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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Mail Leaps The Logic Barrier

It was inevitable that, following Alastair Campbell’s appearance before the Leveson Inquiry today, the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre would pass adverse comment. As of now, the routine character assassination has been deferred, but it will doubtless follow as night follows day. But the falsehood is there for all to see, a deliberate attempt to get the mud to stick.

The headline is unequivocal: “Cherie Blair’s pregnancy was revealed by phone-hacking journalists, Alastair Campbell claims”. But Big Al has never made such a claim. Could this be something to do with the pregnancy being revealed not by the Mail, but the Daily Mirror? And that Paul Dacre despises the concept of “editorial celebrity”, especially as practiced by Piers “Morgan” Moron?

Indeed, in the very first line of the piece, the assertion is merely “Cherie Blair’s pregnancy could have been revealed by phone hacking, Alastair Campbell claimed today”. After all, as is also reported, Big Al “had ‘no evidence’ that journalists intercepted ... voicemails”. But the initial assertion matches that made on Sunday by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines.

And by the time many obedient Mail readers have read past the headline, their minds have been made up, and they will skip that first line of body text as it looks so similar. Dacre is clearly trying to point the finger anywhere else in order to stop anyone looking too closely at goings-on at the Mail. It won’t work.

Hypocrisy To The Max

It is sad, though fascinating, to see those who still retained some journalistic credibility prepared to spray it up the wall in a single vain and desperate act. So it has been today with Max “Hitler” Hastings, former editor of the Telegraph and Evening Standard, but now reduced to turning out opinion pieces in the service of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre.

The Vagina Monologue has decreed that today’s public sector strike action is A Very Bad Thing. Therefore his assembled punditry must reflect this line in their variously informed commentary, and Hastings duly obliges him. So readers get “Of course, Britain should value its nurses, teachers, policemen and infrastructure workers, but a lot of unnecessary jobs must go”.

What are these “unnecessary jobs”? We are not told. But they are clearly out there somewhere. By inference, they have been created by Pa Broon during what Hastings calls his “spending rampage”. But, as the ONS has shown, most of the growth in public sector jobs between 1998 and 2005 (for instance) came in the NHS and Education – as promised and put before the electorate. Twice.

And Hastings clearly believes that anyone working in the public sector enjoys “inflated earnings and unsupportable pension rights”. That this is coming from someone who has enjoyed a generously remunerated past and does not need to work is singularly obscene: Hastings does not know what it is like to face retirement with the prospect of sinking below the poverty line.

Because that is what is in store for many public sector employees. But Hastings does not allow this thought to enter, and adds insult to injury as he calls them “idiotic as well as shockingly selfish”. So the word from Paul Dacre, as relayed by his obedient shilling-takers, is that those who have the temerity to object to being condemned to a retirement in poverty are “shockingly selfish”.

What a contrast with the Vagina Monologue, whose personal pension has had millions pumped into it over recent years, and who will be able to retire on an income well into six figures, as will Max Hastings. As will Richard Littlejohn. As will many more of those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet. What a repellent bunch of stinking hypocrites.

Leveson Is Served (6)

NOOSE TIGHTENS ON COULSON

On occasion, those whose views one not only disagrees with, but finds utterly repugnant, come running to the rescue, though not by intention. Thus it was that former Screws hack Paul McMullan appeared before the Leveson Inquiry yesterday afternoon and told anyone wanting to hear that Andy Coulson not only knew about phone hacking, but approved of the practice and even did it himself.

McMullan also dropped the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks in the mire by asserting that she, too, was well aware of the practice. There was clearly an element of payback, given that Coulson and Brooks had claimed they had no knowledge of the illegal activity and effectively hung McMullan and his fellow hacks out to dry.

He also confirmed that the Screws had used the services of Steve Whittamore of Operation Motorman infamy – though, according to the records, not as often as the Daily Mail – and claimed that “our intentions were honourable” over the hacking of murdered teenager Milly Dowler’s phone. He had no time for privacy – “privacy is for paedos” – and was routinely shameless.

STAINES – NOT WAVING BUT DROWNING

And while those in and around Operation Weeting decide that they might like another word with Andy Coulson, the time approaches for the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, who styles himself Guido Fawkes, to appear before Leveson and explain his leaking of Alastair Campbell’s evidence to the Inquiry, or at least an early draft of it. His defence will be interesting to watch.

As lawyer Andrew Sharpe has told, Staines could argue that his publication of Campbell’s draft statement “did not prejudice the enquiry and was made in good faith and concerned matters of general public interest”. But the statement is now being made public anyway, and Staines’ only motive – as I noted earlier – was to continue his attack on Piers “Morgan” Moron. The public interest does not enter.

But, as Sharpe stresses, “it is not clear what the standing of a 2005 Act Inquiry is”, so Staines cannot know with any certainty until he gets to the venue what the fallout is likely to be. That may be why he has concluded a piece for The Commentator (another right leaning rant repository) “If it goes badly for me with the judge, this new media entrepreneur will be going home to Ireland permanently”.

To which the better class of blogger, wishing he had done the deed earlier, will wish him good riddance. Staines has had his fifteen minutes, and politics will manage perfectly well without him. Another fine mess.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Mel Jumps The Fox

One of the tactics employed by those who labour in the service of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) is for the “news” part of the programming to talk up a story, which is then taken up by the “opinion” part to heat the story further and try and get other media outlets to pick it up. This tactic is now being used by the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre.

As I previously noted, the Mail’s resident peddler of climate change denial David Rose produced an article on Sunday trying to tie the latest release of apparently stolen emails from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) to the Dacre press’s greatest perceived foe, the BBC. This, as I observed, contained a significant amount of fiction.

So it was no surprise that no other paper ran with the story. But Dacre clearly wants to keep the allegations on the boil, so across to the pundit at the head of the cab rank it goes, this being Melanie Phillips, who by the most fortunate of coincidences believes climate change to be, more or less, not happening, or at least not in the way that the vast majority of scientists have concluded.

Mel takes the Rose guff as data, much as Littlejohn does with Mail copy. She recycles Rose’s “one journalist said” line as authoritative, although as I pointed out, the “one journalist” was Rose himself. She tells that “A particularly egregious claim by proponents of anthropogenic global warming [Mel does big words to sound important] theory is that ‘the science is settled’”.

It would indeed be egregious if the claim had been made, but as any fule kno, the science is never settled, and so it has not. Then comes the further assertion that “scientists sceptical of AGW have been denied a voice”, when this too has not taken place, although the weight placed on the authority of the denial lobby may have lessened. But Mel has her conclusion already written.

The leading UK research unit on global warming ... had spent £15,000 on seminars for top BBC executives in an apparent bid to block climate change sceptics from the airwaves” she thunders, the use of the word “apparent” keeping Mel and her editor the right side of defamation. But this is purest tosh, believed and peddled only by the likes of James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole.

So when Mel asks “Such revelations might be thought to be a scandal of a high order, no?” the answer is indeed no. Mel, you’re still beyond barking. Rose’s story isn’t worth the newsprint that has already been wasted on it. The science is never settled, but the consensus doesn’t agree with you. Think about it, if you can open your mind for a moment.

