When we started this site we said we wanted to report the stories that the local press was either not willing, or able to run. One such story is something that happened during the local election campaign in Blackheath and Westcombe.
In the campaign for the ward the local Labour councillor and candidate Alex Grant put out a leaflet which alleged one of the candidates for the Conservatives had expressed "extremist" and "poisonous" views. The leaflet referred to an article written by the Tory candidate, Peter Whittle, in the Sunday Times
, and attributed a sub-editor's comment to Mr. Whittle. The false allegation was then repeated at a hustings.
From what we've been able to find out
, letters were exchanged between the libel lawyers Carter-Ruck and the local Labour Party. The result of this correspondance was an agreement that no more of the libelous leaflets would be delivered and a retraction leaflet would be delivered to all the properties that had received the original.
On election day, Mr Whittle missed out on becoming a new councillor by just under 100 votes. It's impossible to know for sure whether the false allegations in the leaflet, and its repetition at a hustings were responsible. What does worry us significantly though is the apparent news blackout on the story in the local press.
We assumed that it would have been mentioned by the press recently as the issue was raised in the last Council meeting. As we understand it, an obscure procedural motion was called which allowed the leader of the Tory Group, Cllr Spencer Drury to make a speech which called on Cllr Alex Grant to resign. The procedure meant that only the Council leader Chris Roberts had a right to reply. Sadly there is no transcript of the proceedings but we're told that Cllr Roberts strongly defended Cllr Grant.
To be perfectly frank we're not sure what's worse. The use of a libelous smears, the lack of press reports, or the Council's leader support for the offending councillor.