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Wednesday 29 February 2012

Guido Fawked – Livingstone Foot In Mouth

The ability of the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his tame gofer, the flannelled fool Henry Cole, to open mouth and insert boot was illustrated superbly at the Guido Fawkes blog yesterday. This less than dynamic duo, the Laurel and Hardy of the blogosphere, had decided to widen their attack on rotten leftie Ken Livingstone to London bloggers who they deemed of inconvenient thought.

Now that's not a good idea

And, demonstrating the tribal and uncharitable nature of the Fawkes blog, the post thus generated links to only two of the eleven blogs upbraided: on this matter, Staines and Cole expect their readers to be gullible enough to take them on trust. But the Fawkes blog also needs to generate advertising revenue, and the need apparently trumps any need for ideological purity.

Because, as readers were reading the allegations against Livingstone and the bloggers who are supposedly batting for Labour, they were also being served a series of very prominently displayed adverts promoting the former Mayor’s campaign and passing suitably adverse comment on current (and occasional) Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

Moreover, the adverts were on the right-hand side of the screen, the part towards which the eye naturally gravitates – as witness the Huffington Post using it for its sleb stuff (an idea later lifted by Mail Online, which as far as is known hasn’t even given Arianna so much as a thank you). So readers were informed that the blog’s hero Bozza had a second job at the Maily Telegraph.

Not only that, they were then informed that this “second job” paid Bozza a cool £250,000 a year, although the great man has dismissed this amount as merely “chicken feed”. Following this information comes a reminder of the Livingstone assurance that he would be a full time Mayor, with a sign-off giving a text number to send “chickenfeed” to BorisStoppers.

And one additional thought enters, given Bozza making light of his wad from the Telegraph: his Mayoral stipend is a far smaller amount, so if £250,000 is “chicken feed”, one can only conclude that he is in receipt of a rather more substantial sum from one or more other sources. And the accepted way of dealing with multiple income streams is to work through a limited company.

So if Staines and Cole are so keen on full Mayoral candidate disclosure, no doubt they will be just as keen – given Livingstone’s commitment – to expose Bozza’s full range of income, the company he funnels it all through (or not), and his equivalent commitment to put all else aside to concentrate on being London Mayor, if returned for a second term.

Won’t they? No, they’re just blinkered, clueless tribalists. Another fine mess.

Bunging The Law – The Mail Did It Too

While the attention in the wake of Phonehackgate and the Leveson Inquiry continues to focus on the less than principled behaviour of Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Sun and Screws, the recent arrests related to paying Police and other public servants should by now be sounding alarm bells among another group of those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet.

Who're you f***ing calling bent, c***?

And that group is the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, as one reading of Flat Earth News – whose author Nick Davies added this year’s Paul Foot award to his trophy cabinet last night – will show. While the Screws used Jonathan Rees as a go-between to access corrupt Police officers, the Mail used the services of a rival Davies refers to as Z.

Davies sums up the character of the Dacre empire’s conduit thus: “Z is happy to describe himself as a journalist, and it’s true that he earns a living selling stories to national newspapers. Z is also happy to describe himself as a former detective. The simple reality is that Z is bent. He was bent in the police and he went on to be bent in Fleet Street”.

So how did Z do his dealings with the Mail? According to Davies, “Reporters who have worked at the Mail talk of handing over envelopes containing up to £3,000 in cash”. Some of these were bribes to serving officers. On occasion, Mail hacks would meet corrupt coppers for drinks at the Wine Press in Fleet Street. And the Met tried, but failed, to cut this out.

And it wasn’t only the Police that were bunged a few drinks by Dacre’s finest, as Davies then tells “Reporters from the Daily Mail to whom I spoke independently agreed that they have bribed not only police officers but also civil servants”. These included officials with access to the social security database, which was at one time used “as if it was an extension of the Daily Mail library”.

None of this should surprise anyone: the Mail has, over the years, consistently been at the front of the pack when it comes to getting personal information on its targets. As another reporter told Davies “If the Mail go for you, they get every phone number you have dialled, every school-mate, everything on your credit card, every call from your phone and from your mobile. Everything”.

So it was entirely predictable that, after keeping schtum for so long, the Mail reports helpfully detailed all the wrongdoing of the Murdoch empire (this article from earlier this week is typical) while in the Dacre bunker, fingers are being crossed and silence is being maintained. Because what the Sun has been accused of doing is exactly what the Mail has been up to.

Maybe Nick Davies should donate a copy of Flat Earth News to Operation Elveden.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

TPA – Recommended Dishonesty

[Update at end of post]

Things are quiet right now at the comfortable and lavishly financed offices of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), which is inevitably an ominous sign, as it means the dubiously talented convocation of non-job holders is at work on yet another magnum opus of agenda driven misinformation. But enough is going on for the stream of falsehood to keep on flowing.

More from the Comfortable of Tufton Street

This continuous torrent of false facts is, at present, mainly directed to demonising Councils that are increasing Council Tax this time round. The TPA wants them instead to take advantage of Government assistance which will keep the rise down – though not necessarily eliminate it – although this would only be for one year, and it would still be taxpayers footing the bill.

To reinforce what is admittedly a rather sterile debate – the odd percent on something that most pay by direct debit over ten instalments each year is hardly here or there – the TPA has used a number of tactics. One is to say how much the tax has risen since 2001, but this only works until folks realise that much else of what they consume has gone up a lot more.

So into the mix is thrown mileage allowance, which, sad to say, is an equally sterile and unpromising debating chip. But that has not stopped the TPA from employing a mixture of misinformation and straightforward dishonesty to press the point. First, they cite a figure of 40p a mile and say that this is the “HMRC recommended rate”, which is not true. HMRC make no such recommendation.

What the nice people at the Revenue do do, however, is to allow folks to charge an amount free of tax for their mileage travelled on employer’s business. If the actual cost is more than that, well, that’s tough: you can only claim what they allow you to. The TPA argument is like saying the Income Tax allowance for single persons or married couples is “The HMRC recommended salary”, which is preposterous.

That is, in a nutshell, why one should never take a TPA assertion at face value. Moreover, the amount the TPA cites is not what HMRC allows: the figure has recently been revised from 40p to 45p (well, for the first 10,000 “business miles”, anyway, which for those using their own vehicle for occasional business use, should cover it). Note that the word “recommended” does not appear.

And that is how the TPA uses sleight of hand and dishonesty, day in, day out, in order to pursue its objective: the demonisation of Government – any Government – along with public service and public works.

