The Sun splashed its exclusive back in April that there was a Labour plot to smear the Conservatives via a political rumour website 'Red Rag' but it now appears the only bull it has attracted has been Carter Ruck's litigation team who have today secured an apology and substantial damages for Tom Watson who it had - as has now emerged - falsely accused of being part of the plot to smear the Tories along with labour spin-meisters Damian McBride and Derek Draper.
Bit of a sorry indictment on The Sun and its former political scrutineer Trevor Kavanagh that what was a great scoop has now proved to lack the sting and has ended up in court as yet another apology and big libel bill because the story was either untrue or the paper had not been able to make it stand up to legal scrutiny. While todays reluctant sorry in the High Court and damages payout will, rightly subject the journalism to scrutiny, the public impact of the original story will have been far greater.
What Mediabeak thinks is a shame is that IF the impact of the story could be backed up with robust journalism that stood the test of legal action then we would have more faith in the papers and columnists who expose the dodgy dealings of politicians. Handing over yet another damages cheque and mumbling sorry in court might seem a commercially viable offset to the circulation generated by the offending story but its not a victory for journalism. While many of Carter Ruck's practices and cases may be seen as thorn in the side to the press, in cases such as these the financial pain the press suffer is a justified and important reminder of the fact that if you can't substantiate the story then don't be surprised if the lawyers come knocking at your door.