The Reading Chronicle published this yesterday, so here is my response to it. I have also put it in the comments box on the story, and they have said they will publish a shortened version in the dead-tree remix.
I read with interest your copy of a press release from a Mr Martin Salter titled "Ex-Reading MP tells Leveson he was a News of the World target". Apparently Mr Salter is upset that the now defunct News of the World ran an "unpleasant" story about him refusing to back its Sarah's Law campaign in 2000. Poor love. Journalists not always being nice about people in public life? That must have come as a terrible shock to the notoriously publicity-shy and reclusive MP. Understandably still traumatised 12 years later by the dreadful discovery that there are parts of the print media which are sometimes unwilling to copy out his press releases, Mr Salter has attempted to heal those wounds by providing his tale of woe as evidence for Tom Watson MP to present to the Leveson inquiry. What Tom Watson was thinking when he agreed to accept this stuff is another matter. But I have read Tom Watson's ghostwritten book "Dial M for Murdoch", which is not only crammed with inaccuracies but reveals that Tom Watson at one stage believed himself to be mentally ill. We're with you on that, Tommy-boy! Mr Salter takes up the story. The News of the World went to his home! Shock! Horror! They had a photographer! Anguish! Terror! He was indeed terrified. He had to stay away from home for the Whole Day! In case the Nasty Men came back! I am reliably informed that he spent the day in Reading West, where he knew the press would never find him. They were searching for him, of course, in Reading East. A cunning stunt, I'm sure you will agree.
Anyway, the reason I have taken up my pen is that Mr Salter's press release contained the following:
"In 2004, former Reading East MP Jane Griffiths, (punctuation errors either Mr Salter's or the Reading Chronicle's) attempted to "smear" him with "a series of wholly false and ridiculous allegations" in an "angry interview" with the Mail on Sunday after she was deselected by her local Labour party." First, matters of fact. No smear. A smear is an allegation, usually untrue, but anyway intended to make the person it is about look in some way bad or as though they have done something they have not done. Everything I said in relation to Mr Salter was factual. Not only this, but he said so himself at the time, telling MPs and anyone who would listen that he had "coughed to the dope". (No, me neither. I think it's a secret language they speak in Staines.) "Ridiculous" my words may have made Mr Salter seem, but "false" they were not. If they had been, why did he not sue me? He brags about his litigiousness often enough. Also, I was not "angry" during the interview. The journalist and I had a good laugh together. I've let the journalist know about this nonsense, and I have of course contacted both Tom Watson MP and the Leveson inquiry team. Second, why was this nonsense given in evidence to the Leveson inquiry? There is no connection with phone hacking. Except in Mr Salter's dreams. He tells us that on the day in question the Horrid Newspaper Man made 20 calls to him, which he ignored. He also tells us that to this day, eight years on, he is still "trying to figure out" if there had been "an attempt to illegally access his voicemail messages". No evidence for it, Martin. Sorry mate, you're just not interesting enough.
I am grateful to the delightful Sally Stevens of Berkshire Media for allowing me the opportunity to reply to the nonsensical falsehoods peddled by Mr Salter in the pages of the Reading Chronicle. It does the heart good to know that not all newspapers allow lies and smears to go unchallenged