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Friday 31 October 2014

Guido Fawked – Lame Telegraph Tory Story

The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog is known to have sold out to most of the press. But somehow it is managing to comment on the continuing ruckus at the Telegraph, which suggests there may have been a falling out between those in the Victoria bunker and folks elsewhere in the Barclay Brothers empire – like at the Spectator.
Feared. Allegedly

Sadly, The Great Guido’s offerings are not improving as a result, as witness the piss-poor “Telegraph squared by Downing Street ahead of 2015”, suggesting that the editorial line of the Tel has been modified to shill shamelessly for Young Dave and his jolly good chaps in the run-up to next year’s General Election, and that this is held to be a big change from the editorship of Tony Gallagher.

The basis for the story is that Jason Seiken and Chris Evans of the Tel had a meeting with Cameron back in March. Well, whoopee-do: all the stories the Fawkes blog is quoting in support of that change have appeared rather more recently, and what Staines and his pals have not told is that, rather more recently than the folks from the Tel, Cameron hosted a more significant press presence.
We've already got our gongs, thanks ... 

That was the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre of the Daily Mail, whose meeting was followed by the Mail going into slavish Tory Party support mode, even working with the party the other week on an assault on the NHS in Wales. The Mail has even broken with the rest of the press pack on occasion, so it can splash yet more Tory propaganda on the front page.

What is remarkable about the Mail’s support is how grovelling and uncritical it is, which, for Dacre, is unheard of: although the Mail is deeply conservative, the paper has never held back from criticism of the party if there has been any suggestion that it is not in sync with the Vagina Monologue’s moral crusade. That is why this blog suspects Dacre has been promised a gong for his efforts.
... but I haven't f***ing got mine yet, c***

Instead, the Fawkes rabble blether “A source familiar with the situation stresses to Guido 'the deal has been done' ahead of the election, with the paper fully signed up to support the Tories to the hilt – especially in regard to the ‘purple menace’. The terms of the deal – and the benefit to Sark’s famously reclusive billionaire brothers – remain a mystery”. Yeah, right. The Barclays already have their Ks.

The Mail has the larger circulation, and Dacre wields more influence than anyone now at the Tel. Yet the Fawkes folks ignore that obvious connection and go after one they are free to talk about, with a truly lame scrap of evidence to back it up. The Tel always backs the Tories in the run-up to General Elections. It’s not news.

But it is confirmation that The Great Guido has sold out to most of the press, and that the Tel is up shit creek without  a paddle. Another fine mess, once again.

Fake Sheikh – Panorama Desperation

One instinctively knows when part of the press has a problem: most papers keep schtum and hope the story will go away. If this fails, there is swift and loud denunciation of whoever stepped out of line, and especially if the hated BBC gets involved. So it has been with the continuing story of Mazher Mahmood, aka the Fake Sheikh, who is back in the news. But only in the Guardian.
This photo may be about to get an update

The Fake Sheikh had enjoyed a long line of circulation enhancing stings, joyfully trashing reputations and even getting folks jailed, until his entrapment of Tulisa Contostavlos went off the rails after a judge concluded that he had lied, and had also manipulated evidence. Since then, other sting trials involving Mahmood have collapsed. The Sun claimed to have suspended him.

However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, the Beeb has decided, in its wisdom, to allow the Panorama team to investigate Mahmood. Reporter John Sweeney was all set to front a programme next Monday, and then the lawyers got involved. The screening was under threat. Did the Fake Sheikh have the means to instruct his learned friends?

As if you need to ask: Maz doesn’t have that kind of level of petty cash availability. But he does know a man who does: step forward Creepy Uncle Rupe. My understanding is that the Murdoch empire is bankrolling what could be a non-trivial legal bill. And that begs the question whether this is just the placing of faith in the usefulness of an employee, or something rather more significant.

Mazher Mahmood’s USP has, for some time, been that his identity has been kept a closely guarded secret. Any chance that the Sun, or any other Murdoch title, has of making use of his dubious talents in the future means keeping it that way. So it has to be assumed that Panorama was going to unmask the SOB. That would be enough to finish him, whether or not he is prosecuted for lying to judges.

That would impact on any other journalist who claims that their work undercover means that publishing photos of them would endanger them, or somehow prejudice their careers. Zelo Street is aware of one such hack who has been using this excuse to have such photos taken down, and who may well be following the Fake Sheikh case with more than a little trepidation.

All that we know right now is that, according to Roy Greenslade, “it is thought that lawyers acting for Mahmood have registered an objection to the programme being aired and may seek an injunction to prevent the broadcast”. The BBC, though, is believed to be sticking to its guns. That means that, even if the Panorama programme is not broadcast on Monday, it will air soon after.

The career of Mazher Mahmood now hangs by a thread. Stay tuned, folks.

Woolf Crying Once Too Often

[Update at end of post]

The promised inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (CSA) has not got off to a good start: its first chair, Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, had hardly been installed than she was on her way, following complaints that her impartiality could be compromised because her late brother, Michael Havers, had been Attorney General at the time in the 1980s when much of the abuse in question took place.
Fiona Woolf

So then that baton was picked up by Fiona Woolf, who was appointed last month. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, a problem soon entered, in that she was close to Diana Brittan, whose husband’s conduct as Home Secretary, again during the period that much of the abuse took place, had been possibly flawed. And then came this week’s revelations.

Ms Woolf has appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee, under the watchful eye of chair Keith Vaz. As part of this process, she has provided follow-up information to answer points raised by that Committee, one of which highlighted her closeness to the Brittans. The letter from her to Vaz went through seven drafts. The impression was given that she was trying to play down that closeness.

