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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

BBC Foxes Fleet Street Fox

Yesterday at the High Court, another hacking trial began, this time over the past exploits of those in the service of Mirror Group titles - yes, that means all of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, and Sunday People - over a period of several years starting in 1999. As the trial does not involve a jury, the restrictions on what may be reported are less strict, and the first thing that came out of yesterday’s events was the scale of illegal activity.
Susie Boniface

The Guardian’s headline tells you all you need to know about that: “Phone hacking at Mirror titles was on industrial scale, court told … One journalist hacked phones of 100 celebrities every day for 18 months, says barrister acting for victims including Sadie Frost and Paul Gascoigne”. There was more - much more.

In the first hint of the true extent of phone hacking at the three titles, the court heard that the former Sunday Mirror journalist Dan Evans hacked about 100 celebrities every day from 2003 to mid-2004 … Such was the reliance on phone hacking for stories that one senior journalist was desperate for Evans to create ‘an enigma-type machine that would automatically crack pin codes’, the court was told”.

What kinds of stories might have been obtained by phone hacking? Ah well. Here we are indebted to the BBC, which, whether accidentally or deliberately, served up a few tasters on last nights News At Ten, which is still available to view on iPlayer (HERE). One need not sit through the whole bulletin; the relevant coverage comes just over one minute in. And Zelo Street regulars will see a very familiar headline at the 1:14 mark.
LUCY FALLS INTO ARMS OF ACROBAT”, it reads. The paper is the February 8, 2004 edition of the Sunday Mirror. You cannot see the by-line on the BBC video, but, as I’ve previously covered the very same story, this can now be revealed: the two names in the frame are Dan Evans … and Susie Boniface. That’s Susie Boniface as in Fleet Street Fox, who said of phone hackingI’d do it for a minor shagging story”. And here we have something that fits the bill, splashed all over the BBC News At Ten.

The “Lucy” in question was Lucy Banjamin, who has successfully sued Trinity Mirror for hacking her phone. The article told “Two weeks ago the couple ordered £108 worth of booze for Lucy's [hotel] room at 12.30am as they partied through the night”, of Ms Benjamin’s relationship with gymnast Bobby Hanton. Knowing that said booze had been ordered, perhaps by seeing it delivered, is a perfectly plausible explanation. But being able to place a price tag on it is rather more difficult.

Susie Boniface has saidI’ve never seen anyone hack a phone, never known anyone to be hacking phones, nor ever been asked to hack a phone”. Well, the BBC appears to be suggesting that her Lucy Benjamin story was the result of phone hacking, which, as Spike Milligan might have observed, puts her in a very difficult position.

The story came from a hack. But its co-author didn’t know. That’s most interesting.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Guido Fawked - Blogger Of Convenience

[Update at end of post]

The tendency of certain newspapers to play both sides of the field - the Mail is probably the supreme exponent of the genre - has, it seems, percolated down the food chain to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog. Staines was telling last month that he had moved away from blogging, only to later find the label useful as a means of promoting Himself Personally Now.
Fart in lift Inquiry hits damp patch

When talking to the Guardian - note also that Staines plays both sides of the field here too, laying into the paper when it suits him, then all too ready to use it to garner publicity - he told thatI am very nervous about moving away from the blog concept but we are more of a news website now. We’ve dropped the term ‘blog’ from the masthead”. So, got that? The founder of the Fawkes blog says it’s no longer a blog.

But then a problem entered: Andrew “Brillo Pad” Neil, highly regarded by the Fawkes folks not least because he is the head man at the Spectator, where Staines’ tame gofer, the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, has been inexplicably given a berth, has given an interview to the quarterly magazine Calibre where he has passed favourable comment on the blogosphere, especially when compared to the mainstream press.
As Roy Greenslade has noted, he “argues in his Calibre interview that although newspapers are ‘still an important part of the debate’, bloggers and the Twittersphere cannot be ignored”. And here’s the quote: “I read more bloggers now than mainstream columnists, because they’ve got more interesting things to say. Too many columnists today make you think, ‘Yeah, I think you’ve said that 10 times before and I’ve just noticed your column has not got a single fact in it’”. I wonder who he was referring to, er, Paul?

Staines’ quote is also highly selective: Neil also said during the interview that “I don’t even read the Sun and it’s my job to read everything that’s politically important. I think that’s a symbol of the declining power of the mainstream media”. The Greenslade piece quoting that interview is titled “The Sun no longer has any political clout, says Andrew Neil”.

Now, I’ll take this nice and slowly so that the Fawkes rabble can grasp the implications of their enthusiastic recycling of Neil’s words. What would be the name of the Murdoch title that gives The Great Guido a regular column? Ooh, that would be the Sunday edition of, er, The Sun. And there is Paul Staines’ Twitter account endorsing part of an interview in which someone says that same paper no longer has any political clout.

And, Fawkes folks, who gave the interview? Andrew Neil. You people over there in Guidoland do know that Creepy Uncle Rupe and Brillo did not part company on the best of terms, don’t you? Rupe might not take kindly to having Neil’s adverse comments on the influence of his best-selling UK title quoted back at him. But some folks would rather blow their own trumpets rather than keep diplomatically schtum.

The people looked from blog to news, and news to blog. Another fine mess.

[UPDATE 1935 hours: as if the Fawkes rabble could not make themselves look yet more ridiculous, their latest attempt to smear Mil The Younger has served only to give Miliband more publicity, and make the Fawkes folks look like the pretentious wannabes they all too often appear to be.

