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Thursday 31 January 2013

Delingpole Scrapes The Misogyny Barrel

[Update at end of post]

One hates to waste too much time on the unhinged “libertarianism” of James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, but today he has excelled himself – and brought down the wrath of Maily Telegraph editor Tony Gallagher into the bargain – after a non-accidental excursion onto Twitter in support of his bosom buddy, the loathsome Toby Young, earlier today.

Once again not fair or balanced

Tobes had been carping about the deeply subversive Guardian – no change there, of course – and a Comment Is Free piece by Suzanne Moore, which had taken aim squarely at Michael “Oiky” Gove. “Oiky” is Tobes’ pal, because he let Tobes and his pals open the West London Free School, which is a Very Wonderful Place and better than other schools, though you’ll have to take that on trust for now.

So the Moore article was made the result of a sneering fisk, possibly because Tobes got himself sacked from his berth among Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Sunday Sun recently and has had to return to the humdrum bear pit that is Telegraph blogs, has rather a lot of time on his hands, and as he can’t possibly blame the Murdoch empire, who are pals with “Oiky”, has to kick someone, so the Guardian it is.

Del Boy was plainly ecstatic at his pal’s action, and Tweeted “@toadmeister gives Suzanne Moore such a seeing-to she’ll be walking bow-legged for months”. But almost immediately after Ms Moore challenged Gallagher as to whether he approved came a grovelling climbdown: “I’m sorry, Suzanne, my Tweet was over the top. I’ve used it with ref to men before, but I realise with women it’s wrong”.

It is, let’s be direct about this, wrong period, whoever is the target of such gratuitous unpleasantness. Moreover, it was not an accident: Delingpole had plenty of time to think about what was in that Tweet as he was composing it. And he did himself no favours when, after several Twitter users had passed severely adverse comment on his actions, he showed a distinctly unapologetic streak to one of them.

Excuse me Ms Eumenides I’ve taken it down and apologised. What more do you want? My bollocks on a platter? Bog off!” he retorted petulantly. Well, his editor might not be answering that one in the way Del Boy might have hoped: Tony Gallagher replied to Suzanne Moore’s challenge “An appalling comment. He is right to have deleted and apologised profusely”.

Problem is, it wasn’t an exactly profuse apology. And Ms Moore is, as those of diplomatic tone might have put it, considering her position as regards any further action she might take. In the meantime, James Delingpole has to hope that when he makes his first appearance on BBC Question Time this evening, news of his less than savoury behaviour has not preceded him north to Lancaster.

That is, of course, in addition to his vicious attack on the disabled earlier. Oh dear.

[UPDATE 5 February 1820 hours: although he did not reveal the fact until Ms Moore had Tweeted about it, it appears that Del Boy has now sent her what she describes as "a heartfelt letter of apology". This is clearly more dignified than his previous scenario of "my bollocks on a platter", and has the added advantage that Ms Moore has accepted it.
Maybe Del enjoyed his appearance on Question Time - he has already decided to revise his earlier assertion that the programme's audiences were selected by raiding the local Labour Party and Trades Union branches to bulk them out - and in that case he will have rightly concluded that indulging in persistent misogyny would not do his chance of a repeat appearance any good. Or perhaps he has also decided to engage brain before Tweeting]

Gilligan Speaks With Forked Tongue

When Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan was offered his two day a week, £38,000 a year, taxpayer funded sinecure by London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, he was unequivocal about his future conduct: “I will no longer be called London Editor or cover any matter related to City Hall or Boris Johnson” he told readers at Telegraph blogs.

Cripes chaps, er, he's doing it in his spare time ... haven't read it ... fingers in ears and all that ... got a luncheon to attend ... oo-er! Crikey!

So, as Bozza’s cycling “czar” gets his feet under his new publicly funded desk, in the interests of openness and transparency, Zelo Street has decided to see just how Gilligan’s promise is stacking up. And the news is that it is not stacking up at all well, because not only is he continuing his London scribbling, but he is also keeping up his attack on local Government in the capital.

More specifically, Gilligan is keeping up his longstanding and highly personal campaign against Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman, an exercise that will do his new boss no disfavours at all. Keeping the heat off Bozza and doing a bit of Muslim bashing on the side is just the kind of thing Johnson would not condone, but he’ll not be warning his cycling “czar” off doing it, either.

And Gilligan has not just slipped the odd mention into an article: he has dedicated three long and tedious posts to attacking Rahman, starting with an attack on Tower Hamlets’ assistant chief executive Isabella Freeman, whom he describes as “Lutfur Rahman’s little helper” and part of the Mayor’s “dreadful crew”. But exactly what she has done wrong is hard to see among all the Gilligan verbiage.

When not attacking Rahman and those around him directly, Gilligan takes aim at those rotten Muslims, and especially the East London Mosque, which he asserts “continues to laugh up its sleeve at us” and is run by an “Islamic supremacist group”. And there can be no mention of the Mosque without connecting it to Rahman, because someone at the council went there once.

Then, in a most fortunate coincidence, Gilligan got to kick Rahman and the deeply subversive Guardian at the same time, so out came the roll-call of supposed wrongdoing. This includes allegations of voter fraud that have never been stood up, whining about selling council owned pubs (would have been OK if Bozza had been doing it), and that some staff occasionally get a day off work.

Gilligan also trumpets his success in getting the now discredited Press Complaints Commission (PCC) to side with him, but then, the PCC said it was OK for Richard Littlejohn to tell whoppers, as his columns – like Gilligan’s posts – are deemed to be opinion pieces. But what he has not done is to totally detach himself from Council goings-on in London, and his attacks can only benefit his new boss.

