Welcome To Zelo Street!

This is a blog of liberal stance and independent mind

Wednesday 30 April 2014

Express Phony Migrant Tax Story

If proof were needed that the Express, supposed flagship title of Richard “Dirty” Desmond’s media empire, were both desperate and shamelessly campaigning for UKIP, this was provided today with a story that was, to the latter title’s shame, lifted by the Maily Telegraph. The target, as conformed by the “Express crusade: get us out of the EU” logo, was eastern European migrants.
“Migrants pay just £1 a week in tax” screams the headline. Readers are told “AROUND 150,000 eastern European migrants are putting just £1 a week into Britain’s tax coffers”, which is a flat out lie, to no surprise at all, as the figures have come from Andrew Green and his fellow frightener-dispensers at Migration Watch. This is all about those paid only the minimum wage.

But do go on: “Migration Watch compared the income tax payments and National Insurance contributions made by eastern European migrants with the welfare handouts received, such as tax credits and housing benefit. The newcomers tended to work in low-paid jobs with income around the minimum wage and therefore did not pay much in direct taxes”. Ooh look, that word “direct” crept in.

Now, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. One, there is an assumption being made about how the numbers coming from eastern European countries break down into those earning just minimum wage, with apparently no allowance made for those who are self-employed and/or earn more, and someone is missing the point that IT IS NOT JUST MIGRANTS WHO ARE IN THIS SITUATION.

Yes, ANYONE earning no more than minimum wage pays very little in direct taxation, and NOT JUST MIGRANTS. And they only put “just £1 a week into Britain’s tax coffers” if they don’t pay any VAT. Now, for Andrew Green, and Patrick “Lunchtime” O’Flynn of UKIP, let me take this one nice and slowly, so it sinks in without my having to resort to using a Dirty Great Club (tm).

Here in Crewe, we know a bit about how much eastern Europeans pay in VAT. This is because they have a liking for the mysterious fluids that go by the names of Lech and Tyskie. And every bottle or can of the stuff that they buy from Asda, or the local Polski Slep, means they pay VAT (a 50cl bottle of Tyskie costs £1.50 at Asda, so that’s 25p to the taxman). They are paying tax. End of story.

So when Andrew Green says “This analysis shows quite simply that the taxpayer is subsidising their wages. No wonder, then, that employers are in favour of them and that so many people find the UK such an attractive destination”, this is a flat out pack of lies. There is no wage subsidy. As this applies to all minimum wage earners, there is no favour being shown. And it has nothing to do with the UK’s attractiveness.
This drivel is the lowest form of bigotry, so it’s another Benchmark Of Excellence!

PMQs – Itch-A-Sketch 13

Back come our hardworking Parliamentarians following their Easter break, for the next ritual bout of less than gentlemanly mud-slinging that is Prime Minister’s Questions. So what might Mil The Younger be asking Young Dave today? Might the behaviour of a party not represented at Wesminster get a mention? And what about the value we place on the teaching profession? All will be revealed.
Tributes were heard to the helicopter crew killed in Afghanistan, and the murdered schoolteacher Ann Maguire, and then what?

Royal Mail again, that’s what. Sold on the cheap! Hedge funds making a killing! The taxpayer was a whole billion short! Staff can’t sell their shares – why can the favoured investors?

Dave waffled and countered. See your Royal Mail and raise you Pa Broon’s gold sale! And Michael Foot! And Kinnock! It was making a loss (no it wasn’t – Ed)! The other lot always oppose these sales!

Strewth, this was all getting a bit tedious maximus. Oh hang on, there’s the ritual barracking. Mr Speaker is going to let this go into added time as a result. And some of the noise is coming from the Labour benches. Order! Order! Ms Mactaggart! You are an illustrious product of the Cheltenham Ladies’ College! [laughter]

Well, thank goodness for some light relief from the tedium. Miliband held steady, Cameron did not waver. There was precious little else, though: even Jason McCartney could not tempt Dave into a dig by revealing that a business in his constituency made interior material for Bozza’s less than Very Wonderful new bus.

And then at the end, there was something really inspirational to hear: the clerk to the House, Robert Rodgers, is to retire in August. He has served for 42 years. There was an unparliamentary but highly appropriate round of spontaneous applause.

So a nice warm feeling to finish. But precious little of substance otherwise.

Farage Bottles His Big Test

So Patrick Mercer decided not to hang on until next year’s General Election, nor to contest his six-month suspension from the Commons. He immediately faced the media and declared that he would resign, even though this would precipitate a by-election. The Westminster bubble immediately exploded in the self-belief that this could only mean Farage, and probably Boris too.
Such was the ability of the more easily led among the commentariat to convince themselves of this highly unlikely scenario that the Maily Telegraph committed to the front page lead “Farage’s by-election bid to rock Cameron”. This slice of hokum has survived; the original article has been withdrawn from the paper’s website. Thus another failure to learn from “Dewey Beats Truman”.

Because, after sleeping off whatever tincture he had imbibed yesterday evening, Nigel “Thirsty” Farage declared this morning thatI have no doubt that UKIP will throw the kitchen sink at this Newark by-election, but it won’t be me doing it and we won’t get that huge distraction ... I don’t want to do anything that deflects from the European election campaign so I’m not going to stand in this by-election”.

And why has Sir decided thus? “It was only 12 hours ago that Patrick Mercer stood down so I haven’t had long to think about it, but I have thought about it and we’re just over three weeks away from a European election at which I think UKIP can cause an earthquake in British politics, from which we can go on and not just win one parliamentary seat but win quite a lot of parliamentary seats”. He bottled it.

The excuse that Farage is fighting a European election is bunk: he was, it should be remembered, supposed to be a full-time MEP when he made great show of contesting Buckingham back in 2010, as a challenge to Commons Speaker John Bercow (he came third, with 17.4% of the popular vote). There was no talk of having to concentrate on Brussels, rather than Westminster.

