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Thursday 31 March 2016

Standard Goes Khan Barrel Scraping

At the 2012 London Mayoral Election, it was not for nothing that the Evening Standard was nicknamed the London Daily Bozza here on Zelo Street. The paper’s advocacy of the capital’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, surely the most useless City Mayor in recent history, went beyond the slavish to being an extension of the Tories’ campaign machine. It became no more than a propaganda sheet.
This may be not unconnected with the rumour that owner Evgeny Lebedev would very much like to secure himself a knighthood, and has persuaded himself that the best way to do this is to grovel shamelessly before Young Dave and his jolly good chaps. This means backing the Tories’ Zac Goldsmith for May’s contest, and today’s front page showed just how shameless the grovelling is going to get.
Tory taunt as we reveal plot by Labour leader’s hard left backers … HOW A VOTE FOR SADIQ ‘WILL AID CORBYN’” thunders the headline. But there is no plot. None at all. Not even a little plotette. The entire story, under the byline of Joe Murphy, another hack who should hang his head in shame, is so full of exaggeration as to be worthless. But there is no doubt that the Tories will be rubbing their hands with glee.
So what has happened? Simples. A meeting of the Momentum campaigning group, attended by all of 22 people, decided that, although Sadiq Khan might not have been their preferred Mayoral nominee, he was the Labour candidate, and so they were duty bound to back him. This they decided to do, proceeding to go out into the City and lend their weight to the larger Labour campaign. That is the extent of the “plot”.
And, as this was a front page lead, it must be assumed that the story, such as it is, was approved by Standard editor Sarah Sands, who like Murphy ought to have known better, but may not be in a position to do otherwise. Increasingly cynical observers of the Standard have not been slow to give the paper the slow handclap for this drivel.
Adam Bienkov, now at politics.co.uk, observed “Labour supporters in 'supporting Labour candidate' shocker … You mean a party leader would benefit from one of their candidates winning an election? This changes everything”. Dave Hill at the Guardian was equally impressed, or maybe not: “‘Hard-Left plot to back Sadiq Khan to strengthen Corbyn shock!’ Oh My God! There were 22 of them! 22, I tell you!” he mocked.

Hill also pointed out yet another example of where the Standard appears to be turning a blind eye as election day approaches, telling "Outrage as Zac Goldsmith sends ‘patronising’ leaflets to Redbridge Indian communities … Not from Evening Standard”. Goldsmith’s campaign has been roundly condemned for its dog-whistle attempts to scare voters against Sadiq Khan. But the Standard doesn’t want to know.

Evgeny Lebedev might do well to look elsewhere in the Northcliffe House bunker: the Daily Mail’s Paul Dacre still hasn’t got his K after years of backing the Tories. Just a thought.

Steel Crisis Is Self Inflicted

What is left of the UK’s steel industry was put up for sale this week by owner Tata Steel of India. At risk are around 15,000 jobs around the country, with perhaps twice that number dependent upon the business. So, with the prospect of over 40,000 being added to the jobless total in short order, Young Dave and his next door neighbour, the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, have feigned concern.
There was, however, as Captain Blackadder might have said, only one thing wrong with this idea - it was bollocks. Now, one can argue whether the UK needs to hold on to a rather basic industry like steel production, when other countries can produce and ship the stuff at a lower cost, but 40,000 jobs is still 40,000 jobs. At a time when the wider economy is faltering, this is not the most beneficial of news.

Nor are Cameron and Osborne in any position to blame anyone but themselves: this crisis is entirely of the Tories’ making. They cannot even make the usual default response of blaming the EU: other member states wanted Britain’s assistance in taking measures to prevent the likes of China from dumping cheap steel on the market, but the Government declined to lift a finger. Quite the reverse, in fact.

Osborne in particular has been courting the Chinese as a partner in the HS2 project, which would consume millions of tonnes of steel for its track, many of the lineside structures, and overhead wires. With the Port Talbot plant alone losing around a million notes every day, not only does one have to wonder why Tata did not put the sale sign up earlier, but also who on earth is going to appear and buy the place.

No doubt those arguing that Britain should leave the EU will point to state aid rules and say that it’s all the dastardly Eurocrats’ fault, but those rules have not prevented intervention by Governments in France, Italy and Portugal from taking action to protect and retain steelmaking capacity in those countries. Worse, Tata can point to having successfully lobbied their home Government - in India - to take similar action.

Larry Elliott at the Guardian has cited globalisation and the huge Chinese steel industry. He mentions the EU before admitting that “some countries … have found ways of getting round state aid rules”, and notes the lack of action by our Government.

UK government action, or rather the lack of it. Whitehall has not only saddled the UK steel industry with higher energy costs than those in Germany or France, it has been blocking proposals by some other EU countries to tackle Chinese dumping through higher tariffs” he tells, before issuing this stark conclusion: “These … issues have come together in a perfect storm that threatens to blow away what remains of the UK steel industry”.

Cameron and Osborne, by their actions, have suggested they aren’t fussed about that industry being blown away. Loss-making steel plants may not be worth the candle, but as with so many other industries that have been lost in the recent past, the problem is providing the workforce with some kind of alternative employment, or prospect thereof.

That, and the problem they have in persuading the public they actually give a damn.

