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Friday 31 July 2015

Things Are Changing - A Little

July has been another busy month for Zelo Street. But demands on my time mean that this blog must become a little less busy, at least for a while.
That does not mean I intend to cease blogging - far from it. There will still be new content every day, and hopefully two posts, rather than just one. But the current schedule, which averages three posts a day and four on Sundays, cannot be maintained.

Why that might be I will hopefully be in a position to explain later. What I can say now is that I have to devote some attention to my Byline Media column The New Conservatism, it may soon be time for a holiday, and, well, the current pace has been maintained for the best part of four years. You figure it out.

I would emphasise that recent legal threats against Zelo Street have not influenced my decision, so those Ron Hopefuls out there on the unprincipled right, such as amateur human being and professional sleazebag Paul Staines, and his now former tame gofer, master of the unsuccessful shouty phone call Henry Cole, have even less to cheer than usual, so not unadjacent to bugger all, then.

To all those of you that have read what I’ve written, commented on it, argued about it, and perhaps stopped and thought about it: please keep looking in. I’m not going away just yet.

Sun Discovers Lords Allowances Five Years Late

Never a paper to let a scoop go to waste - or to leave it after a day when the narrative can be strung out for four or five - the Super Soaraway Currant Bun has turned its assault on the House of Lords from a targeted attack on Lord Sewel, who in any case has now left the building, to a kind of more general whinging about peers being able to claim allowances. The piss-poor Sun Nation website has the latest example of the craft today.
MEGABUCKS MEMBERS MILK THOUSANDS FROM THE HOUSE OF LORDS JUST BY SHOWING UP … Exclusive investigation finds rich peers are coining in taxpayer cash” howls the headline on Jonathan Reilly’s article. The astonished tone continues with “Multi-millionaire peers top up their fortunes by claiming a daily House of Lords allowance - courtesy of the taxpayer”. As if allowances would come from somewhere else.

But there’s more: “A Sun investigation found several megabucks members are taking the tax-free sum of up to £300 a time just for showing up … Labour’s Lord Paul, 84, whose steel business is worth £2.2billion, appeared on 134 days last year and pocketed £40,200 … That is £14,000 more than the UK’s average wage, yet he spoke in the House just three times for a total of 14 minutes”. Get whipping up that frenzy!

Perhaps the article could get to the point? “Our findings come as today The Sun issues a challenge to peers: ‘Keep Your House In Order’ … It follows our exposé of sleazy Lord Sewel’s drugs and hookers sessions which called into question whether some of the unelected peers are pointless wasters”. Gosh, that’s well intercoursing subtle. But there is a teensy problem with this discovery - it’s five years too late.

Not only that, but the Sun is way behind the rest of the media on making this discovery. Take, for instance, the case of Lord Hanningfield, whose ability to “clock in” so he could trouser his £300 allowance hit the pages of the Mirror back in December 2013, something that was also reported by the BBC. Hanningfield observed that, in his estimation, there were around fifty other peers doing the same thing.

There was also a suitably judgmental comment piece from Kevin Maguire, where he observed “I’ve heard mutterings for years in Westminster that Baron This or Baroness That was freeloading … It’s the posh version of a factory worker clocking on then climbing over the wall to go home”. His conclusion was that “the House of Cronies is a disgrace in a modern country - a medieval anachronism ripe for abolition”.

And even he and the Mirror were late to the game, as the allowance system which some peers have been working to their advantage has been in place since October 2010. That means the press has had five years to do their investigation. It took the Mirror more than three years, and the Sun has taken nearly five. Where has our free and fearless press been all that time? Slebs. Churnalism. PR guff. Pundits. That’s where it’s been.

Then they whine about the BBC doing real news. What a complete and absolute shower.

Osborne And Murdoch - What’s The Deal?

The latest BBC licence fee settlement deal gave the impression of having been closed with undue haste, so much so that the pre-deal leaks only occurred when all had already been done and dusted. Now, to no surprise at all, questions are being asked because of the potential lobbying by none other than Rupert Murdoch. The Tory under pressure over this right now is the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet.
That's what I bladdy think of youse bladdy BBC and its bladdy investigative bladdy journalism, ya Pommie drongoes!

As might be expected, there has been no comment from Rupe’s troops, whether at the Sun, or the Times, but the Independent - famously visited before the 2010 General Election by Murdoch Junior and the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks when they behaved towards then-editor Simon Kelner like a Mafia delegation - is on the story, followed today by the Mirror.

The Indy, as might be expected given the backstory, does not hold back: “George Osborne is under pressure to reveal if he held a private meeting with Rupert Murdoch days before the Treasury imposed a £650m budget cut on the BBC … Sources told The Independent that the Chancellor is said to have met Mr Murdoch shortly before the BBC’s Director-General, Lord Hall, was informed of the Government’s plan to force the Corporation to accept full financial responsibility for free TV licences for over-75s”.

So why, given Whitehall and Westminster are supposed to exist in a new age of transparency, are we not being told the details? Indy again: “Although the Treasury publishes quarterly details of ministers’ external meetings, confirmation of any recent discussion between Mr Murdoch and Mr Osborne is unlikely to be made public before next year and may not include specific dates”. How convenient.

