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Saturday, 19 April 2014

No FT, No Press Regulation Stitch-Up

One story from the realm of the Fourth Estate managed to get featured by Very Few Papers Indeed when it broke at lunchtime on Thursday, and for good reason: the Financial Times (FT) has declined to join the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), successor to the discredited PCC, and will instead set up its own system for handling complaints.
There are good reasons for the FT not to be part of any mainstream UK press regulator in any case: three-quarters of the title’s readers now come from outside the UK, the PCC had in any case received very few complaints about its reporting in recent years, and editor Lionel Barber sees his competition as coming from global news organisations, not the UK press.

And yet, and yet: the FT had been signed up to the PCC. Those who set up IPSO must have hoped to use the title to chip away at the last of those undecided, of which the Guardian and Independent (plus one significant regional title, the Evening Standard) are still perched firmly on the fence. Moreover, the disappointment in press ranks will not be assuaged by the way the FT is setting up its own system.

As Roy Greenslade has noted, “This will involve the appointment of an ombudsman-style person, called an editorial complaints commissioner, who will be independent of the editor”. Barber has asserted that “The successful candidate will be appointed by a three-person committee and will be independent of the editor”. That suggests the FT will be closer to the Leveson recommendations than IPSO.

Why the title should make its own highly individual choice is clear: Barber and his board appear to consider their way has a better chance of maintaining confidence in the FT’s journalism and integrity. They have concluded that their own system will be more worthwhile than IPSO (perhaps it will also be less costly). And they do not rule out joining a regulator recognised under the Royal Charter.

This last strengthens the arguments of both Hacked Off, whose spokesman has said that “The public already know that Ipso is nothing more than a shabby facsimile of the discredited PCC”, and also Jonathan Heawood’s nascent Charter-compliant regulator Impress, which he is in the process of crowdsourcing, aided by recently-libelled Daily Mail target Jo Rowling.

So where does that leave IPSO? Ah well. That is why most of the press has totally ignored the FT’s move, because this has shown there is an effective alternative which is better at maintaining public confidence in the product. Now, the problem for Lord Black of Brentwood and his pals is to head off any waverers from within their own ranks from following suit and saving themselves money and hassle.

The FT’s action has not been good for IPSO. The damage could be significant.

Charles Moore And Islamophobia

The allegations of “Islamist infiltration” into a number of schools in Birmingham have been examined on Zelo Street before (see HERE and HERE), and the involvement of the Telegraph’s Muslim basher par excellence Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan has been noted. But now, the paper has taken its campaign to a whole new level, by allowing senior pundit Charles Moore to jump in with both feet.
Showing the crashing ignorance and prejudice inherent in his piece is the headline: “A weak establishment is letting Islamists threaten British freedoms ... Birmingham council and police must do all they can to uncover extremist subversion in the city's schools. All Islamist schools of thought are hostile to democracy”. That is bad, even for the routinely clueless and paranoid Moore.

Then he really sells the pass: “As always with stories about Islam in Britain, the details are incredibly opaque, although The Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan is getting us closer to the truth”. Just f*** right off Charles, Gilligan wouldn’t know “the truth” if it jumped up and fly-hacked him in the undercarriage. Moore wants “the truth”? Well, one local school governor may be able to help him.

I serve as Vice-Chair of Governors at Regents Park School in Birmingham, a school named in the press as being among those 'infiltrated'. I categorically refute those allegations, and have demonstrated their emptiness to HM Inspectors for Schools” tells Anglican priest Oliver Coss, who for some reason does not appear to have been contacted by Gilligan, or anyone else from the Tel.

And, as to the appointment by Michael “Oiky” Gove of a former head of counter-terrorism to investigate the allegations made by the likes of Gilligan, he has this to say: “Majority Islamic neighbourhoods are well used to the 'terror' maps produced by the police, with big red blotches strategically placed over my church to scare me into submission; they are used to the Counter-Terrorist 'Neighbourhood' Unit; and they are used to accusations of 'Islamism' or 'extremism' being hurled at them, not because such things exist, but for the simple crime of being Muslims”.

Moore, however, is not even on the same page: “In the Birmingham case, it seems we are dealing with a war within Islam, between the more articulate, extreme and mysteriously well-funded Salafists (or Wahhabis) and the quieter, more traditional and numerous Barelvis” he assumes without getting a second source.

Instead, he insists the Muslims are out to get us: “Everything to do with Islamism is a web of obscurity, designedly so. People who believe that the Western way of life is a lie which should be overthrown have no scruples about concealing their actions and motives”. This is dangerous rabble-rousing nonsense.

And Charles Moore is an utter disgrace who should leave this to the authorities.

Murdoch Pundit Bitch Fight

An extraordinary row has broken out over there on the right, as two takers of the Murdoch shilling have begun fighting among themselves. And, although I would be more than happy to see both parties lose, the participants know that there will be only one of them on the losing side. Moreover, given that one party, the serially clueless Tim Montgomerie, is a Times staffer, that loser may not be him.
What's that, Guido? You'd like to resign?

Monty has, not for the first time, incurred the displeasure of his fellow right-wing cranks, and this time it is the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog who have engaged full stampy tantrum mode at the stance of the Times’ comment editor. Staines, his tame gofer, the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, and newly anointed teaboy Alex Wickham, write for the Sunday Sun.
Last Tuesday, after the Times had gone after Nigel “Thirsty” Farage over his trousering of expenses and allowances from the European Parliament (EP), the Fawkes folks in turn rubbished the Times, although to be fair they also noted Farage’s flakiness before the interrogation of Dermot Murnaghan on Sky News (“first for breaking wind”). Then came today’s Times leader.
We side with UKIP against [The Times], they write a leader – hiding behind Sarah Woolaston’s petticoats no less – saying we’re too aggressive” squealed the Fawkes rabble. Monty was dismissive: “Wrong: ‘As for the ‘aggressive male bloggers’ ... there is not much evidence of anything particularly ungentlemanly'” he quoted. On this occasion he is right. Staines and his pals are getting paranoid.
The Great Guido is seeing one event follow another and instantly assumes the two are connected. Now, had it been someone siding with another party against the Fawkes blog, the events would have been connected: Staines is, behind the veneer of good-humoured agreeability, one of the most viciously vindictive SOBs known to humankind. But he should not judge others by his legendarily low standards.
Back at the argument, the Fawkes rabble sniped back at Monty “Concludes after amplifying – arguably hiding behind – Sarah Woolaston’s accusations”, confirming that there is one woman MP with whom they have a woman problem. “Rubbish. Hadn’t realised BTW that you sided with UKIP. Now noted” mused Monty. “Another mark against my name in your little black book” returned the Fawkes folks.
There is all sorts at work here: jealousy at Monty getting his staff berth, paranoia in that the Fawkes rabble think the Times is picking on them (as if), and sheer petulance as The Great Guido demonstrates a flakiness, an inability to take the stick that is so readily given out to others. But under all of this is the thought that Rupe’s management may not look favourably on the unedifying spectacle.

