Those who look in regularly on Zelo Street will readily recall the hatchet job written to order by Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan on Byline Media, written in the wake of the revelations about former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale and his prolonged dalliance with a known sex worker. Whitto was overseeing press regulation; that press managed, while he laid off them, to lay off him and forget the story they all knew about.
That hit piece (you can see the Zelo Street demolition HERE) was one of Gilligan’s last deeds before the Tel sent him on his way, ostensibly as part of yet another cost-cutting drive by the paper’s increasingly desperate management. But, as BuzzFeed has now revealed, the real reason he was given the order of the boot was because he had landed the paper with a whopping £600,000-plus bill after he libelled a London businessman.
Gilligan spent some time making a number of variously creative allegations about former Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman, and while Rahman had been behaving in a less than totally principled manner, two of the claims - Islamist infiltration and that Poplar Town Hall had been sold, effectively, at “mate’s rates” to one Mujibul Islam - were wrong. And it was the latter claim that landed the Tel in the legal mire.
Mujibul Islam was sure enough of his ground to retain the services of Messrs Carter, Ruck (that means it was expensive) and, sure enough, “The publisher settled the case out of court. In May last year, the Sunday Telegraph published an apology in which it said any suggestion Islam had been the willing beneficiary of corruption was untrue. ‘We accept that Mr Islam bid for the property on the open market and did not manipulate the planning process’”, said the Tel. And there was worse news on costs.
“The newspaper said it paid damages and legal costs, which were not disclosed. According to a person familiar with the arrangement, the publisher paid out more than £420,000, most of which was legal costs. The figure does not include the cost of the Telegraph’s own lawyers”. Oh I dunno, call it £650,000 or so all up. That’s an Ouch!
This will come as no surprise to those at Byline Media, and at campaigning group Hacked Off, as my riposte to Gilligan’s attack on them suggests. I’ll go further: had either or both of those groups been able to afford to go to law in the matter Mujibul Islam did, the Telegraph would have needed rather more than the arse-wiping service provided for them by sham press regulator IPSO. They would have lost, and deservedly so.
Meanwhile, Gilligan has fetched up at the Murdoch Times, which by complete coincidence is also the new berth of Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips, who also left a previous assignment - with the Spectator, owned, as with the Tel, by the Barclay Brothers - after libelling a target and dumping the publication with a big legal bill.
It is to be hoped that Andrew Gilligan exercises a little more discretion from now on over who he creatively attacks in the pages of the Murdoch press. After getting the boot from the Tel, and causing the BBC all that grief, anyone might think he had a problem distinguishing between fact and fiction. Just a thought, eh Andy?