Piers Morgan’s Topless U-Turns

Now gracing the set on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on a moderately regular basis, former Mirror editor and CNN host Piers Morgan is back on the UK media scene, chipping in a regular stream of articles for Mail Online and keeping up a Twitter presence to boot. He is also, in the best tabloid tradition, always prepared to say what he thinks.
Early last year, this brought him to the debate over the Sun’s use of topless models on its Page 3. Morgan was unequivocal in his support for the feature, batting away anyone and everyone who raised an objection. Women, he claimed, had no problem with the feature, unless they read the Guardian and were called Harriet Harman.
But then, it seemed, the Sun had abandoned the topless Page 3 models. So he decided it was no big deal: “Of all the things in the world right now to worry about, The Sun's Page 3 girl slot seems the least important”. This disinterest lasted all of 48 hours, before a U-Turn as it was revealed that the feature had returned: “BOOM! > RT @GuidoFawkes: Page 3 is back in The Sun tomorrow”. That means he approves this message.
There then followed a brief period of triumphalism: “Love @TheSunNewspaper hood-winking everyone over Page 3. Poor Guardianistas will be frothing into their lentil soup tonight”. Yes, what would we do without topless pics on Page 3? He had the answer to that, too: “Can you imagine a world where Harriet Harperson dictated how we all live? I'd literally rather immolate myself”. Laugh? I thought I’d never start.
And he was more than willing to stand his ground on the issue, dismissing the objection of my good friend Peter Jukes with “oh pur-lease. Nobody gives a damn other than you and Harriet Harperson”. Still not funny, but hey ho. Jukes suggested women did not like the feature, and this too was waved away: “most women I know find this debate laughable given what can be seen on UK beaches and in mags”.
Besides, there were worse things than Page 3, and in a classic “look over there” ploy, Morgan suggested “The ridiculous pressure put on women by fashion mags to look like skinny rakes is far more damaging than Page3. Protest about that”, with a more recent version musing “I wonder how many feminists currently sending me photos of their cleavage campaigned to get Page 3 girls banned?
But suddenly another of those screeching U-Turns was in order, after Kim Kardashian and Emily Ratajkowski posted a topless “selfie”. Wasn’t this something and nothing, not really a problem, only of concern to “Guardianistas”? Well, no it wasn’t. Piers was not happy about this, and scolded Ms K and Ms R “Just a thought @KimKardashian @emrata - but you could always try wearing a little dignity?” Er, what?

He even posted a photo of Ms Kardashian and sister Kourtney, fully clothed, on his CNN show, with the message “Happier, more tasteful days”. Er, up to a point, Mr M. That was the show from the second week of the Morgan tenure at CNN, which included the host enquiring of the Kardashians whether their breasts were genuine.

Consistency, dignity, and journalistic inquiry. Just thought I’d put that out there.

Wednesday 30 March 2016

Guido Fawked - Sadiq Khan Source Fail

The London Mayoral election will soon be upon us, and City Hall will be well rid of its increasingly occasional inmate Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, whose lack of achievement in the role has, to no surprise at all, not been highlighted by his pals in the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate, many of whom have a more pressing problem, which is how to stop Labour’s Sadiq Khan succeeding him.
Sadiq Khan: Mayoral favourite right now

This has been exercising the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, effectively a deniable branch of CCHQ, who have been running a series of posts trying to frighten Londoners over the prospect of one of those Scary Muslims (tm) becoming Mayor. The problem for the Fawkes folks in trying to diss the company Khan keeps is, er, the company they themselves keep.

Kicking off the latest Khan-bashing diatribe is the crude linking of the attack to a murdered Ahmadi Muslim shopkeeper in Glasgow. “Readers will be aware of the murder of Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah, an Ahmadi Muslim killed by another Muslim for wishing customers a Happy Easter … The case has provoked debate about persecution of the Ahmadi community perpetrated by Islamic extremists like Corbyn fanboy Suliman Gani”.

Suliman Gani, who the Fawkes rabble smear as an “Islamic Extremist”, becomes a “fanboy” merely by congratulating Jeremy Corbyn on his gaining the Labour leadership. But, it is stressed, Gani and Khan “have shared a platform”. Sadly, the link provided reveals that Gani has also shared a platform with Khan’s Tory opponent Zac Goldsmith. For some reason, the Fawkes blog manages to miss this minor detail.

But they do manage to tell their adoring readers “It’s worth reading this 2010 interview where Khan is grilled about anti-Ahmadi sentiment preached at the Tooting Islamic Centre. His Tory opponent at the time had to be locked in a room for his own safety after being mistaken for an Ahmadi”. At the time of the interview, Khan did not have a Tory opponent, having been returned to Parliament some months previously.

And the “opponent” referred to, whose account we are by inference supposed to take on trust, is no less than “Tatler Tory” Mark Clarke of Tory Bullying Scandal infamy. It gets worse: there is a hat-tip at the foot of the post to one Douglas Murray. That would be the same Doug Murray The K who said “Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board” in a speech in the Netherlands Parliament in 2006.

Murray’s behaviour led to the Tory front bench breaking off relations with him almost five years ago. More recently, the Tories threw Mark Clarke out of the party, awarding him a life ban. So how do the Fawkes rabble end their latest attack on Sadiq Khan?

They chirrup in unison “Both Corbyn and Khan are well in with this wrong un”.

With Mark Clarke and Douglas Murray as sources, the Fawkes blog is in no position to call “wrong un” on anyone. Another fine mess, once again.

Express Gypsy Whoppers Busted

As the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU draws nearer, so the ranting from the Out campaign gets more and more hysterical. And there is no finer repository of hysterical ranting than the Daily Express, aka the Daily UKIP, which has today adorned its front page with a storyline that was used by the Sun at the beginning of February - the one claiming that Gypsies are taking all our benefits back to Romania.
YOU PAY FOR ROMA GYPSY PALACESthunders the headline, making sure that readers know the subject of the rant are not merely ROMA, but GYPSY as well, and you all know what that means. Yes, racist bigotry masquerading as journalism. But do go on. “LEAVING the EU is the only way to stop UK benefits being spent on ‘gypsy palaces’ in Romania, it was said last night”. Said where? Ah yes, the Express newsroom.

Colour me cynical, because I am cynical. Notice that it was not “revealed”, but “said”. This means Giles Sheldrick can just make it up as he goes along: “it was said taxpayers have unwittingly helped to build more than 300 mansions in one small Romanian town alone”. Easy, isn’t it? There’s more. “Tandarei has become the Roma town Britain built, with many extravagant homes believed to have been bankrolled thanks to handouts claimed here”.

Said. Believed. Would the Desmond doggies care to pony up some facts? “Thousands of migrants now see Britain’s soft-touch benefits system as a way of extracting ‘free money’”. But what about a few FACTS? Try this: “Romanian gypsy Ilie Schian was jailed in 2010 after he fleeced the British taxpayer for £114,000 in benefits”. Shit, did he build those 300 houses all on his own? While he was in the slammer?

Don’t worry, they’ve found another source: “another Roma gypsy bragged he will soon pocket £60,000, which he is using to renovate his house. Ion Lazar built a palace for his wife and children with child benefits and tax credits”. This doesn’t make sense. If he already built the house, why is he saying he will “soon pocket £60k to renovate it”? And when did a detached house become a mansion and then a “palace”?