Yes, there may be a loser from this scrap, and it ain’t going to be Montgomerie.

Friday, 18 April 2014

David Axelrod – Good Labour Call

Barack Obama's most influential adviser during two presidential victories has been hired to advise Labour on its 2015 election campaign, ensuring that Ed Miliband will put inequality and the break between family finances and economic growth at the centre of his election campaignobserved the Guardian today. David Axelrod will join for the 2015 General Election campaign effort.
Do not underestimate this man

Readers are reminded that he “was integral not just to Obama's two presidential victories in 2008 and 2012, but also to Obama's election as a senator in 2004”, along with a statement of the obvious, “His arrival on the British scene will pit him against the Australian Lynton Crosby, the Conservative campaign consultant, who is one the toughest campaign operators”. So how seriously are the Tories taking this?

And the answer to that is very seriously indeed: we can deduce this from the amount of gratuitous knocking copy already being generated. The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog have led the way with a dirt-digging “appraisal” which holds, more or less, that Axelrod is rubbish because some of those he worked for did not win, or suffered falls from grace further down the line.
Not that The Great Guido is a Conservative, you understand. And this view can be dismissed: anyone telling that Douglas “Kamikaze” Carswell should be involved in writing the next Tory manifesto is not dealing from a full deck. Meanwhile, Tim Montgomerie is worried “Axelrod’s appointment clearest indication yet that Labour will run a bash-the-rich campaign. I fear 35% of Britain will indeed vote for it”.
So says the totally unbiased former Conservative Home man. And, talking of ConHome, Mark Wallace, former stalwart of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance has also passed adverse comment: “Odd decision by Labour to do a video of Axelrod, their new strategist. Isn’t he meant to be strategising rather than fronting the campaign?” so he didn’t have anything to say, either.
Except, of course, to make sure this hire was A Very Bad Move, a sentiment echoed by Willard Foxton: “It is worth noting when hiring Obama advisors, that electing a uniquely charismatic candidate is easier than electing Ed Miliband”. They all make that same mistake of sneering before stopping to figure out Miliband. And Foxton manages to miss the one hurdle Obama was not expected to be able to clear.

It takes former Blair Political Secretary John McTernan to put the Axelrod appointment in the kind of plain English all can comprehend: “David Axelrod can do for Ed Miliband what he did for President Obama: get him elected”. Sadly, though, the right is not listening. They think if the yah-boo is maintained up to polling day, all will be well. And by taking that attitude, they tell us how good Axelrod really is.

Given the instant abuse, that would be very good indeed.

UKIP – Farage Under Fire

Patrick “Lunchtime” O’Flynn, now an honest supporter of UKIP and their Director of Communications, exemplified the party’s inability to inhabit the real world when he leapt on a remark by the Sun’s deputy political editor Steve Hawkes, who had spoken too soon when he mused “I see EU diplomacy has worked wonders in Ukraine”. “Coming round to our way of thinking, Steve” replied O’Flynn.
European squeaky finger up the bum time imminent

Hawkes reminded “Lunchtime” that “[You] don’t have to be in or out of the EU to fail at diplomacy”. It was a pretty desperate punt by O’Flynn, and, despite some promising poll numbers, Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his pals have good reason to feel insecure, as the party comes under a more critical spotlight and its leader appears rattled when nasty words like “Expenses” are turned back on him.

Previously, “Expenses” was part of the UKIP armoury, to be spat out all over what the more feeble-brained of their supporters call “The LibLabCon”. Yes, “Expenses” are what the Westminster parties get up to. UKIP, held to be pure as the driven snow by comparison, do not dirty themselves with such tawdry behaviour. Moreover, they are an inclusive party, with none of that baggage carried by the rest.
Someone trying too hard to get support here

But now someone within the Fourth Estate has figured out that Farage is no stranger to those “Expenses” either: indeed, Mr Thirsty had, by 2009, trousered around £2 million over and above his salary as an MEP, and was more than happy to sound off about it. Now that the media is getting critical, though, Nige is not quite so happy, as when he was confronted over his annual £3,000 electricity bill.

Then there is the taint of intolerance that hangs over UKIP: when Marine le Pen, leader of the French Front National (FN) “said that she would welcome collaboration with UKIP with ‘open arms’”, the Farage spokesman retorted thatthey were ‘not interested in any deal’ because ‘in the parties DNA there is prejudice and anti-Semitism in particular’”. Any link to the far-right, they know, is bad news.
Sun man calls this one right

And there are also the twin pincers of the fruitcakes – such as the councillor who blamed recent flooding on same-sex marriage – and the criminal fringe, exemplified by Crewe’s very own dodgy dealer Brian Silvester, not only binned by the Tories, but now under investigation by Cheshire East Council for misuse of taxpayer-funded resources. That’s an awful lot of cats to herd.

But herd them Farage and his fringe must, if they are content to let the proverbial “nutcases and criminals” sit at their table. And Mr Thirsty can’t keep railing at the establishment and not expect to be called out for hypocrisy: he is, after all, a product of private schooling and the City of London. Last week’s events show that the press may have at last caught up with Farage the flim-flam man.

Can he hold off the criticism through the European election campaign?