[UPDATE 1 March: the TPA's supposed "Grassroots Coordinator" Andrew Allison - now there's a non-job for you - has re-iterated the "recommended rate" interpretation of the HMRC mileage allowance. A word in your shell-like, Andrew: back in 1999, this allowance had a maximum level of 63p per mile. I know this as my car, at the time, qualified for it. It can hardly be a "recommended" rate if it is cut by over a third over time, when the cost of motoring remains at a similar level.

But he does concede, in his rant at Stockton-on-Tees Council, that the allowance went up to 45p last April. Pity the TPA doesn't also say that they got this wrong several times over. And the chance of this malign body apologising for misleading the public is out of the question. No change there, then]

Murdoch - Getting Away With Murder

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

Why Rupe and his downmarket troops were so eager to get the Super Soaraway Sunday Steamer up and running came clear yesterday as the Leveson Inquiry resumed its hearings, with the beginning of Module 2, covering relationships between the Fourth Estate and the Police. And critics of the Inquiry, from Trevor Kavanagh to “Oiky” Gove, may wish they had kept schtum a little longer.

Because, almost from the word go, the revelations went from grim to a lot worse, starting with the genesis of Phonehackgate. Here, the Met knew full well that hacking had gone on on an industrial scale, yet they played down the extent to which Glenn Mulcaire had taken notes, and only prosecuted him, along with Clive Goodman. They then let News International (NI) in on the whole thing.

Yes, a senior officer at the Met contacted Rebekah Wade (as she then was), briefed her on the affair, and confirmed that no further action would be taken. A cosier and more blatantly corrupt arrangement would be hard to imagine. And it might have remained that way, had Neil “Wolfman” Wallis not tried a little too hard to shout down Nick Davies when the latter was promoting Flat Earth News.

All this caused some raising of eyebrows yesterday, but this turned out to be a mere curtain raiser for today’s bombshell: that it appears Screws hacks were interfering in a murder investigation. The murder was that of Daniel Morgan, found with an axe in the back of his head at the wheel of his car in a South London pub car park. Morgan had apparently unearthed police corruption.

One of those on trial for Morgan’s murder was his business partner at Southern Investigations, Jonathan Rees, a private investigator who supplied significant quantities of illegally obtained information to the Screws. It was because details of the trial were sub judice at the time that much of the information given to Young Dave about Andy Coulson by the Guardian could not be made public.

The excuse from NI, when confronted with evidence of their surveillance on Chief Superintendent David Cook and his wife Jacqui Hames, was that they had evidence of an affair between the two, and there was a public interest angle as (then) WPC Hames was a presenter on BBC Crimewatch. As it was public knowledge that they were in fact married, this was clearly crap.

Rees got off the murder charge, but had been convicted in the meantime for perverting the course of justice. This proved no bar to Coulson re-hiring him to work for the Screws. I’m sure that Coulson would not have allowed himself to be swayed by Rees’ known connections to a number of bent coppers who could supply information to oil the wheels of NI’s particular brand of journalism.

Oh, and “Oiky” Gove isn’t the only one in the cabinet close to all of this. Is he, Dave?

[UPDATE1 29 February 0940 hours: this blog is not the only one pointing up this story. The lack of media attention garnered yesterday has been highlighted by Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy, with screenshots comparing the coverage given by the websites of Channel 4 News (significant) and the BBC (negligible).

Fortunately, the matter is being kept in the public eye by Labour MP Tom Watson, who has secured an adjournment debate on the death of Daniel Morgan. This will take place in the Commons later today]

[UPDATE2 1 March 1800 hours: the full text from the adjournment debate can be seen HERE (scroll down to 4pm). For those wondering what point is served by this, remember that the statement by Tom Watson and response by Nick Herbert - a minister has to attend and respond - are got on to the Parliamentary record, and in full.

Herbert's reply also puts on record the Government's commitment to seeing justice done for the family of Daniel Morgan]

Telegraph Turns Out The Lights

When the Maily Telegraph published expense details for MPs including many leading Tories, and caused some minor tremors to shake the Coalition as they went after David Laws and Vince Cable, there were some on the right who questioned whether the paper was still the reliable soulmate of fond memory. They need not have worried, as the Workfare episode has shown.

Ultimate act of desperation

Moreover, the sheer desperation of the Telegraph’s attempts to smear anyone and everyone reporting the matter in a way that is other than to their total satisfaction has merely underscored how far this once great paper of record has fallen under the less than benign stewardship of David and Frederick Barclay (aka The Fabulous Bingo Brothers).

Following Janet Daley’s sounding of the retaliatory charge at the weekend, the hacks and pundits have rallied strongly, with occasional London Mayor and regular collector of the Telegraph’s generous “chicken feed” allowance Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson railing yesterday at the “loony left, and by the happiest of coincidences being totally in tune with his own party.

This was the cue for the anonymous “Telegraph View” to build on Bozza’s scattergun pounding of the opposition by setting out the approved Tory view, that “A retreat on workfare would fail our young”. This was reinforced by telling that the apparent retreat by many High Street names had been nothing of the sort. Thus readers would be reassured, though later use of the phrase “in truth” should raise suspicions.

Then came supposedly thoughtful pundit Matthew d’Ancona, falling at the first hurdle as he talked of young people going to work in a supermarket “for a month’s learning”, while not telling that this experience, for those stacking shelves, enjoys distinctly limited horizons. He then attempted to sound a rallying cry to firms who have backed away from the scheme not to be “scared of Tweets”.

Thus far, though, the copy had some kind of sense and reason to its talking points, although these were unequivocally in support of the Government. But then came the return of Janet Daley, with a piece that any credible editor would have spiked without hesitation. “‘Workfare’ has not collapsed: the backlash against the SWP has saved it” she announced, and then went completely gaga in short order.

Criticism of the Government was “the SWP’s wrecking campaign”, companies hadn’t really pulled out of the scheme – which was being “loudly bad-mouthed by the Guardian and Newsnight” – and there was an “SWP/Guardian/BBC troika” at work. Just in case readers didn’t get that, an SWP logo was captioned “The red fist of the SWP/BBC”, as the barrel was well and truly scraped.

Will the last journalist leaving this former paper of record please turn out the lights?

Monday 27 February 2012

Workfare – Trash Those Lefties!

Following last week’s revelation that some of those claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) were being forced to undertake work placements for no additional payment other than travel expenses, and the protests that caused, some of the employers concerned pulled out of the scheme. And the remaining employers are still being pressured by campaigners.