Apparently it’s all right because Ion Lazar appeared “in a recent TV documentary”. And the Express has “fear” to inject into the mix: “The amount fraudulently claimed and sent overseas is not seen as a ‘big issue’, according to officials, yet the figure is feared to run into millions of pounds”. This means the hard-pressed hacks don’t have time to find any actual figures, so they make that up too.

There is not one reliable citation in the whole article to support the claim that anyone in the town pictured has defrauded the UK benefits system. The only difference from last month’s Sun article is the name of the town - and that Sheldrick did not get one person to talk to his paper, other than Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and another UKIP MEP. Otherwise it’s wall to wall racist scaremongering. Giles Sheldrick should be ashamed of himself.
But it’s the Express, so that means it’s just another Benchmark Of Excellence!

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Don’t Menshn Refugee Lies

Did you follow the GamerGate controversy? Perhaps you took an interest in the Tim Hunt sexism row? If the answer to either of those is “yes”, you may have noticed the interventions of (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch, along with her propensity to call “liar” on anyone opposing her point of view. You may have believed her; after all, this is someone who was allowed to become a Member of Parliament.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, there is a problem when it comes to putting trust in Ms Mensch, and that is her serial and flagrant dishonesty. She may shout “liar” at others, but her track record on blazing trousers is not good. She has been especially economical with the actualité on the recent refugee crisis, and it was this that has brought her latest mendacious pièce de résistance to public attention.

Ms Mensch appeared on Fox Business Network yesterday as a guest of Trish Regan, on her show “The Intelligence Report”, a contradiction in terms if ever there was one. FBN is closely associated, both commercially and politically, with Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse). Ms Regan asked her to comment in Barack Obama’s reported comments that the USA should take some of the refugees from the Middle East.

This is what she said (the video is HERE, just in case you have problems believing what you read): “Well, in Europe, [openness to refugees] has meant nothing but complete disaster … blood, chaos, carnage and mass murder … so to hear the President literally suggesting that America do the same thing is really quite strange to European ears”.

There was more: “We in Britain look at the disaster of Angela Merkel saying ‘come one, come all’, and what that’s actually meant is there are no real refugees … the criminal attacks, the massacres that were carried out in Brussels, then in Belgium [?], carried out by young men who have mostly just abandoned their womenfolk, abandoned their families, young men of fighting age who have literally stormed into Europe and pretty much taken it over” [my emphases].

Now, FBN does not enjoy a very large audience - that distinction lies solely with Fox News - but nonetheless it is clear that Ms Mensch now has her foot in the door with the Murdoch broadcast networks. And what she clearly intends to do with her foothold is tell wall to wall invention, with yesterday’s also suggesting that her new venture Heat Street will be little more than a fact free sub-Breitbart right-wing rant-fest.

The attackers in Paris were French nationals. Those in Brussels were Belgian nationals. No refugees, real or otherwise, were involved. Nor has any migrant group “stormed into Europe and pretty much taken it over”. Did you believe what Ms Mensch said on GamerGate and Tim Hunt? Think again. Compare her slick yet utterly mendacious FBN appearance with reality. Then realise that your trust has been sadly misplaced.

Louise Mensch was not fit to become an MP. Yet she became one. Think about that.

Another Free School Scandal

Today, the loathsome Toby Young, champion of anything calling itself a Free School, is for some reason experiencing a partial disconnect from happenings in the education world because - not for the first time - that world is beset by bad news. An academy chain is to be stripped of its schools. And it’s an academy chain which received the endorsement of both Young Dave and Michael “Oiky” Gove, as well as Tobes’ endorsement.
Dave thought it was jolly good ...

As the Guardian has reported, “The Perry Beeches academy trust is to have its five academies and free schools in Birmingham handed over to a new academy trust following a critical financial investigation”. Do go on. “A report by the Education Funding Agency (EFA), published before Easter, showed financial shortcomings at Perry Beeches, including third-party payments made to the chief executive, Liam Nolan, on top of his £120,000 salary as executive headteacher”. Nolan trousered an extra £160k in salary.

But it was over two years, so perhaps that’s all right, then. The Government was not impressed, though: “The EFA’s call for urgent action triggered an official notice from the DfE, which detailed ‘serious concerns about financial management, control and governance’ at the trust”. And it’s doubly embarrassing for the Tories and their pals.
... as did his pal "Oiky" Gove ...

That’s because the eponymously named third school in the Perry Beeches chain, Perry Beeches III, after being opened with appropriate ceremony by Cameron and Gove, was last year plunged into Special Measures after an Ofsted report branded its teaching “Dull”. The lead inspector added “It fails to engage students, who become bored and start to fidget because they do not have enough to do or work that makes them think harder”.

This was last July. So what was done about it? Schools Week had the answer: “An academy trust funnelled more than £1m to a private company which then paid a ‘second salary’ to the trust’s ‘superhead’, a government investigation has revealed today". A “private company”? It certainly is: “the trust paid a private firm called Nexus for providing chief executive services … Nexus then sub-contracted the role to another company called Liam Nolan Ltd, whose sole director is Liam Nolan, the … accounting officer at the trust”.
... and so did their chief schools cheerleader

And you’ll love this bit: “The arrangement was found to breach Treasury guidance on tax avoidance”. You don’t say? It gets worse: “The trust had spent nearly £1.3m with Nexus over two years, ‘without a written contract or formal procurement’ … The trust’s chair of governors had ‘joint business interests’ with a director of Nexus – which were not disclosed in a register of interests … The trust’s 2013/14 financial statements did not disclose the Nexus payments”. That’s what independence from local Government control means.

Small wonder Birmingham City Council’s education chief has saidThe scale of the issues uncovered in this report is staggering, and raises very serious questions about both the leadership at Perry Beeches and about ministers’ oversight of academies”, and likened the Tories’ fawning over Free Schools to the Kids Company débâcle.

Perhaps Tobes would like to tell us all how this reflects rather well on his pal Gove.

Vote Leave Project Fear Hypocrisy

Those groups that have dedicated themselves to campaign for Britain to leave the EU long ago decided that their opponents were trading on the fear of voters: only they, the optimistic and outward-looking, were promoting a positive campaign. Those soliciting a vote to remain in the EU were members of Project Fear, and the Out campaign would have nothing to do with such pessimism. Well, up to a point.
Because the Vote Leave campaign, fronted by such luminaries as Michael “Oiky” Gove, who did not betray the confidence of Privy Counsellors, honestly, has decided to frighten voters with a dossier detailing fifty criminals who they claim have committed serious crimes in the UK, having been let in because we can’t keep them out under EU rules. The claims have, to no surprise at all, made the Daily Mail’s front page lead.

