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Monday, 18 April 2016

Whittingdale - It’s Sun v Mirror

Last week, none of the press would go anywhere near the story of Culture Secretary John Whittingdale and his assorted dalliances. But after Private Eye magazine picked up on the information first released via Byline Media, and BBC Newsnight ran a feature examining the MP’s role and the potential for it to be compromised, the dam has burst. Now, after the Mail On Sunday went to town on the affair, sides are being taken.
(c) Steve Bell 2016

And they are being taken by two newspaper groups that, first time round, wanted nothing to do with the story, which only goes to increase the suspicion that there was nothing to stop them running it, and certainly not the idea that there was no public interest defence. The reality is that, following the news that Whittingdale had given his then girlfriend advance notice of a cabinet meeting at Chequers, and had sent her a photo of them at lunch - several faces were easily recognisable - there is a very real public interest.

Who might his girlfriend have given that information to? Cabinet out there in the open, on the Chequers terrace. As I observed yesterday, the security implications are potentially horrendous. Now, the Mirror has homed in on another relationship that the MoS mentioned yesterday, that of the MP and one Natalia Lokhanova.

Ms Lokhanova hails from Belarus, which Reporters Without Borders recently declared to be Europe’s worst country for press freedom. President Alexander Lukashenko has been widely criticised for his authoritarian style of Government. Ms Lokhanova’s father is said to have been a USSR military officer. As a result, the Mirror has wheeled out all those suspicions of Cold War-style espionage and targeting of older male politicians.

So it’s no surprise to see readers told “Natalia came to the UK in 2006 via Moscow from Belarus, led for 22 years by Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin … In London she lived half a mile from the Russian embassy”. This merely adds to the MoS revelations to give the impression of carelessness on security matters.

How does the Super Soaraway Currant Bun respond to that? “Whit’s not over: Top Tories back Brexit John over Boobie Twin lover Stephanie” tells you that they are throwing their weight behind keeping Whittingdale in post. But what they pony up in support is not reassuring: “Downing Street leapt to his defence, saying no confidential documents were known to be seen by Ms Hudson”. That means they don’t know.

There is also a smattering of forthright dishonesty: “The revelations come days after the BBC revealed his former relationship”. That had been revealed by Byline and the Eye. Why might the Sun be frightened of dissing the Eye? And the only Tory, top or otherwise, named in the article is Bernard Jenkin, whose key attack line is to shout “look over there at John Prescott”. Oh, and it’s probably because he’s against Britain’s EU membership.

The security worries will not help Whittingdale. But thus far Young Dave has been weak on turfing out those deserving of it, as witness Liam Fox only going when the Guardian exposed his misbehaviour. But the stories will keep on coming. Cameron has to ask himself one question: does he feel lucky? Well, do you, Dave?


Anonymous said...

"...one Natalia Lokhanova..."

Sounds like Vladimir's run rings around the dopes at Vauxhall Cross and GCHQ. To say nothing of assorted Bullingdon pig's head neocon morons.

Watching Murdoch and Rothermere Nazis throwing shoes at each other has to be the funniest sight of the year thus far.

OFF TOPIC: But it's given a close run by this morning's cameo on Victoria Derbyshire by Simon Danksuck. Do watch it if you want to see a toe curling, cringeworthy tenth rate spiv in operation. You'll laugh your socks down, if not your kecks. What an utter plonker.

Bob said...

Based on how Cameron handled Jeremy Hunt's lies re Sky, this culture sec.can also expect promotion.
It was also noticeable on Question Time how strongly Angus Robertson defended Whittingdale. Another SNP Murdoch poodle.

chris e said...

Well, presumably at the moment a steady stream of low level scandals serves Dave's purpose rather well, as it distracts from the Panama Papers scandal.

Andy McDonald said...

I think it's been pretty clear from 2010 onwards that what would be a resignation or dismissal matter under any other PM is not so under Dave. Indeed, I wonder if he deliberately fosters and encourages the media attitude of "They're all the same" and "They're all as bad as each other" so as when a scandal does erupt, be it sex or money or even dead pigs, the public reaction is "whatever"?

Holding the current government up to any sort of standards or scrutiny is difficult, because public approval and public good are nowhere on their list of priorities. They do not care. They know that as long as they're perceived as slightly more reliable on financial matters than the other lot by the good people of middle England (trans: have the media tag all public spending that's not on soldiers and bombs as 'waste', then slash budgets everywhere), they're safe in office long enough for the fire sale to reach completion. Then leave a mess too big for whoever follows them to fix in 5 years, rinse and repeat...

rob said...

@ Anon no 1

"Sounds like Vladimir's run rings around the dopes at Vauxhall Cross and GCHQ. To say nothing of assorted Bullingdon pig's head neocon morons."

You think so? I think they are more interested in left wing groups in the UK than someone who will provide a "bankable aset". They have managed to look the other way over Coulson HSBC inter alia. Goodness knows what else they have managed to turn a blind eye to in the cause of the "right" is right and all the rest are wrong.