The scene was then set for the inevitable reaction, the full righteous rage of the right, and so it has proved. This actually kicked off on Saturday in the Maily Telegraph – rather than the Mail, the usual seat of this kind of explosion. The author of what was to become the template for the fightback was Janet Daley: “The Government should stand up to the rent-a-mob campaign against unpaid work experience” she stated.

This moderately wayward rant identified the villains of the piece: the deeply subversive Guardian (theirs was denounced as a “wrecking campaign”), the Socialist Workers’ Party, and of course the BBC. The Coalition was held to be merely a thing of benevolence, battling valiantly against the feared, er, Kirsty Wark, in a Newsnight edition that, it was asserted, was “shockingly biased”.

And with that, the scene was set for a rantfest to satisfy the most discerning connoisseur: the following afternoon brought “Tories order Police to halt workfare demos as MP makes formal protest to BBC over bias in favour of hard-left militants” in the Mail. Note the use of “hard-left”, a characterisation much beloved of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).

Note, too, the “formal protest”, as opposed to “complaint”, by self-promoting Tory MP Priti Patel, occasionally representing the electorate of Witham, but more often Herself Personally Now. The “protest” was yet more of that self-promotion. But more pundits had to be sent over the top, and to his shame, occasional London Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was next at the Telegraph.

The loony Left, out to destroy youngsters’ hopes of a job” asserted Bozza, on the day his fabled New Bus For London made a less than auspicious debut in service and broke down twice. “Most of them go into full time jobs” he further asserts, but that is not true, unsurprisingly for Johnson. Then the icing on the cake has come from Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips at the Mail.

Jobs, welfare and how the BBC went in to battle for the Socialist Workers” thunders the title, as Mel smears the Back To Work campaign as some kind of SWP front. A “few far-Left thugs” have exposed employers’ “contemptible absence of spine”, the whole protest “vastly amplified by a combination of social media and the BBC”. The Guardian has exhibited “shameless and poisonous hypocrisy”.

And the poor are then depicted as “victims”. There’ll be more of this dross to come.

The Myth Of Automation

The spectre of trade unions – make that militant trade unions – has appeared over the race for the London Mayoralty. And, as I noted earlier, an awful lot of hot air is being expended on the subject of driverless trains on the Underground. Much of this merely emphasises the ignorance of many hacks and bloggers, some of whom would rather believe their own dreams than take on board reality.

What has sent the convocation of Ron Hopefuls into a mood of slavering expectation has been another article in the Standard, titled “I’ll curb power of Tube unions, says Boris”. And it falls at the first hurdle, as Automatic Train Operation (ATO) is confused with “Automation”. These are not the same thing. There is no prospect of the latter on any Tube or Sub Surface Line (SSL) in sight.

Central Line: out in the open and a bit complex

The piece is partly correct when it mentions the Victoria, Central and Jubilee lines, but ATO is not the same as “Automatic Trains”, particularly on the latter two routes with significant parts of their track out in the open and therefore subject to a variety of inclement weather conditions, as well as trespass and vandalism. “Automation” may not be an option here. Ever.

Nor is the Northern Line ATO even running in test form as yet – and on top of that, this has a complex layout with a variety of potential routings. To get ATO working here before 2014 may be manageable, but nobody familiar with the Tube and its ageing infrastructure should guarantee it. On top of that, the SSLs are yet more complex in terms of their routing possibilities.

As I noted previously, new fully automatic lines, such as the 9 and 10 in Barcelona, are completely underground and all platforms have doors, to ensure passengers have no chance of accessing the tracks. This would be required in London – else how would full automation cope with those who fall off the platforms, whether deliberately or otherwise?

There will be no fully automated working in London for at least four years, and that would only be between Waterloo and Bank, on a line with no intermediate stations. Moreover, thus far the public preference has been for retaining a train operator, which is also useful when there are problems, and especially on open sections of track (see above).

And there will only be any potential political advantage to be gained from this idea when one of the major Tube lines has gone over to fully automatic working. There is no prospect of this as yet, and little even if Bozza were to serve a second and even third term. It’s just the right, whistling to keep their spirits up, aided and abetted by the gullible hackery of the Standard.

But it might move a few more papers, so that’s all right, then.

Flannelled Fool – Pants Still On Fire

Some parts of the blogosphere, sad to say, are most reluctant to face reality, own up to the error of their ways, or more prosaically to take a hint. Thus it is that we encounter, yet again, the flannelled fool Henry Cole, tame gofer to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, who has not, repeat not, been looking in on Zelo Street, because he says so (cue hollow laughter).

Equally sadly, he says a number of other things too, many of which continue to be defamatory of this blog. Here he talks of those who “follow my every move online”, while not telling that it was by following myevery move online” that he discovered I had called him out for an act of terminal stupidity: having a choice of one station to catch your train, going to the wrong one, then getting hit for £130, is not clever.

But this is a mere warm-up for another excursion through Hypocrisy City yesterday, as the Fawkes blog went after Ken Livingstone. As I pointed out, there is nothing untoward about the former Mayor’s tax arrangements: it would be interesting to see how Staines takes any payments from his own limited company. And it was another example of double standards to drag up Press TV.

The Iranian backed broadcaster is clearly A Very Bad Thing where Livingstone is concerned, but not to be mentioned when the Fawkes blog depends on one of its beneficiaries – Max Keiser – to back its campaign against Trinity Mirror. Anyway, here’s the first version of yesterday’s story, with the clumsily constructed headline and blatantly untrue attribution to Richard Murphy.

Then, but by sheer coincidence, you understand, and almost as soon as I had posted the update that called out the Fawkes blog, an update was made and the headline revised. A line of text was also changed, but the dishonest attribution to Murphy was not removed. In replying to my comment on this miraculous coincidence, Jackie Neylon was upbraided by the preposterous Cole.

Aware that Cole was incapable of acknowledging a remark that was bang out of order, I apologised for him. He then followed “he’s full of shit” with the characteristically pejorative “loony”. Perhaps he believes this petulant campaign will progress his position, and in this he is correct. His problem is that any progress he makes will be in the wrong direction (that would be backwards).

Henry Cole has, so far, attempted maliciously to smear me in front of the BBC and Guardian, told a demonstrable whopper about my relationship with the Huffington Post UK, and has otherwise ventured beyond the pale. He was told what would happen at the time, and this blog will continue to dump on this wretched and inadequate individual as and when I see fit, whether he likes it or not.