In trying to badger Labour MP Toby Perkins, who rightly said "Oh what a tragic shadow of its former self Guido has become", someone from Guidoland told him "This is important investigative journalism". Yeah, right. However many times they repeat it, it won't turn them into Woodward and Bernstein. Another fine mess]

Fox News Admits Its Host Lied

When Brian Williams was found to have seriously “mis-spoken”, NBC suspended him for six months without pay from their top-rating NBC Nightly News. For the average American not to be able to trust a news anchor was little short of unforgivable. And for Bill O’Reilly, top rated host of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) this was a heaven-sent opportunity to tell viewers that they couldn’t trust the hated MSM.
Sadly for Bill-O, this campaign has turned out not necessarily to his advantage, and for reasons many in the UK will understand. He claimed to have been “in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands”, but had got no closer to the islands than Buenos Aires, which is around 1,200 miles away. Worse, his claims to have witnessed Argentinian troops shooting civilian demonstrators dead were also soon disproved.

This was doubly shaming, because the video that shows the demonstration Bill-O was covering to be free of troops shooting civilians was the one on which he reported, and on which his voice can clearly be heard, together with his personal sign-off at the end. For that hated MSM, that would have been enough to have had him shamed alongside Williams. But there was worse to come - much, much worse.

As the Guardian has told, “O’Reilly claimed in a broadcast to have taken part in ‘a raid’ in Ireland, and in a 2013 book, Keep It Pithy, wrote that he had seen ‘Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast with bombs’”. Then there were “his claims of having seen four nuns murdered in El Salvador in 1980, during that country’s civil war. O’Reilly had said he saw ‘guys gun down nuns in El Salvador’ and ‘nuns get shot in the back of the head’”. Sadly, neither claim is even remotely true.

Even Fox News has now admitted this: “Fox News has admitted, in answer to questions from the Washington Post, that host Bill O’Reilly did not witness any bombings in Northern Ireland or murders in El Salvador. The network said he saw only photographs of such atrocities”. And Bill-O’s creative retelling goes back further.

It was revealed last October that O’Reilly even embellished his athletic career - all the way back to when he was at High School. Bill-O claimed that, while at Marist College, he had played “Varsity Football”. But that programme did not start until after he left. He then embellished his foray into baseball.

Detailing his baseball career, O'Reilly told … about the time the New York Mets brought him in for a tryout. While at the now-leveled Shea Stadium, O'Reilly recalled brushing shoulders with another pitcher who was about 5-foot-10 and ‘threw twice as hard as me’. The pitcher turned out to be Hall of Famer Tom Seaver”, told Talking Points Memo.

But he described Seaver as a rookie, and Bill-O went to Shea Stadium at least three years after Seaver’s rookie year. O’Reilly made the mistake of talking baseball, a subject which his former nemesis Keith Olbermann knows inside out. Olbermann joyfully dissected the dishonesty and concluded “I still own your head, Bill”.

Any other news channel would by now at least have disciplined O’Reilly, whose tendency to dishonesty appears entrenched. But Fox will probably give him a raise instead.

Boris Plagiarises Own Whopper

London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson would, despite the bluster and deflection, very much like to replace Young Dave as leader of the Tory Party and then at some time in the future become Prime Minister. This is a truly frightening prospect, as more and more Londoners are beginning to realise: Bozza’s loyalty is less to those who elected him, and rather more to burnishing the image of Himself Personally Now.
And part of that image burnishing process is to build on his otherwise pointless trip to the eastern part of Turkey, initially by telling readers of the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, via the good offices of its non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn, that jihadis were engaged in the kind of behaviour that made Neville Thurlbeck famous. Yes, Bozza was quite sure that they were literally a bunch of wankers.

On top of that, he was also keen to register his indignation that he had been called out by the deeply subversive Guardian, and it was here that his combination of zero research and shooting from the hip undid him. Here’s the relevant passage.

I was utterly amazed to be attacked, on the front page of the Guardian, by a woman claiming to be from the Muslim Council of Britain. She said I had been offensive to Muslims. How the hell can that be so?

However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, Bozza was in need of the nearest fire extinguisher, as his pants were, not for the first time, well ablaze: those cited in the Guardian article were the Quilliam Foundation and Islamix, and neither of their spokespersons was a woman. One might have thought that Bozza would take this minor inconvenience on board. But that thought would have been misplaced.

Indeed, not only has he ignored any criticism, he has also shamelessly recycled the passage for his latest “chicken feedgenerating column for the Telegraph. You think I jest? Here is the more upmarket version from the Tel.

I was astounded to be denounced, on the front page of The Guardian, by the Muslim Council of Britain. A spokeswoman said that I was somehow attacking Muslims as a whole. Why on earth would she say that?

Now, the Independent has called Bozza out, and rightly so: “The source at the Muslim Council of Britain said they were not sure why Mr Johnson had attributed the comments to them … The only comment we made at the time was ‘We have not got sight of the MI5 report cited by Boris Johnson, so we cannot comment on his interpretation of its contents’, the MCB’s letter to the Daily Telegraph read”.

Bozza’s trousers are once again on fire. And once again he has been allowed to get away with shamelessly lying merely to play the victim and kick the hated Guardian. That’s the kind of behaviour that is par for the Bozza course.

