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Monday, 26 September 2016

Mail Bashes Mail

If ever anyone needed an example of the increasingly bitter rivalry between the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, who has occupied the editor’s chair at the Daily Mail for a quarter of a century, and Geordie Greig, recently installed - reportedly at the behest of the Rothermere family - as editor of the Mail On Sunday, it has been provided by the MoS’ serialisation of former Cameron spinmeister Crag Oliver’s new book.
Why the f*** shouldn't I put the boot into my Sunday sister paper, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

As Zelo Street regulars will be aware, the MoS ran its first extracts yesterday, including the last-minute conversion of London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson from Leave to Remain, although Oliver appears to have missed that Bozza’s participation in Vote Leave was not a wholly voluntary one. The revelations painted Young Dave’s replacement Theresa May in a less than flattering light.

For the Vagina Monologue, this was little short of treasonous: despite Ms May being still very much an unknown quantity, and showing both fragility at the Dispatch Box and a worrying tendency to control freakery, Dacre is still more than willing to project his entire agenda on to her, and praise her to the hilt for it. So there had to be maximum retribution, although the Mail has stopped short of calling out its sister paper.

Fury as Dave's pals knife PM: May's allies hit back at Cameron camp over claims she blocked crackdown on immigration before Brexit poll … Theresa May has launched a fightback against David Cameron's camp … It comes after attempts were made to make her look soft on immigration … Her friends claim she demanded stricter border controls when he was PM” thunders the headline, under political editor James Slack’s by-line.

This is backed up by Dominic Lawson, by the most fortunate of coincidences doing his editor’s bidding with such gems asthe man Cameron recruited from the higher echelons of the BBC to become his spin-doctor-in-chief has published an instant account of the recent EU referendum campaign - from the losers’ perspective”.

Lawson also gives us the inside track on what Oliver was up to when still at 10 Downing Street: “He was always scribbling things down in a notebook during meetings and we pretty soon worked out that this was for some sort of diary he wanted to write”. The effrontery! The brazenness! Making notes during meetings! Whatever next?

Backing all of this up has been a suitably judgmental Daily Mail Comment, which says of Oliver that he “is the epitome of the arrogant political class. An obscure, middle-ranking BBC executive before being propelled into Number 10, he has no track record in public service and has never been elected to any office … How he could be given a knighthood merely for being Mr Cameron’s spin doctor remains a mystery”.

That is the clincher for Dacre: he has edited the Mail for all those years, and the only Prime Minister he ever got moderately close to - Gordon Brown - didn’t do honours. So there he is, without his K or peerage, his ingrained envy now turing to bitterness.

Talking up Theresa May could be his last chance of a gong. Sad, really.

The Sun Is Back In Liverpool

The campaign to rid not just Liverpool, but the wider Merseyside area, of the Murdoch Sun has had its successes, not least the Total Eclipse Of The S*n initiative which is now advertised on several of the city’s taxis. But this has not stopped the Sun worming its way back into the city, as a quick look at this year’s Labour Party conference tells you.
How could it happen? Well, it’s not the paper we’re talking about, but the motley assemblage of overpaid and under-talented staff who work for it. Yes, despite the revulsion clearly expressed by so many in Liverpool at the paper’s continuing contempt for them, a delegation has still been sent to cover the Conference. And it’s not as if they have been hiding themselves away: three variously well-known Sun faces have been openly advertising their presence. So I will advertise it too.
First up is the Sun’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn, who was Live From Liverpool yesterday lunchtime on the BBC Sunday Politics. Newton Dunn is a loyal Murdoch man through and through, having been at the paper since 2004. He has had no problem in taking the Murdoch shilling, nor with the continued presence at the paper of disgraced former editor Kelvin McFilth.
And, just to round off the charge sheet, he supports Arsenal. But Newton Dunn is not alone at the Labour Conference; also advertising his presence has been David Wooding, political editor of the Sun on Sunday, who famously threw his rattle out of the pram with Byline Media head man Peter Jukes last year, rantinghow dare you question my integrity?” How? Er hello David, you work for the Sun. You figure it out.
Behold another Scouse hating buffoon

The BBC’s John Pienaar yesterday Tweeted “Live now at #Lab16 on @bbc5live with @DavidWooding & @Anoosh_C. Listen: http://bbc.co.uk/5live”. Wooding does have the benefit of hailing from Merseyside, although whether the locals know he’s a paid up Murdoch hit merchant is not known. But there is one Sun presence in Liverpool this week whom Scousers will have no problem rumbling.
That is because, in addition to Newton Dunn and Wooding, there is also the deeply unsavoury figure of the Sun’s alleged “Westminster Correspondent”, Master Harry Cole, who was there yesterday evening to Tweet “Top Corbynista internet guru @GeorgeAylett chatting up some girls outside Labour conference: ‘you must know the Red Flag?’” As opposed to knowing the shortest way back to Lime Street without an armed escort.
And they're all pals with this specimen

Cole once accused MP and Labour Mayoral nominee Steve Rotheram of “using [the] death of innocent people to further his career” (those being the 96 Hillsborough victims). He was one of the Guido Fawkes team that smeared MP Luciana Berger not once, but twice. When the Hillsborough inquest verdicts were announced, he was penning a lame article about the Tory leadership using WhatsApp - to keep the 96 off the front page.

So I’ve included a photo of Master Cole, just to help anyone in Liverpool who encounters this singularly repellent individual recognise him. After all, he’s a believer in free speech, even if it’s of the dissenting variety, and bringing the one message - Don’t Buy The Sun.

Liam Fox WTO Con Fools Press

The rush by the Europhobic part of the press - for which, read most of it - to proclaim the wonders of life outside the EU, although that state is some years away, if it ever arrives at all, has once again led a number of clueless hacks, and editors who should know better, to follow disgraced former Defence Secretary Liam Fox as he demonstrates once again that he has little idea what on earth he is talking about.
It's high time it was Goodnight From Them

Fox will make a speech to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) this week. It is being enthusiastically trailed by the most vocal Brexit cheerleaders, and especially by the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, which has eagerly toldLiam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, will put Britain firmly on the path to withdrawing from the European Union’s single market in a dramatic speech this week”.

