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Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Tommy Robinson And US Interference

Today, the appeal by Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, against being given a custodial sentence after pleading guilt to his second contempt of court in 18 months, was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand. The case was heard before Lord Burnett, the Lord Chief Justice, and not, as had been trailed, Lord Justice Leveson. Judgment was reserved and is expected later this month.
Thus the normal functioning of the English legal system, but even before the hearing, there had been moves to interfere in that process, precipitated by a representative of Combover Crybaby Donald Trump. Yes, you read that right.
As Reuters has reported, “Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, complained to the British ambassador in Washington D.C. about the treatment of an English right-wing activist who is in jail for disrupting a trial … Brownback raised the case of the activist known as Tommy Robinson in a June meeting with Sir Kim Darroch, Britain’s Ambassador to the United States”.
Just imagine the reaction of those in the USA if someone from the UK had protested the treatment of a US national in jail there. The report continues “Brownback raised the jailing of Robinson during a meeting with Darroch that covered a range of ‘religious freedom issues’, the British official confirmed earlier this week”. Religious freedom? Whatever.
But the idea of a “religious freedom” angle on Lennon’s case, bizarre though it was, was not nearly as wacko as what followed. “Brownback told Darroch that if Britain did not treat Robinson more sympathetically, the Trump administration might be compelled to criticize Britain’s handling of the case”. Lennon is s serial criminal. Why the interest?
With considerable restraint, the report adds “Reuters was unable to determine why the top U.S. official responsible for defending religious freedom would try to intervene with the British government on behalf of an activist who has expressed anti-Islamic views”. Well, indeed. Religious freedom does not appear to be high on Lennon’s agenda.
Small wonder that pundit Mehdi Hasan observed “I want to say I’m astonished but…”, while the BBC’s James Cook noted “One of many remarkable things about this, if accurate, is that it implies the US thinks that is a) possible and b) acceptable for the UK government to interfere with a judge’s ruling”. It isn’t, and it isn’t.
It wasn’t about religious freedom either, as Miqdaad Versi of the Muslim Council of Britain pointed out: “Here is a picture of Sam Brownback - the US ambassador threatening the UK as he lobbies for the imprisoned far-right anti-Muslim Tommy Robinson - with Frank Gaffney who is ‘one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes’ (SPLC)”.
Ignorance of this country’s laws concerned the likes of Victoria Freeman: “Number of staggeringly stupid people who don’t realise Robinson actually put convictions at risk with his interfering in justice is amazing”. And Sunny Hundal spoke for many: “This is mind-boggling. Trump's team are now lobbying for a far-right thug. Threatening to interfere in our judicial system. This really takes the biscuit”. All this and Steve Bannon, too.

This interference on behalf of the Islamophobic far right is bang out of order.

Piers Morgan Scoop IS RATINGS FLOP

And so it came to pass that the interview granted to former Screws and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan by Combover Crybaby Donald Trump was splashed across the pages of the Mail on Sunday, pushed for all it was worth on the Monday morning edition of ITV breakfast offering Good Morning Britain, and finally aired as a stand-alone item on the same channel after the main evening news that day.
The hype had been unrelenting; the promotion of the meeting, and of course that of Himself Personally Now, by Morgan had been incessant. So when the ratings came in yesterday, expectations must have been high in ITV land. But the figures did not lie: an audience of just 1.2 million showed few were bothered.
Hence the spin: after Mark Jefferies of the Mirror declared “Full time ratings score in millions on Mon night: Love Island 3 Piers Morgan 1. Piers, The President and Air Force One had 1m and a 12% share at 10.45pm and #LoveIsland had a loyal 3m and 15% share at 9pm, so he was well beaten by the show he hates on all fronts”, Morgan blustered “But my show aired nearly 2hrs later, at 10.50pm, so this is an utterly meaningless comparison. If it had aired at 9pm, I'd have comfortably beaten Love Island”. Yeah, right.
Ian Hyland tried another angle. “Ratings. Looking like just over 1m for Piers Morgan's Donald Trump interview on ITV last night. Which means almost 5m of Piers's loyal Twitter followers deserted him”. What say The Great Man? “Half my followers are not in Britain. And this, as you know, was a perfectly good rating for a show airing at 10.45pm. The Trump interview also did a big number for us on @GMB in the morning - 21.5% share”.
So fewer than half the BBC audience size, then. And most of the rest of his Twitter followers are only there to take the piss. Wouldn’t anyone speak up for him? One Tweeter reassured Morgan he would have beaten BBC Newsnight. That cheered him up. “Yes. My Trump special got double @BBCNewsnight's ratings despite airing 20 minutes later”.
But we still didn’t get the crucial number, which is ITV versus BBC1, not BBC2. And when he told another of those Tweeters unhappy at his propensity to shout at interviewees as a means of willy-waving and self-promotion “Watch the BBC then”, it was a dead giveaway. Because when his Trump grovelfest was on ITV, that is what most people did.
Lorna Cooper of BBC Radio 5Live had those numbers. And they made dismal reading for Morgan and his self-promotion bandwagon. “Ratings: Piers Morgan's interview with Trump drew 1.2m for ITV. Over on BBC1, a repeat of HIGoNFY garnered 1.5m viewers”. A repeat beat him. Or, as one Tweeter pointed out, “Wow, even after 20 years, Ian Hislop owning Piers without even trying”. No wonder he was so defensive.
Worse, it was a smaller audience than for his previous Trump grovelfest. All of which means you can have the access, along with the plaudits of more easily impressed media people, but in the real world, people aren’t interested in him - or Trump.

