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Saturday 28 February 2015

UKIP - Farage Spinner In Trouble

Today, Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP are holding their “Spring Conference” at the Kent coast town of Margate, where demonstrators have also gathered to pass adverse comment on Mr Thirsty and his devoted followers, some of whom have recently taken to making the kinds of observations that go significantly beyond anything that can be passed off as political incorrectness.
Squeaky Stateside finger up the bum time

In such circumstances, one might think that Farage and his staff would have put all their energies into promoting the conference, to the exclusion of all else, but that thought would have been misplaced: earlier this week, Mr Thirsty upped sticks and crossed the North Atlantic to give the 2015 CPAC event in Washington, DC the benefits of his superior insights, expecting to go down a storm.

But this whizzo wheeze did not turn out necessarily to the Farage fringe’s advantage: despite the build-up, when he went on stage to address all those bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Stateside conservatives, there were only about 250 of the 5,000 seats occupied. It was an expensive, pointless and ultimately humiliating disaster. Who was so silly as to think that there would be any mileage in such a stunt?
Pretentious? Who, moi?

Worse, it was the kind of stunt that the Kippers could ill afford just over two months from the upcoming General Election. So whose daft idea was it? And will said person carry the can? What will that person’s future within UKIP look like? As so often, the full picture is only slowly emerging, but there are sufficient clues to see who might be in the frame to receive the full force of Nige’s retaliation for the mess.

For starters, look at where the Farage visit was exclusively trailed - Breitbart London, formerly the domain of Raheem “call me Ray” Kassam, now Mr Thirsty’s right-hand man. “United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage will cross the pond at the end of February to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) … Breitbart News has learned exclusively” they told.
Then there wasBREITBART NEWS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ALEX MARLOW INTRODUCES UKIP’S NIGEL FARAGE TO CPAC”, but not that only 5% of seats were occupied. And the thought that Kassam had played a part in the farce was only reinforced when the rumour began to circulate that he had somehow missed the flight back to the UK on Thursday night. Had there been a falling-out between the two?

Right now, it looks as if the idea might well have been Kassam’s - he’s an old hand at CPAC visits. It also looks like he may be carrying the can. As to his future, well, it might be difficult for Mr Thirsty to get himself another spinner so close to the elections in May. But if “Ray” was behind the débacle, he’d be well advised to look for another berth soonish. Whether or not there will be any takers is another matter.

Meanwhile, UKIP limp on, weakened even further by this misadventure. So congratulations are in order to whoever was daft enough to organise it.

Hacked Off - Press’ Little Helpers

What was perhaps just as predictable as the agenda brought to last Wednesday’s lobby event hosted by campaigning group Hacked Off by Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, newly anointed teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, was the credulous behaviour of those taking Wickham’s “story” at face value, despite what happened having been caught on audio, which disproved it.
And those queuing up to back Wickham prove only that they are as dependent on that part of the Fourth Estate that is wilfully opposed to properly independent press self-regulation as he is - thereby making Hacked Off’s case for them. Forget actually reporting what really happened, push the view which will find greater favour with the editors and proprietors, and hope once more that they will throw them a few more biscuits.
So when the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole told that there had been a “Show trial for journalists”, Chris Deerin not only took him on trust, he decided it was “Typically vile”. But then, he has a column, you see. Jago Pearson was equally happy to endorse whatever the Fawkes rabble told him, but then, he’s at Media Intelligence Partners, and the “Media” part generally means being nice to those who oppose Hacked Off.
Also nodding along was Dylan Sharpe, dependent on Creepy Uncle Rupe for his stipend. But the pièce de résistance was provided by the Telegraph’s well-known blues artiste Whingeing Dan Hodges: “He can report things how he likes. Not for Hacked Off to tell journalists how to report the House of Commons”. He did report how he liked, and nobody told him to do otherwise. And there’s more where that came from.
He's not being questioned. He's being shouted at and ordered to stand up”. He wasn’t shouted at, and nor was he ordered to do anything. Try again. Ah, there was “putting them in a room and screaming at them”. Wickham put himself in the room, and nobody screamed. But it sounds less grovelling than “Please Mr MacLennan, don’t include me in the next lot of hacks you send down the road”.
He was allowed in. And then he was ordered to stand up while people shouted at him”. See, he did enter the room of his own accord! But he wasn’t ordered to do anything (again), and nobody shouted at him (again). Do go on. “So you think if journalists are reporting from a meeting they should be forced to stand up and explain each tweet”. No forcing, and no explanation was requested. But it fits the required script.
That means Wickham can continue lying by saying “I am out alive” when he left of his own accord and nobody stopped him. But what does the general public think? Master Cole must have been more than customarily miffed to read Peter Fowler’s response to him: “The problem is we all read the blog from Crewe”. Yes, all those obedient press poodles nod away, but more and more are getting the right story from Zelo Street.