And there is nothing that he can do about it. Another fine mess, once again.

Eye Spy Telegraph Shy – Revisited

Last August, I noted that Private Eye had turned its attention to the bear pit that is Maily Telegraph blogland, and that the assertion had been made in the piece that contributors were ranked according to the number of hits their posts garnered each month, with the worst performing put on warning.

How the Eye saw it (Issue 1295)

This did not go down at all well with Damian Thompson, editor of Telegraph blogs, who took issue with, well, the whole article. However, as the Eye would put it, no correspondence was forthcoming from m’Learned Friend, nor from the offices of Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Runne.

The reason for this has just become clear: ranking contributors was exactly what was being done, and Thompson was the one doing it, although the practice has recently been abandoned. We know this because of an uncharacteristic bout of candour from one of those contributors.

Step forward the loathsome Toby Young, who has announced his departure from providing nourishment to those drifting around the comments sewer of Telegraph blogs, as he has taken up the Murdoch shilling, and joined Rupe’s downmarket troops as a pundit for the Super Soaraway Sunday Steamer.

In his valedictory post, Tobes tells of being a Telegraph blogger “The prospect was a little daunting, not helped by the fact that, at the end of each week, Damian would email all the other bloggers with a kind of league table, ranking us according to how many hits our posts had got in the past seven days”.

He goes on to say “I soon learned one of the perennial facts about Telegraph Blogs: no matter how prolific or fascinating you are, you will never be as popular as James Delingpole. He always comes first”, which was what the Eye had said. The difference, of course, is that Tobes omits any judgment on Del Boy.

So perhaps it was someone else who told the EyeHe’s always number one, because he really is batshit mad”. There are, for Toby Young and his now former colleagues, limits to the outpouring of candour.

Sunday 26 February 2012

Del Boy And A Big Question

As some of us had known for a couple of days – don’t ask – Nicky Campbell’s The Big Questions today, which came from Cardiff, included James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole among its guests. Yes, the same BBC that Del Boy routinely derides for not giving a voice to folks like him was, er, giving a voice to folks like him. And he was given a generous amount of airtime to spout his propaganda.

Del Boy sends George Monbiot to sleep

Things did not begin well, though, as Del asserted that the closure of the Murdoch Screws had been because of some kind of concerted campaign by the same BBC, which was in league with the deeply subversive Guardian. Brian Cathcart was on hand to deliver the slapdown, reminding Del Boy that the paper closed because of its own disgraceful behaviour and that the decision was made by its proprietors.

Sadly for those of pragmatic and reasoned disposition, this did not prove a mortal blow, and Delingpole came sneering back towards the end of the programme as the issue of climate change hove into view. In this, Del Boy was ably assisted by UKIP MEP John Bufton, whose website claims that in 1997 he wasSelected as a candidate UK Independence Party in the Westminster”. Deep joy!

Bufton is a fully paid-up member of the denialist tendency, and so he told that renewable energy was a scam, that scientists at the University of East Anglia had fiddled their figures (bodyswerving the enquiries that have since absolved all concerned of any wrongdoing), and that warming temperatures were part of a natural cycle, with human activity playing no part.

The thought that human appetite for mobility and movement of goods over the recent past might be playing a part was not allowed to enter. This softened the audience up – if only a little – for the return of Del Boy, who asserted that, as millions of refugees were not turning up on our doorsteps, climate change was not happening. He sneered again and rambled momentarily about Gaia worship.

Then he got his opening and ranted to some effect about the recent appearance of Richard Lindzen at a meeting at the Commons. Lindzen was hailed as one of the most wonderful scientists ever to walk the earth, though in fact he is a physicist who has held a contrarian view on climate change consistently for more than a decade and a half. This proves merely that he is of dissenting view.

But kudos to Del Boy for battling on and making his points, despite the programme airing on the hated BBC, which means that there was by definition some evil and malign leftist force that stopped him looking even more wonderful, and which he will reveal to the world as soon as he is able to fire off another suitably restrained missive to his bully pulpit at Telegraph blogs.

It won’t explain, though, why the audience wasn’t buying his product. As usual.

Gilligan’s Ken Tax Story Is A Disgrace

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

This morning, Telegraph readers were able to read exclusively about the supposed hypocrisy of rotten leftie Ken Livingstone avoiding paying his taxes. This was just what the campaign of occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson wanted, and was eagerly trailed by his deeply unpleasant campaign manager Lynton Crosby, though dear Lynt needed two goes to get the link advertised.

Lynt forgot the link again ...

But there is one problem with the story: it’s complete crap, but then, readers should know that anything bearing the by-line of Andrew Gilligan should be treated with utmost suspicion. The Telegraph’sLondon Editor” has taken publicly available records from Livingstone’s limited company and phoned up the Labour challenger in a cheap piece of gotcha hackery, then invented an “avoidance” figure of £50,000.

... but got it second time. Plus a forthright comment

Moreover, he doesn’t understand – or doesn’t tell the readers – how directors of limited companies take payments from them, and the taxation regime to which they are subject. And he misses completely the National Insurance payments, which are the sole advantage of taking payment via a dividend, as Livingstone and his wife may have done.

Employees of a company working through PAYE will pay Income Tax – after deduction of allowances – at 20% for the first £37,400, then 40% up to £150,000, and 50% above that. They will also pay Employee’s National Insurance contributions, and the employer will pay an Employer’s contribution. Directors of limited companies can, though, make some payments as dividends.

These, though, are subject to Corporation Tax, which is typically 20% for companies eligible for Small Profits Rate. That makes it the same as basic rate Income Tax. The difference, which has evaded Gilligan – perhaps there was another of those transcription errors – is that no National Insurance contributions need to be made on these payments. That was where IR35 came from.

And if the director’s total income strays into the 40% tax band, they still have to pay it, whether the payment is made as salary or dividend. So Livingstone and his wife are not avoiding the 40% rate if they take payments as dividends, as Gilligan infers, though they will avoid National Insurance contributions by doing so. There is nothing underhand about that – anyone working that way can do it.

No evidence of the former Mayor avoiding paying Income Tax at 40% is provided, as Gilligan has none. He has nothing to back his suggestion that Livingstone is not “paying [his] full share”. And if funds are left in the limited company, they can still attract Corporation Tax. The taxman gets you one way or the other.

Gilligan’s piece is typically shoddy, misinformed and slanted. One would expect no less from a blinkered tribalist. And it’s a disgrace to journalism – again.