Shadow Culture Secretary Chris Bryant is not impressed, and has asked Osborne for “a list of all meetings, correspondence or phone calls you have had with Rupert Murdoch since the election [May 2015], along with notes of what was discussed in those conversations”. Moreover, Bryant “told the Chancellor he would also be sending a Freedom of Information Act request to the Treasury”.

Bryant’s letter has been “released” to the press, and includes this gem: “I would be grateful if you would release this information in good faith and in the public interest, rather than being forced to do so by the Act”. But in all seriousness, this stinks. Rupe sees George at the same time the BBC gets clobbered is bad enough, but then.

The largest UK broadcaster in revenue terms is Sky - 39% of which is owned by the Murdoch empire. Rumour suggests that Murdoch will be back with another bid for the 61% he does not own very soon. The ideal side-show for him would be the hated Beeb being weakened by a Government which depends on the endorsement of his papers.

Add to that the Snowden smears run by the Sunday Times, and you can see just how rank the stench is.Well done Chris Bryant - now let’s have the full details of those meetings.

Army Not Being Deployed No Shock

As the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate gets itself into an even bigger froth than yesterday, because the law enforcement agencies in Britain and France have not immediately sorted the refugee problems in the Calais area in order for all those hacks and pundits to go off on their holidays, stories are beginning to circulate suggesting that the Army is about to be deployed in response to the crisis.
The thought enters that perhaps the situation is so bad that not only are all those hacks unable to drive over to France without being reminded of the refugee crisis across Europe, but also that supermarkets around London may be be running low on organic pasta and artisan Italian olive oil. The hardship being endured by comfortably remunerated journalists clearly needs drastic measures to be taken.
So it is that the allegedly upmarket Times has told its readers “Army prepares to tackle ‘critical’ migrant crisis”. Yes, the troops are coming, and just to prove that this is A Really Serious Story, the Telegraph concurs: “Army ready to act over Calais crisis”. But then another thought enters: what exactly are they going to do, unless Young Dave and his jolly good chaps are about to approve an invasion of France?
Well, if the Sun is to be believed - yes, I know that’s a big ask at the best of times - they could be used to hold back an alleged “Tsunami” of not only migrants, but rotten lefties too. In a suitably intemperate editorial titled “Hold ‘em back”, readers are told “STILL the Lefties cannot understand why Britain must protect its borders from the Calais migrants”. We hear of “Brits who are sitting ducks in jams in Calais”.

The ranting knows no bounds: “It’s easy to intellectualise it when it’s not your truck they’re hacking their way in to [the Murdoch press knows all about hacking, of course] or your car they’re forcing open … Some have genuine asylum claims. Many don’t. What do those wringing their hands over their plight imagine will happen if Britain just rolls over? That ‘small number’ will become a tsunami”. And to that I call bullshit.
As an example, there were almost half a million asylum applications across Europe in 2013. Germany took well over 120,000. France took 65,000, and Sweden 50,000. The UK let in around 30,000 - far less per head of population that all those other three, especially Sweden. Of the approximately 150,000 arriving at Europe’s southern borders this year so far, around 3% have made their way to the Channel.

In any case, as Andrew Neil discovered - this has since been confirmed by the deeply subversive Guardian and the BBC - the only Army intervention so far has been to open up MOD land to accommodate trucks that would otherwise be stacked up along the M20 in Kent. No troops being sent through the Tunnel, no invasion, no defiant and Churchillian act of showing Johnny Foreigner that Dave is jolly serious about these migrant types.

So our free and fearless press is all wind and piss once more. No surprise there, then.

Thursday 30 July 2015

Sun Replaces Bullied With Bully

While Parliament takes its customary lengthy summer break, over at the Baby Shard, the Super Soaraway Currant Bun is reshaping its political team, after all the Operation Elveden trials and the subsequent departures. And the result may be a result for cost accountants, but at a cost: the number of properly trained staff - that would be as in real journalists - appears to have been reduced by one.
Courtesy? What's one of those?

Before the rozzers descended on all those unsuspecting hacks - as a result of the News International (as was) Management and Standards Committee shopping them in the hope that it would divert attention from what the rest of the Murdoch faithful were up to - the Sun’sWhitehall Editor” was one Clodagh Hartley. She was one of those shopped, but after her acquittal, it was clear she would not return to her previous job.

Why she might not want anything more to do with her previous employer was laid bare at her trial: she had been subjected to persistent bullying by one of her colleagues, who was still in post. Who that colleague was, we were unable to hear, as had she been found guilty, that colleague could have found himself facing prosecution. So all concerned had to keep schtum and wait for the trial to run its course.

