We have written to Ben Chacko, editor of the Morning Star, to complain about his treatment of Ms Stella Perrett, a cartoonist and a member of the Free Speech Union.
Ms Perrett has been contributing cartoons to the Morning Star for over five years and in 2016 Mr Chacko described her as one of the paper’s “star cartoonists”. In 2018, he praised her and the paper’s other cartoonists for their “sharp-edged satire”.
Yet when a cartoon of hers in the paper on the weekend of 22nd – 23rd February it attracted criticism from trans activists, Chacko did not stand by her. (The cartoon depicted a crocodile entering a pond full of newts saying, “Don’t worry your pretty little heads. I’m transitioning as a newt!”) Instead of defending Ms Perrett, Mr Chacko terminated the paper’s relationship with her, apologised for publishing the cartoon and traduced her reputation. In a “Mea Culpa” published in the paper, he compared Ms Perrett’s cartoon to a “transphobic hate crime”, and accused her, indirectly, of “bullying and harassment”. Shortly afterwards, she lost her job working for the Public and Commercial Services Union.
It goes without saying that the cartoon doesn’t come anywhere near the threshold that would justify this kind of treatment. It doesn’t threaten violence and cannot reasonably be said to affect any person’s safety. While some may view it as offensive, that doesn’t begin to excuse the manner in which Ms Perrett was treated. “Sharp-edged satire” will inevitably offend some people; if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be “sharp-edged”.
We have asked Mr Chacko to apologise to our member and make it clear that his implied characterisation of her as a transphobe and a homophobe, and his depiction of her cartoon as a form of bullying and harassment, is unjustified. Alternatively, we have asked him to give her a right of reply in the pages of the Morning Star.
UPDATE: Ben Chacko has responded in a way that satisfied Stella Perrett and this case is now closed. The Mail on Sunday wrote about Stella’s case here.