Tories use legal threats to censor BBC Ashcroft exposé, then make false and misleading claims about their record on press freedom
1. From The Independent, 19th March 2010
The BBC has shelved a Panorama documentary about the business affairs of the Tory billionaire Lord Ashcroft, because of a threat of legal action.
The Corporation has received what one insider described as “several very heavy letters” from Lord Ashcroft’s lawyers. There is now little or no prospect of the investigation being broadcast before the general election, if it goes out at all.
The hold-up will delight David Cameron’s campaign team, who had been trying to pressure the BBC into delaying the programme until after the general election. But sources inside the Corporation firmly deny that political pressure played a part in keeping the programme off the air, attributing the delay solely to the risk of legal action.
The Tories are anxious to suppress more publicity about Lord Ashcroft’s affairs after the outcry earlier this month when the Tory billionaire belatedly revealed that he is not domiciled in the UK for tax purposes, and so pays no tax on his huge overseas assets.
2. From The Guardian, April 23rd 2010
During a press conference convened to accuse Labour of “scaremongering” the elderly in their campaign literature, the Tory chairman, Eric Pickles, and the shadow schools secretary, Michael Gove, were forced to defend the Conservatives from accusations they were involved in the onslaught of negative press against Clegg and his party…
Pickles added: “We have a free and vigorous press, and beware of politicians who tells you that the press have gone too far. Beware of politicians who want to put restraints on the press. We don’t complain when articles are written about us and we might be unhappy about it.”
When challenged by one journalist on whether this was true, he said: “Well, we don’t go too far – we might be occasionally a bit unhappy, but we don’t think it’s a great conspiracy.
“This is not Zimbabwe or the Soviet Union. No political party, no government controls the press.“