And many more don’t believe the guff the press is feeding them. Never mind, lads.

Katie Hopkins Can’t Read Properly

Just to confirm that Creepy Uncle Rupe has sent the word out to his dubiously talented array of obedient pundits to put the boot in on the hated BBC, the Super Soaraway Currant Bun’s finest exponent of drive-by clickbait generation has produced a rant batshit enough to satisfy the most discerning rant connoisseur, as she has coupled the Corporation with Terror and Scary Muslims. Yes, Katie Hopkins has spoken (again).
Viewers may want to look away now

The Sun is hidden away behind a paywall, but a Zelo Street regular has made a copy of the latest Hopkins missive available to me (see how that works, Rupe?). From this it is not difficult to deduce that Ms Hopkins has, as so often, opened her North and South before engaging brain, with the result that she makes even less sense than usual. Her principal weapon is a BBC-commissioned poll of Muslims.

So under the headline “I’m sick of BBC bias on terror”, readers are told “The simple fact is nearly half of Muslims in the UK think that the bearded loons who spout violence against the West are pretty much in line with mainstream Muslim opinion”. They do? “According to a BBC poll, almost half - 45% - believe that extremist clerics who preach violence against the West are not ‘out of touch’”. And, as the man said, there’s more.

Did you hear that? Forty-five per cent of Muslims in the UK think that the hooked preacher  of hate was dead on the money. They see bearded fanatics ranting in the street encouraging their ‘brothers’ to machete the heads off white boys and nod approvingly as they saunter off to Sainsbury’s … This is not journalism. This is not responsible reporting. This is the reason we should stop paying the Licence fee”.
File that one in the fiction section

Actually Katie, reporting on a poll is indeed journalism. But she’s away with the fairies: “We must stop funding left-wingers to ingest the Guardian and make bias [sic] programmes … It is time that BBC reporters were accountable for what they write and say … I will not tolerate a society where a quarter of one religion does not respect the culture of the country they choose to join”. Shall we have a look at that survey now?

You can see the whole survey HERE and the BBC article based on it HERE. It features such assertions as “I feel sympathetic towards people who want to fight against western interests” (Disagree 85%), “If someone I knew from the Muslim community was planning an act of violence I would report them to the police” (Agree 94%), and “I would rather socialise with Muslims than non-Muslims” (Disagree 85%).

There’s also “I feel a loyalty to Britain” (Agree 95%), and “Muslims in Britain should always obey British laws” (Agree 93%), but tellingly - I do hope Ms Hopkins is listening - “Britain is becoming less tolerant of Muslims” (Agree 46%), and “Prejudice against Islam makes it very difficult being a Muslim in this country” (Agree 46%).

Katie Hopkins says “I am not a wobbly headed politician. I don’t need to please people”. She clearly doesn’t need to read that survey to the end, either. The Beeb commissioned a survey and reported on it. Ms Hopkins was cherry-picked one figure to frighten Sun readers, but the wider picture is that there was nothing remotely scary in the results.

She can’t bother engaging brain. And for this the Murdoch press pays good money.

Friday 27 February 2015

Guido Fawked - FoI Hypocrisy

Press Gazette has been rebuffed by the Metropolitan Police in its latest effort to find out if the rozzers have been accessing the magazine’s phone call records, on the bizarre grounds that they are part of some kind of conspiracy: “Earlier this month, the Met accused Press Gazette of being ‘vexatious’, ‘disruptive’ and ‘annoying’ for sending six FoIs requesting information on journalists' being targeted under RIPA in six months”.
Fart in lift Inquiry experiences squeaky bum moment

There was more: “Since, seven other forces - Northumbria, West Mercia, Gwent, Northern Ireland, Humberside, Northamptonshire and Norfolk - have rejected Press Gazette FoIs on RIPA and journalists on the same grounds … Press Gazette will be complaining to the Information Commissioner”. Dead right they will be. And so will another party who was similarly rebuffed rather more recently.

The Guido Fawkes website has been accused of ‘working collectively’ with Press Gazette and branded ‘vexatious’ by the Metropolitan Police after filing a Freedom of Information Act request to find out if its staff’s telephone records had been secretly obtained by the force. The Met accused the website of a ‘vexatious and repeated request’ and claimed that it was linked to previous questions about RIPA asked by Press Gazette”.

