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Monday, 22 December 2014

Murdoch Dissed By His Own Paper

The Murdoch empire has done rather well since Phonehackgate and the hacking trial, and in the UK much of that has been down to their shareholding in BSkyB. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, the satellite broadcaster garners much of its value – maybe too much of it – from its near-monopoly control of screening Premier League football.
That's what I think of youse bladdy Premier League auction, ya bastard Pommie drongoes!

And, competition being what it is, there is always someone else out there wanting a slice of the action. At first, BSkyB was able to see off competitors like Setanta Sports, which went bust. But then along came BT, with rather deeper pockets and significantly more ambition. The company that was formerly the UK’s monopoly telephone provider has been diversifying.

It is not such a big step from phone and broadband to take in broadcasting, and BT Sport has been buying up UK rights to several domestic and European competitions. It also has 38 Premier League matches per season, including 18 “first pick” fixtures, from 2013-4 to 2015-6. Now the newcomer is looking to the next Premier League auction, with a view to increasing its share of matches.
What might happen next has, interestingly, been set out in one of Murdoch’s own papers, the Sunday Times, where Danny Fortson has bad news for BSkyB. “For all its efforts to wean itself off the footie fixation, by investing in original comedy and drama, Sky’s fortunes remain firmly tied to the Premier League. According to a survey by stockbroker Liberum, half of its estimated 4m Sky Sports subscribers would switch to BT if the telecoms company won the majority of the games”.

It gets worse: “The stakes are clear. Merrill Lynch has warned that Sky’s shares would lose 80% of their value if the company suffered a defeat in the football auction”. So what can CEO Jeremy Darroch do? “The price is eye-watering – but Darroch has little choice but to pay”.

Then Fortson actually suggests buying BT shares rather than those of BSkyB. I kid you not. “Investing in a company before a big rights issue is seldom a sound strategy if you are looking for a quick return. But if you are prepared to wait, why not take a punt on BT”. He also opines that he would not put it past BT’s CEO Gavin Patterson “to deliver a knock-out blow to Sky”.

Whether Fortson has a future as a Sunday Times pundit after penning that missive is not known. But the predicament for BSkyB, and by association for the Murdochs, is clear: if BT Sport wins the majority of Premier League matches in the post-2016 auction, and the BSkyB share price tanks as a result, Rupe and his executive troops would be in deep shit. But his past behaviour would see little sympathy.

When even your own hacks think the game might be up, it might just be up.

It Girl Finds That She Isn’t

The Super Soaraway Currant Bun is hidden away behind  paywall, but the paper’s front page splash today has already been lifted by the Mail (see how that works, Rupe?), so we can see the grim detail behind “TARA NICKED BY 8 GUN COPS”. Just when she needed some more free publicity, lo and behold, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson throws a convenient wobbler at Heathrow.
Ms P-T had been en route to the suitably upmarket and fashionable Swiss ski resort of Klosters (well, it wouldn’t have been Kitzbuehel dahling, that would be just too bleedin’ common) when, according to reports, she was “arrested following a temper tantrum because she was allegedly refused first-class lounge access”. Oh, the shame! What is one to tell Charles and Camilla?

And, as the man said, there’s more: “The socialite swore at officers and tore out her hair extensions in fury before she was handcuffed by eight armed police and led away on Saturday afternoon, it was reported last night”. Do we have a witness? “She had completely lost all control and she was screaming at officers. They had no choice but to arrest for her own and everyone else’s safety”.

There was video, too, showing that she “can be seen arguing with a male and female police officer. She then becomes so frustrated that she rips out a chunk of her own hair extensions and flings them at the officers’ feet amid a storm of four-letter abuse. As a third officer moves in, Miss Palmer-Tomkinson – who turns 43 tomorrow – tries to flee, screams ‘f*** off’ and hurls her coat on the floor as they stop her”.
No need to get nosey

What a nice young gel: “Five more officers then arrive and, sobbing and screaming, the former model is restrained and handcuffed”. Then there was the ubiquitous “onlooker” to add “She went ballistic, she screamed ‘I can’t f****** believe you are treating me like this’”. Her excuse? “I was not drunk, there was no disorderly; I was cautioned and I saw a doctor, they were nice to me”.

Ms P-T claims that it was a “panic attack”, although the thought enters that the only “panic” is likely to be that nobody knew who she was. She is, in any case, no stranger to telling porkies, having claimed not to have had a cocaine habit, only for her nose to collapse, requiring reconstructive surgery, which rather suggests that “habit” was a monumental understatement.

Is there a real story here? Well, apart from showing that those who can’t behave themselves passing through airport security are likely to get nicked, no – except for the press fascination with the overmonied and underbrained. Ms P-T’s behaviour is matched in its stupidity only by that hat she is pictured wearing, and the equally silly luggage. Most don’t know who she is, and don’t care.

And few are interested in the sob story either. Another of yesterday’s people.

Murdochs Behaving Badly

No doubt there will be claims that articles like the attack on former PM Tony Blair by (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch yesterday are mere spontaneity, and that Creepy Uncle Rupe and his clan do not interfere in the workings of their newspapers, but the Murdoch sense of entitlement, and the manner in which it is policed and, if necessary, enforced loom large all too often.
Not nearly as nice as he looks

What might I mean by “policed and enforced”? Part of the answer has, remarkably, been supplied by the Mail, suggesting that the Murdochs’ behaviour is too much even for them: “outgoing Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards claimed he had been threatened during his eight years in the £393,000-a-year post. He alleged that one media mogul had shouted at him in his office: ‘We know who you are, we know who your friends are and we know where you live.’

And who might that have been? “The comments, made at a leaving party at Ofcom’s London HQ on Monday, drew gasps of astonishment from guests. Mr Richards did not identify the person but guests said they believed he was referring to Rupert Murdoch’s son James”. Isn’t Junior just the chip off the old block?