Do go on. “He will make a major speech to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Tuesday, signalling the UK’s determination to take its place as an independent member of the international body, able to negotiate its own trade deals outside the EU … Dr Fox is expected to signal his strong intent that once outside the EU, Britain will take up a fully independent place at the WTO”. This has been picked up by other media outlets.

Typical is City AM, where readers are toldThe government's stance on Brexit appears to be hardening, with international trade secretary Liam Fox set to advocate that the UK pushes ahead and becomes an independent member of the World Trade Organisation  … Fox is set to make a major speech to the WTO tomorrow, signalling that he intends the UK to become an independent member of the organisation”.

Also drinking from this particular bottle of Kool-Aid is the Express, aka the Daily UKIP, which has assertedWe don't NEED EU single market: Liam Fox to reclaim UK's seat at World Trade Organisation … LIAM FOX will this week set out his vision for Britain’s future as a leading free trade nation in a bid to reclaim the UK’s seat at the World Trade Organisation”. So that’s three papers that have failed to do their research.

Also failing to do his homework has been Europhobic Tory MP John Redwood, who has told “Britain is still technically a member of the WTO - we just volunteered to forgo it when we joined the EEC in 1973”. Shall we have a look at the WTO website to see what the actual status of Britain within the WTO is right now?

This is what the WTO has to say under the headingThe European Union and the WTO”: “The European Union … has been a WTO member since 1 January 1995. The 28 member States of the EU are also WTO members in their own right” [my emphasis]. Britain is already an independent member of the WTO. There is no seat to reclaim. It is not a technicality. And if Fox thinks that, he’s an even bigger clown then previously thought.

As for the press … try doing some research before churning over the PR, folks.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Simon Danczuk’s Half Cut Marathon

When the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog went to the aid of their pal Simon Danczuk last month, they knew that Rochdale’s still nominally Labour MP was going to take part in the Rochdale Half Marathon today. What they may not have known is that Spanker Si’s training régime would look reassuringly familiar to them, and not in a way that would promote athletic prowess.
With just two days to go before having to run more than 13 miles, Danczuk finished the working week at his constituency office, and then it was straight down to … er, drinking beer, actually. I kid you not: he went to The Baum - one cannot fault his choice of watering hole, it’s CAMRA’s Greater Manchester pub of the year for 2016 - where he made a start to the weekend not by limbering up, but getting mellow.

Nice to have a couple of quick pints in the @TheBaumRochdale after work today - great #Rochdale pub” he Tweeted. But it was only an after-work pint, wasn’t it? Sadly for anyone who sponsored him, no it wasn’t: from there he was off into central Manchester to another regular haunt, the Lowry Hotel, where he attended the Manchester Evening News Diary Party. Here he went from Mellow to Elephant’s Trunk And Mozart.
Great night at the MEN #DiaryParty & lovely to catch up with friends” he told his Twitter followers. Those who looked at the young brunette woman featuring in two of the photos may also have allowed themselves a knowing stroke of the chin, and rightly so: as it was a media bash, there was a snapper on the door, who caught the two of them leaving. So once again Danczuk has ended up in the Super Soaraway Currant Bun.
LABOUR MP Simon Danczuk has been spotted leaving a posh hotel with a mystery woman -who looks just like a younger version of his estranged wife Karen … The 49-year-old was spotted leaving the Lowry Hotel in Manchester last night with the woman, who he appeared to be close to, even holding her high heels for her at one point” screamed the Murdoch doggies in mock horror. And there was more.
A source claims that the pair had tried to leave the hotel separately … It’s the same hotel where back in July the suspended MP had sex with another 22-year-old woman he met on Twitter just days before”. That, and the six photos, tells readers that they think she was his legover for the night - provided, of course, that he wasn’t too pissed.

So yesterday, with the Half Marathon imminent, it had to be off the sauce and down to training. Or rather it wasn’t: Spanker Si was out on another session, this time in The Oxford. “Popped in The Oxford #Rochdale last night for couple of pints with @StevieDawson & @TeamMcNeeney's food looked great. Must eat there!” he Tweeted later, not telling that the “couple of pints” turned out to be a number significantly greater than two. My information is that Danczuk went through eight pints during the evening.

That’s the kind of training régime that The Great Guido would have recognised. What effect it has on Danczuk’s ability to do a 13 mile run we will soon find out.

Angelina Jolie Peerage? Er, No

The mean-spirited attitude of papers like the Mail towards Slebs in general, and those who have opinions in particular, is not a new or surprising thing, but the idea that a US Citizen might up sticks and become resident in this country so they could take up a seat in the House of Lords certainly is. Now, the Lords story, along with the righteous and sneering attitude to the well-known, have come together.
Angelina Jolie

'She's a woman with an agenda': Angelina Jolie is 'looking to move to England in order to become a peer in the House of Lords’tells today’s Mail On Sunday. Really? Author Ian Halperin claims it’s true: “'She’s a woman with an agenda, she wants to leave the United States, she wants to work in the UK, she wants to get in the House of Lords, she has a non-profit foundation there. She has her sights set on England’”.

Would the Northcliffe House inmates care to pony up some evidence for this hokum? “Angelina is already well-connected to members of the House of Lords, classing former Foreign Secretary William Hague, and foreign policy expert Baroness Arminka Helic, as good friends … Lady Helic, 48, was a Bosnian refugee who arrived in the UK with nothing in 1992 and rose to prominence 14 years later when she was hired by Hague … She introduced the former Conservative Party leader to Angelina in 2012, having watched her 2011 movie In The Land Of Blood And Honey”. And that’s the lot.

Oh, and there is also “The actress has also been appointed as a visiting professor at the London School of Economics and will teach a postgraduate program at the university's Centre on Women, Peace and Security with William Hague alter this year”. All of which adds up to precisely no evidence at all. And I have bad news for the MoS.