[UPDATE1 1830 hours: this story has been creatively re-told by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his tame gofer, the flannelled fool Henry Cole, at the Guido Fawkes blog. Under the clumsily constructed title "Ken's Tax Hypocrisy Avoids Himself £1,000-a-week In Tax" (and don't bother trying to cover up with a sneaky edit, lads, I took a screenshot), they attempt to pull a whopper of Olympian proportions.

The post tells that "left-wing accountant Richard Murphy, who usually writes for the Guardian (boo! Rotten lefties!! They killed nice Mr Murdoch's newspaper!!!), reckons that ... Livingstone has saved himself some £50,000 in one year alone". Murphy made no such "reckoning". The only mention of the £50,000 figure came in the headline, and it was not supported by any of the following text.

In fact, neither Murphy nor Richard Mannion, the other accountant quoted by Gilligan, cite any figures at all. So that's treble burning trousers all round at the Fawkes blog, then. Another fine mess]

[UPDATE2 27 February 1030 hours: Get your diaries out - Tim Worstall of the Adam Smith Institute agrees with me! Mr W points out that Ken Livingstone is running a business with several income streams - as opposed to being the equivalent of an employer - and so being taxed as a business should not be seen as unusual.

And, echoing what I pointed out, he confirms "It's National Insurance that provides the savings". Livingstone is doing what any other self-employed person would, not that this thought is allowed to enter when those doing the finger-pointing are trying to smear the Labour challenger because they are cheering for Bozza. No change there, then]

Saturday 25 February 2012

Get Ebdon

As they claim credit for the fall of one Government “czar”, the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre has decided to renew its assault on another: Emma Harrison, whose lifestyle was not in accordance with the dictates of the Vagina Monologue, has stepped down to general rejoicing in the Mail newsroom, with the assault now being turned on Les Ebdon.

Who he? Well, Ebdon, who was awarded the CBE in the 2009 New Year’s honours list, has been working in higher education for over 40 years. He is at present Vice Chancellor of Bedfordshire University. And that might have been the extent of public knowledge, but for his appointment by Business Secretary Vince Cable as Director of the Office of Fair Access, the university fair access regulator.

This was despite the Parliamentary Committee overseeing the appointment recommending he not be given the job. I make no comment on this, other than to observe the educational record of a majority of that committee: Adrian Bailey (chairman) (Cheltenham GS and University of Exeter), Margot James (Millfield School and LSE), Nadhim Zahawi (King’s College School and UCL), Simon Kirby (Hastings GS and LSE), David Ward (Boston GS and University of Bradford), and Katy Clark (Kyle Academy and University of Aberdeen).

So adverse comment was inevitable from the sniffier end of the Fourth Estate, not least at the Maily Telegraph, where Charles Moore (Eton and Trinity College Cambridge) dubbed Ebdon “this epitome of educational mediocrity”.

But it was the Mail that went into this particular tackle with both feet, telling readers thatVince Cable’s attempt to give a key universities post to an academic who champions ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees will today be humiliatingly rejected by Parliament”. Ebdon was given the job anyway, so pundit Hywel Williams was sent after him: “were Professor Leslie (‘Les’) Ebdon of Bedfordshire University to have his way our finest universities would slide their way irreversibly down the international league tables”.

Also going over the top in support was Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips (Putney High School and St Anne’s College, Oxford), with “Professor Ebdon is a fully signed-up member of the ‘education as social engineering’ school that has brought British education to its knees” and the magnificent “Orwellian persecution of excellence”.

But that didn’t work either, so veteran hack Chris Moncrieff was ordered into action, talking of “The Prime Minister’s abject surrender ... over the appointment of the deeply unpopular Les Ebdon”, which also had no effect. So today the effort has continued, with “The man who wants to dumb down Britain”. I suspect Les Ebdon is made of sterner stuff than to bend to Paul Dacre’s will. So there’ll be more to come.

Murdoch Is Served (67)

While Rupe’s downmarket troops prepare for the launch of the Sunday Sun, the news from the USA is not so good: following the suspicion of illegality about the story run by the Screws over Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s marriage breakdown, and the suggestion that Jude Law had his phone accessed on US soil, comes news of another potential victim, this time from the West Coast.

Deadline Hollywood has revealed that the Met has advised Hollywood music agent Julie Colbert that her phone may have been hacked. Ms Colbert may not have been of interest to Rupe’s troops, but one of her clients – singer Charlotte Church, who has just settled out of court for a sum rumoured to be not unadjacent to £500,000 – certainly was.

Ms Church had stayed at the Colbert house for some months as a means of putting some distance between herself and the pack of hacks and snappers that had been in constant pursuit back in the UK. Ms Colbert had travelled extensively between Los Angeles and London, so it’s possible that her phone was hacked in the UK. But Mulcaire’s notes apparently contain several US numbers.

These include Ms Church’s publicist Kevin Chiaramonte, who works out of New York, and that of Ms Colbert. As Bloomberg has diplomatically put it, “The presence of the U.S. phone numbers in Mulcaire’s notes also may complicate the company’s effort there to contain lawsuits”. As the latter report also notes, News Corp was not rushing to return calls on the subject.

These potentially new developments come on the back of the further revelation that the Murdoch empire could be hit with a case under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) which prohibits overseas corruption by US companies. In addition to that, there is the potential for the Pitt and Aniston case to be the result of a wiretap. And the UK actions keep on coming.

Cherie Booth QC is one of the latest to join the queue of these, with the next milestone coming next Monday before Mr Justice Vos at the high court. What will also be decided is the extent to which court papers will be made available to the deeply subversive Guardian, despite protestations from Mulcaire and his team, who have joined Sun hacks in invoking human rights law.

So it looks like there will be precious little for the Murdochs to cheer as the Super Soaraway Sunday Steamer launches tomorrow. There are still around 800 victims of phone hacking to go, the weekday Sun is in the mire for allegedly bunging the rozzers more than a few drinks, and the lid may be about to be prised off a new can of worms in the USA.

It couldn’t happen to a nicer family. Bring it on.

Friday 24 February 2012

Guido Fawked – Drunken Hypocrisy

Without so much as a hint of irony, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his tame gofer, the flannelled fool Henry Cole, the Laurel and Hardy of the blogosphere, have used the Guido Fawkes blog to recount recent events in the Strangers’ Bar at the House of Commons, where Labour MP Eric Joyce, who represents Falkirk, has had more than a little local difficulty.

