Back in July, a moderately creative article in the Sunday Times, under the by-line of former Daily Mail man Tim Shipman, passed before my inspection. The headline gave a flavour of the article rather well: “Tories give BBC Reform ultimatum … Demands for broadcaster to stop chasing viewers”. Readers were told that Culture Secretary John Whittingdale had appointed a panel to “conduct a ‘root and branch’ reform of the Corporation”.
This was blatant exaggeration. But, it seems, it was effectively an officially sanctioned story. That there was to be a “BBC Charter Review Advisory Group” had been made known to the Murdoch title by email two days before publication. Moreover, that email made clear that a Government advisor had already been in contact with the paper. This was picked up on yesterday by Jane Martinson at the Guardian.
Labour’s Chris Bryant has accused Whittingdale of misleading Parliament over “repeated leaks” to the ST. As Ms Martinson has told, “The intervention came after Labour had obtained emails from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) under the Freedom of Information Act which suggested that Carrie Symonds, the special adviser to the culture secretary, had spoken to a journalist at the Sunday Times days before it published the story”. Zelo Street regulars may recognise Ms Symonds’ name.
The potentially incriminating email ((c) Guardian)
What of the article’s author? “Shipman, the political editor of the Sunday Times and author of the piece, categorically denied the special adviser leaked any details of the green paper. ‘I had two sources in Whitehall on that story and neither of them was Carrie Symonds,’ he said”. That’s a magnificently disingenuous reply.
The reason readers of this blog may recognise Ms Symonds’ name is that she was - and, as far as is known, still is - in a relationship with the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, formerly tame gofer to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog. While there, he contributed to a regular Sunday column for the Murdoch Sun, and the month before the leaks, it was announced that he would be joining that paper.
Carrie Symonds. And a well-known buffoon
No accusation is being levelled at Master Cole. But it would give Shipman a source that he could say was not Ms Symonds. It is also interesting that one of the first news sources to go with the Sunday Times lead and run a piece on the BBC Charter Advisory Group was City AM. The month before the leaks, it was announced that this paper’s new editor was to be former IoD chief spinner Christian May.
May is a close friend of Master Cole, and if his Twitter background is any guide, still shares a flat with him in the Parliament View block. No accusation is being levelled against him either, although it would provide a second source. It may be no more than one of those remarkable coincidences. After all, one meets so many like minded people on the fringes of the Westminster village nowadays.
The result of Chris Bryant’s investigation is awaited with interest here on Zelo Street.
Yes, Tim. It was a "remarkable coincidence."
Of course it was.
Wow, that's amazing - Cole's got a girlfriend!!!!
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