By Holdthefrontpage staff | Tuesday, 15 June 2004 | Click here for original article
A weekly newspaper accused of affecting the outcome of a local election has been cleared by the industry watchdog, the Press Complaints Commission.
The British National Party complained that an article in the Crewe Chronicle about one of its rallies was inaccurate, by mentioning the BNP alongside the National Front - and by the use of the words "democratic fashion" - which the party felt implied it was undemocratic.
The complaint, from campaign manager Ralph Ellis, said: "This edition of the Chronicle, on March 31, was produced a day before the election in question, and I have no doubt that this edition greatly affected the outcome."
He feared the coverage could mislead the readers as to the true nature of the party - but was told by the PCC that there was no breach of official guidelines.
Chronicle editor Dave Fox said: "I am pleased the PCC has agreed that our reporting the BNP's campaigning in the Crewe South By-election was accurate and not misleading.
"I am also pleased that the Commission upheld our right to express firm opinions in the editorial leader column which has been the voice of the Chronicle for more than a century.
"The Chronicle strives to be fair, accurate and balanced in its reporting and abides by the Press Complaints Commission Code of Conduct.
"This was reflected in our reporting of the Crewe South by-election and I am sure the fact that the BNP did not win was because voters decided to reject their controversial policies."
The complaint also covered a "comment" column about the BNP which said: "Their platform is nothing to do with grand words like patriotism and freedom, but purely and simply about race".
The party's campaign manager told the PCC this was also misleading - and that the party's election address had highlighted at least four issues and not mentioned race once.
But the Commission ruled that newspapers had the right, under the editors' Code of Practice, to publish comment or conjecture, as long as it was distinguished from fact.
The Commission took the view that the editorial, by its very nature, was clearly signposted as the opinion of the newspaper, which it was entitled to publish. It was not misleading in breach of the Code under this clause.
Its ruling that the Chronicle has not breached the Commission's Code of Conduct was forwarded both to the Chronicle and to Mr Ellis.