The editor of the Hereford Times has hit back at an MP who went on a “rant” about him and the paper in a parliamentary hearing about the Data Protection Bill.
Bill Wiggin MP made the comments after losing a complaint against the newspaper with the Independent Press Standards Organisation, whom he also attacked in his address to Parliament.
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The Tory MP for North Herefordshire was the subject of a story in the Times in November last year about his role as managing director of an offshore financial company, which quoted a Labour source as saying: “This may not be illegal but it is questionable morally.”
Wiggin had complained that the paper had breached Clause 1 (accuracy) in its reporting of his outside financial interests, but IPSO did not uphold the complaint as the information was already publicly available.
Addressing the House of Commons at a hearing in March, Wiggin quoted a National Union of Journalists’ pay survey, that said Times-owner Newsquest was “one of the stingiest employers” despite US parent company Gannett “paying its top five executives over £15m between them”.
He said: “I am pleased to say that I do not believe that John Wilson, the rather hopeless editor of the Hereford Times, was one of them.”
In an editorial last week, Wilson responded: “For the editor’s part, he is happy to admit that he is paid considerably less than a handful of talented executives successfully steering a large media organisation through challenging times.
“He wishes to add that his salary does not even come close to Mr Wiggin’s taxpayer-funded £76,000 a year.”
The North Herefordshire MP also called out IPSO during the same debate, labelling it a “press protector, not a press regulator”.
In comments to Press Gazette, Wilson said he “was disappointed by how Wiggin chose to express his frustration that the IPSO ruling had gone against him.
“Wiggin used the protection of parliamentary privilege to publicly disparage me,” he said.
“He [Wiggin] also, incongruously for a Conservative MP, quoted the NUJ as part of an irrelevant rant about pay at Newsquest Media, the newspaper’s publisher, and its US parent company, Gannett.
“I felt obliged to respond both personally and as a representative of my employer to such an unfair and petulant attack.”
Wilson claims the paper would have abided by IPSO’s ruling had it gone against him and believes that Wiggin should accept their decision.
“Mr Wiggin should be applauding the Hereford Times for the valuable role it plays in his constituency, not running it down in the country’s greatest institution because it dared to report on his financial interests.”
IPSO declined to comment.