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Saturday, 15 May 2021

Rachel Riley’s Court Case Conundrum

Last January, Countdown numbers person Rachel Riley told her followers “Two years following some extremely serious defamation, I’m very pleased to have this entirely vindicating judgement in my libel case vs Mike Sivier”, although there had not been a trial, and her assertion of “serious defamation” had not, it seems, been tested in court.

Rachel Riley

No matter, she put out a statement which accused blogger Shaun Lawson of launching a “defamatory and untrue smear” against her, although she and her lawyers have never sought judgment against him. And despite no trial having taken place, she asserted that Sivier had been peddling “lies”, and that his claims were “untrue and defamatory”.

Mike Sivier

But it wasn’t all over: what had happened was that Ms Riley’s legal team had applied for Sivier’s use of a public interest defence to be “struck out”. Dame Justice Collins Rice agreed with their submission. But Sivier then appealed, and yesterday, Lord Justice Warby, Dame Victoria Sharp and Lord Justice Henderson allowed that appeal.

So the matter may go to trial; note that I use the term “may”. Because this has been a difficult case to figure out, on a number of levels. The judgment mentions more than once what it calls “The Lawson articles” - Shaun Lawson’t posts. Warby LJ makes this observation: “without sight of the Lawson articles we cannot be confident that, taken in conjunction with the tweets relied on by Mr Sivier, they were incapable of grounding the necessary reasonable belief on his part”. But here a problem enters for Ms Riley.

She and her lawyers have thus far declined to pursue judgment against Lawson, on the grounds that he lives in Uruguay and may not be of significant means - in other words, there would be little chance of recovering the costs of any action. But then, Ms Riley’s lawyer Mark Lewis said in 2019This is not about money … They’re not looking to enrich themselves by taking legal action. They’re looking to stop vile lies”.

Mark Lewis

If it was not about the money, why not go after Lawson? Then there was the action Ms Riley, and her pal Tracy Ann Oberman, took against barrister Jane Heybroek, for Retweeting a Shaun Lawson Tweet which linked to one of those “Lawson articles”. After the action had cost Ms Heybroek around £80,000, Ms Riley and Ms Oberman were unable to pony up any evidence of reputational damage and the case collapsed.

And then the question continues to beg itself: if, as Ms Riley’s January statement asserts, there is “extremely serious defamation” in Sivier’s post, then why bother having his defence struck out? Let it go to trial, and if it’s so cut and dried, he’d lose, and badly. What an excellent PR victory that would be for Ms Riley. But her lawyers went for the strike out.

It would be most enlightening to know what the libel insurers - who, Lewis admitted, “did not see any advantage in pursuing a case” against Jane Heybroek - have had to say about the Sivier action. Ms Riley’s sole response thus far has been to restate her January Tweet, to which Ms Oberman has added a smear of Mike Sivier, calling him a “Grifter”, something that Sivier may be best advised screen shotting. So what will happen next?

This action may well go to a trial. But do not be surprised if, in the meantime, it were instead to go the same way as the Heybroek case. My Occam’s Razor is pointing at the failure to pursue Shaun Lawson turning out to be not such a good idea after all.

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Friday, 14 May 2021

Petulant Press’ Sussex Giveaway

Our free and fearless press not only treats its own rather differently to the way it portrays its targets - the recent death of former Sun chief reporter John Kay being an excellent example - it is especially unforgiving of anyone who has had the audacity to take them to court. This last habit has been superbly illustrated by today’s selective tabloid meltdown.

Press wants more of these moments. But may not get them

As the BBC has reported, “The Duke of Sussex has said he wants to ‘break the cycle’ of the "pain and suffering" of his upbringing with his own children … During an appearance on the Armchair Expert podcast, Prince Harry compared his life as a ‘mixture between The Truman Show and being in a zoo’”. But he was not indulging in a blame game.

He told host Dax Shepard: ‘I don't think we should be pointing the finger or blaming anybody, but certainly when it comes to parenting, if I've experienced some form of pain or suffering because of the pain or suffering that perhaps my father or my parents had suffered, I'm going to make sure I break that cycle so that I don't pass it on, basically’”.

