Shonkygate rolls into its second day. Several thousand readers picked up on yesterday’s blog, compared to just a few hundred for the blog this whole thing is predicated around. Support has been terrific, and some interesting facts have percolated through.

A few people have questioned Browne-Jacobsons rates here: charging £1,500 + VAT for pursuing a case that is increasingly looking like a bullying, intimidating act of frivolity. Charging £1,500 +VAT and then getting the name of your client incorrect, and writing a letter which reads like a Google translation into English from Serbo-Croatian. Browne Jacobson, this is shonky behaviour, and I hope you give Mr DaviDson a refund for such shonkiness. Of course, he could instruct you to sue yourselves, but I reckon he’d be better off finding a new legal firm.

With my next point, I willing declare I have no legal training (I did work at a Law School once, but I did the photocopying so I don’t think that allows me to the Bar), so forgive me if I’m wrong. Yet I feel your quoted statutes regarding defamation are outdated. May I bring to your attention the current interpretation? Anna Soubry MP will be more than aware of these: she sat on the Committee which looked into the change. As blog correspondent Ellie Turpin noted in the comments of the last post (I declare an interest: she’s my wife)

On 1st January 2014 the new Defamation Act 2013 became law (1); Anna Soubry will be familiar with this legislation as she was on the committee for this bill in 2012-13.

One of the key features of the bill is the new ‘serious harm threshold’ where claimants need to show that the statement has caused, or is likely to cause, serious harm to their reputation. As pointed out in this Press Gazette article (2) “Libel actions against web-only publications are likely to fail if the page did not attract many clicks.” I believe that the blog post the solicitors letter refers too had only had a few hundred unique views. However, I understand from Matt, that this post, detailing the heavy handed, intimidating communication and extortionate claim for money has already received over a thousand views in less than 24 hours.

Perhaps Mr Davidson, Ms Soubry and the partners of Browne Jacobson would like to spend a few minutes googling ‘The Streisand Effect’ before promptly referring themselves to Pressdram vs Arkell (1971).


I’m also interested in an excerpt for Hansard, the record of proceedings in the Commons. This pertains to Browne Jacobson’s assertion that I posited a conflict of interest between Anna Soubry and Neil DaviDson, and their further assertion that DaviDson had no meaningful connection to Persimmon: accusations (that i didn’t actually make) that they were full of piss and vinegar over. Here’s Hansard:

At the outset, I will make what some might call a declaration of interest, although it is not. It is important to put on the record that my partner—that is the appropriate word, although it is one I do not particularly like to use—is a director of Persimmon and sits on its board.

So Mr DaviDson sat on the board. But had no influence. Perhaps Mr DaviDson would like to sue Anna Soubry MP for defamation?

I would also like to use this public forum for some help. I am represented in Parliament by Anna Soubry MP, and my taxes pay her wages. She is thus legally obliged to help me as her constituent, regardless of my own political leanings. I am therefore writing to her to ask for help in what I see as a frivolous, bullying attack on local opinion. As a former barrister, and former member of the NUJ, she is extremely qualified to address such a request. Anna, care to help?

To finish, this whole process has been distracting, emotionally straining and nasty. Browne Jacobson, Neil DaviDson, Anna Soubry. I am willing to settle if you abide to my requests.

1. You retract the assertion that I have committed an act of defamation. You also retract the letter’s defamatory remarks that Beestonia is

‘….facetious…the product of your ill-informed political prejudice’

and instead admit that your attempt at intimidation IS exactly that : ill-informed political prejudice.

2. Apologise to me -and my readers- for the distress caused by this bullying activity. I do not seek legal costs, or damages per se, but a £1,500 (I’ll discount the VAT) donation to a charity of my choice will be fair settlement.

3. Mr DaviDson, Ms Soubry: perhaps consider a new, less shonky, legal firm.

I remain, faithfully,

Matt ‘Shonky McShonky’ Goold, aka Lord Beestonia.

27 thoughts on “SHONKYGATE: DAY TWO.

