Steerpike

Michael Rosen faces defamation lawsuit

Michael Rosen faces defamation lawsuit
Authors Michael Rosen and Michael Morpurgo. Credit: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
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Twitter is a strange place: a rich source of (often unintentional) humour, populated by the puritanical and the po-faced. One such example was provided in May last year, when Dr Pete Newbon, a lecturer in humanities at Northumbria University, ended up being investigated by his employer for making fun of Jeremy Corbyn. 

His crime? Tweeting a picture of the former Labour leader reading to a group of schoolchildren from Michael Rosen’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Only the image had been photoshopped to show Corbyn holding the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion instead – a classic example of satire. Only Rosen, who is also on Twitter, didn't take too kindly to his book being used in this way, leaping onto the social media platform to condemn the ‘loathsome and antisemitic’ manipulated image. 

A Corbynista pile-on swiftly ensued, in what was something of a Kafka-esque nightmare. For Newbon is himself a Jewish campaigner against anti-Semitism who has spent years fighting anti-Jewish hatred within the Labour party and the broader left. Rosen meanwhile spent years defending the Labour party from charges of anti-Semitism, claiming 'it's not a Labour party problem it's a societal problem’.

Now Mr S has spotted that seven months on, Newbon is pursuing a defamation claim against Rosen, with papers filed at the High Court shortly before Christmas. Neither man was prepared to comment when approached by Mr S – though Rosen has previously said: 'I don’t really believe in pursuing libel cases. As a writer I ought to be able to defend myself with my own writing.'

Will that be enough for him?

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk or message @MrSteerpike

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