This story is not new. Indeed, it was going the rounds last November, which is when it was picked up by the increasingly desperate Telegraph. Then, the story was “Angelina Jolie 'set to become a peer' ... How the Lara Croft star could soon be heading to the House of Lords … Now tongues are wagging in Westminster that Miss Jolie is being lined up herself set on a seat in the House of Lords”. Took Halperin a while to wake up to that, didn’t it?

Then, the claim was that “The only criterion for new peers is that they must be ‘resident in UK for tax purposes and accept the requirement to remain so’. Miss Jolie and her equally famous husband Brad Pitt are on the way to clear that hurdle – the pair are understood to be eyeing up a new permanent home in London’s Marylebone”.

Well, maybe not: Pitt and Ms Jolie have fallen out and divorce lawyers are all over their case. So along comes a journalist who makes a living out of outlandish claims about Slebs, dusts down the Telegraph story from last year, updates it to airbrush out Brad Pitt, and flogs it to anyone who didn’t see him coming. Just remember this quote from the MoS: “MailOnline has contacted a representative for Angelina and is awaiting comment”.

In other words, they’ve taken Halperin on trust. It was a ridiculous story last November, and it’s an equally ridiculous story today. But papers to sell, and all that.

What Craig Oliver DIDN’T Say

The Sunday papers are making hay today with extracts from a book by Young Dave’s former chief spinner Craig Oliver, which tells us much we already knew - like that many at the top of the Tory Party cordially detest one another - along with opening the door just a little on what happened in the run-up to the referendum on Britain’s EU membership in June. But there are also things Oliver’s book does not tell.
Of no surprise at all is that Theresa May had her equivalent of “Shagger” Major’s “Wisdom Teeth Moment” (Major’s excuse to be absent and elsewhere when push came to shove for Mrs T) during the EU campaign, and that she managed to campaign for Remain while, er, not campaigning very much at all. This was most convenient to her future prospects. But it is when we get to those who opposed Cameron that it gets interesting.

And that brings us to London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, of whom the Mail On Sunday says “moments before he publicly vowed to lead the Leave campaign, he texted Cameron to say Brexit would be ‘crushed' … [his] text said Brexit would 'be crushed like the toad beneath the harrow' - adapting a phrase used by Rudyard Kipling … Johnson had a secret last-minute wobble about leaving the EU. In between two phone messages saying he would back Brexit, he sent a hitherto undisclosed third message saying 'depression is setting in’”. Something, though, is missing.

I can reveal that what Oliver does not tell about Bozza - and it’s entirely possible that Oliver didn’t know at the time - is that Johnson was not going to back the Leave side. He was, shall we say, persuaded to join Vote Leave. That unwillingness is what led to his text message telling “depression is setting in”.

The exact details of Bozza’s persuasion cannot be revealed for legal reasons.

All of which brings us to Michael “Oiky” Gove, who decided to back the Leave side after his notoriously untrustworthy wife Sarah “Vain” Vine had told Young Dave he would back the PM. What persuaded Gove to then jump ship may have been a purely selfish calculation: put it this way, he has already rejoined the Murdoch empire. And we know which way Creepy Uncle Rupe and his mafiosi wanted the referendum result to go.

Readers are told “Oliver says he never trusted Gove, whose 'legendary politeness seemed forced for someone so skilled at dinner party assassinations’ … When Gove's leadership bid crumbled after he 'cut Boris off at the knees', Oliver says: 'He failed to realise that in acting as a suicide bomber, his first victim would be himself.' His 'fatal flaw was vaulting ambition and a preparedness to mislead’”, but again something is missing.

I can also reveal that Gove stabbed Bozza in the back not just out of personal ambition, but because he had been made aware of why Johnson had been persuaded to back Vote Leave. “Oiky” decided that what he had discovered may not be a good look for a future Prime Minister. So he took him out of the race.

Craig Oliver’s revelations make for a rattling good read. But the full story of what was going on behind the scenes is even better. The problem is, you’ll have to wait some time to find out just how much more interesting. What you will not read in the papers.

Top Six - September 25

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 places to go and people to see later. So there.
6 Ryanair Boss Blasts Brexit Bozos Michael O’Leary’s company may be loathed by many air travellers, but he is a successful businessman. And he has no time for the airy-fairy optimism of the happy Brexiteers, telling them that the EU doesn’t want to give us a deal, but to screw us over.

5 Murdoch Revisits BT Breakup Far from giving up after BT’s Openreach division was not forcibly split from the rest of the company, the Murdoch empire is now screaming for it to be done once more. There are good reasons for this.

4 Rod Liddle - Still A Creep Liddle has decided, not that he’s just a has-been writing formula knocking copy for the Sun, you understand, that the migrant crisis is the responsibility of Amal Clooney.

3 Uber Ripoff Defence Defies Belief Driver and rider matching service Uber introduced surge pricing after an explosion in the Chelsea area of New York City. There was outrage over the blatant profiteering from what looked like a terror attack. But for the ideologically pure, this was a mere signal.

2 Toby Young Pre-School Paranoia The loathsome Tobes saw the hand of the rotten lefties in concepts like children being taught to share their toys and get on with one another.

1 Uber Driver Lawbreaking Exposed One Uber driver has confirmed that drivers need to interact with the app to such an extent that it will inevitably distract them from driving. And that is illegal.

And that’s the end of another blogtastic week, blog pickers. Not ‘arf!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Pope Francis Warns Rupert Murdoch

In a move that has already caused significant discomfort among many in the Italian media, particularly the print variety, Pope Francis has reminded journalists that “Journalism based on gossip or rumours is a form of ‘terrorism’ and media that stereotype entire populations or foment fear of migrants are acting destructively … reporters had to go the extra mile to seek the truth, particularly in an age of round-the-clock news coverage”.
St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome

Spreading rumours was an example of “terrorism, of how you can kill a person with your tongue … This is even more true for journalists because their voice can reach everyone and this is a very powerful weapon”. Journalism should not be used as a “weapon of destruction against persons and even entire peoples … Neither should it foment fear before events like forced migration from war or from hunger”.