  1. Bryan O'Anus says:

    Any joy with Private Eye? Or are they unsympathetic, given their celebration of Anna’s promotion to the post of ‘Deputy Assistant Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Ring-binders and Stapling’ in the recent issue?

  2. Chris says:

    “I would also like to use this public forum for some help. I am represented in Parliament by Anna Soubry MP, and my taxes pay her wages. She is thus legally obliged to help me as her constituent, regardless of my own political leanings. I am therefore writing to her to ask for help in what I see as a frivolous, bullying attack on local opinion. As a former barrister, and former member of the NUJ, she is extremely qualified to address such a request. Anna, care to help?”

    That is a stroke of genius. Please post the response when you get it next year.

  3. Rylander says:

    I would like counselling and also a spot of damages please, this tawdry affair has left me a jibbering wreck (or was it a few too many Bounders at the Crown) ?? Come the revolution ……..

  4. Joan Wade says:

    The fees claimed by solicitors does raise the issue as to what members of the public can do in relation to such demands. Clearly denying a claim and / or being a man of straw (the technical term used by the legal profession for someone who goes to a jar to find out how much money they have) are responses. The Legal Ombudsman and the Solicitors Regulation Authority both play a role in relation to legal firms but it is not clear to me that either body would be of assistance to a non client who for example was willing to settle a claim by correcting any genuine errors but disputed whether the solicitor’s fees were reasonable. Others might however have more insight into this area.

  5. Michael Merrifield says:

    Before you get too wrapped up in the defamatory (or otherwise) usage of the word, it is perhaps worth noting that “shonk” is an abusive term for a Jewish person, so using “shonky” to mean avaricious or dishonest does have rather nasty racial overtones.

  6. Tim Richards says:

    Superb response. Who needs soap operas on TV when there is this quality of soap opera on a daily basis where I live. I can’t wait for the next instalment

  7. Gary says:

    Hi Matt. I’ve just read about this in the Nottingham Post. I’m a fellow Broxtonian/Broxtonite(?), and I’d like to thank Mr Davidson and Ms Soubry for attracting me to this wonderful blog.

    • beestonia says:

      Thanks Gary, welcome to the world of Beestonia. There are plenty of posts detailing Soubry’s awful tenure as MP here, please enjoy reading.

  8. stevebarber says:

    I’ve been doing a bit more digging and if you look here: you find a document dated 08 Jan 2013 which states that Neil Davidson, having served 9 years as a non-executive director of Persimmon is leaving. The current list of director (exec and non exec) does not list Neil Davidson.

    So it appears that:
    On 18 October 2011 Anna Soubry MP may have misled Parliament when she described him as an director of Persimmon. Even the solicitor seems to agree that as they use the past tense when describing him as never being an Executive.

    This is probably a minor point and hardly usually worthy of note but when legal action is threatened against a constituent for using information taken from what should be a very accurate and authoritative source, I would have thought that it becomes a bit more serious.

    I think we need an explanation.

    I wonder if the speaker and Black Rod read this blog.

  9. CT says:

    As ever, once we start arguing about the meaning and implications of a word, we get bogged down. It’s a mixture of derivation and actual usage. Several dictionaries have a variety of shades of meaning from downright ‘dishonest’ to ‘unreliable’ to just ‘dubious’. As for Michael Merriefield’s assertion that it is a term of abuse for somebodyJewish, I thought that too but Oxford Dictionaries think it might derive from an Old English word meaning ‘smart’ (so it’s come a long way! maybe an ironic inversion?) though I’ve also seen it suggested that it might come from a Yiddish word, or even be Australtian in derivation. The claim being made is that since Matt used it of a company with which Mr Davidson was associated in some, apparently oblique, way, one of the meanings of the word ‘shonky’ must have been intended to refer to Mr Davidson. That’s quite a tenuous link, actually, and does look like an attempt, politically motivated, maybe, to silence someone who is likely to post a lot of anti-Soubry invective come the General Election. We could, for example, make something of the ‘epithet’ this blog used to carry (“He really is bonkers”) which was supposed to have come from a local Conservative website. Albeit Matt wore it as a badge of endorsement, if we had started looking up definitions of ‘bonkers’ I’m sure Matt could have found something over which he could have instructed a solicitor, if only he’d had a grand and a half sitting around doing nothing. Good to see Ms Soubry using the ‘nothin’ to do with me, guv’ defence.