Something to think about the next time he is held up as Prime Ministerial material.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Taxpayers’ Alliance Clone Wrong on EU Law

It has the same address as the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA). It shares the same offices. Its CEO was the TPA’s CEO. Yet Business for Britain (BfB) would like us to think that it is somehow different: “Business for Britain exists to give a voice to the large, but often silent, majority among Britain’s business community who want to see fundamental changes made to the terms of our EU membership”.
More bore from the second floor

However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, the modus operandi of BfB, as I discovered last September, is the same as that of the TPA. Freedom of Information (FoI) fishing expeditions and slanted use of figures are to the fore. And, as the TPA claims to be in favour of “Better Government” while actually demonising it in order to weaken it, BfB seeks to weaken the EU under the pretence of constructive criticism.

In September it was the CBI that I caught BfB preparing to smear. Now the percentage of UK laws coming from the EU is being revisited in order to give the impression that the EU has a larger say in our lawmaking than is actually the case. A new “reportclaims this percentage is not the 15% or so claimed by the House of Commons library, but is actually 64.7%. The figures underpinning this assertion make interesting reading.

The crucial working-out comes in Table 4 on Page 14 of the document. Note that the total number of EU Regulations is included as an explicit addition to the number of laws coming from the EU - whether or not the regulation has any relevance to the UK. Moreover, this assumes that no EU Regulations are covered by any of the legislative acts or Statutory Instruments (SIs) which also form part of the calculation.

As the House of Commons (Hoc) library puts it, “To exclude EU regulations from the calculation is likely to be an under-estimation of the proportion of EU-based national laws, while to include all EU regulations in the calculation is probably an over-estimation”. In other words, BfB has probably over-estimated: that they conclude 64.7% of laws come from the EU, while the HoC library says 15%, confirms this.

Indeed, there does have to be new or amended law to accommodate EU regulations, and usually the latter, as Timothy Jones at the Treasury Solicitor’s Department told the BBC: “It is generally only necessary to amend existing national provisions that are inconsistent with regulations, rather than make new legislation altogether”. So BfB is being dishonest in adding regulations to other laws - this may produce double counting.

Nonetheless, BfB has got its propaganda into the press - the Daily Mail report is typical - although the Mail sensibly labels BfB as Eurosceptic. As Tim Philpott, the report’s author, likes to Retweet Europhobes such as Daniel Hannan, CapX and the account that calls itself MineForNothing, that may be an understatement. What is clear from a skim of the figures is that this is yet another deliberately slanted set of figures.

But we already know that BfB is the TPA in a differently labelled bottle. So nobody should be in the least surprised. Must try harder next time, chaps.

Murdoch Cooling On Tories?

With just over two months to go before the General Election, the last thing the Tories need is for its supporters in the press to wobble. Whatever may have been uncertain and wavering over the recent past, when push has come to shove, the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate has always been there for The Blue Team. Only the Mirror titles, Independent and Guardian have dissented from this view.
That's what I think of youse bladdy immigration policy, ya bladdy Tory drongoes!

But with Richard “Dirty” Desmond leaning towards Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP, and upheaval at the Telegraph as more and more experienced journalists are sent down the road, this united front of certainty has begun to crack. Still, the Murdoch and Rothermere press was on-side, wasn’t it? The Chipping Norton connections of Young Dave were still relevant, weren’t they?

I wouldn’t be too sure about that: for starters, as I noted earlier today, Rebekah Brooks, central to the Chipping Norton “set”, has either left for the USA, or will be doing so very soon. And the Murdoch press is getting restive about the Tories, as witness the latest slice of xenophobia from the Super Soaraway Currant Bun’s faithful retainer Trevor Kavanagh, titled “No more room on [the] bus, Mr Cameron”.
While Kav is happy to lambast Mil The Younger - “Discredited Labour has nothing to say” - he warns “As Prime Minister, David Cameron personally promised a cap of ‘tens of thousands’. On Thursday, he was forced to announce 300,000 poured in last year alone … Many were EU citizens … Many more were fleeing the flames of war-torn Middle East and Africa … Large numbers are Muslims with shadowy pasts and dubious loyalties”.

So far, so routinely bigoted, but the message, together with kicking Cameron over foreign aid, cuts to the armed forces, and being too generous to pensioners, is the assertion that immigration “was the biggest spur to the rise of UKIP and the greatest obstacle to a Tory majority on May 7”. That message is clear: the Sun will keep putting the boot into Labour, but it is less than enthusiastic about backing the Tories.
Where does this stance come from? As if you need to ask: as with anything at the Sun, the big decisions come from one man. Rupert Murdoch Tweeted on Friday “Cameron's Tories bash vulnerable Miliband for months with no effect on polls.  Need new aspirational policies to have any hope of winning”. Now we know what “aspirational” means.

Aspirational” equals dumping on Muslims and Romanians and trimming towards the Kippers. It means the UK turning its back on aid commitments overseas. It means pretending we don’t do pretty well out of immigration. Creepy Uncle Rupe is telling Dave that if he doesn’t do a bit of that, he won’t get back in.

Of course, as Andrew Neil has told, the Sun may no longer have real political clout. The question for Cameron, as Harry Callahan put it, is whether he feels lucky. Well, does he?

Arrivederci Rebekah

In the wake of Phonehackgate and the closure of the Screws, there was much speculation as to the future career path of the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks, with hints being made that, despite securing a pay-off from the Murdoch empire of just over £16 million, Creepy Uncle Rupe would find a place for his favourite Brit somewhere - but perhaps not in the UK.
The speculation was fuelled further in October last year when the Guardian’s Jon Swaine reported form New York thatRupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is considering a return to the payroll for Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the Sun and the News of the World, with a senior job in New York … Brooks has spent much of this week in the US and was in the Sixth Avenue offices of the media group in Manhattan on Thursday”.