While the Guardian notes that Francis is primarily aiming his remarks at Italian newspapers, telling “In Italy, a number of newspapers are highly politicised and are regularly used to discredit those with differing political views, sometimes reporting unsubstantiated rumours about their private lives” and “In 2009 several media outlets owned by the family of then-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi came under fire from the journalists’ guild over stories questioning the trustworthiness of a magistrate who had ruled against a company owned by the Berlusconi family”, he may be looking further afield.

He may, in fact, be wondering if his predecessor John Paul II did the right thing eighteen years ago when conferring the honour of Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great on one well-known media mogul whose behaviour and activities fit the charge sheet read out earlier this week like the proverbial glove. And for once, we are not talking about the Mussolini Lite figure of Silvio Berlusconi.

No, in 1998 the honour, often just referred to as a “Papal Knighthood”, was conferred upon one Keith Rupert Murdoch. After the Screws was discovered to have been run for some years as a borderline criminal enterprise, and all the other less than totally upstanding and Christian activities unearthed during the Leveson Inquiry and elsewhere, Francis would have grounds for annulment. And there may soon be a precedent.

John Paul II also conferred the honour of Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great on Jimmy Savile. In view of revelations about Savile’s predatory sexual behaviour since his death, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Westminster has requested that Savile’s honour be annulled. And after that happens, who knows?

Quite apart from the phone hacking, there was the data hacking that ruined ITV Digital, the cultivation of bent coppers, infiltration of the British Government, continuing attempts to subvert the democratic process, and the Mafioso-like behaviour from his sidekicks, threatening not only the editor of the Independent, but also the head of Ofcom.

If Pope Francis wants to set an example to all those media people he was telling off this week, he is only one annulment away. But I suspect he figured that one out already.

Corbyn Is Leader - Because Of Harman

With a turnout in the Labour leadership election that suggests almost half a million votes have been cast and counted, and Jeremy Corbyn re-elected with around 62% of that vote, the party’s supporters are still as split as ever, and those who do not like the idea of keeping Corbyn as leader are focusing their ire on him and those around him. That may give them that warm feeling. But it would be wrong so to do.
No, the reason that so many rallied to Corbyn’s standard last year, and continue to do so, can be traced directly back to one person, and that person is Harriet Harman, who was acting leader of the party for a fateful few months last year. It was her actions that led to the early favourite to succeed Mil The Younger, Andy Burnham, losing ground, and then losing the contest. So it is that she is responsible for Corbyn’s success.

Let me say at the outset that I have a lot of time for Ms Harman: anyone who has supported the idea of properly independent press regulation, and the ability of those routinely traduced by the mean-spirited and vindictive end of the Fourth Estate to secure redress, will know that she has been an unswerving supporter of the Hacked Off campaign. That cannot be taken away from her.

But it was her decision not to oppose the Tories’ welfare cuts last summer that proved the undoing of Burnham. He was in the Shadow Cabinet; he had to accept the move out of loyalty to the leadership. He would have had to resign his post in order to vote against the measure; in the event, he abstained. But that ultimately finished his leadership campaign. This is not just my opinion, it is shared by one of Corbyn’s most trusted lieutenants.
Diane Abbott told Paul Waugh in July last year - well before the result of that year’s leadership election was known - that “If Andy had actually voted against the bill, he would have been leader of the Labour Party in 6 short weeks. Now who knows?” Harriet Harman has to carry the can for that, as the Guardian report makes clear.

Andy Burnham has said he will not vote against the government’s welfare bill, despite previously describing it as ‘unsupportable’ … In a letter to Labour MPs, the leadership hopeful said he would toe the party line and abstain in Monday night’s critical vote because collective responsibility was important and was what he would expect from his MPs if he was their leader” [my emphasis]. There was more.

“Labour’s acting leader, Harriet Harman, provoked anger within the party when she announced that her MPs would be abstaining on the government’s welfare bill, supporting the introduction of a welfare cap and the restriction of tax credits to a claimant’s first two children … Harman tried to defuse a rebellion over the decision by tabling an amendment, which is almost certain to be defeated”. Corbyn was not in the Shadow Cabinet.

He made his opposition clear from the outset, voted against the bill, and became a rallying point for those opposed to the continuing welfare cuts. He therefore enjoyed legitimacy among his electorate, and won. It is no use complaining about Burnham, who showed the loyalty to the leadership that Corbyn fans demand of others. Harriet Harman is the one who made the fateful wrong call. She alone legitimised Corbyn’s campaign.

So, anti-Corbyn Labour people, that’s who got your party to this place. Not Corbyn.

Murdoch Disrespects The 96 AGAIN

We’ve heard the protestations from the Murdoch press at the continuing boycott of the Sun across much of Merseyside: they are truly sorry, they have now put the record straight over the cause of the Hillsborough stadium disaster. But every time they bring forth another excuse, the reality of their ingrained spite and disrespect for a community that dared to stand up to the bullying and smearing comes through once more.
The latest example of the disdain in which the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker hold the people of Merseyside came this week, although few have noticed it. The City of Liverpool posthumously awarded the 96 who died at Hillsborough the freedom of the city. Former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and his wife Marina were also honoured. There was a special ceremony at St George’s Hall to mark the occasion.

Also honoured were James Jones, the former Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, who chaired the Hillsborough Independent Panel, and professor Phil Scraton, who led the Panel’s research team. As the BBC reported, “Scrolls bearing the name of each victim were presented to their families along with a medal to denote the city's ‘highest honour’”. The event was covered by much of the media.