Why she might want to put some distance between herself and the Brittans might not have been unrelated to an intervention under Parliamentary privilege by Labour MP Jim Hood: “Backing for MP who linked Brittan to sex claims in Commons: Colleague defends Jim Hood over comments saying he is right to speak outtold the Mail yesterday. The accusation was incendiary.

Hood told the Commons, during a debate on the 1983-4 miners’ strike, “By the way, the current expose of Sir Leon Brittan, the then home secretary, with accusations of improper conduct with children will not come as a surprise to striking miners of 1984”. An undercurrent of nudge-nudgery has followed Leon Brittan for the past three decades; now someone has raised their head above the parapet.

The man Private Eye used to call “Sir Slimy Brittoil” is, of course, married, but then, so was the infamous Derek McCullough, aka Uncle Mac, whose “interference” with children was revealed by BBC veteran John Simpson in his 1998 memoir. Indeed, McCullough and his wife had two children. He was a bona fide war hero. And the BBC appears to have retired him swiftly and quietly.

Now that Hood has made his comments, and they have been disseminated, Fiona Woolf is toast. The impression that she has distanced herself from the Brittans because she may have known more than has been admitted has shot apart any residual credibility she may have brought to the CSA Inquiry. There have been, predictably and understandably, fresh calls for her to go.

There can be no confidence in the CSA Inquiry until she does. Game over.

[UPDATE 1720 hours: what did I tell you? Fiona Woolf has now stood down from the chair of the CSA Inquiry. As she told the BBC, "She said it had been clear for some time that victims did not have confidence in her, adding that it was time to 'get out of the way'".

It should not be beyond the wit of the Home Secretary to appoint someone to chair the Inquiry who does not have a connection to those in the 1980s political establishment. Or, from the experience so far, maybe not]

Thursday 30 October 2014

Has The Telegraph Sacked Toby Young?

As the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs goes through its death throes – no posts at all on Monday of this week, and one on each subsequent day, unless you count the entries for Adams’ cartoons – it is coming clear that, in the state of flux the paper now finds itself, nobody is at the helm and the vessel is drifting aimlessly, as the supposed star cast is finding something better to do.
Tobes talks total cock no shock horror

Some pundits, like Dan Hodges, are finding themselves transformed into Real Serious Writers (no, don’t laugh), but others are conspicuous by their absence. And one regular who has all but vanished, although he is still writing for the Spectator, is the loathsome Toby Young, whose regular propaganda for Free Schools, especially the one founded by Himself Personally Now, was such a tedious former fixture.

Indeed, Tobes had managed seven posts as recently as last month, but there have been just two in October, and nothing for the past three weeks, which suggests either that he has nothing to say (improbable, as Tobes is always prepared to talk about his favourite subject, which is, of course, himself), or that he has been deemed surplus to requirements and therefore binned.

Of course, he could have merely walked away, but denying himself an outlet for all that right-wing tosh is not the Tobes way. The record of ructions at the Telegraph that has featured prominently in every recent issue of Private Eye (the latest litany of redundancies, featuring the word “decimation”, is top left of Page 9 in Issue 1378) has not yet featured him, but time will tell.

After all, if the Tel is binning the likes of Tim Walker, who is way better at being creative with reality than the loathsome Tobes, then it won’t have a problem getting shot of a pundit who went to catch a plum assignment at the Murdoch Sun – but ended up dropping it. If Louise Mensch is the preferred choice as Sunday pundit, it really wasn’t worth his while turning up.

So what’s the deal, Tobes? You’re giving Spectator readers chapter and verse on your holiday – the Portuguese have my sympathies, but there you go, that’s the dastardly EU and its Freedom of Movement for you – and telling them, at other times, how wonderful your hero Michael “Oiky” Gove was, and how you’ve just opened another Free School, but there’s nothing in the Telegraph.

It’s sort of “downhill all the way”, isn’t it? Sacked by Vanity Fair, sacked by the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, and now it’s looking like he’s been sacked by the Tel. Perhaps he’ll be in touch soon, bleating that I’ve “libelled” him again. Most likely, like all the other Tel blogs contributors that are no longer there, he’ll just slink off and hope that nobody notices. Except I have done.

Yes, there goes the loathsome Toby Young. On his way ... out.

Nadine Dorries’ Imperfect Recall

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

Earlier this week, Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith spoke in favour of a right for MPs to be recalled by their constituents: he may have lost this battle, but, in starting with 80 supporters but securing 168 votes in the subsequent division, he may consider it a job well done in advancing his cause. One of his fellow Tories to support his contention was (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries.
Ms Dorries’ own rationale for making a contribution was her assertion that she had been subjected to a recall effort two years ago. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, there was, and is, no way to recall an MP, and so she cannot have been. Indeed, at the time she herself told that “I can’t be de-selected” in an interview with the Sun. Perhaps she forgot about that.

She also gives the impression of not only conforming to Olbermann’s Dictum (“the right exists in a perpetual state of victimhood”), but also giving a highly selective account of what happened at the time she went off to Australia to appear in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here without telling the whips’ office where she was going – but taking Tim Montgomerie at Conservative Home into her full confidence.

That article, it should be noted, contains the sub-heading “Nadine Dorries submitted this piece to ConservativeHome a week ago, under embargo”. Ms Dorries behaved appallingly towards her party, and on top of that she now protests that “I had every national newspaper against me and not just for a day but for a month—in my study they stand waist high”. No reliable citation of that last assertion was provided.

What she managed to forget is that the Conservative whip was withdrawn from her, and remained withdrawn: she was instructed to “rebuild bridges” with her fellow MPs – and constituents. The victimhood playing does not explain her vicious attack on Labour MP Steve McCabe for not attending the Commons often enough – while he was recovering from open heart surgery.