Come Back Bob Crow, All Is Forgiven

Tube strikes? Londoners, the Daily Mail wasted no time in telling its readers, were sick and tired of them. And there could be only one villain of the piece: Bob Crow. He was a militant! He got paid a salary and pension contributions too! He still lived in a council house (and a photo was helpfully provided, so readers knew where to find him)! He sometimes ate out at decent restaurants!
Unfunny and talentless churnalist Richard Littlejohn was in no doubt as to Crow’s malign influence: “Barbados Bob, great train robber who uses industrial brute force to make rail passengers stand and deliver” he declared only last February, before telling another load of whoppers about Clive Jenkins, which he can get away with because the former union leader is long dead.

Dicky Windbag even surmisedFor some time now I have suspected that Bob Crow is an MI5 agent ... If you tried to invent a man to discredit and destroy the trades union movement from within, there could be no finer candidate ... Bob Crow seems determined to bring down not only his own union but the entire TUC”. Interesting way of saying “he did exactly what he was elected to do”, that.

And then Crow got a pay rise! “Militant union baron Bob Crow has brushed aside calls for wage restraint – and quietly pocketed an astonishing 12 per cent pay rise. The hardline general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union has taken the £10,000 salary increase, despite the painful pay freeze affecting millions of workers in both the public and private sectors” howled the Mail in protest.

One could have been forgiven for getting the impression from the Mail’s characteristically hostile coverage that there were only tube strikes because of Crow, and that, were someone else at the helm of the RMT Union, all would be well. I mean, he was not only “militant”, but “hardline” too! And he claimed expenses! And on top of that, he claimed travel costs!

Then the Daily Mail, and all the other repositories of right-leaning frothing and ranting, unexpectedly got their wish when Crow died suddenly last month. Now he was no longer around, there would surely be a more conciliatory and moderate tone from the union’s leadership. Wouldn’t there? Er, no there wouldn’t: five days of strike action have been called, starting in less than a fortnight’s time.

So what does the Mail have to say about that? “The industrial action announced by the RMT Union today will be the first since the death of its firebrand leader Bob Crow last month”. What they really mean is that they wanted Crow still to be around, so the hacks could have a clear target for their ire, someone they could demonise and use to flog more papers. Now it’s just strikes and no convenient bogeyman.

And proof that Bob Crow wasn’t especially militant, hardline, or anything else.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Dorries Desperate Development Spin

Although her novel is now selling for as little as £3.99 a copy, Mid Bedfordshire’s Tory MP (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries is clearly not downhearted, despite the indifferent reviews – those from the Guardian, Staggers and Telegraph, which awarded the book 2, 1 and 1 star ratings respectively, come up at the top of a Google search – and has now taken up arms against wind power.
Cranfield Residents: Object Now!proclaims her not-really-a-blog. For why? “The plan to install six wind turbines near the villages of Cranfield, Marston, Brogborough and Lidlington has now been filed and it is vital that residents object ... I’m convinced that in fifty years time our grandchildren will look at these turbines and laugh at our foolishness in allowing such monsters of inefficiency to blight their landscape”.

So that’s a partisan stance and a highly subjective claim just to kick things off, then. But maybe there is some substance to this objection? “My objections to the forcing of wind turbines on communities I represent are legion, but it comes down to the principle that the benefits gained are dwarfed by the distress caused. These things cause serious disturbances in their local areas”. They do? How so?
From Private Eye issue 1364

Many kinds of background noise are filtered out by the brain but that is not the case with turbines. The non-repetitive nature of the noise, due to changes in the strength of the wind, means that people can’t ‘zone out’ the noise in the same way. It is constantly present”. Do we get a reliable citation for this assertion? And how can something that is “non-repetitive” be “constantly present”?

In fact, there isn’t any citation, because she doesn’t know. “Studies are ongoing into the potential dangers this causes to the health of people living nearby, but having a horror film soundtrack playing in the background of your life is hardly conducive to relaxation and wellbeing!” and there I was thinking that there was a difference between a wind turbine spinning in the breeze and the Psycho shower scene.

So what do we do about our energy needs? “I believe the government should be focused on investing in new nuclear technology, complemented by some renewables such as solar and off-shore wind”. That would be “putting it somewhere else”, then,  which comes from Ms Dorries’ “having stood at the last election on a manifesto committed to the localism agenda”.

And there I was (again) not realising that localism is another word for Nimby. Yes, there are wind turbines near where I live. Meh. Big deal. I’d think more of the fragrant Nadine if she backed this up with some fact-finding, rather than knee-jerk nimbyism. And the press would pay more attention, only she just decided to alienate part of it because they wouldn’t say nice things about her book.

I suspect those wind turbines will be built sooner or later. Just my opinion.

Guido Fawked – No Gallagher Prediction

The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog were beside themselves with joy yesterday as a rumour they had heard actually turned out to be true: former Maily Telegraph editor Tony Gallagher, recently sacked from his post at Fleet Street’s last broadsheet daily, had rejoined the Daily Mail as deputy to the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre.
Nah, I missed asking Tony cos I was going to get ratarsed, shit no, to the bog, after getting well pissed, bollocks no, fed. And getting blotto on wine. Oh sod it

Gallagher will share the deputy role with Jon Steafel, but the move appears reminiscent of Dacre’s own promotion to the editor’s chair, when his predecessor David English stepped aside and took up an “editor-in-chief” role to stop the Vagina Monologue being poached by another title. Gallagher was taken on board to make sure the succession is in place when Dacre finally goes.

And, as to the Fawkes rabble being a few minutes ahead of the field on the news getting out, it is another case of, as Jon Stewart might have put it, two things there. One, the Fawkes folks did not, despite knowing that this move had been rumoured for several months, manage to tell their readers anything about it. Zelo Street discussed it as far back as December 2012.
I don't need to get scoops, cos I'm on telly!

Indeed, this blog has noted Gallagher being tipped to succeed Dacre on at least three more occasions (see HERE, HERE and HERE). But this appears to have passed The Great Guido by. One has to wonder whether this is yet another side-effect of the Fawkes rabble selling out to the Fourth Estate, and their being frightened witless of offending Dacre.