So when is he going to genuinely call a halt, if ever? Don’t hold your breath.

Delingpole Bullies The Disabled

As I noted recently, James “saviour of Western civilisation” has decided that it would be a top hole idea to taunt disabled people, for no other reason than to provide him with a little sport. He was particularly keen to sneer at anyone whose Twitter avatar bore the #spartacusreport hashtag, snorting that “They’re angry about being enslaved by the injustice of free taxpayers’ money”.

Definitely not fair and balanced

This, however, was no one-off, but the opening salvo in an increasingly unpleasant assault by Del Boy on some of the most vulnerable in society. The ground for the next stage of the Delingpole campaign was laid last Friday on his wonderfully funnily titled personal blog bogpaper.com where he talked of “The dangerous disability rights mob”, using a technique he favours in attacking others.

This is to accuse the target of whatever it is that he is about to do, a classic tactic of the cyberbully. So he accuses disabled people – not just vulnerable, but often at greater danger because of their handicap – of themselves being dangerous. But this was a mere taster, as he used the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs later to ratchet up the accusations, along with painting his target into a political corner.

It’s time we stood up to the vicious bullies of the ‘caring’ liberal Left” he proclaimed, thus announcing that he was about to engage in an act of vicious bullying against anyone who claimed to be of a caring disposition, and for good measure asserting that they were all rotten lefties anyway. Not for nothing is Del popular with the folks at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).

For starters, Del’s target group is not representative: “I doubt they speak for the majority in Britain; I doubt they even speak for the majority of the disabled, most of whom I'm sure are properly appalled that money which could go to the genuinely needy is instead being hijacked by scroungers and fakes ... a handful of zealots who are not remotely representative of the broader public interest”.

This tactic is so old and discredited that it’s surprising to see anyone still trying it on: someone self-appointed and who ran away from putting himself before the electorate pretending that a group he doesn’t like doesn’t represent his mythical, and entirely reasonable and compliant, majority. Anyone who dissents is part of “the various fascistic activist thugs on Twitter hell bent on expanding the state”.

The Third Reich parallel does not end there: “vicious, embittered, self-righteous disability rights activists ... fascist bullies who would steal our livelihoods”. Projection and paranoia working in worrying and bizarre harmony, but this does not excuse an assault on those who are doing no more than trying their best to get a hearing and defend themselves.  Delingpole ought to stop and think for once.

Because this time it’s not funny, and he’s bang out of order.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

The Nazis – A Lesson From History

It was 80 years ago today: German President Paul von Hindenburg, to many of his countrymen a war hero, but probably too long in office, swore in Adolf Hitler as Reichskanzler with the intention that the Nazi leader would assemble a right-leaning coalition Government. Business leaders were generally in favour of this move. Some believed that they had “hired” Hitler.

Many tolerated the brownshirts, the blackshirts, the militarism, the screaming oratory and yes, even the routine anti-Semitism, as unemployment was dramatically reduced and the great inflation did not return. Even the war brought benefits: when Hitler returned to Berlin after securing the French surrender, in the same railway carriage the Germans were forced to board in 1918, he was genuinely popular.

Sadly for most ordinary Germans, the Nazis’ hold on the levers of power was by this point irreversible, and when Hitler’s lust for yet more conquest led to a supremely inadvisable invasion of the USSR, followed by a yet less advisable declaration of war on the USA, they were stuck with a leader who was rapidly losing touch with the real world. Thus the beginning of the lessons from history.

Some pundits, though, have difficulty grasping this idea, and the appallingly pompous Simon “Enoch was right” Heffer is one of them. In the world of the Hefferlump, the far right is resurgent because of the EU. Europe, to him, is “a continent in chaos”. That there is no Communist threat, none of the fantasist “Jewish conspiracy” rubbish, and none of the militarism does not count.

Heffer then tries to tie the ramblings of “Duce” Berlusconi – talking up Mussolini – as trimming towards what he calls the “Hitler effect”. But the situation in Italy was very different, as the dictatorship was far longer established. Francisco Franco also briefly befriended Hitler, but Falangist Spain was nothing like the Third Reich. No, Heffer misses the point entirely by trying to play to the Europhobe gallery.

The lesson that we should instead be learning is articulated by Fritz Lustig in a Guardian Comment Is Free piece, where he briefly revisits his own experience as a teenager growing up in the Berlin of the 1930s and notes the ultimate futility of his family imagining they could “sit it out” without leaving, before concluding that the lesson for right of centre Governments is very straightforward.

And that is that engagement with a party further to the right is not merely a hazardous enterprise, but a situation where mainstream Conservatives can rapidly lose control. Once the Nazis were given any control, they merely took more. And there was no organisation like the EU, no charter of human rights, and none of today’s ability to pass information and react before it is too late.

We’re less likely to see another Hitler, because Europe is not a continent in chaos.

Osborne And A Bend In HS2

As the dust settles following the publication of preferred routes for the extension of the HS2 “Y Network” to the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the North West, a seemingly innocuous statement from the leader of Cheshire East Council has been seized on by opponents of the scheme and used to beat the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the Seventeenth Baronet.

What Michael Jones initially said was this: “Your MPs George Osborne, Edward Timpson and I, have fought hard to keep the line away from Knutsford and Tatton, which we have been successful in achieving. Throughout the process we raised concerns about the line of route and raised the profile for a commonsense solution, which I believe we have achieved”. It was later corrected.