And so it came to pass that the name in the frame was revealed to be the Sun’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn, whose routinely disgraceful behaviour towards women continued recently, to the extent that he featured in a recent issue of Private Eye magazine after a particularly unpleasant episode where he made a number of allegations against a waitress in Moncrieff’s Bar. And there was more.
It's his new middle name

Newton Dunn later complained to one reporter about being named. The target of his ire had to point out that the Sun man’s barrister had not raised any objection. The bullying attitude was also evident in his exchanges with Labour MP Tom Watson - not that trying that approach was ever going to work. So now Ms Hartley has to be replaced, not with another “Whitehall Editor”, but a “Westminster Correspondent”.

Yes, the nearest replacement for the luckless Ms Hartley is the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, formerly tame gofer to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, and here Newton Dunn has a problem. There is no way he is ever going to get away with bullying Master Cole and getting away with it. Cole is well experienced in the art of bully-boy tactics. One wonders if the Sun people have thought this through.

What will happen the first time Newton Dunn tries to pull rank on the flannelled fool? Will the expensively educated duo - neither of whom managed to get into Oxbridge - really get on without the occasional shouting match - or worse? And will they be able to keep any outbreaks of disharmony out of Private Eye? On previous form, the answer to that one would appear to be an emphatic no. Indeed, popcorn ordering may be more useful.

The Sun’s new political team may prove interesting, but not for the reasons they hoped.

Guido Fawked - Owen Jones Smear Hypocrisy

The one thing that the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog cannot stomach is someone who does not share their warped view of the world becoming successful. Hence their petty and vindictive campaign against author and campaigner Owen Jones, because he is doing better than they are, and is one of those rotten lefties to boot. Sadly, this is one campaign that is going nowhere.
Feared. But only by wobbly furniture

After the attempt to smear Jones over allegedly phoney Twitter followers - which, as Zelo Street regulars will recall, involved Staines threatening legal action against me, but failing to follow through - the Fawkes fables have continued, the latest being to pick up on his comments about the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland and suggest that somehow he sympathises with campaigns that involve hundreds of deaths.

This highly creative interpretation of Jones’ beliefs involves taking a statement he made in his mid-teens, such is Staines’ desire to smear. But the thought then enters that The Great Guido is, in making his accusations, standing in an extremely draughty glasshouse. Staines’ past includes supporting the Nicaraguan Contras, and an association with David Hart, a vain and deeply unpleasant right-wing rabble rouser.

The Contras, by even the most generous account, were responsible for rather more deaths than occurred during the Easter Rising: the group was also involved in the wholesale violation of human rights. Staines’ pal Hart was deeply involved in support for the Apartheid regime in South Africa, with Staines’ past including membership of the Federation of Conservative Students (FCS), who were of like mind.
And don't forget his reputation

The Apartheid regime was also responsible for creative interpretations of every known convention on human rights, even to those who the South African state of the time classified as white. And there is one more matter on which Staines would rather not dwell, and that is his brief flirtation with the BNP while a student, something he has been trying to shrug off for some years now as nothing more than a youthful indiscretion.

It gets worse: unlike Owen Jones, Staines has found himself on the wrong side of the law on several occasions, not least his promotion of what were, at the time, illegal raves. He has, in the more recent past, acquired a string of alcohol related convictions, including two for drinking and driving. A recent Esquire magazine profile revealed that his favourite lunchtime tipple was a bottle of Chablis - a whole bottle of Chablis.

On top of that is Staines’ legal battle which, ultimately, saw him feature in the London Gazette after being declared bankrupt. During that series of actions, he was criticised for his flagrant dishonesty before the courts. All of that can lead to only one conclusion: Paul Staines is in no position to criticise Owen Jones, or indeed anyone else, for one comment they might have made some years ago.

The moral high ground is a foreign land to the Fawkes rabble. Another fine mess.

Calais, Refugees, And Press Hot Air

That there has been disruption to ferry and tunnel passenger and freight services at Calais and Coquelles for some days now, due to a combination of industrial action and refugee incursion, is well known, and has been aired across the media. But the thought that the hacks writing the stories might become personally affected has focused minds, and caused an almost hysterical outpouring of shock horror demands.
The Super Soaraway Currant Bun attempted humour: “CALL TO SEND IN OUR ARMY … Softie Calais goes ballistic … Frenchies are atrocious” screams the headline. The Celtic and Inverness Caly Thistle original was better, but hey ho. The Express simply demands “SEND IN ARMY TO HALT MIGRANT INVASION”. There’s been a “migrant invasion”? I blinked and missed it. But pride of place goes to the Mail.

As Cameron preaches abroad about slave labour, migrants besiege Tunnel to join OUR black economy and MPs demand … CALAIS: SEND IN THE ARMY”. I mean, one of them tried to get into Nigel “Thirsty” Farage’s car, so things must be desperate. Also desperate is the Mail, which has called Andrew Percy a “senior” Tory MP - he has no ministerial rank, and has been in the Commons just 5 years - because he says what they want to hear.
What does Percy say? “The situation is now clearly out of control and it is clear that the current arrangements are not working and that the French are unable to guard against these infringements of our border … It is time we considered more radical options, including the use of the Army. The British people expect our border to be secure and the Government must do whatever it takes to achieve this”.