The Dacre doggies do not hold back: “Catalogue of UK murders and rapes by criminals let in under EU rules … DEADLY COST OF OUR OPEN BORDERS” screams the headline. The supporting article continues “EU free movement rules have let dozens of foreign criminals commit horrific offences in Britain, analysis reveals … A dossier released today lists 50 of the 'most dangerous' European criminals who have entered the UK freely, despite convictions in their countries”. And whose dossier would that be?
Last night Brexit supporters said the report showed EU membership made the UK 'less safe and less secure'. The EU does not compel member states to share information on criminals, meaning many are able to travel to the UK unhindered … Free movement rules give every EU citizen the right to enter any country in the bloc”. Whose dossier was it?

Finally, in the tenth paragraph, we get the answer: “Among those on the list of 50 drawn up by Brexit campaign group Vote Leave”. So those screaming “Project Fear” at the Remain campaign are indulging in more than a little, er, Project Fear of their own. Interestingly, the Telegraph is a little less bombastic, telling “EU sends killers to UK, says Leave lobby”.
And the deeply subversive Guardian assertsVote Leave campaign condemned over EU crime dossier”. Scaremongering has clearly taken hold in the Out camp, and so has the inconvenient fact that the UK’s borders are not open, as anyone who has had to transit them recently will know. All passports are checked, and as Hugh Orde has pointed out, the UK has deported 7,000 criminals back to other EU member states in recent years.

It gets worse: we can deny entry to whomsoever we like, whether they come from outside the EU or not. But that depends on having good intelligence - meaning other member states need to share information with our security agencies. That would not improve if Britain left the EU. Whether the situation would get worse is one of those “you pays your money and takes your chance” moments.

But good to see the desperation of the Out campaign so well exposed by, er, themselves, actually. What you will not read in the Daily Mail.

Monday 28 March 2016

What Has Ian Lavery Done Wrong?

Ian Lavery is the sitting Labour MP for the Wansbeck constituency, which is centred on the Northumberland town of Morpeth. He was formerly General Secretary for the Northumberland area of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) before being elected to the NUM’s Executive Committee in 1992, and then succeeding Arthur Scargill as President of the Union in 2002. He entered Parliament in 2010.
Ian Lavery MP ((c) BBC)

Lavery has also attracted the attention of James Lyons, now a taker of the Murdoch shilling at the Sunday Times, who has been going through Lavery’s past, digging out what, it is suggested, is evidence of malpractice, although no direct accusation has yet been made. Lyons’ work has been brought together in a Storify document by Hopi Sen, and it is the latter account, with the inferences therein, which I cite in this post.

And that Storify does not get off to the most auspicious of starts. Titled “Defending good unions doesn't mean protecting bad ones”, it makes a judgment before the reader has got to the first line of text. We are going to hear about a “bad union”.

All the real reporting below was done by James Lyons of the Sunday Times … All I'm doing is setting it out in one place”, we are told. Two things here. One, it is best to be wary of the Murdoch press - one should not have to make that caveat, but we are where we are with the press, and a paper that, back in the days of Roy Thomson, could be considered reliable, certainly cannot be nowadays.

And two, I’m glad to see that Hopi Sen is just “setting it out in one place”. This post is just setting out in one place why the evidence presented appears less than convincing.

We read “the Northumberland Area NUM is not a large union. In 1996, it had just 290 members. By 2002, the number was down to 240, where it stayed, not changing by a single member, until 2013. In 2013, however, 230 of these stalwart members left at the same time, and just ten members remain”. Elsewhere, reference is made to a “tiny” union.

But the Storify answers this one itself: there was only one mine still open in the area from 1995. The number of local NUM members would reflect this, and the retention of some workers after that pit closed in 2005. Union members are in relevant work.

Then comes “Nevertheless, the NUM (Northumberland Area) did quite a lot for some of its members … For example, Ian Lavery MP bought his house with a loan from a fund set up by his union … His loan came from the NUM (Northumberland Area) Provident and Benevolent fund, to be precise. Remember that name, if you can. It'll be useful later”.

The issue of the loan is now the subject of a potential legal action, so I will not comment further. But what I will say is that the Northumberland area NUM also did rather a lot for those who had been members in the past, and this appears to have used up a great deal of Lavery’s (and other officials’) time. Remember that, if you can. It’ll be useful later.

But back to the attack: “As James Lyons reported the previous week, the 10 member union also paid out £85,426 in 'past General Secretary redundancy costs' in 2013 … Mr Lavery says he does not recognise that payment … If he didn't recognise the figures, perhaps he could ask his old Union about it? After all, they share an office”.

Saying he “does not recognise” something does not incriminate Lavery. Could we perhaps have some evidence ponied up to show that something wrong has happened? Because, without it, we are operating on no more than nudges and winks.

And that goes for the drip-drip of “Ooh look at this for 2010 … look at this for 2011” and so on. Then comes the first howler, and it’s a good one.

It's quite an unusual redundancy package really, as the National NUM records say Mr Lavery resigned” announces Sen triumphantly. But the documentation provided shows no such thing: that’s a resignation from the NUM National Executive Committee, not from his job. The two are not the same. Did Lyons make the same mistake?

The shaky reasoning continues with “Usually, when you make someone redundant, you don't replace them with someone doing the same job, because well, then they were not actually redundant, were they? Ian Lavery got made redundant from the NUM Northumberland Area in 2010, the day after he became the MP for Wansbeck … So how come those annual returns have the union employing a ‘General Secretary’ after Ian Lavery was made redundant from that job?

Actually, Lavery was the NUM national President (see above), so whoever Hopi Sen is hinting at did not do “the same job” (and was paid significantly less). Back to the Storify.

Ian Lavery was made redundant from his job as General Secretary of NUM Northumberland on the day he became MP for Wansbeck, and replaced, on the very same day, by the man who had just been the MP for Wansbeck”. Very good. Now tell everyone what heinous crime has been committed.

We don’t get to find that out, but we do have trowelled on how Denis Murphy must have done something dodgy as he accepted hospitality from the same union branch (I’ll leave Hopi Sen’s frequent asides out, as they are of little relevance). We then have a suggestion presented that the Union’s members should all have had a holiday provided, instead of any of the officials visiting conferences.