Farewell Ken, Interpreter Of The Brain

Celebrated film director Ken Russell, he of the classical composer biopics and outlandishly over the top interpretation of Tommy, has passed, and the world is a poorer and quieter place for it. Those who only remember the Nazi-themed portrayal of Cosima Wagner in Mahler forget the ending, where Russell lets his audience hear the thunderous applause following a live performance of the Fifth Symphony.

Composers like Gustav Mahler were heroes to Russell, and thus his enthusiastic portrayals of them. But he was, on occasion earlier in his career, a director for hire, and it is here that he came to take on the third film in the Harry Palmer series, Billion Dollar Brain, filmed in London and Finland to the backdrop of winter scenes and an unusual line in espionage


Music + excerpts without commentary

Russell indulges in a few idiosyncrasies – side-on shots such as the meeting by the “big wheel” in the park – but otherwise directs it straight. However, it is the story that has such a modern relevance – and which turned off audiences, especially in the USA, on first release. Because, in a Cold War thriller of all films, the bad guy is not the Russian, but the American.

General Midwinter, played in gloriously over the top style by Ed Begley, loves his country and hates the Commies. This Texas oilman believes God is on his side. He, and his computer system – the Brain of the title – are fed information telling them exactly what they want to hear, that people in a faraway country are waiting to rise up and be liberated from their overlords.


Official trailer

The information comes from those on the make, and is manifestly false: thus the parallel with the USA and Iraq. In the latter conflict, Ahmed Chalabi and his pals squirreled away millions of Dollars, but in Billion Dollar Brain, those trying to make a fast buck meet their end at the barrel of a gun: some by the Russians, some by their own side.

Iraq, of course, was not subject to cinematic deadline, and there is unrest there yet. But those who like their hidden gems of cinema could do a lot worse that seek out Billion Dollar Brain. This was also the last film of Francoise Dorléac, impossibly beautiful elder sister of Catherine Deneuve, who died in a car crash soon after filming had been completed. She was just 25.

[One word of warning: you will have trouble keeping Richard Rodney Bennett’s main theme out of your head after a couple of hearings]

Dick Owns Up

It’s one thing to observe that the Daily Mail’s talentless and unfunny churnalist Richard Littlejohn does next to zero research for his two columns per week and their associated million pound wad. But it’s quite another to catch him actually owning up to the fact. Today, though, has finally brought forth the admission that not only does he not do prior research, but also that he doesn’t know his subject.

Dick’s first choice target is Members of Parliament, specifically female Tory ones. But there is a problem with the first one he mentions, Chloe Smith, who represents Norwich North: “I’ve never heard of her”. Really? Where has the sage of the gated Florida compound been for the past two and a half years? Too much time spent in, er, you know where, methinks.

Research, guv? Never 'eard of 'im, innit?!?

Ms Smith is well known – or should be to anyone who knows one end of politics from the other – even outside Tory Party circles. In the aftermath of Ian Gibson, a respected MP of independent mind, being barred from standing at the following General Election following the expenses controversy, he resigned and forced a by-election. Chloe Smith won the contest after Gibson refused to back his party’s man.

Given the Mail’s antipathy to Labour, and to Pa Broon in particular, one might think the news of that by-election would be disseminated to its most lavishly-paid hack. The contest was also memorable for the swine flu that laid the Labour candidate low in the last days of the campaign. Yet when the name of the winner comes up, Littlejohn says he’s “never heard of her”.

It gets worse. Hearing of Liz Truss – who represents South West Norfolk – Dick exclaims “Strewth! I thought [she] was the woman who wrote that best-selling book about punctuation”. Laugh? I thought I’d never start: that of course was Lynne Truss, of Eats Shoots And Leaves fame. And, for those who think this is mere coincidence, there’s more.

After riffing on the subject of female Tory MPs for longer than is good for his readers, Dick changes tack to discuss David Icke: “When I mentioned self-proclaimed ‘Son of God’ David Icke in my column about the Isle of Wight on Friday, I had absolutely no idea what he was up to these days”. Which means he didn’t bother with any research on that piece, either.

Can you see a pattern emerging? Two columns a week recycled from stories in your own paper, zero minutes’ Googling, and a honking million quid a year in return. Nice work if you can get it, Dinosaur Dick.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Booker Caught Out Again

To show that no one part of the Fourth Estate has a monopoly on climate change misrepresentation, the Telegraph has, as is usual of a Sunday, wheeled out Christopher Booker, the one who thinks white asbestos is harmless, passive smoking equally so, and has been shown not to know winter from summer, to spout his customary mix of hyperbole and dishonesty.

Booker’s evidence for his rhetorical question “Is the global warming scare the biggest delusion in history?” reaches the heights of lauding Prince Philip for saying something that Booker finds agreeable and UBS for concluding something similar, quoting “a front page story in another newspaper” [there’s Littlejohn for you] and misrepresenting opinion from the House of Lords.

The conclusions in the House of Lords report can be read in the press release HERE. They are not surprising: no new nuclear stations have been opened since Sizewell B in 1994, and that was a one-off, intended to be the first of several Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) stations, with the project stymied by the sell-off of the electricity industry, and not remotely connected to current energy policy.

As the “newest” of the rest of the UK’s nuclear power stations dates from the late 1980s, it should be no surprise that expertise has dwindled, especially in R&D. But Booker does not rest here, moving on to “a Government policy which ... will inflate the cost of a new home in Britain by as much as 66 per cent”. And he refers to a specific document as evidence.

This is the Code For Sustainable Homes, which you can read HERE ([.pdf]). Booker asserts that “According to official estimates in [the Code], this will increase the cost of building a house by up to £37,793”. So not only a figure in Pounds Sterling, but a very specific one. And, as the Code is available on-line, we can check it for the figures that Booker cites.

But there is a problem with the Code: at no point in its 29 pages (including covers) does it even mention anything with a price tag on it. No currency symbols are present. Nor is there anything to stand up Booker’s assertion that “by 2016, all new homes must be ‘zero carbon’ in terms of energy-use and emissions”. And the document is hardly a new find.

That is because it has been around for five years.

Christopher Booker has once again been caught out sounding grand, and pretending to have done his homework, only for a little searching to reveal that much of his copy is made up, and most of the rest is recycled bluster. One more for the bin.

Express Hits Rock Bottom

Just when I thought the standard of hackery at the Daily Express could sink no further, along has come Martyn Brown to prove me wrong. It’s all here: the lifting of copy from previous editions of another paper, dodgy figures, “fresh outrage erupting”, and grammar so inept, it would shame GCSE students. The piece is titled “Fury At Chris Huhne’s £1Billion Climate Aid Deal”.

The source for this particular act of invention is, once again, the Maily Telegraph, itself no stranger to the art of feeding its readers a diet padded with fiction. There, hack Richard Gray notes that Huhne did not give a figure for the climate aid package announced last week in advance of the UN summit on climate change in Durban, so he makes one up.

Sources close to the Government ... have revealed that the announcement could bring the amount of spending in Africa on climate change up to £1 billion over the next four years”. Sources? More than likely the paper’s own political hacks: this can then be explained away as being “close to the Government”, as of course could anyone standing outside Portcullis House.