In fact, the route does not avoid the Tatton constituency – that would have been a very big ask – and actually bisects it rather neatly, avoiding Northwich to the west and Knutsford to the east. But earlier rumours that it would go a lot nearer to Macclesfield have fuelled the outcry at Osborne supposedly having it moved west, to avoid solidly Tory Prestbury, Wilmslow and Alderley Edge.

There is a straightforward problem with trying to stand this one up: had the preferred route gone closer to Macclesfield, there would have been more tunnelling – the area is hillier than the terrain of the proposed HS2 course – plus a lot more flattening of houses. Added to that, there would still have been the problem of adding a spur to access the West Coast Main Line (WCML) north towards Preston.

Moreover, using existing motorway alignments, as the route as proposed will do in passing Manchester Airport, is a non starter with the M6 through south Cheshire, as one look at the map will show (the curvature around Keele would rule out high speed running). Following an almost straight part of the existing WCML with a tunnel under Crewe station is a far easier solution.

So yes, there is a bend in the route as it heads east to follow the M56, but that is because the Manchester line is a branch off the main HS2, ultimately headed for Scotland. There is a compromise to be had: one of the two would have suffered a distance penalty, and therefore the idea that Osborne has been responsible for a £600 million cost increase is fallacious.

Michael Jones could certainly have chosen his words more carefully, but the ruckus being generated is unjustified. The HS2 preferred route provides access to Manchester and to the northern WCML while causing less disruption than a route further east would have done (and, of course, gives Crewe an access point for the new line that will help the local economy).

Osborne may be a lousy Chancellor, but that doesn’t justify this lame story.

Leveson Is Served (40)


While most of the Fourth Estate – including the deeply subversive Guardian – has steered clear of the proposal by Lord Justice Leveson that there should be statutory underpinning to ensure the independence of any new press regulator, and thereby guarantee freedom of the press, former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans used the annual Cudlipp Lecture to give the idea his unequivocal support.

Evans asserted that some in the industry had grossly distorted the statutory underpinning proposal, and that he was “staggered” by this misrepresentation. He declared that he was in favour of the idea, and dismissed the well-worn argument that Governments could still interfere with press freedom. “In the draft bill, there isn’t a ‘but’ in there”, he noted.

Looking back on his own encounters with the law, he observed “When I sat in those law courts I had nothing to fall back on...most of the confidence cases, the reporting of Parliament, Cabinet, Thalidomide. I really do feel that if I were back in the courtroom I would be glad to have an unequivocal statement that the freedom of the press should not be breached”.

Evans then looked at the behaviour of today’s press in the wake of Phonehackgate and Leveson: “As depressing as exposure of the dark arts has been, it is deepened by the cynicism and arrogance of much of the reaction to Leveson, coming from figures in the press who did nothing to penetrate – indeed whose inertia assisted – the cover-up conducted into oblivion by News International”.

What Evans must know, of course, is that there has been an informal culture of Omerta among those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet: what went on at the Screws was not for other hacks to report on, but to keep schtum. He praised the actions of Nick Davies and the support of Alan Rusbridger, but must know that many other editors have a visceral loathing of the Guardian as a result.

He then put the question that will not be answered any time soon: “I regard the proposals on statutory underpinning – as an opportunity, not as a threat. What further might the British press do if it were free of internal and external restraints inimical to excellence?”. The sad reality is, as I’ve noted previously, that even the best resourced papers are no longer capable of that excellence.

As Plebgate showed once more, it was the broadcast media which did the investigative journalism which blew apart the Police attack on Andrew Mitchell. And many figures from that industry have lined up today to support the Leveson proposal for statutory underpinning. Such regulation would act “as a buttress to and a shield for journalism that takes on vested interests and asks awkward questions”. Quite.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Reluctant Racists – Or Maybe Not

The appearance in the Maily Telegraph of an article under the by-line of Jane Kelly, titled “I feel like a stranger where I live” – fortunately without the intervention of the comments sewer – brings a predictably Islamophobic tone to proceedings, as she tells how Acton Vale has changed “almost overnight” into “Acton Veil”. The Tel loves this kind of thing. But then you get to the end of the piece.

And here, readers are informed that Ms Kelly “is consulting editor of the ‘Salisbury Review’”. Anyone not hearing alarm bells ringing long and loud may not have made the connection. I will explain. The Salisbury Review was founded in 1982 under the editorship of Roger Scruton, and promoted as a journal of “traditional Conservatism” of the small state variety.

However, the Review also espoused the concept of voluntary repatriation for those it labelled immigrants (for which read those from the Indian sub-continent and Afro-Caribbeans). But very few people read it, at least for the first two years. Then an article on race and education by headmaster Ray Honeyford was reproduced – not by accident – in the rabidly Conservative Yorkshire Post.

The Honeyford Affair looked set to initially damage, but then made the career of, up and coming West Yorkshire politician Eric Pickles, whose later tenure as leader of Bradford Council achieved such popularity that he later became MP for a constituency A Very Long Way Away. When Honeyford died last year, the Telegraph willingly reproduced his Review piece.

Put directly, the Telegraph’s staff know what the Salisbury Review is about. When they get its “consulting editor” to pen an article about what it’s like to live in an area of west London where there is a significant Muslim population, they are sure enough about the result that they disallow comments on it. They cannot be surprised when Ms Kelly asserts “mass immigration is making reluctant racists of us all”.

Nor can they be surprised at some of the characterisations used: her part of Acton “has been transformed into a giant transit camp and is home to no one”. She says there are “other Europeans in my area who may share my feelings but I’m not able to talk to them easily about this situation as they are mostly immigrants, too”. And she’s read all about what happens with Muslims patrolling Tower Hamlets.