Yet those stating the obvious – that Mr Thirsty has bottled the contest, and most likely because he would have lost, and lost badly – are conspicuous by their being rather thin on the ground. A notable exception is Adam Bienkov, who has spelled it out: “Nigel Farage was accused of ‘bottling it’ today after raising the prospect of standing in and winning the Newark by-election, only to walk away from the fight”.

That so many media outlets were so ready to kick Pa Broon, but are somehow reluctant to do the same to Farage, I will leave without further comment. Oh, and for anyone who has not forgotten the suggestion that Bozza might fetch up in Newark – he won’t. That, folks, is why bookies were offering such good odds on that particular double-act. Because it wasn’t going to happen.

It’s always useful to live in the real world. Even if you work at the Telegraph.

Patrick Mercer – The Curse Of Bloggerheads

While the Westminster media bubble ponders the latest “what if” speculation about who might or might not stand in the forthcoming Newark by-election, there has been a most unseemly rush to take credit for the richly deserved downfall of departing MP Patrick Mercer. Yes, the Telegraph and BBC can jointly claim the lion’s share for their sting exposing Mercer’s greed, but one name has been forgotten.
Step forward the serially tenacious Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads fame, whose exposure of Mercer’s distinctly dodgy dealings, his love of securing More And Bigger Paycheques For Himself Personally Now, and a blithering technophobia that left a supposedly worldly-wise Tory MP open to being exploited by a number of con artists and other charlatans, preceded Mercer’s stinging.

What Ireland’s experience has also shown is the tendency of some politicians to react to adverse criticism by either smearing their accusers, getting someone else to smear or do them down, or a combination of both. Mercer’s “friends” made some quite disgraceful accusations against Ireland. It didn’t work. This succeeded only in drawing attention to the MP’s cluelessness. Disaster followed.
Oh God no ... look, can't you shine that damned spotlight somewhere else?

But back to the exposure of the soon to be former MP for Newark: Mercer was hot on counter terrorism. He was also to prove gullible. Mercer was taken in by a pair of moderately accomplished but cretinously stupid shysters called Glen Jenvey and Dominic Wightman. Ireland warned Mercer of their less than total reliability and probity. Mercer, it seems, did not want to know.
Patrick Mercer (right) with Dominic Whiteman, Oct 2006

Ireland then noted Mercer’s enviable ability to score fees from a variety of media outlets in exchange for his supposedly authoritative take on “National Security”. And it was this appetite for those little extras that brought the Newark MP to the attention of those who ultimately arranged his exposure. Plus, one comment Mercer made in a telephone conversation with Ireland linked in another MP.
The fragrant Nadine: a smear too far?

Are you broadcasting this?” Mercer demanded of Ireland. Have a think about that. One might suspect the other party of recording a conversation, but broadcasting? Where can he have got that, especially given Ireland’s discovery that Mercer was a technophobe? But the timing of the question gives the game away: just after the 2010 General Election, and an incident in the Bedfordshire town of Flitwick.

Tim Ireland, at the invitation of concerned constituents, attended a hustings event, recording and also broadcasting it. The concern was over the behaviour of (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries. Ms Dorries made a number of defamatory assertions at the time and viciously smeared Ireland later. Mercer’s “friends” did his smearing; Ms Dorries joined in with hers. Mercer got stung. He is on his way out.

What goes around comes around. I shall say no more.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Max Clifford – Max Retaliation

Not long after Phonehackgate blew up, Max Clifford appeared on BBC’s The Big Questions one Sunday morning. The second media event that had occurred not long before transmission had been the well-publicised exit from the Daily Star by Rich Peppiatt: he, too, was on the show. This was not good news for Cliffus Maximus, as Peppiatt caught him lying in very short order.
Yesterday's paper, yesterday's spinner

Clifford deflected and evaded, and was otherwise uncomfortable. His accuser persisted. Ultimately, Nicky Campbell intervened and guided the discussion away from the point in contention. But what was the most unusual feature of the exchange was that it was rare for anyone to challenge Clifford. He was handled very much with kid gloves by the media. Until yesterday afternoon.
Arsenal fan shows commendable restraint

Because now Clifford has got guilty on eight counts of indecently assaulting women and girls – one as young as 15 – and is due to be sentenced on Friday, any hold he had on the press by means of his ability to hand out useful stories – plus the threat of holding dirt on anyone not inclined to play along – has loosened considerably. And don’t the papers know it – starting with the Mail.

Simon Cowell becomes first high profile celebrity client to ditch Max Clifford after being 'horrified' by the PR guru's attacks on young women ... Clifford has handled Cowell's dealings with the media for at least 12 years” it tells, as The Black Helmet feels able to cut Clifford loose, safe in the knowledge that the latter is going direct to jail and certainly not collecting £200.

Then the Dacre doggies really let rip: “Max Clifford's career was founded on lies: Freddie Starr never ate that hamster, David Mellor did not make love to Antonia de Sancha in a Chelsea strip, and Derek Hatton wasn't ever going out with Princess Diana's cousin ('Di's Cousin Dates Degsy'). 'I was always instinctively good at lying,' Clifford would later reveal”. And the Mail bought it all.

Another paper that at the time had no problem taking the approved Clifford line was the Mirror, and again, vengeance was swift: “Image expert Max Clifford presented himself as a Surrey boy done good - a man who built his PR firm from scratch and raised millions for charity. But while he manipulated the truth for a living, Clifford was living a lie at home, seducing women and abusing young girls”.

Yeah, what a sleazebag! But the Mirror was usually up for taking whatever Clifford fed them – or lifting previously published copy from other recipients of his taller tales. The Mail was not averse to repeating what he told them. And Paul Dacre’s hacks know all about lying, as Jo Rowling has just demonstrated after getting the paper to ‘fess up to libelling her. They took no action until he got nicked.

The tabs never do bother until someone else does the heavy lifting, do they?

