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Mayor blames newspaper after Cannes ‘jolly’ cancelled

A city’s directly-elected mayor has blamed a regional daily columnist for his cancelled trip to an international business conference in the south of France.

Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, claimed the Leicester Mercury’s coverage of his visit to the MIPIM event in Cannes last year made it “impossible” for him or any politician to return.

In particular he singled out Fred Leicester, an anonymous column written by a Mercury journalist, in which he accused Sir Peter of attending a “jolly” in a “millionaire’s playground”.

After rumours began circulating that Sir Peter would not be attending the four-day conference, he was contacted by Mercury business editor Ian Griffin for an explanation.

Merc SPS

Sir Peter responded: “If I’m asked about it I will say it was because of the way in which (Fred Leicester) covered the story. It made it impossible for me or any politician to go.

“He will continue to say ‘they are going on a jolly’.”

He added the journalist behind Fred Leicester was “able to use the column to whip up ill-informed popular criticism, basing it on inaccuracy. He will do it again, he won’t be able to resist it.”

MIPIM stands for Le marché international des professionnels de l’immobilier, which translates as “the international market for real estate professionals”.

The row provided the Mercury with a front page story, pictured above.

Ian told HTFP: “In a way it’s a little bit of a compliment to the columnist involved, and also the Mercury as a newspaper, if the mayor cites a regular weekly column as the reason why he’s not doing something a lot of businesspeople and a lot of politicians would consider to be a significant thing for the economy.”

Sir Peter was due to be joined by Leicestershire County Council leader Nick Rushton, who also attended the 2013 and 2014 MIPIM events with him.

The annual conference is attended by thousands of businesspeople, with many of them in charge of multi-million-pound investment budgets.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson was among those expected to be in attendance this year.

Councillor Rushton told the Mercury his own non-attendance this year was down to the forthcoming election.

The anonymous writer of the Fred Leicester column told HTFP: “Fred stands by every word.”

11 comments

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  • March 13, 2015 at 10:06 am
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    Hahaha!
    Excellent.
    Another taxpayer-funded, pointless jolly bites the dust.
    Maybe one day they’ll get the message.

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  • March 13, 2015 at 11:07 am
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    Well done Fred Leicester (great name, by the way). The more these jumped-up political classes are brought down to the earth the rest of us inhabit the better. This is local journalism at its very best, achieving something positive for the ordinary people who are do often forgotten.

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  • March 13, 2015 at 11:09 am
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    Sorry (bloody tablet). So often forgotten, of course.

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  • March 13, 2015 at 11:33 am
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    Hope the people of Leicester are proud of their local paper.
    Great stuff and keep it up.

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  • March 13, 2015 at 12:23 pm
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    I hate to disagree but I will anyway. Leader of city goes to investment event to try to secure investment for city? Outrageous. Haven’t read the column, obviously, but as a journalist who has actually been to MIPIM I can promise you it’s no jolly. It’s an endurance test & Europe’s biggest & most serious real estate investment event. The Leicester Mercury should be more concerned that the city ISN’T trying to compete on the international investment stage, rather than taking cheap populist shots. Consider the cities that were there this year (all more business-friendly & dynamic than Leicester I suspect): Manchester, London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Cardiff, to name a few. Pointless & thoughtless shooting of fish in a barrel. Crap journalism actually, which chooses to ignore the facts and would prefer to mislead its readers and, in so doing, damage its city.

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  • March 13, 2015 at 3:03 pm
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    Sorry Minority View, but you’re wrong. Leicester WAS represented at the event by a delegation from the local business community. It was just the city mayor and leader of the county council who didn’t go, for two very different reasons. And to support the bid to attract international investment, the Mercury sent its business editor along for the entire trip. It appears you’re the one shooting fish in a barrel by not reading the story.

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  • March 13, 2015 at 3:03 pm
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    ^^^ it’s a flaming knees up for the lads. End of. Good stuff

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  • March 16, 2015 at 11:10 am
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    We in Coventry sent 8 delegates to MIPIM. We have a similar column called Red Button which strongly criticised the council. It doesnt stop Lord Mayors from visiting China, India and other such less glamorous on tax payer funded trips. Its only because its the French Riviera that newspapers make misjudged representations. If the conference was in an industrial Eastern European city then I doubt there would be any animosity.

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  • March 19, 2015 at 1:57 pm
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    This story made me chuckle, especially given the number of posts on HTFP about how newspapers don’t make any money. As a journalist I attended MIPIM three times (once with a regional daily and twice with a business news website), each time the publication having arranged a media partnership with the relevant local body. Would I have rather done a week of knocking stories taking the organisers to task for wasting money? Yes. But did it help cover my wages and actually keep a publication operating for another year. Yes.

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