Some papers mentioned the interview - the Mirror and Telegraph have items on their front page - and the Daily Brexit, formerly the Daily Diana, but officially called the Express, carries a larger teaser telling “PRINCE HARRY BARES HIS SOUL”. But the Oh What A Giveaway moments are reserved for the Murdoch and Rothermere press.

Would that be the same Murdoch and Rothermere press against which Haz and Megs have launched a number of legal actions? As the late Derek Jameson might have put it, it surely would. And for those titles, what, given the Mail on Sunday’s latest humiliating defeat in a line of humiliating defeats, would the most sensible course of action have been? What would a sensible person have done? What would Nietzsche have done?

But the iron law of the press demands that anyone who has taken them to court has to be given both barrels at every opportunity. So free sheet Metro (Rothermere owned) has “Harry takes aim at Royals”, contrasted with grovelling coverage of the Duchess of Cambridge, who the Mail used to dislike, until they found a target who was not white.

The Murdoch Sun (Haz is taking Rupe’s troops to court for alleged hacking) sneers “Harry’s Bitter Swipe at Charles [they used to hate Brian, but needs must, eh?] … Dad passed his pain on to me … I will not do that to my kids”. The bit about Haz’ difficulty coping with his mother’s death was relegated to the small print. And then came the Mail.

As duke tells podcast [hack looks down nose at supposedly lower form of journalistic life] he must break cycle of ‘genetic pain and suffering’ passed on from Charles and Queen … JUST HOW LOW CAN HARRY GO?” Not half as low as your Sunday sister paper, pal. Meanwhile, the Covid-19 “Indian Variant” gets a desultory footnote. Priorities, eh?

A former Prime Minister has been defending an enterprise with which he was intimately involved, and which has been likened to a Ponzi scheme, Priti Patel’s immigration enforcement just got shown where to get off in Glasgow, the Middle East could be about to erupt into conflict, and the Brexit shitshow continues to threaten any prospect of sustained economic recovery. But all this takes second place to Sussex bashing. Again.

Anyone might think the Sun and Mail have an unhealthy obsession. And they’d be right.

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Thursday, 13 May 2021

Dazzer v Teaboy - Seconds Out

Nothing better illustrates the gulf between those who have made it - deservedly or otherwise - and those who haven’t, and know it all too well. So it was yesterday afternoon when posh boy Tom Harwood, formerly replacement teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, and since signed up by GB News, had a very public social media altercation with Darren Grimes, who had to move back up north.

Gis a job at GB News, eh? Whaddya mean No Way?
What time is it Eccles?

Because Dazzer, who had previously been very adjacent to less than totally legal behaviour in the Vote Leave camp, and whose recent achievements include losing appalling old bore David Starkey not only his credibility, but also a number of positions to which he had been appointed before complaining to Grimes about “Damn Blacks”, had not, unlike Harwood, made it in the Big City. And boy, does he look sore.

Harwood had mused “Isn't it more likely that young tech savvy Labour voters will have/be able to get IDs compared to the Tories' new working class Red Wall base?” He then added “This isn't an argument for or against voter ID. Just a pretty relevant thing to consider amongst the noise”. Grimes was looking on, and sensed his moment had come.

We’re northern Tom, not Neanderthals” he sneered. Hardly on the scale of Patrick Cargill saying “We’re not all Rob Roys, Mr Hancock” (ask an older relative), is it? More telling was Harwood’s response: “Nice to see you've unblocked me now Darren! Maybe the next step you could take is actually reading the tweet you're trying to dunk on?

Dazzer had blocked the Teaboy! And then it got worse, as Grimes let everyone see the steak cut chip on his shoulder. “You made a really condescending comment about voters here in the ‘red wall’ that I hope you’ll manage to shake off before you’re beamed into our homes on a daily basis. Astonishing to you, I know, but we’ll cope just fine with obtaining ID to vote, cheers Hedley Fairfax Harwood”. That’s Piers Morgan level blubbering.

Harwood, to his credit, continued to fly this one straight and level, attempting to get his point across as he countered “Hi Darren, you seem to have completely missed the point, and the data. Demographically more likely ID card law could hit new Tory voters (older, non-city dwelling) than younger city dwelling Labour voters”.

