Even through all the times when she offended anyone and everyone with her tasteless yet effortless blend of ignorance, prejudice and rank paranoia, it has been hard not to feel a little sympathy for pro-am motormouth Katie Hopkins. This is because she has suffered for some years with a particularly nasty form of epilepsy - sleep epilepsy - which meant a good night’s kip might have to be followed by a trip to the local A&E.
Viewers may still want to look away now
That was because the epileptic fits were so violent that joints would routinely become dislocated. Even dozing off on the train back to Exeter could induce an episode. And so it came to pass that Ms Hopkins went into hospital to have “awake” and yet invasive brain surgery in an effort to cure her of the sleep epilepsy. The operation appears to have been successful. Many have been willing to suspend hostilities and offer yet more sympathy.
Well, Katie doesn’t want anyone’s sympathy: not only did she come out fighting from her visit to the operating theatre - well, Tweeting, anyway - but the old habit of minimising exertion while maximising offensiveness has not gone away. Far from it: Ms Hopkins was straight out of theatre and straight into filing another missive for Mail Online, this time putting the boot in on Kate and Gerry McCann.
And subtle it is not: “There is no amount of money the will right the wrongs of the past, no libel action that will cancel out the damage the McCanns inflicted on themselves”. The libelling of the McCanns, Ms Hopkins manages to miss, were so serious that the Express and Daily Star titles ended up having to publish front page apologies. The legal actions were not entered into lightly; the Desmond press was bang out of order.
On goes Ms Hopkins: “If you really must blame someone, then Kate and Gerry are right there in front of you. And yet, protected by some invisible force-shield I don’t understand”. The rest of the article gets far nastier, before its author bangs on ad infinitum, and indeed ad nauseam, about how she is a far more conscientious mother than Kate McCann. As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point.
Then the Twitter advert tells Ms Hopkins’ followers of “The truth behind the lies of Kate & Gerry McCann”. And there were other targets to search out and demonise, Scary Muslims (tm) for starters: “I am sick of authorities using terms like Asian men to avoid the very obvious fact these child rapists are Muslims … Muslim men raping white women is consistent with the teaching of Islam. Revoke their citizenship and deport the bastards. Asian my arse”. Good luck with finding that one in the Qur’an (she won’t).
There was even time to smear Lily Allen as a hooker (seriously) before an attempt to export her inimitable brand of unpleasantness: “Swiss referendum 'should we deport all foreign criminals without appeal' Easiest yes ever”. Sadly for Katie, the Swiss decided to ignore her and voted No. After all, some of us have standards to maintain.
Katie Hopkins doesn’t want our sympathy. But we have to put up with her bigotry.
The campaign to persuade voters to vote to remain in, or leave, the European Union is barely a week old, but the level of desperation exhibited by some of those urging so-called “Brexit” has already reached new heights of idiocy, with one particularly egregious example coming from (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch. She has read a small part of the Lisbon Treaty, and so knows more about it than everyone else.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014
Moreover, she claims that her reading of the Treaty’s Article 8 means that Britain cannot possibly suffer in the event of a vote to leave the EU. This is, to no surprise, bullshit. So what does the Treaty actually say? Well, it says that the EU “shall contribute to … free and fair trade”, but that guarantees nothing to anyone requesting access to that single market.
Where has this selectively annotated extract come from?
From another group peddling non-existent "Game Changers", it seems
What else? The EU “shall work … to … encourage the integration of all countries into the world economy, including through the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade”. This also guarantees nothing. But then comes Ms Mensch’s clincher, Article 8 Paragraph 1. “The Union shall develop a special relationship with neighbouring countries, aiming to establish an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness, founded on the values of the Union and characterised by close and peaceful relations based on cooperation”.
Er, hello? This is aspirational waffle, nothing more than a mission statement. But that has not stopped Ms Mensch concluding that Britain can take this alleged promissory note to the bank: “Article 8 of the Lisbon treaty mandates that the EU promote free trade globally … Further, Article 8 of Lisbon commits EU to a ‘special relationship’ with all neighbouring nations for ‘prosperity’ … So not only can't the EU punish us post-#Brexit as we are their biggest customer, their treaties forbid it”. And there was more.
“Article 8 of Lisbon means you can stick your #BrexitRisks scaremongering up your @JunckerEU #Brexit … ‘Deal’ is NOT law or in an treaty. This IS in a treaty. Difference between fake and real … For all those saying it would be hard for the UK to trade with EU after #Brexit, nonsense. EU is legally obliged to”. Sadly, it’s not quite that simple.
We can see that by referring to that part of Article 8 which Ms Mensch has managed not to, er, mention. Paragraph 2 tells “For the purposes of paragraph 1, the Union may conclude specific agreements with the countries concerned. These agreements may contain reciprocal rights and obligations as well as the possibility of undertaking activities jointly. The implementation shall be the subject of periodic consultation” (my emphases).
All that Article 8 of the Lisbon Treaty does is to allow trade deals to be concluded between the EU and neighbouring countries. There is no guarantee as to the terms of those deals. If the British Government tried to take that to the bank, it would get laughed straight out the door. The group that has promoted this campaign, EFTA4UK, has also advanced the idea that Norway pays nothing for access to the European Single Market (not true).
