What follows is yet another example of how the press establishment follows the same maxim for dealing with those of inconvenient thought as that attributed to David Lloyd George: “do we square ‘em, or squash ‘em?” In many cases, that establishment squashes its critics, but in the case of the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and the Guido Fawkes blog, it is all too clear that The Great Guido has been squared - and silenced.
As the phone hacking scandal broke, with the late and not at all lamented Screws taking the brunt of public revulsion, the Fawkes blog mounted a campaign of deflection, claiming that the Mirror titles were at it too. This has since been shown to be true, but at the time, Staines and his pals did not have the hard evidence to back up their claims.
The Fawkes massive homed in on then Sunday Mirror editor Tina Weaver, opening the assault in July 2011 by asserting “Sunday Mirror editor Tina Weaver has been accused directly by Max Keiser of Russia Today of knowing about phone hacking”. The problem was that Keiser can be a bit, shall we say, off the wall with his claims, and of course this was RT for whom he was working. But they were on the right lines.
And a week later, they were after Ms Weaver again, talking of “the Mirror group, who are as guilty as those arrested at the News of the World. Illegal hacking and blagging, with no public interest defence, has been endemic at Mirror titles”. Staines suggested that he was going to “take down” Piers Morgan, sniping “I’ve taken cabinet ministers down, Downing Street’s toughest operators. They were smart people, not boastful idiots like you”.
Staines even made his claims before the Leveson Inquiry. “The editor of the Sunday Mirror personally ordered her journalists to engage in phone-hacking and blagging, the Leveson Inquiry heard today … Political blogger Paul Staines told the judicial investigation into the Press he had been told that Tina Weaver allegedly commissioned unlawful activities at the Sunday tabloid newspaper” reported the Evening Standard at the time.
And then something else happened: The Great Guido secured a column with the Murdoch Sun on Sunday, successor to the Screws, and as Zelo Street noted at the time, celebrated ten years blogging by holding a celebratory bash, showing that he and his pals had crawled their way into the heart of the establishment. They had been squared.
That meant no more going after the Mirror titles, and especially no further pursuit of Piers Morgan. Not when the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks has his back, and Staines at the end of the phone. So when the Fawkes hunch was proved right, it was left to the people at Byline Media to lay bare the misbehaviour of Ms Weaver.
“Weaver, 53, gave a sworn statement to Lord Justice Leveson in 2012 in which she insisted on having neither knowledge - nor even hearing ‘gossip’ - about the illegal news-gathering practice while running the paper … But, after reviewing evidence seized by Scotland Yard detectives, and also whistle-blower testimony, Britain’s top media judge, Mr Justice Mann, found at the High Court in London that Weaver was in fact a hacking mastermind”. What you will not read in any mass market newspaper today.
And there is more. “He said: ‘In evidence given to the Leveson Inquiry Ms Tina Weaver, then still editor of the Sunday Mirror, denied knowledge of phone hacking or even of gossip of it. I have already found that she was involved in it, and she clearly had knowledge of it in the evidence I have referred to, and in the light of those findings this evidence was wrong”.
Ms Weaver may have perjured herself before the Inquiry. Justice Mann’s judgment “suggests Weaver may have committed perjury, an offence carrying a maximum two-year custodial sentence if proven … It also suggests she broke section 35.2a of the Inquiries Act – the offence of distorting or altering evidence - punishable by up to 51 weeks in prison and a fine of up to £1,000”. That’s jail and a fine. Not or.
The Byline article points out “Weaver’s alleged crimes would have been uncovered at the proposed second part of the Leveson Inquiry, however former Culture Minister Matt Hancock cancelled it … There, Lord Justice Leveson - or another senior judge - would have been able to review Justice Mann’s findings against Mirror Group Newspapers detailed in the so-called Gulati Judgment, named after hacking victim and former Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati". In which Justice Mann named Ms Weaver.
And there is one more nugget that may interest Zelo Street regulars. “Sometimes a comment was perceived as useful, and the victim, or a PR person, would be called to see if more detail could be elicited. Mr Evans said that Ms Weaver was particularly good at that”. That is the method used by Piers Morgan to flesh out his knowledge of the Sven and Unrika-ka-ka-ka story, contacting Ms Jonsson’s PR Melanie Cantor.
Morgan, on that occasion, had not been party to hacking, just the knowledge that the Screws had been at it. But that he was adept at using such information to pursue a story in that way, if it was an automatic response, hints that it may have been done before.
So where are the Fawkes rabble today? Does Staines not want to claim his prize? But you know the answer to that. The Great Guido has been snuffed out by the press establishment. Flattered by attention, cushioned by money, he has indeed been squared.
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which”. And so it was.
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