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Sunday 28 September 2014

Brooks Newmark – A Nasty-Tasting Sting

[Update at end of post]

So the era of “Shagger” Major appears to have returned: along with splits over Europe is what, in the early 1990s, we used to call “sleaze”. It began soon after Major was returned to power in 1992: at the same time as Sterling was making its ignominious exit from the ERM, David Mellor was in the process of an equally ignominious exit, after being caught literally with his pants down.
And there was more, much more, but the latest Tory departure, minister Brooks Newmark, who represents Braintree, is not in the same mould as Mellor. The then MP for Putney did not have to be persuaded to engage in extra-curricular discussions of a Ugandan nature (which reached Kampala with such regularity that he confessed to being “absolutely knackered”) with Antonia de Sancha.

Newmark has, let us put this directly, been stung. He believed he was exchanging messages, and latterly photos, with a young female Tory Party activist. It was, in fact, a male freelance reporter who then handed over the material he had gathered to the Sunday Mirror. Both the names on the by-line – Vincent Moss and Matthew Drake – are staffers. They just wrote it up.

Yes, Newmark was a grade A fool, a complete jackass. He made no checks on the identity of “Sophie Wittams”; had he done so, he would have found that this person did not exist. And, if the photos he received were just culled from stock photography, or a model’s portfolio, he’s an even bigger fool. But the knowledge that someone is deliberately targeting MPs with a view to stinging them is more worrying.

As the Sunday Mirror prepares to plead a Public Interest defence to the inevitable accusation of entrapment – rather as the Murdoch press did on so many occasions when Mazher Mahmood stung all those slebs – the question is going to be asked: who is the freelance reporter? The press is not telling. But careless Tweets, and poorly chosen false names, may go some way to telling us the answer.
Consider this Tweet from Alex Wickham, newly anointed teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog: “Exclusive: Tory minister Brooks Newmark resigns over sex scandal. Read all about it in tomorrow’s Sunday Mirror”. How come Wickham knew about it so early yesterday, unless of course he had something to do with it?

Alex Wickham is technically a freelance – he also contributes to Breitbart London. The Great Guido, far from crowing when the Mirror titles paid out to hacking victims last week, was silent for a whole day. And that name – Sophie Wittams, Alex Wickham – yes, well. Guess where my Occam’s Razor is pointing me right now.

On top of all that, to perform this kind of sting, you need to be totally without principle. In other words, low enough to be one of the Fawkes rabble.

[UPDATE 1620 hours: For those still not persuaded that Alex Wickham was a little previous in letting the world know about the Sunday Mirror story, the timing of his Tweet should be noted: 1805 hours yesterday.
Compare that with the first notification from Vincent Moss, whose name is on the story's by-line: he does not Tweet out the news until 1905 hours - a whole hour later than Wickham.
And Matthew Drake, the other name on the by-line, does not Tweet it out until 20 minutes after Moss: 1925 hours. So how come Wickham knows all about it, and so early in the evening, if he had nothing to do with it? No pressure]


rob said...

Begs the question - what is the definition of a journalist/reporter (investigative or not)?

Do accuracy or even ethics (not Essex Mr Desmond) come into it? Does Ipso facto know? Perhaps that well known journalist Derek Webb could help?

Andy McDandy said...

Newmark obviously never saw X-Men 2:

"Never trust a beautiful woman. Especially one who's interested in you."

Philip C James said...

Scrolled down past the comments section to be confronted by a photograph of an attractive leggy though older "mature" woman who would like to hear from me.

Should I respond? Or carry on making my comment about how Newmark's fate was sealed by Tory HQ wanting him to go speedily and quietly to minimise damage to their last conference before the erection, sorry, elec

Garve said...

One of the saddest news stories of 2013 involved a young lad from Fife who sent photographs to someone online who he believed to be a girl his own age. In fact he'd sent them to fraudsters based in the Philippines who then used the pictures to blackmail him for their personal gain. The young man killed himself by jumping from the Forth Road Bridge, unable to accept the shame he believed it would cause his family.

I should like to hear from those who perpetrated the sting in this case just how their conduct differs from those fraudsters.


rob said...

@ Philip C James

Hope that your confrontation wasn't caused by a Phorm(alation) device. Background tracking could indicate which sites you have been visiting lately?