What kind of post, though, would Ms Brooks be taking up? The newspaper industry Stateside is a rather different beast to its UK counterpart, although she might have recognised the Murdoch tabloid style in titles like the New York Post. Rupe, though, had apparently instigated the process: “Murdoch, who has made clear his continued admiration for the former chief executive of his UK newspaper division, is understood to be personally behind her potential new appointment”.

Well, now we know: the Guardian has returned to the story, noticeable by its being almost alone in reporting it (the Mail has also given it some coverage), and yesterday it was Lisa O’Carroll who brought the news. “Rebekah Brooks is close to being rehired by Rupert Murdoch in a permanent position heading up his search for new online investments”.

Do go on. “There were unconfirmed reports on Sunday that she would be heading Storyful, a social media news agency started by the former RTE current affairs present Mark Little. It was acquired by News Corporation in 2013 for $25m. The Financial Times reported that Brooks would spend some time in Dublin where the operation is based. News Corp declined to comment”. That’s an interesting one.

That Ms Brooks is on her way to the USA is not in doubt - the Mail asserts “The former News of the World editor has made the permanent switch from Oxfordshire to New York, with husband Charlie and three-year-old daughter Scarlett”. But what she was famously good at when at the Screws and Sun was her networking and schmoozing. The world of online businesses may not work quite the same way.

There was also the tendency to behave - as she and Murdoch Junior did when confronting Simon Kelner at the Independent over his “Rupert Murdoch won’t decide this election - you will” claim - in a way that justified Tom Watson’s likening of News Corp in the UK to a mafia operation. That style will not play well either in e-commerce, or indeed in New York. So Ms Brooks is in for a steep learning curve - if she intends to relaunch her career.

Whatever her future, though, it isn’t in the UK. And very few seem to have noticed.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Alex Wickham Protests Too Much

Unbelievably, the ruckus from last Wednesday’s Hacked Off lobby event at the House of Commons still rumbles on, as Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, newly anointed teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, refuses to take on board that not all of his “journalism” was totally honest and above board. To this point he has ended up blocking someone who refuses to believe him.
Still claiming to be a journalist

This is what might qualify as a high risk strategy: were Wickham to block everyone who does not consider him a paragon of honesty, there might not be too many left. He has, after all, been caught saying several things about the event that were exaggerated, or worse. You only have to look at the Tweets captured in the Zelo Street take from the following day, or that from Tim Ireland at Bloggerheads, to see this.
Just look at the Tweet that Wickham has pinned at the top of his feed: “Evan Harris and John Cleese are now shouting at me”. Ever heard Evan shout at anyone? Cleese was nursing a bad throat infection, and couldn’t as much as raise his voice - something the audio demonstrates. But Wickham is clearly tested by Peter Jukes’ refusal to believe him, asking “How can a video lie?” which is not the issue here.
He does try and deflect Jukes’ sceptical approach, but he also tried to push the idea that the Hacked Off event was about “millionaires and celebs” when it wasn’t, he asserted that Hugh Grant was “alongside” Brian Cathcart and Cleese when he wasn’t, he said Mail editor Paul Dacre had been called a “squeaky little man”, and he hadn’t, and attributed the quote “monstrous, sociopathic” to Cleese, but he didn’t use those words together.
While he kept on trying to combat Jukes’ refusal to treat him as a truthful source, Wickham didn’t deny that he said someone from the audience had “screamed” at him, when they hadn’t, he claimed “the room” had asked him to stand up, which was baloney, as it didn’t, and afterwards claimed to have been subjected to a “show trial”, whereas all that happened was that he got found out.
He moans “wire copy & video back me up entirely. Fine for you to not like me or disagree with me. But you are lying about my reporting”, but fails to tell that the full context, demonstrated by the audio recorded by Tim Ireland, is not given (Wickham was not “told” to stand up, for instance). He also failed to tell that nobody there had any problem with him sitting there and Tweeting whatever he wanted to.
So there was, despite the Fawkes blog asserting otherwise, no circumscribing of his right to speak freely. Then, by snapping “Peter, for three days and nights straight you have tweeted at me, accusing me of things I haven't done. It's not on. Blocked”, he lets slip another whopper: Jukes had not “tweeted at him” for that length of time. And, as the late John Smith might have said, for him to accuse others of lying is a bit rich.

What we have here is a physician who has it within him powers to heal himself.

George Osborne - Not To Be Sniffed At

[Updates, two so far, at end of post]

Having posted many times on the subject of the so-called “War on Drugs”, and how the only beneficiary is organised criminality, there is not going to be any condemnation for those who occasionally smoke a joint, or have an impromptu meeting with Charlie, here on Zelo Street. But the stinking hypocrisy of politicians who vow, if only by inference, to uphold the law while partaking - that is something else altogether.
Some old habits are hard to shake off (Photo (c) Natalie Rowe)

And when it comes to the present Government, the first name that comes to mind when the subject of Charlie is broached is inevitably the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, whose presence alongside Natalie Rowe has been preserved so future generations can marvel at the way he can, with a straight face, stand there in the Commons and say drugs are A Very Bad Thing Indeed.