Farage, by the most fortunate of coincidences, is of like mind: “To make sure we’ve actually got the manpower to check lorries coming in to stop people illegally coming to Britain... if in those circumstances we can use the Army or other forces, then why not?”. And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here.
One, the most recent incursions, at the Channel Tunnel terminal, are most definitely on French soil. We do not deploy our armed forces in other countries unless they have agreed the deployment with our Government, unless it is a hostile action. We are not at war with the French, despite the ranting of the tabloid press. And two, this is a case of civil unrest, and that is not a matter for the army.

In any case, why the sudden interest in what is happening in Calais and the surrounding area? Ah well. Daily Mail Comment gives the game away there: “The Calais shambles may have been building for months, but make no mistake: we are now witnessing a crisis which is having devastating repercussions across Britain. Family holidays in mainland Europe, long planned and saved for, are being ruined”.

Yes, now that the hacks and pundits are being directly affected, and can’t go off on their holidays, it’s a crisis and the army has to be called in. Otherwise they couldn’t have given a stuff. Our free and fearless press are just a shower. An absolute shower.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Fake Sheikh Back In Court

Events may not have moved very far at the CPS as regards the decision to charge Mazher Mahmood, aka the Fake Sheikh, but the Court of Appeal is about to hear the case of one Alex Smith, former professional prankster, who was, it seems, set up by Mahmood back in 1998 over a counterfeit money sting. Smith thought he was playing a prank on Mahmood, only to find himself on the front page of the now-defunct Screws soon afterwards.
He later changed his plea to guilty, partly because of Mahmood’s ability to hide behind journalistic privilege, and a third party whom he had previously befriended turning out to be one of Mahmood’s accomplices. Smith was given a custodial sentence. But the bad news for the Fake Sheikh is that there are five other appeals that may get bundled in with Smith’s, one of which is that of actor John Alford.

Alford was effectively ruined after Maz stung him over a drug deal which the actor had been induced into making. The Fake Sheikh was seen laughing at the prospect of his target being ruined in a video shown as part of John Sweeney’s Panorama investigation which the Murdoch empire’s lawyers did their best to keep off the screens. The reason for asking for all six cases to be heard together is straightforward.

As the papers to be laid before the court tell, there are “serious concerns over the safety of those convictions … The common thread to all matters is the integrity of Mazher Mahmood … who was the sole progenitor in all of the cases. In January 2015, the CPS sent ‘Disclosure Packs’ to 25 defendants who had either pleaded guilty or who had been convicted as a result of evidence provided by Mazher Mahmood”.

There was more: “In nearly all cases, complaint was made about the methods employed by him in the obtaining of ‘evidence’, the veracity of that evidence, the disclosure regime that he operated in, as well as his hiding of ‘sources’ from the court, Police, and the defence via journalistic privilege. There is now a suggestion that he has been involved in, and with associations, whose activity can be properly described as criminal”.

And here was the pièce de résistance: “Furthermore … it is submitted that on the face of it, not only has [Mahmood] lied in a staccato fashion to a number of courts over the years, it is clear that he misled the Leveson Inquiry”. So who else is in the frame for appealing their conviction? To no surprise at all, former boxer Herbie Hide’s name is there. Hide also featured in the Panorama exposé of Mahmood’s methods.

The submission, indeed, refers to the Panorama film, the attempt to block its screening, and, to no surprise at all, Judge McCreath and the Tulisa Contostavlos case. It covers the match-fixing case against several footballers, which has also recently been thrown out. It notes that Mahmood continues to have all his legal fees paid by the Murdoch press. And the observations include Maz’ claim to have bent Police officers on his side.

All of which suggests that the Fake Sheikh, his lawyers, and eventually the press, when they all decide to wake up and smell the coffee, may be gainfully employed with this one for a while yet. We will be having another look at proceedings later.

Captain Bellend - Pants On Fire

Not content with his previous mardy strop exhibition at being found out by the Labour Party and his application to become a registered supporter refused, the loathsome Toby Young has been given a platform by the Telegraph - not that they’re partisan in the Labour leadership election, you understand - to whine that this effectively means the whole process is somehow suspect, as well as it jolly well not being fair.
Fire extinguisher for Tobes!

Zelo Street readers may recall that Tobes found he could sign up as a supporter for just £3, did so, then threatened legal action when he was rumbled and Labour declined to give him his money back. By this time, though he now claims otherwise, he would have had to make two fraudulent declarations - to assert he supported the party’s aims, and that he was not a member of an organisation opposed to it - to complete his application.

This all happened six weeks ago. But, like the BBC which he, along with all those other Clever People Who Talk Loudly In Restaurants, hate with a passion obligatory among the ideological right, Tobes is not averse to the occasional repeat, and so back he has come to tellLabour has purged me from their leadership election. How many more will follow?” And, who knows? More importantly, who cares?

But he wants anyone still reading to know that he’s serious: “Harriet Harman is right to stop Tories from infiltrating the contest. But a broader cull could undermine the leadership election result”. So let’s take this one nice and slowly. Weeding out the likes of Tobes is the right thing to do, but Ms Harman and her team should not remove too many names - how many we are not told - because that would not be the right thing to do.