The Liverpool Echo, as sound as ever, gave the ceremony extensive coverage, including interviews with some of those attending. Although their report focused primarily on Dalglish - it was part of the paper’s Sports coverage - the Mail also recognised the honour given to the 96. The Mirror stressed the length of the fight for justice.
The paper’s report told “96 Hillsborough victims honoured with prestigious Freedom of the City of Liverpool award after 27-year fight for justice … The award was presented posthumously to the victims of the 1989 tragedy, as well as key figures in their decades-long fight for justice …The 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster have been honoured with the Freedom of the City of Liverpool following the 27-year battle for justice”.

Even Sky Sports News managedThe 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster have received the Freedom of the City of Liverpool in an emotional ‘bittersweet’ ceremony … Families of those who lost their lives in Britain's worst sporting tragedy on April 15 1989 collected a specially designed scroll and a unique medal with the name of their loved one inscribed on it … It was the first time the city has posthumously awarded its highest civic honour”. But one paper ignored the event altogether.
Not only was there no trace of the ceremony at the supposedly upmarket Murdoch Times, there was nothing at all in the Sun, neither about the victims, nor the award to Dalglish. And while the protests keep coming about the growing boycott of the Sun across Merseyside, the paper keeps giving space to disgraced former editor Kelvin McFilth. Now it has deliberately disrespected the 96 - once again.

The people of Liverpool were right all those years ago. Don’t buy the Sun.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Boris Brexit Baloney Busted

Sometimes one can only feel sorry for the formerly very occasional Mayor of London, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, as he blunders from one gaffe to the next during what deserves to be a brief spell as Foreign Secretary, but such sentiments do not last for long, as the real world then intervenes and the sorrow is replaced by anger at the ridicule to which Beano Boris is heaping on his own side - and his own country.
An absolute Muppet. And Elmo from Sesame Street

Bozza has still not got used to the idea of being part of a team in which he is not the captain. So it was that earlier this week he had to be - once again - slapped down by Theresa May for opening mouth and inserting boot. “Boris Johnson has been rapped over the knuckles by Downing Street for claiming that Britain will launch its EU exit negotiations ‘by the early part of next year’ and that Brexit could be completed within two years”.
And, as the FT noted, “The foreign secretary was immediately rebuffed by Theresa May, who has ordered her ministers not to engage in a ‘running commentary’ on Britain’s negotiating strategy or the timing of Brexit talks”. Crikey chaps! Johnson also got the hard word over his suggestion that the process of leaving the EU could be completed within two years. And today has brought far worse news for both Bozza and the PM.
Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, the body which will have to ratify the deal struck between Britain and the other EU member states, is visiting London and has not been backwards in coming forwards to tell anyone asking that he favours triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty sooner rather than later, so that Britain does not take part in elections to the European Parliament in 2019.
There would be a further advantage in pushing for a swift invocation of Article 50: there would also be no British participation in the next round of EU budget negotiations, that period being slated to begin in 2020. So the PM is effectively having her hand forced by the EU, whatever the press wants us to believe. And as Faisal Islam of Sky News has observed, Schulz has little time for Bozza and his comments.
Schulz says May's attitude to Boris Johnson's negotiation skills was revealed by her appointment of David Davis as lead negotiator” he has told, following Bozza’s latest dispensing of the word “baloney” over a trade-off on free trade and freedom of movement. And Schulz had further hard truths for Theresa May.
The two comments that nailed the airy dishonesty of the Happy Brexiteers were simply “The best possible deal with the EU is membership of the EU - any other deal involves trade-offs. No Europe a la carte” and “I refuse to imagine a Europe where lorries/hedge funds are free to cross borders but citizens cannot”. The second, as Islam explains, means there is unlikely to be a deal for the City, or indeed any other sector of the economy, without a commitment to freedom of movement.

We have to get a deal past Martin Schulz. He has told us that he does not want to have to veto it, but it is clear what will get past him - and, for the Brexiteers, what will not.

Uber Driver Lawbreaking Exposed

The popular press has recently woken up to the fact that many drivers still use their phones while at the wheel: the litany of serious and even fatal accidents caused at least partly by the distraction of a mobile is grim testament to this. But while the assembled hacks are falling over themselves to claim credit for the penalty points for this offence doubling from three to six, one perpetrator is getting a free ride.
To no surprise at all, that perpetrator is driver and rider matching service Uber, where most press coverage, in London at least, verges on the fawning, as Zelo Street noted recently. Freesheet City AM has been particularly Uber-friendly, and there has still not been even a threatening letter following the suggestion by LTDA head man Steve McNamara on BBC Newsnight that some journalists were in receipt of payments from the firm.

But I have bad news for all those Uber fans: it is clear from putting together the constraints imposed by traffic laws, and the admissions by drivers, that Uber drivers routinely break the law. I have the personal testimony of one Uber driver - who will remain anonymous - to thank for this insight into how Uber not merely gives drivers the means to break the law, but effectively encourages and even requires them to do so.

This is what the driver has said of the Uber app: “The Uber app for example has become more intrusive and distracting to drivers during driving not less. For example the so-called ‘Forward Dispatch’ feature and the ability to pause income jobs while still on a job requires multiple screen and button clicking use while driving. TfL should be paying more attention to how the driver is being asked to interact with software app features while driving”.
What that driver has described is illegal - using a mobile in that way while at the wheel is an instant fine and six points. Yet here is Uber providing its drivers with software that not only provides them with the means to break the law, but positively incites them to do so. It is not possible to perform the interaction described without handling the phone. To do that, the driver should pull over and stop the car.

But how does the driver manage that in central London? Many roads are categorised as “Red Routes”, or Urban Clearways, where private hire vehicles - like Uber cars - are allowed to stop briefly to pick up passengers, or allow them to exit the vehicle, but no longer. The law is quite specific (TfL guidelines can be seen HERE). Elsewhere in the capital, space to pull over is limited at best.

Police advice, and the law, is equally specific about use of a hand-held mobile while driving - it’s illegal. Moreover, anything that causes distraction to the driver is out of the question. So, Uber fans, riddle me this: how do all those Uber drivers manage to interact with the app without breaking the law? And if they don’t, then why should they not be subject to the same penalties as the rest of us?