Any subsidised bars in there?

Joyce was involved in an alleged assault in the bar on Wednesday night, arrested, and promptly suspended by the personal order of Mil The Younger within twelve hours (compare and contrast Young Dave’s jolly decisive actions against Aidan Burley, still with the Tory whip over 80 days after he was caught partaking in a Nazi themed stag night in France).

The reportage has homed in on the supposedly cheap booze available within the Palace of Westminster and the associated drinking culture, although as I pointed out earlier this week, this is a London wide problem. It’s just that when MPs get themselves Elephants Trunk and Mozart, there is more likelihood of an equally overtired hack being in the vicinity.

But, given that the Fawkes blog considers goings-on at Westminster its speciality du jour, Staines and Cole had to have an angle: first came the rumours (suggesting Joyce had had a swing at the desk sergeant), then what was claimed to be an email from someone at the Beeb, confirming that Tory MP Stuart Andrew, who represents Pudsey, had been headbutted by Joyce.

By this point, those with a moderately sound recall of recent history will have noticed an overload coming from their bullshit and hypocrisy detectors: Staines is in no position to call anyone out for being the worse for wear, being the proud owner of a criminal record that includes two drinking and driving bans – the second for three years – and two drunk and disorderly offences.

By his own admission, when pulled over by the Met’s finest while failing to negotiate a straight, Staines had been on the sauce all evening. It was only a chance reshuffle of the arrangements at Tower Bridge Magistrates’ Court that kept him away from a judge who, it was reckoned, would have sent him to jail and seized his wife’s VW Golf. But there is one redeeming feature here.

And that it that Staines and his gofer have reportedly gone on the wagon for Lent, which began this week with Ash Wednesday. Whether the less than dynamic duo can remain in a state of abstinence for forty days and forty nights is doubtful, but then, as those cost conscious employers at Tesco might have put it, every little helps.

Another fine mess, once again.

Gilligan Gets More Real About Buses

Still cheering for his beloved Bozza, Maily TelegraphLondon Editor” Andrew Gilligan is talking up the introduction of the so-called “New Bus For London” next Monday, although realisation is starting to dawn that this is not quite the magic transportation bullet that he might have hoped for. And Londoners will have little difficulty seeing through the spin.

What you will not see on the 38

From Monday, for the first time in years on a proper route, Londoners can hop on a bus againhe gurgles enthusiastically, having forgotten the 9 and 15 where punters can still travel on a genuine Routemaster. But he’s been for a ride on the new bus, and it’s “great”, it has an “electric hum”, the ride is “smooth”, it has a “classic dark-red interior”, and it has a conductor.

And there the realisation dawns on Gilligan that things are not quite as wonderful as he has been claiming: the second crew member is not a conductor as we would remember from days gone by. These people will not collect fares, or even ensure Oyster users touch in. That’s what makes them cheaper to employ. So, as I’ve said before, there will still be fare evasion.

But Gilligan puts this shortcoming – along with the lack of said conductor after 1900 hours – down to Transport for London (TfL) and its “sneaky bureaucracy”. Yes, if only brave Bozza would sort them out, everything would be yet more wonderful and the BozzaMaster would no longer be little more than an expensive vanity project that council tax payers could do without (like the ftr in York).

What Gilligan appears not to get is that it is Bozza that got TfL where they are right now, with a few non-standard vanity buses (over £11 million for just eight of them) and a bill for running them that will be higher than for bendy buses, double deckers, hybrids, fuel cell buses, or indeed any other kind of modern bus. Bozza is not the solution – he’s the problem.

And if anyone is in any doubt about the “New Bus For London” being in the same league as the Routemaster, consider a few of those inconvenient facts:

Weight: Routemaster 7.47 tonnes, New Bus 11.8 tonnes

Seats: Routemaster 64 or 72, New Bus 62

Production run: Routemaster 2,800+, New Bus (most optimistic estimate) 500

Weight per seat in kg: Routemaster 117, New Bus 184 (assuming original short Routemaster, and adding two seats for the wheelchair access on the New Bus).

But Gilligan says that the BozzaMaster is “thrillingly evocative of an age when form and function mattered in the public sector”, so that’s all right, then.

Dick And A Begging Bowl

Sometimes you have to endure rather too much of Richard Littlejohn’s tedious and unfunny blethering in order to get to the nub of his argument, and so today’s hot and steaming offering has proved. Dick, whining that “The rich aren’t all merchant bankers” (and generating unintentional hilarity in so doing), is once again banging on about the SWP and “scruffy layabouts”. The reason? Basic self-interest.

Fifty pee in the pahnd, Guv? Daylight robbery, innit?

Taking a recent speech by Young Dave as his cue, Dicky Windbag accuses politicians of going after the well-off, and warns that this has got out of hand. Cameron’s expertly crafted PR guff, designed to soothe a business audience by telling them what they want to hear, is quoted at length and as if every word is universally true, rather than the PM doing a bit of strawman creation.

Most folks outside the meeting where Young Dave delivered that speech wouldn’t know what the heck he was going on about: many will have forthright views on bankers and their bonuses, but the idea that there is some kind of movement against business is total crap. But Littlejohn, secure behind the gates of his Florida compound, isn’t interested in reality.

This is underscored by his clumsy attempt to paint Labour and the Lib Dems as two pantomime dames, the former asserted to have a “contempt for the wealthy” and the latter who “seem to see private industry as a branch of the social services”, a magnificently meaningless statement. But slowly and eventually Dick gets to the point, and this time it’s personal.

Yes, it’s about him keeping hold of more of his money. Facts do not enter, and thus the 50p tax rate of Income Tax is “Brown’s vindictive and unproductive” one (it was brought in by Alistair Darling two years after Pa Broon left the Treasury). And Dick doesn’t like the suggestion of a “mansion tax”: “Not everyone who lives in a £2 million-plus house is a multi-millionaire banker, Arab billionaire or Russian oligarch”.

Indeed not – there are also that endangered species of multi-millionaire editors and hacks to consider, like, er, Dick and the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre. But this is serious – they might have to sack the gardener or cleaner! Littlejohn’s plea is in the same vein as that of J-P Floru, who made his pitch some weeks ago via the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA). And it’s equally vacuous.

Moreover, so is Dick’s lame attack on local Government, which would put the Mail to shame in any demonstration of laying an audit trail so spending can be tracked and accounted for. All today’s Dicky Windbag column is about is special pleading for overmonied hacks like Himself Personally Now.