But that’s good enough for the Express, as Brown explains “Fresh outrage erupted yesterday over the cost of details of the aid package overseas aid”. Er, what? But there’s more: “South Africa, the most economically advanced in the continent, is one of the continent, it is one of the countries to receive the handout”. This is supposed to be a serious newspaper?

Anyway, Martyn, tell us about South Africa. “Last year, its economy grew by 2.8 per cent while britain’s grew by just 1.8 per cent”. So Britain is no longer so great at the Express. But not to worry, there’s a quote from someone in UKIP. With the opening quotes missing. And then readers are told that “The Department for International Development has already collected £362 million until 2015”.

Is there any more of this dodgy copy? Just a mildly garbled “Ethiopia will get £41 million South Africa £13.2 million and Rwanda £2 million”. That’s what you get by sending all those sub-editors down the road. And the £1 billion figure is suspect enough for the Daily Mail, not exactly Huhne’s biggest fan, to be headlining with a more modest £330 million.

Second-hand fiction that your hacks can’t even copy straight? That’ll be another Benchmark Of Excellence.

[The story was still there on the Express website, uncorrected, at 1200 hours today]

TPA – Tribal And Desperate

As I pointed out yesterday, the idea that the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) is “non-partisan” is a total sham. And to reinforce my assessment, the TPA has today produced a steaming pile of pro-Government propaganda that removes any doubt as to whose side they are on. The grandly titled “research note claims to be the result of “research” and concludes that public sector pensions are “unsustainable”.

The TPA headlines its findings “New TPA Research Reveals That There Are More Former Civil Servants Drawing A Pension Than Paying In”. Shock horror. They go on to claim “the number of retirees across the public sector is fast catching up with the number of active members”. But no comparison of numbers over time is given, and we know not to take the TPA on trust.

There is also much bandying about of the term “unfunded”, but if the contributions to the scheme are sustaining the claims on it, then that is not true. The TPA claims that there needs to be reform, as there is a growing shortfall – and that would be “unfunded” – but manages to ignore completely previous reforms which will see the amount of GDP consumed by public sector pensions fall over time.

This is illustrated by the chart from the Hutton report which one might think the TPA had seen, showing the percentage of GDP falling steadily over the next 40 years – and to a level which is likely to be lower than seven or so years ago. But the TPA has no truck with this, and concludes “Trade Unionists should go for reform, not strikes”, as if this is another of their zero sum games.

Underscoring the TPA sleight of hand is chief non-job holder Matthew Sinclair, who wheels out the full set of TPA doublespeak: “unfair on taxpayers [see chart] ... projected to go up even more over the coming years [see chart] ... huge liabilities for the near future [see chart] ... it won’t be long before the number of retirees outstrips the number of active members [no figures supplied]”.

And then Sinclair cranks up the envy and lets the mask slip: “this will be extremely tough on ordinary families who are struggling to save for their own retirement [which is why the TPA advocates abolition of the minimum wage and lowering the poverty line] ... the Government must face down the unions”. So, once more, the TPA claim of being “non-partisan” is shown to be a sham.

As I said previously, the TPA are Conservatives, their backers are Conservatives, they are unashamedly part of the Conservative Movement, and the senior partners in the Government are Conservatives. When push has come to shove, the TPA mask slips and they show the world what most folks already knew. And nothing more than an Astroturf lobby group to boot.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Guido Fawked – Misquoting His Own Exclusive

[Update at end of post]

The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, who styles himself Guido Fawkes, has secured a copy of Alastair Campbell’s statement to the Leveson enquiry, from which he has now selectively quoted. That in itself cannot be faulted: after all, he’s got the information, so is free to quote from it as he sees fit. But the urge to creatively retell never leaves Staines.

Maybe I should have woken up first

Staines tells his readers that Big Al has accused the Daily Mirror of “serial criminal activities”. But a look at excerpts from Campbell’s statement which Staines has reproduced verbatim says nothing of the sort. Al does say that Mirror executives “knew more was being spent on private detectives, and they knew more stories were coming via that route”.

And that merely corroborates the numbers revealed as a result of Operation Motorman, which took out Steve Whittamore, a major conduit for mainly illegal material, whose services were used by many papers. We already know the Mirror may have obtained material by illegal means. We have known this for years. Campbell is saying nothing new.

No he doesn't

But Staines can’t help himself, and has Tweeted “Campbell police showed me Glenn Mulcaire’s invoices to Mirror for investigating Fiona Millar and himself”. Wrong: here’s the text, as Staines quotes it. “Shown by police references to me and my partner in Glenn Mulcaire’s notes, I have seen invoices in relation to myself and others, being paid by the Mirror to private investigator Jonathan Rees”.

What Big Al actually said

The invoices were clearly relating not to Mulcaire, but to Rees, who has also been investigated and even bugged by Police. So there is a potential lead for someone to dig further, to perhaps stand up Campbell’s assertion. Who might take that on? One person it won’t be is Staines. And another who won’t be going there is his equally tribal and clueless gofer Henry Cole.

He didn't say that either

But the Fawkes blog has another go, as Staines Tweets “Claims Morgan’s Daily Mirror hacked Cherie Blair’s voicemail”. Does he? Well, no he doesn’t: Big Al says “I do not know if [Carole Caplin’s] phone was hacked, or if Cherie’s was, but ... it is at least possible that this is how the stories got out”. Once again, Staines is leading and embellishing.

And his claim that “It is the allegation that the Daily Mirror, under Piers Morgan’s editorship, hacked Cherie Blair’s voicemails which will make headlines” might prove true for a few minutes, until folks realise that Campbell didn’t make such an allegation. Whether or not the Mirror was involved in such activity is possible, but the necessary work to stand up the claim won’t be done by Staines.

He’ll just be as lazy and clueless as ever. Another fine mess.

[UPDATE November 28 1800 hours: Staines commented in his post yesterday that "It is the allegation that the Daily Mirror, under Piers Morgan's editorship, hacked Cherie Blair's voicemails that will make headlines". So what success has he had?

The Sun and Express haven't reported on Leveson today at all, and haven't mentioned Staines' publishing of what is now known to be an early draft of Alastair Campbell's statement. The Mirror has mentioned Charlotte Church, with the Mail also mentioning Ann Diamond and Christopher Jeffries, all having appeared today.

The Telegraph, Guardian and Independent all mentioned that Staines has been summoned to appear before Leveson on Thursday - a potentially good day for popcorn sellers - with the latter two also telling of Leveson issuing an order for Staines to take down the offending post, although he has yet to do so.

None of these have even mentioned Piers Morgan today, although the future appearance of the former Daily Mirror editor had been previously reported. So that's zero success, and a take-down order to boot. Another fine mess]

Mail Perfect Climate Storm

The release last week of emails from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) has, as I noted earlier, excited James “saviour of Western Civilisation” Delingpole and his devoted echo chamber of followers at Telegraph blogs (Sid and Doris Bonkers). But very few others were listening – until the Dacre hackery discovered they could use the release to kick the BBC.

Cometh the hour, cometh the hack, and if it’s the Mail, that hack is David Rose, whose name appears on the only partly fictitious piece headed “BBC sought advice from global warming scientists on economy, drama, music ... and even game shows”. But Rose undermines his own case from the outset by his need to hedge – because he can’t stand up his case.