And why is Uber not being prosecuted for encouraging illegal behaviour among its drivers? All this, and more, is what you will not read in City AM. I wonder why.

Sun Breaks Editors Code AGAIN

Ever on the lookout for anything that will shore up the circulation of their increasingly piss-poor “newspaper”, Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun made an astonishing discovery this week - well, it clearly astonished them - and that was the discovery that stately homes can be hired out by film and TV companies. Those stately homes include Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
In fact, Blenheim has been used as a backdrop for decades, and for the current Duke of Marlborough, Jamie Spencer Churchill, this is a no doubt welcome source of income, helping with the cost of maintaining the estate. But when a film company hired the Palace as part of a new Transformers film, the plot of which featured Nazis, the Murdoch doggies were on hand to crank up the outrage - and the dishonesty.

Winston’s Home Is Movie Set … Goose-stepping on Churchill’s grave … ‘NAZIS’ AT BLENHEIM” thunders the front page lead today. It is true that Winshton was born at Blenheim, but it can hardly have been called his home, as in his property: Churchill’s long time home was Chartwell House in Kent. This does not get a mention.

Instead, readers are regaled with “WINSTON CHURCHEIL War veterans fury as filmmakers stage Nazi invasion at Sir Winston Churchill’s home … WWII survivors were appalled after Blenheim Palace was draped with huge swastika flags for a new film … FURIOUS war veterans hit back last night after a Nazi invasion at Sir Winston Churchill’s birthplace … They attacked film makers for turning historic Blenheim Palace into an HQ for Hitler”. As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point.

So how many WWII survivors were appalled? Well, it’s a very round number: “Tony Hayes, of Veteran’s Association UK, said those left who fought in World War Two ‘will be appalled by this’”. A very round number which happens to be Zero. But there is also Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, who claims “I know its a film, but it’s symbolically disrespectful to Churchill. He will be turning in his grave”.

It gets worse: one photo of Winshton is captioned “Veterans have been left furious at the desecration of the wartime Prime Minister's home”. But enough already: Blenheim Palace is not sacred ground - so “desecration” is just OTT - and despite the “grave” references, Churchill was not buried there, but at nearby St Martins Church in the village of Bladon. So that means the Sun has breached the IPSO Editor’s Code once again.

Blenheim can’t credibly be called Churchill’s “home”, he wasn’t buried there, no WWII survivors commented, it’s doubtful that any of the actors did the goose-step, and the headline is not supported by the article that follows. But unless Jamie Spencer Churchill makes a personal complaint - he’s probably got better things to do, like running Blenheim Palace - IPSO will take no action and the paper will get away with it.

There is, of course, one way to complain more effectively. Don’t Buy The Sun.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Rod Liddle - Still A Creep

What d’you think is the motivation for all those refugees coming out of Africa and the Middle East in the past few years? Famine, war, persecution and other upheavals would be at the top of that list. But names like Amal Clooney? How would comments by a human rights lawyer induce millions to up sticks and make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, and the overland trek across eastern Europe?
I've just had the one, honest

The answer is that they would not, but in the strange parallel universe inhabited by those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet, all ills may be conveniently dumped on those they dislike, or in the case of Ms Clooney, envy. So it is that the Mail has gone after her today with “Spare us from these bleeding heart luvvies like the Clooneys who lecture us on migrants while jetting off from mansion to mansion”.

And over at the Baby Shard bunker, professional Miserable Git Rod Liddle, confirming the downwards career path of someone who once held down the editorship of the BBC Today programme, has waded in withAngela Merkel has finally admitted making a huge mistake on migrant crisis in Europe… if only our luvvies would do the same”.

And there was more: “Posh luvvies have done enough damage already and it is time for them to apologise as 2016 is now the worst year ever for migrants drowning in the Med, says Sun columnist”. Yes, Liddle clearly believes that “luvvies”, that increasingly loaded and pejorative term used to describe anyone more famous than him who he doesn’t like, have caused the refugee crisis in southern and eastern Europe.

Liddle claims, perversely, that no-one should have been saved from drowning in the Med: “We should have made it absolutely clear that no migrants crossing illegally by sea would be allowed in. None. Then more lives would have been saved”. Exactly how this works, we are not told. But we are told who is to blame: “Largely the posh luvvies and their tiresome wags. Moppety actress Carey Mulligan is the latest to wring her hands and say she’s ‘ashamed to be British’”. And then he lets loose at Ms Clooney.

The same goes for the hugely irritating and smug Amal Clooney, ticking off the British Government for not letting more migrants in … Amal, Carey, Simon [Schama]  and indeed, Angela [Merkel]. Please keep your traps shut … You have done enough damage already”. Two things here. Britain is hardly letting any refugees in. And policy is not made on the say-so of lawyers, no matter how well connected they might be.

What we have here is a washed-up has-been, eking out his career churning out hit pieces to order for the Murdoch mafiosi, trying desperately to divert attention from the approaching shit-storm that is Britain’s departure from the EU, something his paper, and especially his proprietor, wanted to see, and now dread the backlash when the readers figure out they’ve been had for mugs. Hence blaming someone well-known.

Stanley Baldwin was right: “The power of the harlot through the ages - power without responsibility”. And Rod Liddle is still a creep. No change there, then.

EXCLUSIVE Tim Hunt - No Menshn

The Tim Hunt affair, the fallout from his ill-judged remarks, and the bad feeling that has been engendered in the scientific community following the intervention of a number of variously selective and agenda-driven media players, is now being discussed as part of an inquiry by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. The inquiry, on Science Communication, continues (you can read evidence submitted HERE).
Last week, written evidence was submitted to the Committee by journalist and author Dan Waddell (see HERE), who has followed the Hunt saga from the beginning and tried to present a reasoned view of events, free of the hyperbole and aggression that has characterised far too much of the press coverage. He leaves us in no doubt that there are questions for the Science Media Centre (SMC) to answer.