Meanwhile, we are back at the NUM (Northumberland Area) Provident and Benevolent Fund, which in 2007 had a loan written off by the NUM itself. As Lavery signed the annual return, he is therefore bang to rights for something. Sen announces “What year was that loan written off again? 2007? Just a bit more than eight years ago? Hmm … Didn’t somebody say something about a loan ending eight years ago? Ah, yes, here it is”.

So, once more, can someone tell us what Lavery has done wrong?

Well, not yet, it seems. Now we get to the damning evidence. “Ian Lavery is an MP, and has never declared any payments from his union for any purpose, whether personal or political, or any loan that may or may not be outstanding on his house”.

Fine. He’s corresponding with the relevant authorities right now. I’d add to that that Lavery’s employment with the NUM ended before he took up his Parliamentary duties, so he may not have thought to declare payments made in respect of that employment. He was, after all, no longer doing that work. Hopi Sen has more charges, though.

He tells “some of the payments might be seen as disguised remuneration, which is a way of avoiding Tax. Mr Lavery is very against tax avoiders, and I'm sure he'll want to make it crystal clear that he isn't one”. Got any evidence of wrongdoing? Thought not.

Then we get to the most contentious, and most damaging, claim.

All of these payments and loan write offs were made by a tiny union made rather wealthy from the compensation paid to coal miners who suffered from chronic illness. This was money paid by taxpayers to help extremely damaged mineworkers and ease their suffering in retirement” [my emphases].

That is what James Lyons and Hopi Sen are driving at: the suggestion that Lavery has enriched himself on the back of others’ chronic sickness. Small wonder the MP has taken grave exception to this line of reporting.

Lavery’s reaction has not dissuaded Hopi Sen: “In total, NUM Northumberland got over 1.6 million pounds from the compensation money of sick miners … Now, it's important to stress these were voluntary donations. At some point when applying for compensation for their illness, these miners decided to tell their lawyers, a firm called Browell, Smith & Co, to give a proportion of any award to their Union. I'm sure that was totally clear to all concerned and everyone knew exactly what they were signing up to … It’s just I wonder if they knew it would be spent this way”.

Spent which way, exactly?

It is conceded that the donations were voluntary - the NUM helped prepare, progress and successfully conclude many compensation claims, and so in return those compensated gave a little back to the union that had backed them. Remember, those ex-miners were no longer members - so banging on about “a tiny union” is seriously misleading.

There is also the matter of creating Big And Scary Numbers by rolling up several years of remuneration: “After the money began to arrive, Ian Lavery was paid £596,433 in salary, £152,583 in pension payments and £49,481 in Car allowance”. He averaged around £50k a year over the period from 1992 to 2010, with much of the work in his latter years devoted to seeing compensation claims brought to a successful conclusion.

Nationally, the compensation scheme for conditions such as pneumoconiosis and vibration white finger had paid out £4.1 billion by 2010. Yes, £4.1 billion. And a lot of that is down to the persistence of NUM officials like Ian Lavery.

So when Hopi Sen muses “I'm not sure this is how a Trade Union that gets £1.6million from sick miners is supposed to behave. Couldn't they, or the Benevolent fund, have spent the money on something else? Something for mineworkers?” he misses the point. The £1.6 million helped that NUM branch carry on its support work.

Back at the Storify, we read “I'm not sure the union membership, whether the never-changing 240 members of the compensation era, or the 10 left now, got much of a say in how the union spent their money”. Their money? The subscriptions of the 240 members or the £1.6 million from former miners? Now it’s getting confused. But do go on.

I tried to see when there were elections for the NUM Northumberland Area. I couldn't find a mention of one in the last 20 years … The members of the Executive are the same names each year, except when Mr Lavery becomes an MP and Mr Murphy is appointed (not elected) to take over from Mr Lavery”.

Two things here. One, had there been electoral malpractice, it would probably have come to light well before now - and sometimes officials are returned unopposed when there are elections. And two, if the claim that Murphy was “appointed (not elected)” is based on that NUM National Executive Committee document, the same comment applies as with Lavery’s alleged “resignation”. That looks like another howler.

But Hopi Sen has a clinching argument, which, he tells, is “political”: “I'm not sure Ian Lavery is the best person for that particular fight [to modify or repeal some Trade Union law] … Or any fight to defend the rights of union members against those who would rip them off to feather their own nest”.

That assumes Lavery has done something wrong. It’s one of two things - either we have a circular argument, where guilt is assumed at the outset (and the use of the “bad union” epithet suggests that is a distinct possibility), or there is the drip-drip presentation of available evidence matched with a series of logic leaps, which has a similar conclusion.

There is a clear suggestion in Hopi Sen’s Storify, and I have to assume in Lyons’ reportage, that Ian Lavery is one of “those who would rip [union members] off to feather their own nest”. However, the evidence relies on assuming the basest of motives, contains a significant number of howlers, and is presented as a fait accompli. Something bad can be made to appear to have happened, so it really did happen - perhaps.

Yet at no point do we have presented an answer to the question in the title of this post - What Has Ian Lavery Done Wrong?

And until we have that answered clearly and unambiguously, free of nudge-nudgery or any other form of journalistic enhancement, we have no reason to conclude that wrongdoing took place. Lavery may have done something wrong, but equally, he may not.

That may be inconvenient to the Murdoch press - and those prepared to take its journalism on trust. If so, that’s just too bad. The end.

