Richard Wilson asks:
Why would a London primary school employ the services of a political lobbying firm — and libel lawyers Carter Ruck?
A South London primary school is funding a libel action brought by current and former employees over three emails sent by the Chief Auditor of Lambeth Council. The school has ignored a freedom of information request for details of how much it is spending on the court action — but Index on Censorship believes that the costs may already have run into six figures.
The case of Durand Academy raises serious questions both about the chilling effect of UK libel law, and the creeping encroachment of the “reputation management” industry into public life. The school, which is funded largely from the public purse, has admitted paying over £199,000 to a PR firm run by its Vice Chair of Governors.
Sometimes the way in which a question is answered can be as revealing as the content of the response.
Earlier this year I got an intriguing tip-off about one of the government’s flagship Academy schools, Durand Primary School in Stockwell, South London. I emailed the school to get their side of the story. Less than half an hour later I had a somewhat stern reply:
I’d like to invite you to visit the school and hope you’d accept our offer before writing anything. We would be extremely unhappy if you didn’t take us up on this and as always, we protect the reputation of our school — which provides outstanding education to 930 children — vigorously.
The message had come from a durandeducation.org email address, but the person who’d sent it hadn’t mentioned their job title, so I googled her name. I was surprised to find her listed as an employee of a PR company called “Political Lobbying and Media Relations”(PLMR)....read more