Louise Mensch is plain flat wrong yet again. And remember, they let her become an MP.
Britain has not seen a new national newspaper for 30 years, when the Independent launched. That would be the paper that will cease publication - in print - next month in the face of years of declining sales. All other print titles are suffering a sales decline, and a corresponding loss of the advertising revenue that they need to remain viable. On the face of it, launching a new national paper is, at the very least, counter-intuitive.
But that is what the Mirror Group has done with The New Day, free today but paid-for afterwards. The 40-page publication will hit newsstands on weekdays only. It claims that it will be editorially neutral, with no leader column. Readers will not be “told what to think”. The content will come mainly from other Mirror Group titles, to be edited down and presented in a concise digest form. There is a staff of just 25.
And there will be no website, which is yet more counter-intuitive in this age where newspapers are trying to “go digital” while still being able to “monetise” the content they put out there, whether by erecting paywalls or getting advertisers to stump up more. All that The New Day will have is a Twitter and Facebook presence. But very little of its content will appear there. Just the odd teaser, and front pages.
Editor Alison Phillips has toured studios promoting her new charge - yesterday it was The Andy Marr Show (tm), and today it was Good Morning Britain (that trip on the TiltyLiner (tm) to Manchester for BBC Breakfast perhaps too challenging) along with an attempt to get a word in edgeways with Nick Ferrari on LBC. There is optimism in abundance.But does this team seriously expect to make a success of the paper?
The signs are not all good. Today’s first edition, far from “not telling readers what to think”, has a well-trailed article by the Prime Minister on why the EU is sufficiently wonderful for all those jolly good readers to toddle along to the nearest Polling Station in June and vote for Britain to Remain a member state. There will be columnists - invariably bringing their own opinions - although these will not appear on fixed days of the week.
There will be no specific men-only or women-only areas of the paper. But there will be slebs. And while today brings the latest manifestation of Cheryl Curl, or whatever she’s calling herself this week, before long it will be desperation time with eternal wannabe Karen Danczuk, a sign that the barrel has already been scraped. I can tell Ms Phillips that the market for reading Kazza’s drivel is in the vanishingly small category.
And if readers are being expected to pay for The New Day, where is it going to make an impact when every large city is already covered by free sheets like Metro, which is established, dominant, and has the Daily Mail’s resources behind it? However you slice it, The New Day’s concept struggles to make sense. Print is in decline. We’ve tried optimism before and it has failed to make an impact on the Shock Horror merchants.
It would be good to be proved wrong, but I can’t see The New Day surviving for long.
Over the past week, the question has been asked time and again: why did London’s increasingly occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson go against what so many believed were his political instincts and decide to campaign for Britain to leave the EU? And the answer kept coming back that this was a crude and calculated attempt by Bozza to put himself in pole position to succeed Young Dave as Tory leader.
A total Muppet. And a character from Sesame Street
This has clearly got to Bozza - suggesting that all those answers might have been uncomfortably close to reality - and so it has come to pass that he has let the Super Soaraway Currant Bun in on the real reason for his decision, which he claims is not the one that all those other folks already figured out. No, his real motivation, he now says, is not just the personal advancement of Himself Personally Now.
In a moderately creative article, the Sun’s Sunday political editor David Wooding, someone who would be welcomed back to his native Liverpool if only for target practice, has told “Real reason Boris Johnson backed Brexit: Emma Thompson ‘cake’ slur tipped London Mayor over the edge … EXCLUSIVE: Film star’s jibe convinced him to become standard bearer for Leave campaign”. And to that I call bullshit.
But do go on. “The London Mayor was incensed by the Leftie luvvie’s sneering attack on his country and told friends: ‘I’m not going to allow that’ … He had spent weeks wavering over whether to join the In or Out camp until actress Emma ridiculed Britain as ‘a cake-filled, misery-laden, grey old island’”. Yeah, right. He could have dealt with his ire by calling her out in his “chicken feed” generating Telegraph column. Job done.
In any case, who has been the bearer of this highly dubious apologia? “Close pals said her outburst was the tipping point that convinced him to become standard bearer for the Leave campaign … One said: ‘The image of a defeatist modern Britain articulated by Emma Thompson finally convinced him where his heart lay … He believes Britain is a great country. And her remarks made him want to prove we could go it alone and make it work’”.
We also hear “Another source confirmed: ‘Emma Thompson’s remarks were what finally swung him … Boris seemed to get all stirred up as soon as the cake remarks hit the front page of The Sun’”. Right. We get one “close pal”, plus “another source”, both of which could have been concocted within the Baby Shard bunker. This “exclusive” may have had Bozza’s approval, but it is thinner than a weak pint of supermarket lager.
An off-the-cuff remark by an actor, however great their stature, is not going to sway any politician from his or her principles - if they have any. Either Bozza is being seriously economical with the actualité here - or he really is a principle-free charlatan of no fixed political orientation. Either way, he comes out of this ridiculous story with his reputation diminished yet further, and no serious prospect of ever gaining office.
The popularity of Boris Johnson was for a time, but not for all time. Bye bye Bozza.
