Support Labour bloggers Alex Hilton and John Gray in their libel trial

Labour Party

Tomorrow two leading London Labour activists face a court action.

Alex Hilton (right) was Labour’s candidate in Kensington and Chelsea at the General election and brought many a smile to my face with his legendary Recess Monkey blog, now sadly defunct.

The other defendant is John Gray.  I am a big fan of John Gray, and was delighted to see him elected in May as a Newham councillor.  I’ve posted previously on John here. He’s an activist in my union UNISON and I had dinner with him at Annual Conference last year, so I don’t pretend that I’m not biased – I heartily recommend John’s blog.

They have both been accused of libel by a Conservative woman in Tower Hamlets, Joanna Kaschke.

 Alex writes…

“This Friday 9th July, my three year litigation comes to a head with a pre-trial review at which John Gray and I are seeking the case to be struck out as an abuse of process. If you can get to the Court your moral support will be deeply welcome. The whole thing’s a pretty traumatic experience for us. Just get into the High Court and ask for the Kaschke vs Gray and Hilton case and they’ll direct you. If not, please join us afterwards – from 5pm – for freedom of speech drinks at The George Pub on the Strand, just opposite the High Court.

“Oh, and why am I in court? I run a website called Labourhome.org which, just like facebook, lets anyone write anything without editorial interference. Somebody wrote something that I never even saw at the time, which upset the subject of the piece, Ms Johanna Kaschke. My defence is
1. It’s either true or so near the truth that there’s no reputational damage
2. she consented to public discussion by putting similar material on her own website first.
3. What she has said about herself is so similar to what was written on Labourhome that there’s no reputational damage.
4. I deleted the piece as soon as I knew about it and offered her a prominent space on the site for a retraction.
5. Under the e-commerce directive I was operating an automated service and I am therefore protected against liability.

“Libel and defamation need reform. They are occupational hazards for bloggers. I have received several letters from solicitors and had to stand up to them. Some I publicise on this blog. Others I deal with privately. For some reason I seem to attract attention from self important men who don’t like it when I stand up for women, can’t think why? I have seen women with excellent cases destroyed by expensive lawyers who use technicalities and the sheer weight of procedures to win. I think it is beholden to elected representatives to take a stand. Alex and John are taking a stand for free speech. Ms. Kaschke also sued Labour blogger Dave Osler and lost.”

EAST HAM IN THE SUN AND FREE SCHOOL MEALS IN NEWHAM

Labour Party

Contrary to expectations Bank Holiday Monday was hot with bright sunshine all day.  Where better to go than East Ham High Street for a Labour Party street stall and canvass  True red Labour Newham did not disappoint.  About 50 members of the local Labour Party turned out to help us distribute leaflets, including Newham’s Executive Mayor, Sir Robin Wales.  Also present were Councillor Unmesh Desai who organised the campaign day, Deputy Mayor Cllr Christine Bowden and other Council Members.

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It was good to see so many councillors present as, in addition to Euro leaflets, we were handing out information on free school meals.  Newham Council has just introduced free school meals in all primary schools in the borough, one of only two Councils in England to do this,

We were all pleased to see the Labour Party General Secretary Ray Collins, and the Director of the London Labour Party, Ken Clark.  Euro MPs and candidates Claude Moraes and Anne Fairweather were also in East Ham enjoying the weather as was my old friend, ex-MEP and Newham resident Anita Pollack.

Very many thanks to everyone who worked so hard on Bank Holiday Monday.  I know we can always rely on Newham.