She whines that “most of the tills in my local shops are manned by young Muslim men who mutter into their mobiles as they are serving”. Yes, they’re bloody busy having to do several things at once. Welcome to the world of the overworked small businessman. The Telegraph ought to be ashamed of publishing this drivel, yet it went ahead, knowing exactly what its source would write.

Not that the Tel is racist, you understand. The thought never entered their heads.

Guido Fawked – Another In the Eye

The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, who styles himself Guido Fawkes, is not a happy bunny, despite supposedly being “#1”. And the source of his unhappiness is, not for the first time, Private Eye magazine. Staines’ rankling envy of Lord Gnome and Master Emmanuel Strobes yesterday boiled over as he ordered teaboy Alex Wickham to denounce the Eye for recycling Fawkes blog content.

Maybe someone else is getting bitter?

This came on the same day as Wickham recycled an old speech by Adam Afriyie to produce yet more padding (surely “another news item”?Ed) for the Fawkes rabble, so clearly there is an element of “do as we say, not as we do” at work. But this snark is as utterly predictable as it is tired and pointless: Staines and his gofers are wasting their time, and they have no chance of talking the Eye off its perch.

The predictable part is that the Fawkes blog has been spreading stories telling of the Eye’s imminent demise for years now. Back in 2009, when the deeply subversive Guardian ran a glowing profile of Staines – for which he has kicked them at every opportunity ever since – his pal Matthew “Gromit” Elliott told “He's almost killed off Private Eye. By the time their stories come out, they're out of date”.

This assertion, as with so much that comes out of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, was utter bullshit: the following February, the same Guardian was reporting that the Eye had recorded its best sales figures for 17 years in the latter half of 2009. The following year, the Eye was the best selling current affairs magazine. Then in 2012 came news that the mag had posted its best sales numbers in 25 years.

Why this should be, given the falling circulation of newspapers, was not hard to figure out for those who sought out the Eye’s fiftieth anniversary exhibition at the V&A – I didn’t see Staines or the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole there on my two visits – where the range of features, cartoons, covers, and good old-fashioned investigative journalism from the magazine’s back catalogue were on view.

As editor Ian Hislop noted, during 2011 the Eye majored in stories such as Phonehackgate, PFI and the Hartnett HMRC “tax sweetheart” deals. The Fawkes blog ignored the first until their lame kick at Piers Morgan, and missed the other two. Picking at the Street Of Shame feature – the heading style of which has been shamelessly recycled by the Fawkes blog for “Media Guido” – misses the point.

The Great Guido is not in the same league as Private Eye. Moreover, his attempt to build his brand by dragging someone else down will not work. The Eye does proper news and investigations, it’s better informed and will continue to be so as more and more folks shy away from the Fawkes appetite for spin and dishonesty, the jokes are better and less partisan, the cartoons are funnier, and the covers memorable.

Staines and his rabble are welcome to waste their time, though. Another fine mess.

HS2 – The Naysayers Speak

As voters and their representatives in the East Midlands, North West and Yorkshire pored over the preferred route announcement for the second phase of the HS2 project, those routinely opposed broke cover and told whoever would listen why the whole business was, variously, a white elephant, a “railway for the rich”, laid with “gold plated tracks”, and that they weren’t happy.

Faster even than the one on the left ... perhaps

Also noticeable were those who had previously opposed the scheme, but this time had decided to remain silent, most significantly the Adam Smith Institute (ASI), that museum of economic thought that has fraudulently appropriated the name of the founder of economics. The ASI’s report, “High Speed Fail”, much lauded by its right wing bedfellows, had not even been read for technical competence.

One of those bedfellows praising a report whose author couldn’t correctly figure out the distance between the rails was the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), whose chief non-job holder Matthew Sinclair most certainly was not going to keep schtum: “deluding itself ... vast sums ... white elephant ... isn’t credible ... flawed projections ... rich man’s train line ... fundamental flaws ... enormous bill”.

Sadly, though, Sinclair sprayed his credibility up the wall by citing only the TPA’s own “research” on HS2, which as I’ve pointed out previously, includes false assumptions, logic leaps and forthright figure fiddling, as well as backing a capacity improvement exercise for the West Coast Main Line (WCML) that would not be workable and would reduce capacity for commuters.

And the TPA is not the only body indulging in this sort of thing: the template was set by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) back in 2011, with “We have considerable credibility here”, they say, then provide no links or other citations to back up what looks suspiciously like their own alterations to the assumptions in the business case to produce the required results.

That approach was taken forward yesterday by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), whose argument was, unsurprisingly, that their own “independent” analysis supported their conclusion that HS2 was A Very Bad Thing. Then they wheel out phrases like “full steam ahead”. And suggested they were taken on trust. It was little better with pundits like Harry Mount at the Telegraph.

“£34 billion will be splurged ... crazily optimistic ... gold-plated railway line through some of Britain’s prettiest countryside” he moans, while wibbling about William The Conqueror and the Winchester Accord, as if what happened in 1072 has any relevance to HS2. I’m sure, though, that he is familiar with that “prettiest countryside” and isn’t just ranting about places he’s never visited.

Thus the motley band of doom mongers. Dionysius Lardner would have approved.

Monday 28 January 2013

HS2 – The Route Is Revealed

So at long last we were able to see the proposed route for the second phase of the HS2 “Y Network” this morning. And it isn’t just a finger-in-air and quick sketch on the back of an envelope job: it’s all there, right down to locations of connecting lines, gradients, tunnels, bridges and viaducts. Locations of stations are set out, and so the arguments have now commenced.

