Keep libel law out of politics

Busy times for Carter-Ruck of late. While the thoughts of the nation turn wearily to the general election campaign, the UK’s two top political magazines have been crossing swords with the UK’s top libel lawyers.
In today’s Spectator, editor Fraser Nelson reveals his ongoing battles with Charlie Whelan, former spin doctor for Gordon Brown and current political director of the powerful Unite union. Whelan, through Carter-Ruck, threatened legal action against the right-leaning magazine after it, er, claimed he had acted like a bully.

Nelson writes on the Spectator’s Coffee House blog

Last summer, The Spectator received a letter from Charlie Whelan’s solicitors complaining about this post – where we mention their client’s spot of bother with his colleagues at Unite. Carter-Ruck were instructed on one of the no-win-no-fee deals: it cost Whelan nothing to sue, but could cost us thousands to defend. So the lawyer’s letter is, by itself, an effective form of intimidation.

Meanwhile, over at Carter-Ruck’s own website, we have this little snippet about the Spectator’s left-wing rival, the New Statesman:

Daniel Hannan MEP – An Apology
The New Statesman has apologised to Daniel Hannan, the Conservative MEP for Southeast England, in respect of defamatory allegations published on its website on 18 September 2009. The New Statesman has also paid Mr Hannan damages together with his legal costs.

The payout comes after a suggestion in a web article by James MacIntyre, suggesting the maverick Tory MEP may have made a racist comment about President Obama.

As mentioned yesterday, Traditional Ulster Voice’s Jim Allister, a QC, is threatening defamation action against North Antrim rival Ian Paisley Jr over information on an election leaflet.

Suggestion: shouldn’t our politicos stick to battling at the ballot box rather than the high court?