So readers get “apparent bid to block climate change sceptics ... appear to have been stolen ... the Climategate 2 emails suggest”. But not to fear, Rose has an ace up his sleeve: “BBC insiders say the close links between the Corporation and the UEA’s two climate science departments ... have had a significant impact on its coverage”. Really? Do go on.

Following their lead has meant the whole thrust and tone of BBC reporting has been that the science is settled, and that there is no need for debate,” one journalist said. “If you disagree, you’re branded a loony”. Hold it right there Mr R – you gave the game away with the “science is settled” line. The science is never settled. The “one journalist” is none other than David Rose.

And the “BBC insiders” are also David Rose. That can be justified in the case of complaint by saying that “insider” does not actually mean someone who works for the Corporation, merely a person who has seen “inside” Television Centre. There is much more in the article, but inserting his fiction near the top, Rose suggests – entirely fraudulently – that there is dissent within the Beeb.

While readers are being deceived by this sleight of hand, Rose slips in more fiction, telling of “the fact that the world has not warmed for 15 years” (wrong), “A report from the BBC Trust compared climate change sceptics to the conspiracy theorists who blame America for 9/11”, and that “The Global Warming Policy Foundation should be given no air time” (see what it really said HERE).

Thus yet more agenda driven hackery. And it’s strange that the Mail’s owners are only too happy to boast of reducing their carbon footprint, while their papers spew out so much questionable product on the subject. Maybe that’s what Paul Dacre means when he talks of the “relationship with my readers”. He believes his readers don’t buy into climate change, so neither does the Mail.

And the BBC gets it in the neck, too. So that’s all right, then.

TPA – Absent On Borisport

There was no hesitation on the HS2 project: the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) was on the case from the start, branding it “a white elephant”, “a rich man’s railway”, asserting that the £30 billion overall cost of the “Y network” could be better spent elsewhere, that existing rail links could be upgraded instead, and inventing a range of figures that supposedly undermined the business case.

So one might think that grandiose projects costing tens of billions of pounds would automatically attract the TPA’s critical eye from the outset, but such a thought would be misplaced when considering a scheme far less well thought out and potentially twice as expensive as HS2, that being the idea of building a new London airport somewhere out in the Thames estuary.

That the cheerleader for the scheme is occasional London mayor and regular collector of “chicken feed” from the Maily Telegraph Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, a figure much loved by the right leaning part of the media and blogosphere, may not be unconnected to the TPA’s silence, and further throws into question the assertion that the group is “non-partisan”.

Moreover, the TPA has been absent throughout Bozza’s outpouring of vanity projects: as the price tag of the “New Bus For London” rose – now it’s going to be over £11 million for the first five vehicles versus £350k each for off-the-shelf hybrid double deckers that would have a better residual value – the Comfortable of Tufton Street said not a word.

Then when Bozza suggested blowing tens of millions on an unnecessary cable car ride across the river, another project with a rising price tag, and it became clear that TfL was going to have to foot the bill, there was further silence from the TPA. So there were no claims of “white elephant” or “rich man’s” project. It has been the same with the proposed airport.

This is despite the projected cost rising from £40 billion to the present estimate of between £50 and £60 billion, the potential of airspace conflict with Schiphol, and of course the need to address the disposal of the SS Richard Montgomery. Instead, the TPA’s latest “research notecontinues their demonisation of public service by going after the trade unions – over a figure 0.2% the size of the bill for the airport.

No-one should be surprised: as with their claim to be a “grassroots” organisation, the TPA’s boast of being “non-partisan” is a sham. They are Conservatives, Bozza is a Conservative, their backers are Conservatives, and the silence over the mayor’s vanity projects further underscores this. Thus another nail in the coffin of TPA credibility.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Express Victory Fabrication

Anyone unfortunate enough to have to read the Daily and Sunday Express on a regular basis might have formed the opinion that the UK was about to leave the EU, rather than the idea not having even passed a Commons vote. Today’s Express front page lead reinforces the thought. But it is based on nothing more than the bluster of a former UKIP leader.

Victory In New Fight To Quit EU” tells Martyn Brown, then follows it with “The British public were given fresh hope in the battle to quit the European Union last night”, suggesting that the House of Lords sits on Friday evenings, which it does not. But it’s always “last night” in Express La-La land. Also in La-La land is the assertion that “Last month we forced a historic vote on a referendum”.

The Express did no such thing, although a large number of people signing an online petition – not run by the Express – may have had something to do with it. The Expresscrusade” is a joke, rather like the rest of the paper: it might be taken more seriously if the constant deluge of anti-EU stories (sample HERE) actually bore some resemblance to reality.

But what of events in the Lords? Most of the quotes come from Lord Pearson, who stepped down as UKIP leader in favour of Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, because a one-man band is marginally better than a no-man band. Pearson talks of “whether we should leave the EU” but then says that the bill being debated and then waved through “does not deal with that question”.

It doesn’t? “It merely requires the Chancellor to set up an impartial inquiry into the economic costs and benefits arising from our membership of the EU”. Where’s the “victory” in that, Express hacks? Especially if the conclusion does not match the screaming rhetoric. The story is based on Pearson’s opinion, and the fact that two other peers made sympathetic noises.

Moreover, the article is undermined by first frothing that “Britain poured a colossal £18.5 billion into the EU last year”, then conceding “the UK made a net ... contribution ... of £10 billion last year”. The characterisation of EU workers as “fat cat Eurocrats” also does not help the cause, and nor does the comparison of their remuneration packages with UK Civil Servants’ salaries.

It’s muddled, cheap, and very nasty, and manages to find precisely zero evidence of any “victory”. But it contributes to keeping the dwindling band of readers frightened, and the Express profitable. And d’you know what that makes it? Yes, another Benchmark Of Excellence.

Des Disses Leveson

Thus far, the number of editors and proprietors passing adverse comment on the Leveson enquiry have been noticeable only by the lack of noise they have made, but this could be about to change: tucked away in today’s Daily Star is a sign that Richard “Dirty” Desmond is not happy about it. Sadly for Des and his dwindling band of hacks, it’s a clumsy and crude – and therefore noticeable – one.

Under the by-line of Jerry Lawton, readers are toldPress Probe’s Been ‘Hijacked By Celebs’”. The story continues “A bombing victim’s dad who had his phone says he will not speak to the Leveson enquiry”. Er, hello? A bombing victim’s dad who had his phone what? There’s the clumsy bit: sending all those subs down the road means more howlers get through.

And the crude bit? The story was lifted from the previous day’s content on the Telegraph site. So that’s more cheap filler for the Desmond press. But neither paper gives its readers the background on Graham Foulkes, whose son was killed by the detonation of a bomb near Edgware Road station by one of the 7th July terrorists, and whose phone was subsequently hacked.

Foulkes, who had not been told of the hacking until Operation Weeting began to look rather more seriously at the evidence in their possession – from Glenn Mulcaire – responded by sayingthe thought these guys may have been listening ... is horrendous”. In an interview with Gordon Burns for BBC North West, he described the hackers’ actions as “wicked beyond wicked”.

