Yesterday, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, who styles himself Guido Fawkes, crowed long and loud as he announced that he had been right all along: there had been a second email system at 10 Downing Street. He knew this because of former insider Damian McBride, who has been reminiscing about the day Pa Broon moved from the Treasury to the Top Job.
It was McBride! Er, what was the question?
Sadly, though, a little examination of Staines’ claims shows that, at best, his claim, made while Tone was still PM, are wild exaggeration, and at worst are no less dishonest than all those politicians and their hangers-on that he so reviles. Because there never was a “second email system”: all that McBride revealed was that, apart from the internal Government network, there was one stand alone machine.
Is this enough to be called a smoking gun? Well, no it isn’t: the idea that this proves the Staines accusations is bunk. If the one machine wasn’t connected to the Government network, and there was no series of shadow email accounts, then he’s just guessing, and not for the first time. Nor does the stand alone machine prove that Tone’s official spokesman had misled reporters.
The key word is “system”. One isolated machine doesn’t prove there was another system. And had it not been there, anyone wanting to send something from a private email account would only have had to nip out with their laptop to the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot, or at a pinch visit an Internet Cafe. Having a stand alone machine to allow this is not unknown in large organisations.
Instead of taking this thought on board, Staines proclaimed at the time “Emails will be to the Blairgate cover-up, what tapes were to the Watergate cover-up”. So we’re five and a half years down the road from his claim, and where are the arraignments? From revelation of the Watergate break-in to Tricky Dicky being persuaded to leave the White House took less than two.
Not even the protestation that the Labour Party’s own network could be accessed – and from a machine not on the Downing Street network, and no doubt firewalled off from it, that would not be a surprise – proves Staines’ case. Now, if he could provide prima facie evidence that public funds had been used to purchase a machine being used primarily for Labour Party purposes, he might have a point.
He won’t be doing this, of course, not least because the stand alone machine is probably still there, and it’s his preferred team in residence. He could also pass his supposed proof to the Police, but they’ll only laugh at him. But some who read the Fawkes blog will believe it, and thus the image of The Great Guido as fearless defender of truth and scourge of wrongdoing is perpetuated.
Meanwhile, the real world moves on. Another fine mess, once again.