Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West, has made extraordinary remarks published in the Echo relating to recent allegations against US movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and commented disparagingly on claims by other victims of alleged sexual abuse. Now he's trying to deny saying them.
Ashley Dalton, Chair of the Southend Labour Party’s Local Campaign Forum and the 2017 Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Rochford & Southend East says, “I was appalled to read Sir David Amess’ comments in The Echo regarding Harvey Weinstein and the accusations brought against him. Sir David appears to accept that the ‘casting couch’ is a feature of the movie industry and goes on to imply that many of the accusations are ‘dubious’, presumably false and astonishingly compares Weinstein’s alleged victims to the victims of Jimmy Saville, implying those people were lying too.
Sir David’s comments are offensive and malicious. They seek to undermine the lived experience of victims of sexual abuse and exploitation and directly contribute to the very culture that discourages people to speak out and name their attackers.
Sir David clearly has no understanding of the power dynamics at play and no appreciation of the shame, powerlessness and intimidation that perpetrators rely on to silence their victims and get away with their crimes.
Anyone in the Southend, Castle Point and Rochford area that has been affected by any of these issues can contact Southend Rape Crisis for professional and confidential advice and support by visiting www.sosrc.org or by calling 01702 303232.”
In a later online edition of the Echo Sir David is reported as saying that he did not authorise his office to issue a press release attributing those remarks to him.
In the light of that later retraction, Ashley Dalton has further commented, "It would seem highly irregular that a member of his team would send a press release on a matter not immediately relevant to the constituency and with quotes purporting to be Sir David’s personal views on the matter off their own back. In any event, he has chosen to shirk responsibility and instead point the finger at his own staff.
Perhaps Sir David does not have the necessary authority to run his own office effectively or perhaps this is an equally clumsy climb down in the face of the outrage and disapproval the comments generated on the Echo online and elsewhere.
Whichever it is, Sir David has shown that he does not have a grip on the messages he and his office are putting out - that raises the question of how much of what he says can we trust?"
Thousands of copies of the print edition of the Echo will have been read before Sir David's retraction. As anyone familiar with press releases will know, a press officer might attribute comments to someone within their organisation but they would write those comments based on what they knew of the person's views on the given subject. It would be very unusual - and extremely bad practice - not to show the content of a press release to the person being cited prior to issuing a statement to the newspapers. Press Officers don't just make comments up: they write things that reflect the known views of the MP / councillor / candidate. Somewhere along the line Amess must have expressed those views even if he didn't intend them for publication.