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IPSO rejects Labour leadership candidate’s complaint against daily

Anas SarwarThe press watchdog has rejected a complaint by a candidate for the Scottish Labour leadership over a story published during his campaign.

Anas Sarwar MSP, left, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation over a story in Newsquest daily The National, which featured what he claimed was an inaccurate sub-headline.

The sub-headline in question stated there had been a ban on questions on personal affairs at leadership hustings “amid pressure over failure to pay living wage and kids’ private schooling”.

The National reported that the Mr Sarwar’s leadership campaign had been “plagued by issues over his wealth, his family’s business United Wholesale (Scotland) Ltd, and the failure of the company to ensure all staff are paid the living wage.”

It also stated that his rival leadership contender, Richard Leonard, “took a sideswipe at [the complainant] when he pointedly underlined that one-fifth of Glasgow workers earn less than the £8.45 real living wage”.

Complaining to IPSO under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Mr Sarwar said the front page sub-headline’s reference to a “failure to pay living wage” would be reasonably understood by readers to be a reference to his own parliamentary staff’s pay, where no explanation was given as to his connection to his family’s company.

He added that since being elected as an MSP, he has paid his parliamentary staff the national living wage and the real living wage, and that the sub-headline was therefore inaccurate.

The Glasgow-based daily responded that the pay practices of the complainant’s family business had been widely reported in the days prior to publication, and that he had said in a radio interview that the company did not pay all employees the real living wage.

The National added that in the context of the coverage at the time, the sub-headline was clearly referring to Mr Sarwar’s family business, not the pay he gave his parliamentary staff.

However, it offered to publish a clarification on this point.

IPSO found the sub-headline’s reference to a “failure to pay living wage” did not represent the more specific claim about the pay arrangements for Mr Sarwar’s parliamentary staff, but a broader claim that he was linked to a “failure to pay living wage” – which was sufficiently supported by the text of the article.

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