Also missing from her speech in the recall debate is another line from that Sun article, which asserted “REBEL Tory Nadine Dorries last night vowed to use her I’m A Celebrity fame to topple PM David Cameron”. The Ashcroft poll that suggested 45% of Conservative voters in Mid-Bedfordshire would be less likely to vote for her again also fails to get a mention.

Then she tells that “My constituents did not sign that petition because they know the kind of MP that I am”. The petition was presented by one of those signatories, who lives in Barton-le-Clay. That means he is one of her constituents. I’m sure Goldsmith was happy to have her support on the day, but all that Nadine Dorries’ interventions show is that her recall of what really happened is seriously imperfect.

And she should stop playing the victim, when the facts are not on her side.

[UPDATE1 1455 hours: so desperate is Ms Dorries to tell the world about her highly principled stand on MPs' recall that she has performed a serious breach of constituent confidentiality.
The full version of the Tweet shown above has the unfortunate Mr Hickling's full postal address shown very clearly. The Zelo Street version has been edited to remove that.

I shall refrain from saying anything more at this stage on the subject of the fragrant Nadine's fitness for office. There is, as Chief Inspector Clouseau once said, a time and a place for everything]

[UPDATE2 1715 hours: the Tweet containing the unfortunate Mr Hickling's address has now been deleted. But no-one need worry: I took a screenshot, just in case anyone were to pretend it had not been put up in the first place.

What does not appear to have been provided is an apology for the foul-up, but then, Ms Dorries, as is well-known, does not do apologies. One can only hope that Mr Hickling has been given at least a personal note of regret by his MP

[UPDATE3 October 31 1635 hours: while Ms Dorries gave the impression that her 70 plus emails were some kind of spontaneous outpouring of appreciation from her constituents, that is not quite true.

As a number of them have been in touch to tell me (that means more than one of them, thanks), the emails are the result of an initiative by campaign group 38 Degrees. The body text of their customised email to supporters is shown below.
As can be seen, the supporter clicks on the link and an email thanking the MP - in this case Ms Dorries - is automatically generated. That is the source of her "popularity".

For some reason, there is as yet no trace of the fragrant Nadine openly thanking 38 Degrees for their efforts on her behalf. I'm sure this is a merely temporary omission]

Drug Laws Don’t Work – Official

[Update at end of post]

Drugs. One word that is enough to have the authoritarian part of the press in a collective froth at the mouth. If the subject must be debated, it has to be concluded that we must be tough on them. There must be tough penalties. Lots of people must go to prison and suffer tough sentences. There is a War On Drugs, and no slacking or deviation is to be permitted.
But, as Captain Blackadder might have observed, there was only one thing wrong with this idea – it was bollocks. The War On Drugs was long ago lost; the supplies get through, the supply network covers the whole of the country, and all that has been achieved is the enrichment of organised criminality and untold misery for many of the users, as we refuse to treat drugs as a health issue.

One of the first subjects in which Zelo Street majored back in 2009 was the failure of the War On Drugs, and you can read a series of posts on this HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE. What was covered then is true still: all that the tough rhetoric and criminalisation has done is to increase the number of addicts, and countries that have moved to make drug use a health issue have seen significant improvements.

So when a new report was released yesterday into the effects of current drugs policy, which “represents the first official recognition since the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act that there is no direct link between being ‘tough on drugs’ and tackling the problem”, and was signed off by Home Secretary Theresa May, the authoritarian side of the press was ready to twist the story to suit its agenda.
Lisbon: no scene of drug-ravaged desolation

Despite the report noting “Trend data from Portugal shows how levels of drug use changed in the years following decriminalisation in 2001. Although levels of drug use rose between 2001 and 2007, use of drugs has since fallen to below 2001 levels. It is clear that there has not been a lasting and significant increase in drug use in Portugal since 2001”, the Daily Mail is having none of that.

The obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre has instead dismissed the study as a “Lib Dem Report”: readers are told “Report was led by Liberal Democrat home office minister Norman Baker” and that it was “spearheaded by Liberal Democrat home office minister Norman Baker”. The World Health Organisation is cited. It hasn’t produced a report for over two years.

But public opinion, and much of the rest of the Fourth Estate, is showing that the Mail is out of step, and out of time: even the Murdoch Sun is saying today that “We can't just carry on with the status quo. Something has to change”. It is time that the two largest mainstream parties joined the debate, rather than leaving it to the Lib Dems and Greens, and demonstrate that UKIP doesn’t have a clue on the issue.

This war is lost; we must face reality. Who will give us the leadership we need?

[UPDATE 31 October 1425 hours: right on cue, the Daily Mail has detailed Steve Doughty to produce a hatchet job, which tries to suggest that Portugal has a worse drug problem than suggested by the Government report.

Readers are told "nearly a fifth of 15 and 16-year-olds use drugs – well over twice the number in the years before decriminalisation", but Doughty is being economical with the truth here. This is not a number of regular users, but those who have tried various drugs.

Moreover, the figures used in the report signed off by Theresa May and Norman Baker were for adult usage, so Mail readers are being asked to "look over there".