Nadine Dorries Quits Twitter

Hard on the heels of Daily Mail pundit Sarah “Vain” Vine has come another departure from Twitter, making the same claims - that the social media offering is some kind of “sewer” teeming with abuse. This time, though, it was a politician making the exit, and no less a being than (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries, whose departure from Twitter many had hoped would have happened some years earlier.
The fragrant Nadine has spelt it out: “Twitter is a place where people lose their jobs, their dignity, their self-respect and, occasionally, their life”. Honesty and a sense of proportion do tend to elude some people. But do go on: “After almost ten years on Twitter (so long I can’t remember) and with 28,000 followers, I have made my own modest exit”. Modest, eh? That’ll be another of those Dorries honesty problems.
But she wants everyone to know that the problem is serious: “There are men who have spent almost ten years of their life obsessed with what I say on Twitter. I say men but, if they don’t have a blue tick against their name we have no idea who they really are. I imagine they’re sat in a bedroom in their mother’s house, hunched over a computer, tweeting their daily-misinformed comments and abuse. Encouraging others to tweet their own abuse and trying hard to whip up a Twitter storm against me”.
And on she goes: “Twitter has become a room in which the seriously unwell meet, create an echo chamber, set their own rules and plan attacks. They distort and manipulate and their objective is to destroy people”. Now, I hate to sound a note of dissent, but Ms Dorries is not exactly pure as the driven snow on this one.
Take, for starters, her attacks on Labour MP Steve McCabe over his attendance record after he had mentioned her I’m A Celebrity jaunt: even after she had been told he was recuperating from open heart surgery she taunted him, sniping “I think with your 65% attendance record you should be quiet. Obviously been taking a few holidays of your own!” In another Tweet, she revealed the address of constituent Philip Hickling.
And that was as nothing to the abuse she doled out to the Sunday Mirror after the Ramona Ladin story broke (see HERE, HERE and HERE). After suggesting that Peter Oborne, not her greatest admirer, was a “drunk reporter”, she accused Ben Glaze of the SM of “stalker esque” [sic] behaviour, before threatening to nail his testicles to the floor with his own teeth. This was a mere precursor to a later full-scale meltdown.
After calling the SM’s Nick Owens “Scum” (twice), there was a doubling down on the testicle-nailing threat. Compared to all that, her Twitter endorsement of a Spectator blog with her dishonest claims that Liverpool had “eight Tory MPs and an all-Tory council” when she was growing up is comparatively mild, but just serves to reinforce the impression that the fragrant Nadine is standing in an awfully draughty glasshouse.

So farewell then Nadine Dorries. Don’t let the Twitter door hit you on the way out.

Sunday 27 March 2016

Mail Foreign Aid Rant Forgets Jesus

Today is Easter Sunday, the day on which Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And at first, Mail On Sunday Comment suggests the paper would bear His teaching in mind, telling readers “Easter Sunday is an appropriate moment to note Britain’s long and proud tradition of Christian compassion. We are an instinctively generous and outward-looking people, filling the buckets of charity collectors when disaster strikes in distant lands. We give when it is needed”.
But this was a mere taster for a typically thundering attack on that same Christian ideal, signalled by a front page ranting “UK’S AID TO TERRORISTS … EXPOSED: Your taxes sent abroad … as we cut billions here”. The attack is backed up by a petition, and the same editorial reminds readers “Sign here to axe absurd aid target”.

Much of our well-intentioned foreign aidends up in the pockets of terrorists, plutocrats and fat-cat private contractors … The UK’s pledge to hand a fixed 0.7 per cent of national income to the aid budget has created a perverse, upside-down world in which bloated projects are created purely in order to find something to do with the cash … David Cameron has tied his own hands … because of cynical political positioning”.

So it goes on: the Government stands accused of “wrapping themselves in the clothes of the powerful foreign aid lobby … spraying handouts on foreign nations where it is frequently siphoned off by the wealthiest in their societies”. The supporting article tells thatAfter yet more budget cuts, another £12bn of your taxes are being splurged on foreign hand-outs for militants, killers, Palestinian palaces and jobs that don't exist”.

And this is where the sleight of hand comes in. The MoS finds that Britain sends aid to groups like the Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA pays money to the families of many who have been imprisoned and can no longer look after them. Some of those imprisoned have been convicted of terrorist offences. The MoS concludes that Britain is giving money to terrorists, and so we get that front page headline.

It gets worse: Britain pays aid money to the PA. The PA builds a new Presidential Palace. Therefore, says the MoS, Britain pays for the news Presidential Palace. The thought that the aid money might pay for something else, and that the Palace may not be that something else, is not allowed to enter. At no point does the article even hint that the MoS has managed to lay an audit trail and therefore prove its allegations.

The MoS’ eight point “Foreign aid manifesto” includes “HIT THE FAT CATS … Crack down on the contractors getting rich and inflating profits”, but no example of this is given. Likewise, “DITCH THE DESPOTS … Scrap those aid schemes that are benefiting and propping up repressive one-party states, such as Rwanda and Ethiopia”. There’s nothing about Rwanda or Ethiopia, either.

We know what the MoS, and its daily stablemate, think of foreign aid. All this “investigation” has done is to back up a conclusion that had already been reached, using contributions from partisan players and politicians. On such a day of Christian celebration, the MoS’ mean-spirited rant shows that it has forgotten Jesus. No change there, then.

Boris Bashing - But Why The Delay?

After so many years during which the Pundit Establishment fawned over London’s increasingly occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, papering over the glaring deficiencies in his character, ignoring his naked ambition, and waving away his inability to bother himself with trivial stuff like devoting himself to the office to which he had been elected, there has been a Damascene conversion to the real world.
A total Muppet. And Elmo from Sesame Street

This group realisation began yesterday with an evisceration of the Johnson persona - well, what there is of it, which is not much - by Matthew Parris in the Murdoch Times, who opined “Administrative sloth is not funny. Breaking promises is not funny. A careless disregard for the truth is not funny. Advising old mates planning to beat somebody up is not funny. Abortions and gagging orders are not funny. Creeping ambition in a jester’s cap is not funny. Vacuity posing as merriment, cynicism posing as savviness, a wink and smile covering for betrayal … these things are not funny”.

Cripes readers! Beano Boris bally well busted! Even the not at all celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges, so long a grovelling Bozza acolyte, had to concede “Not sure about some of the personal references. But no denying Matthew Parris has landed a glove on Boris”. So why did Hodges say nothing for all those years?

Why did the former Colonel Nicholson of the Labour Party openly support this fellow in the 2012 London Mayoral election? Johnson has been a disaster as Mayor of London, bequeathing to his successor a public transport system in a mess, a city in daytime gridlock, a chronic housing shortage, air quality from the 1950s, and tens of millions sprayed up the wall on variously useless vanity projects.
No comment

Perhaps Hodges would like to answer Nick Cohen’s comment: “I cannot think of a politician who has been treated with such woozy indulgence by my supposedly hardbitten colleagues. They have bought his persona as a lovable card, and ignored the emptiness beneath”. They all knew what Bozza was like many, many years ago.

