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Editor accuses council leader of ‘punishing’ weekly over ‘Gollygate’ story

Alan MarriottAn editor has accused a council leader of “punishing” his newspaper after it broke a story about “racist” dolls which subsequently went national.

Alan Marriott has criticised the Isle of Wight Council and its leader Councillor Lora Peacey-Wilcox over her failure to supply the Isle of Wight County Press with a statement that was instead given to “selected media”.

It came after Alan broke a story about calls for Cllr Peacey-Wilcox to resign after she denied a picture showing a collection of “racist” golly figures was taken in her home.

The story was subsequently followed up by a number of national titles, but more than two weeks later the councillor had failed to respond to a number of questions the County Press put to her on the matter.

She then offered an explanation in a statement sent to other local and national media but decided to omit the County Press from its circulation.

The statement was also not sent to the Isle of Wight’s BBC local democracy reporter Louise Hill.

Alan, pictured, told HTFP: “The County Press is the Isle of Wight’s most trusted media but it seemed like we were being ‘punished’ for running a story the leader of the council didn’t like.

“Cllr Peacey-Wilcox was given every opportunity to comment/deny/explain the images which appeared to show racially insensitive dolls on display in her home but she chose not to in any meaningful way.

“Instead she refused to send us the statement she took two weeks to release, despite being asked to do so prior to its publication. Only she will know what her thinking was.

“I have made my feelings about this treatment known to the leader and her press spokesperson. I pride myself in being a journalist of 40 years standing, who is always fair and unbiased, but fairness and transparency is a two-way street.”

In her statement, Cllr Peacey-Wilcox claimed the photo was taken a long time ago and had been doctored.

She said: “The image was taken a long time ago; the dolls are not in my home and haven’t been for years. It was re-posted in November in a private Facebook message about the impact of fireworks on pets.

“However, political opponents got hold of it and doctored it and a sensationalised story appeared locally two weeks ago, and this week in the national press.”

“I loathe racism and other forms of discrimination from the pit of my stomach. People who know me personally know the range of ethnicities, disabilities and other diversities in my close family.”

She added she would not be resigning and “will not let people down”.

HTFP has approached Cllr Peacey-Wilcox for a response to Alan’s comments.