On top of that, an attempted smear of the official adult Portuguese figures uses Kathy Gyngell in support. She is in favour of attempting to keep currently illegal drugs illegal, and has written extensively to this effect]

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Don’t Menshn Gamergate

The ruckus that is Gamergate continues to rumble on as an argument, an exercise in sexism and misogyny, and a festival of clickbait generation. The whole area is quite heated enough: some moderate and reasoned discussion is in order. Thankfully, Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency has tried to do just that in an op-ed for the New York Times on the female perspective on gaming (read it HERE).
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

She concludes “The time for invisible boundaries that guard the ‘purity’ of gaming as a niche subculture is over. The violent macho power fantasy will no longer define what gaming is all about. Those who police the borders of our hobby, the ones who try to shame and threaten women like me into silence, have already lost. The new reality is that video games are maturing, evolving and becoming more diverse”.
But Louise Mensch, as with all other subjects, knows more than Ms Sarkeesian, and, indeed, more than everyone else put together. “Interestingly rubbish article by Anita Sarkeesian on Gamergate in the NYT. Facts are against her ... Sarkeesian says ‘I know games can tell more inclusive stories’ and ‘gamers have already lost’ but actually, nothing will change” she declared loftily. And there was more.
Video games appeal mostly to boys and men, make tons of money, and will continue to do so without being ‘inclusive’ ... So therefore, Sarkeesian has the free speech right to whine away and the free market will ignore her”. Hmm, I wonder what Helen Lewis might make of that, other than a significantly-sized bonfire. And Ms Mensch ignores the “shame and threaten” part.
She continues not to get the point of Ms Sarkeesian’s article, telling “It’s intellectually bankrupt to complain that products made for men appeal to men”, which will most likely engender many head-desk interface scenarios. And then she goes off on an unexplained tangent: “totally tempted to post World of Warcraft comedy video forced me to watch last night from Wowcrendor”. Wait, what?
She’s not sure what: “not sure what it was called but it was a lot of bosses sitting around in a therapy circle thinking ‘happy thoughts’ ... come on Gamergate types give me a link to the Wowcrendor bosses therapy meeting thing”. I’m sorry, but this is totally irrelevant to Gamergate, isn’t it?
But soon she snaps out of it and returns to attacking Ms Sarkeesian: “that is [Feminist Frequency] vs Gamergate in a nutshell. Attempted censorship by association”. Not sure about that one, Ms M. But do go on (as if she needs prompting).  She asks us to “look over there” at films: “Macho films appeal to both sexes without ‘inclusive’ marketing or stories”.

Louise Mensch is at least consistent: she hasn’t got a clue about Gamergate, just as she hasn’t got a clue about most things. And she was allowed to become an MP.

Dacre’s Democracy Dreamland

Back in 2007, Peter Wilby observed the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre giving the annual Cudlipp lecture: it “was like watching the Mail, with all its anger, its prejudice and its negativity, made flesh ... he delivered himself of an unoriginal rant that made many listeners feel they were stuck in the back of a taxi with a particularly boring and opinionated driver. It was a wasted opportunity”.
Why the f*** shouldn't I be allowed a paranoid rant, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

Seven years later, the Vagina Monologue has again been lecturing, this time at the Ritz. And the wilful distortion of reality was remarkable: “I note with some irony that Leveson had barely a word of criticism for the police and the politicians. Well, if the first had done their job properly and the second had not so sycophantically fawned upon Murdoch, Leveson would never have occurred” he began.

In Dacre’s world, the politicians only fawn around Creepy Uncle Rupe, yet it is he who has enjoyed the most recent Downing Street lunch. His audience is supposed to airbrush out what should have been “Leveson part 2”, which would have considered the Police. And, most telling of all, the Leveson Inquiry is imbued with powers it just did not have. Dacre comes over as frightened and paranoid.

All that Leveson did was to propose a totally independent system of press regulation – independent not only of editorial and proprietorial interference, but also independent of any and all politicians. Thus public confidence would be restored in the press; the less well off would no longer get trampled over and have no means of redress when monstered and smeared by the Fourth Estate.

Dacre cannot see it that way: “To the police and politicians made so suspicious of the press by Leveson I would argue that it is in all our interests to drop hostilities and to try and restore the mutual respect we should have for each other and which is an important ingredient in a healthy democracy”. What can he mean by “hostilities”? Indeed, what does he mean by “mutual respect”?

What he most likely means is that a number of journalists have been arrested as part of continuing Police operations, and Dacre did suggest in the first instance that the cops should do their job properly. This they are now doing. And if, by “mutual respect”, he means going back to the too-close relationship that existed between press and law enforcement officers, he can forget it.

As for “healthy democracy”, when his paper is selectively shilling for one party and against its opponents, smearing the EU just to garner more sales, and attempting to whip up anti-immigrant hysteria, that is a case of “physician, heal thyself”. Paul Dacre’s attempt to then deflect by inventing “Government controls shackling the press”, where none exist or are proposed, will not wash.

That “boring and opinionated driver” hasn’t improved over the years, has he?

Football Racism Hypocrisy

In the UK, racism in football went unaddressed for many years. Black players routinely had to endure taunting and worse, and some clubs even prided themselves on remaining “white”. But in recent years, action has been taken to stamp out the problem, with players finding themselves on the receiving end of fines and bans. Thus bodies like the FA have shown they mean business.
David Elleray: 'slap on the wrist'

However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, the thought has entered in recent months that the establishment is practicing double standards, and that there is one set of sanctions for players, while a lesser set applies to, well, pillars of that same establishment. A comparison between two recent cases should prove instructive, if disappointingly so.

In October 2011, Liverpool hosted Manchester United at Anfield. During the game, there was an alleged altercation between United defender Patrice Evra and Reds’ striker Luis Suárez. Evra accused Suárez of racially abusing him; the striker was handed a large fine and, worse for him and his club, banned for eight games. Suárez was left in no doubt that his misconduct was serious.

And so, it seems, do officials, when their behaviour falls short of the required standard. Northumberland County FA vice president John Cummings has been handed a four-month ban for suggesting “a woman's place is in the kitchen and not on a football field” and telling one female official “It's nothing against you personally but all the time I'm alive, a woman will never referee in my league”.

