I understand that The Times are today running a story, based on a story in this week’s ‘Ham and High’, about an altercation I had with a member of the public last week. Should any other media be minded to follow up, I thought I would post the full statement I gave to the Ham and High. As follows:
‘I was walking down Perrin’s Lane last Monday after a run in Hampstead when a man walking towards me began shouting in abusive and aggressive terms as he approached. As I passed him I did not look at him, did not respond to his insults and put my my arm out to his shoulder to stop him coming any closer. If there was any contact at all it was minimal. I walked on a few steps, thought he was doing the same but he turned back, followed me, continued to abuse me and when I turned around he came towards me and aimed a kick at me which came into brief contact with my leg. He then moved back but came forward again and spat at me, most of the spit landing on my shirt, some on my face. I then turned and walked away.
‘He continued to shout abuse as he walked in the other direction. I am confident that any full CCTV coverage of the incident would show all this to be the case. The claim he subsequently made to George Galloway and to which Galloway drew attention on social media – suggesting that I punched and spat at him – is totally untrue, indeed close to being the opposite of the truth. The fact that he went to Galloway rather than the police, does not wish to be identified, and wishes to have his claims made anonymously through Galloway’s office, speaks volumes. I would be more than happy for any CCTV footage to be released, and have made inquiries of the council about any such footage which may exist. I have also kept the shirt unwashed should this go any further, though given the police have better things to do with their time, I have no interest in pressing charges.
‘Though I am used to robust debate, including in public, this is the first time I have been attacked in a public place like this and the first time I have been spat at. We have lived in Gospel Oak, happily and as active members of the local community, for decades and it has always felt a safe and friendly place for me and my family. The only other unpleasant public encounter in which I was involved in recent months was also followed immediately by activity from George Galloway. Again, the version of events you have been given by Galloway’s office on this is false, contrary to the truth, as inquiries of Walthamstow police and the CPS would establish, and I would be happy to put you in touch with those who would give you a truthful account.’
That is the end of the statement. I should add that I have seen the limited CCTV – which captures a few seconds of the above, when we are passing each other. My understanding from the Ham and High, borne out by Galloway’s tweets of last week, is the man said initially he had been punched and spat at by me. Untrue on both counts. Last night the Ham and High told me he had accepted that he provoked me, that he spat at me, and that he aimed a kick at me. They say he continued to claim – wholly falsely – that I spat at him. I note that in the paper he is quoted as saying ‘spitting ensued,’ a neat way perhaps of suggesting this was two-way when in truth the only spitting that took place was his.
Nothing surprises me about Galloway, who was last night tweeting excitedly about ‘exclusive footage’ he had of the incident. But I am somewhat surprised that the Ham and High has allowed this man to maintain his anonymity, despite his story changing as the week wore on, and despite substantial admission of the wholly accurate account I have given above. The reporter told me last night this was because the man had said he was worried about possible intrusion into his family. A bit rich. This has become a ‘story’ purely because of an inaccurate Galloway tweet, via someone who does not wish to be identified, via a partial piece of CCTV which has neither the initial provocation nor the subsequent assault. The man’s identity and motives are surely relevant?
As I say above, I am sure the police have far better things to do than look into any of this. But given that this is now prominently in the public domain, via a respected local paper and The Times, and as other media are following it up, I will be asking Camden Council to expedite any FOI request to footage from a CCTV camera in the area which may have captured the whole encounter.
I refer in my statement to an incident in Walthamstow last year. This was a Labour Party dinner I was speaking at, which was disrupted by Galloway fellow travellers as part of the film he is making about Tony Blair, and led to one of them assaulting a policewoman. Charges were laid against him but later dropped. I had been due to appear as a witness. This was communicated to the Ham and High by Galloway’s office as follows: That I had pressed charges and they had been dropped. The second part of the statement is true. The first is a lie. Indeed, though the police had initially said they intended to charge him with assault against me, I said I did not feel it was merited.
I am now going out and about my NW3 business. Will be running on the Heath later.