It gets worse: “The chief difficult [sic] faced by those trying to police this election is that the new rules leave it unclear as to who should be entitled to vote. Harman says she also wants to weed out members of hard left groups like Militant - and gave Derek Hatton as an example - but it’s hard to see how Labour can do that while, at the same time, allowing members of Unite the Union to sign up”. No thanks Tobes, I don’t want to look over there.

Think about that. A supposedly mainstream pundit suggests that being a member of a Trades Union is equivalent to being part of the Militant Tendency. That’s the kind of stupidity that would get someone run out of the stupid faculty of the University of Stupid in Stupid City. And it gets worse than that.

If you try and become a ‘registered supporter’, you’re asked to confirm that you ‘support the aims and values of the Labour Party’ and that you are ‘not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it’. I wasn’t asked that question when I applied earlier this month and it’s clearly been introduced to exclude members of the Conservative Party – honest ones, anyway”. Tobes’ pants are now well and truly alight.

That declaration was on the Labour website on the day Tobes made his application - as the screen shot in my previous blogpost shows. His claim is totally untrue. Should he have problems with being called out for his flagrant dishonesty, he is free to contact his legal representative - there will inevitably be a first time for me to refer someone to the precedent case of Arkell versus Pressdram 1971.

The Labour Party’s electoral processes are a matter for the Labour Party. End of story.

Tory Press NHS Smear Busted

Regular visitors to Zelo Street may recall the highly creative reinterpretation by the Telegraph of an NHS patient survey that recorded a 99.2% satisfaction rate. This was spun by the Tel as “NHS Shame”, the headline justified by finding that, out of 4,500 NHS wards, the survey responses for 36 of them had been awarded a negative score. The Tel span this as “so bad patients would warn friends and family to stay away”.
This was blatant scaremongering, and equally blatant misinterpretation of the figures: the responses for those 36 wards - eight of which were based on a single respondent - merely said that they would not recommend the care given. That, though, does not deter the supposedly quality right-wing press from their mission of creativity, and the Murdoch Times has just been caught doing something rather similar.

The paper’s “Social Affairs Correspondent” Rosemary Bennett, who is keeping schtum right now, wrote in May of the “Scandal of ‘appalling’ end-of-life NHS care”. Readers were told that “Hundreds of thousands of people endure a painful, undignified and lonely death because of ‘appalling’ end-of-life care right across the health service, a harrowing report has revealed”. Sounds bad. And there was more.
The health service ombudsman says that too much treatment ‘falls short’ as patients near death, and the failure of doctors to recognise or accept that a patient is dying can lie at the root of the problem”. You may not have heard about this apparently scandalous state of affairs on the TV news. And a “Corrections and Clarifications” entry yesterday shows why.

We stated that ‘Hundreds of thousands of people endure a painful, undignified and lonely death because of “appalling” end-of-life care right across the NHS’ (News, May 20). This was incorrect and misleading. The report by the Parliamentary and health service ombudsman on which our statement was based expressed the opinion that ‘there is potential to improve the experience of care in the last year and months of life for approximately 355,000 people’ - the number of expected deaths each year; it did not suggest that the majority of NHS patients currently receive poor end-of-life care”.
So what was the true number for that “appalling” tag? You’ll love this one: “‘Appalling’ was the reaction of the Department of Health to the 12 cases of very poor care cited by way of illustration in the ombudsman’s report”. Well, well.

The constant misuse of Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratio data for Stafford Hospital and elsewhere can be put down partly to ignorance - few papers have reporters specialised enough in understanding such things - but the Timesstory”, along with the Tel’s equally blatant misreporting two years ago, is down to one thing, and one alone: readers have to be frightened off the NHS, if necessary by lying about it.

This, in turn, is used to assist less than scrupulous politicians in their own attacks on the NHS for ideological ends. And that’s not good enough.

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Mail Still Hacked Off With Coogan

Even though the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre has taken time off for medical attention - private, of course, none of your NHS and mixing it with the hoi polloi for the Vagina Monologue - the Daily Mail’s pursuit of those to whom it has taken an irrational dislike continues unabated. This includes actor, writer and campaigner Steve Coogan, who has had the audacity to appear before the Leveson Inquiry.
Who the f*** says we should have independent press regulation, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

So it was no surprise to see this week kick off at Mail land with Dominic Lawson - someone who should know better, but hey, he’s being well paid and in the Northcliffe House bunker, that means doing as you’re told - telling readers of the Lord Sewel cocaine sting “The peer who thinks he's Steve Coogan has dealt democracy a terrible blow”. He thinks he’s got a cabinet full of awards, does he?

Well, no: Lawson then confirms that the headline is not just the invention of a creatively minded sub-editor by rounding off his discussion of another paper’s story by telling “But at the moment, the Lords seems to be undergoing some sort of identity crisis — rather like the 69-year-old Lord Sewel, who appeared to be confusing himself with Steve Coogan”. Because nobody at the Mail ever did Snow, right?