But that may not be the end of the matter: “Cummings may yet appeal over the decision and BBC Sport understands he believes he should receive a more lenient sanction, just as the chairman of the FA's referees committee, David Elleray, did this summer”. Wait, what? David Elleray, the former Premiership referee?

As the Mail observed in July, Elleray “is chairman of the FA’s referee committee. He also sits on UEFA’s referees committee and acts as a technical adviser to FIFA. He was made an MBE for services to football in the Queen’s birthday honours last month”. What did this pillar of the establishment say to cause controversy?

Here’s what: “Elleray avoided punishment after he told Robert McCarthy, a black non-league referee coaching manager, that he ‘looked rather tanned’ and asked him ‘have you been down a coal mine?’ ... The FA ... reminded him of his responsibilities and ordered him to attend an equality and diversity training course”. Lord Ouseley rightly called this “unacceptable” and a mere “slap on the wrist”.

A mere footballer gets a fine, a ban, and is ostracised. A relatively minor official gets a four month ban. But a pillar of the establishment is swiftly forgiven, and calls for tougher action are waved away. Football isn’t doing itself any favours here.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Letts Airbrush Ed Balls

There is a golden rule for the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre to follow when reporting from Westminster: even if Young Dave’s campaign is turning out not necessarily to his advantage, do not, repeat do not, repeat DO NOT give any credit to Labour. And, if necessary, be as selective as possible in excising anything that might reflect badly on The Blue Team.
Harry Potter and the Gobshite of Arslikhan

And there is no more loyal Dacre doggy than the appalling Quentin Letts (let’s not), whose report on yesterday’s debate on the EU budget adjustment (the one that nobody told Cameron about until he rocked up in Brussels last week, honestly) is a masterpiece of sly abuse and selective editing. Quent has even managed to miss the best value turn in the debate – because it was “Auguste” Balls.

Letts clocked Ken Clarke damning Dave with faint praise, by sympathising that he somehow didn’t know something that everyone in the Treasury and Foreign Office probably did. He got his abusive snark at Mil The Younger in: “Miliband busied himself rifling at high speed through a sheaf of documents”. That’s bad?

Ah but, as the man said, there’s more: “Gosh, he’s peculiar sometimes”. Yes, it’s dead peculiar to bother yourself to do some research, especially when Quent is, as I found out first hand at the Leveson Report presentation, wont not to bother taking notes, or, on occasion, even bothering to listen.

But back to Ken Clarke – and another Letts hate figure, John Bercow: “Mr Clarke was allowed to go on for an unusually long time. He put a long second question about the European arrest warrants, trying to stir more trouble for the PM. Speaker Bercow, who has scores to settle with Mr Cameron, gave Mr Clarke all the time in the world. Bercow chuckled”. I’ll bet he did. Not.

He still hasn’t mentioned Balls. So I will: while Miliband was waving the incriminating evidence in the form of Nicky Morgan’s letter at Cameron, the Shadow Chancellor was taunting the PM: “Are you going to pay?” Dave ignored him. So Balls eyeballed the rest of the Government front bench in turn, pointing at Cameron: “Is he going to pay ... well, is he going to pay?” They were not happy.

This, and Miliband’s letter-waving, are nowhere to be seen in Letts’ report. So Mail readers know that the PM had a less than ideal day, but the most significant causes of it – except for Ken Clarke, because he’s a Tory, and Speaker Bercow, because he’s a Mail hate figure – are airbrushed out. As such, Quent gives us an excellent illustration of how the Mail keeps its readers in the dark.

And before Quent says he’s being badly done by here – I am at least crediting him with being present and making his own notes this time, rather than cobbling it all together afterwards from Hansard. C minus, Letts – must try harder.

Sun EU Editorial Stupidity

The Super Soaraway Currant Bun is safely hidden away behind its paywall, but this does not prevent someone from snapping the contents and making them available online (see how that works, Rupe?). And one look at today’s editorial – again, on the subject of the EU – shows that the amount of panic in the ranks is leading the hacks and pundits to mine a seriously broad seam of stupidity.
Whoever penned this prime slice of whataboutery is clearly sore at the way in which the right-leaning press’ line on the budget adjustment row – that it was dumped on Young Dave by the dastardly foreigners at very little notice – is unravelling, even on Cameron’s own side of the Commons (pace Ken Clarke yesterday). It had been known about for several months.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) knew what was coming. Senior civil servants knew. Dave’s junior ministers knew. The idea that nobody told Cameron before he arrived in Brussels last week is just not credible. This was understood clearly by Mil The Younger, who arrived for yesterday’s debate armed with the incriminating evidence, and “Auguste” Balls, who joyfully heckled the Government front bench.
All of this riled the Sun newsroom, resulting in “Cam off it, Ed ... who cares if a few officials in Whitehall knew months ago we would be slapped with a £1.7 billion invoice from Brussels?” Er, hello, Murdoch poodles? Anyone who cares about the fitness for purpose of the civil service, or the propensity of some at the top of the Tory Party to tell porkies for political advantage cares – that’s who.

But do go on (as if I need ask): “Seriously, Mr Miliband, who cares who knew what and when? What matters is that the Prime Minister plainly knew nothing until last week, was outraged and is rightly refusing to cough up ... we should not pay a ‘fine’ for our economic success ... [Miliband] is like a guilty child pointing away from a smashed window and shouting ‘look over there’”.
We know who's really saying "look over there" - he is

Yeah, right. Except we don’t know when Dave knew – that’s the whole point. And, as for that Miliband analogy, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. One, he isn’t the one breaking anything, and two, if anyone’s shouting “look over there”, it’s the meathead who wrote this editorial.