But by now, Dazzer was in full-on sneer mode. “Mate, you don’t have to be Mark Zuckerberg to go to the council for an ID. Voters up here are also much more likely to have other forms of ID such as drivers licence/bus pass so it’s a total non-point. I hope you’ll get to be introduced to some of them in your new role”. Done a survey of them, has he?

No matter, Harwood continued unperturbed. “No need for antagonism here. It’s just a fact that poorer, older voters are less likely to have ID than younger more well to do voters. It is also now more likely those voters vote Tory. That’s not a value judgement re: ID law - it’s a fact that is being missed from commentary”. Interesting point, although the FT suggested otherwise earlier this week. But what is most revealing is Grimes’ sheer bitterness.

After all, he could have been someone. He could have been a contender. But he isn’t, and won’t be. Which, although Harwood is an over-promoted posh boy, is not his fault.

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Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Tories Fixing Problems THAT DON’T EXIST

Next Monday will bring more easing of Covid-19 restrictions, with yet more relaxation of the rules slated for late June. Economic recovery can then begin in earnest. To assist in this process, alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his pals have decided to bring forward legislation that, er, is totally unnecessary.

Look Uncle Arthur, I'm in the news again!

This, in turn, is being enthusiastically promoted by the right-leaning part of our free and fearless press, so it should surprise no-one that the Murdoch Times has today splashed on “New laws to protect University free speech”. FREEZE PEACH! FREEZE PEACH!! So what is the problem regarding freedom of speech? Did someone take it away?

Government calls time on student cancel culture in state opening of Parliament”. Ah, the old circular argument ploy. Someone invents something called “cancel culture”, so then something must be done about it. But Phil Baty of Times Higher Education has reminded us “latest OfS figures for the university sector in England show that of 59,574 events organised with an external speaker, 53 were not approved. Yes, that's 0.09% of events”.

Moreover, there is a difference between “free speech” and any right to be given a platform, which no-one has. Universities, or other organisations, that choose not to offer a platform to potential speakers are exercising freedom of choice. Worse, the measures, to be brought forward by Gavin “stupid boy” Williamson, will also include measures for social media companies to “safeguard freedom of expression”. Which will be done how?

Companies such as Facebook and Twitter must provide ‘routes of appeal’ if their messages are removed”. Two things here. One, Facebook and Twitter already have an appeals process, and Two, they also have Ts and Cs which they are free to enforce.

Smirktastic, legislation fans!

And from one over-promoted minister to another, we have the proposal to require photo ID in order to cast a vote, the handiwork of Priti Patel, inexplicably elevated to Home Secretary. Again, two things here. One, there have been fewer in-person vote fraud cases recently than investigations into Bozo’s potential misconduct. And Two, those without photo ID (like a driving licence or passport) mostly vote Labour.

As Private Eye magazine might have put it, I wonder if the two are somehow related? I think we should be told. Meanwhile, something that really would benefit the hoped-for economic recovery has just been rejected by “Lord” Frost, our Brexit minister. Upcoming tougher border checks could be mostly eliminated by aligning with EU food standards.

This chart (c) FT

However, “Diplomatic sources say that the UK has ruled out the most helpful option of aligning food standards with those of the EU … This could have seen a reduction of about 90% of documentary checks and 98% of physical checks conducted at the border, according to recent select committee evidence”. This will make implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol - a Bozo “solution” - that much more difficult.

Once again, the Tories and their press pals are distracting the public with the pretence that their FREEZE PEACH is under attack (it isn’t) and that there is voter fraud widespread enough to warrant legislation (there isn’t), while potentially hobbling economic recovery.

And when it all fouls up, it will be someone else’s fault. No change there, then.

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Tuesday, 11 May 2021

US Pundit Royal Stupidity EXPOSED

Today is the State Opening Of Parliament, a ceremonial occasion where the Queen attends, summons the Lords and Commons, and reads out The Queen’s Speech, which has been drafted for her by the incumbent Government, and which sets out the legislation which it proposes to pass into law during the next session of Parliament.

Understanding this, and the ceremonial role of the monarch in the process, is not rocket science. Or rather, it is not rocket science for most people in the UK. For those out on the right in the USA, it is so difficult to understand that it provides an excellent opportunity to view the pool of stupidity which so many pundits inhabit nowadays.