Toby Young’s Latest Smokescreen

Still ready and willing to proclaim the virtues of Free Schools, and especially the one founded by those including Himself Personally Now, is the loathsome Toby Young, taking his crusade at the weekend into the enemy camp by writing for the deeply subversive Guardian. “Free Schools aren’t empty, it’s just bad press” he proclaimed, pleading for a reasoned debate on the issue.
Yes, "Oiky", your policies are poor value for money

Tobes went on “As the general election approaches, it would be good to have a proper, grown up debate about Michael Gove's education policies ... Unfortunately, so much misinformation is put out by theteaching unions and their allies in the Labour Party, that's going to be virtually impossible”. This assumes they are the only ones not in approval of Michael “Oiky” Gove’s DfE regime.

It also begs the question of what less than favourable news Tobes may be trying to distract from. But we did not have to wait too long to have Warwick Mansell – also at the Guardian – confirm that, yes, there was bad news for Free Schools on the way: “Free schools fail Ofsted inspections at much higher rate than state schools”. There isn’t an easy way to spin that one, eh Tobes?

Mansell went on “Four free schools have been rated ‘inadequate’ by the inspectorate, of the 41 that have had judgments published as of the end of last week. This is 9.7%. By contrast, the latest Ofsted data on all state schools shows only 3% are categorised as inadequate. Not a huge sample group, but these are not figures the government is going to be rushing out in any press release”.

Moreover, the failure rate “might be about to rise further”: “Another free school, not included in these figures, visited by Ofsted in February, has been placed in special measures, we understand. Staff were told of the unofficial judgment in mid-March, though the report remained unpublished as we went to press”. The catalogue of disasters for Free Schools doesn’t seem to be shrinking just yet.

And Mansell points out that “Overall, 79% of state schools are rated good or outstanding compared with only 68% of free schools”, whereas Tobes would clearly rather talk about his school, which “receives roughly 10 applicants for every place and has done since it opened three years ago”, but concedes “about 50 [Free Schools] are in areas where there's no need for more places”.

Mansell’s article makes clear that the significant investment in Free Schools has apparently not improved standards. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that this is not a good use of taxpayers’ money, especially given the original £450 million budget has overshot by more than a billion pounds. And flogging off pupil data as part of a Government effort to “Marketise” it won’t fill the hole.

That is the kind of Gove policy about which we should be having a grown up debate.

HS2 – Another IEA Turkey

Allegedly free market think tank the IEA has celebrated the latest Commons debate on the HS2 project by issuing a “Current Controversies” paper entitled “Failure To Transform: High-Speed Rail And The Regeneration Myth”, authored, as with their last steaming pile on the subject, by Richard Wellings, who claims to be an economist. Let us proceed directly to a little analysis.
High speed rail. But not in the UK

Wellings claims the justification for HS2 has changed as criticism has been made. It has not. He claims the “51M” scheme is a superior means of relieving congestion on the West Coast Main Line, but it makes no provision for freight traffic and unrealistic assumptions on path availability. He suggests analysis of wider economic benefits for the project are flawed, but ducks any analysis.

Then Wellings talks of the “tax bill”. This is held to be a “deadweight cost”. The assumption is clearly that HS2 will exist only if funded from taxpayer funds, and will yield no benefit. So let me take this one slowly and carefully, for this economist’s benefit: IF THE BENEFIT/COST RATIO IS GREATER THAN 1.0, THERE IS NO OVERALL “TAX BILL”. End of story.
And so we arrive at the Freight Capacity problem, where, once again, I wheel out the Rail Freight Group’s estimate of excess demand for paths come 2030. This should be borne in mind as Wellings states “there is huge spare freight capacity on existing rail ... networks”. This is, let us not drive this one around the houses too much, a flat out lie. Fire extinguisher for the IEA man, please.

So, as Wellings illuminates the debate by the light of his burning trousers, he gives us “Disruptive Technology”: yes, out comes the “driverless cars” boondoggle. An energy-inefficient – and slower – technology that would only work properly if the UK’s roads had all non-driverless vehicles banned. We are also invited to subscribe to the idea that developments in IT would mean we all work from home.
But we also have Wellings’ opinions recorded on Twitter: he clearly acknowledges the need for more freight capacity by suggesting the HGV weight limit is increased. Did he ask the relevant civil engineers before pulling that one out of his hat? Plus the increased wear and tear on the road network would be paid for by ... the taxpayer. Or does Wellings think roads exist in some alternate universe?

Moreover, his remedy for capacity problems – to remove jobs from northern cities – fails to say where they would go. Whitehall, perchance? And what are the comparative costs of that? Let me put this directly: this report is utterly and totally fraudulent from start to finish. Its author holds the most bizarre and repellent of views. And it is no more than another sign of desperation.

If this is the best those opposed to HS2 can manage, they really are bust.

Monday 28 April 2014

Max Clifford – Min Subtlety

Publicist and spinner to the stars Max Clifford received a significant setback to his efforts to continue in the style to which he had long ago become accustomed today when, unlike other recent cases brought for historic sex offences, he got guilty on eight counts and is now awaiting sentencing, which has been pencilled in for Friday. He was cleared of two further charges, with the jury unable to agree on one more.
It'll be you on the front page tomorrow, matey

