site and by failing to carry out adequate fact-checking and reasonable investigations upon receiving information from their own reporters, other news sources or social media, and to reproduce photographs with inaccurate captions, thereby failing to ensure that accurate facts and images were conveyed to readers instead of inaccurate, misleading information.
I believe it was deeply irresponsible for The Daily Telegraph to allow easily checkable falsehoods to be published, potentially allowing the outcome of the Labour Leadership ballot in September to be unfairly influenced. Having read the inaccurate information, readers may unwittingly and unfairly apportion a measure of blame for these events to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign. Leadership voters who are Daily Telegraph readers may have been influenced and had their minds swayed towards the other side.
I believe this situation was both foreseeable and avoidable on 12th July, the date of the article, and would not have arisen had the staff of The Daily Telegraph paid heed to good journalistic practice and their responsibilities as professional journalists under both the IPSO code and under their own newspaper’s code of conduct.
Had reporters visiting the site made approaches to businesses in the area e.g. The Royal Oak pub in Liscard village (opposite) and Chutneys Indian Restaurant (next door), they would have been informed that the area is a known trouble spot in the evenings. The Royal Oak has had its licence up for review more than once in the past due to rowdy and violent behaviour by customers. Chutneys Indian Restaurant have had their shop windows smashed on more than one occasion. Had The Daily Telegraph’s reporters made full enquiries, doubts may have been placed in their minds with regard to the attack being politically motivated, and readers may have been spared the inaccurate reporting.
The Daily Telegraph does not appear to have reported any wider context in respect of crime figures for the Wallasey area. Here is a link to the Merseyside Police figures for criminal damage and arson: a total of 230 incidents in April, May and June this year:
Again, if this wider context on locally occurring crime had been followed up and included for balance, readers’ minds may not have been prone to jump to potentially inaccurate conclusions.
I believe it was careless and irresponsible and a breach of the IPSO code on accuracy to link the breaking of the stairwell window (the Angela Eagle office window according to the article) to the phone calls received by Angela Eagle’s staff for all the reasons described above, but particularly because doing so will have ‘cross-pollinated’ a similar degree of importance from the factually based threatening phone calls issue to the non-factually based ‘broken window’ issue.
I have reproduced The Daily Telegraph code of conduct below and have appended a red asterisk* alongside the standards I believe were breached:
1.1 Facts must be reported impartially, accurately and with integrity.*
1.2 Publications should take reasonable steps to ensure reports are accurate, fair and balanced.*
1.3 Clear distinction must be made between fact, conjecture, comment and opinion.
1.4 Try always to tell all sides of the story in any kind of dispute. Every effort must be made to contact all relevant parties.*
1.5 Do not knowingly withhold or suppress essential facts.
1.6 Journalists should not rely on only one source. Be careful not to recycle an error from one reference source to another.
1.7 Direct quotations should not be altered except to delete offensive language, protect against defamation, or to make minor changes for clarity.
1.8 Headlines and captions must reflect the tone and content of the article
1.9 Reports of new drugs or medical treatments must be considered with great caution. It is easy to raise false hopes or alarm among readers.
1.10 Information sourced from social media must be verified and checked for accuracy before publication on any platform.*
1.11 Editors must be informed of photographs sourced from social media sites.
1.12 Images prepared for publication must meet the guidelines of the Photographic Enhancement and Manipulation policy, outlined below in Section 18.
Quoting again from the IPSO Code of Conduct:
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
Due to the potential for the Labour Party Leadership ballot to be unfairly influenced, I believe the inaccuracies are of a significant and misleading nature.
The Guardian newspaper to its credit has recognised previous inaccuracies and changed some of its subsequent reporting to reflect the fact that the broken window was in a shared area of the building and was not ‘Angela Eagle’s constituency office window’ i.e. the inaccurate, untruthful interpretation.
As The Daily Telegraph’s (and others’) significant inaccuracies remain unchanged and unacknowledged, I believe it incumbent upon IPSO as the regulatory body to call for The Daily Telegraph to correct the inaccurate, misleading article of 12th July 2016 and any subsequent articles that carry and convey the same inaccurate information. This should be done promptly, with due prominence and be accompanied by an apology to ensure that readers are made aware of the facts and to allow the Labour Leadership contest to proceed unaffected and unhindered.
This is an opportunity for IPSO to act. Failure to do so will potentially result in the ballot being foreseeably, avoidably and unfairly skewed due to all the reasons described in detail above,
Today, 5th September 2016, the second response came back from IPSO:
From: Isabel Gillen-Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, Sep 5, 2016 at 3:43 PM
Subject: Independent Press Standards Organisation – Our reference [IPSO: #07320-16#]
To: Paul Cardin
Dear Mr Cardin,
The Complaints Committee considered your complaint, the email of 15 August from IPSO’s Executive notifying you of its view that your complaint did not raise a possible breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice, and your email of 16 August requesting a review of the Executive’s decision.
The Committee decided that your complaint did not raise a potential breach of the Code, for the reasons already provided by IPSO’s Executive. As such, it declined to re-open your complaint.
The Committee would like to thank you for giving it the opportunity to consider your concerns.
1 Farringdon Street
|Tel: 0300 123 2220
This took nearly 3 weeks to arrive, and was very disappointing in that the IPSO Complaints Committee failed to individually recognise and address the points I’d raised, opting instead to trot out a very short, blunt refusal, one which simply endorsed the previous decision by the IPSO Executive – who also hadn’t bothered to address the complaint comprehensively.
So that was basically that. There is no further appeal.
The Labour Leadership Ballot will go ahead, as it must, but by the time the last opportunity to vote passes on 21st September 2016, and given that 6.89 million newspaper readers per day, and countless TV viewers and radio listeners will have spent the last 52 days being swamped with inaccurate information, there’s a very good chance the result of the ballot will have been unfairly prejudiced.
647,000 people are eligible to vote and due to the reckless, unprofessional, out of control behaviour of politicians and the press, a large proportion of these voters may have been swayed towards backing the Smith camp.
If Owen Smith triumphs in this leadership election, somebody called Paul Dacre* will be a very happy man.
He is the editor-in-chief of DMG Media, publishers of The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday and Metro, all of which have been stuffed with #Brickgate related inaccuracies, amongst several others.
That said, one simply wonderful example of old-style, dogged, thoroughly impartial reporting appeared in the Mail on Sunday on 24th July 2016 in Peter Hitchens’ weekly blog. This has been the only chink of light to glisten through the murk (scroll down to the end).
What have we become? Will we soon find ourselves hankering after the ‘halcyon days’ of the much-derided Press Complaints Commission?
We also wonder precisely what the Leveson Inquiry – directly costing taxpayers at least £5,442,400 – actually achieved as regards addressing the culture, practices and ethics of the British press.
*Paul Dacre also does a spot of honest toil as the Chairman of the Editors’ Code Committee at IPSO, and for all we know may even have been instrumental in turning down this complaint.
Unaddressed conflict of interest anybody…?
IPSO Chair, Sir Alan Moses: “We’re much better than nothing”
Previous #Brickgate blogs:
#Brickgate FOI request – A response is in from Merseyside Police
#Brickgate – Reports of ‘attempted break-in’ at Polish off licence, opposite Angela Eagle’s Office
#Brickgate – Angela Eagle MP – Freedom of Information Request to Merseyside Police
#Brickgate – Angela Eagle and The Guardian – a further update, and probably not the last
Writer of gushing Guardian eulogy of Angela Eagle fights facts with innuendo
#Brickgate – A Story That Won’t Go Away
#Brickgate – Angela Eagle’s Office Window was NOT broken…