Monday, 8 September 2014

Rough Justice on the Left!

ON the 8th, August the former Scottish correspondent of the Morning Star posted the following post on his Blog:

'My name’s Rory MacKinnon, and I’ve been a reporter for the Morning Star for three years now. It’s given me a lot of pride to see how readers and supporters believe so strongly in the paper, from donating what cash they can to hawking it in the streets on miserable Saturday afternoons. I was proud to represent a “broad paper of the left”, as my editor Richard Bagley always put it: a paper that saw feminism, LGBTQ issues, racial politics and the like as integral to its coverage of class struggle.

'It’s for this reason that I thought I would have my editor’s support in following up domestic violence allegations against the Rail, Maritime and Transport union’s assistant general secretary Steve Hedley. Instead the Morning Star’s management threatened me with the sack, hauled me through a disciplinary hearing and placed me on a final written warning.

'If you want to see my reasons for writing this, skip to the bottom. But I’m a reporter, and in my mind the most important thing is that you all know exactly what’s happened behind closed doors. So let’s get on with it.'

On the 30th, August Private Eye No.1373 published the following report on this matter by 'Blackleg' :

'LAST MONTH the Communist Morning Star gave space and prominence to a demand by Women’s Aid that Tory MP David Ruffley must face “strong disciplinary sanction” for assaulting his ex-partner. Short shrift was given to his claim that because the ex-partner had accepted his apology no more needed to be done. As readers were reminded: "Domestic violence is a criminal, not a private matter."

'Well, if it’s committed by a Tory MP, that is. When the alleged perpetrator is a senior trade union official, the Morning Star will discipline any of its hacks who has the temerity to pursue the story. That is what it did to Rory MacKinnon, its Scotland correspondent, who quit last week after three years on the paper.In March this year MacKinnon was sent to cover a women’s conference in Glasgow organised by the RMT transport union.

'For months, women he knew in the union had been talking about Caroline Leneghan, an RMT member who had written a blog-post about the violence allegedly inflicted on her by Steve Hedley, the RMT’s assistant general secretary, with whom she was in a relationship until last year. On one occasion, she wrote, he “threw me around by my hair and pinned me to the floor repeatedly punching me in the face”. She published photos taken at the time, showing her horrendously bruised and swollen face. Finding himself attending an RMT women’s conference – and one at which the RMT was launching its new policy on, er, domestic violence – MacKinnon thought it a good moment to ask if the union’s refusal to hold a proper investigation into the allegations against its assistant general secretary might affect female members’ perception of the union. He put the question at a Q&A session with the union’s national organising co-ordinator Alan Pottage, who declined to answer. Soon afterwards, however, the hack was forcibly ejected from the conference.

'The next day, Morning Star editor Richard Bagley told MacKinnon he was being suspended while his bosses investigated allegations of “gross misconduct” and “bringing the paper into disrepute”. A month later he was summoned to London for a disciplinary hearing, with the company secretary Tony Briscoe acting as prosecution counsel and Bagley sitting as judge. Briscoe told MacKinnon the question he’d put to the RMT official “feels more like something a Daily Mail reporter would ask than someone from the Morning Star. You should have known better. This indicates a lack of journalistic etiquette and has damaged our relationship with the trade union movement.” The public had “no right to know” about whatever occurred between Hedley and Leneghan...'

On the 26th, July, Rory MacKinnon had handed in his resignation to the Morning Star and went public with his story claiming the public had a right to know.  The two men who had castigated him at the Morning Star, Bagley and Bristoe, were not far behind stepping down days later:  Bagley resigned the editorship for 'family reasons', and Briscoe retired.

Since then Steve Hedley wrote the following letter protesting his innocence in last Thursday's issue of Private Eye No. 1374 (5th, September):
'I was very disappointed that you published  TUC News in Eye 1373 without contacting me to check this story out.  It refers to allegations of domestic violence made against me two years ago, about an incident that happened three years ago, by a lady with whom I was previously in a relationship. 

'I have never been guity of violent behaviour.  These allegations were investigated by the RMT union, which found that I had "no case to answer"; they were also considered by the police, who likewise decided to take no action.

'On the matter of Rory MacKinnon, the Morning Star reporter, he asked his question at a conference to someone who had no knowledge of the investigation and couldn't provide an answer.  Had he contacted me, which he didn't, I would have provided him with the correct information.

'Believe it or not I am a big fan of Private Eye and usually your work is much better researched than this.  I now wish you to publish this reply in the interests of fairness and to clear my name.'

It is unlikely that Comrade Hedley will live this down despite his protestations, and it is understood that he has already resigned from the Socialist Party over this issue.  





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