THE letter below from the former Rochdale Mayor, Norman Fowden Smith MBE, who has recently died, was sent a decade ago to Harold Sculthorpe, who was then part of the editorial committee of Northern Voices. It is addressed to the editor, Brian Bamford, and purports to be a complaint about coverage of Mr. N. Smith in the NV No.6 edition of that journal in which there was reference to his support for developers on the Spodden Valley site with its serious issues with regard to the threat of asbestos disturbance. Norman had been referred to as 'a stout defender' of the developers. Mr. N.F.Smith is of course the brother of the then famous and influential figure Sir Cyril Smith, who lived on Emma Street in Rochdale. Norman Smith was perhaps the first person to threaten Northern Voices, but others followed; notably the veteran anarchist, Ronald Marsden, of Barlow Moor Road, West Didsbury who, in 2009, objected to something in NV in which attention was drawn to his acquisition of some photos of a refugee camp in Lancashire: he went on threaten NV with 'criminal libel' and bullied our printer and some of our outlets. Then there were two individuals Matthew Baker, formerly an aide to Simon Danczuk, and the former police officer and later lecturer, Gordon Mills, who both complained that NV had wrongly said they were 'sacked' from their posts. We corrected these admitted errors but both Baker and Mills went on to threaten NV with allusions to defamation. In the case of Gordon Mills he also challenged the Guardian, the Morning Star and the USI over similar issues. We understand that the GMB union is presently his target.*
Besides these litigious personalities there have been other valiant attempts to persuade us to watch our backs. In 2012, the 'anarchist' former school teacher, Sally Miller nee Hyman, recruited a contingent of schoolboys to ambush a bookseller at the London Anarchist Bookfair and tried to have the publication removed from sale.
The letter sent a decade ago from Norman F. Smith to Harold Sculthorpe and addressed to Brian Bamford as editor, is as represented below, it was all in capital letters:
FROM MR NORMAN SMITH MBE,
TO: MR BRIAN BAMFORD
DEAR MR BAMFORD
THANK YOU FOR YOUR LETTER AND COPY OF YOUR NO.6 N. VOICES.
I VERY STRONGLY OBJECT TO YOUR ARTICLE. I HAVE NEVER ONCE DEFENDED THE DEVELOPERS RE. SPODDEN VALLY, OR SUPPORTED THEM. TO SAY SO IS A LIE AND YOU KNOW IT. I FIND YOUR ARTICLE AND REFERENCES OBJECTIONABLE AND SEE NO REASON TO REFER TO MY BROTHER.
I HAVE SPOKEN TO MY SOLICITOR, AND I HAVE GOOD REASON TO CONSIDER YOUR ASSERTIONS TO BE LIBELLOUS.
ALL I HAVE EVER DONE IS STATE THE LEGAL POSITION, PLANNING WISE AND HOW – NOT IF – IT SHOULD BE OPPOSED.
I REQUIRE A FULL PUBLISHED APOLOGY FROM YOU, IN YOUR “NORTHERN VOICES” AND A STATEMENT OF THE ABOVE FACT, AND AN ADMISSION THAT WHAT YOU WROTE WAS AN UNTRUTH. I ALSO REQUIRE YOU SEND ME THE RELEVANT ISSUE – FREE.
Norman F Smith.
Owing to our knowledge of the past involvement of Sir Cyril Smith MBE with Turner Bros. Asbestos Company, and the supportive comments of his brother Norman F. Smith MBE with regard to the developers plans to build on Spodden Valley, Northern Voices refused to give either an apology to Mr. N. F. Smith or to offer him a free copy of Northern Voices. We heard nothing further from either Norman F. Smith MBE or his brother Cyril.
* A retired policeman who worked for a secretive unit monitoring political protests is suing a trade union over claims that he colluded with an unlawful blacklisting operation that prevented construction workers from getting jobs.In a libel claim lodged in the High Court, Gordon Mills, who worked for five years in the unit, has accused the GMB of defaming him and is claiming up to £10,000 in damages.
His legal action is being defended by the GMB which said it had been acting in the public interest. The union said there was “credible evidence” suggesting that Mills, while he was a police officer, shared information with construction firms which were funding a clandestine blacklist of workers.
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