In response to Waddell’s evidence, and in particular his criticism of its chief executive Fiona Fox, the SMC has put out a terse and brief statement telling “The Trustees of the SMC dispute many of the details of Mr Waddell's account [see COM0118] of its role in the Tim Hunt affair. They do not agree with the assumptions he makes, and the conclusions he draws. In particular, they disagree with the suggestion that the scientific community was unaware of the involvement of the SMC”.

So far, so procedural, but anyone who has followed the Tim Hunt saga will know that one name is missing from those cited thus far. That name is (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch, who inserted herself in the Hunt narrative and made a number of creative and extremely aggressive declarations and accusations in the process.

Where, then, is Ms Mensch in the inquiry, given that those forming the Commons Science and Technology Committee include her former colleagues, all those MPs that served alongside her during her brief tenure as MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire? Zelo Street regulars will find the answer something to savour.

I can reveal exclusively that Louise Mensch was not asked to give evidence to the Committee, partly because she has no status in the world of science communication, or indeed science generally. A well placed source close to the inquiry, speaking on condition of anonymity, has told me “no-one has asked for her opinion on this matter at all [and] nor will they”.

Think about that. The Commons Science and Technology Committee, including MPs who served alongside Louise Mensch, is not interested in hearing evidence from her on one of the issues on which she expended considerable effort recently. It is unlikely that they forgot her presence; more likely she has nothing of any use to tell them. After all, throwing your weight around and calling “liar” on anyone who disagrees is not going to help with understanding the nuances of science communication.

That is why there will be no further Commons Menshn of Ms Mensch. Sad, really.

Tory Sleaze - Amber Warning

The Tories in Government but perhaps not in power, a Prime Minister talked up incessantly by the right-leaning press but not universally popular with the party’s MPs, divisions over Europe being barely papered over, and a steady drip-drip-drip of sleaze. Are we back in the 1990s already? As the doubts emerge over Theresa May’s leadership, and the Brexiteers continue to demand their own version of reality, it seems we are.
And into this already fluid situation has wandered Home Secretary Amber Rudd, or rather the deeply subversive Guardian has caused her to wander into it, as the paper has revealedUK home secretary named as having been director of two Bahamas firms, while a co-director at another company was jailed over a false statement”. There was more.

A fresh leak of tax haven data names the home secretary as having been a director of two companies in the Bahamas - a fact she did not refer to earlier this year when defending David Cameron over his father’s investment fund in the same country … The Guardian has also discovered new details about her previous career in venture capital during the boom and bust 1990s. One enterprise led her to become a co-director of Monticello, a company that was at the centre of a share ramping investigation”.

Share ramping? Here’s the Wiki definition: “also known as 'pump and dump' or 'book ramping', is where criminals influence the share price of a company and then take advantage of it. It is commonly perpetrated by bringing a company to the market with false expectations of its profitability or, alternatively, by buying shares in a company when the price is low and then starting a rumour that the company is being taken over. When the share price then rises, the shares are sold at a profit”.

Note the use of the word “criminals”. So what happened with Monticello? “[The company] became the centre of an investigation into share ramping after one of her co-directors, Mark O’Hanlon, gave an interview in January 2000 in which he made false claims about the company’s prospects … Monticello’s share price subsequently skyrocketed and trading on its shares was suspended”. Ms Rudd resigned her directorship five months later.

But her fellow director was rather less fortunate: “The episode led the Department of Trade and Industry to investigate, and in 2007 O’Hanlon was convicted of making a false statement and sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment. He was jailed again in June 2013 following an unrelated fraud conviction”. This is all most unfortunate.

Amber Rudd may have done nothing wrong. But she was a director of Monticello at the time when one of her co-directors’ actions led to him, at a later date, obtaining a criminal conviction. Moreover, she did not resign her directorship at the time O’Hanlon made his false statement. This may be in the category of “looks bad”, and no more. But Labour is already on her case, and even the most craven of the right-wing press will be too.

Back To The Future was, it seems, not just a movie franchise. More on this one later.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Brexit - More Bad News

While the anti-EU part of the Fourth Estate, for which read most of it, keeps telling its readers that Britain leaving the EU is not going to be a problem, and any dastardly foreigner getting uppity can easily be overcome by Theresa May standing up and telling them where they get off, the bad news that the popular press is at present ignoring continues to pile up. And some of it makes for grim reading.
Today it was the turn of the OECD “The OECD has slashed its 2017 growth forecast for the UK in half as a result of the Brexit vote and warned of ‘very high’ uncertainty ahead … The multilateral economics institution had projected UK GDP growth next year of 2 per cent in June, but today reduced that to just 1 per cent in its latest Interim Economic Outlook … That was easily the largest downgrade for any major advanced economy”.

Still, at least their 2016 forecast growth was up from 1.7% to 1.8%, so not all doom and gloom. But then came news from the Bank of England - also today: “The Bank of England’s summary of business conditions, based on reports from regional agents, said ‘investment intentions had fallen since the EU referendum’ and pointed to ‘broadly flat business investment over the next year’”. And there was more.

In stark contrast to July’s agents’ report, which found employers were buoyant about their prospects, the September report said employers were circumspect about taking on new staff and in many sectors were only hiring ‘where the business case was strong’”. We should expect that to feed through into the unemployment figures, although seasonal jobs may offset any increase. But then came the FT with bad news for the City.
After pointing out that “More than 8,000 financial services companies based in the EU or the European Economic Area rely on single market passports to do business in Britain”, Martin Arnold’s report tells “There are growing fears that when it leaves the EU, the UK will lose the passporting rights that allow financial services companies licensed in one EU state to work across the bloc, rather than having to win licences in individual countries”.

And while noting “The UK accounts for 40 per cent of Europe’s assets under management and 60 per cent of its capital markets business, according to a report for the British Bankers’ Association” he adds “Most big US, Japanese and Swiss banks use London as their hub for passporting into other EU markets. Since the Brexit vote in june they have been drawing up contingency plans for moving some business out of the UK”.