Still, if ITV are daft enough to pay him, he should worry. Or as Trump might say, SAD!

So Farewell Then John Woodcock

In a world of political uncertainly, some of the goings-on within the political classes are refreshingly stable and predictable, and one of those is the steady progress of semi-detached MP John Woodcock towards the exit door and a beckoning career with the media set. Having already been suspended from the Labour Party, he has now very publicly resigned from it, to the surprise of no-one at all.
In his resignation letter, Woodcock tells Jeremy Corbyn he is quitting “following your refusal to appoint an independent investigator to rule on my disciplinary [case] and in the light of clear evidence that the process has been manipulated for factional purposes”. The case to which he refers concerns allegations that he harassed a former female aide.

Woodcock claims he is not resigning merely to dodge the bullet: “It is not credible to expect a fair hearing in these circumstances. I strongly deny the charge made against me but am committed to the complaint being thoroughly and fairly investigated. I will now seek to refer myself to an independent process so the case can be properly heard”.

But this has been coming for some time. For all his protests, Woodcock has no room to call unfairness on the Labour leadership, having engaged in a long-running campaign of petulant dissent against Corbyn’s leadership. Jezza’s early olive branch proffered to the Barrow and Furness MP over protecting jobs in the area in the event of abandoning the Trident nuclear deterrent brought only claims that Corbyn was insufficiently bellicose.

Last year, when the General Election was announced, Woodcock told very publicly that he would stand for re-election, but then kicked the party leadership in the teeth once more by saying he “will not countenance ever voting to make Jeremy Corbyn Britain’s prime minister”. His constituency party, which voted for Jezza in the 2016 leadership contest, has recently complained about him to Labour’s NEC, and wants him replaced.
His disdain for many Labour members - those he smears as “hard left”, using the terminology imported from Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) - was typified by his publicising visits to Saudi Arabia and breaking bread with a Government that has an appalling human rights record, treats women disgracefully, carries on destructive wars that bring death and mass starvation, but … buys lots of weapons from the UK.

Sitting as an Independent MP, Woodcock, whose effectiveness has been such that he has taken a majority of more than 5,200 in 2010 and turned it into one of little more than 200 last year, will not be representing Barrow and Furness beyond the next General Election, and thus his real commitment to the area and its voters.

No, John Woodcock is heading slowly but inexorably towards the land of well-remunerated think tank sinecures, broadcast and radio punditry, newspaper columns, and magazine features. He has been on that trajectory for some time; trying to blame Corbyn for this movement is just so much petulance and cant.

The reality is that Woodcock will leave Labour, and not, as he has claimed, the other way round. Jezza’s reply - “Jeremy thanks John for his service to the Labour party” - is all that needs to be said. He is already yesterday’s politician.

Raheem Kassam LBC Bullying Backfires

Pride, so they say, comes before a fall. And on Monday evening there was no more proud gathering than that of former UKIP Oberscheissenf├╝hrer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, his spokesman Dan Jukes, and professional flunky Raheem “call me Ray” Kassam, all smiles as they paraded themselves as “The A Team”.
Kassam, an appallingly immodest being with much to be modest about, had been ejected from LBC’s London HQ earlier that evening, having had an altercation with Farage’s long-time producer Christian Mitchell. How bad this was can be deduced from the BuzzFeed report, which tellsLBC staff are calling for action from management after a second ugly confrontation at the station's London radio studios between producers and Nigel Farage's inner circle in less than 48 hours”. Hence Kassam’s ejection.