And the second point is that The Great Guido had a very public recent encounter with Gallagher, yet managed not to bother putting the questions to him: what were his future plans? Had he received any offers to return to the editor’s chair, directly or indirectly? What about the rumours surrounding the Dacre succession? He must have known, even before the end of February.
Tony Gallagher at the Leveson Inquiry

Instead, Staines and his clueless gofer, the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, were happy to just tell readers that they had lunched at Moro in Islington, where the two of them had blown a sum well into three figures ensuring they not only ate well, but washed it all down with two reassuringly expensive bottles of wine, so they could summon some very old Harry Enfield and go “loadsamoney”.

Instead, Tony Gallagher kept his new job under wraps, and fobbed off the less than dynamic duo with a photo. So there is a wily streak to the former hard man of the Telegraph, and it needed very little application to see off Staines and Cole. There was a scoop there waiting, and the two of them fluffed it. What was that Fawkes saying? “You booze, you lose”. They certainly did. Both.

All that expenditure for a shonky photo. Another fine mess, once again.

Toby Young – “State Schools Break Law”

The desperation of the loathsome Toby Young knows no bounds: his latest rant at the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs continues to ignore the steady stream of bad news from all those Free Schools and Academies that he has decreed are A Very Good Thing, and instead tells readers that his idol Michael “Oiky” Gove is right because behaviour at many school is “lawless”.
You think I exaggerate? There it is in the title: “Why too many state schools are lawless zones”. Tobes talks of “the absence of the rule of law in English schools” and asserts “tens of thousands of schools have become lawless zones”, but, to no surprise at all, does not cite one example. After all, Tobes didn’t dirty himself going to a state school, and why change the habit of a lifetime?

So how does he know this is happening? Ah well. He’s been talking to a shopkeeper. This may not make sense to anyone with brain engaged and a hole in their backside, but for Tobes, talking to shopkeepers tells you all about what is going on in a nearby school. It doesn’t of course: this is arrant bullshit. But it does allow Tobes to denigrate the concept of qualified teachers.

We hear the allegation that “some teachers emerge from university education departments with Post Graduate Certificates in Education without having been a given a single lesson in classroom management” and that “graduates who emerge from the teacher training sausage factory with some vestige of common sense find little or no support for enforcing discipline among ‘senior leaders’ at their schools”.

But, by contrast, to observe the discipline of those Very Wonderful Free Schools is to truly step out into the sunlit uplands: Tobes cites Mossbourne Community Academy, where “the behaviour of all the children is impeccable”, which is all the more remarkable, because Mossbourne is “in England’s most deprived borough”. Most deprived borough? In London? Not too sure about that one.

Quite apart from the cheap accusation of illegality – which Young cannot and will not be standing up any time soon – there is the news that a majority of parental opinion is in favour of keeping a role for local authorities in the running of schools. The same poll found a majority – even among Tory voters – in favour of qualified teachers. And, by no coincidence at all, there has been another Academy in trouble.

Oldfield School, near Bath, had been the subject of a damning Ofsted report, which proposed putting for formerly “Outstanding” school in Special Measures. Its head appealed directly to Gove, and the local paper has been making Freedom of Information requests to unearth the grim story. But Tobes will not be telling his readers about such things. Instead he smears state schools as “lawless”.

Toby Young is a dishonest hypocrite. So no change there, then.

Gilligan’s Tower Hamlets Desperation

The Telegraph’s supposed “expert” on London politics, Andrew “Transcription Error” Gilligan, has been on the case of Tower Hamlets’ elected Mayor Lutfur Rahman for some time now. It was his banging on about Rahman’s alleged cronyism and the suggestions that council assets were being misused that started the BBC off on the path that brought forth a recent Panorama expose.
Nobody else turned up there yet, Andy?

As a result of the Panorama programme, circumferentially challenged Communities Secretary Eric Pickles sent in KPMG – having made the threat to camera, he had little option after the broadcast – and the Metropolitan Police opened a fraud investigation. Gilligan must have been ecstatic at the news. But now he’s spinning for all he’s worth, as it all starts to unravel.

Because, as the deeply subversive Guardian has told, “A police investigation into allegations of fraud and financial mismanagement by the mayor of a London council has found ‘no credible evidence of criminality’ ... Eric Pickles sent inspectors into the borough to investigate Rahman's activities, but Metropolitan police officers who reviewed the allegations found no evidence of fraud or other offences”.

The Met statement confirmed this: “On Friday 4 April the Metropolitan Police Service received three files of material ... relating to the London borough of Tower Hamlets ... The files have been reviewed by a team of officers over the past six days ... There is no credible evidence of criminality within the files to provide reasonable grounds to suspect that fraud or any other offence has been committed”.

So that’s it, is it? Not a bit of it: Gilligan has taken to the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs to denounce the Guardian (smeared as “Rahman-friendly”) and the Met, claiming “Lutfur Rahman and police denials fall apart: there is a criminal investigation of Tower Hamlets”. So now the Met was, according to Gilligan, lying. But it was not, and a perusal of his post shows the spin.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed to me tonight that Tower Hamlets CID is investigating alleged fraud at the council involving a grant to an organisation called the Brady Youth Forum. A member of the mayor’s staff is involved in the alleged fraud, I separately understand. The Met said the investigation was at ‘an early stage’”. See the difference between Gilligan and Guardian yet?

What has been deemed a waste of time by the Police is investigation into alleged fraud by the Mayor – Rahman himself. Gilligan is referring to something which not even he can “link” to Rahman. Mr Transcription Error cannot bear to report the facts without spinning them defensively to suit his agenda. But what is clear is that the first conclusion from the Met does not show Gilligan in a particularly good light.

And if KPMG come away empty-handed, he’s finished. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Liam Fox Attacks Guardian Pulitzer

Still there is no word on the Guardian US securing the Pulitzer Prize in the Public Service category – alongside the Washington Post – from most of the UK press. But what we have seen today is the Daily Mail attacking the paper for its work on the Snowden revelations by quoting extensively from an embittered and vindictive has-been on the fringes of the Tory Party. Thus the level of desperation.
So, while Amy Davidson at the New Yorker concludesAwarding the Pulitzer for public service to the Guardian and the Washington Post should go down as about the easiest call the prize committee has ever had to make ... a defining case of the press doing what it is supposed to do. The President was held accountable ... his Administration had to change its policies”, the Mail pushes back.

Fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden is guilty of treason for leaking details of eavesdropping operations by GCHQ and the NSA, Liam Fox declared yesterday. In a speech in the United States, the former defence secretary said the former spy has endangered the lives of British spies and their families by revealing the techniques used by the intelligence agencies to al Qaeda and foreign enemiesit declares.

That this is a deliberate move can be deduced from the use of deputy political editor Tim Shipman to pen the article, which, putting it directly, means the line therein has been handed down by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre. For Dacre, the Guardian is beyond the pale; its pursuit of Phonehackgate and revelation of The Dark Arts led to the exposure of the now-closed Screws, and Leveson.

So the achievement of the Guardian US – a recent start-up – in bagging a Pulitzer so soon after it joined the journalistic fray Stateside is something to be ignored. Moreover, the established line, that peddled by the spooks, holding that the Snowden revelations were some sort of treachery that endangered our “agents”, whoever they are, was to be maintained, no matter how desperate the source.

And sources do not get much more desperate than Liam Fox, who, since the exposure of his joint activities with Adam Werritty by, guess who, the Guardian, has been touted by Very Few Credible Tories as the party’s saviour, while anyone with brain plugged in and a hole in their jacksy has steered well clear of the SOB. Fox will be lucky to remain as a back-bench MP, let alone anything grander.

Fox’s casual dishonesty includes “It is clear that the material seized from [David] Miranda contained personal information would allow security staff to be identified”, but the spooks haven’t cracked the encryption, so neither they nor he would know. Meanwhile, in the Real World part of the USA, more than two dozen other media outlets have followed up the Snowden story.

But the Mail wants readers to remain frightened and ignorant. No change there.

Why Daily Mail Libelled Jo Rowling

Nick Davies noted in his seminal book on the press Flat Earth News that, with the Daily Mail’s libelling of its targets, “facts are swept aside or distorted; the story is published; the subject of the story then complains and is confronted by the wealth and cleverness of the Mail which will fight them right up to the point of final defeat, when, if need be, it will surrender and offer some kind of deal”.
I'll publish what I f***ing like, thanks, c***

Why would the paper keep on doing this? “because the penalty is no match for the rewards of the behaviour which is being penalised ... Brilliant and corrupt, the Daily Mail is the professional foul of contemporary Fleet Street”. And, with the latest example of that professional foul being the libelling of author Jo Rowling, we see the use of this bullying tactic to pursue a particular agenda.

As Press Gazette has told, “The paper admitted liability under the ‘offer of amends’ procedure in the Defamation Act. But it has yet to agree what damages to pay Rowling and it has challenged her right to make a unilateral statement in open court about the matter”. So, although the Mail has owned up, it is still trying to drag out the process – as Davies described in his book.

So what was the Mail’s story? Ms Rowling’s lawyers asserted that the paper had “given a knowingly false account of her time as a single mother in Edinburgh in which she falsely and inexcusably accused her fellow churchgoers of behaving in a bigoted, unchristian manner towards her, of stigmatising her and cruelly taunting her for being a single mother”.

Worse, “She said the paper had misinterpreted he a piece Rowling wrote on the gingerbread website and then failed to inform her about the detail of the allegations when it contacted her in advance of publication”. So what has Mr Justice Tugendhat made of the paper’s attempts to stall for time?

Having carefully considered the correspondence from both sides, I have concluded that there is no sufficient reason for refusing permission to the claimant to read the unilateral statement in open court in the form of the draft submitted with her application notice…The resolution of the claimant's complaint, which was eventually admitted to be well founded, has taken far too long already” [my emphasis].

And what was the point of the Mail’s defamatory article? Simples. Jo Rowling has passed consistently adverse comment on the activities of papers like the Daily Mail. She appeared before the Leveson Inquiry. She has since signed the Hacked Off “Leveson Declaration” on independent press regulation. She is a well-known and deservedly popular author. Therefore she is fair game for the Dacre doggies.

Once again, the message goes out: don’t diss Dacre, or the legendarily foul mouthed bully will set his paper on you. But this time it didn’t work. Well done Jo Rowling.

Esther McVey Commits Career Suicide

[Update at end of post]

The Tories have not had much electoral success on Merseyside in recent years. Their last MP in Liverpool was unseated more than 30 years ago, and even on the Wirral, the party has not fared much better. One bright spot, though, was the victory by former TV presenter Esther McVey in Wirral West in 2010. But after her, shall we say, serial faux pas yesterday, that win will not be repeated next year.
Ms McVey has of late been talked of in terms of ministerial promotion, which, to many on Merseyside, is a truly frightening prospect: there are women journalists who have become formidable presenters and interviewers, like Fiona Bruce, Sophie Raworth and, yes, Kay “surly” Burley, and then there are the I-Speak-Your-Weight machines like Esther McVey.
And, for some reason, Ms McVey, who is supposedly both a native of the area and switched-on and sensitive to local issues, did not know, or was not fussed, about yesterday being the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy, and that there were memorial events taking place at Anfield and Goodison Park, among other locations. Instead, she took to Twitter to kick her political opponents.
Wirral Labour can’t be trustedshe Tweeted at around the time Andy Burnham stood up to deliver his address at the Anfield service. Radio 5 Live presenter Nicky Campbell nudged her gently with “not watching the service?” but this had no effect whatever. Instead, three minutes later came a plug for her Wirral News article “Income Tax and Toll Tax”.
Perhaps an apology would appear, as realisation set in? No such luck: her faithful Twitter followers were then treated, just the one minute later, to a link about the Gerard Building at Upton FCJ School. The memorial services were still going on when she Tweeted another promotional link, with one reply asking “you Tweeted during the service? I thought you were Scouse”.
It took another three hours for the penny to drop with Ms McVey – or, perhaps, for someone to take her aside and cause the penny to drop – during which time her reputation on Merseyside slowly disappeared down the pan. Then, when the apology came, it would have made even Maria Miller stop and think. “Really regret the mistiming of local election press release. Apologies”.
Most of the comments following that Tweet were not merely adverse, but openly hostile. Disrespecting the memory of the 96 is, for a politician on the Wirral, in the category of Totally Unforgiveable Sins For Which There Is No Redemption. Esther McVey will have that round her neck like the proverbial millstone for the rest of her political career. Which will end at next year’s General Election.