He was forced to prostrate himself before the people of Liverpool for a particularly nasty attack in the Spectator - of which he was editor at the time. Michael Howard sacked him from his shadow cabinet not for having an affair with Petronella Wyatt, but for lying to him about it. He lied professionally for the Telegraph as the paper’s Brussels point man. The Times sacked him for lying. He lied to the voters of Crystal Palace - twice.

And despite Ms Wyatt penning a faithful mistress’ apologia for the Mail On Sunday, Cohen has the more telling comment: “Johnson’s career has seen him embrace the worst of every profession he has entered: the worst of journalistic mendacity, the worst of celebrity entitlement, and the worst of political ambition without political purpose”. It has also seen one of the worst failures of journalistic inquiry.

Where were they all when Bozza was fouling up London? Don’t all shout at once, folks.

Top Six - March 27

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 some shower dodging to do later. So there.
6 Don’t Menshn Raheem Kassam Inadequate and vapid creep Kassam effectively invited mere gobshite Louise Mensch to humiliate him in court. Advance popcorn booking is essential for this one.

5 Sun Health Tourism Bigotry Busted The Sun has once again had to rely on ranting Kipper Angus Dalgleish, who has not worked on the NHS front line in over 30 years, to prop up another migrant scare story.

4 Danczuk Anti-Semitic Smear Busted Rochdale’s nominally Labour MP Simon Danczuk was losing an argument with the Mail On Sunday’s David Rose when he tried to connect him to Greville Janner. Stay classy, Si.

3 Allison Pearson - Brexit Bigot The Telegraph hack used attacks in Brussels to burnish her anti-EU credentials, something for which she has significant previous.

2 Karen Danczuk Twitter Hypocrisy Kazza was more than happy to call “Troll” on others - but then she got her account locked out. For trolling.

1 Uber’s London Dirty Tricks Exposed Did “reaching out to journalists” include the payment of bribes? The accusation has been made, yet no action has been forthcoming.

And that’s the end of another blogtastic week, blog pickers. Not ‘arf!

Saturday 26 March 2016

Mail Belgian Nuclear Attack Fail

Even before bothering to analyse last week’s attacks in Brussels, the Mail was trying to frighten its readers at the prospect of some kind of unspecified nuclear catastrophe, by deploying the usual methods of falsehood and misinformation. Sadly, though, the lame standard of research employed made the resulting articles the butt of so much ridicule that the purpose of the exercise was all but negated.
Tihange nuclear power station - not in the Brussels suburbs

First came the blatant exaggeration: “Belgium evacuates two nuclear power stations amid fears ISIS will attempt to follow the Brussels attack with a dirty bomb … Tihange nuclear plant, around 50 miles southeast of Brussels, evacuated … Doel nuclear facility, near Antwerp, has also been evacuated by authorities … French company ENGIE, which runs facilities, confirmed staff had left sites”. There was only one problem.

And that was that the sites had not been evacuated, as the Guardian stressed: “After Tuesday’s attacks, the nation was put on high alert. All non-essential staff were sent home from nuclear plants at Tihange and Doel and military presence was increased at the sites”. Could the Mail do even worse? They certainly could. A helpful map was included with the article, but contained some glaring inaccuracies.

The Brussels suburb of Schaerbeek was missing a letter. An inset map clearly highlighted the location of Brussels within Belgium, but someone had overridden the obvious and marked out an area on the country’s southern border, claiming Brussels was there instead. Then to cap it all, the Tihange nuclear power station was moved around 75 kilometres and plonked in the eastern outskirts of Brussels.
Wrong, wrong, wrong

Still, there was a nuclear scientist who had been covertly filmed by a terror suspect. The Guardian again: “The 10-hour video, shot by a hidden camera in a bush, showed a senior nuclear official coming and going out of his home in the Flanders region”. Did he have access to nuclear materials? The Mail wasn’t going there. It was far easier to tell readers that ISIS, or whatever they’re called this week, wanted to make a nuclear bomb.

Exactly how they intended to make that, and then make it viable, was not told (clue: without specialist knowledge and facilities, the chance of that happening are not unadjacent to zero). Still, out came the claim: “The Brussels terrorists may have been plotting to make a radioactive bomb after it emerged 11 nuclear power plant workers have had their site access revoked amid fears of 'insider help’”.

Why was the access revoked? The Mail doesn’t know. It’s speculation. And just to put the lid on comes the ridiculous frightener “One Belgian plant is only 90 miles from Kent”. And, so what? The largest nuclear power station in Western Europe is far closer - it’s at Gravelines, on the French coast, between Dunkirk and Calais. And that one isn’t going to be used by terrorists to make a dirty bomb, either.

The Mail - so useless it can’t get its terrorism scare stories right. No change there, then.

Farage Stella Drinking Claim Shock

Less than a year after getting no new MPs at all in the General Election - and losing one of those they already had - Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP are enduring the bar-room brawl to end all bar-room brawls. Farage and those prepared to continue the one-man personality cult are gradually losing their grip on the party as Douglas “Kamikaze” Carswell and his allies continue to destabilise him.
Squeaky party split finger up the bum time

Matters came to a head this week when it became clear that the Farage faction was seeking to suspend UKIP’s former deputy chair Suzanne Evans for alleged disloyalty. Ms Evans mounted a High Court challenge to the move, but failed: this means she will be unable to have her name on the candidates’ list for London Assembly elections in May. The timing of the suspension is believed not to be an accident.

Then came an extraordinary leak to the press, just before Ms Evans was to appear before the inquisition of Iain Dale on LBC: her lawyer stood accused of making a threat that her witness statement for the court case would accuse Farage of wife-beating. Richard Hendron was, it seems, recorded by a party to the discussion.
He allegedly said “I can tell you this, between you and me, Suzanne is doing her witness statement, which is to become a public document and it is explosive. It has bits about Nigel beating his wife and stuff. Either you are willing for that to happen and that to come out this week, as a court document, which journalists will report on, with no fear of being sued for libel, if you’re willing to let that happen then fine go ahead”.

There was, of course, only one other party to the conversation, and although the report by the Farage cheerleaders at Breitbart London does not name him, the Mail had no such compunctions: step forward UKIP’s General Secretary Matthew Richardson, himself a lawyer and another of those connected to the Young Britons’ Foundation. And if it was Richardson who recorded the conversation, he could be in big trouble.
As Ms Evans has Tweeted, “I've checked the @UKIP party rule book. The word 'disloyalty' doesn't appear anywhere … In fact @ukip illegally recorded counsel-to-counsel conversations & I agree. I'll be complaining to @thebarcouncil”. She might have added that it was eyebrow raising that whoever recorded that conversation - and Richardson appears to have been the one doing the recording - then ran straight to Breitbart.