Warned that being granted bail could not be taken as an indication of sentence, Cliffus Maximus (for it was he) stood out front of the court building and told the press pack that “I have been told by my lawyers to say nothing at all”, which must have been an unusual experience. But nobody need feel short changed, because everyone else piled in on him instead.
And leading the grid round to the rolling start was one Christine Hamilton, brass neck well and truly extended, to assert “I couldn’t possibly comment but have always thought him the most odious man it has ever been my misfortune to meet”. Apart from the bloke you married, eh? You remember, the one the Guardian called “A liar and a cheat”? The one who lost the third safest Tory seat in England?
Whatever. We were soon on to rather more serious matters, as one Tweeter told “Bet there’s a lot of so called ‘celebs’ freaking out right now and hoping Max Clifford goes quietly”. As Derek Jameson might have said, there surely are. Clifford must know, if not where the bodies are buried, where who did what to whom, and when. And the shop where they bought the equipment.
But all of this was rather serious stuff. Where was the light relief? Was a member of the fnarr fringe in the house? You betcha, says Sarah: Martin Robinson was there to recycle the joke that Private Eye put on the cover when John Lennon got nicked in the late 60s: “Max Clifford’s defence didn’t stand up in court, then”. Kersnick, kersnick, spab, spab. I don’t wish to know that, kindly leave this Twitter exchange.
Meanwhile, James Lyons of the Mirror was reminding anyone with a memory stretching back further than last week “I’m sure the Clifford case will mean lots of people hailing the bravery of the CPS in tackling historic cases”. The CPS took a lot of stick over cases such as those of William Roach and Nigel Evans, but following the Clifford guilty verdicts, there has been little praise for them.
And to finish, some jaw-dropping hypocrisy: “Max Clifford was a great white shark. He had absolutely no conscience ... Max used to boast about his sexual antics. He used to boast about his affairs”. So said Neil “Wolfman” Wallis, someone who knows all about boasting about things, and whose conscience, if it ever existed at all, was something he used to keep well hidden.

Hindsight, schadenfreude, and good old high principles. You can’t beat them.

GMB – What Did I Tell You?

ITV’s new breakfast offering Good Morning Britain made its debut this morning, and, given the timescales of newspaper production and one or two shows to make a considered judgment, I’d pencilled in midweek for casting an eye over the reactions. But that was to reckon without Martin Clarke’s leering drones at Mail Online, who have reacted exactly as I predicted on Saturday.
New set offends Mail Online no shock horror

Hostile reviews, I concluded, were a “racing certainty”, and Mail Online was in there like a shot. Viewers had complained! Do go on: “many argued that the new format was more American in style - similar to Stateside shows such as Good Morning America”. How many complaints would that be? Er, two. And GMA, to use the Stateside vernacular, is the #1Breakfast show across the USA right now.

But the main whinge from Clarke’s complainers was about Susanna Reid (as if that was ever in any doubt): “viewers were quick to point out that the presenter's best assets were not being utilised by the show's bosses”. What can they mean? No, hang on, let me guess ... Susanna Reid’s best assets ... no, don’t give me a clue, I’ll figure this one out ... yes, I’ve got it.
It's too much like Good Morning America, where they all sit behind a desk ... oh, hang on a minute

Here we go: one, sharp intellect, two, good experience in journalism, and three, smart with easy presentational and interviewing manner. How did I do? Sadly, in the world of Mail Online, that would have gained nul points. Not a sausage. Zilch. Zero. Nil. Nada. Because what they are talking about is the word that begins with P and ends with an exclamation mark. Yes, we’re talking Phworrhh!

Shortly after the programme premiered at 6am, Twitter was awash with comments from critics who complained that Susanna's trim legs were being hidden because she spent the majority of the time sitting behind a desk with her co-hosts”. Ho yus. And how many critics would that be? A thousand? 250, perchance? Maybe fifty? Well, no: four Tweets were displayed and three more quoted.

And, as to the provenance of at least one of the Twitter accounts quoted, the least said the better. But then the Mail Online mood lightened: “Later on the show, however, Susanna moved from behind the desk, giving viewers the chance to catch a glimpse of her enviable pins”. Well, there’s earth-shattering for you. Yes, ITV have also invested in the obligatory sofa. And there is a chair, too!

Plus there is, folks, a conclusion: that Sarah Bull was the right name to put on Mail Online’s by-line. Because bull is exactly what has been written. The hatchet job demanded has turned out to be amateurish and leering. And if ITV can match GMA, which is fronted, don’t forget, by political heavyweight George Stephanopoulos and the truly inspirational Robin Roberts, they will have done Very Well Indeed.

And will there be more hatchet jobs from the Mail’s pundits? There certainly will.

UKIP – Whopper Telling Roger Speaks

While the debate continues as to the kind of oddball candidates that Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers are attracting, and whether they will help or harm UKIP’s prospects in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament (EP), one fine specimen of party loyalty out there in East London has demonstrated that he is prone to easily losing touch with reality.
Step forward Roger Da Costa, whose name may look suspiciously like he is Portuguese, but is a proud Brit, honestly (there are rather a lot of these in and around UKIP, aren’t there?). Roger the Whopper Teller, whose ability to brazenly recycle dodgy EU-bashing Tweets this blog considered the other day, became distinctly flaky when put under the spotlight.
The disintegration of Roger’s grip on reality began when a Twitter user who goes by the name of An Island Liberal told “if you even [sic] come across Rog the #ukip minister for misinformation you must read this excellent blog”, and linked to my post, which was moderately good for a brief massage of the ego. But the paranoid Da Costa saw a conspiracy afoot (yes, I know, 12 inches as a rule).
So he immediately issued a denunciation: “Lefty @liberalisland who also goes by the name of @zelo_street has been getting really upset about my Tweets criticising the EU and Labour”. Where does one start? Ridicule and upset are not the same thing, the two accounts are not run by the same person – I don’t know who An Island Liberal is – and criticism and telling whoppers are also two different concepts.
 So I felt the need to put Roger the Whopper Teller straight: “You really are a paranoid numpty. I have no idea who @liberalisland is, but I do know you have passed Barking en route to Upminster”. Even for someone who lives in East London, this expression is obviously not referring to the physical act of travelling to the eastern terminus of the District Line, but this didn’t occur to Roger.
No, Roger now believed that I was watching his every move (no, don’t laugh)! How someone in Crewe can do this did not occur to the UKIP stalwart, and so he came back with “So you’re not just my Twitter stalker, you’re my stalker outside Twitter too. Am so honoured to have a lefty as a fan”. Ho yus. And as the man said in Diamonds Are Forever, shove your honour.
I had to break the news to Roger that he was being called out for dishonesty, and remind him “You’re off your trolley. But carry on digging yourself deeper”. His response, which he has now for some reason deleted, was to try and make light of his smear and suggest I visit the Thatched House pub in Upminster, which, if it is home to more of the UKIP gang, I’ll pass on, thanks.

