Mail on Sunday’s smears and innuendo against Miriam and Nick: Lib Dem statement released

Well, there’s a turn-up for the books — the Mail on Sunday in its first post-Leveson front page decides to play the man (and woman) rather than the ball, and splash on a desperately thin story implying some form of scandalous link between Miriam González Durántez’s support for Booktrust and the charity being given a government grant.

The paper’s baseless accusations get short shrift from the Lib Dems in this statement issued by the party tonight:

The decision to continue the funding for Booktrust was made by the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary because it is the only organisation capable of delivering children’s books and literacy support on this scale, on this budget.

Any suggestion that Miriam’s support for the charity influenced that decision is obviously without foundation.

Miriam has no role with the charity, beyond being supportive of its excellent work and having hosted a reception for the organisation. It is a great pity that Miriam is apparently unable to offer her support to a charity without some newspapers resorting to these kind of smears and innuendo.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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25 Comments

  • “The paper’s baseless accusations get short shrift from the Lib Dems …”

    Well, this looks like a very worthwhile charity, and obviously no question of personal gain arises, and in fact the grant that’s just been announced seems to be essentially a continuation of past funding at the same level …

    But – wasn’t it really rather ill advised for Nick Clegg to intervene in this way as Deputy Prime Minister on behalf of a charity of which his wife is such a committed supporter? Wouldn’t it have been better to let things take their proper course, especially if “it is the only organisation capable of delivering children’s books and literacy support on this scale, on this budget”?

  • Oooh, never mind all that. I can’t wait to buy my copy to find out what Pippa advises us all to do to enjoy Christmas. Because clearly, without the advice of a woman who is famous for being someone’s sister (and having a good figure), our Christmases will all be rather rubbish.

  • Nigel Ashton 1st Dec '12 - 11:40pm

    The Mail is obviously against improving literacy.

  • We must be doing something right then!

  • Old Codger Chris 2nd Dec '12 - 12:40am

    Thursday – Clegg backs statutory regulation of the press. Sunday – Tory paper asks why a charity supported by Clegg’s wife, a woman who shamelessly uses her maiden name and admits to being a FOREIGNER, receives a whole £12 million (just about enough to fund two secondary schools for a year) towards its work in improving children’s literacy.

    Next week – Mrs Clegg’s secret emails urging the pope to bless another Armada with the intention of executing Queen Elizabeth and replacing her with a member of the Spanish royal family.

  • peter brogan 2nd Dec '12 - 4:08am

    Most of the Newspapers that are foaming at the mouth about the possible introduction of limited statutory Press regulation are already members of statutory Press Regulation in the Republic of Ireland and never complain – ( The Irish Press Council ). The Irish Press Council is a working model for Britain. The Irish editions of The Sun, The Daily Mirror and The Daily Mail are enthusiastic members of statutory press regulation in the Irish Republic.

    All of the Irish editions of the Murdoch Papers and the Irish Daily Mail are big supporters of the Irish system in Ireland but they hide this from the British public. It works fine and both Press and public are happy with it.
    The main problem here is the virulent tabloid press. The broadsheets from The Guardian to The Telegraph to The Independent haven’t gotten themselves in this mess at all.

    The tabloid Press needs to be cleaned up. The Broadsheets are already ethical.

    No one wants to ” muzzle the press”. People just want the tabloid press to stop breaking the law and targeting innocent people as the News of the World did. If a story is in the public interest, it must be published.

  • I’m no fan of Clegg, but agree with Stephen – this is desperate! John Mann in particular should be ashamed. Sadly you don’t provide a link to this garbage so everyone can see: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2241629/Nick-Clegg-MPs-demand-inquiry-huge-payment-Booktrust.html

  • Grammar Police 2nd Dec '12 - 10:29am

    An independent regulator wouldn’t be able to “ban” anything, it’s about the redress you’d be able to get.

  • “Interesting to know whether people think the new ‘independent’ regulator should be able to ban articles like this ?”

    Certainly not according to Leveson, because the regulator he is proposing wouldn’t have the power to ‘ban’ the publication of anything. It would only act after publication.

  • ..Hosting lavish receptions, I see Mrs Clegg is really suffering from these austerity measures.. yes, we really are in this together arn’t we.

    ..and.. I think you’ll find that the general public take a rather different view of this subject… Once again your agenda is getting in the way of clear thinking..

