Western Morning News editor Barrie Williams has flayed local Labour MP Linda Gilroy in a leader, after she accused the paper of painting too bleak a picture of the West Country’s foot and mouth problems.
In an amendment to a House of Commons early day motion supporting the stance of the WMN and other papers in the Northcliffe Group in pressing the Government for £150m rescue money for the region, Gilroy called on the papers "to highlight the positive news stories, which tourists have to tell".
Welcoming Prime Minister Tony Blair’s response to the crisis, Gilroy’s amendment said: "It is important not to paint too bleak a picture of the region as to convince visitors they should then avoid the area."
A riled Williams wrote last Saturday: "What pompous, toadying, politically self-serving claptrap that is.
"Ms Gilroy will have to forgive us if we cannot share her enthusiastic
welcome for her boss’s so-called response because in real terms it has not so far amounted to a can of beans.
"It is with barefaced cheek that Ms Gilroy implies that by running the SOS campaign the newspapers are sending out a negative message. That damage has already been done by her own Government’s incompetence and inept handling of the foot and mouth crisis."
On Monday, the paper reported Gilroy’s response denying she was not supporting the SOS campaign.
But Williams said her amendment effectively watered down the motion, losing a lot of essential figures from it.
The WMN’s Green Wellie Fund for farmers and small businesses in need had reached more than £900,000 last Saturday (including Government-matched donations) and WMN is optimistic of hitting £1m in another week.
By Jean Morgan