There was more. “Kassam says he was signed into the building by Farage's spokesperson around the time of his 6 p.m. show, but LBC sources told BuzzFeed News he did not have permission or authorisation to be there from anyone at the station … staff members felt ‘shaken’ by his behaviour … Kassam's frustrations appeared to be directed at LBC staff over the station's political editor questioning former Trump strategist [Stave] Bannon”.
Squeaky contract's up finger up the bum time

What was worst was the intimidation indulged in by Kassam: “After being escorted from the premises, Kassam posted a picture of Mitchell's face to his Facebook and Twitter accounts, along with the LBC producer's work email address, inviting his followers to get in touch with him to ‘tell him what you think’”. Real amateur stuff.

But Kassam’s swaggering triumphalism, although it might have given him a warm feeling, is about to backfire on him and Mr Thirsty big time. As Zelo Street hinted recently when noting the imminent arrival at LBC of former BBC stalwart Eddie Mair, one of the existing roster of presenters is likely to have to go to make way for him.
And since then, it has become clear that LBC is looking to dispose of Farage’s services when his contract comes up for renewal, which I am told is imminent. Apparently, advance notice of his departure has already been given to advertisers, some of whom may have been less than happy at being associated with the former head Kipper.

So Farage is going to be out at LBC. The usual stock explanations would then be deployed - “Looking for a change” … “New opportunities” … “Time to move on” … “mutual agreement” - but how much better it will be to have the excuse that Raheem Kassam has now given them, after his crude amateur heavy mob impression.
More like The A-Hole Team

After telling of that idiocy, BuzzFeed then added “Kassam told BuzzFeed News he was ‘joking around’: ‘I think the LBC staff don't know my sense of humour. It was meant in jest. If I've rattled anyone who is a bit sensitive, I am incredibly sorry.’
Does someone else know what's brewing at LBC, perhaps?

He wasn’t joking around, he doesn’t have a sense of humour, it wasn’t meant in jest, and he isn’t sorry. But he soon will be, because the “joking around” will be on him.

Call me Ray” just gave LBC the best possible excuse to dispense with Nigel Farage’s services. What a complete and absolute shower.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Vote Leave Excuses FAWKED

After news emerged that Vote Leave had been confirmed to have been breaking the law during the 2016 EU referendum campaign, it was only a matter of time before the group’s frankly batshit principal Dominic Cummings went into spin cycle mode and pretended that some form of alternate reality applied to Himself Personally Now.
Milk, no sugar, hold the smears

And so it came to pass that the chosen conduit for Dom’s out-there excuses was the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, who have brought readers the imaginatively-titled “Electoral Commission Emails Reval They Refused To Speak To Vote Leave”. As befits any creation of Fawkes teaboy Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, this is a complete and utter pack of lies.

Wickham, who has been recruited by BuzzFeed News, who may be getting a little nervous at the revelation of his singularly wayward back catalogue, continued “After finding Vote Leave guilty of breaking electoral law this morning, the Electoral Commission are claiming that officials from the Brexit campaign refused to attend interviews. Yet this email from Louise Edwards, the Tory-hating Electoral Commission boss, to lawyers for the Vote Leave officials says otherwise”. And what, pray, does that email say?
Cummings. Goings we know not where

It says “We have not spoken to your clients as part of that investigation because we are satisfied was have sufficient evidence to draw conclusions without speaking to them”. But without the context - we never do get that from The Great Guido, do we? - no conclusion can be drawn. Wickham moans “how on earth can they reasonably find an organisation guilty of breaking the law without hearing their side of the story?” but knows full well that Vote Leave refused to cooperate with the Electoral Commission.

Then comes a reply from the EC to Cummings himself, betraying the identity of the Fawkes informant. “This was Louise Edwards excuse to Vote Leave boss Dominic Cummings for failing to speak to him, emailed yesterday. Essentially, she is arguing the Electoral Commission only made claims about Vote Leave as a whole so don’t need to speak to the key players involved. Which does not seem to be justice in any sense” bleats Wickham. But again, there is no context. And there won’t be any.
If the Fawkes rabble want to be a credible player, they should go back to Cummings and force the wacko SOB to release the entire thread of emails - but they won’t, and neither will he. Like the Fawkes claims that “the Remain campaign was at it too”, it’s just selective framing to fit the headline. There will not be full disclosure.