The flashpoint was over BSkyB: “Ofcom opposed the takeover – despite support for James Murdoch from David Cameron and Tory Culture Secretary and friend Jeremy Hunt. But the Murdochs had to abandon the plan”. And this didn’t help: “Humiliatingly, he was forced to quit as chairman of BSkyB after Mr Richards questioned whether the company was ‘fit and proper’ to broadcast in the UK”.

Yes, Junior had been disrespected big time. Now, some may find the idea of the Murdochs behaving like a bunch of amateur Mafiosi hard to believe, but this is not an isolated incident, as former Independent editor Simon Kelner can testify. In the run-up to the 2010 General Election, the paper had suggested the public could make their own minds up, and that they alone would decide the outcome.

After the Indy said “Rupert Murdoch won’t decide this election. You will”, Junior and Rebekah Brooks marched into the paper’s newsroom. Kelner was told “You’ve impugned the reputation of my family”. Juniorbecame furious at my bemusement that he should find our campaign so upsetting, given that one of his newspapers famously claimed that it did indeed decide elections”.

Kelner concluded of Junior and Ms Brooks “Their use of language and the threatening nature of their approach came straight from the ‘Mafioso for Beginners’ handbook”. Some papers were dismissive of Tom Watson’s select committee comment to Junior that “You must be the first mafia boss in history who didn't know he was running a criminal enterprise”. The Mail was one of them.

But even the Mail has changed its tune. It’s an offer they can now refuse.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Don’t Menshn Tony Blair

There is always the danger, when taking the shilling of proprietors and editors who use their papers to promote their view of the world, that pundits will find themselves writing to order, however that is worded or the message conveyed. At papers like the Mail, it is the editor who orders the pundit over the top, while at the Murdoch Sun, it is Creepy Uncle Rupe who gives the word.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

It is with this background that today’s attack on Tone by (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch should be viewed. The attack, over Tone’s alleged relationship with Wendi Deng, now no longer married to The Dirty Digger, crosses into Murdoch family territory. It cannot have got into the Sun without someone very high up in News UK clearing it – most likely with Rupe himself.

I always had respect for Tony Blair as a politician, even though I’m a Tory” she tells, before her first act of doing Rupe’s bidding. “He modernised Labour. And as for Iraq, I was perfectly happy with it. There was nothing illegal about the UK deciding to go to war – we don’t need permission from those corrupt stuffed shirts in the UN”. This from someone who writes in the successor title to the, er, corrupt Screws.

That would be the title whose one-time editor, the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks, admitted to a Parliamentary committee that she had paid Police officers for information. A title that hacked phones on an industrial scale. A title that was closed down in order to keep alive the hope of the Murdochs getting full control of BSkyB. Not much room to sound off about corruption there, then.
But do go on. “But Blair dodging questions over his relationship with Wendi Deng is simply pathetic. He knew what he was doing and he was Godfather of the Murdochs’ children. Going behind the back of somebody whose kids you’ve agreed to have as your Godchildren? Lowest of the low”. “He knew what he was doing”? “Going behind the back of somebody”? What, Ms Mensch, is that supposed to mean?

Ah, but here’s the get-out clause: “He has always denied an affair”. Oh well, that’s all right then, isn’t it? Ms Mensch effectively says Tone was playing away with Rupe’s then wife, then sniffs that he denies any wrongdoing, which just makes it worse. More sensitive souls might have consulted m’learned friend over that article, and one of them might well have been Ms Mensch herself.

Only last week she threatened proceedings against Peter Jukes and myself for the heinous sin of freely expressing opinions. Now she’s making very heavy hints, in a paper run by, shall we say, an interested party about the former PM, saying “He knew what he was doing” and that he was “Going behind the back of somebody”. Quite apart from the stench of hypocrisy, she’s being used by Murdoch.

Rupe must have approved that attack. It’s about his family. Another tame stooge.

Booker Hates Ukraine Reality

The Telegraph’s serial fraud Christopher Booker just cannot get his head around the situation in Ukraine. He still hasn’t lived down his recycling of the totally fictitious claim that flight MH17 was shot down by a missile launched by a Buk system supplied by Ukraine – the launcher and missile have been shown by Bellingcat to have come from Russia – and is now digging himself in deeper.
Consistently wrong for so many years

While the economic situation in which Russia now finds itself is generally accepted to be partly down to a range of economic sanctions imposed in response to Vladimir Putin’s strategy of assistance for eastern Ukrainian rebels, but mainly because the oil price has gone through the floor, with the Russian economy heavily dependent in oil revenues and needing a price over $100 a barrel, Booker blames the EU.

In his view, it’s all down to “the wish of the vast majority of Crimeans, 82 per cent of them Russian speakers, to rejoin the country of which they were part for most of two centuries – let alone Russia’s reaction to the prospect of seeing their warm-water ports taken over by Nato”. And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. One, Russia has hundreds of Kilometers of its own Black Sea coastline already.

And two, making the argument over the presence of Russian speakers – Booker also talks of the “ethnic Russians of eastern Ukraine” – effectively legitimises Russia encroaching upon the Baltic republics. Would Booker care to explain that one to those majorities in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia who are more than happy to be within the EU, rather than part of a Greater Russia?

But then, this is the pundit who claims the EU was “founded to eradicate nationalism”, which is bunk. More than 55 years after the Treaty of Rome, no nationality, or spirit of nationalism, has been eradicated, and none will be. And, as for “Russia still supplies the EU with nearly a third of its gas”, it is Russia that needs the EU to buy, not the EU that needs Russia to sell.

The EU did not force Ukraine to deal with it; the country’s leaders entered into their agreement of their own accord. This Booker cannot accept, that anyone wants to aspire to EU membership. But when the alternative is to join yourself to an unstable economic basket case, it looks rather different. Rather than take a pragmatic view, the Tel’s pundit cannot look beyond the red mist.

But at least he’s consistent: in the same column, Booker rails against plans to reduce fossil fuel consumption by screaming “windmills”, while ignoring the move to harness tidal power. A new tidal power development off Caithness will deliver more than the earliest nuclear stations of the 1960s. Rather than complaining that the world is moving on, scientists and engineers are solving the carbon conundrum.

