IPSO rules that it was OK for Yorkshire Post to call English Democrats a far-right party

The Yorkshire Post gave “sufficient examples” of how the English Democrats had acted or used speech associated with the far-right to defend classifying the political party as such in a by-election report.

The daily paper’s story appeared online on 18 October, 2016, under the headline: “Batley and Spen candidate Tracy Brabin vows to put constituents before party politics amid ‘bittersweet’ campaign”.

A similar article appeared in print the next day.

The article reported that the by-election (for the seat formerly held by murdered Labour MP Jo Cox) was “made all the more fraught by the involvement of far-right groups”, adding that “the English Democrats and the National Front are both fielding candidates”.

Party chairman Robin Tilbrook complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the article “created the inaccurate impression that the English Democrats were a far-right political party” and as such breached Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editor’s Code of Practice.

The Post argued it had not “directly labelled” the English Democrats as a far-right organisation and that references to them had been separated by a line break in the print article.

The paper also provided examples of the activities of the English Democrats and individuals closely associated with the party, which it said showed it could reasonable be defined as far-right.

These included:

  • The resignation of a high profile figure in the party due to his concern at the influx of new members joining from the British National Party
  • The references to the English Democrats in the “Hope Not Hate” report which analysed the support for far-right groups in the UK
  • The complainant’s own assertion that the recruitment of former BNP party members would make the English Democrats more “electorally credible”
  • Third party submissions published on the complainant’s blog, which expressed extreme nationalist sentiments.

It said this information would “lead a reasonable person to assess the English Democrats as an organisation which appeals to, and represents, the far-right wing of politics”. It also said the English Democrats had been described as far-right by other media outlets.

IPSO’s complaints committee said it did not accept the use of a line break in print prevented the article’s suggestion that the English Democrats were a far-right political party.

But, the committee said the newspaper had provided “sufficient examples, of activities and speech associated with the English Democrats in support of its characterisation of the party as ‘far-right’.”

“Given this, and in light of the context in which the reference to the English Democrats was made, the committee did not consider that the reference to the party was significantly misleading,” it said.

The committee ruled that there had been no breach of the code.

The Yorkshire Post, owned by Johnston Press, has a total daily circulation of 25,178 copies on average, according to ABC figures to December.

Picture: Reuters/Craig Brough

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