The trains could look like this ...

There will inevitably be winners and losers: Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent, Macclesfield, Stockport, Wilmslow and Warrington are at present served by Virgin Trains’ Pendolino services to and from London’s Euston terminus. None will be on HS2. Likewise Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Chesterfield and Wakefield on the eastern arm of the “Y” will miss out.

Thus the compromise: high speed rail means long distances between station stops to maintain that speed and use less energy in acceleration and braking. There will still be Inter-City services on the lines to and from London’s St Pancras terminus, as present operated by East Midlands Trains, and those stations on the western arm of the “Y” will still be served, although service frequency may change.

... but then, they could look like this

And the winners include Crewe, although the town is not to be directly served by HS2. The new line, however, will feature a connection to the existing network south of Crewe to enable trains to Liverpool and Chester to run (by the time HS2 is open, electrification should have reached Chester, and hopefully Holyhead). It will be just as beneficial as being on HS2. A maintenance depot will also be built nearby.

There has been a less than rapturous reception to the route news from politicians in Scotland, but the new network will connect to both East Coast and West Coast main lines, so offering faster journeys. Not every destination can be served from the get-go. Elsewhere, both CBI and TUC have responded positively, as have business leaders in London, Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds.

And the folks at Manchester Airport must think all their birthdays have come at once, with the prize of an HS2 station of their own. That, together with another HS2 stop near Birmingham Airport, means more traffic and more growth in the local economy. But there are, inevitably, detractors, such as the Stop HS2 campaign, which has already resorted to pejorative language and clich├ęs rather than engagement.

That tactic has also been employed by the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, but they have already sprayed their credibility up the wall by attempting to undermine the HS2 business case by pretending that all the cost of Crossrail 2 should be attributed to it. Thus another group that has foregone constructive opposition in favour of fiddling the figures – as is its wont with much of its output.

Meanwhile, all major political parties are in favour, so for now, HS2 moves forward.

Boris In The EU Playground

After Young Dave made his jolly good speech on the EU, and no doubt hoped to keep the Tories together as a result, it did not take long for pundits across the political spectrum to point out that he was doing no better than Harold Wilson with Labour in the mid-70s, and that the end result, especially if he didn’t get most of what he wanted, would be a whole lot worse.

But even a united front from Andrew Rawnsley and Peter Oborne has not put off the cheerleaders for Cameron’s jolly wonderful wheeze, who have now been joined – so that Tories, who should know better, think he’s loyal, rather than an unprincipled opportunist – by occasional London Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, in his latest “chicken feed” generating column for the Maily Telegraph.

Bozza has hit on one problem with Young Dave’s approach, and that is that it does not stand serious scrutiny, as Rawnsley and Oborne showed. What percentage of demands satisfied will be “sufficient”? Isn’t Cameron tying his hands by saying he’d campaign for a Yes vote before he starts negotiating? What happens when businesses get fed up and up sticks to the European mainland in the meantime?

So the Boris solution is to demand that his readers “Look Over There”, and especially at Mil The Younger. “Only a coward would deny the people their voice on Europe” he proclaims at the outset. This is because Labour is not unequivocally promising voters a referendum. Bozza concludes that this means they aren’t interested in democracy, because other countries have them.

But other countries have all sorts of customs that we don’t. He cites France, but won’t be advocating their system of internal democracy. Ditto Ireland, because he won’t be wanting their Single Transferable Vote system for us, either. And it goes without saying that he wouldn’t want the proportional systems of Denmark or the Netherlands, though he wants to quote them as exemplars.

Surely to goodness there must be scope for reforming the EU and helping it to become more competitive” says Bozza. One would expect a former MP and Mayor of London to not need to ask that question – he should be able to answer it himself. And he should say what he means by “competitive”, because all that we’re hearing so far is (for instance) the ability to force workers to do more hours.

Britain’s destiny is to build links with the BRICs and other emerging markets” he blusters, while missing the point: that “destiny”, as he puts it, is most likely to be realised via the collective strength of the EU. And that is the depth of his insight, something not thought through as he dashes off his column before another agreeable Sunday luncheon, and the Tel’s subs then let it through.

And he got bunged £5,000 for that. Nice work if you can get it.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Holocaust Day Hypocrisy

Today we remember the millions killed – most because they were Jewish, although there were many more, such as Roma – in the Holocaust, mainly in the extermination camps run by the Third Reich and principally following the Wannsee Conference and the pronouncements of one Reinhard Heydrich, killed soon afterwards by a particularly discerning band of Czech partisans.

The Wannsee Conference House. If visiting Berlin, you must take time out to take in the permanent and free exhibition on the Conference here

Among those who participated willingly on the side of the Nazis at this time was an SS Doctor called Aribert Heim, whose nickname of “Dr Death” I mentioned yesterday, when noting that The Commentator, that right-leaning source of false righteousness, had been calling out Lib Dem MP David Ward for inappropriate language while themselves applying the nickname to Lord Justice Leveson.

Heim was a particularly nasty character whose treatment of Jewish inmates echoed that meted out by Josef Mengele at Auschwitz. Unlike Mengele, however, Heim managed to evade any subsequent trial, later fetching up in Cairo, living under the alias of Tarek Farid Hussein and ultimately dying there in 1992. But his record has not stopped others using his nickname against Jewish people.