Roger knows: just because he’s not paranoid doesn’t mean he isn’t being watched.

Sunday 27 April 2014

Fraser Nelson Celebrates Too Soon

Sajid Javid’s first move as Culture Secretary has been to defend press freedomproclaimed the editor of the Spectator yesterday. The incoming Culture Secretary had said “It is now a decision for the press what they want to do next. I don’t see any further role for government in this”. This was held to endorse anyone not going along with seeking recognition of a self-regulator under the Royal Charter.
To Javid, it seems, the issue has already been ‘put to bed’. The government set up a club, looking for members. No one has joined. Oliver Letwin’s brain fart has finally cleared the room – and the idea of a Royal Charter has been put to one side. And, most importantly, the ancient freedom of the British press has been protected”. I have immense respect for Nelson. But this is just tosh.

The Royal Charter provides for a recognition panel for any press self-regulator that seeks recognition. The Government set up no club, and looked for no members. It was left to the press to decide what it would do next. No compulsion would be involved, there would be no arm-twisting, no “state licensing”, no censorship. And the Royal Charter has not been “put to one side”.

Moreover, what Nelson cannot get his brain around is that what Javid said is no different to what Maria Miller said last November, and the transcript of her interview on The Andy Marr Show (tm) can be read HERE. “I think the most important thing that happens now, and is happening I think very well, is for the press to go forward with their own self-regulatory body and to establish that” she said.

Javid and Ms Miller effectively said the same thing. But Nelson – plus, it has to be said, a number of other authors, with both The Week and Conservative Home being taken in before stopping to think what was actually being said – has seen something, the apparent setting aside of the Royal Charter, that has not been done. Javid said he saw no further role for Government.

And, indeed, Government need have no more involvement: what was enacted in the Royal Charter was a recognition panel for voluntary self-regulation. Nelson and his fellow refuseniks have been so convinced by their own propaganda – the talk of “statutory regulation”, “state licensing”, and “state censorship”, that they really believe that the Leveson recommendations mean just that. They don’t.

If Javid had “set aside” the Royal Charter, why was Lord Black of Brentwood reported only the previous day by Press Gazette as saying “It's vital that all the institutions which represent our industry continue to fight our corner with vigour”, and that the Royal Charter was a “menace”, representing an “unacceptable infringement of press freedom and freedom of expression”, if it had been “set aside”?

Fraser Nelson has been conned by his own empty rhetoric. What a star.

HS2 – Vote Brings More Whoppers

With the HS2 bill returning to the Commons next week, those still trying to derail the whole exercise have stepped up to denounce it. Sadly, this denunciation consists of the same kind of dishonesty that characterised the last round of denunciation. So few will be swayed. But they’re going to do it anyway, starting with someone from the Telegraph called Liam Halligan.
High speed trains at Madrid's Chamartin station. More than five years ago

His column, so we are told, “tackles head on the key issues facing the British and global economy”. And it grandly proclaims thatThe HS2 infrastructure project is 'the wrong solution to the wrong problem’”. Sadly for Liam, he fails to define what the problem, right or wrong, actually is (hint: it’s about network capacity, but the speed is also useful). Some of his statements are comical in their waywardness.

HS2 “proposes to shave just 20 minutes from the London to Birmingham journey time” (35, actually), “at a ... cost of £42bn” (that includes going all the way to Leeds and Manchester), “Costs will obviously spiral far beyond official projections” (you forgot the contingency of £14 billion) and the magnificent “the West Coast Main Line [overran] by almost 80pc”. IT WASN’T A NEW BUILD, WAS IT?

The whole point of a new build line is that upgrading existing ones while they are still in day-to-day use is very expensive (see also under motorways). And Halligan then sprays his credibility up the wall in one go by talking of “spending £80bn-plus on the London-Birmingham leg of HS2”. Playing make-up-a-scary-number is not going to convince anyone, other than that whoever is doing it is not credible.

And talking of “not credible”, the Mail brings news of claims about the project by “by respected free-market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs” (Zelo Street’s filleting of the last hot and steaming IEA HS2-bashing turkey HERE and HERE). Readers are told “The think tank ... cast wider doubt on the benefits of faster rail links by citing the case of Doncaster in South Yorkshire”.

Ho yus? “The town was ranked 42nd worst out of 318 English boroughs in the 2010 Index of Multiple Deprivation”. As Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. One, someone seems to have missed all those job losses from mining and other industries, and two, Doncaster is the railhead for a rather wider area than its administrative boundaries. And we can all play town and city comparisons.

Indeed, I’ll take the IEA’s Doncaster and raise them Peterborough, Swindon, Ashford, Leeds, York, Manchester, Bristol, Bath, Newark and Mrs T’s home town of Grantham. The IEA is cherry-picking and ignoring any factors that are inconvenient to its argument. And the Mail does itself no favours by giving a platform to Tory MP Cheryl Gillan to trot out more of the same.

The HS2 vote will be a formality. As will this blog’s filleting of the IEA report.

UKIP – Pity Us, We’re Victims

Remember the now-notorious “Labour isn’t working” poster used by the Tories during the 1979 General Election campaign? You might also recall that the people featured in the poster were not unemployed – as was inferred – but were volunteers from within the Tory Party. It’s one of many examples of parties being caught out using their own supporters who then pretend to be “ordinary voters”.
Squeaky finger up the bum time once again

And getting thus caught out is par for the election course. No credible political party thinks to call “unfair” when they get caught out in this way – except, it seems, for Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP, who do not complain when it happens to their opponents, but get all defensive and trowel on the victimhood complex when it happens to them.