Yes, there goes Esther McVey, on her way ... out.

[UPDATE 18 April 1130 hours: now it has been revealed by the Echo that not only was Esther McVey not the one Tweeting from her account - so she managed not to tell whoever sent the offending Tweets about the memorial service - but also that the Tory Party election machine managed to phone 73 unsuspecting voters in the area during the service.

These included the son of a former Tory Mayor of Wirral, who was not impressed: "It was the wrong time to call. It was ill-judged. It seemed outrageous to me. It showed a lack of awareness". At least a spokesman managed to say sorry: "We apologise to anyone living in Merseyside who was upset by receiving a call at this time".

What the party might not have realised is that those on Merseyside have long memories when it comes to the insensitivity of outsiders. That's another reason the Tories would not be helped by putting Boris Johnson up as a future leader, after his infamous Spectator editorial]

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Don’t Menshn The Pulitzer Prize

The 2014 Pulitzer Prize Winners in the Public Service category are the Washington Post and Guardian US, for their work with the Snowden revelations. As a result, as Roy Greenslade has noted, more or less the whole of the UK press, except for the Guardian itself, Independent, and Financial Times, has roundly ignored the event, thus avoiding any difficulty of explaining why they called that reporting “treachery”.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

But there had to be a dissenting voice to the proceedings: as journalists at both titles celebrated, former Tory MP Louise Mensch, now representing the distant constituency of Manhattan Upmarket, decided on a novel strategy for doing down the paper she now hates – if only so she can prostrate herself shamelessly before Rupert Murdoch and his bulging wallet – by pretending they didn’t win after all.
First a stupid whopper ...

Pulitzer award hilarious. Rusbridger, Greenwald, Poitras, NYT don’t win it for Snowden. Jay Rosen furious hahahaha. Bad luck” she wibbled. But it is more often than not the case that no journalist is cited for this Pulitzer. This, though, was disregarded: “Pulitzer names zero journos too and excludes both Guardian UK, NYT and ‘The Intercept’ entirely. Lol. Fail. Rusbridger so pissed off” came next.
... then an even more stupid whopper ...

That will be why Alan Rusbridger and staff at the Guardian have this afternoon been celebrating, and possibly laughing at Ms Mensch’s craven idiocy: the Guardian UK cannot be included, as it is by definition excluded. Only US based news organisations are eligible – why does she think no other UK paper has ever won one? And Guardian US is a recent start-up, so it’s a remarkable achievement.
... then a repeated and still stupid whopper ...

But none of this mattered to Ms Mensch, who droned on “I know Greenwald and Rusbridger were longing to say they won a Pulitzer, bad luck boys” she sniped, which brought a reply from Mira Bar-Hillel bearing the hashtag #vinegartits. This didn’t put off Louise: “Guardian report actually leaves out that Rusbridger and Guardian UK omitted from prize” she snarked, going wrong again.
... and finally, another stupid whopper

Edward Snowden was in no doubt as to the significance of the award: “We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognizes was work of vital public importance”.
Here is the actual citation

And neither were those who authored the Pulitzer citation.  This was a vindication of much hard work, and the suffering of appalling disdain from much of the British press. As for Louise Mensch, I have just one thing to say: shame on you. Shame on your money-grubbing, attention-seeking, selfish, inconsiderate, dishonest, inept and grovelling ways. And shame on all those who encourage your detestable rantings.

Last night the good guys won. And stupid Louise Mensch did not. End of story.

It Was 25 Years Ago Today

April 15, 1989: like today, a sunny spring day, but unlike today, a Saturday at a time when most football matches were played at weekends. I’d been at work, as was sometimes necessary, but had finished in time, so I thought, to get home and keep track of the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Arriving back at around 1530 hours, I switched on the TV.
Hillsborough memorial at Anfield

There were people on the pitch, but it was far from being all over: what was happening at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground was only just becoming horribly clear. The match had kicked off on time at 1500 hours, despite many fans not having entered the ground, but six minutes later play was called off. The crush at the Leppings Lane end – filled with Liverpool fans – was causing concern.

What it must have been like for players like Alan Hansen to discover the awful truth does not bear thinking about: “two fans ran onto the pitch and I went to them right away because I was worried they would get us, the club, into trouble for being there. One of them just looked at me, and he had a real sadness in his eyes, and he said, 'Alan, there are people dying in there'”.

Football grounds were often of a totally different standard to what is the norm today: most fans stood to watch the action, and terraces were routinely overcrowded. Police saw their job as just getting away fans into the ground and then back to their coaches, or to the station, as quickly as possible and with the minimum of violence. Hooliganism was also far more prevalent at the time.

Fatal incidents were not unknown: a crush at Ranger’s Ibrox stadium had killed 66 in 1971, and in 1985, a fire at Bradford City’s Valley Parade ground had killed 56. Many grounds were in a poor state, and, sadly, Hillsborough was one of them. In 1989, it had no valid safety certificate. There had been serious overcrowding on more than one occasion when the ground had been used for FA Cup semi-finals.

The fatal crush has been well documented, but what came afterwards made matters so much worse: 44 ambulances turned up at the ground, but only one was allowed on the pitch, the Police dissembled in order to shift blame on to Liverpool fans, and then the Murdoch Sun ran its infamous front page, for which Kelvin MacKenzie waited until 2012 to finally apologise.

It has taken a quarter of a century to get new inquests into the 96 deaths, during which time the reputation of the people of Liverpool has been repeatedly and gleefully trashed by many in the London-centric media. What is finally waking them all up is that Hillsborough could have happened to any other club and its supporters. The dead were just ordinary people. And we should not forget that.

Please remember them all at 1506 hours today. So they’ll never walk alone.

Paul Dacre – The Man Who Knew Nothing

[Update at end of post]

This morning, the Daily Mail has confirmed that its 35 year late interest in the activities of former Liberal MP Cyril Smith is not about the outsize Member for Rochdale, and nor is it about child abuse. The attack is a continuation of the vicious and personal vendetta which the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre has been waging for some years against Nick Clegg.
Who're you f***ing calling a hypocrite, c***?!?