The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines may be many things, but being barred from making FoI requests is not one of them. As a result, they were most put out: “For the avoidance of doubt, Guido is not 'working collectively' with Press Gazette on sending FoIs to the Met. This strange allegation by the Met is completely untrue. He sent just one batch of three requests, which in no reasonable terms can be described as vexatious or repeated”.

So Staines and his rabble are unhappy that the Met may have obtained telephone information about them. One might think that they must, therefore, be more than happy to respond to any request to their good selves about how they have come by personal information on others. Like, oh I dunno, phone numbers, full addresses and full names, even where these are not routinely available.

I mean, fair’s fair, eh, Fawkes folks? So perhaps Staines and friends would like to let me know how they have managed to obtain my full address (it’s not on the electoral roll), my phone number (it’s not in any directory) and full name. And, for removal of any doubt, there has not yet been an honest or credible explanation offered up. I suspect the details were not just obtained so they could wish me a happy Christmas.

There’s always an outside chance that A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away. Or perhaps the details fell off the back of a moderately sized commercial vehicle. Maybe I shouted them out in a crowded pub and forgot the incident immediately afterwards. But none of these are remotely believable. So come on, Fawkes rabble, and let me know how you got all that information. I’m sure it was all in a good cause.

Until then, they shouldn’t expect any sympathy for their FoI rejection. Another fine mess.

BBC - Liddle By Liddle

The Super Soaraway Currant Bun’s campaign against the BBC, which I touched upon yesterday, would not be complete without a suitably opinionated pundit to loose off their North and South in support of it. And so it came to pass that Rod Liddle, famous for not much more nowadays than being Himself Personally Now, launched an attack on the Corporation, out of which he has done rather well over the years.
Lush? Me? Look mate, I'm only on my fifth glass, okay?

The result is as dull as it is predictable: “The BBC is politically biased to the liberal left and cringingly politically correct. Hugely incontestably biased [that means don’t challenge him because HE KNOWS THESE THINGS]. Its foreign correspondents thought the Arab Spring was marvellous, remember [no, sorry, I don’t, and I see you can’t name one who did] - and then look what happened!” But do go on.

They hate Israel and are not terribly keen on the UK or USA. But oh boy do they love the European Union! Anyone who disagrees is, of course, a xenophobe. At home they are vociferously pro-immigration, anti-business and pro-Islam and believe unarguably in climate change”. Yeah, right. There was, as Captain Blackadder might have said, only one thing wrong with this idea - it was bollocks.

All that Liddle can manage is nods and winks, wild accusations and smears. He even tells that Meet The Ukippers was “A whole programme portraying UKIP as a bunch of racist fruitcakes”, not letting readers know that the racism and fruitcake tendencies were a result of what the Kippers actually said. The BBC did not need to produce a “portrayal”. But good to see Creepy Uncle Rupe is still well disposed towards Mr Thirsty.

Then he loses it completely: “The BBC is stuffed full of metropolitan, liberal, middle-class people who make programmes for metropolitan, liberal, middle-class people. It hates the working class”. So says someone who is metropolitan and middle-class, and wouldn’t know the working class if they jumped up and fly-hacked the SOB in the undercarriage. Liddle is also someone with a grudge against the Corporation.

He was editor of the Radio 4 Today programme for four years, during which he hired Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan, whose lousy journalism damaged the programme’s reputation. Liddle left Today after being given an ultimatum by management after shooting his mouth off once too often. It was his own fault, and he’s been given plenty of work by the BBC since then, despite his appalling record of unpleasantness.

This included a misogynist attack on Harriet Harman, racist attacks on the Afro-Caribbean community, accusing many people of pretending to be disabled, dropping the Spectator in the mire and leaving the magazine facing a contempt of court charge, and an excursion on to a Millwall supporters’ website where he made a “joke” about not being able to smoke at Auschwitz. All of which means the BBC will not be taking any lectures from him.

Nobody should take any notice of this wind-up merchant with a huge chip on his shoulder.

Don’t Menshn Hacked Off

A lie, as the saying goes, is halfway round the world before the truth has got its socks on, and despite the intervention by the serially tenacious Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads, showing that some bloggers never lose their Mojo, confirming that Alex Wickham, newly anointed teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, had told a pack of lies about Wednesday’s Hacked Off event, others still believe the spin.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