Moreover, it should surprise nobody that The Commentator and its allies went after a Lib Dem MP (Ward has since apologised), knowing full well that some of those allies had earlier pinned the “Dr Death” label on another Lib Dem, who was also Jewish. The unfortunate recipient of this particularly nasty smear was Evan Harris, former MP and now campaigner for free speech.

The campaign of unpleasantness was kicked off by then Daily Mail pundit Leo McKinstry, who claimed that the “Dr Death” nickname was used by other MPs. This was then echoed by two other pundits who are old enough to know better, Cristina Odone and Damian Thompson at the Telegraph. It was also used by good Christian Tim Montgomerie, of ConservativeHome fame.

Doh! (Take 1)

But only one MP joined in this singularly nasty campaign, and it will surprise no-one to know that the name in the frame is (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries, who excused her characterisation by asserting that Harris was no longer Jewish. But, as any fule kno, being Jewish is not merely a question of religion. It is an ethnicity. One might expect a serving MP to be able to grasp such an elementary point.

Doh! (Take 2)

I have no doubt that Ms Dorries, along with Thompson, McKinstry, Montgomerie and Ms Odone, will claim that they will observe and respect Holocaust Memorial Day. Thus their utterances for public consumption. But that they have been so ready to tar a Jewish politician they don’t like with one of the Holocaust’s most notorious nicknames tells you all you need to know about their character.

And that is that rank and stinking hypocrisy is shared by all of them.

Super Soaraway Benefit Silliness

Last week’s excursion by Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Sunday Sun into exposing what it claimed to be people “scrounging” on benefits was clearly not an isolated occurrence, as there is another supposed exclusive today, this time highlighting a young couple who have a six-month old child and apparently no desire to go out and get a job.

At first this looks an open and shut case, and that is where the agenda of the Murdoch press directs its readers, but as with last week’s “single mother on benefits” expose, all is not as it seems. Quite apart from the young woman being sneered at by the paper for trying to look her best for the photo – “flaunting fake tan and perfectly manicured nails” – the story doesn’t add up.

And what leaps off the page first is the Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) payment of £110 per week. Quite apart from the figures having been rounded – hacks apparently can’t understand money if it’s in smaller amounts than £10 – this benefit is not paid out ad infinitum. Claimants have to demonstrate that they are looking for work, and there are a variety of “sanctions” that can be applied if they do not.

Those sanctions include being directed to attend training courses or the much-discussed Work Programme on pain of benefit removal. JSA removal can be for 13 weeks in the first instance and for as much as three years for more serious transgressions – like not applying for suitable jobs or not accepting job offers. And one of the couple has been offered jobs.

If, as the Sun claims, the couple “didn’t even bother looking for work”, that JSA would be for the chop pronto. And the rest of what they get from child tax credits and child benefits would – at £320 a month – not cover their admitted outgoings of £360, plus whatever they spend on their child and any luxuries or extras on top of that. Which leaves us with one general conclusion.

And that is that either this couple have been staggeringly stupid in putting their heads above the parapet, the Sun’s hacks have significantly exaggerated what they were actually told, or more likely a combination of the two. Housing benefit, for instance, is still paid to those in work although there is some deduction made as income increases. This, too, does not get mentioned.

Nor does the fact that child tax credit is also paid up to an income level over £40,000 per annum, and that child benefit would not be affected by either or both parents going out to work. So both contentions in the article – that the couple are somehow trapped on benefits, and that the payment of those benefits would reach a full stop if they went out to work – are demonstrably false.

But it gets the audience ranting and frothing, so that’s all right, then.

Tory Leadership Challenge – Or Maybe Not

There’s going to be a challenge to Young Dave’s leadership of the Tory Party. Or perhaps there isn’t. And there’s a Barack Obama connection. Or maybe that was just dreamed up in a newsroom somewhere (like the Mail On Sunday, says he just grabbing a name from the air, as you do). There have been a lot of names cast round recently as challengers, so who’s the latest?

Well, today’s name in the frame is Adam Afriyie, who represents Windsor – with a 15,000 majority, as safe a seat as they come – and who grew up on a council estate in south west London. He made his money from an IT services company. Afriyie does not claim travelling expenses, and nor does he claim a second home allowance (and quite rightly in the latter case, given Windsor’s closeness to central London).

He has been an MP since 2005, but Afriyie has no ministerial experience, and unlike Cameron, no background working for the leadership, or running and coordinating national election campaigns. The story in the MoS was given short shrift by Stourbridge MP Margot James on The Andy Marr Show (tm) this morning, which may be significant given her role within the party.

That the Murdoch Sun – at present tacking towards occasional London Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson – decided to effectively pull their version of the story about Afriyie’s supposed leadership challenge, concluding that Young Dave’s jolly good speech had shot the challenger fox, is not a good sign. And the reaction of some pundits has been derisory.

The Sunday Mirror’s Vincent Moss was dismissive: “Next week, someone will tip Peter Bone and (Baroness) Mrs Bone on a ‘dream ticket’”. Bone is the epitome of the eternal back bencher, and his love of quoting his wife always likely to raise a smile at Westminster. And worse was to come from those working on the sister paper to the one that broke the story.

James Chapman, the Daily Mail’s political editor, feigned crying with laughter at the news of Adam Afriyie’s challenge. He remained unpersuaded, despite the Twitter reaction. His deputy Tim Shipman was amused by the whole exercise, making the telling comment that it was an “Interesting insight into a certain strain of backbench thinking”. So that’s another shake of the head, then.

And that is the outlook from the paper whose hacks and pundits would be expected to take the lead from the Sunday title and run with it. What the Adam Afriyie story shows is that there are a number of Ron Hopefuls on the Tory back benches who are prepared to project their own leadership wish list onto whoever may be prepared to have their name floated around the tea room.