The man who knew nothing: As Cyril Smith furore grows, MPs and child campaigners scorn Clegg for claiming that he was too young to know about his abusethunders the headline, signalling a shift away from Smith to target the Lib Dem leader, who, when Smith was misbehaving at Cambridge House Boys’ Hostel in Rochdale (closed in 1965), had not yet been born.

So while Rochdale’s current MP Simon Danczuk has his book on Smith serialised by the Mail – today’s episode is titledSex ring at Cyril's school: He WASN'T a lone wolf. In our latest devastating extract from the book shaking Westminster, we reveal how Cyril Smith led a ring of abusers who launched night-time raids on a school for vulnerable boys” – the bullying of Clegg is ramped up.
Seven Questions He Must Answer” treads the same ground as the earlier assault on senior Labour politicians who worked for the National Council for Civil Liberties at the time when the Paedophile Information Exchange has affiliated to it. If only Clegg would answer the questions, the Mail infers, all would be well. It would not: Dacre the bully would just come back for more the following day.

But check out this editorial comment: “As long ago as 1979, Private Eye magazine reported that the 29-stone Liberal MP, who sat as a Liberal Democrat before his retirement from the Commons in 1992, sexually assaulted boys in his Rochdale, Lancashire, constituency. In 1987, Smith’s then Labour opponent caused a sensation when he repeated the allegations publicly on an election hustings”.
Private Eye issue 454 - click for larger image

Dacre was News Editor of the Mail in 1987. It is inconceivable that he was not aware of the allegations made during that year’s General Election campaign. And his paper was sent a copy of the 1979 issue of the Rochdale Alternative Press which first brought Smith’s behaviour to the public’s attention.

Private Eye’s leader on the affair – again, reproduced above – begins “There is not an important or TV station in the land which has not received a copy of the May issue of the Rochdale Alternative Press”. That means the Daily Mail was told about Cyril Smith. They chose to do nothing. The paper’s current editor knew in 1987. But Paul Dacre also chose to do nothing about it.

Now that same Paul Dacre is blaming someone else for his own selective amnesia. And the Daily Mail is still part of that establishment cover-up.

[UPDATE 16 April 0945 hours: the Mail has emphasised that this is a personal assault on Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems by returning to the subject today, with a front page that proclaims "Squirming Of The Lib Dems", and asserting that the party's claims are "crumbling", whereas nothing has changed over the past 24 hours - including the obsessive rage of Paul Dacre.
What the accompanying article reveals, though, is that one senior Lib Dem has already had enough of the Dacre doggies' behaviour: David Steel is taking legal action against the paper. So, just to be consistent with the mean-spiritedness, the Mail has pursued the former Liberal leader to the Azores, where he might have thought he and his wife could enjoy a little peace and quiet.

And there is, to no surprise, no explanation from the Mail as to why they were told about Cyril Smith's behaviour as far back as 1979, but did nothing.

Stay classy, Vagina Monologue]

Monday, 14 April 2014

HS2 – Wolmar Sells The Pass

I am a great admirer of Christian Wolmar. His copy is always readable, and often informative, even to someone who keeps track of what many people might consider the geekier end of rail travel. But on the HS2 project, his latest essay opposing the scheme, published by the London Review of Books (LRB), just will not do: the succession of strawmen and omissions merits a response.
May look like this. Possibly

It is inferred early on that those opposing HS2 are at some kind of disadvantage due to a lack of funding: Wolmar somehow misses all the Astroturf lobby groups lining up against it, perhaps because the agenda of the likes of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), IEA, Adam Smith Institute and CPS are not merely anti-high speed rail, but a forthright opposition to anything marked “Government”.

The so-called HS2 Action Alliance, so named as it would rather there be no action at all, is allied directly with the TPA. Wolmar mentions former rail manager Chris Stokes as if he were some disinterested party, but he is not: Stokes has been retained by both the HS2 Action Alliance and TPA. And he has not been a rail manager of any kind for several years – he is a freelance consultant.

Because it is a publicly funded project, HS2’s business case is painted as inherently suspect: “almost limitless public money is made available”. He is not known to have talked of Crossrail in the same way. The case for HS2 is said to have been down significantly to environmental considerations. It was not: as he reports Jim Steer telling, it was always about capacity.
Rail freight future demand. This chart cannot be wheeled out often enough (from RFG)

So then the capacity argument is dismissed by saying Inter-City trains out of Euston are not full during the evening peak. This could be easily changed by changing or abandoning Virgin Trains’ demand management policy, but as Wolmar knows, the current arrangements deliver more fare revenue. Meanwhile, the London Midland (regional and commuter) services certainly are full at that time.

Plus, of course, many off-peak trains load to well above their seating capacity. Then readers are told “CBT wants to see more rail freight, but there is no guarantee that the freed capacity will be available or needed for goods trains”. Three more paths each way an hour are on the cards, and that is why the Rail Freight Group supports HS2. There is hardly any more freight capacity available on the existing route.

It is inferred that the HS2 business case has been shunted into the background, but again, it has not. The line of route via Old Oak Common is alleged to be a Heathrow connectivity hangover. It isn’t: it’s around 500 metres from the West Coast Main Line approach to Euston and with the space to interchange with Crossrail. There are, moreover, many more points with which one could take issue.

I respect Christian Wolmar’s decision to oppose HS2. If only he’d stuck to the facts.

Cyril Smith And A Daily Mail Cover-Up

The latest target for the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and his obedient hackery at the Daily Mail is, by sheer coincidence you understand, long dead: Cyril Smith was MP for Rochdale from 1972 to 1992. He died in 2010. But only now has the Mail opened up with a barrage of invective about his past. In this, it is so far behind the curve as to be laughably deficient.
Cyril Smith victims may sue LibDems as a powerful book reveals how paedophile politician's crimes were covered up by political allies who bullied policethunders one headline, showing that not only are the Dacre doggies waiting until their target is long dead, but are also sheltering behind accusations already published, in this case by Rochdale’s current MP, Labour’s Simon Danczuk.

This minimises the risk of those still alive consulting m’learned friend over the Mail’s coverage, and there is plenty of it today, including one piece credited to Danczuk: “The boy he abused in his Commons office: Victim of Cyril Smith speaks of how he was groomed and ruthlessly abused - but politicians who knew did nothing”. As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point.