Dick, you’re a dick. You’ve done very nicely for yourself on the basis of next to zero talent. Stop whingeing at having to pay your taxes when you’re rolling in it.

Thursday 23 February 2012

Syria – A Most Unwise Move

Indiscriminately shelling your own population might be A Very Bad Thing, but in many parts of the world it does not in itself get the “International Community” to sit up and take notice. But when your armed forces target and kill journalists and photographers from the USA and France, one of whom represented a British newspaper, notice is indeed taken.

So it has been with the killing by the Syrian army of journalist Marie Colvin, US citizen and reporter for the Sunday Times, and French snapper Remi Ochlik. Ms Colvin was a veteran war reporter, who had lost the sight of an eye during her time in Sri Lanka covering the recent civil war, and it seems she and Ochlik were deliberately targeted by forces increasingly out of control, and losing their discipline.

Reaction has been swift: Nicolas Sarkozy correctly identified the act as “assassination” and made the forthright statement that “this regime must go”. William ‘Ague was similarly unimpressed: the Syrian ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office for a diplomatically worded but forthright bollocking. Words like “horrified” and “unacceptable” are used sparingly in such circles.

What makes the situation in cities like Homs even less predictable is that Bashar al-Assad and his Government may not be in total control of the military: already there have been defections, and opposition troops appear to be in control of more and more of the countryside. If Assad is behind the continued bombardment, he is in line to be charged with crimes against humanity.

But one thing has to be borne in mind when calls come to arm the rebels, or arm them with rather more than a few Kalashnikovs, and that is the interest of Russia in the country. Nobody wants to see the conflict suck in any more armies than those already on the ground – if at all possible – and keeping the Russians (and Chinese) on side must be A Good Thing for the future.

So now that the “International Community” has sat up and taken notice, what can it do, short of some kind of intervention? The ideal solution would be to work in consort with the Russians, to whom Assad will listen, whether he likes it or not, to get a ceasefire. If that can’t be achieved, then perhaps the Russians will see that something like a no-fly zone (as in Libya) is in their interests as well as ours.

Either way, Assad should, as I’ve said previously, get ready to leave and figure out somewhere that will allow him to take asylum. After directing so much brutality against his own people, he can’t expect them to treat him with any more deference than that shown to Muammar Gaddafi. He must go, and it would be better for all concerned if he went right now.

Because, out in the wider world, patience with Bashar al-Assad is wearing thin.

TPA – Stoke That Phoney Fire

In an attempt to justify their seven figure budget, the dubiously talented array of non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) has hit on the idea of awards for those in and around Government who either conform to their ideal, or deviate from it. In the latter category has fallen Stoke on Trent Council, and the TPA, true to form, has personalised their campaign against one councillor there.

The TPA citation bears some scrutiny, as it shows the way in which this Astroturf lobby group manipulates information, misinforms, and is on occasion routinely dishonest. The latter category is exemplified by the assertion that the HMRC “recommended” mileage rate for own car use is 40p a mile. The rate is not a “recommended” rate, but what is allowed. And it’s 45p, not 40p.

We then get the “CEO Remuneration” figure, inflated by every additional cost – such as expenses – that the TPA can find. This is also dishonest: the group loves to compare these with the salary of (for instance) the Prime Minister, but that means the comparison is not like with like. The PM’s “remuneration package” works out at over half a million Pounds per annum.

Councillors’ allowances come next, along with the appearance of seven of their number on the pension scheme. The TPA does not give any background or circumstances. But it does find space for workplace Trade Union representatives, while managing not to tell what they actually do. Then Stoke is compared with the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.

Yes, seriously, the TPA is comparing less than wealthy Stoke with one of the most affluent areas of the country. And it gets better as non-job holder Jonathan Isaby (late of ConservativeHome, not that the TPA is partisan, of course) froths that Stoke’s Council Tax has increased by 51% in the last decade. Very good, Jonathan. Now look at increases in transport, food and energy costs.

But Isaby is off and running: he asserts that the rise is “without the equivalent improvement in quantity or quality of services”. Got an example of that? No, thought not. This is the usual TPA fayre, with figures sourced from their Freedom of Information (FoI) fishing expeditions, and no engagement whatever with the bodies they seek to demonise.

And there’s one figure missing from the TPA analysis: Isaby tells that the Government “found the funding to allow for a freeze in Council Tax”, but doesn’t say that not only do taxpayers have to stump up for it in any case – it’s not magic money, Jonathan – but also that this would still have meant a rise of 2.5% (as opposed to 3.49%), with a bigger rise next year.

You can always rely on the TPA for deception so obvious it picks itself apart.

Protesting Too Much

Not getting much attention from mainstream media outlets – no doubt because of that great global conspiracy ranged against them – is a storm of faux outrage coming out of the climate change denial lobby over the obtaining of otherwise confidential documents from the Heartland Institute, yet another of those Astroturf lobby groups that seeks to muddy the waters around climate science.

The story is straightforward: the documents, revealing who buys into Heartland, and who in turn is bought by Heartland, were obtained by one Peter Gleick, a scientist heading the Pacific Institute. He then owned up to an act of deception – pretending to be someone else – and the storm duly kicked off. Those kicking off in the most vigorous style are all firmly in the denial camp.

Mainstream scientists have distanced themselves from Gleick’s deception, but at the same time, bodies such as Greenpeace are running with the information he obtained, with at least one federal employee appearing compromised by accepting a monthly stipend from Heartland, a body that has in the past taken money from Big Tobacco to question the risks of passive smoking.

This may explain the vehemence and sheer nastiness of the reaction from the denial lobby: Heartland have put out their statement via Anthony Watts’ site (no surprise, as they have recently paid him $90,000), and some of the comments are a wonder to behold. This should surprise no-one, given the standard of some of the contributions to Watts’ site, as I noted some time ago.

Meanwhile, the Mail has allowed Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips to pen a shrieking tirade on the affair. Mel talks of the “climate change swindle”, describes Anthony Watts’ site – paid for partly by Heartland money – as “invaluable”, and rails against “warmist stooges”. She takes as data an assertion from Heartland that a document cited by Gleick is a forgery.

And that’s not all: in an outburst the Mail may come to regret publishing, Mel tells of “the scientific doctrine at the heart of AGW theory: ‘Make up the evidence to fit the dogma’ and its closely associated moral principle, ‘There is only one truth and that is AGW; all who say otherwise are liars, whose destruction by any means is the highest moral act, amen’”. This is followed by reference to “warmist propaganda”.