After the clumsy smear attempted last week by a close and long-standing friend of Young Britons’ Foundation head man Donal Blaney, which tried to dump the blame for the death of Tory activist Elliott Johnson on his parents, it was inevitable that the Johnson family would have something to say. To no surprise, this has happened via theMail On Sunday and its legendarily tenacious political editor Simon Walters.
The article tells that “The parents of the Tory activist whose suicide sparked a bullying scandal last night hit back at claims that his death was linked to a family row over him being gay … Ray and Alison Johnson released a heart-rending suicide note in which their son Elliott repeatedly tells them he loves them, thanks them for their ‘awe- inspiring help’ – and signs off with 16 kisses”. Then came the clincher.
“The note suggests the main cause of his death was bullying triggered by a vicious Tory power struggle – as well as losing his job and going broke as a result”. This tallies with the statement given to Zelo Street yesterday by one of Elliott Johnson’s friends, which told that after being made redundant, “Elliott found himself stranded in London with rent to pay and no income, which is no way to treat a vulnerable young man”.
Ray Johnson has seen the leak of a Police report, and correctly deduced “it looks like a smear”. It is also another example of the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday taking deliberately opposing positions on issues as part of the proxy war between editors Paul Dacre and Geordie Greig, something highlighted by Private Eye magazine some time ago. Ray Johnson is particularly annoyed at suggestions the family rowed over Elliott’s sexuality.
Indeed, he has told the MoS “He told us he was definitely gay about two years ago. By then, we had all got used to it and Elliott had a happy three years at Nottingham University where he was very popular. He was more mature and when he got a job with Conservative Way Forward in June, it was a dream come true … He was working in politics, getting paid for it and living in London. He had never been happier”.
Sadly, though, those accused of the campaign of bullying are still trying not only to offload blame, but rehabilitate their reputations: today, for reasons best known to those producing the programme, Mark Clarke’s henchman André Walker has been allowed on to the BBC’s Sunday Politics, and has already pre-recorded his contribution.
This is what he had to tell the world earlier: “Over the last few months some people have deleted me from Facebook because so many bad things have been said about me. You have all given me a chance to go through the process then explain myself. The Coroner’s investigation is over [!] and I will be on the Sunday Politics tomorrow. I hope you’ll feel vindicated about sicking [sic] with me when you see it”.
The Coroner’s “investigation” has not even started. And, although one cannot object to free dissenting speech, there is something disquieting about Walker being given a platform when the person at the centre of the affair is no longer here to tell his story.
The Elliott Johnson story is not over yet, and will not be even after André Walker has appeared on the Sunday Politics. There is a great deal more to come, and some of it will not make easy reading. More on the story as and when.
So what’s hot, and what’s not, in the past week’s blogging? Here are the six most popular posts on Zelo Street for the past seven days, counting down in reverse order, because, well, I have shopping stuff to do later. So there.
6 Sun Savile Hypocrisy Exposed This post from January is back in the Top Six following the publication of Janet Smith’s report. The Sun claimed they had the dirt on Jimmy Savile, but they did nothing. And they kept on doing nothing.
5 Tory Bullying - Sick New Smear Mike Rouse, a close and long-term friend of YBF head man Donal Blaney, has tried to spin the death of activist Elliott Johnson as a way of blaming his parents. And it’s complete claptrap.
4 Karen Danczuk’s Guardian Fantasy Second week on the Top Six for this post. For reasons best known to herself, the Guardian’s Zoe Williams allowed Kazza to make a number of highly creative claims in an interview that was short of a fact check.
3 Danczuk Cashed In On Sexting Disgrace Rochdale’s nominally Labour MP had a £2.7k payday from a photo exclusive - and it looks like it was the one that accompanied his exposure by the Sun for “sexting” a 17 year old girl.
2 Idiot Almost Provokes Train Strike A DfT manager made a series of highly inflammatory statements to a meeting in Croydon recently about what train drivers earn, the hours they put in, and what he was going to do to them. He later issued an apology.
1 Jimmy Savile - Sun Hypocrisy After Janet Smith’s report was published, the Sun claimed that, if only they had been listened to in 1983, all would have been well. Except that they didn’t listen either, giving Savile a gushing eulogy when he died - and more.
And that’s the end of another blogtastic week, blog pickers. Not ‘arf!
The Daily Mail has added another instalment to the Tory Party’s bullying scandal this week as it has tried its best to smear the memory of Elliott Johnson, and the name of his family. Meanwhile, out there on the right, one of Young Britons’ Foundation head man Donal Blaney’s bosom buddies has used the Mail story to apply a particularly nasty smear to the Johnson family. The dead activist’s friends are not at all happy at this development.
The YBF gathering in late 2014 where Mark Clarke was given the platform - and his Golden Dolphin award. Elliott Johnson can be seen at front left
“Tatler Tory victim rowed with his parents about being gay: Activist whose suicide sparked bullying scandal had battled depression for years, police report finds” reads the headline of Andrew Pierce’s article. Pierce’s name is on the by-line for two reasons: he is a loyal Tory, and always keen to deflect blame away from the party, and the Mail will claim it cannot be homophobic because the report was written by a gay man.