But this has not found its way into either Telegraph or Daily Star. What has been published by the latter, and emphasised by being quoted separately in suitably bold type, is Foulkes saying “I am worried that as a result of this inquiry and any knee-jerk reaction, the Government will impose overly restrictive codes of practice on solid, important journalism”.

The idea of the Desmond press even being in the vicinity of “solid, important journalism” is risible. But that is clearly what readers are meant to read and take on board, as opposed to the inconvenient fact that Foulkes’ refusal to appear before Leveson may have been undermined by his not having been asked in the first place.

Pretending that your journalism is “solid and important”, while peddling ungrammatical copy lifted from another paper’s website? That’ll be another Benchmark Of Excellence.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Leveson Is Served (5)

THE DACRE OMISSION

The Leveson enquiry has paused until after the weekend, but press coverage of yesterday’s testimony has produced a revealing moment – or maybe that should be a moment of non-revelation. The assembled hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre produced lots of copy covering the appearances of Sienna Miller, J K Rowling and Max Mosley, but something was missing.

Readers get the full story of J K Rowling and her being snapped by long lenses just about anywhere she went – whether or not the PCC ruled against it – and the creepy affair of the hack’s letter in her daughter’s schoolbag. Most of Sienna Miller’s testimony is relayed, including her not being able to trust friends after her phone had been hacked (but she hadn’t figured it out).

The omission comes in coverage of Max Mosley’s appearance. We are told that he went after the Screws for their coverage of what he got up to in private. We are also told that Mosley, like MP Tom Watson, made a mafia reference to News International, that the article was written by Neville Thurlbeck beforehand, and that the Screws bullied one of the participants into signing it off.

Who says I'm f***ing useless talking about f***ing?

Yet something is missing. Where might I find it? Happily, my occasional sparring partner Simon Hoggart at the Guardian has more. He tells that Mosley “has two great enemies”, these being Rupe (hence the Screws sting), and the Vagina Monologue. Dacre had accused Mosley of “unimaginable depravity” after the Murdoch press had published their expose.

Mosley commented “That reflects badly on [Dacre’s] imagination. I have no idea of Mr Dacre’s sex life ... he may have some sort of strange sex life, but it is not up to me to go into his bedroom, film him and write about it ... he is completely naive, obviously, about sex. That’s not a criticism, it’s a fact”. One cannot imagine Dacre reading this with any pleasure.

And so it came to pass that the Daily Mail covered the day’s events at the Leveson enquiry, but “Daily Mail Reporter” (code for “I don’t want my name associated with this, if it’s all the same to you”) managed to spare the editor’s blushes. I’m sure the omission was purely coincidental, but that pig flying past the window just now was a real whopper (geddit?!?).

TPA – The Thanksgiving Turkey

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

The assembled non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) have today brought forth a hot and steaming turkey in the guise of a “research note” on one of their favourite subjects, facility time for Trade Union representatives. To produce this “research”, at least 1,300 Freedom of Information (FoI) requests were made, wasting £715,000 of taxpayers’ money.

Added to the gratuitous waste of public funds is the lamentable standard of the “research”: two references are made (Page 7) to the Guido Fawkes blog, domain of the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his tame gofer Henry Cole, the Laurel and Hardy of the blogosphere, suggesting that this is an authoritative source. No credible researcher would cite the Fawkes blog as evidence.

Talking Turkey in Tufton Street

But where the TPA sell the pass is in acknowledging that facility time is not solely a public sector feature: they concede that it occurs in the private sector, and that cannot be labelled as “taxpayer funded”. Moreover, their assertion that facility time “is more widespread in the public sector” is based on a Parliamentary answer prefixed by “Estimates have suggested”.

Also, no figures are provided to show comparisons between HR costs in typical public and private organisations: some of the activities undertaken by union representatives using facility time may influence HR spend. To ignore this aspect merely reinforces the thought that the TPA is looking to promote an agenda, rather than engage in informed debate.

So the assertion that trade unions are paid £80 million in staff time shows the TPA being selective with the facts. A cost benefit analysis showing HR costs would serve their case better, but of course this might not fit the conclusions already written, as well as needing the TPA to actively engage with the organisations concerned, rather than passing judgment using FoI fishing expeditions.

Nor at any point does the TPA bring forward any evidence to back their assertion that facility time is a way for trade unions to divert more resources to political activity (the wording is “[unions conduct strikes] with significant funding from taxpayers at their disposal”). The suggestion is constantly made that this is some kind of zero sum game, yet no proof of any kind is offered.

None of this will concern the TPA, which will continue to spread its misinformation in its attempt to demonise Government, along with public service and public works. But those in the Coalition who have been listening to the TPA would do well to pause and obtain a second opinion before acting. Those in power act in the interests of the people: the TPA does not.

[Last year’s TPA “research note” on the same subject has been analysed HERE]

[UPDATE1 1545 hours: NewsFrames has suggested an explanatory note on where the £715,000 figure comes from. I'm happy to provide it.

Estimates vary, but the cost of servicing a single FoI request is reckoned to be between £500 and £600 in staff time and other resources. The TPA made requests to 1,300 bodies, so there were at least 1,300 FoI requests (the TPA have been asked for the actual figure, but have not answered). Taking £550 as the average cost per FoI and multiplying by 1,300 gives 715,000.

And that is how this Astroturf lobby group, filled with unelected non-job holders, has wasted at least £715,000 of taxpayers' money. The TPA then claims to represent taxpayers. As Littlejohn might have said, you couldn't make it up]

[UPDATE2 26 November: no comment has yet come from the TPA on the £715,000 figure, and in the absence of any, the only conclusion that can be reached is that the amount of taxpayers' money wasted in this latest FoI fishing expedition is at least of that magnitude.

However, the TPA's chief non-job holder Matthew Sinclair has declared that trade unions are "getting a £113 million backdoor subsidy". I hate to disagree once more, but this is total bullpucky. Payments for facility time are part of the salary of the representative concerned, and no payment is made to their union in this case. Sinclair has not shown - and nor will he - what work is done during this time, and why unions should be liable for it. Unless he can do so, the inference that this is some kind of zero sum game, and that "more facility time means more money going into union coffers" cannot stand.

Nor will he, or anyone else at the TPA, perform a cost benefit analysis to show the effectiveness - or otherwise - of current arrangements. And nor will he provide any independent figures (rather than estimates) to back up the assertion that public sector union reps have three and a half times the facility time of their private sector counterparts.

So far, all that there is to stand up the TPA argument is their own report from last year, filled with the usual logic leaps and unproven assertions, and a few blogposts of dubious veracity. Once the Government gets a second opinion, this campaign will be going nowhere]

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Return Of The Moron

Yet more less than savoury Fourth Estate goings-on have been relayed today before the Leveson Enquiry. More will be revealed next week as former Screws hack Paul McMullen takes the stand – and the oath. On the same day, former Daily Star freelance Rich Peppiatt will be giving another characteristically candid performance, as will Nick Davies, whose Flat Earth News Leveson is reading in advance.

But some parts of the punditerati and blogosphere have been registering elevated levels of excitement not over this prospect, but that the appalling Piers “Morgan” Moron will be appearing at some later date. This has been held to be some kind of game changing event, although what Moron is actually going to reveal may prove disappointing, given he will have ample time to rehearse his answers.