    • beestonia says:

      I’ve just left a message on the Broxtowe Blue website, one of many i’ve attempted to post. in each case, they’ve refused to let it through moderation. The latest reads :

      Matt Goold July 31, 2014Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Why do you not print comments on this site? I have posted several times where I have been criticised, yet not a single instance of these has been posted. On one occasion you attempt to label me as mentally unwell with the offensive term ‘bonkers’. Why was my response not posted? You claim to be advocates of free speech but only when it concurs with right-wing /Tory opinion, and will not brook any dissent. I am submitting this at 21.23 on 31/07/2014. Look forward to seeing it up soon.

      I will check back over the next few days. These advocates of free-speech certainly have a strange way of expressing it.

  10. Michael Merrifield says:

    OED seems fairly clear, CT:

    Shonk, n. Shortened form of shonicker, n. slang. An offensive name for a Jew.

    • beestonia says:

      ‘shonky’ as an adjective is most likely a Carrol-esque portmanteau of ‘wonky’ and ‘shaky’. That is the intention and not meant to cause any offence.

    • Chris says:

      Firstly, Matt referred to Persimmon as shonky not Mr Davidson. I would also guess that he isn’t Jewish. Secondly, the solicitors defined the word in their letter saying it meant “dishonest, unreliable or illegal”.

      Why have you looked up a similar sounding (shonk not shonky) and rarely used piece of American slang which it is quite clear was not being used? Not trying to distract from the story are you?

      • Michael Merrifield says:

        Firstly, Matt referred to Persimmon as shonky not Mr Davidson. I would also guess that he isn’t Jewish. Secondly, the solicitors defined the word in their letter saying it meant “dishonest, unreliable or illegal”

        The point I was making was nothing to do with the person or organization to whom the term was being applied. I was just pointing out that it is a rather offensive word to use given its etymology.

        Why have you looked up a similar sounding (shonk not shonky) and rarely used piece of American slang which it is quite clear was not being used?

        The reason why it is similar-sounding is because it is an adjectival form derived from the noun. OED: Etymology: < shonk n.1 + -y suffix1. slang (offensive). It's British and Australian (by way of cockney), not American, by the way.

        So: shonk=offensive term for a Jewish person; shonky=offensive term for avaricious or dishonest person. Do you see why that might be just a little offensive?

        The fact that it is rarely used is precisely why I bothered to point this out. I am sure that most people are unaware of its etymology if they use it. I would hope that most people would stop using it when they became aware, but if they do continue to use it, at least they have made an informed choice to do so.

        Not trying to distract from the story are you?

        Perhaps time to get a little perspective. I’d be happy to discuss it with you in person, if you chose not to hide behind anonymous comments.

  11. Chris says:

    That is clearly not the intended use of the word though. If I said I was going outside to smoke a fag would you assume that I a) was in the garden having a cigarette or b) was a homophobe preserving the body of a gay man.

    The story is about unwarranted threats of legal action for innocuous comments. The aggrieved party sees the term shonky as dishonest or unreliable yet you are now on your third post insisting that some other irrelevant meaning of the word is important. Do you have any thoughts on the story other than splitting hairs over pointless linguistic issues? Is Mr Davidson justified in his actions or does it all smell like an attempt at intimidation?

    I would say that you need to find some perspective or would you prefer to discuss Matt’s language in this article? Do you think that the letter reads like a “Google translation into English from Serbo-Croatian” or is it more Lithuanian to you? Are there hints of Norwegian?

    Lastly, my post isn’t anonymous. You can tell because my name is in the top left.