  • David Evans 2nd Dec '12 - 11:37am

    Interesting that when I tried to post on the Mail online, it told me my password was wrong; and when I tried to change it, it told me I would receive an e-mail. Two hours later no e-mail.

    Timing is everything.

  • “Articles like this are why I’ve always thought that there should be an independent regulator with the power to force newspapers to correct inaccuracies with the same prominence as the original article.”

    As far as I can see, you’re the first person to suggest the article contains an inaccuracy. What is it?

  • Richard Dean 2nd Dec '12 - 12:38pm

    Obviously it would be wrong to restrain polticians’ wives from doing good. But like Chris, I think NC’s intervention may have been unwise, but maybe this sort of thing is done by everyone in politcs, goes on all the time, and is accepted as normal?

    Maybe there are other issues. In what sense is this organization a “charity”? It’s doing everything that a commercial orgnaization would do except that its income doesn’t come from the people it provides products to. As such it may be competing with others, or at least distorting the market in children’s books by preventing newcomers in that market from getting a start.

    Perhaps the owners of the Mail on Sunday have recently purchased a potential competitor. Even if not, it would seem appropriate for this kind of production machinery to submit itself to a normal, transparent competitive bidding process.

  • This is what the reaction to Leveson has really been about, of course: Cameron’s retention of power. You need look no further than today’s Sun on Sunday for the first reward from his masters – a press release designed to soften the blow of more pain for its readers encapsulating an interview with George Osbourne which looks as if it might have been drawn up by Conservative Central Office.
    Meanwhile, Nick Clegg gets a good kicking via his wife in the Mail on Sunday. What’s the betting this non-story would have been nowhere to be seen, let alone command a front page headline, if he had decided to go with Cameron rather than Leveson?
    When a voice from ‘Middle England’ becomes the most highly rated response to another article in today’s Mail on Sunday (written by radical libertarian journalist, Mick Hume) with the comment , “The Leveson Report, a report Kim Jong-un would be proud of” my irony meter finally goes into meltdown. I wish David Evans well but the hatchet job seems to have worked, at least online. For the vast majority who will have registered the Clegg story via the stonking front page headline it may or may not be something to tuck away; however, the denial from the LibDems will never be seen.

  • I don’t see what good exacerbating tensions between Liberal Democrats and Tories does the Tories; it seems far more likely to benefit Labour. Not, of course, that the Tories aren’t quite capable of scoring own goals for the purposes of petty pique.

  • David Allen 2nd Dec '12 - 5:05pm

    As Chris suggests, an independent press regulator would probably do nothing at all about this story, because it does not actually contain any outright lies. It is grossly misleading and unfair, granted, but, to make that statement, I am making a personal value judgement. A regulator cannot do that.

    And that is why opposition to the idea of an independent regulator by the Press is so blatantly unreasonable and self serving!

    Look – If you make widgets, “evil State operatives” can raid your premises at will and impose penalties that might put you out of business. They are called Factory Inspectors and their job is to stop unsafe practices that could harm and kill your workers. They are not allowed to pursue a vendetta against your factory just because of some political agenda. They are not governed by expenses-fiddling MPs, as the Press spokesman on Question Time ludicrously attempted to suggest would be the case with Leveson’s regulator. They are governed by statute and bound to do a professional job. The widget manufacturers do not, these days, try to pretend that their role is not a valid one. Nor should the Press.

  • “It is grossly misleading and unfair …”

    Is it, though? I can’t see any suggestion in the article that there was a question of personal gain involved. But the suggestion is that Nick Clegg personally intervened to influence a funding decision concerning a charity which his wife strongly supports. If he did that _because_ his wife supported the charity (and that is not denied in the party statement), then that’s not right, is it? If the government is making decisions about which charities to fund, then it should be done even-handedly, and personal considerations of that kind shouldn’t play any part.

    I would hope Lib Dems who are involved in local government wouldn’t be influenced by personal considerations in making funding decisions. I suspect if it was done by a member of another party they would protest quite strongly.

  • Dominic Curran 4th Dec '12 - 1:47pm

    Whilst the Daily Mail is little better than trash and I don’t doubt it’s malicious motivation behind the articles, it does seem odd that Booktrust was just given £12m without having to bid for it, at least given the article’s suggestion the money came from a fund that required organisations to bid for it.

    It also seems a little unfair to single out Matt Sanders, ‘Clegg’s aide’, as he was just doing Nick Clegg’s bidding.

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