Nigel Farage is in trouble: not only is a faction coalescing around Ms Evans, Carswell and former hack Patrick “Lunchtime” O’Flynn, they are now firmly allied with Vote Leave, while Mr Thirsty and his pals are backing the rival Grassroots Out campaign. Only one of those groups can hope to secure official designation in the upcoming EU Referendum campaign, and it’s looking increasingly like Vote Leave will get the nod.

The longer Farage clings on, the worse the damage will be. And if the Referendum battle is lost, he will be toast. Whether or not he’s partial to a few cans of Stella.

The Sun Fails To Say Sorry

Something unprecedented has happened at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun: the paper has actually printed an adverse ruling from press regulator IPSO, and devoted an entire column to it. But the excuse note - over the infamous1 in 5 Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis” front page and its supporting articles - is more noteworthy not for what it does say, but what it does not, and shows that IPSO is still toothless and ineffective.
Yes, the Sun admits that the Survation poll that formed the basis of that front page splash “didn’t make sufficiently clear that there were important distinctions between those travelling to Syria and those already fighting in Syria; between ‘sympathy’ for these individuals and ‘support’ for their actions; and between individuals attracted by the ideology of IS, and the ideology of IS itself”, but there is no apology.

The nearest we get is “Taken in its entirety, the coverage presented as a fact that the poll showed that 1 in 5 British Muslims had sympathy for those who left to join IS and for IS itself … In fact, neither the question nor the answers which referred to ‘sympathy’ made reference to IS. The newspaper had failed to take appropriate care in its presentation of the poll results, and as a result the coverage was significantly misleading, in breach of Clause 1”. That is the closest we get to an admission it was a pack of lies.

It gets worse: while the Sun admits “The coverage continued on pages four and five and included an article by a columnist for the newspaper, describing her reaction to what she presented as the fact of support for IS, and an article by the newspaper’s political editor”, it somehow misses the rant by former editor Kelvin McFilth.

Kel whined “Those worrying suspicions that I harboured about the attitudes of young Muslim men in Britain towards the medieval madmen of IS have been confirmed” and suggesting that the entire population of Turkey wants to come to the UK. And it gets yet worse: what the excuse note fails to tell readers is that the Sun doubled down on its accusations the following day with an editorial that blamed everyone but them.

The Sun Says rant told “If we cling to the fiction that IS have little or no support here” [note that “sympathy” has now become “support”] … Most of our survey, conducted after the Paris attacks, probed Muslim attitudes to IS specifically [four of the seven questions did not mention IS at all]”. Then we got a “look over there” moment: “Some on the political Left claim ours was a ‘rogue’ poll”. They were only telling an uncomfortable truth.

And that was what the Sun said after its shameful coverage of the Hillsborough disaster. Worse still is that it has taken four months for the paper to admit the all too obvious - that it published a bucket load of falsehood and misinformation in order to demonise Muslims, partly because it can’t get away with doing the same to Irish people, gays, those who are not white and anyone talking foreign.

Then its political editor had the gall to try and get himself the political editor’s job at BBC Newsnight. Being part of the Murdoch mafia means leaving your principles and self-awareness at the door - and, of course, never having to say you’re sorry.

Friday 25 March 2016

Don’t Menshn Raheem Kassam

Every so often, one of those Hamilton versus Fayed moments comes round: there is a threatened legal confrontation, with both sides so unappealing that you don’t care which one loses. Out there on the right, one such scrap is now brewing between two equally appalling self-promotion specialists, Raheem “call me Ray” Kassam of the batshit collective that is Breitbart London, and (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch.
Friends no longer: Raheem Kassam and Louise Mensch

Both of these less than august beings is equally deserving of ritual and expensive humiliation before the courts, thereby generating excellent spectator sport. And it looks rather like Ms Mensch, who is a mere badly-informed gobshite, may hold the advantage over Kassam, who is a venal shit of the lowest order. So what is at issue?
Ms Mensch had been dissing Kassam’s pal Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, telling “Nigel keeps UKIP to MEPs and council seats when it could be a force in Parliament. Look at the Galloway disaster. Even @RaheemKassam left”. Ray wasn’t having that. “You publishing lies kept @SuzanneEvans1 etc out of Parliament. CCHQ told me they wrote your @SunPolitics columns” he hit back. Think that’s wrong, Raheem. Never mind though.
At least it’s not actionable. And all that he had done was to hand the initiative to Ms Mensch: “No, they didn't tell you that. I wrote them all. Glad I gad such an effect though … all my blogs are signed, Raheem. I don't brief. Not even unsuccessfully like you”. Ouch! Would Sir care to offer a comment in his defence?
He certainly would: “No but I've heard you've done a bit of debriefing in your time”. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink, nod’s as good as a wink to a blind bat, eh? Debriefing, eh? Ms Mensch was more than happy to pay him back in kind: “Look Raheem, I can't help that you're single”. Kassam was losing this one, and badly. So out came the smear.
And, being a Breitbart smear, subtlety was completely out of the question: “I'm not. Though I hear you did try it on with Tory boys in your NYC apartment. Then your hubbie walked in... Yes?” Could it get yet more puerile? You betcha, says Sarah: Ray was quite clear that he wouldn’t have anything to do “with a drug addled hag like that”.
Ms Mensch indicated by her comment “Address for service?” that Kassam’s comments were actionable, to which The Great Man hopefully replied “Spurious legal threats? Because I have this stuff sourced. Making baseless legal threats can result in counter suits”. Let me make a few basic observations on this developing dispute.

One, Ms Mensch should know - her UK legal representative, who is known to me, will confirm this - that she does not require a postal address for service. This can be done electronically. Two, Kassam is full of crap, and he’s just bragging in the face of being humiliated by an assertive woman - like his newest hero Donald Trump running off blubbering at the prospect of being questioned by Megyn Kelly.

And three, unless Kassam really does have “this stuff sourced” - which I doubt - he faces further humiliation and potential financial ruin if Ms Mensch comes after him (I can also recommend an experienced QC to her who would be happy to assist, if she’s paying). So he ought to have his grovelling apology ready, and give us all a laugh. Say sorry, Ray.