Worse, Osborne looking out of it is something he has reprised all too recently: during the last Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) of November 2014, he was described aslike he’s just got out of bed … like he slept in a ditch … looks totally off his face … getting over a heavy night out”. When “hear hear”-ing along with the rest of the Government benches, he gave the impression of being on autopilot.

So the last thing the Chancellor of the Exchequer needs right now is to be reminded of his known past, er, indiscretions. How might such a thing happen? Oh I dunno, how about if one of his aides was caught doing some Charlie? Nah, that could never happen, I mean, he’d have given strict orders not to do anything to embarrass him, right? So the combination of rolled-up £20 notes and Snow would be right out.

Well, yes and no: no as in ordinary Charlie was not involved, but yes as in there was an aide, and there were also currently illegal drugs. As the Mirror has told, “One of Chancellor George Osborne’s senior advisers on economic policy has been captured on video smoking crack cocaine in a drugs den. Prof Douglas McWilliams, who last year ­estimated we would all be £165 a year better off by the election, is seen inhaling it through a glass tube at a flat in North London”. So rather more than Charlie, then. Oh dear!

Do go on. “The executive chairman of influential City think-tank the Centre for Economic and Business Research then slumps dazed on a sofa after repeatedly smoking on the makeshift crack pipe involving a miniature Martell Cognac bottle. Red-faced and slurring his speech, he later told the dealer he had ‘too much’ and that he had spent the day on a binge”. There’s an example to hard-pressed voters.

The Mirror - not, it has to be admitted, a great fan of the Tories - wasted no time in reminding readers that McWilliams had warned “The Government, and especially George Osborne, have credibility in the City partly because both Ed Miliband and Ed Balls do not”. Yes, somebody is supping something strong, or, er, even worse.

Clearly, being part of the Treasury team is something not to be sniffed at.

[UPDATE1 2 March 1415 hours: there has been some adverse reaction to this post on the grounds that it may be gratuitous in its criticism of the Chancellor and friends, but as so often on Zelo Street, there is a serious point being made here.

Douglas McWilliams has what might be called previous on the witnessed use of currently illegal drugs, and an incident last December does not make for comfortable reading. This time it was the Mail relaying the details.

"A leading economist is being questioned by police over claims he assaulted a prostitute after the pair smoked crack together. Professor Douglas McWilliams, executive chairman of influential City think-tank the Centre for Economic and Business Research, allegedly attacked Beverly Shearon at her flat in St Albans, Hertfordshire. Ms Shearon, 47, reportedly called police after she was left with a black eye and an injury to her hand, claiming McWilliams had 'flipped out' when a neighbour arrived at the one-bedroom flat".

There's more: "'He turned up at about 4pm and wanted a smoke. I was weak and let him,' Ms Shearon [told] ... [she] said his mood changed suddenly when a neighbour called in to wish her a Happy New Year. She alleged McWilliams, who she said had been a regular visitor to her home in the past year, had then attacked her in front of the well-wisher, before leaving the flat. She said she called police to her home, who took photographs of her injuries".

That an incident took place has been confirmed by Hertfordshire Police: "Police are investigating an ABH assault which is alleged to have occurred at an address in St Albans at around 5pm on Wednesday, December 31st ... A woman reported she had been assaulted, she suffered an injury to her hand and bruising to her face ... A 63-year-old man from London has been interviewed under caution and investigations are on-going at this time. No drug offences are being investigated".

Drug offences would be hard to pursue after the event. But the Police apparently decided to continue their investigation into the alleged ABH. That, if proved, would be extremely difficult for McWilliams, and also throw the spotlight back on Osborne's judgment. After all, he is said to be the one who recommended Andy Coulson to Young Dave]

[UPDATE2 3 March 1820 hours: such is the triviality of this business - critics of my running the original item, I'm looking at you - that Douglas McWilliams "is to step down from an influential think-tank after allegedly being filmed taking crack cocaine". That is from the relatively upmarket Times. And there's more.

"Professor McWilliams, a cheerleader of the chancellor George Osborne, will resign as executive chairman of the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) this week 'to deal with issues I have not had the chance to address fully'".

The Standard has also run an article on McWilliams, telling "Tomorrow he will step down from CEBR to confront the multiple crises in his personal life. Today he appears in court charged with assaulting Beverley Shearon on New Year’s Eve at her house in St Albans — an allegation he has denied". His lawyer was present throughout the interview he gave to the paper.

If this looks difficult for McWilliams, it must also be so for Osborne. Remember, he was said to be the one who recommended Andy Coulson to Young Dave. We have an election coming up. And questions of judgment will no doubt be examined thoroughly]

Mail Jihadi John Story Isn’t

JIHADI JOHN TO MoS: I’M A DEAD MAN WALKING” thundered the Mail On Sunday this morning, claiming to have a “World Exclusive”. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, the follow-up text in the online version suggests this may not be strictly accurate: “Jihadi John tells of paranoia at being shadowed by MI5 before he went to Syria in bombshell email to Mail On Sunday”.
The problem for the MoS is that there have been so many totally untrue front page stories in recent memory, fromBBC TURNS ITS BACK ON YEAR OF OUR LORD” to “SIR CLIFF: I’LL SUE THE BBC”, that today’s example is bound to be subjected to the most rigorous examination. And that examination suggests that “Jihadi John” has not really told the MoS what they claim he told them. In order to show how this conclusion can be reached, let’s start at the very beginning - as it’s a very good place to start.