Like the Cold War, Booker is still frozen in the past. Reality has left him behind.

Mail Begins Bryant Kicking Campaign

There are still those – hello Peter Hitchens – who pretend that the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday are totally different papers, but the number of hares set running by the Sunday title and picked up on by the daily one show that this is not a credible stance. Nor is the presence of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and editor-in-chief of both titles. So one story today is significant.
Chris Bryant

As I pointed out recently, as part of the shadow cabinet reshuffle prompted by the resignation of Emily Thornberry, Chris Bryant was made shadow Culture, Media and Sport minister. This was largely ignored by the press, and there were good reasons for them to do so. Bryant is a trenchant critic of the way the press behaves itself. He is a signatory to the Hacked Off “Leveson Declaration”.

So his appointment by Mil The Younger, which, if anything, signalled that Labour would take press regulation seriously if returned to power next May, was to be portrayed, if at all, negatively. And so it has come to pass, with the MoS claiming erroneously'Weak' Miliband blasted for giving immigration rebel plum job after he threatened to walk out of Shadow Cabinet”.

Ed Miliband’s leadership came under fire again after details of a row with outspoken Labour frontbencher Chris Bryant were revealed ... Mr Bryant protested at decision to crack down on benefits rights of EU immigrants ... When Mr Miliband refused to back down, Mr Bryant threatened to walk out” claims the paper, but all readers get to back this up is “One veteran Labour MP”.

Been chatting to Austin Mitchell again, have they? Do go on: “The secret deal avoided creating a damaging Labour rift but has led to fresh claims by the party’s MPs that Mr Miliband is ‘not tough enough’ to be Prime Minister and ‘too weak’ for Downing Street”. It wasn’t secret, though: anyone at the second Leveson Lecture got the news direct from Tom Watson.

The silence over Bryant’s appointment was entirely down to the press. But the MoS has “sources”: “Sources said the Labour leader was so desperate to avoid a resignation over immigration policy that he ‘tamely’ agreed to move Mr Bryant to a new frontbench job”. And who endorses this fiction? “Friends”. Whose friends would they be? And the “little-noticed move” is, again, down to press silence.

What the MoS is doing here is, while pursuing the “Miliband is weak” meme, firing the opening shot in a campaign to make life difficult for the Rhondda MP. There will be more, perhaps in the coming week from the Mail, claiming the party is split and that Bryant doesn’t merit his shadow cabinet berth, without mentioning press regulation, which is the real reason they’re going after him.

It won’t work. But that doesn’t mean the Mail won’t try anyway.

Top Six – December 21

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 do more Christmassy prep stuff later. So there.
6 Mail Foreign Nurse Xenophobia The legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre had decreed that foreign nurses in the NHS was A Very Bad Thing Indeed, and so he instructed his obedient hackery to tell a suitable crafted pack of lies about them.

4= Murdoch Sydney Siege Shame Creepy Uncle Rupe congratulated the Australian Daily Telegraph for its coverage – the paper that called the action of one man as “IS” and that there was a “Death Cult”. Stay classy, Rupe.

4= Katie Hopkins Proves Zappa Was Right When it comes to carping at the overweight, Ms Hopkins shows that the ugliest part of her body is indeed her mind.

3 Don’t Menshn The Torture Report Torture is OK and the report was rubbish, says faithful Murdoch pundit and (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch.

2 EXCLUSIVE Guido Fawked – Thrown Out Of The IoD Photos and video that the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines would rather you didn’t see, as he was ejected from a ResPublica bash. A clearly inebriated Staines then argued and protested before being escorted from the building. Another fine mess.

1 Frances Barber – Stick To Acting The actor indulged in what she later admitted was a drunken Twitter meltdown. It wasn’t pretty. But it was pretty hilarious.

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

Saturday, 20 December 2014

UKIP Social Media Ban – Pointless

As publicity for Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP continues to develop not necessarily to their advantage, panic has taken hold, and Kippers are being encouraged not to take to social media at all, lest they tell the rest of the world that they are just as bigoted, racist and intolerant as most of us already knew. This is supposed to help the party.
Squeaky foot-in-mouth finger up the bum time

Party chairman Steve Crowther has told “The NEC has adopted a new set of rules for online communication to fill a notable hole in our code of discipline … My advice: just don’t. Remember life before you could delight the whole world with your every passing thought? It wasn’t so bad, was it? I have no Facebook page, Twitter account or Instagram thingy. It’s lovely”.

Yes, being shut off from the real world in which all other political parties have no problem existing is “lovely”. So what are the new rules? Well, for instance, “party members shall refrain from using the Ukip logo in terms of their online postings, including avatars, unless they have express written consent to do so from the party leader, the party chairman, the party secretary, the general secretary, the party director, the regional chairman or regional organiser for their region”.

The excuse is that it’s all about the brand: “It is well known that some agents provocateurs set up fake accounts and go to the press to tell them how terrible Ukip is. We need to enforce our right as the copyright holder of our own brand. The idea that this is somehow not entirely normal practice is absurd” said a spokesman.
The brand restriction ain't working, either

And to that I call bullshit. Whether it’s branding, or just encouraging members to keep schtum, it has already been shown to be utterly ineffective. This is due to one inconvenient fact: there are plenty of other ways for Kippers to make idiots of themselves, and plenty of media practitioners all too ready to help them move foot in general direction of mouth.

This was illustrated in no style at all by former PPC Kerry Smith, who whined to LBC host Iain Dale that there should be no problem using expressions such as “disgusting old pooftahs” and “Chinky bird”, “maintaining that they were the words that many people use”. That he had been the victim not of some kind of attack on the working class, but UKIP internal bickering, did not occur to him.

It’s no better with Mr Thirsty himself, who was also invited to make a prat of himself on LBC, where he obliged Nick Ferrari splendidly, suggesting that groups of folks going for a Chinese meal might call it something other than, er, going for a Chinese meal. No amount of centrally-dictated message discipline and brand awareness is going to paper over those gaping credibility cracks.