What has also been shown is that when Farage gets prodded a little by the same kind of insistent questioning routinely meted to other party leaders, he gets rattled very quickly, suggesting a disturbing shallowness of both character and substance. When Nick Robinson asked whether he was taking a British worker’s job by employing his (German) wife, the flannel and evasion was almost instantaneous.

But it was the revelation that an “ordinary voter” from Devon, Lizzy Vaid, was actually one of Farage’s aides and UKIP’s events manager, that set the Farage blusterometer off the scale: “The fact that Lizzie Vaid is half-Indian and works for us is as far as we are concerned a non-issue” he ranted. But nobody said her being half-Indian was anything to do with it.

He went on “I can't really win with you, can I? On the one hand you're saying that we are talking about a white working class in Britain, and secondly, when I tell you that working directly for me is a girl who is half-Indian, you've got a problem with that too? Just make your mind up. I don't mind being criticised, but do make your mind up what the criticism is”. And nobody mentioned the white working class, either.

Then there is the suggestion that The Other Parties Are All At It, epitomised by one William Henwood, who got caught saying that actor Lenny Henry “ought to go and live in a black country” (Henry is from Dudley, which is in the, er, Black Country). Henwood also said “Islam reminds me of the 3rd Reich – Strength through violence against the citizens”. But this was brushed off.

UKIP MEP Roger Helmer said “you will find individuals like that in all parties, and behaviour like that in all parties”. Oh no you won’t: this concentration of bigotry, intolerance, paranoia, spivvery and forthright dishonesty is unique to UKIP. You want to play politics, you should expect your policies and views to be scrutinised as harshly as your opponents. Especially if you’re leading in the polls.

Nigel Farage needs to man up and take some responsibility for his pals’ actions.

Top Six – April 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, I have to go out for a while later. So there.
6 UKIP – Roger The Whopper Machine Meet Roger Da Costa, who uses Twitter to churn out a never-ending stream of handy facts for his fellow Kippers – all of them somewhere between dodgy and totally untrue.

5 UKIP – Poster Frauds Those hard-hitting posters ... yes, they were well dodgy too.

4 Susanna Reid Bashing Season Opens Ms Reid is moving to ITV and getting more money for doing so. Fair play to her, you might think. But that would be to ignore the press appetite for stoking envy – and a bit of leering.

3 Manchester United – History Repeating Itself Sack the manager? After a long-serving boss steps down? Somebody is forgetting what happened the last time the club did that.

2 UKIP – Another Fruitcake Supporter Was Andre Lampitt an exception? As if you need to ask.

1 Mail Foodbank Reporter’s Disturbing Past The hack who conned a Nottingham foodbank out of £30 worth of groceries was also so desperate that he was willing to solicit photos of little girls to please his bosses.

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

Saturday 26 April 2014

Good Morning Britain – Why It’s News

The press loves to kick the BBC. And its mentality is far more readily satisfied by the commercial mindset, so Sky and ITV usually get favourable coverage. So why is there such a lot of interest in ITV’s new breakfast offering, Good Morning Britain, which we now know will make its debut at 0600 hours next Monday? Because, to paraphrase Auric Goldfinger, they expect it to die.
Susanna Reid

As I noted earlier in the week, there was a bout of Susanna Reid bashing when the show’s line-up was revealed: this was to generate lots of sales and clicks on the back of recycling stories about Strictly, Ms Reid’s home life, and the size of the wad that she has secured for the benefit of Herself Personally Now, which is the point where right-wing papers suddenly turn against free market economics.

Has anything changed as launch day approaches? Well, the size of the Reid remuneration had dropped from a reported £1 million to a reported £400,000, which suggests that either ITV have secured her services for at least two and a half years, or whoever broke the story at the People was thinking of a rather bigger number than the parties to the contract had agreed.

Otherwise, the smallest detail is being pored over: “The backdrop of the set is expected to feature a London skyline, with St Paul's Cathedral among the prominent landmarks”. No shit, Sherlock. “Susanna revealed she is not going to bother going to sleep at all on Sunday night”. No she didn’t – she saidI'm not sure I'm going to go to bed at all on Sunday night”. Daily Mail strikes again.

And there is nothing new in a Mail piece tellingTV star Susanna Reid has denied that the ‘curse of Strictly’ played a part in the breakdown of her relationship. The 43-year-old newsreader, who quit her role as BBC Breakfast co-presenter to move to rivals ITV, said she remains friends with the father of her three children, Dominic Cotton” showing Ms Reid getting papped on Platform 6 at Manchester Piccadilly.

No, the constant stream of articles is for one reason, and one alone: the knowledge of what happened when ITV poached Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley. That ended in ratings disaster, but yielded an embarrassment of riches for under-pressure hacks in need of cheap copy. What the mid-market and red-top titles dearly want to see is an addition to the list compiled by Jonathan Maitland for the Telegraph.

This details all those who went from BBC to ITV and failed, digging down right to the bedrock – which is how they unearthed the name of Simon Dee. Yes, Maitland had to go back well over 40 years for his research, but that is the expectation: after all, ITV have had more than one breakfast TV disaster. So there they all are, hovering like vultures, ready to pick apart Good Morning Britain.

Will there be bad reviews next week? You need to ask? It’s a racing certainty.