And halfway around the world, or at least in a reassuringly exclusive part of Mantattan, the less than totally honest creativity of the Fawkes rabble was eagerly embraced as the unvarnished truth. Yes, (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch was ecstatic at hearing the news served up in exactly the style that she wanted, the kind of thing that would put anyone with brain engaged on their guard.
You’ll love this: “Hacked Off in Parliament. Compare journalists to murderers. Journalist tweets it. They demand he stands up. Then they drown him out”. That comparison was not made, no demand was made, nobody was drowned out, and he isn’t a journalist. Have another go. “If you want to understand the truly sinister nature of #HackedOff's attempt to muzzle UK free press” and citing the Fawkes blog. As a single source.
Whatever next? “Cleese compares journalists to murderers, whereupon #HackedOff tries to silence the journalist truthfully tweeting it, yes?” Er, no. At no time was Wickham prevented from Tweeting. Then she had a go at James Doleman, who is a real journalist: “he doesn't need ‘clarification’, reporting what Cleese  said and doing so accurately - journo not your  PR”. Doleman is the journo. Wickham isn’t.
How about some blatant hypocrisy? “It’s actually hilarious that a zillionaire like John Cleese would compare free press to murderers #HackedOff stop journalists tweeting it”. He still wasn’t stopped from Tweeting, and if John Cleese is a “zillionaire”, where does that leave Peter Mensch? “Press Association reports [Hacked Off] try to silence journalist reporting John Cleese comparison to murderers”. They didn’t, and he didn’t.
But there’s more: “#HackedOff give a practical demonstration, in Parliament, of how they wish to censor a free press”. Nobody was censored, and nobody wants to censor the press. Oh look, now it’s Harriet Harman getting sneered at: “[Harriet Harman] at #HackedOff ‘journos are murderers’ event? Can't think why she'd want control of press”. She doesn’t, and note the “comparison” has been reinvented as actual fact.
Not doing very well here, is she? “Fair to say that Hacked Off have Mucked Up” she trilled, citing the HuffPost UK. But we know what was said, and it wasn’t that. So all she had was mutual congratulation: “You know Harry, it's funny thought [Peter Jukes] was all for Twitter-based journalism? Apparently not, eh?” she told the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole. But Peter Jukes also did not dissent from Wickham’s right to Tweet what he wanted.

I can’t wait for Ms Mensch’s next Sun column. Nor can Hacked Off’s lawyers. Allegedly.

Thursday 26 February 2015

Murdoch Press United Against BBC

If you want to know what Rupert Murdoch is thinking, the saying goes, read a Sun editorial. The Times, on the other hand, or the Times Of London as it likes to pretentiously style itself, would like readers to think that it is a publication of independent mind. Sadly, not only is the Times not independent of Creepy Uncle Rupe’s demands, its leader writers have long ago descended into using the language of the playground.
That's what I think of youse bladdy BBC, ya bladdy Pommie drongoes!

So it was no surprise to see today’s Times editorial, “Tame the gorilla” (the Sun equivalent today was “BBC cop-out”), describing the hated Beeb in the style of the (very) old 600lb gorilla jokes (Q: what do you call a 600lb gorilla with a machine gun? A: Sir, or Q: where does a 600lb gorilla sit when it’s watching the TV? A: where it bloody well likes), the kind of language the Times of old would never have considered using.

Yes, today’s target for both papers, by the most miraculous of coincidences, is the BBC, because the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has been looking into the way the Corporation is run and financed. Its recommendations include ending the licence fee, but raising money via a levy, which, some may argue, is the same, er, fluid in a differently labelled bottle. Either way, Rupe’s troops are not happy bunnies.
Take the Times’ sniffy drivel: “The BBC is a broadcaster [nothing gets past them]. It was not conceived as a one-stop information ziggurat [slipping in big words does not necessarily improve the writing] and has not been redefined as such by those who fund it [what does this mean?]. It has no remit as a publisher [think you’ll find it does] yet it throws money at a sprawling multi-platform news organisation [subjective and pejorative].”

The Sun goes further: “WHAT a pathetic whitewash the ‘Future of the BBC’ report by MPs turned out to be … What madness drove them to conclude that the best alternative to the outdated licence fee is a TV ‘poll tax’ compulsory for every household … And why did they not tackle the one central issue damaging trust in the BBC … the blatant pro-labour bias that skews much of its output?
Yes, why? OK then, why, O Sun worthies? “Presumably because half the members of the Culture, Media and Sport committee embrace it”. Really? So where is the forcefully argued minority report from the other half, especially given Tories like Philip Davies sit on that committee. There has been none, and so it has to be assumed that there was unanimity on the content of the report - unlike into the Murdochs.

But what the Sun and Times have confirmed today is not just that the larger part of the Fourth Estate detests the presence of the BBC, and that they are more than prepared to call it out for alleged political bias - the Mail has also had a go at the Corporation today - but that the Times cannot be claimed to be free of Murdoch’s controlling influence on its content. That is the real 600lb gorilla in this particular room.

And it’s already crapping all over the Times’ reputation for independent journalism.