UKIP are, as Terry-Thomas put it, an Absolute Shower. And it’s their own fault.

Russell Brand’s New Era Victory

This week, the authoritarian right-leaning press was once again mocking actor, comedian and campaigner Russell Brand, such is their fear of the way in which he cuts through directly to his target audience without the need to pander to the papers. The ridicule and scorn, though, as so often, failed to tell readers that Brand has just achieved something the print media could not.
While the Mail leeredRussell Brand is nothing but a school bully.... and he ruined my lunch: RBS worker's hilariously cutting riposte to comedian's bank publicity stuntand the Telegraph sniffed airily thatRussell Brand's film about 'financial inequality' is largely funded by high net worth City investors who were able to offset their investment against tax”, ordinary people were not listening.

Why should that be? Ah well. Brand lent his time and energy recently to publicising the potential plight of the tenants on the New Era Estate in east London. The development had been sold to US company Westbrook Partners, and what had been affordable housing was about to become anything but. Some tenants were facing eviction until Brand brought attention to the sale.

As the Guardian observed, “Some tenants of the estate, just north of the City of London, had faced rents tripling from £800 a month for a two-bedroom flat to about £2,400 if Westbrook’s plans had gone through. A tight knit, family-oriented community faced devastation and at one point Westbrook looked poised to evict residents before Christmas”.

But now, Westbrook have decided to sell up, and at 1400 hours yesterday the tenants learned that “The new owner was announced as the Dolphin Square Foundation, a charity dedicated to providing affordable homes for low and middle income Londoners. It instantly pledged to keep rents at their current low rates not just this Christmas but next Christmas too”.

The HuffPost UK was not exaggerating or indulging in hyperbole when it proclaimed “Russell Brand And New Era Estate Score Amazing London Housing Victory”. While “The group had previously taken their protest all the way to the steps of Downing Street and had won the support of Boris Johnson”, it was Brand’s advocacy that cut through. Most of the papers didn’t want to know.

And that is why so many on the right hate Russell Brand. He has stood up for the little people, for the poor and in defiance of the rich and uncaring. For that, the right-leaning press has decreed that he is a hypocrite. He is not. And those who are so ready to leap to the defence of Christianity cannot see that Brand has done no more than indulge in the most Christian act of all.

The press have scored profits and circulation, but they long ago lost their souls.

Mail Foreign Nurse Campaign – The Truth

It is all too well known that the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and his obedient hacks and pundits at the Daily Mail love to talk of “truth”, “proof”, and to have “revealed” supposed facts, but the reality is that truth is all too often the first casualty of the Vagina Monologue’s boiling hatred of anything that he sees as not being in accordance with the views of himself and his readers.
Who f***ing says I'm lying about the NHS, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

And nowhere has this been more clearly visible than this week’s Mail campaign to demonise the NHS, on the pretext that it is recruiting nurses from outside the UK in preference to home-grown talent. Readers have, in addition, been frightened by suggestions that many of those foreign nurses cannot speak English, a contention backed up, as I noted the other day, by just lying about it.

But, despite the Mail’s sums not adding up, and the assertion that 80,000 students had been told that they could not train as nurses being bogus, the Dacre doggies have been at it again today, the headline thunderingRevealed: The REAL reason so many young Britons can't get jobs as nurses ... even though last year we shipped in more than 7,000 from abroad”.
Eagle-eyed readers will note that the number of foreign nurses has increased over the past three days, and this is because midwives and health visitors have been bundled in by the Mail to make the numbers look scarier. So who dunnit? As if you need to ask: it “is because of poor forward-planning by NHS pen-pushers who chose to save their own jobs rather than those of frontline staff”.

Do we get to know who those culprits are? You jest. The risk of crossing the defamation line – the Mail has zero evidence to back that one up – is too great even for the Vagina Monologue. Instead, readers are fed airy waffle like “the inability of the NHS either to plan ahead, or to get the most from the billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money it spends each year”, also backed up by zero evidence.
And now, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) has blown the whistle on the Mail’s misinformation, especially the “4 out of 5 nurses are foreign” claim, which is plain flat wrong. 4 out of 5 are in fact British. HSCIC has written to Dacre to complain: “We are writing to express our extreme concern that the Daily Mail has chosen to use inaccurate figures on its front page for two days, despite clear Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) guidance that these figures are incorrect”. And there’s more.

Furthermore, you have resisted consistent approaches by telephone and email from the HSCIC media team, which explained the inaccuracies and requested a correction. The public have a right to know that the claim above is statistically unsound”. The truth at last. Without quotation marks. But not in the Daily Mail.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Katie Hopkins Proves Zappa Was Right

What’s the ugliest part of your body?
What’s the ugliest part of your body?
Some say your nose
Some say your toes
But I think it’s YOUR MIND
I think it’s your mind, woo woo
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

Frank Zappa recorded that song in the 1960s. Almost half a century later, along came Katie Hopkins as evidence that he was on the money, as she tore into anyone who was significantly overweight, in her usual, inimitable style, for one reason – that she put on three and a half stone and then lost it again, proving that shedding weight was not a problem. Well, it wasn’t a problem for her, anyway.
As Susanne Courtney warned, “The problem with her thinking, and like so many people’s I’ve encountered over three decades of being fat, thin and everything in between, is that it is based on a sample size of one, her. This programme, when it airs, will only show one thing: how easy or difficult Katie Hopkins finds it to put on and lose weight ... When it comes to weight everyone is different”.
Tanya Gold put it bluntly: “This is a story about addiction. Sugar is more dangerous than the drugs we are taught to fear. We eat three times more sugar than we did 50 years ago. It is obviously addictive, and marketed at children by cartoon characters and other grotesques. These overweight children, of which a too-large proportion are poor, because bad food is cheap and swift and delicious, will grow to be overweight adults, and these overweight adults will die too young”.
Even the Mail has sounded the alarm: “Fed Up, a film released in the US this week, predicts 95 per cent of Americans will be overweight or obese in the next two decades, unless something is done to tackle the so-called hidden sugars which appear in everyday foods”. Sugar and addiction. That’s a straightforward message.
Liz Jones urged her readersjust read the book Fast Food Nation and tell me food has not been tampered with to ensure we all, particularly children, become addicted to what is bad for us. Being overweight is not a lifestyle choice”. But Katie was not listening. “Fat people are greedy and lazy ... you shoved too much in your mouth ... I lost my weight without a gym, on a budget”.
Such empathy, though, will not be on view to most of the population: “My Fat Story will be with you on 2 & 3 Jan on TLC ... I will be with you on Twitter”. Some might point out that this is a bit of a comedown from being on BBC1, but not Katie. She is always right, and her sample of one is the only solution.