And raising an unintentional laugh over the appearance have been the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his tame gofer Henry Cole, the Laurel and Hardy of the blogosphere, at the Guido Fawkes blog, who have decided to claim credit for Moron’s appearance. They assert “Well it seems Leveson read our letter outlining the case against Morgan”.

Thus another steaming heap of by-product from the northbound end of a southbound bull. There is no “case against Morgan”: the Fawkes blog previously claimed its “dossier” was going to be sent to the Met, but it wasn’t, this being a pity as all concerned could have done with a good laugh. Moron is expected to explain a number of statements he has made in interviews. That is all.

The role of Mirror Group titles in Operation Motorman may also be raised, but it must be borne in mind that Moron was only editing one of them, and that if the actions of the Screws are anything to go by, it is the Sunday titles that were most likely to be engaging in questionable activity (it was because Moron was editing the Daily Mirror that he could beat the Screws to the Sven’n’Ulrika story).

And the idea that Leveson has invited Moron at the prompting of Staines and Cole is equally laughable: Moron is a former tabloid editor – he edited the Screws before the Daily Mirror, and worked with the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks – and it would only be unusual were he not to be called. The Fawkes blog has not had any influence here.

And it will not have any influence on proceedings, especially given that the Guardian has provided live coverage from the start, and can therefore expect much of the audience to opt for its site over the Fawkes blog. Another Fine Mess.

TPA – Fact Free Euro-Bashing

The continuing problems facing economies across the EU have prompted Matthew Sinclair, chief non-job holder at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), to cobble together a list of assertions about the UK’s relationship with other member states which do not stand up to the most cursory of examination. And he does no better with the credibility of his principal witness.

The post, “Other European Countries Do Enjoy A Better Relationship With The EU”, has been written following Sinclair’s reading of a comment piece published by the Maily Telegraph and authored by Jeremy Warner, and a blog post by his CEO Matthew “Gromit” Elliott. It also refers to the TPA’s EU point man Lee Rotherham, and that is where it starts to unravel.

More from the comfortable of Tufton Street

Rotherham was the source of the TPA’s “report” entitled “Britain And The ECHR”, which as I pointed out at the time, used largely exaggerated and even fictitious figures in an effort to stand up the contention that the ECHR had cost the UK almost £43 billion in recent years. £25 billion of this was made up, and none of the other figures cited any source.

Moreover, the detail supplied with the “report” – the part where the hacks wouldn’t look, having neither the time nor the inclination – was laughable in its sheer inanity. Only one conclusion could be drawn, and that was that Rotherham could not be trusted any further than he could be chucked. And, other than his supposedly authoritative “research”, Sinclair offers little else.

His repetition of Elliott’s wish list shows the lack of thought that has been applied. First wish is “Reject the European [EU actually] credo of ‘ever closer union’”. And what would that achieve, apart from making a few wingnuts feel better? Then, readers are told “the last Government threw away the rebate”. No they didn’t. And the idea that the UK does not have control over VAT collection is bunk.

But Sinclair’s last paragraph shows how weak this piece is: “Britain’s position is far stronger than Jeremy suggests” [backed up with zero evidence], “We don’t have to fear Norway or Switzerland’s fate” [which is not explained – and also no evidence], and finally “It wouldn’t be so bad” [three in a row]. And the TPA’s overmonied, greedy and cowardly backers pay him to write this stuff.

There’s money being wasted here. And there’s someone in a non-job. Maybe the TPA would take up the cause?

Guido Fawked – No Apology Needed

The tired but often true quip about there being “lies, damned lies, and statistics” was pointed up yesterday when the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his tame gofer Henry Cole of the Guido Fawkes blog, the Laurel and Hardy of the blogosphere, decided to call out Mil The Younger for an assertion he had thrown at Young Dave during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).

Discovery of the figures?

Miliband told that youth unemployment had not exceeded one million under the previous Labour Government. That seems a pretty unambiguous statement, but as with so much in politics, these matters are never cut and dried. That, though, was a thought that Staines and Cole did not allow to enter, as they dug up some numbers that appeared to show otherwise.

This enabled the Fawkes blog to claim that the Commons had been misled, and to issue a routine smear of Yvette Cooper, because she has committed the heinous crime of being married to “Auguste” Balls, who is a favourite hate figure of Staines and Cole. Sad to say, though, there is sufficient wriggle room in the Miliband assertion for him to bodyswerve the accusation.

As one Zelo Street regular pointed out, it very much depends which numbers you use. A quick perusal of the Office Of National Statistics (ONS) website brings you to series “A06: Educational status and labour market status (employment, unemployment and inactivity) of people aged from 16 to 24”. An Excel spreadsheet containing the data may be downloaded.

And this is an extract from the “seasonally adjusted” levels, showing the figures for 2009: at no point does the number of unemployed exceed 944,000. Now, I’m sure that Staines and Cole will claim that their numbers are authoritative, but as Mandy Rice-Davies once said, they would say that, wouldn’t they? If the less than dynamic duo had been defending the accusation, they’d have no trouble with these figures.

Moreover, they’ll be getting no apology from the opposition front bench, nor will Mil The Younger be summoned to the Commons by Speaker Bercow. But, unlike the Fawkes blog’s intervention in Phonehackgate, at least someone there did a few minutes’ research this time. You never know, it could be catching ...

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Leveson Is Served (4)

THE MCCANNS AND THE DESMOND PRESS

Today, Kate and Gerry McCann, parents of missing Madeleine, have been attending the Leveson enquiry. And, for those who thought they had seen and heard it all, there were some positively jaw-dropping moments, especially when the conduct of those labouring in the service of Richard “Dirty” Desmond was discussed. Small wonder that the couple sued.

On the general point of the wider press coverage of the case, it was clear that few, if any, of the hacks had bothered to get a decent translation of the Portuguese term “arguido”, and most just used the English term “suspect”. But “arguido” does not mean “suspect”. It means “person of interest”. But Portuguese law is not the same as that in England and Wales, so corners were cut.

And it’s clear that the broadcast media were not the only ones camped out by the Police station in Portimão: Gerry McCann estimated that there were “tens, if not hundreds” of them. The appetite for information was “ferocious”. And the Portuguese press were getting fed news from somewhere, and that somewhere was probably the Police. So maybe not so different to the UK, then.

And here is where the sheer hypocrisy of the Fourth Estate comes in: they probed for weak spots, found where information was coming from, then relayed every scrap they got from the Police, often apparently embellished for dramatic effect. And then when the same Police seemed to be getting nowhere, they turned and dumped on them. Few titles emerged with honour.

But it was the Desmond titles that took the biscuit time and again: the Express was warned that the content of certain articles was libellous. The Daily Star led with “’Maddy sold’ by hard-up McCanns”. The same hacks had also asserted that the couple stored the child’s body in a freezer. At least the articles have now been removed from the paper’s website.

But the real jaw-dropper came when the McCanns complained. The response of the Express was to suggest that they do an interview with OK! Magazine, Des’ cheap and nasty sleb’n’goss weekly. Not surprisingly, they took action instead, and the Desmond press had to shell out around half a million notes, plus costs. Only after this, and a front page apology in both Express and Star, did things improve.