Arnold then concludes with this chilling statistic: “The total number of passports held by UK groups was 336,421 because many have multiple passports for different sectors in different countries, the FCA said. The total held by European businesses for access to the UK is 23,532”. Or, in other words, if the passporting scheme were to end as a result of Brexit, it would hurt us a lot more than it would hurt them.

But all you hear from the Europhobes is that there’s nothing to worry about, it’s not really happening, the news is all good, and we should stop talking the country down. Someone needs to get a grip on reality, and fast.

Uber Ripoff Defence Defies Belief

There was an explosion in the Chelsea area of New York City last Saturday night; as a result, there was a large number of people wanting to get themselves away from the area. Many used the Uber app and found to their horror that the cost of their rides, despite the circumstances, had been subjected to what is termedsurge pricing”. After social media outcry, the surge price was abandoned. But many were still unhappy at the action.
We know the excuse for this practice, as it has been wheeled out by Uber’s apologists ad infinitum - and, indeed, ad nauseam - and that is that all we are seeing is supply and demand in action. More demand, not enough supply, price goes up in order to restore equilibrium between the two. This, to practitioners of classical economics, is a result with which they are exceedingly comfortable, as one has told today.

Ryan Bourne, who is head of public policy at the Institute of Economic Affairs, given a platform by like-minded City AM editor Christian May to defend what many will see as the indefensible, has opinedthe public are wrong to think that Uber’s ‘surge’ is an example of greedy profiteering. In fact, so-called surge pricing actually helps in instances such as emergencies”. And how might this help manifest itself?

You’ll love the explanation: “The key point is that prices are merely messages that reflect the underlying reality of aggregated decisions of customers and drivers”. See here all you aggrieved New Yorkers, your getting ripped off is nothing more than a message!

But he’s away: “This price rise, far from being an unalloyed bad thing, actually has two major benefits in times like this. First, it deters those who might have wanted to use Uber but do not actually need to … More importantly, it signals to drivers that it is valuable to be on the road … It’s an incentive not just for more drivers to ‘clock on’ at that time, but for others already on the road to move towards Chelsea from areas where demand and prices are lower”. Right. Someone is missing something here.

And that something is called The Real World. There was an emergency, a potential terror attack, and here is Ryan Bourne giving economics lectures. And what he is telling us is that it is indeed “greedy profiteering” - at least by Uber, who take a percentage of the fare and so rake in more money for doing nothing - except jacking the fare up.

Moreover, the idea that more drivers should move towards the scene of a potential terror attack in an already crowded city is an interesting proposition. So is the complete absence of self-awareness from Bourne: we are talking about an emergency situation here, as well as ignoring rather more than a few decades of real world history.

Where does Bourne think regulation of taxi fares came from all those years ago? Because the public dislikes uncertainty, and being ripped off even more. Hence the 1934 London Cab Order, which may offend his desire for economic purity, but ensures drivers and riders know exactly what the deal is. Plus the idea that Uber, or anyone else, should expect to play incentives during an emergency really is taking the biscuit.

There is a difference between economics textbooks and the real world. Ryan Bourne and his fellow flat earthers may not like it, but rather than try and explain away predatory pricing as he has, he should take on board that it exists. Unlike his economic utopia.

Sun Gazza Racism Hypocrisy

Viewers who tuned in to The Andy Marr Show (tm) last Sunday may have observed the presence on the paper review of Sun columnist Jane Moore. She is a regular on the Marr sofa, an ostensibly benign presence. But the moment she told the audience that Momentum and Militant were the same thing - a swiftly and expertly delivered Murdoch smear - should have told anyone interested that she was nothing of the sort.
Jane Moore: white privilege speaks

This has been underscored by the Sun’s continuing obsession with former footballer Paul Gascoigne. Not content with leaving bottles of spirits outside his flat in an effort to induce him into going off the wagon - and off the rails - so that their waiting snappers can help generate more shock horror exclusives, the Murdoch doggies have got on Gazza’s case over an incident at Wolverhampton Civic Hall last year.

Gascoigne was giving his show An Evening With Gazza; he saw security man Errol Rowe, who is black, and commented “Can you smile please, because I can’t see you?” Laugh? But it was 2015, not 1975, and so no-one did. Worse for Gazza, he ended up being fined a total of £2,000 at Dudley Magistrates’ Court earlier this week for using “threatening or abusive words”, which is legal speak for racist and/or hate speech.

Gascoigne did something crass and stupid. The reason he got done for it was clearly because he did it very openly in front of an audience. But suddenly, those who couldn’t have given a stuff about his struggle with the bottle were using the incident to promote Themselves Personally Now, not least crashing bore Brendan O’Neill, who claimed this meant the end of free speech as we know it, which it did not.

Racism? Nah, it’s just political correctness gone mad, innit? It certainly was for the Sun, which yesterday addressed the incident in an editorial, ranting “Security guard Errol Rowe was humiliated and we feel for him. But did such stupidity need prosecuting in the courts at public expense?” and then taking the biscuit with “The great strides made against casual racism in Britain have been down to education and an evolution in attitudes”.

An evolution which appears to have missed the Baby Shard bunker, by the looks of it. And then came the benign presence of Jane Moore to put the stiletto in in no style at all, telling “bouncer Errol Rowe’s victim impact statement seems disproportionate to the crime … He said: ‘I keep having flashbacks - thoughts about being abused in front of a massive crowd. That evening I went home and sat and cried. I have not been able to work since’”.

Ms Moore concluded that he ought to Get Over It: “May I suggest that, when he does finally feel ready to return to paid labour, the hurly burly nature of security work might best be avoided for such a palpably sensitive soul”. Where’s your sense of humour? It’s only a bit of casual racism! Newspaper run by white billionaire, with white CEO, white editor, and white pundit, tells black man that racism is No Big Deal.

The Sun was in the vanguard of ingrained racism in the 1980s. Some habits are proving hard for the paper to shake off. So let’s give them a helping hint. Don’t buy the Sun.