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Monday 31 May 2021

Telegraph’s New Royal Yacht ISN’T

The story has even been reported by the BBC: a ship claimed to be a replacement for the long-retired Royal Yacht Britannia is, it has been claimed, to be built at a cost to We The People of a cool £200 million. Thus the culmination of a tedious, and indeed pointless, campaign by the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, and its equally out of touch “Chief Political Correspondent and Assistant Editor”, Christopher “No” Hope.

Abandon Hope all ye who read the Tel

Hope suggests that he has secured the assurance from alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson that this new vessel will be built. Moreover, it is claimed that the ship will be named in honour of the late Prince Philip. And so, in today’s Telegraph, he has felt sufficiently emboldened to gloat at his success in defeating the naysayers.

The arguments against my campaign for a new royal yacht never held water” we are told, followed by “Telegraph’s push for national flagship to replace Britannia was mocked by online critics - but PM’s approval shows how they missed the point”. No, it just means that Bozo has, once again, told someone what they want to hear.

Moreover, as Sunder Katwala has pointed out, “The Christopher Hope column illuminates a ‘Twitter is not Britain’ fallacy. Being popular on Twitter is certainly no guarantee of public popularity. But it’s also a fallacy to think that being unpopular on Twitter is in itself proof of public popularity!” On top of that, he has some actual data to back up his contention.

None of the polling during those 5 years supports the claim that it is broadly popular. It seems more of an elite media and political campaign than one with general public enthusiasm”. A small majority of Tory voters back the project. But even Leave voters show a majority against. This leads Katwala to a rather obvious conclusion.

Christopher Hope says his 5 year campaign has been popular (despite Twitter opposition). The reason he does not cite any evidence is that, to date, it has been a broadly unpopular idea when the general public have been asked”.

And what of the Royals? Hope’s optimism may hark back to the Queen shedding a tear at the decommissioning of Britannia. But nowadays, Brenda increasingly delegates this kind of thing to Brian. And the thought immediately occurs that, although he likes the Royal Train, a new Royal Yacht doesn’t fit with his idea of a “slimmed down” Monarchy.

So it came to pass that the Murdoch Sunday Times actually asked their Royal contacts what The Firm really thought of Bozo’s latest brilliant wheeze. “A senior royal tells the Sunday Times: it is ‘too grand’ a symbol for use by the monarchy in the modern age. ‘It is not something we have asked for’”. And now the vessel will not be named after The Greek.

As Otto English has observed, the ST piece went on to tell “the Prime Minister’s plan to honour the Duke of Edinburgh by naming the national flagship after him has been abandoned after the idea was greeted with coolness within Royal circles”. He deduced correctly “So this is just a Johnson vanity project”. Will it even get built?

Garden Bridge, Island Airport, Bridge to Northern Ireland, Royal Yacht. An inevitable progression that Christopher Hope seems not to have noticed, such is his detachment from reality. Maybe it can be called HMS Herd Immunity. Bozo approved of that, too.

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Sunday 30 May 2021

Bozo Weds On The Cheap

The date had been briefed to the media, though the wording was vague: alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his fiancée Carrie Symonds would “celebrate” their marriage in July 2022. By this time, there would be few restrictions on church attendees, and those invited to the wedding reception. By the summer of next year, Parliament would have risen and there would be the chance of a relaxed honeymoon.

However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, Bozo is rumoured to be hermetically tight with money, comparisons with a camel’s arse in a sandstorm being typical. So it should have surprised no-one when the right-leaning part of our free and fearless press geared up last night to tell the world that the couple, happy or otherwise, had married in a ceremony so secret that they had all been briefed about it.

The increasingly wayward Mail on Sunday has claimed an exclusive (so much so that every other paper that wants to talk about it has the story), proclaiming “BORIS AND CARRIE GET MARRIED IN SECRET … First PM to wed in office since 1822 … He couldn’t take his eyes off the bride”. On pain of her lamping him, perhaps.

Over at the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, the news everyone knows about is still secret: “PM marries Carrie in secret ceremony … Couple tie the knot at Westminster Cathedral but even senior aides were kept in the dark”. Westminster Cathedral? That’s the Roman Catholic one, right? Isn’t there a problem with that?

Mark Drew, who happens to be a priest, thought there was. “Can anyone explain to me how ‘Boris’ Johnson, who left the Catholic Church while at Eton and is twice divorced, can be married at Westminster Cathedral, while I have to tell practicing Catholics in good faith who want a second marriage in Church that it's not possible?” Well, indeed.

But wedded they are, with Downing Street finally confirming this morning what they had already told the press, even issuing a photo of the happy couple. And all without those pesky expenses: Bozo hasn’t had to stump up for a stag night, the wedding reception for all those hundreds of guests, or even a reassuringly upmarket honeymoon.

