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Regional journalist hits back after MP brands him ‘inept’ on Twitter

Miles OA regional journalist has hit back after being publicly branded “inept” by an MP over a story he wrote.

Plymouth Live current affairs reporter Miles O’Leary, left, has criticised what he called a “shocking personal attack” made on Twitter by Johnny Mercer, Tory MP for Plymouth Moor View.

Mr Mercer took exception to a story written by Miles reporting comments by Luke Pollard, Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, about winter pressures on local NHS services.

Mr Pollard had revealed the city’s Derriford Hospital had been placed on the highest operational alert, known as ‘Opel 4′.

Posting on the social media website on Monday night, the Conservative politician criticised both Mr Pollard and Miles over the story’s publication.

Mr Mercer wrote: “Luke Pollard enlists the help of his inept journo mate [Miles] to force local hospital to reassure the city about a hospital not even in his constituency. Classy guy.

“Imagine if Plymouth had another MP who genuinely put the city above pathetic party lines.”

However, the attack prompted Miles, who joined Plymouth Live in 2017 after working as head of politics at Portsmouth daily The News, to defend himself and the story.

He responded: “Pretty shocking personal attack if you ask me. Not the first time either. Intention is to inform the public about what’s happening in their community and in their local hospital.

“I don’t care for party politics. Neither do the public. Time to wise up, Johnny.

“Also, I’m always at the other end of the phone if you want to chat. Don’t resort to dirty tactics over Twitter.”

It is not the first time the Plymouth Herald has been caught up in a Twitter controversy involving Mr Mercer.

In October, the phrase ‘Plymouth Herald’ became a top trend on the social media site after the MP questioned whether someone had insinuated that his wife was a prostitute in a comment left on the newspaper’s website, Plymouth Live.


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  • January 10, 2019 at 9:04 am

    not a good time for any MP to call anyone inept is it?

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  • January 10, 2019 at 9:47 am

    On the face of it, this looks like a case of “shooting the messenger” as the paper has every right to report the comments of an MP without it being construed as an editorial endorsement.

    I would be interested to know, however, whether they invited Mr Mercer to comment before publication. Because with the best will in the world, and forgive my cynicism here, the story in its current form reads like it might be a straight rewrite of a press release from Mr Pollard’s office or that of the local Labour party.

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  • January 10, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    Jimbledon, why would he invite Mr Mercer for a comment? He has nothing to do with it and wouldn’t be able to say anything about the hopsital’s operation.
    Yes, go to the NHS Trust for a comment, but the MP? Really?

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  • January 10, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    Gone fishin’ – yes, really.

    Obviously Mr Mercer isn’t anything to do with the day-to-day running of the hospital, but Mr Pollard and the Labour councillor’s comments go beyond that. They’re bringing in the national picture, i.e. “this is what you get under Tory cuts”.

    As it happens, I’m inclined to agree with that but there’s also the matter of balance. The problems at the hospital and the Labour chaps’ reaction both have news value, of course – although the hospital isn’t in the Labour guy’s constituency, it’s in the same city and clearly many of his constituents will be patients.

    But given that Plymouth also has another MP, who represents the political party being criticised and who actually serves the constituency where the hospital is based, you don’t think it might have been a courtesy to give him a ring?

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  • January 10, 2019 at 4:18 pm

    In fact, following my comment above – forgetting for one second whether or not it would have been a courtesy, would it not also be good journalistic practice to hold the Conservative MP to account by ringing them up and asking whether they plan to raise the issue in Parliament or take any other action?

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  • January 11, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    The days of regional journalists seeking a comment for balance are long go. In our area of the West country Facebook clicks and balanced reporting don’t go together… Johnny Mercer might have a point here.

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