THE BRITISH PRESS has traditionally been a guardian of our liberties, especially freedom of speech.
So it is surprising that a distinguished journalist has complained to a tweeter’s employer, a transport watchdog organisation, about some of the man’s tweets on cycle safety.
Stops, who is also a Hackney councillor, had been at the same organisation for almost two decades. He took redundancy.
The ex-employer told Loving Dalston that it “made Vincent Stops redundant at the end of March 2021 as part of a suite of redundancies”. (There is no suggestion the redundancy was linked to any action by Wolmar.)
The complaint by Wolmar, a veteran transport commentator and a London Cycling Campaign trustee, about what he termed “a misuse of [cycling] statistics on a Trumpian scale”, said: “I would be very interested to know if this is something that is allowed under your employment terms and, if not, whether you will ask Mr Stops to desist from making these attacks.”
During a row about cycle safety measures in the Netherlands Wolmar said his fellow Labourite’s “latest effort… is clearly nonsensical — cycle lanes are not inherently dangerous and I am sure this is not a view that [the employer, unnamed for legal reasons] would want to share.
“I hope that you can take action on this.”
Stops responded on his blog that his Twitter account expressed his own views and had never referred to his employer. He said: “I didn’t get a chance to debate [with] Mr Wolmar on Twitter as he did not seek to engage with me, preferring, instead, to seek to suppress my views via my employer.”
Stops said Wolmar’s complaint led to his consulting a solicitor and his trade union before invoking a grievance process with the “public body that I had worked for, for 20 years and [which] had hitherto been supportive of my public role”.
Wolmar, asked by Loving Dalston about the right to freedom of expression, said that of course he believed in it but that if you worked for a transport organisation, publicly expressing different views was a problem.
Wasn’t trying to close down a commenter a bit extreme? Wolmar replied: “I’m allowed to do that as much as he [Stops] is allowed to slag me off on Twitter. The employer had been concerned about his [cycle-safety] views as a policy officer before I complained. I was complaining that one of its employees had put out stuff that was against its policy.”
The National Union of Journalists code of conduct says the NUJ “at all times upholds… the right of freedom of expression”.
David Altheer 210621
* Backstory: One of Britain’s most most cycling-unsafe junctions is in Hackney; Public silenced as Hackney sound system fails; World’s ‘most important buildings’ are in Hackney says councillor; Hackney cyclists demand segregated routes; Cycopathic? No bike path;
* Pictures of van and Stops © Vincent Stops, others © David.Altheer@gmail.com. All available for sale via that eddress. Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink.