Brunswick Strikes Again

Although I’d guess that I’m a long way from being on Alex Hilton’s Christmas Card list after my rather sharp commentary on the general state of LabourHome, duty and common decency requires that I draw everyone’s attention to the fact that Alex is latest blogger to face the depredations of Britain’s Kafkaesque libel laws:

As you may know, I sold Labourhome in July, though I still run it and with no interference from the new owner.

However, last year, someone started a defamation action against me over a Labourhome article and the expenses are bourne by me, they were not transferred to Progressive Media, the new owner.

So far this legal case has cost me £4,022 and it is still on-going. This is my plea to Labourhome readers for contributions towards my legal costs.

Alex is in the firing line here over an article posted by a contributor to LabourHome regarding someone called Johanna Kaschke who seems to have cropped up on the public radar briefly,  in April last year, after resigning from the Labour Party to join RESPECT…

A WOMAN in the race to be Labour’s next candidate to take on rebel MP George Galloway’s Respect Party in London’s East End has quit the selection process and changed sides.

Johanna Kaschke has defected to Respect after reading the East London Advertiser’s March 28 edition about the Labour Government trying to change the law to defeat a campaigner in the High Court over public housing.

One important technical point that should be noted here is that the Bethnal Green & Bow selection contest appears to have been run an open shortlist, which means that ‘in the race to be Labour’s next candidate…’ is best translated here as ‘put her own name forward’ and in no sense indicates that she had any kind of prospect of becoming an actual candidate.

So Kaschke quit Labour for RESPECT, but less than two months later she appears to have some kind of unspecified falling out with her new party, and joined the Community Party (CPGB), with the result that she described here own political affiliations in the following terms:

I am a member of the GMB Union, the Respect Party, the Communist Party, I support Defend Council Housing, I support any legal people’s movement, which is in the interest of the people but I totally object to the attempts to criminalise people’s movements and left wing political parties, which is really what is behind the smear campaigns of the gutter press.

And then, in September 2007, she joined the Conservative Party. (???)

As for why Kaschke is suing Alex, the answer seem to lie in events that took place over 30 years ago, when Kaschke appears to have been wrongfully imprisoned for three months in her native Germany on some sort of vague but ultimately baseless suspicion of having an unspecified association with or being a support of the Baarder-Meinhoff gang. Her arrest was apparently reported, at the time, in Der Spiegel and in the wake of her public, but seemingly meaningless, resignation from the Labour Party, this report was dug up and mentioned by Private Eye – which seems to be how a report of Kaschke’s past it found its way onto LabourHome.

So Alex is being sued over an article he didn’t write, which was published on group blog/blog community which anyone can sign up to and post without advance editorial intervention or control, which Alex merely owned at the time, and the article only seems to have repeated information published by Private Eye which they got from a 30+ year old report in a German newspaper…

…and despite the fact that Alex removed the ‘offending’ article as soon as he was contacted by Kaschke and offered her a right to reply – which would usually be enough to get a libel lawyer off his back – he’s still being pursued for a reported 5 figure sum through the courts by Kaschke, who appears to be representing herself.

And to cap it all, even though Alex seems to have a rock solid defence, this has cost him more than £4,000 so far, money he stands little chance of recovering should he win the case as it seems highly unlikely that Kaschke has the means to meet any kind of award of costs.

Whatever the merits of Kaschke’s original complaint, her efforts to pursue Alex through the courts after being offered a perfectly reasonable means of redress put this case firmly into the realms of the vexatious as far as I’m concerned, remembering of course that its only because the absurd viral nature of Brunswick that she has any kind of case against Alex in the first place.

As its the season of goodwill (Winterval) you could do far worse than pop over to LabourHome and chuck a couple of quid in Alex’s collecting tin (well, Paypal account).

That said, the other moral to this story is that no matter how much we all might love ‘the Eye’, as bloggers we really need to pay close attention to the fact that Hislop’s more or less had his own designated parking space at the Old Bailey for years and just that bit circumspect about reposting material from it.