Telling whoppers just to sell a few more papers and without bothering to consider the hurt and damage your hacks were causing? That’ll be another Benchmark of Excellence.

Del Boy The Turd Polisher

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

As I observed recently, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, part funded by the Kochs, pored over recent temperature records, alert to the possibility of distortion due to factors such as the “urban heat island” effect. Their conclusion was, effectively, that the data was sound and that warming of the planet was indeed occurring. And that might have been that.

Sadly, for the climate change denial lobby, that could not be allowed to be that, and BEST was subjected to a deluge of opprobrium. Some showed a significant level of distress at the news, especially James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, who passed adverse comment on the whole project, which was interesting for one who admits he is merely an “interpreter of interpretations”.

But Del Boy is never down for long: now there has been another release of illegally obtained emails from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (CRU). As Stephan Lewandowsky has observed, the timing of the release is similar to that of the original “Climategate” one, just before a UN climate conference. But Del Boy is, at least, a very happy bunny.

Sadly, the language is as so many times before: “global warming loons” [Del’s been watching Bill O’Reilly, top rated host on his favourite Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse)], “caught red-handed ... scam ... bomb the global economy back to the dark ages ... politicised, disingenuous junk ... charlatans ... game was well and truly up”. But he has to get A for effort.

But clearly not enough of the world outside Del Boy’s adoring echo chamber at Telegraph blogs (Sid and Doris Bonkers) has paid attention to his news, so he has returned to the subject today, telling of “warmist trolls” who he knows are out there because Anthony Watts’ blog tells him so. So readers are treated to yet another outpouring from his mountainous intellect.

Put directly, however, this is just so much steaming by-product from the northbound end of a southbound bull. The only reason Del Boy got away with his previous attacks on the CRU was that they couldn’t afford to sue, and the spineless Press Complaints Council (PCC) allowed Del to deploy the “Littlejohn Defence” and say it was justifiable comment. And where’s your sense of humour?

As Lewandowsky has pointed out, after the first release of emails, there was a series of investigations into the CRU, and every one ended up exonerating those concerned of any wrongdoing. But the attacks continue, with the language as before: the science is “unravelling”, “the game is up”, it’s all a “scam”, there “isn’t any warming”, and even if there is, it’s “not significant”.

But it keeps Del Boy occupied, so that’s all right, then.

[UPDATE1 November 25: Del Boy, clearly aware that very few people are listening, has tried to garner more attention by ratcheting up the abuse, smearing one message as "most toecurlingly awful, damning, vile, reprehensible, stomach-churningly dreadful email – the one that shows the Warmist junk-scientists in a light of such festering syphilitic repellance".

And just in case this, too, failed to generate any column inches, he followed up with another pile of abuse directed towards the CRU's Phil Jones, citing his PCC "victory" and asserting dishonestly that someone was trying to "bully me into silence". The Delingpole attacks are looking more desperate by the day, and that should suit most folks just fine]

[UPDATE2 Nov 25 later: Del Boy is trying to keep the pressure up by citing a letter from Lords Lawson and Turnbull to Chris Huhne, sent on behalf of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, another Astroturf lobby group that refuses to reveal who funds it. This is held to be "Lawson squishes Huhne", but sadly is just another pile of unsubstantiated guff. Oh well, keep whistling to keep those spirits up, eh Del?]

We’re Not Even Booking It

So Thomas Cook are in trouble. No-one should be surprised. The days when folks would visit their local travel agent to sort their holidays are gone, swept away by the Net, low cost carriers, and an increasing appetite for D-i-Y trips away. After all, what’s the point in being just another tourist surrounded by sweaty mindless oafs from Kettering and Boventry ...



Seriously though, Cooks should have seen this coming, and years ago. To actually see either of their two shops in Crewe with more than a couple of punters visiting is unusual nowadays. And, other than “holiday products”, for which read package tours, travel insurance and foreign currency, there is precious little else that these outlets can arrange.

Want to fly somewhere? Well, they can book you on some low cost carriers such as EasyJet, but it will cost more than if you do it yourself. They aren’t able to access Opodo, so those scheduled flights at reasonable prices are out – unless, again, you book it. Once upon a time, travel agents could book rail travel for you. Not any more, they can’t.

Didn't Thomas Cook it to get here ...

On-line booking sites, where you can browse flights, hotels, transfers, excursions, and most importantly get real-world information and feedback about possible destinations, have over the past decade given so much power over travel and holiday choices to the people who actually do the travelling, have rendered the High Street travel agent redundant.

Even areas where you might think the package would score well, such as providing transfers from airports to resorts, can be done independently: you can arrange a minibus share or exclusive car to and from airports around the Mediterranean when booking the hotel or apartment. And those who have to have their own car do not need a travel agent to sort it.

... or to get here

So what now for Thomas Cook, the outfit founded by a temperance campaigner to take people to meetings where they were warned of the dangers of the demon drink, but which has recently transported significant numbers of the thirsty? Well, many of those shops will have to go for starters. And they won’t be the only name on the High Street to vanish.

The company will have to adapt to meet demand for D-i-Y travel. Or, of course, it could go bust. The travel and holiday industry has seen plenty of that over the years, and would carry on without the Cook’s Tour rather as before.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Oo-Er Readers, Free Airport Publicity!

The campaign by occasional London mayor – and regular collector of “chicken feed” from the Maily Telegraph – Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson to have a new airport built somewhere out in the Thames estuary is gaining speed, and unlike the HS2 project, Astroturf lobby groups like the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) are nowhere to be seen, despite the £50 billion price tag.

This raising of the idea’s profile has been achieved almost exclusively by the very paper that hands Bozza a quarter of a million notes a year for a column a week of poorly researched pontificating, with three pieces on the project yesterday alone. One even included a video of Bozza not mentioning price-tags, the SS Richard Montgomery, or the property developers slavering in the background.

Because Bozza’s phrase “the prize would be immense” does not just refer to what is nowadays called the “Thames Gateway” area. Were he to get his way, his all-new airport would have enough capacity to allow Heathrow to be closed. And Heathrow is a mightily big site. It’s connected to the M4 and the Tube. And you could plonk one hell of a lot of real estate on it.

And it isn’t the only “let’s move the airport out of town” idea being floated across Europe’s capital cities: although the economic downturn has stalled the idea, the move to build a new airport for Lisbon out to the east of the city, while abandoning Portela de Sacavém – which will soon have a Metro link – means the developers will be queuing up there too, if a little later than planned.

This kind of idea generates wins for almost everyone bar the long suffering traveller: a new build airport means more space, its isolation means premium fare rail and coach links (the coach operators hated it when the DLR got to London City Airport), and there could even be a toll road deal in it for some lucky developer. Oh, and nice steady high fare taxi rides.

How might that work? Well, consider the city of Milan, which has two airports, Linate (7km from the city centre) and Malpensa (40km to the north west). You can get out to Linate on a city bus and the fare is the same as for any other local journey, €1.50. The Malpensa express rail link will set you back €11, while that operator’s normal tariff for a 40km journey is just €3.75, or €5.60 first class. Ker-ching!

