Conservative MP Andrew Percy appears to have breached the Conservative Party code of conduct with a “puerile” email to an independent journalist. Percy replied to a media enquiry with an attack on the journalist and the outlet he represents.
The email exchange came to light when Matt Turner of Evolve Politics shared screenshots on social media. A senior editor from Evolve Politics contacted Percy to ask about Conservative proposals recently adopted from Ed Miliband’s Labour manifesto. The email reads:
Turner recently gained accreditation to the parliamentary press lobby. It is normal procedure for journalists in the lobby to approach parliamentarians for background or quotes about newsworthy issues. Providing the right of reply to subjects of a story is basic good journalism. The subject can decline to comment, or provide comment. Percy responded with this:
Asked for his view on Percy’s behaviour, Turner told The Canary:
We just found it to be immensely discourteous. We are new members of the lobby, an established outlet with a fast-growing audience – to be so childish in his response to a perfectly valid line of questioning says more about Andrew Percy than it says about Evolve Politics. Such puerile responses won’t stop us from reporting Tory hypocrisy. In fact, it’ll only help our cause.
The Code of Conduct
The Conservative Party’s own Code of Conduct sets out clear rules about the behaviour of party representatives. Just days ago, party chairman Brandon Lewis launched the ‘Respect Pledge’, reaffirming the party’s commitment to respectful behaviour in public life.
Democracy has always been robust and oppositional but a line is crossed when this becomes abuse and intimidation. pic.twitter.com/bWcrDEfWkB
— Brandon Lewis (@BrandonLewis) March 3, 2018
Percy appears to have contravened the ‘Respect Pledge’ and Section 7 of the Code of Conduct, which reads:
Leadership – Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour.
- They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs;
- lead by example to encourage and foster respect and tolerance;
- treat others in a professional and straightforward manner;
Percy’s behaviour also stands in stark contrast to his public comments on being respectful in public life. The Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole left Twitter in 2016, claiming it had become “aggressive and nasty”. He has also made repeated accusations against members of the Labour Party for breaching codes of conduct; most recently, conflating anti-semitism and criticism of Israel in the Daily Mail.
— Michael Walker (@michaeljswalker) March 4, 2018
A few days ago, Percy asked Theresa May to stand up for Brexit voters in the North of England. He claimed they were being “patronised and insulted as too thick, too northern, or too racist.”
Tory MP Andrew Percy asks the Prime Minister to stand up for voters in the North, who throughout the Brexit process have been “patronised and insulted as too thick, too Northern, or too ‘racist’” pic.twitter.com/nFfn9Ge47h
— 🇺🇸🇬🇧James👨💻🎤⭐©®™ (@JamessReality) March 5, 2018
The contrast between Percy’s public statements on respect in public life and his private treatment of an independent journalist provoked widespread reaction. The incident is also a reminder of the need for new media voices in Westminster. As Evolve‘s Turner told The Canary:
Having a site like Evolve Politics in the lobby is a much needed breath of fresh air, no matter what Tory MPs say. The media landscape is changing in favour of digital outlets that rely on social media for their audience – if dinosaurs like Percy want to live in the past and insult us, then it shows that they haven’t learned the lesson of the 2017 general election, or how sites like Evolve Politics and The Canary shaped the conversation during that campaign.
This is not OK
This incident raises questions about Andrew Percy’s character and conduct. But it also highlights the issue of hostility to new media among public figures. It is not for the state, or its representatives in parliament, to decide who is a journalist and who is not. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) accredits journalists by issuing a press pass. Press pass holders (whatever their outlet) carry all the authority, responsibility and rights of a journalist under the law. It is not OK for MPs to ignore or, worse, abuse independent journalists because they can’t guarantee the cosy relations experienced with the establishment media.
The Canary put these concerns to the Conservative Party, and a spokesperson responded:
We do not consider this a breach of the pledge or the code of conduct.
If you feel differently, see below for ways you can get involved.
– If any individuals wish to make a formal complaint against elected representatives or officers of the Conservative Party, they should email [email protected] Alternatively, they can call the confidential hotline on 020 7984 8050.
– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.
– Read and support other independent media outlets:
Media Diversified, Novara Media, Corporate Watch, Red Pepper, New Internationalist, Common Space, Media Lens, Bella Caledonia, Vox Political, Evolve Politics, Real Media, Reel News, STRIKE! magazine, The Bristol Cable, The Meteor, The Skwawkbox, Salford Star, The Ferret.
Featured image via Facebook
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?