Then there is another credit for the Labour MP, with the headline crafted as only Dacre’s flock know how: “Police files on Cyril Smith show high-ranking Lib-Dems bullied detectives into not prosecuting him for child abuse”. The first name pitched, Henry Howarth, former Mayor of Rochdale, leaned on the Police in the late 60s – many years before there was a Liberal Democrat Party.
What the press knew about Cyril Smith in 1979 (click for larger image)

And readers are finally told that Danczuk’s book is being serialised by the Mail, which is a clear example of selective principle: normally, Dacre would not have his paper go near Labour MPs, but he despises the Lib Dems with a vengeance, and wants to show that he still has power to influence events. But the use of Daily Mail Comment shows where he and his hacks sell the pass.

But could the Liberals alone have organised such a comprehensive and protracted cover-up? To hush up Smith’s crimes so comprehensively over four decades would surely have needed the collusion of senior politicians of all parties, Whitehall mandarins and law enforcement chiefs” it asserts. But one pillar of the establishment is missing from the alleged conspiracy.

And that pillar is our supposedly free and fearless press. Rochdale Alternative Press accused Smith back in 1979. Private Eye led an issue on those accusations, and the full text can be read above. But the mainstream press did nothing, despite Smith making no effort to take action against either publication. Only after 35 more years had elapsed did Paul Dacre suddenly decide this was his latest moral crusade.

Yes, the Daily Mail knows all about the Cyril Smith cover-up. It was a part of it.

UKIP – Keeping It In The Family

Another UKIP rep putting foot in mouth? “A UKIP councillor accused of branding children in care ‘takers’ from society said he was ‘deeply sorry’ after an investigation found him guilty of breaching the members’ code of conduct”. Gordon Gillick, a Cambridgeshire member of the Farage fringe, said “I apologise unreservedly for the distress my ill-considered remarks have caused”.
What had he said? To three looked-after teenagers he told “It was all very ‘me, me, me’ your film. What about your responsibilities – to work, to give back, for example. Can you tell us, how does it feel to be takers from the system?” which, for those of us of A Certain Age, lights up that big flashing neon sign HYPOCRISY. Because Gordon Gillick’s wife Victoria knows all about taking from the system.

Mrs Gillick – this is one case where the subject would undoubtedly object to the use of the term Ms – became, as the late Russell Harty would have put it, “famous, nay, notorious” for her successful application for legal aid to enable her to pursue her campaign on under-16s having access to contraception without parental consent. She later got involved in a long-drawn out libel case.

She lost her initial attempt to have the law changed, and the then DHSS distribute information to GPs about contraception for under-16s. There was a characteristic outburst after the judgment was handed down: “The judge doesn't realise there are a large number of doctors happily encouraging children to be promiscuous”. But she then secured legal aid, and was back the following year.

A compromise was reached in 1985, when the Law Lords ruled that under-16s could be given access to contraception without parental consent in exceptional circumstances (which means she lost). Mrs Gillick was not finished with litigation, though: in 2002 she pursued the Brook charity for what she claimed was a libel in a fact sheet on teenage pregnancy all the way to the Court of Appeal.

And she’s still at it: Mrs Gillick spent seven and a half months keeping watch on Best Kebab on Nene Quay in Wisbech, so she could compile a dossier of evidence with which to rebut an application for extended licensing hours, despite her living a full 170 metres away on the other side of the river. In this, she was, once more, unsuccessful, and once more caused significant public funds to be expended.

Best Kebab’s owner Jack Dennis observed “We are a family-run business. In my whole history I have never had anything like this with one of my shops. She (Mrs Gillick) described us as a honey-pot for criminals. I have never heard anything like that in my life”. Not that the comments were libellous, you understand. So Gordon Gillick knows all about being a “taker from the system”. He married one.

Consistency and high principles appear to be optional in UKIP. No surprise there.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

MH370 – More Wild Speculation

After last week’s promising news that signals from one of the flight recorders aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 had been picked up by search vessels in the southern Indian Ocean, those signals have not been heard for a few days now, and so, once more, we have no new news. And into that void has come yet more firing up of the 24-hour news speculatron.
In fact, we have two new sources of speculation this weekend: a supposed mobile phone conversation, and more information about the movements of the aircraft while it was still being tracked by military radar in Malaysia. Both are, as with so many of the wilder ideas on MH370’s disappearance, shot full of holes. And both offer an insight into the mindset of the assembled hackery.

So what of the phone call? There wasn’t one: “Did Malaysia Airlines co-pilot try to make 'desperate call' before plane vanished? The co-pilot of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 switched his phone on moments before the plane disappeared from the radar, a Malaysian newspaper has claimed” reports the Telegraph, misinterpreting what has actually been reported.

The co-pilot’s phone is the one in question: “At one point, however, when the aeroplane was airborne, between waypoint Igari and the spot near Penang (just before it went missing from radar), the line was 'reattached'. A 'reattachment' does not necessarily mean that a call was made. It can also be the result of the phone being switched on again”. Or it may have been on all the time.

Even the Tel’s expert hedges his bets: “If it was suddenly switched on mid flight, then it does suggest that something untoward was occurring ... But it's not unusual for a phone to be left on innocently, by mistake, and then come into signal area ... There has been so much uncorroborated material on this flight that it is very difficult to determine fact from fiction or speculation. This could be yet another red herring”.

So, as with all the other speculation, we just don’t know. Then there is a “source quoted by the Sunday Times, who asserts “It was being flown very low at very high speed. And it was being flown to avoid radar”. It was? “The drastic manoeuvres which must have been taken for the plane's alitutude to change so suddenly suggest that the plane was deliberately trying to avoid radar signals and disappear”.

Given that the military radar did indeed pick up the aircraft’s movements, that does not seem to have been terribly effective. And even if “The missing Malaysia Airlines plane was 'thrown around like a fighter jet' just after it lost contact with the authorities in a bid to dodge radar, Malaysian military investigators believe”, it won’t be much help in finding the flight recorders.

And until they’re found, it will all be so much baseless speculation. No change there.