The Islamic State killer known as Jihadi John revealed that he knew British security services were closing in on him and that he was a ‘dead man walking’ in astonishing emails to a Mail on Sunday journalist” tells the article. But then comes the slightly difficult admission “His emails were sent before he left Britain to join Islamic State in Syria”. And how long before he left would that be?

Emwazi, who would go on to orchestrate at least six hostage murders in Syria, said the harassment affected him so badly he was contemplating suicide. ‘I’ll take as many pills as I can so that I will sleep for ever,’ he warned. His emails to Security Editor Robert Verkaik in December 2010 and 2011 offer a remarkable insight into his state of mind at a time when he was already deeply immersed in extremism. Some verge on the paranoid, with frequent complaints that his every move is being shadowed by intelligence officers”.

Right. So we’re talking about communications made around four years ago. And the email used as the basis for the MoS headline came about as part of an exchange in which “he recounts what he suggests was a sinister encounter with an MI5 agent … Having advertised his laptop on classified adverts website Gumtree, he went to meet a prospective buyer at Maida Vale underground station near his West London home”.

The buyer did not check out the laptop, which Mohammed Emwazi found strange, but he did know his full name, which had not been previously disclosed. This served only to stoke his paranoia, and hence the comment “Sometimes i feel like [I’m] a dead man walking”. Yes, the comment was made, but it was made well before Emwazi ventured to Syria, and, it seems, before the Syrian conflict even got going.

It is only recently - like last year - that the ISIS (or whatever they’re called this week) beheadings began, and only from that point did the “Jihadi John” meme come about. So “Jihadi John” didn’t tell the MoS anything. “The man who would later go on to be nicknamed Jihadi John” would be the correct terminology. But that’s not sufficiently “Scary Muslims” to sell papers, so the facts have to be massaged to fit.

At least it’s the same person, though. Which is actually an improvement for this paper.

Top Six - March 1

So what’s hot, and what’s not, in the past week’s blogging? Here are the six most popular posts on Zelo Street for the past seven days, counting down in reverse order, because, well, I have to be out and about later. So there.
6 Sun Attacks Its Own Lawyer The Super Soaraway Currant Bun railed against what it called “Greedy MPs”. Second in their rogues’ gallery was Geoffrey Cox QC - who is defending the paper’s deputy editor right now in a court case. There’s gratitude for you.
5 Hugh Grant Proved Right The Sun’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn was deeply offended when Hugh Grant appeared on the Radio 4 Today programme and said he hadn’t had much to do with amendments to RIPA, the act the Police have been using to get hold of journalists’ phone records. It turned out that Grant was right.
4 Katie Hopkins Can’t Read Properly The semi-professional motormouth went on a rant about the BBC and a survey of Muslims. But her conclusions depended on her not having read most of it.
3 Don’t Menshn Hacked Off Louise Mensch was not there at the lobby event last Wednesday. So she shot her mouth off about it anyway.
2 Guido Fawked - Hacked Off Fantasy The creative retelling of what happened in Committee Room 14 at the Commons last Wednesday was rather easy to pick apart. Because it was, largely, a pack of lies. Another fine mess.
1 Teaboy Gets Hacked Off From a first-hand perspective - yes, I was there - the seriously bad behaviour exhibited by Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, newly anointed teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, was revealed.
And that’s the end of another blogtastic week, blog pickers. Not ‘arf!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

UKIP - Farage Spinner In Trouble

Today, Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP are holding their “Spring Conference” at the Kent coast town of Margate, where demonstrators have also gathered to pass adverse comment on Mr Thirsty and his devoted followers, some of whom have recently taken to making the kinds of observations that go significantly beyond anything that can be passed off as political incorrectness.
Squeaky Stateside finger up the bum time

In such circumstances, one might think that Farage and his staff would have put all their energies into promoting the conference, to the exclusion of all else, but that thought would have been misplaced: earlier this week, Mr Thirsty upped sticks and crossed the North Atlantic to give the 2015 CPAC event in Washington, DC the benefits of his superior insights, expecting to go down a storm.

But this whizzo wheeze did not turn out necessarily to the Farage fringe’s advantage: despite the build-up, when he went on stage to address all those bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Stateside conservatives, there were only about 250 of the 5,000 seats occupied. It was an expensive, pointless and ultimately humiliating disaster. Who was so silly as to think that there would be any mileage in such a stunt?
Pretentious? Who, moi?

Worse, it was the kind of stunt that the Kippers could ill afford just over two months from the upcoming General Election. So whose daft idea was it? And will said person carry the can? What will that person’s future within UKIP look like? As so often, the full picture is only slowly emerging, but there are sufficient clues to see who might be in the frame to receive the full force of Nige’s retaliation for the mess.

For starters, look at where the Farage visit was exclusively trailed - Breitbart London, formerly the domain of Raheem “call me Ray” Kassam, now Mr Thirsty’s right-hand man. “United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage will cross the pond at the end of February to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) … Breitbart News has learned exclusively” they told.
Then there wasBREITBART NEWS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ALEX MARLOW INTRODUCES UKIP’S NIGEL FARAGE TO CPAC”, but not that only 5% of seats were occupied. And the thought that Kassam had played a part in the farce was only reinforced when the rumour began to circulate that he had somehow missed the flight back to the UK on Thursday night. Had there been a falling-out between the two?

