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Wednesday 23 February 2011

Kicking The Guardian – 1: Paul Staines

Over the past week, there has been some remarkably coincident activity in one of the right leaning part of the blogosphere’s favourite pastimes, the mystical art of Guardian bashing. Out of the traps with uncharacteristic speed on this occasion has been the increasingly tired Paul Staines, who blogs under the alias of Guido Fawkes.

Staines, aided by his tame gofer Henry Cole, has been laying in to the paper since it published an article discussing the corporate tax paid – or not – by Barclays Bank Group. The level of accuracy in Staines’ and Cole’s rant is established at the outset, where they assert “the Guardian decided to give UK Uncut a front page boost”.

The article mentions UK Uncut just twice.

There then follows a stream of pejorative language: “shabby ... hatchet job ... beyond contemptible”. It will not come as any surprise to know that the Staines blog is no stranger to all of these terms: it has been carrying on a campaign against Foreign Secretary William ‘Ague for several months, which bears all the hallmarks of being “shabby ... [a] hatchet job ... [and] beyond contemptible”.

So far, so hypocritical, but Staines has been unable to leave matters there: yesterday he returned to Guardian bashing, this time over a piece that reported the level of City involvement in funding the Tory Party. Staines has tried to compare this to the Guardian Media Group’s investments. Is the paper donating to a political party? Well, no it isn’t: the comparison is a non sequitur.

This attack was followed in sharp order by an “open letter” to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, who has been more than ready to discuss the paper’s finances. Staines is clearly fishing for information about offshore assets, but here he is skating on very thin ice: his own assets are parked offshore to the UK, and Global And General Nominees, the company that publishes the Staines blog, is registered in Nevis.

Moreover, Staines is deploying the same tactics as his pals at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA): demanding transparency in others while not doing so himself. It should surprise no-one, therefore, that the Guardian bashing is also coming from a former TPA stalwart.

I’ll look at that strand of the attack, and consider the motives for this behaviour, next. But the examination of Staines’ conduct this past week cannot be concluded without another look at his letter to Rusbridger, where just before signing off, he observes hopefully “I look forward to lunching with you another time soon”.

As the TV show title puts it, Paul Staines, Who Do You Think You Are?

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