We have received and now publish a response from Henry Jones-Davies (of Cambria magazine) on the ongoing saga of Mr.Lewis versus Cambria Politico.We feel that this is an important issue of freedom of the Press/ blogosphere and are publishing the correspondence in the expectation that, on this basis, people will make their own minds up about the politician and party in question.
Annwyl Mr. Lewis
Re: Your complaint to the Press Complaints Commission
A complaint from you regarding an item published on the Cambriapolitico blog, which you chose to make in the style ‘Matt Greenough’, has been passed to me. Your complaint referred to a post on the Cambria Politico blog, yet it was directed to Cambria Magazine, which did not publish the post.
I will make a defence of the post that must be made in the interests of free speech. I will deal with your points in turn:
• Allegation of intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit:
You have provided no particulars of this, which would seem to require acts which are repeated or intrusive.
• Pejorative reference to mental illness:
You have alleged that “there is a clear implication running through the piece that (you) suffer from a mental health problem”.
The “implication running through the piece”: the theme of the article is that the Labour Party in Wales has in it a body of opinion which is “devo-sceptic”, or “terrified of being labelled a closet nationalist”, or “rabidly unionist or loony-left”, or who “loath Wales, its people, language and culture and history”. Those who hold such views end in positions which, in the opinion of the writer, ought to expose them to ridicule. That is what runs through the article.
You “suffer from a mental health problem”: you appear to base this on the use of the description of you as “Screwloose”. This description appears as follows:
1. Paragraph 1 – where it is linked to political views which the writer perceives you as holding,
2. Paragraph 2 – where it is linked to you allegedly having ‘chips on your shoulder’,
3. Paragraph 4 – where it is linked to you being a contender in the Wales Labour leadership contest.
In the premises, I cannot see that “Screwloose” refers to the state of your mental health. I think a reader would link the description to your political views, with which the writer of the piece clearly disagrees.
References to your mental health: in Paragraph 4 you are referred to as in many ways “reasonable”. There is no other reference to the state of your mental health anywhere in the piece.
On this point, I therefore reject your suggestion that any allegation has been made against you as to your mental health. The suggestion made in the piece is that you, an otherwise reasonable man, hold puzzingly extravagant, inconsistent and unattractive views on the subject of Wales.
I would invite you to consider the use of the epithet “Screwloose” as being analogous to the following. On Saturday 21 November 2009, the normally reliable Andrew Grice, Political Editor of The Independent, wrote an article published in that paper. In the article he reported:
“Mr.Brown (Prime Minister) and others had to swallow their doubts about the centre-right nominee for President (of the EU), the non-descript Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy. Mr. Brown didn’t mind that, even though for weeks his allies have been referring to the Belgian premier as “Rumpy Pumpy” and “Rumpelstiltskin”.
I suggest that the use of these epithets by – apparently – your colleagues in the Labour Party, carry no implication of unchastity in M. van Rompuy, or prejudice against ugly persons of restricted growth. I hope it does not tax the imagination too greatly to realise that the epithet “Screwloose” – which has, for some considerable time, been applied to you by way of conversational currency amongst the political classes in Cardiff and elsewhere in Wales – is, quite obviously, a play on your name, rather than a comment on any aspect of your personality or state of mind. As you will know, the use of such epithets has a very long and strong tradition in Wales.
In summary, I feel entitled to point out to you that, as you expose yourself to a level of politics which has more prominence than the level you have occupied to date, you will in future have to accustom yourself to comment couched in tones with which you are apparently unfamiliar and may well find displeasing.
You have chosen to resort to the Press Complaints Commission. As one who loves – and strives for – Wales, I must surely be expected to defend a piece in its comment about a politician – you – who ought, but sadly appears not to, share my feelings for Wales. And I will do so robustly.
As to the remainder of your letter, my replies are as follows:
• Legal Advice: I imagine that you will receive advice which includes the following:
1. Allegation of insanity: defamatory if made, but not in fact made in this case.
2. Cambria Politico: has available the defence of Fair Comment on the views of a person in public life.
• Removal of blog post: As you will know, the relevant blog post was removed while legal advice was taken. You will also know, which will not surprise you on reflection, that it has been re-posted, and that you did – by your (office’s) actions – draw increased, unnecessary and presumably unwelcome attention to the political criticisms made of you in the piece.
Copies of this (edited) reply have been sent to the Press Complaints
Commission and to the Presiding Officer and Chief Executive of the National
Assembly for Wales.
Cambriapolitico finds itself on the front line of the defence of free speech
in Wales, and we will not let the retreating rabble of a rapidly
disintegrating Labour Party attempt to stamp it out.