Frank Zappa was right, too. The ugliest part of her body is indeed her mind.

Farage Chink Of Stupidity

The Unique Selling Point (USP) of Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, so his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP would like the electorate to think, is that he tells it like it is. It’s only what that mythical silent majority is thinking, stripped clean of all that liberal and namby-pamby political correctness. He’s a man of the people. He likes a pint, and you can relate to him. And it’s total bullshit.
Squeaky foot in mouth finger up the bum time

Mr Thirsty and his pals have, for some time, pretended that what most people would call bigotry is a mere series of gaffes, to be excused by the least credible of excuses, which we are supposed to take on trust. That was the line taken when former PPC Kerry Smith first tried to hang on to the UKIP candidacy for South Basildon and East Thurrock, before bowing to the inevitable and quitting.

The Kippers put forward former Express hack Patrick “Lunchtime” O’Flynn to explain that Smith’s comments, including calling gay party members “disgusting old pooftahs”, and referring to a “Chinky bird”, were because he was, at the time, on sedatives. God Only Knows how much more bigoted and racist he might have been if no sedatives had been involved.

But, with Smith throwing in the towel, there it might have stayed but for Mr Thirsty fetching up on Nick Ferrari’s LBC show this morning and ending up with boot firmly in mouth as he admitted Smith was not a suitable candidate, but then claimed, guess what, that there wasn’t really anything wrong with what he had said. Because he had grown up in a council house. And then it got worse.

Ferrari challenged the idea that living in a council house made it OK to make derogatory comments. Cue Farage: “If you and your mates were going out for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?” to which Ferrari, to his credit, replied firmly “I honestly would not use the word ‘Chinky’. Would you?” Nige came back with “No, but a lot of people would”.

A lot of which people? But dig yourself in deeper: “I think we’re very snobbish in London about condemning people perhaps for the colloquial language they use, particularly if it’s not meant with really unpleasant intent”. It’s got bugger all to do with “being in London”, or “colloquial language”. People don’t use words like “Chinky”. It’s largely fallen out of use – whatever kind of house you live in.

But Nige wasn’t listening: “The point is this; I feel a bit sorry for Kerry Smith because he’s a genuine fella, I think even with the poofter comment ... All I am saying is UKIP is treated slightly unfairly on this. Yes, of course we have people who do things and say things that are wrong, so do the other parties as well ... We do not have a monopoly on stupidity, I promise you”. Not yet, perhaps, but give it time.

We’re not talking “rough diamonds” here. The term is “racist bigots”. End of story.

Telegraph Illegal Migrant Hoax

3,000 illegal migrants a monthscreams the increasingly pisspoor Telegraph this morning, as the kinds of frightener regularly fed to the unfortunates who read the Mail and Express are recycled by the former paper of record. The inference of the headline – that this is the number who arrive in the UK – is wrong. And it’s not the only slice of barrel-scraping journalism present.
So 3,000 illegal migrants don’t arrive in the UK each month? Sadly not: “in 2011/12 migrants were caught trying to enter Britain a total of 9,632 times, a figure which by last year had almost doubled reaching 19,003 ... The Home Office on Thursday disclosed that 11,920 entry attempts were detected at Calais and British ports in the first four months of this year alone – equivalent to almost 100 a day”.

Entry attempt” is the key phrase. How many of these attempts were made by the same potential migrant? Remember, each one of these “entry attempts” is one that is detected, with the person detected then prevented from entering the UK. Unless it can be shown that multiple entry attempts have been removed from the figures, then the Tel’s claim of “3,000 illegal migrants a month” is meaningless.

And why are they coming here? “Migration experts said that Britain is one of the most ‘attractive’ destinations for migrants in the World and suggested that many more illegal immigrants are likely to have successfully made it into Britain ... Experts said that migrants were attracted by Britain's unregulated labour market, the ability to get free health care on the NHS and relatively generous welfare system”.

Ah yes, that “relatively generous welfare system”. There, in four words, is a prime example of why the Tel is such a cheap and nasty paper nowadays. Let’s take this one nice and slowly, shall we? Illegal migrants cannot access the benefits system. That is because they are illegal migrants. Ditto free health care on the NHS. And they can’t become a full participant in the labour market, either.

That is because they can’t get a National Insurance number. Because they’re illegal migrants. But they can claim asylum, even though, unless their claim is accepted, guess what? They still can’t access the welfare system. And, as for the UK being an “attractive” destination, it’s fifth most popular in terms of absolute numbers of all EU member states. The readily available statistics show this clearly.

Germany had 56,000 asylum applications in the third quarter of this year, Sweden 28,000, Italy 18,000, France 14,500 and the UK 8,900. By percentage of overall population, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, Greece and the Netherlands had more than we did. The UK is so “attractive” that it doesn’t make it into the EU top ten by proportion of population.

