Our Complaint against the “Evening Standard”

Negative reply from the Press Council

In October last the Evening Standard (12/10/55) published an article by Sir Beverley Baxter, M.P. about the annual conference of the Labour Party, which be described however as the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

We wrote to Sir Beverley Baxter asking “why go out of your way to give to the Labour Party a name that you know is not its own, and why you select for that purpose, also as you know, the name borne by this organization, which incidentally was formed before the Labour Party.”

He replied as follows:—

“I have noted your letter of disapproval and am obliged for the trouble you look in writing to me.”

We then wrote to the Editor of the Evening Standard enclosing a copy of the correspondence with Baxter. From the Editor, Mr. Percy Elland, we received an equally brief reply:—

“Thank you for sending me these letters between yourself and Sir Beverley Baxter. I have nothing to add to this correspondence.”

We then (on 15 November) sent the correspondence to the Press Council with the following letter:—

“Dear Sir,
We wish to bring to your notice an example of deliberate presentation of incorrect information in the Press. As you will see from the enclosed copies of letters written by us to Sir Beverley Baxter and the Editor of the Evening Standard respectively and their replies, a deliberately inaccurate statement was published but the writer of the article and the Editor both declined to treat seriously a reasonable complaint.
It would seem to us that deliberate falsification of this kind is incompatible with a claim to publish accurate reports.
What is the purpose of this particular practice on the part of those concerned we are unable to guess. We would like to have your views on the matter.
Yours truly.”

Later on (4 January, 1956) we supplied the Council with a copy of an article in the SOCIALIST STANDARD of June, 1939, showing that at that time Sir Beverley Baxter was habitually describing the Labour Party as the Socialist Party of Great Britain in his regular articles in the Canadian Weekly, Maclean’s.

We had in 1939 sent a copy to Sir Beverley Baxter to remind him (if that were necessary) of his error.

We have now received the decision of the General Council of the Press in a letter dated 20 January, 1956, the Council’s Secretary, Mr. Alan Pitt Robbins, C.B.E.

“Dear Sir,
I am instructed to inform you that at its quarterly meeting on January 17th, the Press Council considered your complaint against the Evening Standard.
The Council decided to take no action in the matter in view of the fact that readers of the article would clearly understand the organisation to which Sir Beverley Baxter was referring ”

We do not find the reason given by the Press Council at all satisfactory because the absence of confusion is by no means as clear as they would have it. Every speaker on the platform of the S.P.G.B. knows by experience that there are large numbers of people who do not know the difference between the S.P.G.B. and the Labour Party. How does the Press Council know that there is no such confusion in the minds of Evening Standard readers.

And it would seem that Sir Beverley has had doubts himself, because in the issue of MacLeans dated 24 December, 1955, his London Letter contains the following:—

“I am sorry to confess that while I rarely attend the Tory Conference I never miss the one held by the Labour Party.”

But we shall probably never know why Baxter started the practice years ago (was it one of those silly brain waves of Lord Beaverbrook?) nor why he has abandoned it now—if he has abandoned it now—(perhaps he is going to have one rule for Canada and another for Britain).

Before the Press Council had given us its decision on the complaint against the Evening Standard we had published in our issue for January, 1956, the editorial dealing with the faking of reports in the Beaverbrook Press in years past. The Council have taken no action on this (understandably perhaps in view of the lapse of time since the incidents referred to occurred) and their letter to us dated 20 January, 1956, refers only to Sir Beverley Baxter’s article in the Evening Standard of 12 October. 1955.

There, at the moment, is how the matter stands.


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