UKIP – Roger The Whopper Machine

One of Nigel “Thirsty” Farage’s stalwarts has hit on a good way of promoting his chosen party: churn out scores of Tweets, almost all with no citation, no matter how shaky, and keep churning them out, so that anyone of opposing view is forever playing catch-up, and the UKIP faithful have an ample stream of, er, by-product to Retweet. Step forward Roger Da Costa.
Da Costa claims to be apassionate supporter of the NHS”, despite also supporting a party whose commitment to a flat tax would mean shrinking the state to the kind of size last seen in 1939, when there was no NHS. But then, he also supports doubling prison places, and there wouldn’t be any money for that in UKIP fairyland either. So he’s good on the distant-from-reality thing. How good? Here we go.
If the UK left the EU, British expats would still have ‘executed right’ to remain a resident of Spain under Article 70 b Vienna Convention” he declares. Highly questionable (you can see the text of that Convention HERE). Plus he manages not to mention Ireland, Portugal, or France. This is because none of them are party to the Vienna Convention. But that’s as solid as his argument gets.
It gets worse? Ho yus, it’s downhill from there, as witness “HS2 is being constructed under orders from Brussels as a consequence of the TEN-T directive”. Paranoid, much? This is a flat-out, pants on fire, unequivocal lie. TEN-T is about interoperability, and the “corridors” identified in the directive do not have to be built at all (Lisbon to Madrid for example).
How about another rail related whopper? “Rail privatisation occurred as part of an EU Directive (EU Directive 91/440). The UK cannot renationalise the railways as members of the EU”. Another total lie. There is no requirement in that directive for any selling-off. Moreover, in pulling the plug on Railtrack and now putting Network Rail on the Government’s books, we have renationalised.
So while Da Costa searches for the nearest fire extinguisher, let’s move on to another example of dishonesty and paranoia. “Ukraine now has a [sic] unelected new leader put there by the unelected EU Commission just like they did with Greece and Italy”. The EU had nothing to do with the Ukraine’s interim leader, and has never imposed anyone on any member state. Pants still on fire.
But onwards and downwards: “Labour destroyed our border controls then with the help of the BBC denounced anybody who voiced concerns about mass immigration as racists”. Yes, BBC paranoia is obligatory within UKIP, as is the border controls whopper. This is the same BBC that the Farage fringe shamelessly manipulates in order to garner free publicity.

Still, he believes it, and some UKIP members do too, so that’s all right, then.

HS2 – Telegraph’s Fraudulent Lead

Still trading on the trust of readers who often believe that, in choosing the sole surviving broadsheet daily title, they are buying into a paper of record, the Maily Telegraph has, under the less than benign ownership of the Barclay brothers, been conspicuous in its parading of loaded or even mostly untrue stories, and today’s lead on the HS2 project is a fine example of the genre.
Treasury minister’s battle to scrap HS2” declares the headline, from which it can only be deduced that Andrea Leadsom is fighting even from within the Government against the project, especially when the Tel also says “Andrea Leadsom, the new Treasury minister, urges David Cameron to rethink the HS2 rail project, saying £50 billion investment is poor value for money”.

Moreover, the article then tells that “David Cameron’s new Treasury minister has called for a ‘dramatic rethink’ of the High Speed 2 rail project. Andrea Leadsom has warned that the £50 billion scheme does not represent value for taxpayers’ money. The economic case for the rail line was ‘questionable and rapidly deteriorating’, she said, promising to ‘fight against’ the project”.

On top of that, “Her warnings over the economic justification for the project will be particularly damaging, coming from a Treasury minister widely respected for her economic expertise”, which sounds good, but is nothing more than the Tel gilding their non-existent lily. And, as any fule kno, ministers do not oppose Government policy openly. So would the Tel like to come clean?

The Telegraph analysed the public statements of six Tory ministers whose constituencies are most severely affected by the scheme ... Mrs Leadsom’s comments ... were published on her constituency website before she became Economic Secretary to the Treasury, and remained there until Friday night when the site appeared to be temporarily unavailable”.

So when the Tel said that Ms Leadsom “urges ... rethink”, that should have read “urged”. Otherwise it’s not true. What the MP has done is to take the accepted anti-HS2 line when on the back benches, which is predictable as the proposed route passes through her constituency. Now she is bound by the collective responsibility of being part of the Government.

Indeed, the Tel has conceded that Ms Leadsom’s spokesman “would not say how she planned to vote on the main Bill on Monday or whether she would even attend the debate. The MP said in a statement that she expected the Bill to pass through the Commons ‘with a large majority’”. So former back bencher accepts collective responsibility is the story, and it isn’t really much of a story at all.

Still, what’s a little falsehood and misinformation to the Tel? No change there, then.

Friday 25 April 2014

UKIP – Chief Spinner’s A Bigot

So Andre Lampitt was suspended by Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers yesterday after he was discovered to have Tweeted that Islam was an “evil organisation”, and that “All Muslims need to leave Europe... or denounce their pathetic satanic religion”. The Muslim abuse problem, however, is only just beginning for the UKIP hierarchy.
Yes, "Lunchtime", you're bang to rights

This is because there has been equally vitriolic rhetoric deployed by one of Mr Thirsty’s most senior lieutenants: step forward chief spinner Patrick “Lunchtime” O’Flynn, whose oeuvre as political correspondent of the Daily Express was laced with the most unfortunate sentiments. Yet O’Flynn is not merely still in place, he is also top of the UKIP list for the East of England.

In August 2005, in the wake of the previous month’s London bombings, O’Flynn was tellingMuslim fanatics ‘are no better than the Nazis’”. In December 2007, he called the Muslim Council of Britaina by-word for fence-sitting in the face of Islamic extremism”, and that “following the rise of Islamic extremism and British involvement in the Iraq war, our country is widely detested by Muslims across the globe”.

And, for “Lunchtime”, the piece de resistance came in February 2008, with a vitriolic tirade titledThe time has come for Muslims to fully adopt the British way of life”. Readers of the Express were told in no uncertain terms that “the leaders of British Islam still don’t appreciate the degree to which their behaviour is despised by the majority of the public”. And, as the man said, there’s more.

British people feel their hospitality has been abused and will brook no further compromise with radical Islam. A profit-and-loss account of the impact of Islam on Britain will quickly demonstrate why. On an economic level, the impact of Britain’s Muslims is massively negative. Research shows Muslim communities are typified by heavy levels of welfare dependency and low levels of wealth creation”.