And without full disclosure, no credibility will attach to this latest dishonest intervention. So when Wickham lamely suggests “Real possibility the Commission could be sued here”, he is talking out of the back of his neck. Dominic Cummings and his pals are playing Ron Hopeful on the off-chance that one or two gullible politicians and pundits will believe them.
The only result of this lame slice of Wickham dishonesty is that BuzzFeed News will be that little bit more nervous about what happens when “Billy Liar” joins them.

After all, one whopper like that and he could screw their brand for good. Another fine mess, once again.

Tommy Robinson Fan EXPOSED

Those who run their own small businesses are not generally regarded as stupid, and certainly not restauranteurs: after all, to be able to deal with taxation authorities, local Government, environmental health operatives, suppliers, and all those customers requires more than a modicum of intelligence. But one such businessman has displayed a quite exceptional degree of stupidity in his off-duty activities.
Bill Eve and wife Lorraine

The restauranteur concerned is called Bill Eve, and he, along with his wife, runs The Bank Restaurant in the Elm Park district of Hornchurch in Essex. This establishment seems to have had a shaky start to life, but had settled down to attract an appreciative clientele - until Eve decided to have a day out in London and his world came crashing down.
Look who's at the Day For Freedom ...

To understand what might have caused this, the Independent has brought its readersTommy Robinson supporter's foul-mouthed, misogynist and Islamophobic rant goes viral”, which covered events at last Saturday’s gathering in support of Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, which was protesting his prison sentence.
... there he is, shouting and swearing ...

A foul-mouthed, misogynist and Islamophobic rant at a female journalist has now gone viral on Twitter … The footage, shared by Al Jazeera journalist Sonia Gallego, shows a Tommy Robinson supporter confront her and demand to know who she works for” begins the piece, before telling “The video shows him aggressively asking: ‘Are you with Tommy Robinson or against?’ … When Gallego explains that she's neutral as a journalist for Al Jazeera, he says ‘You're Muslim backed then, aint ya? You’re Muslim-backed’”.
... bit blurry, but first protest march, looks like him again ...

There was more. “She asks him what he means, to which he responds: ‘Are you f***ing stupid? Are you thick?’ He adds: ‘You know what? You're a slag’”. And then came the identification of the deeply unpleasant protester: it was Bill Eve

It got worse: not only did observers of the protest, along with others, figure that Eve was the owner of The Bank in Honrchurch, further inspection of previous pro-Lennon protests showed that he was a regular. Regular enough to have been caught on camera shouting “Traitor” at officer of the Metropolitan Police.
... and nailed on, abusing a female reporter

Eve was a regular enough Lennon fan to be identified as one of those attempting to attack Mohammed Hijab, friend and colleague of Ali Dawah, who had been invited to speak at the so-called Day For Freedom, but had then been stopped from doing so by Lennon. Dawah’s pal, as I said at the time, “was confronted by a grey-haired man who appeared to be bellowing incoherently at him”. That appears to have been Eve - again.
Oh, and guess what they sell at the Bank restaurant?

Small wonder, then, that The Bank’s Facebook page has been taken private, and its Trip Advisor entry now tellsDue to a recent event that has attracted media attention and has caused an influx of review submissions that do not describe a first-hand experience, we have temporarily suspended publishing new reviews for this listing”.

Did Bill Eve think no-one would ID him and connect him to his restaurant? After all those appearances, and his unpleasant abusing of a woman journalist? Perhaps some of his customer base like the idea of eating Chez Bigot. Many more may not.

