Tuesday, 19 July 2011

H&F Councillor accused of "dishonesty"

Harry Phibbs, a local Conservative Councillor who is also a journalist has been accused by ex No 10 Communications Chief Alastair Campbell of dishonesty. It seems Mr Phibbs was in the audience of a local government awards ceremony to which Mr Campbell had been invited to speak, and by the accounts of the editor of the Municipal Journal (who organised the awards) as well as Mr Campbell himself, Mr Phibbs decided to do rather a lot of loud heckling.

"Politician shouts from seated position" is hardly front page news but hours later Cllr Phibbs started to produce a stream of invective on Twitter labelling Mr Campbell a liar for what he allegedly said about Free Schools and the plans of Education Secretary Michael Gove. See pic above.

And after that, a diary column appeared in the Evening Standard, which Cllr Phibbs apparently helps to write, criticising Mr Campbells speech for failing to address the issues facing local government and for comments made about Mr Goves.

The only problem with all that, was that it wasn't true. As far as the organiser of the awards was concerned, Mike Burton, the editor of the Municipal Journal, Mr Campbells' speech had been fine and had not included the things that Cllr Phibbs said it did. So he wrote to the Evening Standard's diary column to correct it. But the letter was never published.

Shortly afterwards Alastair Campbell himself was asked to pen a column for the Standard so he included a reference to the criticism from our own Cllr Phibbs. Here's what he had to say:
‘The Standard’s Londoner’s Diary recently reported that I was heckled during a speech I made to the Municipal Journal’s Local Government Awards. The MJ editor has written to the paper explaining that the sole heckle came from Tory frother Harry Phibbs who writes for the, er, Londoner’s Diary. Journalist makes his own news shock. The letter hasn’t been published so thanks for the opportunity to point this out.’
But guess what?! Just like the Fulham Chronicle's recent censorship of Andy Slaughter, Mr Campbell's column was published but with the above paragraph removed by the censor's pen.  Could that pen have been wielded by a certain H&F Councillor?!

I have asked Cllr Phibbs for his version but at the time of writing have received no response, if I get one I'll publish it. To do anything else would be to censor - and that, of course, is dishonest.

FRIDAY UPDATE - Harry has been in touch and heere's his response. Fairly categoric, I'd say:
"The Londoner's Diary item was quite accurate - there were several others at the event who thought Campbell's speech was partisan and inaccurate. Londoner's Diary didn't name me as the heckler but I would have been perfectly happy if they had - my heckle was no secret as I had tweeted about it.

It is ludicrously precious for anybody whose copy gets cut to complain of "censorship." Of course I wasn't consulted about it. But I notice that a word count of what was published by Campbell by the Standard comes to 816 words. According to his blog he was asked to write 800.

If he hadn't wanted the subs to cut an item he shouldn't have rambled on so much".

So there!


  1. This pretty much says what Alistair says in his blog!

  2. agreed - but I wasn't sure how many W12 people were avid readers of that, unlike you! I did ask Harry for comment before publishing but rec'd no response

  3. Phibbs' declaration of interests on the LBHF website says (or did last time I looked) that he's also a director of Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Mail and formerly the Standard. So 'journalist and media executive makes his own news' is about right.

    Nasty little man (see his student politics 80s background), proof positive that over-close connections between right wing politicians and the right wing press isn't solely confined to the late Murdoch empire. And it takes a lot to make me sympathise with the odious Campbell.

  4. Pretty disingenuous to suggest Phibbs censored Campbell's article. Obviously a contributor to a diary section would have no say over that - a sub will have removed it because newspapers don't tend to carry criticism of themselves outside the letters page. Same story with the Chronicle. Big conspiracy it is not, just good old-fashioned self-preservation.