Guido Fawked - Hacked Off Fantasy

The highly creative interpretation of yesterday’s lobby event by campaigning group Hacked Off by Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, newly anointed teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, has caused the Fawkes rabble, and their transient friends among the Fourth Estate, to crow loudly that they won the day by exposing a sinister and unrepresentative group bent on censorship.
Fart in lift Inquiry shows some cheek

There was, though, as Captain Blackadder might have observed, only one thing wrong with this idea - it was bollocks. Wickham sprayed much of his credibility up the wall by doing what comes naturally to him - lying - while he and his pals, by their disregard for victims of press intrusion, highlight as never before the kind of behaviour that has caused a once great profession - journalism - to become debased and disrespected.
Also, it’s good to have Wickham confirm that he was indeed working two Twitter accounts while at the event, Tweeting as both himself, and Media Guido. Thus he was able to talk to himself, award himself congratulations, and encourage himself with Retweets. But on to the first whopper: “‘The thing that drives Hacked Off is the abuse of ordinary people with ordinary lives’ says [Brian] Cathcart alongside Hugh Grant and John Cleese”.
But Hugh Grant was in the audience, not alongside Cleese and Cathcart on the panel. The photo Tweeted by Wickham shows that. In another Tweet where Media Guido and Wickham talk to one another (yawn) he tells “Millionaires and Celebs in attendance”, managing not to notice that two celebs out of 200 in attendance makes 1%. But then, the Fawkes rabble are rather keen on the 1%.
Then there has to be dishonesty by blatant exaggeration: “Hacked Off rally is like a Two Minutes Hate. Dacre described as ‘squeaky little man’ to rapturous applause from obedient audience”. So “Billy Liar” has read 1984, and wants everyone to know that he’s the poor downtrodden victim, thus once again confirming Olbermann’s Dictum: “The right exists in a perpetual state of victimhood”. And there wasn’t rapturous or obedient applause.
There was more: “And therein lies the problem for Hacked Off. Room asks me to stand. I stand. Evan Harris tells me to sit down ‘not giving you a platform’”. The room didn’t ask him to do anything. All Evan Harris did was to ask him to identify himself. It got worse: “‘I don’t know how you sleep at night’ screams a man at the front at [sic] John Cleese calls me a liar”. The man calling him out was in the audience, not at the front.
And it is understood that this was one of the many victims of press intrusion, which shows the crass insensitivity of the Fawkes rabble. Did Wickham talk to any of them? Did he buggery. This petulant creep was there for one reason, and one alone - to prostitute himself before that larger part of the Fourth Estate which does not want to see properly independent press self-regulation, on the off-chance they might throw him a biscuit.

The only thing Evan Harris did wrong was call him a “journalist”. He isn’t one.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Teaboy Gets Hacked Off

This lunchtime, Zelo Street attended the Houses of Parliament, where campaigning group Hacked Off  were holding a lobby event. As this had been significantly over-subscribed, it was moved to Committee Room 14, where Evan Harris was in the chair. Much appreciation was indicated for the views expressed. Then, one particular example of media misbehaviour was mentioned, and its author, sitting in the audience, was not a happy bunny.

Claims to be a journalist. No, don't laugh

Drawing attention to himself in no style at all was Alex "Billy Liar" Wickham, newly anointed teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog. As the example of his handiwork was read out from the chair, he retorted loudly "it was a direct quote". Evan Harris requested that he stand and identify himself. This he refused to do, but then stood up and began to make his own address.

After the chair pointed out to him that he had his own megaphone, and was not being given another, Wickham eventually sat down, but not before one highly sound audience member, who had seen me arrive, told him where he got off, including a tea-making reference for good measure. The gobby teaboy, an appallingly immodest being with much to be modest about, then sat in surly silence and Tweeted his revenge (yawn).

Wickham was observed Tweeting furiously, and appeared to be working two accounts. But the sight of speakers lining up to defend press freedom, while also calling for accountability, was all too much for the poor dear. Before long, a still sulking teaboy made a swift yet low key exit, and no-one was inclined to stop him. After all, Hacked Off have better things to do than waste their time with those whose agenda is pre-determined and hostile.

I'm told that a suitably creative account of the meeting has been posted by the Fawkes rabble. This is to be expected, and no doubt their press pals will give this particular convocation of attack poodles plenty of biscuits in reward. But it will affect the campaign for a free and accountable press not one jot. While the Fawkes blog may congratulate itself on being able to book one ticket on EventBrite, Wickham's appearance was a failure.

Nobody there was rallied to the Fawkes blog's standard. All that happened was that this singularly unsavoury individual proved Hacked Off's case for them, and in spades. Perhaps the Fawkes rabble want to give a "Millwall" impression to everyone - everyone hates them, they don't care. Instead, everyone can't be fussed with hating them, because it is the same everyone who doesn't care.