After all, it would have to be somewhere exclusive - none of that slumming it with the hoi polloi for Cash and Carrie, no chance of seeing Brexit Bozo honeymooning anywhere on mainland Europe. Having exchanged vows, he’s kicked that particular cost down the road until next year. Ultimately, he may not have to pay for it at all.

Looks like she's got custody of the quids

If the bill for renovating the flat above 11 Downing Street can be picked up by a Tory donor, a trip to Mustique can be paid for by someone else, and all those upmarket takeaways provided likewise, as the Tory press wipes his arse and Bozo gets away with it, then by next year, arranging for someone else to pick up the wedding reception and honeymoon tabs should be a piece of cake. Especially as the press will cover for him. Again.

But ultimately he can’t put off the years of school fees - one wouldn’t send one’s offspring to one of those ghastly state schools - and University bills. Two lots if Carrie decides she wants another child. Bozo will have to stop being PM to make the dosh to pay for that.

The consequences of not being able to keep your pants zipped up, eh? Sad, really.

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Saturday 29 May 2021

GB News - Not Very British

For an organisation that has not been backwards in coming forwards to splash the red, white and blue across its advance publicity, and indeed its corporate style, GB News is increasingly showing that, in reality, it is rather less British than its target audience. But then, so is rather a lot of our free and fearless press.

As Private Eye editor Ian Hislop once pointed out, the Daily Mailis owned by the Rothermere family … The current Lord Rothermere’s father loved Great Britain so much he went to live in France as a tax exile … He then passed on the nom-dom status to his son who doesn’t actually pay the normal amount of tax despite owning a newspaper that’s owned through various tax companies in Bermuda”. The Murdoch titles fare no better.

After all, Rupe is a US citizen. And the Barclay brother (now singular) running the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph has also placed himself offshore. GB News appears to be inhabiting the same world: as Press Gazette has conceded, “Discovery Inc, the US-based network which has a documentary partnership with the BBC in the UK, was the first major investor with reports of it investing around £20m”.

That’s a third of the rumoured £60 million raised. Anyone else? “Dubai-based investment group Legatum, known for its funding of think tank the Legatum Institute which launched in 2007, has also come on board”. And despite all those sneak previews of their London studios, GB News’ key weekday evening show will come from, er, France.

The news came from the weekly Popbitch email, rather than any admission from the broadcaster: “GB News has finally announced its launch date, but it doesn't seem as if the project's frontman, Andrew Neil, is going to be back to GB in time for the grand début. Thanks to travel restrictions, he's been trapped chez Neil in the south of France for the last little while - a country currently on the amber list”. That should surprise no-one.

He's been put out to Grasse ho ho ho

After all, the Companies House filing for All Perspectives Limited, which owns GB News, lists Brillo’s correspondence address as “22 Old Queen Street, London, England, SW1H 9HP” - the head office of the increasingly alt-right Spectator magazine - and his country of residence as “France” (two other directors reside in the UAE, and one in the USA).

So how do the Popbitch team reckon that Brillo will be getting round his little local locational difficulty? “The whispered workaround? Andrew's show is going to be broadcast from a studio somewhere on the French Riviera”. How very British of him.

Their email signs off the item with this observation: “Critics will no doubt scoff at the idea of GB News's flagship show getting beamed in from France, but in fairness it was always the plan to break the London media stranglehold. And besides, if you want to take on les élites what better place to find them than the glittering Côte d’Azur?” Yes, well.

Much of the money coming from abroad, and now it looks increasingly like the key weekday evening show will be based in a country forming part of the hated EU.

But GB News will be challenging the elites. Presumably by looking in the mirror.

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Piers Morgan’s Transferable Obsession

After the BBC came clean and admitted there was a significant element of deception in the methods used by Martin Bashir to get access to Diana, Princess of Wales in the run-up to the infamous Panorama interview in 1995, some in and around our free and fearless press came over all righteous as they saw an opportunity to pin the blame for her death on someone who was not one of Themselves Personally Now.

And what's more, Ron ...

This category of singularly unappealing individuals included former Screws and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, who scoffed “Tonight's Panorama was shocking - but mainly because it's taken the BBC 25 years to finally tell the truth about the Bashir/Diana scandal. They have blood on their hands because that interview propelled Diana on a path to her death. A shocking, criminal abuse of public money”. And he wasn’t finished.

Deafening silence on the Bashir/Diana scandal from [Hugh Grant], Steve Coogan & the rest of the celeb tabloid-bashing mob. I wonder what could possibly be preventing these regular BBC-paid stars from raging with their usual high moral journalism ethics outrage?” In fact, the Hacked Off campaign, which Grant and Coogan have supported consistently, has passed severely adverse comment on Bashir’s conduct (see HERE).

Moreover, when it comes to less than totally ethical behaviour in dealing with Diana, Morgan is standing in a seriously draughty glasshouse, as Byline Investigates hinted as it Tweeted out “‘Obsessed’ Piers Morgan illegally targeted Princess Diana and her friend James Hewitt, claim High Court Papers”. Obsession? Piers Morgan? Tell us more.

