Ruling

09483-22 Various v Daily Mail

    • Date complaint received

      1st September 2022

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 09483-22 Various v Daily Mail

Summary of Complaint

1. The Independent Press Standards Organisation received 79 complaints that the Daily Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “SHOW US THE PROOF, SIR KEIR”, published on 2 May 2022 and an article headlined “Riddle as takeaway driver tells of ‘big’ curry delivery for up to 30 people... then U-turns hours later”, published on 2 May 2022.

2. The first article reported on “demands” from Tory MPs that Sir Keir Starmer provide evidence relating to “beergate”. It said Sir Keir had insisted that on the night in question “he was working and he and his team had only stopped for a break and food before resuming their duties at Durham Miners Hall”, whereas Tory MPs had asked for evidence he returned to work after being videoed drinking a beer at 10.04pm on a Friday night on 30 April 2021 and that the people who filmed him had seen a number of people present.

3. The second article also reported on the night of 30 April, but focussed on the claims of a takeaway driver who had initially stated that he had delivered a “quite big order” of food to the Durham location, but “after the Mail continued to make enquiries last night, the delivery driver changed his story, claiming he had never even been to the Miners Hall”. The article described the “43-second footage” as showing Sir Keir “drinking beer” and that several people appeared to be eating naan bread. This article referred to the incident as “the 10pm gathering”.

4. The first article began on the front page and continued onto page 6. The second article was published on page 7 – so that it faced the first article in the same two page spread. The first page referred to the footage being shot at “10.04pm on a Friday night”, and the subheading described the incident as “10pm drinks”. On page 6 the article also stated that Sir Keir had been pictured “after 10pm”. On the same page was a still from a video taken on 30 April, in which Sir Keir could be seen drinking a beer with the caption “Video footage: Keir Starmer with a beer in the Durham Miners Hall”. Page 7 contained an image of Sir Keir eating a curry at a table with another plate of food facing him, and no other people visible. It was accompanied by the caption “Takeaway fan: Keir Starmer tucking into a curry”.

5. The first article also appeared online under the headline “Show us the proof, Sir Keir: MPs demand evidence that Labour leader did not break Covid rules over 'beergate' amid claims of big curry delivery and 10pm drinks... as he still insists it was a 'break' during work”, published on 1 May, in substantially the same format. The article also contained the same image of Sir Keir sitting at a table eating a curry but less tightly cropped so that more of the original image was visible than in the print version. This version also contained: the shoulder of someone sat next to Sir Keir, a second plate of food set opposite him, another dining table behind him and a window which had light shining through it in the background.

6. The second article also appeared online under the headline “New 'beergate' riddle as takeaway driver tells of 'big' curry delivery for up to 30 people... then U-turns hours later”, published on 1 May 2022. It again contained a wider cropped version of the image of Sir Keir eating curry, which showed he was sat next to another person, that the room contained another table, and that there was a window in the background which appeared to show light shining through it. The caption to this image was: “Sir Keir Starmer insisted ‘no rules were broken’ as he accused the Tories of ‘trying to throw mud around’ ahead of Thursday’s local elections”. This article did not contain the still of Sir Keir drinking beer, but slightly over an hour after the publication of the article, the video of Sir Keir drinking beer was added to the article.

7. The complainants said that the articles were inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as the image of Sir Keir eating curry had been taken in 2015. Complainants said that the inclusion of the image of Sir Keir eating in the two articles gave the inaccurate impression that the image was contemporaneous and that it represented him breaking Covid rules on 30 April. They noted that that the full version of the image, not reproduced in any of the articles under complaint, showed Sir Keir eating with a man who died in 2019, which some complainants considered was done deliberately in order to mislead the public.

8. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that whilst the image had been taken in 2015, it did not consider that any reasonable reader would be significantly misled into understanding that the photograph was of the incident that was the subject of the article, or that its inclusion in the article gave rise to any significant inaccuracy. It said that the photograph simply served as an illustration of Sir Keir eating a curry – the same food that he had accepted he had consumed on 30 April. The publication said the article did not purport to show an image from the disputed event and was simply captioned as “Keir Starmer tucking into a curry” – as opposed to the still from the video in the first article which was captioned “Keir Starmer with a beer in the Durham Miners Hall”. The publication noted that Sir Keir was wearing a different outfit in the two images, and that the articles where both images could be seen would allow readers to directly compare the two. It also said that as the video had been added to the online version of the second article an hour after publication, that this should be considered as having been part of this version of the article. The publication said that the image of Sir Keir eating curry was clearly taken in the middle of the day in a restaurant by a professional photographer, rather than the video and the still taken from it which showed Sir Keir at the Miners Hall and was shot in the evening by an amateur with a phone camera through an open window. The publication also said that footage and stills of the incident had been the subject of high-profile and repeated coverage – and considered it would be highly unlikely that a high-resolution, close-up photograph from the same event would appear without comment on page 7 of the paper. The publication said that the culmination of these factors would make clear to readers that this was not a photograph from the same event.

