Following Boris Johnson’s victory in the libel courts this week in successfully striking out the complaint brought by RMT leader Bob Crow, his Mayoral adversary Ken Livingstone has also found himself the subject of a libel complaint.
And in an echo of the results in May’s elections, Livingstone did not fare so well as his Conservative counterpart in relation to the complaint which he (or in fact, the publishers of his biography) found himself having to defend.
Andrew Gilligan, former Evening Standard reporter and now the London editor of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, had been accused by Ken Livingstone of making false statements in the Evening Standard about Livingstone’s time at City Hall. Livingstone had claimed in his autobiography – entitled (rather ironically in retrospect) “You Can’t Say That” that Gilligan was “shown the door” by the Evening Standard, after publishing “lies” about the allocation of grants by Mr Livingstone’s former administration and his former race adviser Lee Jasper. Livingstone also stated in his book that the Evening Standard itself had published editorials which repudiated Gilligan’s stories by confirming “there had been no corruption or cronyism at City Hall.”
Livingstone’s publishers, Faber & Faber, formally apologised to Mr Gilligan in a Statement in Open Court read on 18 July 2012.
Mr Gilligan’s Advocate told Tugendhat J was that in fact, no such editorials had been published by the Evening Standard, while it was Gilligan who chose to leave the newspaper in order to take up a post with the Telegraph. In addition to apologising, Faber & Faber agreed to pay an undisclosed amount of damages to Mr Gilligan, and to amend the paperback editions of Livingstone’s book.
At a time when the laws of libel are under almost constant attack from the media, it is interesting to note that here a prominent journalist apparently did not hesitate to pray in aid those very same laws to bring a complaint himself. Gilligan recognised that a libel complaint provided a means to vindicate his reputation by ensuring that the true position was made clear, stating “I hope this makes it clear to Mr Livingstone and to anyone tempted to follow his example that I will always defend my journalism.”
The case is a timely reminder that our defamation laws provide an important check and balance on a powerful media and an important means of redress to individuals who have been traduced by it.
Isabel Hudson is a partner at Carter-Ruck