Rather, anyone at the Mail who did Snow kept it quiet so the assembled hackery could pass severely adverse comment on the personal lives of the likes of Coogan, who has on more than one occasion been the subject of dishonest and improper behaviour by the Mail, which then uses its dubiously sourced copy to get righteous over his conduct, while somehow not noticing their own appalling behaviour.

And the Mail kicks Coogan on the most feeble of pretexts, as witness “Steve Coogan's American dreams in tatters after his prime-time TV series is cancelled after just one season”, about Happyish, where he secured the lead role after Philip Seymour Hoffman’s untimely death. The Mail tells “It was considered Coogan’s big break after his acclaimed performance in the 2013 movie Philomena, which also starred Dame Judi Dench”.

Considered by whom? It was on the Showtime channel, not a major national network. Bizarrely, there is even the obligatory made-up quote: “A source said: ‘Happyish was supposed to be the show which made Coogan a household name in the States … He got the role fresh off Philomena, which the critics loved. But Happyish never found its feet and Coogan never really gelled with the American audience’”.

And to that I call bullshit. The only “source” is from whoever cobbled up the article looking in the mirror. That a US channel only orders one series of a show is no big deal - in fact, it’s a credit: had Happyish been really bad, it would have been pulled before the end of its run. The only reason the Mail is whining for the sake of it is because Coogan is a supporter of Hacked Off, which campaigns for properly independent press regulation.

That means the Mail, by the iron code of Fleet Street, has to take every last opportunity to kick him. Welcome to the playground.

Dan Hodges Does Not Rejoin Labour

Among the dwindling ranks of the Blairite faithful, one hack continues to rail louder than the rest against the inclusion of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest, the attention-seeking extending to rejoining the party he walked out on two years ago. Yes, the Telegraph’s not at all celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges has declared to those still reading that he has returned to Labour. Except he hasn’t.
A return to the Labour fold. Or maybe not

Earlier this week, I rejoined the Labour Party. It was a surprisingly easy decision. I didn’t need to pretend to be someone I’m not – adopt a disguise, or a funny accent. I didn’t even need to put on a northern accent. I simply logged onto the website, clicked on the video of a small child attempting to eat a Vote Labour badge, and hey presto. I put in my details, paid my £3, and I was in”, he told triumphantly.
There was more: “Everyone’s doing it, apparently. According to the Sunday papers, up to 140,000 people will have joined the Labour Party by the time the leadership election ends”. Er, a word in your shell-like, Dan: that figure is for Labour Party members. What you signed up to for £3 was to be a registered supporter, not a member. So you didn’t actually rejoin the Labour Party at all. But hey, minor point, eh?
It’s just another example of how Hodges makes next to no sense on the Labour leadership issue, which, fortunately, is fine for someone at the Tel, as making no sense on anything to do with the Labour Party is just what they need. His bewilderment was evident as he Tweeted “There probably is a way Labour's leadership election could have become a bigger mess, but I'm struggling to think of it at the moment”.
Yes, democracy and the open exchange of ideas are difficult concepts for those disaffected Blairites who openly suggested that Corbyn should be kept off the ballot - just as the sainted Tone tried to keep Ken Livingstone and Rhodri Morgan off their respective ballots. Still, even with Corbyn on the ballot, he was certain: “People need to get a grip. Jeremy Corbyn is not going to be elected Labour leader".
No, Jezza would not win, and Hodges was even prepared to deny the name of The Great Leader in order to get his message across: “Even with Tony Blair's insane intervention, Jeremy Corbyn won't win”. Yes, for the Tel and for the maximisation of publicity for the benefit of Himself Personally Now, he cast Tone adrift, telling “I've rejoined the Labour party so I can vote for Jeremy Corbyn”.
Sadly, he still hadn’t rejoined the party, not for £3, but the piss-taking continued: “Please help support Jeremy Corbyn for Leader, add a #Twibbon now!” Laugh? I thought I’d never start. That’s so intercoursing original, Louise Mensch was pulling the same stunt months ago - so long ago, in fact, that she’s now removed it. Admit it Dan, you haven’t a clue what’s happening in the Labour Party right now.

Not even a clue on the difference between registered supporters and real members.

Coke Sting Hack’s Osborne Question

As Lord Sewel finds the Met’s finest calling on his London address, and decides to leave the House of Lords for good - although he retains his title - there are still questions as to how the Sun secured the story that started it all off. And who is Stephen Moyes, the hack whose name appears on the by-line of the original scoop? That, it appears, is a story that reveals a great deal about how the tabloid press has behaved in the past.
Stephen Moyes