Right now, it looks as if the idea might well have been Kassam’s - he’s an old hand at CPAC visits. It also looks like he may be carrying the can. As to his future, well, it might be difficult for Mr Thirsty to get himself another spinner so close to the elections in May. But if “Ray” was behind the débacle, he’d be well advised to look for another berth soonish. Whether or not there will be any takers is another matter.

Meanwhile, UKIP limp on, weakened even further by this misadventure. So congratulations are in order to whoever was daft enough to organise it.

Hacked Off - Press’ Little Helpers

What was perhaps just as predictable as the agenda brought to last Wednesday’s lobby event hosted by campaigning group Hacked Off by Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, newly anointed teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, was the credulous behaviour of those taking Wickham’s “story” at face value, despite what happened having been caught on audio, which disproved it.
And those queuing up to back Wickham prove only that they are as dependent on that part of the Fourth Estate that is wilfully opposed to properly independent press self-regulation as he is - thereby making Hacked Off’s case for them. Forget actually reporting what really happened, push the view which will find greater favour with the editors and proprietors, and hope once more that they will throw them a few more biscuits.
So when the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole told that there had been a “Show trial for journalists”, Chris Deerin not only took him on trust, he decided it was “Typically vile”. But then, he has a column, you see. Jago Pearson was equally happy to endorse whatever the Fawkes rabble told him, but then, he’s at Media Intelligence Partners, and the “Media” part generally means being nice to those who oppose Hacked Off.
Also nodding along was Dylan Sharpe, dependent on Creepy Uncle Rupe for his stipend. But the pièce de résistance was provided by the Telegraph’s well-known blues artiste Whingeing Dan Hodges: “He can report things how he likes. Not for Hacked Off to tell journalists how to report the House of Commons”. He did report how he liked, and nobody told him to do otherwise. And there’s more where that came from.
He's not being questioned. He's being shouted at and ordered to stand up”. He wasn’t shouted at, and nor was he ordered to do anything. Try again. Ah, there was “putting them in a room and screaming at them”. Wickham put himself in the room, and nobody screamed. But it sounds less grovelling than “Please Mr MacLennan, don’t include me in the next lot of hacks you send down the road”.
He was allowed in. And then he was ordered to stand up while people shouted at him”. See, he did enter the room of his own accord! But he wasn’t ordered to do anything (again), and nobody shouted at him (again). Do go on. “So you think if journalists are reporting from a meeting they should be forced to stand up and explain each tweet”. No forcing, and no explanation was requested. But it fits the required script.
That means Wickham can continue lying by saying “I am out alive” when he left of his own accord and nobody stopped him. But what does the general public think? Master Cole must have been more than customarily miffed to read Peter Fowler’s response to him: “The problem is we all read the blog from Crewe”. Yes, all those obedient press poodles nod away, but more and more are getting the right story from Zelo Street.

And many more don’t believe the guff the press is feeding them. Never mind, lads.

Katie Hopkins Can’t Read Properly

Just to confirm that Creepy Uncle Rupe has sent the word out to his dubiously talented array of obedient pundits to put the boot in on the hated BBC, the Super Soaraway Currant Bun’s finest exponent of drive-by clickbait generation has produced a rant batshit enough to satisfy the most discerning rant connoisseur, as she has coupled the Corporation with Terror and Scary Muslims. Yes, Katie Hopkins has spoken (again).
Viewers may want to look away now

The Sun is hidden away behind a paywall, but a Zelo Street regular has made a copy of the latest Hopkins missive available to me (see how that works, Rupe?). From this it is not difficult to deduce that Ms Hopkins has, as so often, opened her North and South before engaging brain, with the result that she makes even less sense than usual. Her principal weapon is a BBC-commissioned poll of Muslims.

So under the headline “I’m sick of BBC bias on terror”, readers are told “The simple fact is nearly half of Muslims in the UK think that the bearded loons who spout violence against the West are pretty much in line with mainstream Muslim opinion”. They do? “According to a BBC poll, almost half - 45% - believe that extremist clerics who preach violence against the West are not ‘out of touch’”. And, as the man said, there’s more.

Did you hear that? Forty-five per cent of Muslims in the UK think that the hooked preacher  of hate was dead on the money. They see bearded fanatics ranting in the street encouraging their ‘brothers’ to machete the heads off white boys and nod approvingly as they saunter off to Sainsbury’s … This is not journalism. This is not responsible reporting. This is the reason we should stop paying the Licence fee”.
File that one in the fiction section

Actually Katie, reporting on a poll is indeed journalism. But she’s away with the fairies: “We must stop funding left-wingers to ingest the Guardian and make bias [sic] programmes … It is time that BBC reporters were accountable for what they write and say … I will not tolerate a society where a quarter of one religion does not respect the culture of the country they choose to join”. Shall we have a look at that survey now?

You can see the whole survey HERE and the BBC article based on it HERE. It features such assertions as “I feel sympathetic towards people who want to fight against western interests” (Disagree 85%), “If someone I knew from the Muslim community was planning an act of violence I would report them to the police” (Agree 94%), and “I would rather socialise with Muslims than non-Muslims” (Disagree 85%).

There’s also “I feel a loyalty to Britain” (Agree 95%), and “Muslims in Britain should always obey British laws” (Agree 93%), but tellingly - I do hope Ms Hopkins is listening - “Britain is becoming less tolerant of Muslims” (Agree 46%), and “Prejudice against Islam makes it very difficult being a Muslim in this country” (Agree 46%).