The Mail claims to have seen the Police report prepared for the coroner’s inquest, but what they saw does not back up the headline: Elliott Johnson “had found it difficult that his parents struggled to accept his homosexuality … Mr Johnson said his parents Ray and Alison, from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, had struggled with his sexuality”. That is not the same as claiming he “rowed with his parents”.
Moreover, as Johnson made his fateful last train journey, his mother tried to phone him, which suggests there was regular contact, and parental concern for his wellbeing. But this has not stopped Mike Rouse, a longstanding friend of Donal Blaney, from using the article to smear Johnson’s memory, and indeed his family. His Facebook posting is included in this post and I quote from it in full below.
“This article in the Daily Mail makes for seriously uncomfortable reading, but I think it’s important to share with my activist friends who have been close to this and following this for some time [link to Pierce’s article included]. Personally, I am left quite angered by what I’ve read by the way Elliott’s parents appear to have treated him over 5 or so years after he came out as gay to them. They should have found a way to support and love their son regardless of his sexuality”. And there is more - much more.
“I know that his colleagues and friends in politics would not have given a monkeys about his sexuality and would have treated him as they found him … When politics started to get bumpy for Elliott - dealing with a bully and facing the challenge of finding new work - he should have been able to turn to his family as a bedrock of support”. And more.
“Instead, reading this article it seems he ran away from them to avoid disappointing them yet further and ended up running into a very dark place … I will say it because I suspect others might not - his parents have serious questions to answer”.
I have never met Mike Rouse, and hope that I never do. Pierce’s article, despite the slant applied towards smearing the Johnson family, does not so much as suggest that Elliott Johnson “ran away” from anything. Indeed, a Guardianarticle from last November includes a photo of Johnson with his clearly proud parents at his graduation from Nottingham University. Elliott Johnson met his parents just two days before his death.
Moreover, Pierce’s article concedes “The police report is critical of the Conservative Party, saying: ‘The death of Elliott has highlighted a number of potential administrative failures and potential criminal matters taking place at Conservative Road Trip events’ … A week after the first row with [Mark] Clarke, Mr Johnson was left ‘heartbroken’ when he was sacked by CWF. The police report says he began researching suicide methods on his computer the same day”. It’s blindingly obvious what put Johnson in that “very dark place”.
Why should Rouse’s clumsy and amateurish smear matter? Well, he’s not just any Blaney pal: Mike Rouse was, as Iain Dale noted back in 2007, one of the team at short-lived internet TV venture 18 Doughty Street (Blaney was a regular presence in the broadcasts). He has recently spoken, as a friend, in defence of Blaney. It is clear that his intervention is an indication of how the YBF’s fightback will look - and how dirty it will be.
Indeed, such is the revulsion among Elliott Johnson’s friends that one has given Zelo Street a statement on condition of anonymity. That friend has forthright opinions on the behaviour of Rouse, Blaney, Clarke and their pals. Their thoughts are given in full.
“This disgusting smear from Mike Rouse is typical of what we have come to expect from members of the Young Britons Foundation (YBF), an organisation which trained and lauded Mark Clarke.
An inconvenient truth for Mike Rouse is that it was his friend Donal Blaney who trained Mark Clarke and gave him a platform at Conservative Way Forward (CWF) events.
It was also Donal Blaney who made Elliott redundant from his job at CWF after just two months. Because of Blaney’s decision, Elliott found himself stranded in London with rent to pay and no income, which is no way to treat a vulnerable young man.
Elliott was impressionable. he idolised Blaney and Clarke, who presented themselves to him as respected Tory grandees with powerful connections. What he did not know is that Blaney and Clarke are so very similar in so many ways.
Both Blaney and Clarke crave control and are notorious for aggressive conduct and both are considered an embarrassment to the Conservative movement.
Both Blaney and Clarke have obsessive interest in youth politics despite reaching the age of 40.
Donal Blaney’s biggest and most famous life achievement is creating the monster that is Mark Clarke.
Knowing this, it is a mystery why he is still allowed to shame the name of CWF and Lady Thatcher with his poisonous brand of politics”.
I would add to that the reminder to all those seeking to exonerate the YBF and its hangers-on that investigations continue on a number of fronts. Clearly there is significant resentment at Rouse’s intervention, which, piled on top of that over the group’s previous behaviour and tactics, is making for a combustible mix.
Those trying to spin this story away would be better served waiting for the Inquest and other inquiries to take place, before starting to shift blame and smear. There is a lot more to come on this story - and the YBF crowd are not going to stop it.
The British Film Institute held its Chairman’s Dinner in London last week, and awarded a fellowship to actor and campaigner Hugh Grant, in recognition of a career that has now spanned over 30 years. And the press was there too, including the Daily Mail, whose legendarily foul mouthed editor Paul Dacre famously snapped at Grant during his interrogation under the watchful eye of Lord Justice Leveson.
