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New council leader’s ‘first act’ is to demand journalist names her sources

Sarah WardA new council leader demanded a journalist reveal her sources “within moments” of being elected to the post, it has been claimed.

Northamptonshire-based independent title the NN Journal says it was contacted by Jason Smithers as his “first job” after being elected leader of the majority Conservative group on the newly created North Northamptonshire Council.

Journal journalist Sarah Ward, pictured, named Cllr Smithers as the new leader in a Tweet before his election had been officially announced.

Sarah has alleged Cllr Smithers then rang her to demand she tell him the source of her information if she wanted to have a “constructive relationship” with him going forward.

In a Twitter post after the election of Cllr Smithers last Monday, the NN Journal said: “Honoured that [Cllr Smithers’s] first job was to call NN Journal. Not to give an interview but because he wants to know who our sources are.

“Odd that before his election he was saying he wanted to be open with the media. Appears that’s conditional.”

HTFP has put Sarah’s claims to Cllr Smithers directly.

In response, he said: “I can tell you that I hope to have a positive relationship with the local press and have already given interviews to local media.”

Speaking to HTFP, Sarah said: “It beggars belief really that a local politician has asked a reporter to reveal their sources.

“Within moments of his election as Conservative group leader, Cllr Smithers rang me to say he has a big issue and if I want a constructive relationship with him I must give him the name of my source so he can ‘bring them into line’.

“It shows political naivety but dictates the direction of travel of local politics within North Northamptonshire.

“During the election campaign the Conservative candidates in the area were told not to speak to our publication. I expect the same gagging order to continue now the election is over.

“I think the Conservative group need some media training and to remember they answer to the public and a questioning media is the cornerstone of a functioning democracy.

“This animosity shown towards NN Journal will not stop us doing our job as robustly as we always have.”