They are? “A report last year by the Left-wing Institute for Public Policy Research found that fewer than half of adults from four of the biggest Muslim groups here – Somalis, Bangla­deshis, Turks and Pakistanis – are in employment”. So some wives stay at home – you know, like other housewives – and some are retired. And your point is? But he’s not finished just yet.

Muslim urban ghettos have also reintroduced electoral fraud as a regular feature of British political life ... large Muslim communities which are almost wholly non-integrated and have brought with them massive social, political and economic problems ... Britain’s Muslim population will continue to rapidly expand”. No wonder Andre Lampitt spoke as he did – Islamophobes are openly welcomed by UKIP.

That is, unless “Lunchtime” O’Flynn is going to do the decent thing and resign.

Hillsborough – Whitehall In Trouble

Three Government departments were in deep trouble yesterday after their staff were discovered to have amended the Wikipedia entry for the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium disaster. Factual statements had been amended by the insertion of derogatory and facetious comments. And the culprits may have thought that they had got away with it, being on the Government Secure Intranet (GSI).
Hillsborough Memorial at Anfield

But, as the Liverpool Echo has told, “The web of computers is tracked online by a handful of IP addresses, the details of which were released by Wallasey MP Angela Eagle following a parliamentary question in 2008, when she was a Treasury minister. Analysis of Wikipedia’s revision history revealed the same unique ID codes were used to amend the Hillsborough and Anfield pages with a series of sick jokes”.

So we now know that “Of the 34 government IP addresses known to the public, at least two were used over a three-year period to insert the phrases ‘Blame Liverpool fans’ and ‘You’ll never walk again’” and that “A further amendment from a government machine includes changes to the phrase ‘This is Anfield’, which appears above the players’ tunnel at the club's ground, to ‘This is a S***hole’”.

And we also know the identity of the departments involved: “The entries were posted from IP addresses used by computers based in government departments including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Her Majesty's Treasury and the Office of the Solicitor General”. Some Civil Servants are going to be in very hot water, and very soon. Because the matter will not rest at mere complaint.

The Cabinet Office is on the case, with a spokeswoman telling “We thank the Liverpool ECHO for bringing this to our attention. This is a matter that we will treat with the utmost seriousness and are making urgent inquiries. No one should be in any doubt of the government’s position regarding the Hillsborough disaster and its support for the families of the 96 victims and all those affected by the tragedy”.

That, together with the hunt for whoever has been leaking confidential information from the DfE to Andrew Gilligan, will keep them busy. But what the boneheads who made the Wikipedia amendments should have borne in mind – but were probably too stupid to do so – is that FoI means that, even within the Government’s Intranet, the outside world can identify the source of those amendments.

And what will force this investigation to find the culprits is that it is now universally accepted – yes, even in Westminster – that routine abuse aimed at the Hillsborough families and supporters is totally out of order. Routinely demonising folks for such non-crimes as Originating from Merseyside with Malice Aforethought is no longer acceptable, even over at the Spectator.

Someone in Whitehall is for the high jump. And they deserve whatever’s coming.

UKIP – Another Fruitcake Supporter

As Nigel “Thirsty” Farage tries to waffle his way out of the discovery that one of the hand-picked UKIP supporters in their election broadcast, Andre Lampitt, turned out to be a rabid racist and Islamophobe, he needs to ask his party apparatchiks how nobody spotted the Twitter bio containing “Born British in Rhodesia”, as well as the truly repellent contents of the account.
And while Nige and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers figure that one out, the rest of us should not be surprised at the discovery: there are, after all, fruitcakes a-plenty among the party’s supporters. One superb example, going by the name of Kenny Bee, and with the Twitter handle @seafarer1847, has come to the attention of Zelo Street: the level of idiocy on view here is quite remarkable.
Kenny wanted everyone to know why they should vote Farage: “The EU and it’s [sic] socilaist [sic] followers desire a Muslim takeover of Europe. Keep voting Lib Lab Cons if that’s what you want, otherwise vote UKIP”. Scaremongering, much? Talking of which, “Scaremongerin [sic] like Bliar [sic] saying Iraq could launch Weapons of Mass destruction hitting UK in 11 minutes?
Anyhow ... back to those scary Muslims! “The Muslim problem is now officially recognised albeit a little bit late. They were pre warned but called us racists so VOTE UKIP OR LOSE UK”. Wibble. Is he serious? You betcha, says Sarah: “Does anyone actually imagine that EU, Labour, Liberals & Tories will do something about this massive invasion of muslims in Europe & UK”.
And if it wasn’t Muslims, it was Romanians: “They make electronic devices that steal your credur [sic] Card details, helped by the EU probably”. Wibble again. Heck, he’s even paranoid about kebabs, which, in UKIP land, don’t just contain meat: “not to mention the mouse and rat droppings of which are around 5%”. Wibble once more.
Is Kenny only paranoid about Muslims, Romanians and kebabs? You jest: “Remember, Liverpool is the capital of Ireland” he warns. Perhaps that explains why the unemployed builder in the UKIP poster is an IRISH actor (David O’Rourke). Then it’s back to Muslims: “I think Fony [sic] Bliar [sic] realises at last that he & Labour fcuked [sic] up big time supporting the invasion of Iraq. We now have a muslim problem in the UK”. Straws, clutching, much?
Any further paranoia? Yep, there’s Nick Clegg. Seriously: “One can tell Clogg [sic] has run out of steam. Time for him to piss off to Belgium” (Lampitt also had a problem in this area, but with Ed Miliband). And to finish? The BBC! “BBC are fully funded and run by the EU. The TV Licence is now unnecessary and should no longer be charged. STOP PAYING FOR IT!

He can even see the black helicopters from his bedroom window. Probably.