Cambridge Evening News attack on Unite Against Fascism
Following an open letter to the Cambridge Evening News calling into question their 'Action On Travellers' campaign, the local paper has launched an attack on Cambridge Unite Against Fascism and its editor has written a remarkable e-mail.
Today’s Cambridge Evening News carries a story “Activists Blunder on News Campaign”, trying to suggest that the people who signed the open letter organised by Cambridge Unite Against Fascism, didn’t know what they were doing.
Before publication, the editor, Murray Morse, sent a very lengthy and rather insulting e-mail to one of the signatories, Tom Woodcock.
Here’s the text of the open letter, calling on the Evening News to stop their ‘Action On Travellers’ campaign, which despite its apparently benign principles, seems to be being used to scapegoat and attack travellers. Below that is Mr Morse’s reply.
Dear Murray Morse,
We are writing to express our deepest concerns at the ongoing 'campaign' that you are running against the Travelling Community in Cambridgeshire.
The fact that your campaign is entitled 'Action on Travellers' frames the travelling communities as the problem in many of your stories. Although we appreciate that some of your coverage of Traveller Issues has been well balanced you often highlight negative aspects or inflammatory points of view in your headlines and strap lines. The large number of articles that you print under this campaign banner paints an unwelcoming and counter inclusive image of the whole Travelling community. Further to this you often report unrelated or complex issues as 'Action on Travellers'. Recent examples of this are traffic and access issues on Fen Road and the particularly inflammatory story about taxis to schools. Neither of these stories are Traveller issues, they relate to much wider concerns about public planning, funding, education and infrastructure; in short, issues which involve the whole community and which deserve a wider and more critical debate.
Our concern is that, through your persistence in reporting stories under the same campaign, you run the risk of seriously alienating one section of our community.
We are requesting that you cease to publish stories under the 'Action on Travellers' campaign and that you favour a more inclusive and responsible approach to the issues you raise in our local newspaper.
Richard Rose, Co-ordinator, Cambridge Unite Against Fascism
Councillor Ian Nimmo-Smith, on behalf of Cambridge City Council Liberal
Councillor Ben Bradnack, on behalf of Labour Group on city council
Martin Lucas-Smith, Co-ordinator, Cambridge Green Party
Tom Woodcock, Cambridge Respect
Sylvia Carter, Chair Cambridge Trades Council
Stan Croookes, Secretary Cambridge Trades Council
Chris Grant, Secretary Cambridgeshire NUT
Matt Kelly, President Cambridgeshire NUT
Unison City Branch
Nick Savage. Secretary cambridge AUT in a personal capacity
Paul Turnbull, Branch Chair of the CWU in a personal capacity
Matt Wells, Cambridge PCS Defre in a personal capacity
Steve Sweeney, Cambridge Unison Health representative in a personal capacity
Mike Todd-Jones, On behalf of Arbury Labour Party
Seymour Glass, Miss Black America
Mr Morse’s reply came with the heading “You are the real Fascist”
Dear Mr Woodcock,
Thank you for your email of October 20th concerning the Cambridge Evening News' hard-hitting campaign to get action on and behalf of the travelling community of Cambridgeshire and, indeed, throughout the region served by this newspaper.
I have never read such an amazing load of poppy cock and misinformed drivel in all my 27 years in journalism.
I am, frankly, also stunned that people such as respected leaders of the city council and prominent political parties, as well as trade unions and other people of influence in the community have nothing better to do with their time than put their names to a letter trying to gag a worthwhile campaign that aims to make a change for the good of all people living in our community.
Surely Councillors Ian Nimmo-Smith and Ben Bradnack could be giving ratepayers better service by getting out and picking up some of the 600 used needles that drug addicts have left in our good city's parks, rather than by spending time signing up to this rubbish?
And I didn't see the likes of Richard Rose, Chris Grant, Sylvia Carter, Sarah Woodall, Edwina Wood, Martin Lucas-Smith or Salman Shaheen putting pen to paper in support of the Evening News' recent articles backing the fight against racism in football.
And how can I really be expected to take seriously pressure from the likes of the guitarist in Miss Black America (Seymour Class), Stan Crooke, Nick Savage or Mike Todd Jones when they clearly haven't read or understood the aims of our travellers campaign?