This was the first time that Wickham has passed before my inspection, and it has to be said that he is down to the standard one expects from the Fawkes folks. A sense of entitlement, but nothing with which to effect the purchase. An intolerance of other points of view. A totally absent sense of humour. A surly, puerile, gobshite with nothing to back up the noise. So ideal tabloid fodder, then.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Hacked Off keeps on campaigning - unaffected.

Sun Attacks Its Own Lawyer

The Super Soaraway Currant Bun can never be said to do its knocking copy by halves: once Rupe’s downmarket troops go after someone, there is no holding back, no quarter given. And the paper’s recent attacks on what it terms “Greedy MPs” was no exception: both Labour and Tories were given what The Italian Job’s mastermind Mr Bridger called “a good going over”.
Top of the Sun’s alleged greed pops was, to no surprise, Pa Broon. The paper has had to apologise to Brown so often recently that these recurring events no longer count as news, so it should surprise no-one that no effort is spared to make him look bad, rather than the hacks doing the accusing. But what may surprise some observers is the identity of the Tory MP whose photo appears next to that of the former PM.

CONSERVATIVE MP makes his money from doing legal work as a QC” told the Sun, trowelling it on by making sure readers knew that “MPs coin in £7.4m from 2nd jobs … & here’s [the] top 10”. As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point. So who is this legal eagle? He is Geoffrey Cox, who represents Torridge and West Devon. But there is something that the Sun is not telling its readers about him.
Fortunately for the cause of transparency, Lisa O’Carroll at the deeply subversive Guardian has, in the course of her court reporting, brought that information to a wider audience as she told readers ofAn Old Bailey trial of four Sun senior journalists” earlier this month. These included the Sun’s chief reporter John Kay, and its deputy editor Geoffrey Webster.

The trial has come about mainly because the Management and Standards Committee of what was then News International effectively shopped the unfortunate hacks to the Met (and, yes, the Sun, and also recently the Sunday Times, have been going after the CPS and even now the judiciary). By the beginning of February, DC Jim Britton was being questioned by those representing the four.

As Ms O’Carroll noted, “The police officer was being questioned by Geoffrey Cox QC for Geoffrey Webster, the deputy editor of the paper and one of four senior Sun journalists including Kay on trial over allegations that they plotted to cause misconduct in public office by approving or requesting payments to public officials for stories. They deny all charges”. Geoffrey Cox QC. Representing Geoffrey Webster.

Yes, the MP whose face the Sun has put in its “gallery of greed” next to Pa Broon is defending the paper’s deputy editor at the Old Bailey right now. Cox is working for the Sun, but even that is not enough to stop the hacks going after him. One has to wonder if there is anyone off-limits when the Murdoch faithful are scratching around for something to fill the next day’s paper. Because working with them doesn’t seem to afford any protection.

I’m sure Geoffrey Cox will bear this in mind when he lets News UK have the bill.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Flannelled Fool Kensington Fail

Some pundits have trouble with their spin. Others have trouble with their sums. Some are shaky with their spelling. All of these attributes have been combined as the speculation begins as to who might become Tory candidate for Kensington now that Malcolm Rifkind has been left alone with the loaded revolver and bottle of reassuringly upmarket Malt and has done the right thing and resigned.
And the combination of spin, sums and spelling has no finer embodiment than the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, tame gofer to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, who, along with his colleagues, has been magnificently creative in creating a list of hopefuls, many of whom never knew that they so much as harboured thoughts of going into politics, even if they do support The Blue Team.

Master Cole was clearly concerned that the wrong impression was being given of the Kensington constituency, and especially the thought that London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson might have been a little rash in opting to succeed John Randall in Uxbridge and South Ruislip. It had to be spun that Kensington was, in fact, a less safe seat, which some might find interesting.
Well, here goes: “Can everyone shut up about Boris kicking himself. Kensington majority = 8,616. Uxbridge majority = 11,216”. You sure about this line, Hen? It seems he is: “Some key facts: Kensington and Chelsea is not a seat. Kensington was redrawn to make it not that safe. Uxbridge has a bigger majority”. Well, Kensington and Chelsea is no longer a Parliamentary seat, you mean - it was abolished in 2010.
However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, there is not only size of majority, but the proportion of the vote secured by each candidate, and here Master Cole falls down badly. In 2010, John Randall was elected with 48.3% of the popular vote, which is pretty safe, given the number of hopefuls likely to turn up. But Malcolm Rifkind’s vote share in Kensington was 50.1%, and an absolute majority.