Why the f*** can't I use my paper for vindictive hatchet jobs, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay
The paper’s report, though, was upbeat, headlined “Love Actually reunion! Hugh Grant is joined by Martine McCutcheon as rom-com king picks up prestigious BFI Fellowship award” and telling “Hugh Grant's on-screen charisma has earned him a Fellowship from the British Film Institute, one of cinema’s top accolades for his contribution to the film industry … The 55-year-old actor was joined by a host of famous faces including his Love Actually co-star Martine McCutcheon at the BFI’s Chairman’s Dinner in London on Tuesday night as he picked up the prize”. And there was more.
“Hugh scrubbed up in style to attend the award presentation, sporting a dapper suit and a bow tie … The British star proved he only gets better with age, appearing just as handsome as in his 90s heyday … he now finds himself a BFI Fellow, among such reified company as Sir David Lean, Sir Alec Guinness, Sir Michael Caine, Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench … This is the 82nd [BFI] Fellowship”.
So far, so gushing, but then someone at the Mail realised that Grant is not only a bête noire of Dacre, but also that he works with press campaign group Hacked Off, which has had the audacity to speak up for victims of press misbehaviour and follow that with demands that press regulation be made properly independent.
And so it came to pass that Friday’s Ephraim Hardcastle column, widely believed to be written by Peter McKay, aka The World’s Worst Columnist, sneered “Hugh Grant’s fellowship for acting from the British Film Institute raises some thespian eyebrows” before adding “Might the BFI fellowship signal its approval of his activities as a director of the lobby group Hacked Off? The BFI chairman of governors is Greg Dyke, no fan of the Press … Neither is louche, much-ridiculed BFI governor and broadcaster Jonathan Ross”.
Questions To Which The Answer Is No, then. But this was a mere sighting shot, and today Brian Viner has got the Vagina Monologue’s memo, with the resultant hatchet job titled “The fop's (many) flops: As Hugh Grant is honoured by film bigwigs, our critic asks, have they seen this flock of turkeys?” You want mean-spirited? Here it comes.
The Fellowship “is the greatest honour the BFI can bestow” he told, listing some of the past recipients, before administering the required kicking: “Even [Grant’s] biggest fans would surely have to concede that … he is a pygmy among giants … his decidedly limited ability … he’s the only actor honoured by the BFI who can’t actually act very well”. Viner then lists some of Grant’s film flops and suggests he isn’t worth his award.
Sadly, the hatchet job is all too obvious: Viner deliberately leaves Michael Caine out of his list of BFI Fellowship winners. By no coincidence at all, Caine has not only owned up to starring in several flops, he revels in that notoriety. This is just a swipe at a successful actor because he’s campaigned for press victims. No surprise there, then.
Redrawing the boundaries of Parliamentary constituencies is not the only wizard new wheeze from Young Dave and his jolly good chaps: the electoral register has been subjected recently to what has been promoted as a “cleaning up” exercise, which is being sold as a means of reducing the opportunity for electoral fraud. But one party has, purely by coincidence you understand, not been concerned about the results.
Voter registration must now be done on an individual basis, rather than by household as in the past. This may sound straightforward enough, but the result has been to remove hundreds of thousands of names from the electoral roll - and that’s just for London. As the Evening Standardhas noted, the figures “showed a drop of more than 230,000 in the number of people registered to vote in London for the May 5 mayoral election”.
But the population of the capital is rising: “Despite the capital’s growing population, the number of registered voters for local polls fell from 5,876,329 at the end of 2013 to 5,645,254 as of December 1, 2015 … An even more dramatic decline was seen among 16 and 17-year-olds in London who will turn 18 within the next two years — down by more than 20,000 from 51,182 in 2013 to 30,736 as of December”.
That last figure is the most worrying one, and highly likely to have been affected by the change to individual registration - heads of households will have done this job in the past, and may not have realised they need to get their children up to speed on doing it now. For the country as a whole, the numbers are, to no surprise, rather more alarming: the Guardianhas reported that “The Electoral Commission said about 770,000 names were removed from the register as the government introduced the requirement that people sign up as individuals rather than as households”.
As with so many such changes, the question has to be asked: who benefits? It is not hard to figure out. While Labour tells that “the huge number of deletions meant hundreds of thousands of people were at risk of disenfranchisement, highlighting a particular problem in university towns and among younger people who are almost eligible to vote”, and the Lib Dems’ Tom Brake called the changes “deeply concerning”, adding “The government ignored its own independent regulator of elections”, the Tories are unconcerned.
And the Electoral Commission has conceded “it was not possible to estimate the number of eligible electors who were removed from the registers, but it is likely that some of the removed entries related to electors who were eligible to remain registered to vote”.
First time voters lean towards parties like Labour and the Lib Dems. Populations of University towns, comprising not just students, but all the not particularly well paid researchers whose funding has been subject to recent cutbacks, are likely to have similar political inclinations. Those at the bottom end of the pile, if they don’t get knowledgeable in short order, may find themselves denied their democratic right.
The impression is given that the Tories have rushed through this change to gain themselves an advantage they do not merit. And that’s not good enough.
Short of real stories to put before their readership - as so often nowadays - the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog decided yesterday to speculate about proposed changes to Parliamentary seat boundaries. Young Dave and his jolly good chaps have suggested reducing the number of MPs to around 600, but not as a means of putting the boot in on Labour, honestly.