Which airport do most carriers use (including EasyJet)? Why, Malpensa, of course. There’s lots of room for everyone ... to make money. Bozza can look at the example of Milan and dream of helping his pals to fill their boots. There is, though, that price tag to get over, and with clearing the Richard Montgomery thrown in, it could cost a lot more than £50 billion. Yikes readers!

Leveson Is Served (3)

OH WHAT A GIVEAWAY!

Yesterday’s appearance of actor Hugh Grant before the Leveson enquiry, together with his forthright denunciation of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and the modus operandi of his empire, was unmissable. Grant also said what many – especially those who saw the Daily Mail at the top of the Operation Motorman charts – had thought, when he fingered the Mail On Sunday for phone hacking.

The reaction from the Dacre press has been equally forthright, but as Mark Pack of LibDemVoice noted earlier, Phonehackgate was relegated to Page 10 of today’s Daily Mail, while making the front page of several other titles. This should surprise no-one: Associated’s executives will see the Murdochs being sucked into the financial mire and dread the trail of evidence arriving at their door.

But the taint of impropriety already hangs over the Mail titles: one former hack told Nick Davies “We used to use the social security computer as if it was an extension of the Daily Mail library”. Another observed “If the Mail go for you, they get every phone number you have dialled, every schoolmate, everything on your credit card, every call from your phone and from your mobile. Everything”.

And it is againt these examples of “previous” that the rebuttal from “Daily Mail Comment (the part of the paper most likely to have Paul Dacre’s very own prints all over it) should be considered. Under the title “Mr Grant: the facts” (which should sound an immediate warning, given the Mail’s relationship with such things), an attempt is made to draw the proverbial line. It does not.

No I'm not f***ing well consumed with c***ing hatred

We are told of “millionaire actor Hugh Grant”, which is code for “fair game”, though this does not cover millionaire editor Paul Dacre, or millionaire churnalist Richard Littlejohn. Grant is “a man consumed with hatred”, a trait which Paul Dacre will recognise. And his paper is in no position to judge Grant’s “colourful and ... unedifying love life” with Mary Ellen “bonk of England” Synon on board.

Millionaire, guv? It's on ITV, innit?!?

But the cat is let out of the bag in one go with this statement: “The Mail papers do NOT hack phones and our sister paper, the Mail On Sunday, has unequivocally refuted his claim that they secured a story about him as a result of this practice”. Leaving aside the incorrect use of “refute”, nobody is suggesting that the Mail titles themselves hack phones.

The Screws didn’t hack phones – they engaged the services of a PI to do it, and a variety of other illegal activity, on their behalf. Rather like the Mail engaged the services of Steve Whittamore. That’s what made them top of the Operation Motorman charts. The Mail is denying an allegation that hasn’t been explicitly made, and by doing so is drawing suspicion to itself. Dacre og 1, as the Eye might say.

An Eye? It’s Only A Scratch!

The Daily Mail’s tedious and unfunny churnalist Richard Littlejohn has today outdone his picking on the disabled, as he suggests that a man who lost the sight of one eye should not have redress against those responsible. It’s only an accident, tells Dick, and infers that the person concerned should have claimed on his insurance and got over it.

This is, reckons Dick, just another example of “elf’n’safety gone mad”. But it isn’t: personal injury litigation does not depend on health and safety law, and has been going on as long as there has been a legal system in the UK, so that’ll take us back a few hundred years, then. And an award of around £400k for losing the sight of one eye – for good – should not surprise anyone.

Hypocrisy, guv? Go see a doctor, innit?!?

Indeed, Dick knows all about measuring his dosh in hundreds of thousands of pounds, given that he trousered around a million notes a year as far back as 2005. Six years later, who knows how much of the green folding stuff is being chucked at him to keep him happy? His legendarily foul mouthed editor had a remuneration package of a whopping £2.8 million last year.

So Dick has no room to quibble about a £400k injury payout. And nor does he have any room to complain about folks resorting to litigation: back in 2005, he decided to jump ship from the Super Soaraway Currant Bun before his contract ended. The twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks, then editing the rag, found adversely on this move and vetoed it.

From there, the tug-of-hack between News International and Associated Newspapers went to litigation – that’s the kind of thing that Dick isn’t happy for others to do. Every media watcher willed the dispute to come to court. Sadly, all were disappointed as a settlement was reached. It was even described as “amicable. A no win, no fun arrangement, then.

Thus another tale of routine hypocrisy from Littlejohn. I’m sure that Florida compound is a nice, warm and secure place for the poor soul to count the latest hundred thousand – and he has the advantage of being able to see all that lovely lolly with both eyes.

Mind how you go.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Guido Fawked – Wilful Blindness

[Update at end of post]

Goings-on at the Leveson enquiry are, as I write, not being reported by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his tame gofer Henry Cole at the Guido Fawkes blog. This may not be unconnected to the allegation made earlier by actor Hugh Grant that the Mail On Sunday must have hacked his phone: the Fawkes blog has a nice little earner with the Dacre press.

What do you mean I have to stay awake?

And it isn’t the only news item where the less than dynamic duo are behind the curve today: the appointment of a political editor for the BBC Newsnight programme is apparently imminent, so the Fawkes blog has to show that it has the contacts and the knowledge. This consists of recycling a Tweet from Adam Boulton of Sky News (“first for breaking wind”).

This by itself might, however, give the game away and demonstrate that Staines and Cole haven’t a clue (again), so there are a couple of paragraphs of accompanying verbiage where the supposed candidates pass before inspection before the Fawkes blog so that its superior insights may be applied. Eventually, readers are told that “Guido would put a readies [sic] on [John] Piennar [sic] if there was a book open”.

No doubt this is completely unconnected to another Tweet, this from Neil Midgley, that Pienaar had already been appointed, according to rumours coming out of the Beeb. But this is a mere taster for the routine hypocrisy exhibited by Cole this afternoon over Leveson. Responding angrily to a wind-up Tweet by Alastair Campbell, he leapt to the defence of the Mail.

Big Al had suggested that, following Grant’s assertion that the Mail had been hacking his phone, the law should in short order be heading in the general direction of Dacre Towers. This caused Cole’s humour circuit to overload and short out, as he fired back “er the evidence being?” as Campbell chortled into his BlackBerry. Thus the double standard was exposed.

Cole and Staines have churned out post after post in their attempt to pin phone hacking on the appalling Piers “Morgan” Moron, and none of them has contained even a sliver of original information. No new evidence has been provided, and they are yet to follow through on their laughable claim that “we’re taking our evidence to the Metropolitan Police”.

But as soon as someone suggests the rozzers home in on their new best pal Dacre, the evidential bar is hoisted rather higher. Staines and Cole are not merely clueless, they’re blinkered tribalists who can’t bring themselves to look at Phonehackgate unless they can pin something on those rotten lefties. Which paper was top of the Operation Motorman charts, lads?

Have to hurry you, no conferring ...

[UPDATE 22 November: the Curse Of Guido has struck again, as John Pienaar did not get the Newsnight job, which went instead to the Guardian's Allegra Stratton. Whether Staines and Cole actually put any money on their hunch is something that probably won't see the light of day. Another fine mess]