9. The publication said that, in any eventuality, the photograph of Sir Keir eating a curry was a generic picture that did not create any significantly misleading impression as to the events at the Durham Miners Hall: Sir Keir had not disputed that he ate a curry on 30 April and the photograph did not suggest that any other activities were taking place.

10. Whilst the publication did not accept that the publication of the photograph represented any significant inaccuracy, it offered to publish the following wording on page 2 in its corrections and clarifications box:

An article on May 2 about the ‘Beergate’ allegations against Sir Keir Starmer included a photograph which showed him eating a curry. Although the article made no claim that this showed Sir Keir at last year’s event at the Durham Miners Hall, we are happy to make clear that this photograph was taken in 2015 and was used for illustrative purposes only.

It also amended the caption of the online version of the first article to read “Sir Keir Starmer insists he did not break Covid rules when he was caught on camera swigging beer with colleagues last year (Stock image)” and offered to add the following as a footnote to the online articles:

This article includes a photograph which shows Sir Keir Starmer eating a curry. We are happy to make clear that this photograph was taken in 2015 and is used for illustrative purposes only.

Relevant Code Provisions

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. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Findings of the Committee

11. It was not in dispute that the photograph of Sir Keir eating a curry was a historic image, which did not depict the event which was the subject of the articles. The question for the Committee was whether the articles gave the impression that the photograph showed Sir Keir at the event in question, and whether that rendered the articles significantly inaccurate, misleading or distorted.

12. The Committee first considered the nature of the coverage. The claims surrounding Sir Keir’s activities on 30 April in relation to “beergate” or “currygate” had been widely reported – including the still taken from the video of Sir Keir drinking a beer in Durham Miners Hall. The video still image had been included in articles published by the Daily Mail on multiple occasions prior to the publication of the articles under investigation. Both articles also made clear that the incident had taken place at 10pm – with the print versions including it in the frontpage straplines and again in the body of the articles on pages 1, 6 and 7.

13. With regard to the print articles, the still image of Sir Keir with a beer was positioned on page 6, and the image of him eating curry was on the opposite of the double page spread on page 7. The two images differed extensively; most notably, the still image was of low resolution, evidently taken from a distance through a window at night, whereas the photograph of Sir Keir eating curry was of significantly higher quality, taken in very close proximity to Sir Keir, showed him wearing different clothes and appeared to be taken during the day. As the images were on the same double page spread, readers would be able to directly compare the two images, and their differences. This, in combination with the previous coverage of the video and stills of Sir Keir drinking beer and the fact that the articles had stated that the video had been taken at 10pm, made clear that images were not taken at the same event. Where the articles did not state that the image was taken on 30 April, and the image simply illustrated Sir Keir eating a curry, which he had accepted he had done on the date in question, it was not misleading to use this picture to illustrate the story. There was, therefore, no breach of Clause 1 in relation to the print articles.

14. The online version of the first article also contained both the still from the video and the picture of Sir Keir eating curry which was cropped less tightly so as to show daylight in the background. It also made clear at a number of points that the video had been taken at 10pm. Therefore, for the same reasoning provided for the print articles discussed above, there was no breach of Clause 1.

15. The online version of the second article had referred to Sir Keir as being filmed by students “drinking beer”. The image in the article was clearly not a still taken from a video, as it was a high-resolution image of good quality taken in close proximity and, furthermore, did not show Sir Keir drinking a beer. In addition, this version of the photograph also showed a window with daylight coming through it in the background, whilst the article made clear that the incident had occurred at 10pm. This, in conjunction with the fact that the video and stills from it had been previously widely reported, made it clear that this image had not been taken on the night in question. There was, therefore, no breach of Clause 1 in relation to this article.

Conclusion(s)

16. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

17. N/A


Date complaint received: 02/05/2022

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 25/08/2022