It’s not called the “Westminster Bubble” for nothing.

Top Six – January 27

So what’s hot, and what’s not, in the past week’s blogging? Here are the six most popular posts on Zelo Street for the past seven days, counting down in reverse order, because, well, it’s a nice day for once and I’m off out later. So there.

6 Daily Mail Playing Both Sides Of The Twitter Mob First they used the appallingly vain Samantha “I’m so beautiful” Brick to go after historian Mary Beard over her looks, and then when the hate mob joined in, feigned outrage. No surprise there, then.

5 Sorry Mo Farah, Your Fifteen Minutes Is Up After the hostage taking at the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria, the Olympics was forgotten and it was back to old-fashioned Islamophobia.

4 Super Soaraway Sorry – Four Times One or two clarifications is one thing, but the Murdoch Sun has now had to issue four of them to Gordon Brown in three months. When the numbers are that great, it’s not a coincidence.

3 Who Set Up The Sun? We looked at who might have brought Rupe’s downmarket troops their “exclusive” about a Lithuanian single mum who just happened to also be an actress and model.

2 Super Soaraway Benefits Story Stitch-Up The Sun’sexclusive” about a single mum on benefits managed to miss her CV, her credit card bills, and that it was a bit rich to pick on foreigners when they’ve been in the UK for eight years, working and paying their taxes here.

1 The Natalija Belova Story Unravels When the Daily Mail jumped on the Sun bandwagon and ran the story of the Lithuanian single mum on benefits, they let the cat out of the bag by using photos from a top press snapper. She wasn’t in his portfolio by chance. The paper later pulled the story.

And that’s the end of another blogtastic week, blog pickers. Not ‘arf!

Saturday 26 January 2013

McKinstry Still Makes No Sense

Apparently no longer welcome at the Daily Mail – they’ve got plenty of certifiably batshit pundits there already, thanks – Leo McKinstry has decamped to the Express, where he churns out why-oh-why straight-from-the-bar rants guaranteed to make a positive contribution to banishing insomnia. He has also, since I last looked in on his column, managed to stop mangling his words.

Yes, this time last year, McKinstry was caught having a Stanley Unwin experience that was more folly than deep joy, as the absence of sub-editors following all those Dirty Des economy drives meant nobody checked before his copy got published. Or perhaps the legal eagles fell asleep. Anyhow, his latest rant is about the EU, on which he tends, as ever, to avoid facts at all times.

The European Union has always been an enemy of democracy”, he puffs, managing to miss that thing called the European Parliament. “It is a bureaucratic empire that governs with neither legitimacy nor contempt” he goes on, having missed those European elections we had in 2009, and the ones we’re going to have next year. Perhaps he should check with his colleague Patrick “Lunchtime” O’Flynn.

After all, O’Flynn, being a fan of UKIP, will know all about European elections. But meanwhile, McKinstry is off and running, praising Young Dave: “at last a British leader has had the guts to challenge the EU’s remorseless destruction of our independence”. Ah yes, the old “Brussels is an alien spaceship coming to steal your children and sell them into slavery” canard.

But do go on. “Even more importantly Cameron promised that this new settlement will be put to the public in a straightforward in/out referendum before the end of 2017 ... With this speech Cameron has transformed British politics”. As Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. One, the last referendum did not bring the result the Express would like to see, and the numbers are worse for the antis right now.

And secondly, as Peter Oborne inconveniently observed, Cameron has done no such thing: he’s just stopped the Tories tearing themselves apart over an issue that, despite all the hype, still does not rate very highly with the electorate. McKinstry should look at the poll numbers after that speech to see that the Tories’ position was hardly improved, and Labour’s got no worse.

But poor Leo is on autopilot: “Under the EU there can be no national interest because there is no concept of individual nationhood”. That’s why they’re called “Member States”, then, is it? Does he get paid in money for this drivel? The hardcore Europhobes will no doubt lap this up, but McKinstry will convert nobody with his fact free ranting, so this is just so much Phil Space journalism.

Keeps him out of the pub and out of mischief, though. Mustn’t grumble.

The Commentator’s Anti-Semitism Hypocrisy

The right-wing group rantfest and beacon of shining serial dishonesty otherwise known as The Commentator yesterday latched on to observations by Lib Dem MP David Ward about the Holocaust and the current impasse between the state of Israel and the Palestinians. Ward’s remarks were immediately held to be anti-Semitic, and from there, the rest of the right went in with both feet.
David Ward MP

Now, I’m not going to defend Ward, because he was clearly out of order and should have held his hand up and said so. What happens to him is for the Lib Dems to sort out in the short term, and if boundary changes come to pass, for the voters to kick him out come the next General Election (Bradford East would be carved up in such a way as to make Ward’s chances of re-election virtually zero).

But back with The Commentator, it was not sufficient for only their readership to know of the story: Robin “Mr Happy” Shepherd and his motley crew know full well that, left at that, very few would find out and even less would care. So their connection with the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog was duly leveraged, and so the story spread.

This, too, was not on its own sufficient, and so the loathsome Toby Young, recently dismissed from the Sunday Sun to the relief of right-thinking people who wished it had happened earlier, piled in at the bear pit that is Telegraph Blogs. To be on the safe side, Tobes asserted that this was only to be expected from the “liberal left”, that mythical construct of the paranoid right.