And that is why the Telegraph’s lead headline is such a disgrace. Must try harder.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Mail NHS Nurse Rant Continues

Yesterday’s typically slanted Daily Mail lead story, claiming that thousands of nurses were being recruited from abroad despite their allegedly “struggling” with the English language, has been continued today, with the headline thundering “As 4 in 5 new nurses are foreign ... 80,000 UK STUDENTS TOLD: YOU CAN’T TRAIN AS A NURSE”. And, once again, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
What stupid f***er wants to go NHS anyway, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

Once again the Mail pushes this line: “Last month the Mail visited a recruitment fair in Porto, Portugal, where Bedford Hospital hired 25 nurses. They were offered contracts without any formal English tests and some were even given help filling in the application form”. This, not to put too fine a point on it, is bullshit. As I noted yesterday, knowing English is a requirement.

The Mail claimed that nurses from overseas could register as nurses without knowing the language, and this is true, but that does not mean they then walk into a job. As one of my commenters noted, “you need to make sure that you have sufficient knowledge of English in order to practise professionally (article 53 of the directive). Employers will expect this and have the right to require evidence of English language competence to ensure that they employ nurses and midwives who are able to communicate effectively”.
So that’s one way the Mail slants its copy. Another is the idea that 80,000 want to train as nurses, but are being turned away. What the Mail does not tell is what other jobs or training the 80,000 have applied for – it is hardly exceptional for those seeking work to apply for several career options at once.

So the assertion “80,000 UK students told: you can’t train as a nurse” is, as with so many Mail headlines, not supported by the article it headlines. And there is something else that those keen on sums and statistics may have homed in on, and that is that there is a significant difference between the claim of 80,000 wanting to train as nurses, and under 6,000 coming to the NHS from abroad.

Even if all vacant posts could be filled from trainee nurses, that would just mean another 5,800 Brits employed as nurses. So in those circumstances, perhaps the Mail would like to rework its headline to read “74,200 UK STUDENTS TOLD: YOU CAN’T TRAIN AS A NURSE”, only without the ability to claim all the jobs were going to candidates from other EU member states.

But no, all readers are served up is the same bile: “Figures released on Tuesday show that hospitals hired 5,778 foreign nurses last year, up from 1,360 the year before ... There are fears that severe staffing shortages are leading managers to lower the bar for recruits’ English skills”. Get some evidence, Mail people, and just once in your lives stop lying to your readers.

EXCLUSIVE Guido Fawked – Thrown Out Of The IoD

[Update at end of post]

When think tank ResPublica celebrated its fifth birthday at the Institute of Directors (IoD) on Tuesday evening, director Phillip Blond’s address “set the tone for the rest of the evening, ensuring minds were firmly fixed on the long-term and enduring issues of our time”. What the celebratory tone did not tell was that one of those enduring issues was the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines.
Feared. According to Himself Personally Now

What Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog have not told their readers is that, despite their having consumed more than enough during their pre-Christmas lunch earlier that day, two of their number were still thirsty well into the evening. And it was to the IoD that Staines and his tame gofer, the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, fetched up, only to be refused entry.
Pity the poor chair

This was because the pair of them were already in an advanced state of alcoholic derangement. But while Cole, a mere amateur gatecrasher, did as the security chaps told him, Staines managed to get past them, and into the ResPublica bash, where he secured a large glass of white wine and a seat on which to slob out.
Hasn't he had enough? Oh go on, just one more glass

The budding Mr Creosote then succeeded in getting the glass to his lips, before consuming the contents in short order. This was undoubtedly the correct course of action, as the security bods then descended on The Great Guido and ejected him.
Shit, do all those bellies belong to me?

Strangely, those assembled seem not to have noticed the drunken intruder – or perhaps they were either so used to seeing Staines in an overtired state, or prepared to keep schtum and hope the news didn’t get out.
Look I'm OK, I can shtand up unashishted

But get out it has, with photos and videos arriving on Zelo Street, showing not only the appallingly wasted Staines slurping his vino, but also the aftermath as his efforts to get back in were firmly rebutted and he was shown the door. The one marked Exit.
Why are you fer-fer-fer-filming me?

After realising that he was on his way out, The Great Guido, clearly unsteady on his feet, began to object to being filmed, until it was pointed out to him that he did that to others all the time. There were occasional moments of coherent speech, but these were punctuated with all too many expletives.
But I wash invited. I think

Staines briefly protested that he had been invited to the ResPublica bash. This, too, was less than successful. And then it was back downstairs to be reunited with Master Cole, before being decanted onto Pall Mall and the inevitable stagger in search of a watering hole prepared to tolerate his presence.

The Great Guido loves to call out others for being ratarsed. One wonders how he will react, now that the boot is so clearly on the other foot. Another fine mess.

[UPDATE 1455 hours: following a number of enquiries concerning the videos made available of Staines' ejection from the IoD, here is one of them, with The Great Guido clearly unsteady on his feet and slurring his speech.
Staines also confirms that Master Cole is "downstairs", as well as saying he has not been doing Coke or drink driving, which is a relief. He then proceeds to swear and is briefly petulant with staff, before accepting that his presence is not welcome.

And politicians are supposed to quake in their boots at this sight? Maybe not, eh Paul?]

Cuba – God Bless You Barack Obama

At the end of the 1980s, there was the event many thought they would not live to see, as the Berlin Wall fell. But the Wall had only been there, in one form or another, for 28 years. The United States blockade of Cuba had, by this year, been going on for well over half a century. It should never have happened, another grievous error made by one Richard Milhous Nixon.
After Fidel Castro and his guerrillas had overthrown the corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista in 1959, the victorious leader journeyed to Washington DC, with the intention of meeting then President Dwight Eisenhower. However, and here we encounter a crucial however, Ike was, as so often, absent and golfing, and so Castro met the Vice President instead. And that was where it all went wrong.

Tricky Dicky concluded that Castro was a Communist, and that meant he was A Very Bad Person Indeed. Shunned and isolated by the USA, Fidel then went to the Russians, who were only too keen to have a satellite state on the States’ doorstep. Everything then went downhill in terrifyingly short order, as by October 1962 the crisis over ballistic missile deployment brought the superpowers to the brink.