Moyes, by his own testimony, is the only news reporter to move from the now-defunct Screws to the Sun when the Sunday title was closed down in 2011. He had only joined the Murdoch title a year before, after eight years at the Daily Mirror. He recalled “When I joined the NoW it had a clean bill of health. It had been given the thumbs up after probes by Assistant Met Police Commissioner John Yates, the Commons' Culture Media & Sport Select Committee, and the Press Complaints Committee industry watchdog”.
And he has obediently stuck to the accepted line on what happened next: “after The Guardian's factually incorrect page one claim that the NoW had deleted murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's voicemail messages, it was closed in disgrace”. That the paper was sacrificed at the Murdochs’ choosing to keep the Sky bid in play, or that the Guardian’s claim is not “incorrect”, but merely “not proven”, is not told.
Then he had his collar felt as part of Operation Elveden, and Moyes knew exactly who was to blame for this: “the newspaper-hating Guardian, and the hysterical rantings of hand-wringing, frenzied self-styled media commentators on social media”. But one scoop does not make it to his statement after being cleared of wrongdoing.
And that is a story about the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, and former dominatrix Natalie Rowe, which, it seems, was going to appear in the Mirror, but didn’t. Ms Rowe Tweeted yesterday “@stephenmoyes Well done on your SCOOP re #LordSewel. Any chance of the pics you have when you worked at the #Mirror in relation me/Osborne?” Ooh, interesting. And there’s more.
She followed up with “@stephenmoyes Its odd how you suppressed those pics of #Osborne & your Editor at the time was removed unceremoniously, #SewelScoop no prob!” Moyes appeared concerned: “@RealNatalieRowe Hey Nat. Tried calling you. Pls ring or DM me. Cheers”. And then came the real eyebrow-raiser: “Can I have the #Osborne pics @stephenmoyes, I now know that all that time & money you gave me to expose #Osborne was in fact to set ME UP!”.
Observing this exchange was the man otherwise known as Joe Public, who asked the obvious question “Did Andy Coulson get Natalie Rowe story by hacking Sunday Mirror? Was the softer NOTW version the reason Osborne hired him as Comms chief?” Pundits wondered at the time why Osborne recommended Coulson to Young Dave, despite the Screws having given the future Chancellor a working over.

Stephen Moyes won’t be enlarging on that part of his CV any time soon. But someone might. There is still more to come on the Screws, the paper with the “clean bill of health”.

Monday 27 July 2015

Boris Bus - A Warning From History

As arguments rage over the latest problems to be exhibited by the New Bus For London (NB4L), which is definitely not a Routemaster, the idea has been pitched by Labour Mayoral hopeful Christian Wolmar that these vehicles might best be taken out of service - and, by implication, deliveries stopped - to save TfL any further embarrassment. There is a significant precedent for this action, from half a century ago.
A new Guy Wulfrunian stands outside the Charles Roe bodyworks in Leeds, prior to delivery

The NB4L was not first offered by a bus manufacturer to TfL; rather, the Heatherwick concept was taken to the manufacturers to see if they would like to build it, and this parallels what happened in the late 50s. West Riding, the largest independent operator in the UK, operated in an area where the roads were in a generally awful condition. Fleet engineer Ronald Brooke had his own ideas of how to tackle this.

He decided that the solution was a vehicle with air suspension and disc brakes - at the time unheard of in the UK bus industry. Armed with his specification, he presented builders with it. With one exception, they passed on the idea. It was just too radical. But Guy Motors of Wolverhampton saw this as their opportunity to mix it with the biggest players, and so was born the Guy Wulfrunian.

The Wulfrunian had a lot in common with the NB4L: it was heavy for a late 50s double decker, some vehicles had their passenger capacity reduced, although this was for maintenance reasons, rather than legal ones, hardly anyone except the launch customer went near the design, the number of novel features led to unforeseen problems, and the cooling system had a reputation for alternately baking and freezing passengers.

The design looked attractive at the outset: for instance, the drop-centre rear axle meant it was a genuinely lowbridge design, and so could operate on a wider range of routes. But placing the engine at the front, when Leyland and Daimler were already working on rear engine designs, was not a good idea. Drivers complained of the roasting heat, made worse by the Gardner power unit having a right-hand exhaust.

Eventually, even the enthusiasm of West Riding waned, and they cancelled a final order for 25 buses, which ended production of the Wulfrunian after the mid-60s. By 1972 - the newest vehicles managed less than seven years in service, less than half what might have been expected - they had all gone. West Riding, by now in dire financial straits, replaced the Wulfrunians with rather older second-hand Bristol Lodekkas.

The NB4L is already operating for most of the time without rear platform attendants, and so the “hop on, hop off” feature is effectively redundant, a waste of time. If battery reliability persists, that will harm the design’s green credentials. Electrical problems are harming reliability. The air cooling problem has still not been solved. TfL need to ask themselves: can they swallow their pride, bite the bullet, and admit defeat?

Having a bus designed on the personal whim of a key player was not a good move by Ronald Brooke, West Riding, and Guy Motors. It’s still not a good idea, even if Bozza says it is. The Boris Wulfrunian may have been an interesting concept, but no more.

Sun Cocaine Hypocrisy

The revelation in yesterday’s Sun on Sunday that Lord Sewel (“Lord Who?”, some may ask) had been filmed taking cocaine and being entertained by prostitutes has got the more moral end of the Fourth Estate in a terribly righteous froth. He has resigned his House of Lords deputy speakership; now there is a clamour for him to be booted out of the upper house altogether. Someone may not have thought this one through.
Photo (c) Natalie Rowe

And not thinking it through was clearly the order of the day at the Mail, which has maximised its coverage of the affair, despite it being another paper’s exclusive. “A peer filmed snorting cocaine with two £200-a-night prostitutes was today facing calls to stand down from the House of Lords. Lord Sewel, 69, was reported to the police and quit as deputy speaker of the Lords after the video emerged”, they observed.