The Great Guido talks under-threat MPs ...
So who is The Great Guido concerned about? Well, those Tories who are in favour of Britain leaving the EU, that’s who: “according to Guido’s referendum list there are 12 Essex MPs who will be backing Brexit. Coincidentally, Essex is expected to be a major loser in the forthcoming boundary review. Analysis in today’s Times warns that Priti Patel, [John Whittingdale] and Bernard Jenkin may have to fight over two seats”.
This might concern Staines, but if Jenkin and Ms Patel vanished from the political landscape, very few other people would notice, far less care. But do go on: “Also heavily targeted in the boundary review is the South West, with seats in Cornwall and Devon expected to be merged. Again, this is one of the places you are most likely to find a Leave Tory MP. Declared Brexiteers here include Steve Double, George Eustice, Scott Mann, Sheryll Murray, Derek Thomas, Anne Marie Morris, Geoffrey Cox, and Sarah Wollaston”.
OK, we’ve all heard of Sarah Woolaston, one of the few Outers to have an audience well beyond her Totnes constituency. Anyone else caught the Fawkes eye? “Bully row Outer Lucy Allan could also come under pressure in Telford, with the West Midlands set to lose six seats from their current total of 59. Nadhim Zahawi, who sensationally switched from In to Out, is another West Midlands MP”. Someone’s missing here, isn’t she?
... except for one, that is
The last time the phrase “Boundary Review” was uttered - during the Coalition Parliament - one seat that was set to vanish was the ultra-safe Tory one of Mid Bedfordshire, held since 2005 by (yes, it’s her again) the fragrant and highly creative Nadine Dorries, who also happens to be pals with the Fawkes folks. Have they forgotten about her?
Not a bit of it: just four days ago, there was the Fawkes rabble telling readers “Nadine Dorries has grilled the PM about Guido’s revelation that a pro-EU letter supposedly from FTSE 100 bosses, due to appear in tomorrow’s papers, was actually drafted by a Downing Street civil servant”. There was even a video included with the post, helpfully titled “Nadine v Dave”. So why not tell readers that their pal’s seat is under threat?
Is she not intending to stand next time round? Or is it just another piece of rank favouritism? My Occam’s Razor is pointing to the latter. Another fine mess, once again.
After Janet Smith’s report into the behaviour of Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall was made public yesterday, despite the BBC giving the findings extensive publicity and Director General Tony Hall giving a full and fulsome apology, it was only a matter of time before that part of the press that hates the Corporation with a passion would use the exercise as a stick to beat it with. So they have, and none moreso than the Sun.
The Sun shows its disapproval of Jimmy Savile
The Murdoch faithful have gone in with both feet, from the screaming headline, “Revealed: Jimmy Savile dressed as Womble to rape boy of 10 … Depravity at BBC exposed in report”, to sub-headings like “Whitewash on bosses” and “Report ‘watered down’”. Added to this is the judgmental “Sun stories ignored”, letting readers know that the paper had Savile bang to rights in 1983, and is therefore totally blameless.
But while the Sun ran an article in 1983 where Savile boasted of picking up young women while running marathons, they did not make any claim of inappropriate behaviour with under-age girls - or boys. Nor was there anything about what he got up to on the BBC’s premises, on shows like Top Of The Pops and Jim’ll Fix It. I’ll go further: the Sun used Savile’s celebrity status to help flog more copies.
That is why the paper arranged for two of its Page 3 Girls to be photographed with Savile, an image which is widely available. It’s also why the Sun’s earlier claims were quietly shelved when he died: instead, there was a long and suitably reverential tribute under the headline “RIP JIMMY SAVILE”. Savile was described as a “telly legend”. He was “The cigar-waving star, best known for his show Jim’ll Fix It”.
Readers were told “Sir Jimmy was famed for his eccentric jewellery, charismatic presenting style and flamboyant clothes - mainly brightly coloured shell suits and tinted glasses … He was on Top of the Pops from its start in 1964 and presented the final show in 2006. He also claimed to have invented DJing”. He was “Madcap fundraiser Sir Jimmy, whose catchphrases included ‘Now then, now then’ and ‘How’s about that then?’”
The gushing eulogy went on “He raised more than £40million during his lifetime for various charities, including Leeds Hospitals … He took part in 217 marathons, 300 professional bike races and 107 professional wrestling matches … His Saturday night show Jim’ll Fix It granted wishes for thousands of children from 1975 until 1993 … Sir Jimmy’s charity continues to sponsor medical students at the University of Leeds to perform undergraduate research”. Not a dickybird about his less savoury side.
As to his singular status, all that the tribute said was “In an interview with The Sun earlier this year, the confirmed bachelor said of relationships: ‘I tried it but the longest I lasted was 11½ minutes, but I really tried. I'd made my mind up after nine’”. Expose Savile? They grovelled at his feet. He was good for business.
The Sun was as much a part of the Savile cover-up as the BBC. Pass the sick bucket.
More information has arrived on Zelo Street concerning the extra-Parliamentary earnings of Rochdale’s nominally Labour MP Simon Danczuk, showing that he not only pocketed a four figure sum for being seen with then partner Claire Hamilton and ex-wife Karen last November, but trousered even more from his more recent problems, even his suspension from the Labour Party following the “sexting” revelations in January.