That would be the brink of nuclear war, fought with real nuclear weapons. The world, for a few days, looked into the pit. Fortunately, Jack Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev were more sensible than many of their more bellicose advisors. But the isolation endured. At first, Presidents could not so much as approach the issue. But now, to his eternal credit, Barack Obama has swept away the past.

 The Prez declared that past US policy towards Cuba had failed. There must be a new start. Prisoners would be released. Normal diplomatic relations would be resumed. There would be freer movement of people, and, most importantly for Cubans, money. Pressure would now shift to Congress to lift the trade embargo, an issue on which the Republicans are divided.

Obama was not flying solo on this mission: also involved were Canada, and, in a rare foreign policy success for the Vatican, Pope Francis. At a stroke, with Russia weakened by sanctions and a collapse in the world oil price, the very real prospect of returning Cuba to the US’ sphere of influence was in sight. And the chances of Obama’s Democrat successor winning in 2016 were increased.

Only the previous day, Jeb Bush had signalled a possible tilt at the White House. He would almost certainly deliver Florida and its electoral college votes. Now, that is not so certain. While some Cuban-Americans will be wary, many more will view the Obama intervention as the clinching reason to side with the Dems. So much for the idea of a “lame duck” Presidency.

25 years after the Wall came down, we once again live in momentous times.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Guido Fawked – Two Week Old News

The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog have been getting in the Christmas spirit recently, which, more or less, means that when visiting the Rub-A-Dub, they become even more Elephant’s Trunk and Mozart than usual. Sadly for The Great Guido, this has not had a beneficial effect on their ability to bring their unfortunate readers up-to-date news.
Worst Father Ted tribute act ever

While Staines, his tame gofer, the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, newly anointed teaboy Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, and viciously anti-Semitic “sketch writer” Simon “Lurch” Carr were working themselves into a state of alcoholic derangement yesterday lunchtime, it seems that news broken two weeks ago at One Great George Street had still not reached them.

And, given the news was about one of their favourite targets, this was a double omission. Zelo Street regulars will by now know what is being alluded to here; for everyone else, a little background may be in order.

On Wednesday December 3, campaigning group Hacked Off presented the second annual Leveson lecture, delivered by Labour MP Tom Watson. During that lecture, he told, to sustained applause, that as part of the Shadow Cabinet reshuffle caused after Emily Thornberry resigned her post, Chris Bryant had been appointed Shadow minister for Culture, Media and Sport.

Zelo Street waited for the press reaction, the premise being that most, if not all, papers would deliberately ignore the appointment in order to make it go away. This they did. This blog subsequently posted on Bryant’s promotion on Sunday December 7, with some Tweeters telling me later that this was wrong, and that Bryant had only been made Shadow Arts Minister. But they were unaware that when Watson made his announcement, Bryant was in the hall, and did not dissent from the news.
Just seen ... late again!

Well, guess what? Two whole weeks after Tom Watson gave out the news, and ten days after Zelo Street, Master Cole has at last heard about it. “Just seen that [Chris Bryant MP] has been moved to shadow DCMS” he confirmed on Twitter earlier, and his pal Wickham dutifully Retweeted it. The Great Guido and his rabble ought to give up if they can’t do better than that.

Of course, had they been in the Westminster Arms – which, after all, is one of their favoured watering holes – after the lecture, as many of those who had been in the hall were, they would have found out. It’s a strange omission for a crowd who made such an effort to gatecrash Steve Coogan’s party last year (and yes, that was another miserable failure on their part, too).

They failed to turn up to their own Westminster local, then couldn’t bother catching up on the news for a fortnight. Another fine mess, once again.

Don’t Menshn Murdoch Losses

Another day, another challenge for (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch, as she tries – and, not for the first time, fails – to remain consistent in the face of having to grovel in the general direction of Creepy Uncle Rupe, but at the same time lay into the hated Guardian at every opportunity. The result, as so often, sees her with foot firmly in mouth, amid unintended hilarity.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

When Alan Rusbridger announced that he would be leaving the editor’s chair at the Guardian next year and moving upstairs to chair the Scott Trust, there was no happier bunny than Ms Mensch, despite her shock realisation: “Finally annoyed [Alan Rusbridger] enough that the Guardian has blocked my Twitter account. I have almost as many followers as he has circulation” she trilled.
And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. One, she doesn’t offer a print edition of whatever wibblings she is offering right now, and so, two, that leaves Twitter, where she has around 88,000 followers, many of whom are there for the laughs, while the Guardian has three million followers. So it would be more accurate to say “I have almost 3% as many followers as they have”.
But the better class of people will be glad that the Guardian has blocked her, although many will wonder why they did not do it rather earlier. Meanwhile, she wished the departing editor “Goodbye and good riddance”, in a demonstration of petulance at her previous failure to get Rusbridger jailed over the Snowden material. Then she condemned him as “Dr No circulation”.
The Guardian’s website is, meanwhile, massively popular, second only to Mail Online, and no sidebar of shame in sight. That thought, though, was not allowed to enter as Ms Mensch just kept on sneering: “Haahaa, so fitting that the story of [Alan Rusbridger] quitting is scooped from them by the Independent”. Laugh? I thought I’d never start. And then we get to the main event.
Dear [Alan Rusbridger], an excellent Guardian piece to read in your downtime” she smirked, citing an article titledTimes Newspapers posts £1.7m profit, first in 13 years”. Yeah, take that, yogurt-knitting lentil-munching Guardianistas! However, and here we encounter a most inconvenient however, one must expect Ms Mensch to be consistent in reporting these financial results, which she is not.
As the Guardian has also noted, “News Corp suffers £3.5m loss after £51m profit the year before”. The detail was most revealing: “One stand-out feature was the plunge in the profitability of the Sun, where operating profits were down to £35.6m from £62.1m in 2013”. So Rupe needs to get the Sun back to its previous profitability? No problem there, economies should be easy to find.

There’s at least one useless pundit they can do without. Hello Louise.

