MP wins damages over blog 'junket' slur

A Labour MP won £1,000 in damages and his costs after suing the prospective Tory candidate in his constituency for defamation over a claim that he was planning to take part in a cricket “junket” to Australia and New Zealand.

Wirral West MP Stephen Hesford launched the action about a year ago after the allegation appeared on December 10, 2006, in an online blog run by the constituency’s Tory prospective Parliamentary candidate, Esther McVey.

The case was settled just before the case was due to be heard in the High Court, sitting at Chester, on January 21.

In the settlement, McVey agreed to pay Mr Hesford £1,000 in damages – which he is donating to a local hospice – and £5,500 in legal costs.

She also agreed to display an apology on her blog for seven days, and not to repeat the allegations.

In the apology, McVey said she accepted Mr Hesford was “never intending to participate in the entirety of the tour” and that he had decided to withdraw from it before she wrote her blog entry.

It went on: “My reference to him attending the full tour was therefore inaccurate. I therefore regret any distress caused to Mr Hesford and his family by the article.”

Hesford said: “The last year has been a real strain on myself and my family because of this case.

“I think that people will start to wonder about my Tory opponent. Not only was she willing to publish false material, she was unwilling to make proper amends until forced to do so. I am very relieved that it is over.”

McVey told the Liverpool Post newspaper: “There was no court hearing and there was no court victory, instead a settlement was reached last Friday afternoon by way of a consent order. I decided to settle this case in the most practical and pragmatic way I could.”

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