  12. Michael Merrifield says:

    I didn’t say it was the intended use of the word. I said it was offensive because of its etymology, which, as far as I know, is not shared by the etymology of the word for cigarettes and gay men. The fact that you do not grasp this distinction is neither here nor there, but the fact that you do not even seem to see the irony of accusing others of “splitting hairs over pointless linguistic issues” before going on to claim that your contribution is not anonymous because you sign it “Chris” is quite amusing.

    • Chris says:

      You can’t claim a word is offensive because of the history or origins of it. Google everyday words with racist origins and you will find many others.

      Take the phrase “sold down the river” for example, a phrase about selling slaves to plantations further South where conditions were worse.

      “Hip, hip hooray” was originally a German shepherds call but was used during anti-semitic riots in the early 19th century. Look up the Hep-hep riots.

      Finally, what about the children’s rhyme “Eenie meeny miney moe”. When I was a kid we caught a tiger by the toe but older people would have been using an offensive racist term instead. Is the modern version still offensive?

      So you can see that the origins don’t matter. It is the current meaning and usage of a word that is important. If you disagree then I hope you have checked the origins of your whole vocabulary because there are an awful lot of words with dodgy origins.

      Now will you please express an opinion on the story.

  13. Andrew Varley says:

    I think the good professor has missed the whole point by getting hung up on semantics. (Yes, I googled him and he’s a lib dem supporter as well as a blog commentator. He also does a ton of interesting astrological research).

    Don’t was always in common use in our household and my grandfather used it extensively. This is the man that stood shoulder to shoulder with his Jewish friends and colleagues in the battle of cable street, and us rumored to have even popped sir Oswald Mosley on the nose.

    And growing up in the Jewish bit of north London in the seventies and eighties, I heard loads of Jews use the term. So is it anti Semitic? Probably not. I will double check it next time I’m down at the 24 hour biegel bakery before the first spurs game id the season though.

    Now what about that Soubry woman eh?

  14. Michael Merrifield says:

    And yet, when people realized quite how offensive the original word was, they always seem to catch a panthera tigris by the phalanx nowadays. Presumably that’s because they have a great deal more common sense and common decency than to keep repeating a deeply offensive word once they have been made aware how deeply offensive it is.

    This is not some vague, indirect association: the nasty racist historic stereotype is that Jewish people are dishonest and avaricious. A nasty offensive term for a Jewish person is a “shonk.” “Shonky” is a nasty word that means dishonest and avaricious. About as nasty and direct as it gets.

    As for the story, I prefer to comment on the nasty racist language, as I actually have an informed opinion on the subject. Of course, if you stopped trying to defend the indefensible notion that the word in question is just fine, I’d probably shut up and let other people get on with the important business of discussing the story. But I am sure you are bright enough to already know that. Not trying to distract from the story, are you?

    • Andrew Varley says:

      But Michael,

      It seems to me you are looking for offence where none is intended. And it’s a very strange word to be hung up about. As I said in my response, none of my Jewish friends have ever taken offence to it, even using it in common parlance themselves.

      Why this particular word? Shonky had never been associated with jewishness in my world until today. Even though I have associated with many Jewish groups and stood shoulder to shoulder with Jews on the shelf and the park lane at the spurs.

      But then I am only a goy, what do I know?

  15. stevebarber says:

    It’s a pity this has got hi-jacked and the main point of the arguments lost. I wonder if that was deliberate…..

  16. Michael Merrifield says:

    I don’t believe anyone is stopping anyone else from discussing the silly behaviour of Anna Soubry in pursuing this, but I guess there just isn’t much to say as it rather speaks for itself.

  17. Rylander says:

    Steve, what do you mean this convo has been hijacked ! Rather rude as I have now been hedukated by Prof Merrifield – I am burning my old copy of Shonky Tonk Woman as we speak !
    The Stones – who would have believed it !!!

    So – where did we end up with the legal threats??

  18. stevebarber says:

    Just a thought and I’m happy to have it dismissed.

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