The Sun chooses not to tell its readers that the UK voted for the system of EU budget contributions based on Gross National Income – the same system that is subject to adjustments, which in the past have worked in our favour. At that time, there were no protests about how many doctors and nurses all the countries that had to pay more would be unable to employ as a result.

The Murdoch poodles don’t want their readers to have the full story. And they even want to pretend their hero Dave knew nothing. They’re in cloud cuckoo land.

Surly Burley’s Pliable Libel

Young Dave experienced a little local security difficulty yesterday on a visit to Leeds: a jogger called Dean Farley managed to run up to him and there was a brief shove before the rozzers woke up and decked the supposed assailant. Cameron made light of it: he’s probably experienced worse when out campaigning in the past, and maybe in the Commons to the present day.
Kay Burley: butter wouldn't melt, eh?

The incident, however, had been captured on camera, and has provided the media with hours of harmless “what if” scenarios. What if he’d had a knife? What if he’d had a gun? What if he’d had a pointed stick (OK I made that one up)? This meme was taken up enthusiastically by the news channels, especially Sky News (“first for breaking wind”), where they’re always up for a bit of Phil Space journalism.
Sky stalwart Kay “surly” Burley was on duty when Alex Andreou tuned in, only to hear something that he found, shall we say, unexpected. “Question posed by Kay Burley just now: why did protestor get so close to the PM? What if he had Ebola? I PROMISE I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP” After the Retweet count passed 400, Ms Burley decided she had been slighted.
So [Alex Andreou] misheard me reading out a Tweet, attributes it to me and holds me up to ridicule and contempt in the eyes of a third party ... I think that’s classed as libel young man [waits for apology to minimise legal action]”. Ri-i-ight. Just exactly what would one do on receiving a solicitor’s letter or nastygram saying “D’you know, old chap, I think you have libelled our client”?
Would you (a) climb down, (b) refer them to the precedent case of Arkell versus Pressdram, or most likely (c) not bother with pleasantries and just tell them to f*** off? Ms Burley was not exactly on a winning track here, despite protesting “No need to get your knickers in a twist ... [Alex Andreou] I’d quoted a viewer”.
And, so what? As Andreou pointed out, she didn’t say “well, that was a comment out of left field”, or “now it’s getting too silly”, she just read it out. She posed the question, even if it was someone else’s. She had no grounds for threatening action, and therefore no expectation of an apology. So she didn’t get one.
Alex Andreou gave her a public response, in which he did not apologise. Ms Burley was singularly fortunate to get that much, but then he’s a reasonable and courteous bloke. Even so, she had to salvage something to avoid total – and self-inflicted – humiliation. So she replied “How lovely, a ‘boyfriend’ apology”.

Probably through gritted teeth, too. Never mind, though, it might give Sky News a ratings boost for a few minutes. Think before you read out Tweets verbatim, Kay.

Monday 27 October 2014

Guido Fawked – Silent On Piers Morgan

Last week, despite holding a dinner for the celebration of the achievements of Himself Personally Now, and inviting the right-leaning part of the establishment along, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines maintains that he has not sold out, is not a part of that establishment. And every time he maintains this fiction, another of his actions comes along to bite him in his fat arse.
Feared. But not after selling out

Latest in the long line of very obvious signs that The Great Guido is a shameless sellout concerns former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, formerly the butt of much nudge-nudgery by the Fawkes rabble. Staines crowed long and loud in a piece for the piss-poor Commentator how Morgan was involved in The Dark Arts. The Fawkes blog ran an endless series ofPiers Knew” headlines.

The litany of mirth-inducing rubbish emanating from the Fawkes folks included the assertion that the Sven’n’Ulrika-ka-ka-ka-ka story was down to hacking under Morgan’s editorship, despite several reports telling that the rival Screws did the hacking and the Mirror got wind of it. Staines and Co had a dossier that they weretaking to the Metropolitan Police”. They hadn’t, and so they didn’t.

As recently as early this year, the Fawkes blog was pretending Morgan was through with the Mail (he’s since landed a new role with Mail Online). They crowed when he left the anchor’s chair at CNN’s 9pm ET weekday show. So, now the Independent has suggested that at least three cases of suspected phone hacking took place during his Daily Mirror editorship, one might expect them to be on the case.
He who laughs last ... is this bloke

And one would be completely wrong: the Indy reported its findings on Friday and Saturday last, and today, with the Fawkes blog offering its usual weekday mix, they could easily have used the Indy articles to tell their adoring readership that they had been right all along, that they had told us all so. But thus far there has been complete silence on the subject. Not even a mention.

Why the silence, after all that effort expended over not only Morgan, but also Tina Weaver? Was all the crowing over how the rotten lefty Mirror was facing its potential demise for nothing? But you may already know what has happened: after the Fawkes blog’s newly anointed teaboy Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham’s sting of Brooks Newmark appeared in the Sunday Mirror, it was clear the war was over.

The Great Guido is now doing business with the Mirror titles. As with the rest of the Fourth Estate with whom Staines and his pals now sup, hostilities have ceased and the Fawkes blog has been bought off. The silence on Piers Morgan is yet another sign that the Fawkes rabble has indeed become part of the establishment that it pretends to despise. Staines has once again sold out.

Now he daren’t even criticise Piers Morgan. Another fine mess, once again.

Newton Dunn – Stinking Hypocrite

Last month, the Sun’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn was incandescent with rage, after discovering that the Police overreach via misuse of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) could actually involve journalists other than those at the deeply subversive Guardian, who were a bunch of rotten and traitorous lefties who didn’t really count.
Who are you calling a sleazebag?