And so the serious players in the press sat up and took notice, with the Daily Mail – always on the lookout for a Lib Dem to kick – also weighing in and telling that Ward could be kicked out of the party (this is, of course, preparing the way for the Dacre attack doggies to administer a good savaging of Corporal Clegg for alleged weakness should he not have Ward expelled).

But The Commentator is itself no stranger to anti-Semitic smears, as witness a post from last November by Jonathan Bracey-Gibbon on the Leveson report, titled “Dr Death: Leveson hastens decline of printed press?” which uses a Holocaust nickname – that of Aribert Heim, an SS doctor at the Mauthausen concentration camp – to attack someone who is Jewish.

After publication of that piece, though, there was no weighing in from The Great Guido, no murmur from the mainstream press, and none of the condemnation visited on David Ward. So it’s OK for the right-wing to indulge in a little casual anti-Semitism, but if anyone else opens mouth and inserts foot, they get it in the neck from the same people.

The Commentator: just another bunch of stinking hypocrites.

Friday 25 January 2013

Hypocrite Gilligan Takes The Mayor’s Shilling

There were gasps of disbelief at the news that Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan, sock puppet master extraordinaire and obedient attack hound to anyone opposing Ken Livingstone, was to be made advisor for cycling to London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. There has been a second helping of disbelief today at the scale of his remuneration.

At first, the annual salary of £38,000 does not seem overly generous, until the realisation sinks in that Gilligan will only need to appear at City Hall two days a week. But this is a similar pro-rata rate that is already paid to Bozza’s chosen ones – equivalent to £95,000 full time – so the news should not have come as a surprise. But the hypocrisy of Gilligan certainly has.

He was, after all, in the vanguard of crony bashing when Livingstone was in office, and found adversely on anything to do with Lee Jasper – a campaign that resulted in its target penning a furious letter to the Evening Standard (aka London Daily Bozza) refuting many of Gilligan’s claims and demanding right of reply. From the claims made against Jasper, one might have expected prosecutions. There were none.

Livingstone being spotted in the company of Independent Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman was another favourite target for Gilligan. Here, there were not merely cronies, but Muslim ones. They attended mosques that may also have been attended by other Muslims. This was not sufficiently eyebrow raising, so Gilligan kept dropping the term “extremist” into his copy, just to be sure.

But all changed when Gilligan’s chosen candidate was elected Mayor. The less than totally transparent choice of Veronica Wadley – another key player in getting Bozza to run for Mayor and who helped to create the image of what Dave Hill called “Mayor Jolly Goodfun” – for chair of the Arts Council did not warrant as much as a murmur of complaint. Nor did Bozza’s loss of all those deputy Mayors.

And nor was there any complaint from Gilligan as news emerged that under Bozza the number of those at City Hall trousering in excess of £100,000 had jumped by 75% since his arrival there. Nor was there any grumbling when Ms Wadley was gifted a £95,000 a year role as Bozza’s head of volunteering, and duly volunteered very little information to anyone who had the audacity to question her about it.

Then when Bozza very publicly intervened in the appointment of a new Standard editor to replace Geordie Greig, who had decamped to the Mail On Sunday (to the apparent irritation of Paul Dacre), to get Sarah Sands, his preferred candidate, the job, once again there was not even a peep from Gilligan. Anyone might think that this kind of thing demonstrates open political bias.

Or that it shows him to be a stinking hypocrite. Or maybe both.

Telegraph Pundit Protests Too Much

The Maily Telegraph’s Brussels point man, Bruno Waterfield, is not a happy bunny today. “Pathetic how pro-EU types, with support of [the] entire UK state, big biz and main parties [are] portraying themselves as victims of EU-sceptical media” he Tweeted. What can be the reason for this outburst? And why choose this particular moment to admit what Zelo Street has been pointing out for some time?

I’ve long ago concluded that Waterfield was a partisan Europhobe whose ability to lace his copy with whoppers and logic leaps would not have even got him through the door when the Tel was a credible paper of record. That Tweet merely underscores my analysis. Moreover, as the first response to it shows, there are plenty of media voices lined up against the EU – especially his.

Waterfield’s unique approach to the EU first came before my inspection in March 2011, when he fraudulently asserted that a transport white paper “envisages an end to cheap holiday flights from Britain to southern Europe”. He was at it again the following month, misrepresenting negotiations for the EU budget, which became “Brussels ... demanding” in the retelling.

We had to wait a while before the next slice of creative EU reinterpretation, but it was worth it: in September 2011 came the reheating of already old news concerning Herman van Rompuy, who had not ruled out standing for another term as EU President. This became “wants second term as strengthened EU President”, along with talk of German domination.

And that was as nothing compared to the following month’s offering, “New euro ‘empire’ plot by Brussels. This was substantially fictitious, based on news from the previous August, and for good measure was laced with lots of those anonymous quotes from “sources”, some of whom were “senior”. Part of the story had “emerged” from them. They were even “indicating privately”.

Bruno then rounded off the year telling Telegraph readers thatBritain faces a wave of hostile legislation battered through the European Union by a new ‘Euro-Plus’ bloc dominated by France and Germany”. As legislation passes through the European Parliament, not the EU, this was clearly another slice of creative retelling, as were the “senior figures” calling for the UK “to be driven out of Europe”.

He was still at it earlier this week, pretending that the EU “wants power to sack journalists” and inventing a Leveson component in a report to the European Commission that it did not contain. So it’s no surprise that Waterfield views so many as “Pro-EU”, but given his ability to get unashamedly Europhobic copy into the Tel, he can have few complaints about those of opposing view.

And he can count himself lucky the Telegraph is no longer a paper of record.