Ruling

Resolution statement Complaint 02970-16 Gordon v The Daily Telegraph

    • Date complaint received

      3rd August 2016

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Complaint 02970-16 Gordon v The Daily Telegraph

Summary of complaint 

1. David Gordon complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Telegraph breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Mildred Gordon, MP – obituary”, published on 14 April 2016.

2. The complainant is the son of Mildred Gordon, a former Labour MP. He expressed concern that the newspaper’s obituary of his mother included misleading information and a number of inaccuracies.

3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate for the article to report that his stepfather, Nils Kaare Dahl had survived Mildred Gordon as he had died in 1996. The complainant also said that it was inaccurate for the article to report that Mildred Gordon was “deported to her native Britain from the United States” and “her activities led the US government to deport her in the 1950s”. He said that his mother had never been deported from the United States.

4. The complainant said that his mother had joined the Labour Party in 1939 and remained a member all her life. As such he said that it was inaccurate for the article to report that “in London [Mildred Gordon] gravitated to Labour as it moved Left-wards” as after returning to London from the USA, she had already been a member of the Labour party for over a decade. The complainant also said that the article had attributed to Ms Gordon a comment which she had never made. The complainant further considered that it was misleading for his mother to be described as a “disciple of Ken Livingstone” as she had had disagreements with him on a number of occasions.

5. The complainant said that it was misleading for the article to report that “Northern traditionalists” had voted for Mildred Gordon to become a member of the Shadow Cabinet “to embarrass the leadership”. He said that there were a number of reasons as to why many Labour MPs voted for Mildred Gordon. Finally the complainant considered the claim that his stepfather, Nils Kaare Dahl had “once been Trotsky’s bodyguard” to be misleading as it misrepresented his acquaintance with Trotsky.

6. The newspaper accepted that its report of the death of Nils Kaare Dahl was inaccurate. It apologised to the complainant for this mistake and amended the online article to ensure that the inaccuracy was promptly corrected. The newspaper said it had made clear the basis for its claim that Mildred Gordon had been deported to the US however offered to publish a clarification on this point. It offered to publish the following clarification in print: 

Mildred Gordon

Our obituary of Mildred Gordon (15 April) wrongly stated that she was deported from the United States and that she was survived by her husband Nils Dahl. Mr Dahl in fact died in 1996. We apologise for these errors.

7. The complainant did not accept this offer as a resolution to his complaint. 

Relevant Code provisions

8. Clause 1 (Accuracy) 

(i)  The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

(ii)   A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published. 

Mediated outcome

9. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter. 

10. Following IPSO mediation, the newspaper offered to append the following correction, as a footnote to the online article and in the Obituaries section of the newspaper:

Correction :

An earlier version of this article stated, inaccurately, that Mildred Gordon was deported from the United States and that she was survived by her husband Nils Dahl. Mr Dahl in fact died in 1996. He had not "once been" Trotsky's bodyguard, as the article said; rather, he was once asked to be prepared to fulfil this role, but the opportunity to do so did not arise. Mildred Gordon joined the Labour Party in 1942 rather than gravitating to Labour in the 1950s as the article originally implied. She had disagreements with Ken Livingstone on a number of occasions and was not his 'disciple', as the article said. We apologise for these errors, which have been corrected. Her son, Professor David Gordon, has also asked us to record his belief  that Mrs Gordon came close in 1993 to winning a seat on the Shadow Cabinet for a range of reasons, including her strong campaigning work, and not because she was the "least credible figure" that Labour MPs "could vote for to embarrass the leadership”. We are further content to clarify that the obituary's claim that Mildred Gordon wrote in a 1990 New Year’s message about "the Thatcher government’s continuing attempts to literally grind the faces of the poor” was drawn from a 1990 Telegraph news item quoting a contemporary Labour party publication, not from the actual publication itself. Whether the words attributed to Mrs Gordon were in fact written by her, or published, is unknown.

11. The complainant said the proposed correction would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

12. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code. 

Date complaint received: 15/05/2016

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 19/07/2016