A weekly editor has hit back after a “press-loathing” MP used his regular column to criticise the newspaper in its own pages.
Bill Wiggin, Tory MP for North Herefordshire, took advantage of his Hereford Times column to accuse John Wilson, who edits the paper, of printing “misinformation” afteer publishing a supportive letter from a reader.
In April, Mr Wiggin described John as “hopeless” and accused the Independent Press Standards Organisation of being a “press protector” during a House of Commons debate, after the press watchdog rejected his complaint about a Times story on the MP’s links to an offshore financial company.
Following the spat, a reader called Les Hardy wrote a letter in support of the Times, praising its “excellent” work in holding local politicians to account.
In his letter, which was published in the paper on 31 May, Mr Hardy added he was “surprised” Mr Wiggin continued to submit a column every third week given his comments, questioning tongue-in-cheek whether he was paid for the piece.
Responding to the letter in his Times column last week, Mr Wiggin wrote: “As the editor well knows, I receive no payment for this and it is a shame to have to once again clarify misinformation.
“The fact that the editor has deliberately chosen to publish this sort of misleading information is what makes me so passionate about fighting for press accountability and accessible low-cost arbitration.
“In the age of information overload we need quality from our papers. I write this column not for the editor but for the readership of the Hereford Times who are my constituents.
“I am delighted to provide updates for the people of North Herefordshire from Westminster and on my activities in the constituency, and will continue to for as long as I have the opportunity to do so.”
Now John has hit back in an editorial, describing Mr Wiggin as a “press-loathing” MP who was “twisting a Hereford Times reader’s words in a clumsy attempt to lend credibility to his attempts to shackle newspapers in this country”.
He added: “Leaving aside Mr Wiggin’s failure to understand a comic aside, his remarks are pompous and disingenuous. Papers such as the Hereford Times are subject to some of the strictest legal and ethical restraints in the Western world.
“Mr Wiggin is the sort of politician who supports free speech… but only when he approves of what is being said.”