Yes, you can quibble about the myriad possibilities of what might happen with a higher turnout, but it’s unlikely to produce a significantly different result. Kensington is the safer seat of the two on those numbers. And I suspect that Bozza would rather have stood there, but he’s made his bed, and all that.
That, though, was not the end of Master Cole’s not very brilliant adventure: there had to be a shonky spelling to round things off. “As if an Etonion hoping to be PM would be so tactically stupid as to run in Kensington. The MP for the 1% etc”. And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. One, check your spelling. And two, if you get 50% of the popular vote, you can hardly be the MP for the 1%.

With that kind of record, a future in the tabloid press looks assured for Cole.

Falklands Reporter Wasn’t There

Becoming part of the story is bad for anyone who is meant to be bringing news to readers or viewers. Being dishonest about reporting is perhaps even worse, which is what happened recently to Brian Williams, long time regular anchor of NBC Nightly News, the USA’s top rated evening news programme. Williams had been in Iraq at the time of the US invasion, and claimed his helicopter had been hit by gunfire.
The problem was that it apparently hadn’t been hit, and Williams has now been suspended without pay for six months. NBC management are livid that his “mis-speak” has not just damaged his own credibility, but theirs. Those actions also laid NBC open to knocking copy from elsewhere, and there was no more gleeful dispenser of this than Bill O’Reilly, top rated host at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).

There it was on the screen when O’Reilly did his Talking Points Memo: “Brian Williams, the press and you … if you can’t trust a news anchor or commentator, then you’re not going to watch that person”. There is only one problem for Bill-O here, though, and that is that his own backstory is now being pored over. And it looks very much as if he has done much worse than Williams - in a way that Brits will immediately understand.

In the 1982 Falklands conflict, as Robert Fox recalled, “We were, in all, a party of about 32-34 accredited journalists, photographers, television crew members. We were all white, male, and British. There was no embedded reporter from Europe, the Commonwealth or the US (though they tried hard enough), let alone from Latin America”. For Bill O’Reilly, though, this was a mere detail.

I was in a situation one time, in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands … I've reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands … I've been there. The Falklands, Northern Ireland, the Middle East … Having survived a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands war, I know that life-and-death decisions are made in a flash”. But Bill-O only got to Buenos Aires - 1,200 miles from the Falklands.

And even then, his recollection of the street protests that followed were, shall we say, at variance with those of his fellow CBS correspondents, whom he later claimed had been scared to go out and had stayed in their hotel. On top of that, O’Reilly failed to tell that the reason he left Buenos Aires and returned to the USA was that the CBS head man threw him out. He left CBS’ employ very soon afterwards.

Would you trust a news anchor or host who told such a flagrant load of whoppers? Neither would I. So have Fox News suspended Bill-O? No they haven’t: thus far there has been a mixture of management maintaining radio silence, and freely dispensed abuse aimed at anyone giving O’Reilly a less than fawning reference. The impression is given that it’s one rule for Fox News, and another for those they mock.

And as Bill-O is their top rated host by some way, Fox will be most reluctant to yield.

Mail Uses Cliff Richard - Again

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

You know when the Daily Mail refuses to go along with the rest of the press pack that it is usually on one of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre’s crusades to tell those readers with whom he has his mythical “conversation” all about how the world is wrong, and Dacre is right. And he is always right when it comes to kicking the hated BBC, thus today’s thundering headlinePOLICE AND BBC ARE SAVAGED OVER SIR CLIFF RAID”.
Anyone who looks in regularly on Zelo Street will know that this is a campaign that the Mail has been waging for some time, mainly because the Beeb got the exclusive when the Police raided the singer’s apartment in Berkshire and the Mail, er, didn’t. This mardy strop even extended to the Mail On Sunday running a front page with the headline “SIR CLIFF: I’LL SUE THE BBC”, despite not getting a comment from him.

Is there any relevance in today’s attack, then? Here’s the story: “Sir Cliff Richard had his privacy violated after a secret deal between police and the BBC to film a raid on his house, a report says. The horrified pop star was left ‘unnecessarily distressed’ after learning police had swooped on his £3.5million home in Berkshire over a sex assault allegation dating from 1985 only when he saw it on TV while in Portugal”. There’s more.

Now a previously unpublished report says the deal between the BBC and the police should never have been done - suggesting Sir Cliff should not have been publicly humiliated in this way. It brands senior officials at South Yorkshire Police incompetent and calls the BBC dishonest for its explanation of how it came to know about the raid. The damning report - released to the Daily Mail under the Freedom of Information Act - concludes”.