Katie Hopkins says “I am not a wobbly headed politician. I don’t need to please people”. She clearly doesn’t need to read that survey to the end, either. The Beeb commissioned a survey and reported on it. Ms Hopkins was cherry-picked one figure to frighten Sun readers, but the wider picture is that there was nothing remotely scary in the results.

She can’t bother engaging brain. And for this the Murdoch press pays good money.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Guido Fawked - FoI Hypocrisy

Press Gazette has been rebuffed by the Metropolitan Police in its latest effort to find out if the rozzers have been accessing the magazine’s phone call records, on the bizarre grounds that they are part of some kind of conspiracy: “Earlier this month, the Met accused Press Gazette of being ‘vexatious’, ‘disruptive’ and ‘annoying’ for sending six FoIs requesting information on journalists' being targeted under RIPA in six months”.
Fart in lift Inquiry experiences squeaky bum moment

There was more: “Since, seven other forces - Northumbria, West Mercia, Gwent, Northern Ireland, Humberside, Northamptonshire and Norfolk - have rejected Press Gazette FoIs on RIPA and journalists on the same grounds … Press Gazette will be complaining to the Information Commissioner”. Dead right they will be. And so will another party who was similarly rebuffed rather more recently.

The Guido Fawkes website has been accused of ‘working collectively’ with Press Gazette and branded ‘vexatious’ by the Metropolitan Police after filing a Freedom of Information Act request to find out if its staff’s telephone records had been secretly obtained by the force. The Met accused the website of a ‘vexatious and repeated request’ and claimed that it was linked to previous questions about RIPA asked by Press Gazette”.

The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines may be many things, but being barred from making FoI requests is not one of them. As a result, they were most put out: “For the avoidance of doubt, Guido is not 'working collectively' with Press Gazette on sending FoIs to the Met. This strange allegation by the Met is completely untrue. He sent just one batch of three requests, which in no reasonable terms can be described as vexatious or repeated”.

So Staines and his rabble are unhappy that the Met may have obtained telephone information about them. One might think that they must, therefore, be more than happy to respond to any request to their good selves about how they have come by personal information on others. Like, oh I dunno, phone numbers, full addresses and full names, even where these are not routinely available.

I mean, fair’s fair, eh, Fawkes folks? So perhaps Staines and friends would like to let me know how they have managed to obtain my full address (it’s not on the electoral roll), my phone number (it’s not in any directory) and full name. And, for removal of any doubt, there has not yet been an honest or credible explanation offered up. I suspect the details were not just obtained so they could wish me a happy Christmas.

There’s always an outside chance that A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away. Or perhaps the details fell off the back of a moderately sized commercial vehicle. Maybe I shouted them out in a crowded pub and forgot the incident immediately afterwards. But none of these are remotely believable. So come on, Fawkes rabble, and let me know how you got all that information. I’m sure it was all in a good cause.

Until then, they shouldn’t expect any sympathy for their FoI rejection. Another fine mess.

BBC - Liddle By Liddle

The Super Soaraway Currant Bun’s campaign against the BBC, which I touched upon yesterday, would not be complete without a suitably opinionated pundit to loose off their North and South in support of it. And so it came to pass that Rod Liddle, famous for not much more nowadays than being Himself Personally Now, launched an attack on the Corporation, out of which he has done rather well over the years.
Lush? Me? Look mate, I'm only on my fifth glass, okay?

The result is as dull as it is predictable: “The BBC is politically biased to the liberal left and cringingly politically correct. Hugely incontestably biased [that means don’t challenge him because HE KNOWS THESE THINGS]. Its foreign correspondents thought the Arab Spring was marvellous, remember [no, sorry, I don’t, and I see you can’t name one who did] - and then look what happened!” But do go on.

They hate Israel and are not terribly keen on the UK or USA. But oh boy do they love the European Union! Anyone who disagrees is, of course, a xenophobe. At home they are vociferously pro-immigration, anti-business and pro-Islam and believe unarguably in climate change”. Yeah, right. There was, as Captain Blackadder might have said, only one thing wrong with this idea - it was bollocks.

All that Liddle can manage is nods and winks, wild accusations and smears. He even tells that Meet The Ukippers was “A whole programme portraying UKIP as a bunch of racist fruitcakes”, not letting readers know that the racism and fruitcake tendencies were a result of what the Kippers actually said. The BBC did not need to produce a “portrayal”. But good to see Creepy Uncle Rupe is still well disposed towards Mr Thirsty.

Then he loses it completely: “The BBC is stuffed full of metropolitan, liberal, middle-class people who make programmes for metropolitan, liberal, middle-class people. It hates the working class”. So says someone who is metropolitan and middle-class, and wouldn’t know the working class if they jumped up and fly-hacked the SOB in the undercarriage. Liddle is also someone with a grudge against the Corporation.

He was editor of the Radio 4 Today programme for four years, during which he hired Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan, whose lousy journalism damaged the programme’s reputation. Liddle left Today after being given an ultimatum by management after shooting his mouth off once too often. It was his own fault, and he’s been given plenty of work by the BBC since then, despite his appalling record of unpleasantness.

This included a misogynist attack on Harriet Harman, racist attacks on the Afro-Caribbean community, accusing many people of pretending to be disabled, dropping the Spectator in the mire and leaving the magazine facing a contempt of court charge, and an excursion on to a Millwall supporters’ website where he made a “joke” about not being able to smoke at Auschwitz. All of which means the BBC will not be taking any lectures from him.

Nobody should take any notice of this wind-up merchant with a huge chip on his shoulder.