As Dominic Ponsford at Press Gazette told, “Newton Dunn ... refused to co-operate with officers, even though he was himself threatened with arrest for aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office. The case against him was thrown out by the Crown Prosecution Service. He refused to give any information which might identify his source”. Dead right he did. But that wasn’t the end of it.

The Met Police nonetheless successfully applied for Newton Dunn’s mobile phone records in order expose his source. The Met also successfully seized call data to The Sun newsdesk in order to expose a second alleged police source ... Press Gazette has asked the Met for clarification, but it appears the records were released by Newton Dunn’s mobile phone network” [no comment].

Yeah, snooping is clearly A Very Bad Thing. Misuse of Police powers is equally bad. I mean, they already have all that information on the Police National Computer (PNC), don’t they? Well, after today’s revelations by Press Gang, we know that Newton Dunn knows rather more about what’s on the PNC than he might have previously let on. And he’s not averse to a little snooping himself.

Here’s the story: “Documents obtained by Press Gang implicate him in a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign against a Tory politician. At the time Newton Dunn was working for Piers Morgan at the Daily Mirror ... The politician targeted was Adrian Flook, Conservative MP for Taunton between 2001 and 2005 ... The former MP was a member of the Commons Culture Media & Sport select committee when it investigated press invasion of personal privacy in 2003”.

Newton Dunn’s name is clearly visible in an extract from Steve Whittamore’s “Red Book”, in which he noted requests for information from the Mirror titles. The note specifies Flook as the target, and contains the acronym CRO, which means a Criminal Records Check – which needed access to the PNC.

Whittamore charged £500 a time for a CRO; this reflected the degree of difficulty, as a search required the services of a suitably bent individual with access to the PNC. Yes, when it came to involvement in The Dark Arts, Tom Newton Dunn was as unprincipled a sleazebag as the rest of them.

The Sun’s appallingly righteous political editor, like so many of his contemporaries, is a stinking hypocrite with a short memory. He is therefore ideal Sun material.

Don’t Menshn The EU

The Super Soaraway Currant Bun is tucked away behind a paywall, but a Zelo Street regular has helpfully scanned some of yesterday’s paper (see how that works, Rupe?). A perusal of the dubiously researched copy shows that, just as one might have thought (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch could not say anything more stupid, she has once again outdone herself.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

In another display that suggests we should be deeply sceptical of the abilities of back-benchers on both sides of the Commons, Ms Mensch proclaims “Juncker’s off his Ed if he thinks he will defeat Dave”. Yes, she believes that any renegotiation of the UK’s arrangement with the EU means Young Dave and European Commission (EC) President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker will be facing off against one another.

And, as Captain Blackadder might have observed, there was only one thing wrong with this idea – it was bollocks. What might be discussed in a renegotiation will not involve the EC President. It will involve the representatives of the member states. So when she says “Juncker is playing a high stakes game of chicken with David Cameron”, this is baloney. He hasn’t even taken over the Presidency yet!

She talks of “Juncker’s hardline federalist policies”, but his personal politics and policies are irrelevant. It is the European Parliament (EP) that votes through, or votes down, legislation. Does Ms Mensch know anything about what goes on in Brussels? That is in serious doubt, as witness “Juncker wants to block Cameron’s restrictions on Euro migrants”. As far as is known, he hasn’t uttered a word on the subject!
Winner of no prizes at all for fiction

And, as the man said, there’s more: “This is a cornerstone of renegotiation [says who?] and Juncker has no say in the matter [so why pitch his name in the first place?]. If Cameron can do a deal with Germany, so-called ‘free movement’ WILL stop”. What planet is she on? Angela Merkel has said that Free Movement is not up for negotiation. Doesn’t the Sun have her column reality checked?

Finally comes an absolute pearler: “Juncker and his Euro morons think they can demand an extra £1.7 billion of the Chancellor’s hard-saved cash. All this is political”. Er, hello? Someone who has not yet taken over the Presidency is able to influence the EU budget mechanism already? And save us the “hard-saved” Party Political Propaganda, Ms M., we’re borrowing more than ever right now.

Ms Mensch seems to have missed that the budget adjustment is part of a process that the UK voted for. The Presidency has no say in the matter. Louise Mensch has no room to call “morons” on anyone else: not only does she know diddly squat about how the EU functions, she also can’t be arsed finding out.

And just remember, she was allowed to stand as an MP and sit on the DCMS Select Committee. Don’t trust your elected representatives – they may be equally stupid.

Sunday 26 October 2014

Mail Online – Paedophiles’ Friend

The propensity of Mail Online to feature not just girls under the age of 16, but children, in its “sidebar of shame” is well-known: on the pretext that these are usually kids whose mums are famous, the website is very keen on publishing photos of them. We even saw the depths being plumbed when Heidi Klum’s eight year old daughter was referred to as a “leggy blonde”.
Who f***ing says our website is creepy, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

But today has brought the barrel-scraping to a new low, as Mail Online has brought its unfortunate readers the story of ... a 19 month old girl who allegedly dances to Beyoncé (or Beyoncé Knowles, as she was in the days when she had a surname). “The 19-month-old beauty queen 'diva' whose family have spent £5,000 on dresses and entry fees for pageants... just five months after she started walking”, it tells.

And, as the man said, there’s more: “Beauty queen Bobbi Boyden dances to 'Single Ladies' at pageants ... The 19-month-old from Essex has been dubbed 'Baby Beyoncé ... She wears a black leotard, curled hairpiece and lipstick for her routine ... Mother Stephanie says Bobbi is a 'diva' who loves the attention ... But others have questioned whether a toddler should enter a pageant”.

