A defamation action against Mayor of London Boris Johnson by RMT General Secretary Bob Crow has been struck out.
Mr Crow initiated the action after Mr Johnson’s re-election campaign failed to withdraw withdraw posters Mr Crow claimed portrayed him “as part of a corrupt group of cronies under the control of Labour mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone.”
The posters were an attack on Livingstone’s record during his two terms at City Hall and included the text “Not Again: Ken wants to come back with his … Council Tax rises, Broken promises, cronies, scandals, waste Bob Crow. NotKenAgain.com”.
They also included reproductions of newspaper headlines from Livingstone’s time as Mayor.
Mr Johnson’s campaign responded to the threat of legal action by saying it would “not be silenced” while the Mayor said he intended “to robustly defend this baseless claim.”
Sitting at the High Court, Mr Justice Tugendhat said the words complained of “are plainly what Johnson and his supporters attribute to Mr Livingstone”.
“An association with Mr Crow is simply one other matter which is attributed to Mr Livingstone. In my judgment no reasonable reader could understand those matters to be attributed to Mr Crow by this leaflet.”
Striking out the claim, the Judge said the context of a “hotly contested election” meant the claimed meanings “could not in any event be held to be defamatory.”
“In defamation context is crucial. In the context of an election, statements by one candidate about another candidate, or about a person associated with another candidate, are not capable of being understood as anything other than partisan.
“In the present case it cannot be said that right thinking members of society generally could understand the partisan statements in the leaflets complained of as adversely affecting Mr Crow in their estimation.”
“In my judgment the words in the leaflet that Mr Crow complains of are within the latitude permitted by the law in the context of the election in the course of which they were published. They are not capable of being defamatory of Mr Crow, and so the action must be struck out.”