The very same aims - that I would suggest to Paul Turnbull and Matt Kelly - primary school children are able to understand. So why is it, when my own children aged 9 and 11 can understand what I'm trying to achieve on behalf of travellers and the local community, can't they?
If I were a teacher within the NUT, I'd be seriously worried about having a union secretary and a president that couldn't understand the basis of the News' campaign and would sign such a misguided letter.
If you, Mr Woodcock, and your group, Cambridge United Against Fascism, spent less time whipping up trouble where there is none, and more time on tackling the real issues that dog our community, such as real racism in our schools and work places, the world would really be a better place.
But, as it is, you haven't got the basic intelligence, wit or savvy among you to actually recognise a campaign that is for the good of everyone.
The Evening News has been campaigning to resolve the issues and conflict surrounding illegal travellers and gypsy camps throughout the region and Great Britain for almost 11 months now - having launched its campaign on November 30th 2005.
The campaign has won the support of hundreds of readers and prominent figures - including MPs, and the influential Gypsy Council itself.
We've had support from both local residents who feel their lives are being made a misery by the lack of will to tackle illegal camp sites near their homes, and by travellers who feel local authorities have turned their backs on them and treat them like pariahs by refusing to find the money to set up legal camps with proper and decent facilities.
So, as all of this suggests, the Evening News can more than demonstrate its campaign has backing and support from all sides - travellers included.
For your information Mr Woodcock, and for the ill-informed and misdirected signatories to your letter, I will (again) explain the whole point of the campaign and its main aims.
Our targets - if there are any - are not the travellers or gypsies as you wrongly suggest, but the a government that dithers or refuses to get anything done on behalf of BOTH the travelling communities and local residents who are fed up with these illegal camps and the conflict they engender.
We're not saying "get the gypsies out". What we're fighting for is a plan to create proper laws and proper funding to stop illegal camping. The travellers, themselves, have a responsibility and a role to play here as well.
We want the government to stop prevaricating and allow local authorities to create somewhere legal for travellers to live, with decent conditions and proper facilities.
Hence the reason for our campaign being called Action on Travellers (and NOT "Action AGAINST Travellers") - which is what Cambridge Unite Against Fascism is reading into the campaign slogan.
Instead of making false and malicious claims that this paper is "campaigning against the travelling community in Cambridgeshire", you should sign up to the campaign to pressure the Government, local MPs and political figures both nationally and locally into taking action.
You should be supporting this right and wholly proper campaign so that local authorities have the money and laws they need to set up well-funded, legal camps, with decent facilities for travellers on sites where they won't come into conflict with local residents or be breaking the law.
Or, is Cambridge Unite Against Fascism saying that it is right that we turn a blind eye to illegal gypsy and traveller camps and allow people to squat wherever they like, no matter whose land it is, completely ignoring current laws? That, in my view and the view of most right-thinking people, is a completely ridiculous approach to a proper democracy.
In answer to your request, I can tell you that I'm not going to drop a perfectly good campaign slogan or the campaign - certainly not after it has been running for 11 months without any complaint - just because members of CUAF are ignorant to its sincere aims.
As for your remarks about "other recent examples" of the paper carrying "negative, inflammatory" or "counter inclusive" stories about travellers, I totally refute this accusation.
The fact is, if rate payers are paying hundreds of pounds every week on taxis to send traveller children to school, and their parents are constantly failing to ensure their children attend despite the taxi turning up every day, then that is a matter of public interest that deserves to be reported.
The fact is, there is enormous pressure on their local school in Cottenham because there is such a large illegal encampment close to this small village. The children are driven to school at the next village precisely because resources in Cottenham are at breaking point. The aims of our campaign are to ensure that all children have properly planned access to schools and other community facilities.
Frankly, Mr Woodcock, your letter is an utter disgrace and I intend to
investigate the understanding - or total lack of understanding - among the
notable people that have signed it, and to carry a story that exposes this
nonsense for what it is among the so-called "Cambridge chattering classes".
When the Cambridge Unite Against Fascism Group achieves anything of note, please do not hesitate to contact me again and I will be happy to highlight the good work you are doing in the community. Until then, please do not waste my time with any more nonsense.
As I have neither the time, nor the inclination, to forward this to the signatories of your ridiculous email, I'd appreciate it if you could do the honours.
Cambridge Evening News.
For more information on Cambridge Unite Against Fascism, look at http://www.antinazi.eu.org/