Among all the payments he has now declared in the Register of Members’ Interests, there are the usual ones from press and broadcasters, and then come three significant sums from FameFlynet, which makes its money selling photo exclusives to the press and other media organisations. One of these payments covers the series of snaps featuring Ms Hamilton and Kazza. But the latest is from earlier this month.
The amount paid to the MP is £2,692, and is described as “for media advice”, which took approximately two hours of Danczuk’s time. Nice work if you can get it. It was first suggested to me that this was for the photos taken when Danczuk attended Rossendale Police station to be interviewed after an historical allegation of rape was made. Profiting from having to attend the Cop Shop would be bad enough.
What was the £2.7k for? Let's have a look ...
But then a problem enters: the exclusive rights to those photos, and a further series from the same day featuring Kazza leaving the gym, were with iCelebTV, not FameFlynet. Was there some kind of deal between the two organisations? Well, maybe not: FameFlynet has provided an answer to the mystery of the £2,692 payment, and a truly jaw-dropping possibility it is. Look back at when the “sexting” story broke.
The Sun’s front page for January 1, with its headline “Sling your Danczuk” and revelation that the MP had been suspended by Labour after it was revealed that he had been “sexting” a 17 year old girl - not a good look for a child abuse campaigner - might not have looked like much of an exclusive photo opportunity. But that is what it was. We know this because FameFlynet said so - and very clearly, too.
... looks like it was for this, actually
On Instagram, the agency showed a copy of that front page alongside their confirmation “Flynet’s first front page of 2016 @thesun”. This was followed by the hashtags “#simondanczuk” and “#exclusivepics”. There is no entry from Danczuk in the Register of Members’ Interests for FameFlynet after January 1 until the £2,692 payment which was paid on February 9, and registered two days later.
That suggests two things: the iCelebTV payment has yet to appear - suggestions made to me are that the amount Danczuk is set to trouser from that is significantly above any of the FameFlynet payments - and that the £2,692 was generated from the MP’s being splashed over the front page of the Sun in apparent disgrace. Yes, even in disgrace, there is a money making opportunity for Simon Danczuk.
He’s a veritable one man sleaze generator. Labour Party please take note.
As part of his hoped-for journey back from the political wilderness, former Tory Party co-chairman Grant “Spiv” Shapps has been genuflecting in the direction of the Murdoch empire and calling for BT - which just happens to be the most serious competitor to Sky in the pay-TV market - to be broken up. He has been particularly keen to see the company split from its Openreach broadband division.
In this endeavour, Shapps has enlisted the help of the Telegraph, now so desperate for cheap copy that it is prepared to effectively go in to bat for Creepy Uncle Rupe and his motley band of Mafiosi. And with Ofcom reporting today, the Tel put it on the front page: “BT ordered to improve broadband speeds”. Sadly for both Shapps and the Tel, this has not happened and the online version of that article is proving elusive.
Nor has Ofcom done as “Spiv” wanted, and ordered the break-up of BT. As the BBC has reported, “Communications regulator, Ofcom has told BT to open up its cable network, allowing competitors to connect the internet to homes and offices”. And BT’s response? “BT welcomed the report and said it was happy to let other companies use its network, if they were keen to invest”. But none of those competitors have so far come forward.
Moreover, while Ofcom “says Openreach should be governed at arm's length from BT, with greater independence in taking its own decisions on budget, investment and strategy. It adds that a complete split between Openreach and BT ‘remains an option’”, the Beeb’s report also points out what has just happened is a “once-a-decade review of the digital communications industry”. So the Murdoch doggies are likely to be disappointed.
“Spiv” Shapps is putting a brave face on the result, telling “.@Ofcom tells BT to open up cable network, but British Infrastructure Group of MPs (BIG) doubtful this'll be enough”. He knows damn well that the BIG will pass adverse comment on the report, because he will represent them - it’s his group, essentially - and he will write the conclusion.
And we know the kind of hyperbole that will feature in that conclusion, after Shapps pontificated “More of a scandal than VW emissions or ppi, almost no-one is getting the broadband speed they pay for”. Yes, in Shapps world, the laws of physics can be magically overcome. BT Openreach is reducing the numbers with slow connections, while rolling out fibre connections across the country. But this process cannot be completed instantaneously. There is a planned rollout; it is a work in progress.
Of course, Shapps knows this. He also knows that the press is sufficiently technically illiterate - as well as desperate for cheap stories - that it will print his claims unchecked and unchallenged. BT has not been broken up, and will not be broken up, if it ever happens, for several years to come. Grant Shapps’ latest self-promotion wheeze has failed.
Still, at least it wasn’t like that Traffic Paymaster - which verged on the illegal. And both Michael Green and Sebastian Fox will back him up. Back in your box, “Spiv”.
Thirteen climate activists who participated in a campaign of non-violent direct action which resulted in some flights being unable to take off and land at Heathrow Airport recently were told at their trial to expect a custodial sentence. Such an action would have been unprecedented. There was widespread concern at what was seen as an escalation in the kinds of punishment being meted out to such protesters.