So who would like to start us off with a particularly stupid observation? Breaking 911 (“Everything The Mainstream Media Won’t Report”) would. “BREAKING: The Queen of England will announce tomorrow that citizens will be required to show photo ID to vote in general elections in order to prevent fraud - The Guardian”. Stupid - and dishonest.

Would anyone care to go along with this “Queen of England” drivel? Chuck Callesto (“Former Candidate for Florida's 3rd Congressional District”) would love to. “BREAKING REPORT: Queen of England will announce Tuesday that citizens will be REQUIRED TO SHOW PHOTO ID to vote in general elections to tackle fraud”. Yep, he’s stupid too.

Any increase on that level of stupid? Kyle Becker, formerly with Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) is your man. “BREAKING: The Queen of England is *triggering* the left worldwide with major announcement”. There is no “Queen of England”. Idiot.

Paul Szypula, “US Senate candidate for NY in ’22” (best not bothering on the strength of this Tweet) asked “Why is the Queen of England going to announce on Tuesday that photo ID will be required to vote in general elections ‘to reduce the risk of electoral fraud’?

There is still no “Queen of England”. But The Post Millennial (“Among North America’s Most-Read News Publishers”) wasn’t listening. “The Queen of England is set to announce on Monday that citizens will be required to show IDs in order to vote in general elections”. Closer to the facts, but there is still no “Queen of England”. How about a new angle?

Something not slightly racist, perhaps? Lavern Spicer (“I’m running for Congress against Frederica Wilson”) is on that case. “The Queen of England is about to start requiring Voter ID (probably because she’s wondering how Sadiq Khan’s crazy ass got elected again) but America is still trying to call it racist. Is it racist now when the UK does it?” Whatever.

Or something not slightly racist that kicks Haz and Megs? Cari Kelemen has that base covered. “The Queen of England is now Pro Voter ID. She's doing what's right AND pissing off Meghan Markle. Well done!” Eh? And just to put the lid on it, along came Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk. “Looking forward to widespread calls from the left to ‘cancel’ the Queen of England over the UK’s voter ID policy”. Not just stupid, but fuckwitted with it.

You can argue whether the last Queen of England was Elizabeth, who died in 1603, or Queen Anne, who pegged out in 1707. But there isn’t one now. And the Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth Realms still doesn’t make policy. Wonder how the US right wing swallowed Donald Trump’s wacko lies? Wonder no more.

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The Failed Martyrdom Of John Kay

How our free and fearless press sees its own, as opposed to how they see those they regard as mere collateral damage in their pursuit of More And Bigger Paycheques For The Benefit Of Themselves Personally Now, was demonstrated superbly at the weekend after Press Gazette announced that one of the Murdoch mafiosi’s servants had passed on.

Former Sun chief reporter John Kay has died. Kay was acquitted in 2015 after a three-year ordeal under Met Police Operation Elveden which took a heavy toll … Kay died in a nursing home aged 77 having never returned to work after his Elveden acquittal. Huge reputation as a scoop getter and as a mentor of young journalists” they told. The Sun duly splashed a double page hagiography, authored by Mike Ridley.

Deeply unpleasant former Sun editor Kelvin McFilth was soon on hand with his king size onion. “For 4 decades he broke big story after big story until Murdoch, to save his own skin, gave police details of payments to public officials. He was one of 22 Sun journos cleared by juries”. McFilth was then followed by Neil Wallis, aka The Rasping Fuckwit.

So so sad - he was a truly wonderful man and a truly truly terrific journalist and story-getter. His life and career were wrecked by Scotland Yard & CPS vindictiveness, and though jurors at the Old Bailey declared him utterly innocent he never recovered from his ordeal”. And Tom Harper proceeded to marvel at The Great Man’a achievements.

Beautiful anecdote about the late, great Sun reporter John Kay from his former editor [Kelvin McFilth], describing fallout from one of John’s many scoops” he simpered. Kay had, it seems, dropped McFilth in it on one occasion, but the official investigation into the story concerned would not go anywhere. Why so? “The man running the investigation is the chap who gave me the story in the first place”. And then it all began to fall apart.