Vote Leave - BBC In The Dock

While Vote Leave has been found to have broken the law, attention has shifted to the baffling behaviour of the BBC in its approach to the story of referendum campaign overspending. And once again, the Corporation has come up woefully short in its response. The tone-deafness was thrown into sharp focus by the Beeb’s response to criticism from the Observer columnist Nick Cohen.
Laura Kuenssberg - questions continue

Cohen had written a piece for the New York Review of Books in which he accused the Corporation of “losing the plot” on Brexit, and specifically declining an opportunity to run a Panorama special on the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal. As he has told, “When news broke that Cambridge Analytica had collected identifying personal information for some 87 million Facebook users, Facebook stock fell by $134 billion”.
Carole Cadwalladr - ignored and shouted down

But then “the BBC’s investigative program Panorama backed away. There was no ‘smoking gun,’ it said. Within days, the smoke from Facebook’s burning reputation was billowing from its Palo Alto headquarters”. Worse, “The pattern repeated itself with Shahmir Sanni from the Vote Leave campaign … Once again, the BBC did not want the scoop. ‘We don’t have enough evidence to turn this around in three weeks,’ a Panorama bureaucrat wrote to [Carole] Cadwalladr”. Apparent cowardice.

Isabel Oakeshott - allowed to to the shouting down

It was the same when Ms Cadwalladr revealed all those meetings between those involved in the Leave EU campaign and the Russian ambassador: “All the Today program would do was try to set up a staged confrontation between Cadwalladr and a propagandist for Brexit. It would not report on the emails as news; nor did it use its vast resources, hundreds of times larger than those of The Observer, to investigate”.
No comment

At this point, the BBC decided to issue a statement attempting to refute Cohen’s accusations; this was endorsed enthusiastically by presenters and others, lauded as an excellent response to inconvenient thought. But the rebuttal’s key point has already run into trouble. This concerns the aborted Panorama broadcast.
The BBC Press Office has claimed “Panorama asked for access to all the evidence, but that was not forthcoming. Limitations were placed on the BBC’s own investigation of the allegations and constraints on who we could approach”.
Peter Jukes of Byline Media, who has worked with Ms Cadwalladr recently, was unimpressed. “As I understand it, @BBCPanorama was given access to all the evidence that led to the @ElectoralCommUK report today on @vote_leave - and yet you cancelled the programme. There should be an internal inquiry into this at the BBC. In some ways it's as significant as #Savile”.
Worse, the way in which the Corporation’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg took Vote Leave’s briefings - presumably by Matthew Elliott - without even seeking comment from Ms Cadwalladr or either of the whistleblowers is once again generating disquiet, with Jolyon Maugham asking “Why did the BBC twice give Vote Leave a basically unchallenged platform to smear the finding it broke the law and cheated?” Why indeed.
The severity of this apparent lapse was underscored by Jukes’ response: “It's worse than that. Unless I missed something, Matthew Elliott lied to the pubic about co-operating with the @ElectoralCommUK and the BBC allowed him to do without rebuttal or checks”.
That is bad. It is very bad indeed. Bad enough for Mike Galsworthy’s response not to be exceptional. “I am *done* with the @BBC. They report on Vote Leave breaking the law... then give the last word on it to: Vote Leave. And not just a snippet quote. The last SIX paragraphs are all Vote Leave‘s words under the title ‘Motivated by political agenda’”.
Who is driving the decision making, the shaping of this narrative? We may never find out. But the conclusion from this sorry affair has been summed up by James O’Brien: “So not only did the BBC shamefully allow Vote Leave to define the terms for breaking this story, they also appear to have amplified their untruths unchallenged”.
Why this continued, almost obsessive use of Vote Leave spin matters has been shown by an intervention from David Aaronovitch. “Vote Leave's attack on the political motivations of the Electoral Commission is now par for the sorry course. You don't like the decision of an impartial body? 1. Lie about it. 2. Slag them off for being part of the establishment”.
Added to which is that key comedy word, timing, as Ms Cadwalladr has pointed out. “And leak the story to the BBC to get your side of the story out first. At midnight after a world cup quarter final. That was so disgraceful”. That was also never explained satisfactorily.
Small wonder that Jukes has concluded worryingly “The scariest thing about all these revelations about corruption, illegality around Vote Leave, Leave EU and Cambridge Analytica. If we'd relied on the BBC, none of it would have been exposed. Take a deep breathe and think what that says about our national broadcaster”.
To which Tone’s former chief spinner Alastair Campbell could only agree, and then tag Sarah Sands and Rob Burley. This means we may hear more of this, as those with a more significant media presence are alerted to the controversy.

As I’ve told previously, most people trust the BBC ahead of all other news sources. Not only that, they want, in an uncertain media world, to be able to trust it. The Corporation’s reaction to the scandals of the various Leave campaigns, and especially its acceptance of Vote Leave spin - on more than one occasion - undermines that trust. That is all.