Daily Mail Comment, the authentic voice of the Vagina Monologue, went further: “Sewel has rightly resigned these roles but he should now be stripped of his peerage and the criminal allegations against him investigated by the police. Beyond his disgrace, however, this squalid affair shines a wider spotlight on the disturbingly low calibre of many peers”. Yes, Something Must Be Done. Because, look, it’s written, that’s why.

What does not appear to have occurred to the Dacre doggies, nor to the Murdoch faithful who first ran this story, is that there is rather a lot that we are not being told about Sewel and his, er, recreational pursuits. Did the Sun pay the sex workers involved? Who supplied the cocaine, which, let us not forget, is a Class A drug, and supplying it is therefore an illegal act? We’re not being told, but if the Met gets involved, we may find out.

That may not be to the Sun’s advantage: after all, it was for that paper that Mazher Mahmood was working when a judge called him out for lying and threw out the case against singer Tulisa Contostavlos last year. Was Maz involved in this one? Were any of his associates? And, apart from taking cocaine, exactly what law was being broken by Sewel’s actions? And then there is the right-wing press’ political hypocrisy.

If we’re going to chuck Coke sniffers out of Parliament, then there would be no point stopping at a former Labour junior minister - which is what Sewel was. Any peer or MP who was on record indulging in illegal substances, and using the services of sex workers, would have to go. And first in that queue, it seems, on the balance of evidence, would be the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet.

Osborne has always denied taking cocaine, but the photo taken of him sitting with former dominatrix Natalie Rowe suggests otherwise - as does her recollection. The Mail knows all about the story - they covered it two years ago. So if the inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker want to clear out all those “squalid” politicians, they could do worse than start with Osborne, who recently appeared at PMQs looking wasted.

But we’ll have a long time to wait for that, because the right-wing press are hypocrites.

Don’t Menshn Barack Obama

The observation by Barack Obama that he (and probably his successor, whatever their stripe) would prefer Britain to remain an EU member state has not gone down well with all those who work in the service of Creepy Uncle Rupe, who bows to no man in his detestation of any Democratic Party politician. So it was no surprise to see (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch dutifully kicking the Prez in her latest Sun column.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

We can read all of the tedious drivel as her witterings are not considered worthy of putting behind the Sun’s paywall, right from the headline, “Disastrous, weak Obama might as well quack it all in … We don’t need to listen to him on EU”, to the lame “SO Barack Obama thinks the UK needs to stay in the EU. ‘Quack quack, special relationship quack,’ the US president reportedly said … What? Sorry, I was translating it into ‘lame duck’ — what they call a useless politician on their way out”. Laugh? I thought I’d never start.

It’s just lies and spin, from beginning to end. “He said we need to bow to Brussels”, she claims. No he didn’t. “Nobody paid him any attention over Greece’s debt crisis”, she wibbles. Not a US issue. “He did sod all to stop President Putin when he invaded the Ukraine”. It’s not called “the Ukraine”, and what does she want the US to do? Start World War 3? “Obama even allowed Russia to host fugitive whistleblower Ed Snowden”.

Terrible, eh? The USA doesn’t stick its bugle into other countries’ internal affairs. But then it gets seriously stupid. “He wrapped up with [?] an Iranian ‘deal’ that will do nothing to stop the mad mullahs developing nukes”. The Iranian “deal” - not yet finalised - provides for an unprecedented level of monitoring, and, yes, stops Iran “developing nukes”.

Can’t she get one thing right? Nope: “some brave Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011, in an operation started by President Bush”. Yes Ms Mensch, it took the Navy Seals two and a half years to get to northern Pakistan. How about health care reform? “Even at home, his Obamacare health programme is unpopular”. Yeah, right. That’s why the percentage of US citizens without cover is at its lowest ever.

Let’s cut the crap: only the most wilful and blinkered right-winger can fail to concede that Obama has been one of the great Presidents. Quite apart from bringing Iran in from the cold and effectively pointing the country to the west, he has ended the pointless stand-off with Cuba, bringing that country into the mainstream for the first time in over 50 years. And Ms Mensch’s claim that he’s doing nothing on Syria is also bunk.

Otherwise, how did all those US warplanes get there? His approval ratings, which one might expect to be poor for a Prez late in the second term, are holding up well. Even now, there are new initiatives: “Executives from 13 major U.S. corporations will announce Monday at least $140 billion in new investments to decrease their carbon footprints as part of a White House initiative to recruit private commitments ahead of a United Nations climate-change summit later this year in Paris”, announced Bloomberg news today.

While Louise Mensch sits there in her upmarket Manhattan bunker, the world has moved on. Meanwhile, her puerile sniping shows just how out of touch she is. Sad, really.