And others will question why the hell this kind of stuff which is liberally plastered with as many photos of the unfortunate toddler as Mail Online can lay its hands on needs to be splashed, and prominently with it, across a mainstream news website when the potential audience for child pageants is on the small side unless there was an intention to attract the curious and creepy.

The comments from the toddler’s mother don’t help: “We put the music on and Bobbi started wiggling straight away. She watched the Beyoncé music video and just started to copy the moves. Every time she heard the song she would start dancing, so it seemed an obvious choice for her. She shakes her bum and she just thoroughly enjoys it”. Er, I’m sorry, but we don’t need to read this, thanks.

But Mum is being modest in other ways: “She does wear wigs and crowns and fancy dresses but I don't give her spray tans or cake her in makeup - I'll wait until she's about five for that. For now she wears a dab of lipstick and nail varnish”. What a fifth birthday present to look forward to – being caked in spray tan.

What’s the point of all this? Oh hang on, here it comes: “Pageant compere and former beauty queen Sara Collins believes that Bobbi has extraordinary talent and has signed the tot to her talent agency, 'Sara's Stars'”. So this is a tasteless PR churn masquerading as news. And creepy clickbait.

That Mail Online is desperate to up the click count is understood. That Martin Clarke and his pals cannot see that there are some places they should not go is not – well, not at Mail Online, anyway. The obsession with little children is deeply disturbing.

David Rose And The Green Blob

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. The old adage has been at the forefront of one Mail On Sunday regular’s mind for some years now, as David Rose churns out article after article attacking climate science and desperately pushing the meme that says climate change isn’t really happening. Today has brought a variation: an assault on green energy, and all who advocate it.
David Rose: misinformation is a serious business

EXPOSED: How a shadowy network funded by foreign millions is making our household energy bills soar - for a low-carbon Britain” thunders the headline. And there is much more: “Shadowy pro-green lobbyists working at every level of the Establishment ... Organisations are channelling tens of millions of pounds into green policies ... Elite lobby group linked to Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the WWF ... Current energy policies shaped by the Green Blob will cost up to £400billion ... If continued, there will be further eye-watering energy bill rises for Britons”.

Readers are then regaled with details of groups that are allegedly part of this “shadowy network”. They are clearly not so good at being “shadowy” if Rose can get details of them and the causes they support. And it soon comes clear that this reading is, typically for the Mail titles, highly selective.

The key to seeing just how selective Rose is being is when, after he has described the supposed panoply of “The Green Blob”, he pitches the pretence that their only opposition is the Global Warming Policy Foundation and its £300,000 annual budget. We are supposed not to look at the supporting cast.

That would be every right-leaning think tank and lobby group, from the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance to the IEA, CPS and ASI. It would be a whole host of pundits, and purveyors of pseudoscience. Across the North Atlantic, there is the maze of groups being funded by the likes of the Kochs and the oil companies. Mining interests are also ranged against the green lobby.

But, in the world of David Rose, all of this is swept under the carpet, leaving only the green lobby as some kind of imaginary Satan. It is an area where he has significant previous: as George Monbiot has pointed out, the MoS has published rather a lot of his particular brand of falsehood and misinformation. Monbiot has taken one Rose piece apart to show the secrets of his modus operandi.

Also noted is that Rose reported for the Observer on the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war, repeating claims made by Ahmed Chalabi and his pals about Iraqi weaponry. Chalabi was a fraud and his stories bunk. But Rose regurgitated them, and the paper’s influence helped propel us into an adventure that continues to have unpleasant consequences today. Now he’s at it with green energy.

Lesser men might have stopped and thought. David Rose clearly needs the money.

EU – Nadine Dorries Doesn’t Understand

With Young Dave and his jolly good chaps still pretending that those ghastly foreigners suddenly dumped their €2 billion plus bill on an unsuspecting British Government at zero notice last week, it should come as no surprise that some of the Tories’ MPs are having difficulty understanding the process that led to the adjustment being made and the extra payment being required.
After all, if the Prime Minister resolutely says things that are not true – he knew the numbers a week beforehand, he knew what was coming, and, worst of all, he knew what the budget rules were and raised no objection for well over four years – then he can hardly object when his back benchers say equally untrue things about the business, even if it’s down to a lack of understanding.
And on those back benches, there is no finer example of misunderstanding than that of (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries, whose knowledge of the EU budget mechanism clearly needs a refresher course. “Any MP who votes for a 1.7 bil EU increase in budget to fund Germany et al because our economy is doing well, deserves to lost their seat” she concluded.
Sadly for the fragrant Nadine, the EU budget is not being increased. The budget remains as before: the share of it paid by each member state, which is calculated according to their GDP, is adjusted if it differs from that estimated. This has, as I pointed out yesterday, led to at least one occasion in the past when the UK was a beneficiary after budget adjustment was completed.
That clearly cut no ice with Nadine, who observed “Wild horses wouldn’t drag me down a lobby to vote for that”. Her Stones back catalogue must be close to hand. She’s sure who is coming off the worst, though: “From the Times winners and losers – guess who is the biggest loser”. Actually, per head of population, the Netherlands tops that category – not the UK.
The confusion of the Member for Mid Bedfordshire is completed by the bizarre “1.7 we could use to pay our nurses/firefighters/teachers sent to Germany, France and Spain to pay for theirs because our economy doing well?” Ms Dorries appears unaware that the EU budget mechanism was voted for in unanimity – we voted for it. We also joined all the other member states in voting down a proposed alternative.

It also does not occur to her – understandable, as most of the press hasn’t stopped to think about this – that the Government would have known for several months that better than expected growth would result in a budget adjustment, and that any adjustment would mean us having to pay extra.

It is worrying when MPs do not understand what is going on – or perhaps do not want to understand. That is, after all, what they are paid to do.