But not everyone was concerned: out there on the right, there were some ready to cheer the thought that the hated greenies would be carted off to the clinky in short order. I mean, someone might have had their holiday delayed, which of course never happened to anyone else, ever. Someone could even have missed a business meeting. For this, the full force of the law had to be brought to bear on the perpetrators.
This tendency to retribution was exemplified by Christopher Snowden, who writes for the Spectator and is prepared to consider Breitbart as a reasonable source, who told “The Heathrow Airport Climate Protesters Are Going To Jail. Good”. Ben Pile, another of the climate change denial lobby, concurred: “The Heathrow Airport Climate Protesters Are Going To Jail. Good”. And what of that Breitbart article?
This characteristically unpleasant rant, written by the sneering James “saviour of western civilisation” Delingpole, told “what’s really unjust is this: thousands of holidaymakers and business travellers making their way to the airport to catch planes only to miss their flights because a bunch of spoiled trustafarians, unemployable Environmental Sciences graduates and professional wasters have gone and cut through the perimeter fence”.
There was, unfortunately, more: “only an utter loon would argue that the right to free protest extended to being given a free pass to ruin people’s holidays, disrupt their business meetings, jeopardise security and cause millions and millions of pounds of economic damage”. Good to see Del Boy getting his terms of abuse direct from Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).
And on he ranted: “Scratch any green and what you’ll find underneath is an anti-capitalist kill-joy. For far, far too long these wanky, tinpot, hairshirt totalitarians have been dressing up their war on Western Industrial Civilisation as a moral crusade endorsed by science and justified by the greater cause of saving the planet … It is not, and never has been, anything of the kind … They’re self-righteous, misanthropic, puritanical, freedom-hating, Gaia-worshipping, spoilt trustafarian loons”.
Sadly for Snowden, Pile and Delingpole, common sense prevailed and the Heathrow 13 were given suspended sentences today, walking free from court. Far from raining down condemnation on them, the judge “said she was impressed by the defendants’ good character and commitment”. More that you can say for the Breitbart crowd.
So that’s environmentally sound Guardian readers 1, convocation of the irredeemably batshit at Breitbart 0. What a bunch of useless tossers.
Sometimes the opposition rides to your rescue. On occasion, there is no need for an act of rescue, but the opposition comes riding anyway. So it has been with those wanting Britain to remain in the EU: coming galloping to support their cause has been self-promotion specialist and cluelessness champion supreme, James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, whose sneering nastiness has rebounded on him big time.
"Gay marriage" ... "Global Warming" ... "Eco Crucifixes" ... "Red Meat Conservatism" ... "Brain Not In Gear While Tweeting"
Del Boy has form for Tweeting before engaging brain: after his pal, the loathsome Toby Young, critiqued Suzanne Moore recently, he made a most unfortunate comment which led his boss, then-editor of the Telegraph Tony Gallagher, to issue him a weapons grade bollocking and cause him to apologise. This time, Del is his own boss at Breitbart London, which fraudulently claims to cover news. So he’s bollocked himself instead.
The lead up to Del’s mis-step began mildly earlier this week, as he whined “Sajid Javid: study; whisky; service pistol”. Del’s never been in the armed forces, but he likes to pretend. He also likes to pretend about past leaders: “Well done Boris. But it was one of those Churchill on the bridge moments. To have acted otherwise would have been to have rejected destiny”. But Winshton didn’t have any “on the bridge” moments.
Then came the abuse: “Is it true that 98.72 per cent of all paedophiles, serial killers, wind turbine entrepreneurs and puppy torturers are pro EU?” Are they in air quotes, Del, like “gay marriage” and “global warming”? Go on, have another go. Those wanting to remain in the EU he condemned as “Remaniacs”. As opposed to “Delingpoles” who want to leave.
Still, details eh? Back to the abuse: “Basically every environmental scare story ever, esp if it involves animals, is made up. Bollocks. Worthless”. We’ll get on to his credentials on that front later. How about the EU? Here it comes: “Fact: at the Rape of Nanking ALL the baby killing would have been done by proto Remainers”. Sneer firmly in place: check!
Del was now on a roll: “Fact: Genghis Khan's, Attila The Hun's and Vlad The Impaler's genes are found in 99.872 of Remainers”. And then came the Tweet he had to delete, which, thanks to the good and great Doc Hackenbush, we can still see in all its glory. “Fact: anyone voting Remain would have said to the Nazis ‘Mr and Mrs Cohen are in the cellar’”. Del Boy always ends up veering into Godwin territory.
Yet he is still able to say the other lot is doing it too: “What I'm really enjoying about the #brexit debate is the complete lack of courtesy afforded one another by the opposing sides”. Well, one of them, perhaps. Meanwhile, Sun Apology has pointed out that while Del is promoted as a “Climate Expert” by the Sun, he doesn’t have the scientific expertise to figure out peer-reviewed papers. We know this because Del admitted it.
And it still took Paul Nurse less than two minutes to do this sneering windbag up like a kipper. Now he’s put his foot in it so badly the Remain campaign will be putting on new supporters whenever his idiocy is revisited. What a total and absolute waste of space.