Mail Foreign Nurse Xenophobia

[Update at end of post]

One instinctively knows when the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre is riding one of his hobbyhorses when the Daily Mail refuses to feature the same lead story as the rest of the press pack, choosing instead to push its own agenda. So it is this morning, with most papers leading on the horrific school killings in Peshawar, where at least 130 children were murdered by the Pakistani Taliban.
What's f***ing wrong with kicking the NHS, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

This, though, was relegated to the inside pages as the Mail decided once again to kick those dastardly foreigners: “4 IN 5 NURSES ON NHS WARDS ARE FOREIGNthundered the headline. And, so what? Who gives the proverbial flying foxtrot what nationality the nurses are? Can they do the job? Are the patients happy about that? Can the NHS carry on as before? What’s Dacre’s beef?

Ah well. All those Daily Mail readers are having the idea fed to them that the new nurses can’t speak English. Or that they can’t speak it very well: “Mail investigation found nurses picked up at recruitment fairs in Portugal struggled to fill out basic forms and needed a translation service ... Legal loophole prevents the Nursing and Midwifery Council checking the English of European nurses before they are registered for NHS work” hint the sub-headings.
The Mail's priority today ...

Yes, they went to Portugal and just “picked up” staff. That means its like all those migrant workers queuing for minibuses somewhere in North London. The inference is that Brits are excluded and some kind of people trafficking operation is going on. It isnt, and, as so often with the Mail, the copy doesnt support the headline.

The influx of foreign nurses “has sparked fears that some nurses will lack the English language skills to do their jobs properly”. One concerned talking head said “We are concerned that poor English skills may lead to mistakes and misunderstandings when patients are trying to explain their problems”. The Mail asserts “there is a suspicion that some turn a blind eye to poor results”.
... versus every other paper's priority

Even when the Mail tells that “An investigation by the Mail last month found that nurses picked up at recruitment fairs in Portugal struggled to fill out basic forms and needed a translation service”, readers don’t get to find out exactly what they “struggled” with. But the Mail at least concedes “The staffing crisis has come about partly because the Government slashed the numbers of training posts”.

What does Dacre expect the NHS to do in order to staff its hospitals properly? And, while the Vagina Monologue is at it, he might also care to explain today’s Daily Mail Comment, “Why illegal migrants can laugh at the law”. There appears to be no article for this editorial to accompany. Is a suggestion of illegality being made here? More like this is a cheap smear of the EU and Britain’s oldest ally, Portugal.

Paul Dacre, of course, doesn’t give a stuff about the NHS. He goes private.

[UPDATE 1845 hours: one commenter to this post has rumbled Paul Dacre and his attempt to frighten Mail readers into thinking nurses may not be able to communicate in English. This is the relevant text.

"Under EU law, the NMC cannot require evidence of your ability to communicate in English for the purposes of registration. However, you need to make sure that you have sufficient knowledge of English in order to practise professionally (article 53 of the directive). Employers will expect this and have the right to require evidence of English language competence to ensure that they employ nurses and midwives who are able to communicate effectively".

So there is no "loophole", as the article asserts, no way for EU law to be used to allow non-English speaking nurses into the NHS, and, sadly for the Vagina Monologue, no story. I'll be notifying the nice people at Hacked Off that there is another potential breach of the Editor's Code right there.

As the late David English once said, "Bang to rights, Mr Dacre"]

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Uber – Wheels Are Coming Off

[Update at end of post]

It is less than four months since Conservative Home’s latest purveyor of Famous Last Words Mark Wallace sniffily rebuked my suggestion that driver and rider matching service Uber was not on the side of the little guy by stating “Have you ever taken a journey by [Uber in London]? Drivers work for themselves under better conditions with a better income”.
 Better than what? Ah, but one should not test the word of the great Wal, especially after London’s UberX drivers – which means most of the total – had a 15% pay cut imposed on them, and realised that, far from experiencing the liberating effect of the new sharing economy, they had become Prisoners Of The App, mere pawns in the increasingly dirty game waged by CEO Travis Kalanick and his pals.

The only other significant change from August is that the then best estimate of Uber’s value of $17 billion has been revised upwards to a whopping $40 billion, so my contention has been reinforced somewhat. But in the meantime, across Europe and further afield, Uber has discovered that its campaign has progressed not necessarily to its advantage.
Famous Last Words indeed

While Uber drivers in the UK and across the USA have had pay cuts imposed on them, at least they are still on the road. In several other countries, Uber has either suspended its operations, or has been banned by the authorities. And the place where bans are spreading fastest is in mainland Europe: while Uber appeals attempts to ban it in Germany and Belguim, it has failed elsewhere.

It’s been banned outright in the Netherlands. Added to the roll-call recently was Spain. And now UberPop, the local variant on what is called UberX in London, will be banned in France from the start of next year. There has been action against Uber in both Denmark and Norway. How Kalanick and his gang will respond may be to carry on in defiance of the law, as it appears to have done in the Netherlands.

However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, Uber has left itself open to fines of up to €100,000 for each prosecution in the Dutch courts. And the news is little better elsewhere: Thailand has also banned Uber, and in India, following an allegation of rape against one of its drivers, the company has voluntarily suspended operations. And, to be on the safe side, it’s also been banned.

The situation in India was made worse by Kalanick trying to offload blame onto someone else for Uber’s failure to carry out background checks on its drivers. He is now finding out that being aggressive, flouting local laws, and waving his big wad of cash are not necessarily the right ingredients for winning over Governments in countries where the App fetches up.

Could Kalanick and friends organise a piss-up in a brewery? Perhaps not.

[UPDATE 1900 hours: Uber's ability to garner foot-in-mouth publicity notched up another glorious failure during the Sydney siege, when the App instigated surge pricing and a minimum fare of $100. With many trying to get out of the Central Business District, there was instant bad PR.

As Wired has put it, "even though Uber didn’t intentionally do anything sinister, the company’s public image has grown so tainted in recent weeks and months, that the public actually believes it’s capable of doing something like this"]