Oxford Green Party have written to Oxford and District Labour Party threatening legal action over a claim made in a leaflet first circulated around the May 2013 elections that the Green representative on the West Area Planning Committee, former Lord Mayor Cllr Elise Benjamin, voted FOR the controversial Port Meadow development. Cllr Benjamin has always maintained (as publicly stated on many occasions - including an acknowledgement in the Oxford Mail as recently as March 2013) that she abstained on the critical February 2012 planning vote.
The letter below was sent recorded delivery.
Oxford and District Labour Party,
Bishops Mews, Transport Way
Cowley, Oxford OX4 6HD
Dear Ms Bauch,
I have taken legal advice from counsel under the direct access scheme (Mr R de Mello of No5 Chambers London/Birmingham who was instructed in the election trials in Birmingham on behalf of Councillor Afzal). Following this advice I am asked to write to you in the terms set out below.
As you are aware I am writing as a former Lord Mayor of Oxford and well-respected, long serving City Councillor, concerning the content of the May 2013 edition of the Jericho and Osney Ward Rose (copy attached).
The article entitled ‘Flats next to Port Meadow’ contains a claim that ‘the Green Councillor…voted in favour’ of the aforementioned development. This article was published by yourself in May 2013 and distributed in the Jericho
and Osney ward. I attach a copy of this article.
This article contains untrue assertions and falsehood which are clearly linked to me as a Green Councillor who at the relevant time was minuted as the sole Green member of the relevant planning committee. These words are defamatory and any reasonable reader would understand the statement to adversely affect the reader’s assessment of the Green Party Councillors in a local election. Furthermore, this statement relates to my political character or conduct indicating that I am hypocritical and untrustworthy as a Green Councillor and accordingly tarnishes my political reputation and private life contrary to article 8 ECHR.
On numerous occasions I had clearly stated that I abstained when this item was voted on at the February 2012 meeting – a claim which was never challenged prior to the publication of the May 2013 edition of the Jericho and Osney Ward Rose.
The official minutes of the February 2012 planning meeting do not record the votes of individual members and the contemporaneous notes of the committee clerk were destroyed, as is normal practice, once the official minutes were agreed. So there is no official record of my vote.
I, on the other hand, can provide compelling evidence to support my position that I did not vote for the development.
I therefore request that you publish a correction, approved by me, and distribute it across the Jericho and Osney Ward. If you do not agree to this, then I will consider legal action against Oxford and District Labour Party for defamation of character.
Cllr Elise Benjamin