Julian Lewis MP threatens libel suit
Padraig Reidy: Julian Lewis MP threatens libel suit
27 Nov 10

Conservative Julian Lewis, MP for New Forest East, is not an MP who got in hot water over his expenses.

We need to get that out of the way, because any suggestion that Julian Lewis, MP, was not, er, wearing an entirely straight crease when he claimed £119 for a wall-mounted trouser press on expenses would be incorrect.

So incorrect that were you to suggest, say on the letters page of your local newspaper that what MPs including Lewis claimed on expenses was “unacceptable”, you would very quickly receive a solicitors letter, ordering you that should you ever repeat the suggestion, you would more than likely end up facing a lengthy, expensive defamation suit.

This is exactly what happened to Mr Richard Grant of Burley in the New Forest.

Mr Grant wrote a letter to his local paper, the New Milton Advertiser and Lymington Times, expressing exasperation at his local MP, Sir Christopher Chope.

Grant was exasperated at what he saw as Sir Christopher’s unwillingness to get on with the job of working with the Lib Dems in the coalition government.

As an aside, he added that neighbouring MP Lewis seemed, in his view, to be behaving in the same way.

Lewis responded in the paper’s letters page, which one would imagine would be the end of the story.

Unfortunately not so.

Mr Grant soon received a letter from Lewis’s solicitors, warning him that any suggestion that the MP’s expense claims were “unacceptable” would be considered defamatory.

Grant has not taken this lying down, and has written to David Cameron asking for an apology.

Read a little more over at the Sunday Telegraph (including comment from Index and the Libel Reform Campaign)

By Padraig Reidy

Padraig Reidy is the editor of Little Atoms and a columnist for Index on Censorship. He has also written for The Observer, The Guardian, and The Irish Times.