Mel’s rant is echoed by James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, a previous attendee of Heartland events, who sneeringly (that being the Del Boy default mode) compares Gleick to Johann Hari, plays the victim in continuing proof of Olbermann’s dictum, and like Mel protests just a little bit too much. It’s clearly OK to anonymously hack emails, but not to get Heartland to spit out factual information.

There will be more to come on this. And Mel and Del might not emerge unscathed.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

The Super Soaraway Seven Day Steamer

[Update at end of post]

When Rupe flew in to Luton last week – private jet rather than EasyJet – his downmarket troops at Wapping were rumoured to be of mutinous mind, following all the recent arrests. But Murdoch didn’t get where he is today without being able to steady the ship by pulling rabbits out of the hat at the right time, and so it proved once again as he announced the Sun On Sunday.

Thus the happiest of coincidences: the shamed Screws has closed down, and so there is no problem of integrating that title’s staff into a seven day operation – think of all the ructions at the Guardian as the Observer has gradually morphed into a Sunday version of its weekday stablemate – and economies of scale can be implemented without further pain.

Moreover, just to show that it’s one operation, weekday editor Dominic Mohan will be responsible for the Sunday edition as well. So there, Richard Desmond, anything you can do cheaply, Rupe can do better. And he’ll shift more copies than you. I mean, look at the “exclusive” (ho ho ho) from the Sun, heralding a “momentous new dawn” (surely “pay day for News International”? – Ed).

Spot the real Sun front page. Is it this one ...

Martin Phillips’ article even carries a number of Sun front pages, but for some reason they do not include the one about Fat Reg From Pinner (and no rent boys), or the Hillsborough one. And the GOTCHA one is missing, but never mind – here’s a copy. Anyhow, it was “our moment” according to CEO Tom Mockridge, and Mohan called it an “historic moment”. So who’s on board?

... oh hang on a minute, it could be this one

Former Man United and Republic of Ireland player Roy Keane is one notable capture, but whether his is the “big money signing” advertised is not otherwise confirmed. And political pundit will be none other than the loathsome Toby Young, famous for promoting the so-called “Rally Against Debt” as a must-attend event, then managing to miss it.

And the exclusives kept on coming today: there’s going to be a magazine given away with the new paper! Wow, who’d have thought it for a Sunday? Nothing gets past Rupe and his troops. The new mag will be called Fabulous. Not absolutely, then. But there are more gushing comments from readers. And yet another photo of Kim Sodding Kardashian.

So how is all this different from the Screws, apart from the name? Well, not very much: the only changes are that it will cost Rupe and his troops a lot less to produce. The new title will doubtless take back market share – right now I wouldn’t want to be explaining to Dirty Des why the Daily Star Sunday’s sales are going off the cliff edge – and make the whole British operation more saleable if the Murdochs lose interest.

Win-Win for the Dirty Digger. It was ever thus.

[UPDATE 24 February 1730 hours: Rupe's downmarket troops are now pushing the Sunday edition with a bargain price tag of 50p - with the Saturday one at the same price. That won't hurt Murdoch at all - he's got deep enough pockets.

Readers are being tempted by a further mystery guest pundit, "style guru" Nancy dell'Olio (er, yes, le's move right along, shall we?), Jeremy Clarkson (ditto) and Terry Venables (Bingo!). That's a well dodgy line-up.

And there'll be Lorraine Kelly and Alex James. I can hardly wait ... to not bother going near the news stand. But enough punters will buy - each to their own]

Fire Up The Spin Machine

[Update at end of post]

Recently I noted the appearance on Twitter of antipodean spinmeister Lynton Crosby, and then yesterday came news that the Tory campaign to get Bozza re-elected Mayor of London was paying its volunteers nothing – not even travel or expenses – as well as sponging off the taxpayer for its advertising. Crosby has, though, not been deterred, neither by his clumsiness, nor Bozza’s.

And he isn’t the only one spinning for the occasional Mayor: the Maily Telegraph’sLondon Editor” Andrew Gilligan has dutifully chipped in another propaganda piece, this one doing the damage limitation following his man’s less than stellar performance at yesterday’s Age UK hustings, where Ken Livingstone had it all to do with an audience that should have favoured his main opponent.

Opinion polls, after all, have Bozza well ahead with the over-60s. But even Gilligan conceded that Ken had come out on top. Over at the deeply subversive Guardian, Dave Hill reckoned Bozza had been given a “spanking”. So Gilligan had to spin this, which he duly did: these events didn’t really matter. Those who attended “don’t have much in common with ordinary voters” as they’re “activists”.

Yeah, right. But he does touch on one problem for Bozza, that “some of his lines felt like they’d been written by other people” and were “standard political attack lines, not quite his voice”. Nothing gets past our Andy. That’s because Bozza is being briefed by Crosby, and what Lynt is cramming into the occasional Mayor is the usual dog-whistle stuff, some of which, to judge from Twitter, verges on the dishonest.

Lynt began his spinning by talking up Bozza’s pronouncement on the Freedom Pass (pity he called the host organisation “Aged UK”), but then came the dog whistle: “Imagine Ken losing millions like he wasted at LDA”. As I said before, that’s potentially very risky, given Bozza’s millions sprayed up the wall on BozzaMasters, cable cars and support for that cycle scheme.

Things don’t improve as Lynt spins on “affordable housing”. Bozza isn’t anywhere near 50,000 homes yet – it was a promise, and no more – while Ken managed around 37,500 and 50,000 respectively in his two terms (h/t Londonist).

Then come Police numbers, where Crosby gets himself in an awful muddle. Intending to claim an increase in 1,000 for Bozza, he first tells “up 1,000 under Ken”, before correcting himself. Bit of a Freudian slip – the increase came in Bozza’s first year and was down to Ken’s last budget (h/t Full Fact).

All in all, Crosby and Gilligan are the kind of “double act from hell” that Bozza could do without. But they’re probably convinced that they’re right. In any case, Ken Livingstone will be rather pleased with himself right now.

[UPDATE 23 February 1300 hours: ConservativeHome is repeating the claim of 1,000 extra Police officers in its Local Government blog, in a post not credited but under the editorship of the appropriately named Harry Phibbs, another of those Hammersmith and Fulham councillors.

Phibbs does not mention that the big rise in Police numbers (see above) came in Bozza's first year and was down to Ken's last budget. No surprise there]