And here it gets a little less easy for the Dacre doggies: “Police were wrong to confirm details of a ‘highly sensitive and confidential’ investigation to the BBC … They should not have held a secret meeting between a senior detective and a reporter to agree an exclusive deal … The force breached Sir Cliff’s privacy by effectively confirming his identity as the suspect in the inquiry to other media”.

That’s it. And it gets worse: “the BBC reporter, Dan Johnson, was not interviewed … The BBC was not directly involved in Mr Trotter’s review”. And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. Is this a review, or a report? And two, this appears to be an internal Police document that the Mail has obtained, and as such, appears to do no more than tell the South Yorkshire force what lessons can be learned from the raid.

In other words, it does not stand up the Mail’s headline. Andy Trotter’s exercise has no status outside the South Yorkshire Police. It is highly unlikely that it will form part of any proceedings. So why run the story? Over to the Guardian: “The BBC’s controversial coverage of the police raid on Sir Cliff Richard’s home has been shortlisted for scoop of the year at the prestigious Royal Television Society journalism awards”.

And the Mail has decided it can’t let the Beeb win with that. No surprise there, then.

[UPDATE1 1655 hours: whoops! The Beeb's Cliff Richard coverage has not won the award. Mea culpa!

Mistakes are part and parcel of running a blog, and this is one of them. Unlike some blogs I could mention, Zelo Street admits mistakes and listens to reasonable complaints.

So why Dacre went on his crusade today is a mystery, unless of course he just felt like it, or the Corporation had otherwise incurred his displeasure. More soon, no doubt]

[UPDATE2 1845 hours: whoops again - but not for me this time. The Mail has now been, er, savaged by Andy Trotter, the man who wrote the document from which the Dacre doggies have been quoting.

As the Guardian has told, "Trotter told the Guardian: When I saw the headline I genuinely thought it must refer to someone else’s report. It bore no resemblance to my report and at no time did I say the police were incompetent or the BBC was dishonest. My report clearly does not say that'".

It got worse: Trotter added "Neither the police or the BBC are ‘savaged’. I made no comment, whatsoever, about the BBC. That was not part of my remit". He concluded that the Mail's coverage was "highly inaccurate".

So par for the Dacre doggy course, then. The difference between them and me is that only one of us is  prepared to admit to getting it wrong]

The Empty Monty

On occasion, when I’ve passed adverse comment on Tim Montgomerie, now ensconced at the Murdoch Times, the reaction has been that the bloke from Zelo Street doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and that there is genuine substance to the pundit who took his first look at Phonehackgate and concludedThis is about revenge, not phone taps”, telling anyone who listen that it was Labour retaliation for Damian McBride.
Well, Monty was plain flat wrong there, and he is continuing the tradition in no style at all by talking up Congleton MP Fiona Bruce’s amendment to the Serious Crimes Bill, which was defeated yesterday in the Commons. The Observer had notedOutwardly, it appears reasonable. A woman in this country who says she is coerced into agreeing to the termination of a female foetus would have some protection in law”.
However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, the article continued “It is disputed that ‘gendercide’ exists in this country on any significant scale. Department of Health research into birth ratios could find no evidence. Even if gendercide is a major issue, criminalising women and doctors, as this amendment would do, is not the answer”. Words like “gendercide” and “femicide” were being bandied about before the debate.
Monty has been suggesting to Times readers that “Unborn children are being aborted because they're girls. That should be illegal”. In the UK? I’d love to see his evidence in support of that one. But he had support from someone who knows his law: “Big legal brain Dominic Grieve explains why he'll be voting to stop abortion by gender”. Grieve is a sound bloke, but not everyone calls issues the right way all the time.
Would Monty care to get a further opinion? You betcha, says Sarah: “No more aborting girl foetuses on the ground that they are girls" - [Cristina Odone] says it well” he told. But the amendment was lost, provoking unhappiness from Mid Bedfordshire MP (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries: “Labour whipped femicide abortion vote - [Anna Soubry] Conservative MP for Broxtowe,  lined up with Labour women”.
Note the casual use of the term “femicide”. But enough of this: let us move to the main event, which is that rather a lot of people have been talking through the backs of their necks. As Sarah Wollaston, Tory MP of independent mind, put it, “Abortion on the grounds of gender alone is already illegal. I fear the Bruce amendment has a different agenda & I won't be supporting it”. Comment from Mr Montgomerie, perchance?
Dr Wollaston confirms thatThe amendment is also unnecessary because doctors already know that it is against the law to carry out an abortion solely because of the gender of the foetus unless there are other grounds”. Of the Bruce amendment, she concludes “This is a Trojan horse”. The impression is therefore given that Monty has not given his readers an accurate portrayal of the issues. That’s not good enough.

Perhaps Monty’s defenders would care to comment. Here all day, and all that.