The assault on both campaigning group Hacked Off, and the Byline Media website - which are still not in league with one another, despite the pack of lies peddled this morning by the Daily Mail - shows no sign of abating, as news arrives on Zelo Street that the Murdoch shilling takers at the Sunday Times are preparing an allegedly upmarket hatchet job on both groups, to be duly excreted this weekend.
That's what I bladdy think of youse crowd bladdy sourced bladdy website and bladdy press bladdy regulation bladdy campaigning, ya bastard Pommie drongoes!
The answer is that there will be precious little of value, and nor will there be a great deal of factual information. But there will be plenty of inference and nudge-nudgery. For starters, the Murdoch doggies are trying to establish a link between Byline Media and Hacked Off, following the Daily Mail’s totally untrue claim that the latter is funding at least part of the cost of the former. Thus the desperation of the proposition before us.
I’ll take this nice and slowly, for the benefit of the Fourth Estate’s more wilful practitioners. Byline Media has four funders, none of whom is Hacked Off. Those who have columns at the site - Zelo Street reposts material from the blog, and I also run a regular feature on The New Conservatism - get funding from whomever wishes to contribute. The is no connection between Byline Media and Hacked Off.
But, the hacks may protest, Tim Fenton is also a forthright supporter of Hacked Off. This is true. But that is rather like saying a hack from A Major National Newspaper supporting the Tory Party means that A Major National Newspaper supports the Tory Party. It’s a false assertion. Then Hellen has another line of attack.
That, it is clear, is probably A Very Good Thing, given the link between Byline Media and Hacked Off still doesn’t exist. He is contacting anyone who will talk to him who is also a supporter of Hacked Off. The objective is to plant seeds of doubt in supporters’ minds about the direction of the campaign, and especially its part, inasmuch as it exists, in the Whittingdale saga. Then he can claim there are splits and dwindling support.
Hellen’s approaches are typical of the concerted press campaign to damage Byline Media, Hacked Off, the BBC, and anyone who has exposed the Whittingdale story. But there is no split or dissatisfaction among Hacked Off’s supporters, and I fully expect there to be a full house at Committee Room 14 for next Wednesday’s Commons lobby event.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Hellen and those at the Daily Mail who have been working on their Byline Media smears might like to answer one straightforward question: why have they all left Private Eye magazine alone? The Eye ran the Whittingdale story last Tuesday, before BBC Newsnight covered it. But there have been no hatchet jobs directed their way.
Perhaps the perceived softness of the targets has something to do with it. As the Eye might have phrased it, I wonder if the two are in any way connected? I think we should be told.
[UPDATE 16 April 1700 hours: it seems Byline Media is not the only target for Hellen's attempt to make non-existent connections to Hacked Off.
The Sunday Times hack yesterday contacted Natalie Rowe, former disciplinarian of George Osborne, and as she has told, wasted no time in trying to establish a link between her and the group.