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Watchdog backs newspaper against ‘far-right’ party leader

A political activist who objected to a regional daily describing his party as “far-right” has lost his case against the newspaper.

Robin Tilbrook, chairman of the English Democrats, complained to the press watchdog over a story in the Yorkshire Post about last year’s Batley and Spen by-election, held in the wake of the murder of MP Jo Cox.

In the piece, the YP reported that the election had been “all the more fraught by the involvement of far-right groups” and went on to say that both the English Democrats and National Front were fielding candidates.

Mr Tilbrook complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the report had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, saying it created the inaccurate impression that the English Democrats were a “far-right” political party.

EDP Party Conference 2011-44

The complainant, pictured above addressing his party’s conference last year, said that the English Democrats were a party with a membership originating from across the political spectrum, describing them as “converts to moderate, reasonable and patriotic English nationalism.”

However the newspaper provided a series of examples of the activities of the English Democrats and individuals closely associated with it, which it said demonstrated that the party could reasonable be defined as “far-right.”

These included an assertion by Mr Tilbrook himself that the recruitment of former BNP party members would make the English Democrats more “electorally credible,” references to the English Democrats in the “Hope Not Hate” report which analysed the support for far-right groups in the UK, and reader comments on Mr Tilbrook’s blog which expressed extreme nationalist sentiments.

The YP said this information would lead a reasonable person to assess the English Democrats as an organisation which appeals to, and represents, the far-right wing of politics. It also noted that the English Democrats had been described as “far-right” by other media outlets.

In its ruling, IPSO said that the characterisation of political parties within the traditional “left” and “right” political spectrum was a subjective assessment that will always be a matter of debate.

It said the newspaper had provided sufficient examples, of activities and speech associated with the English Democrats in support of its characterisation of the party as “far-right”.

“Given this, and in light of the context in which the reference to the English Democrats was made, the Committee did not consider that the reference to the party was significantly misleading,” the code committee said.

The complaint was not upheld and the full ruling can be read here.