James Doleman pointed out “The ‘chap’ was a woman called Bettina Jordan-Barker, who ended up serving 12 months in prison for taking over £100,000 in cash payments from The Sun”. Moreover, the singularly unsavoury Trevor Kavanagh, who had contributed to the Sun splash, had lied when he said “John Kay stood trial at the Old Bailey, giving evidence which drew near-audible admiration from the judge”. He wasn’t in a position to know how the Judge responded. Because the same Judge had earlier thrown him out of the court.

As for Kay’s claim that he had no idea paying public servants for information was illegal, Carl Eve had difficulty buying that one: “I learned it was illegal during my NCTJ training in 1996 and I've never paid for a story since”. And as to the tear-jerking image of Kay dying in a care home, Louis Barfe reminded McFilth “His wife died in a bath. He killed her”.

The Sun’s grovelfest had missed the psychotic episode that culminated in Kay killing his first wife by drowning her in the bath, before botching his own suicide. Women’s Aid has since been on that case, telling yesterday “Following media industry tributes to a deceased journalist, today we will remember Harue Kay, the woman he killed in 1977. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility. Women killed by men's fatal violence must never be forgotten”. And the Sun took Kay back after that.

If that had been one of the Sun’s targets, they’d never have let their readers forget it. But for one of their own, it is conveniently airbrushed away. Along with the other crimes.

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Monday, 10 May 2021

Brillo Sturgeon Snark FAIL

Cut adrift from his team of researchers and other assistants at the BBC, former Murdoch editor Andrew Neil is increasingly finding that his views, and inconvenient reality, do not always coincide with one another. And there is no subject where this dislocation comes into sharper focus than that of Scottish politics - and the drive for independence.

Earlier this year, given a platform by the Daily Mail, Brillo pontificated “[Nicola] Sturgeon is on the ropes and her natural instinct is to strike out at all who assail her. It is not a pretty sight … She is determined to lead the SNP into the crucial Holyrood elections in May … some of those pro-Union politicians publicly calling for her to resign hope privately that she stays in situ”. Whyever would they do that? Ah, but The Great Man knows.

They think the fallout from the Salmond-Sturgeon civil war has turned her into a liability who could scupper the SNP’s hopes of an overall majority … a politician who has always been head and shoulders above all her rivals - inside and outside the SNP - and widely regarded as the party’s biggest asset could now be the politician that stops the SNP from fulfilling its dreams … [the] Salmond affair … has taken its toll on Sturgeon and the SNP”.

And his conclusion? “I would not be surprised if Sturgeon decided sometime in the next parliament to pack it in and go off to a more pleasant life managing some global quango. If May’s elections produce a result which secures the Union for the foreseeable future … what would be the point in hanging around?” And then came the elections.

While the SNP did not (quite) achieve an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament, it won 64 of the 129 seats. Moreover, the Greens, who are also pro-independence, won eight seats. There is a clear pro-Independence majority. So back came Brillo and the Mail.

Following the failure of Nicola Sturgeon’s pro-independence SNP to win an overall majority in last week’s elections to the Scottish parliament, the 314-year-old Union between England and Scotland lives to fight another day … Of course, it is by no means certain that the British Government would have bowed to Sturgeon’s demands for a second independence referendum even if she had won an overall majority”. Do go on.

Only last month the First Minister told ITV that a vote for the SNP was ‘not voting for independence’ … Yet even before the final votes had been counted over the weekend, she was out in front of the TV cameras insisting she now had a mandate for a second referendum”. The Great Man complains that Ms Sturgeon is performing a bait and switch.

This, he asserts, makes her an Arthur Daley figure, which will make no impact with anyone under 55 (Daily Mail target audience giveaway there). This is total crap: one look at the SNP’s Wikipedia entry is all you need. “The SNP supports and campaigns for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom and for membership of the European Union”.

You vote SNP (or, indeed, Scottish Green) and you know what you’re voting for, Brillo sophistry or no. And as David Allen Green has put it, “Every time an opponent of Scottish independence resorts to 'no SNP majority' or 'the last referendum was supposed to be once in a generation/lifetime' that is a lost opportunity to make a case on its merits”.

Unless that case has no merits, O Sage Of Grasse. Wind your neck in, Brillo.

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