Concern about the effects of aggressive new media legislation deepened last after a former Labour parliamentary candidate used an accurate local newspaper story as evidence of the need for tough controls on local papers.
Mike Sparling was dismissed from his job as a police 999 call handler after bosses discovered he had called in sick so he could canvass for votes to become a Labour MP at the 2015 general election.
Photographs of him on the campaign trail found on social media showed him looking healthy – just days before his employment was due to start.
The report about Mr Sparling’s dismissal was published by the Plymouth Herald three weeks after the election.
Labour parliamentary candidate Mike Sparling presented a Plymouth Herald article about his former dismissal from a police 999 call handler job as evidence of the need for tougher press controls. He had called in sick so he could canvass for votes to become a Labour MP at the 2015 general election
Devon and Cornwall Police told the paper he did not pass his probationary period because ‘he was unable to meet the standards we require’.
On Thursday, Mr Sparling, a Labour councillor for the Stoke ward of Plymouth, used the newspaper article as a reason to express his support for a vote in the House of Lords to muzzle the Press.
He is understood to have accepted a job offer to work in Manchester for the Information Commissioner, who is responsible for enforcing data protection law.
Mr Sparling will not seek re-election as a Plymouth councillor.
On Wednesday peers voted for a draconian law which would force the majority of newspapers to pay all the legal costs in data protection cases – even those they won.
They also voted for a new inquiry which would be fashioned after Leveson 2, the second part of the Leveson inquiry, with the key difference that it would scrap the parts that put the police and politicians under the spotlight and focus exclusively on the Press.
Theresa May has vowed to overturn the legislation in the Commons, and is particularly concerned about its effect on local papers.
He accused political reporter Patrick Daly, who wrote the story, of producing a ‘classic example of s*** ill-informed journalism’
Mr Sparling wrote on Twitter: ‘Encouraging to see peers backing Leveson 2.
‘As I can appreciate from personal experience, the relationship between journalists and the police can be unhealthy, damaging, “worth a drink” and even corrupt.’
He accused political reporter Patrick Daly, who wrote the story, of producing a ‘classic example of s*** ill-informed journalism’.
Mr Sparling said it was a ‘fine example of integrity and ethics gone awry in journalism’.
But Mr Daly said the councillor was blaming ‘a journalist and the police for simply reporting or responding to [his] own actions’.
Mr Daly added: ‘This is someone who got caught fair and square.
‘The story was based on three independent sources. Mr Sparling never gave me a statement which disputed it.
‘Now he wants to use the House of Lords vote to shut us down for stories he doesn’t like.’
Mr Sparling did not respond to a request for a comment last night.
When asked in 2015 about his dismissal, he said: ‘I did not complete the probationary period, allowing me to focus more on representing residents in Stoke ward.’