Whilst Morgan was in charge of the Mirror, High Court documents claim that his reporters tracked her movements. A team of Private Investigators were allegedly tasked to follow her friends and family … In a sworn witness statement, her former lover James Hewitt claims he was included on a hit list of Diana’s close associates”. The claims keep on coming.

In his court action against Mirror Group Newspapers, the former British army cavalry officer claims Morgan, ‘developed a particular obsession and vindictiveness towards him’ and ‘did so because of his relationship with the late Princess of Wales’. He was ruthlessly stalked by photographers and reporters, and alleges that his phone calls, bills, itemised call list and communications [were] intercepted”. And there is one more tasty allegation.

The documents reveal that Morgan was himself questioned by cops after Hewitt’s car was broken into. Personal papers and diary appointments were stolen. The manuscript for his unpublished biography mysteriously disappeared”. Small wonder “obsession” is claimed.

Worse, there is a clear and obvious parallel with Morgan’s attitude to the Duchess of Sussex: he wants to be her confidant, but is increasingly sad and embittered that she isn’t interested. It is not difficult to conclude that Obsession is not merely an attribute that can be applied to Morgan’s pursuit of Diana. Which should tell anyone not yet up to speed why Prince Harry has been so concerned at the thought that history might repeat itself.

Piers Morgan appears to have been obsessed with Diana. He appears to be yet more deeply obsessed with Meghan. Maybe he should seek help before his condition worsens.

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Thursday 27 May 2021

GB News - Fans Not Happy

The date has now been set, media watchers have their diaries set and their appraisals waiting, and some of the public are ready to tune in: Gammon Broadcasting News (“Bacon’s News Channel”) will at last go on air during the evening of June 13, with a special programme imaginatively titled Welcome To GB News.

That originality extends to some of the programmes you will be able to see on the new channel, such as “Dewbs & Co” (not “Varney & Co” then), “Alastair Stewart & Friends” (not “Fox and Friends”, then), “Tonight Live with Dan Wootton” (not “Tucker Carlson Tonight” then), “Free Speech Nation” (not “Fox Nation”, then), “DePiero and Halligan” (not “Hannity and Colmes”, then) and “The Great British Breakfast” (not “The Big Breakfast”, then).

It was the last-named show that set the assembled Gammonati off: after Alastair Stewart had been characterised by the increasingly wayward Mail on Sunday by claims such as “I won't be walking on eggshells now I'm at anti-woke GB News”, the line-up for that new breakfast offering triggered many potential viewers - maybe putting them off viewing.

The problem with claims such as “anti-Woke” is a case of stating the bleeding obvious: “Woke” means simply “alert to injustices in society, especially racism”. So being “anti-woke” means not caring about societal injustice and condoning racism. No-one at GB News seems to have thought this one through. The thought occurs that, maybe, Brillo and his pals have just been sounding off without figuring out what such terms actually mean.

So it was that a breakfast show line-up with only one bloke among the six presenters, and two of the woman presenters not being white, caused alarm among those eagerly counting down to launch day. “Oh dear one Male and five Female. Not a good balance for a start!” moaned one onlooker. “Oh dear, Femfest! May as well watch Sky news” sighed another.

One Tweeter was rather more forthright: “I suppose white males will soon be eradicated anyway … good luck with the launch though and I hope it’s successful”. Court bigots, get bigots. And talking of that W-Word, out it came. “Woke lot already over taken GB news … Bit too woke for me … I used to like GBNews but then it went all woke”.

You say you’re going to be “anti-woke”, those who aren’t really racist, honestly, are going to take you at your word. Other not-really-racist responses included “Noooooo. I didn't think you would be ticking boxes”, and as to what kind of box that meant, it wasn’t long before it was spelled out: “Seems that the 'diversity' box has been ticked!

And those, whisper it quietly, are the potential viewers that GB News needs on board. Not only that, but signing up for extra content and stumping up a little hard cash for the privilege. Otherwise, the new channel will be burning through the cash so rapidly that it might just run out. And that’s a depressing prospect for what is looking increasingly like a vanity project for past-his-sell-by-date Brillo and his chosen acolytes.

Did anyone market test the GB News concept before the decision was taken to go ahead? Because if not, going ahead was A Very Brave Decision Indeed. Or maybe just foolhardy.

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Wednesday 26 May 2021

Guido Mental Health Smear Fawked

Obsession, coupled with vindictiveness, can be bad not just for those targeted, but for those targeting them. So it has proved for the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, and their creepy attacks on Labour MP Nadia Whittome, who represents Nottingham East, and is taking a leave of absence from Parliament.

Nadia Whittome MP

On her doctor’s advice, Ms Whittome, as the Guardian has reported, has taken time off after “being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder … she had been ‘battling some persistent health issues’ for several months, and that while she had ‘been attempting to manage them’ alongside her duties as a politician, it had recently ‘become clear that this is not feasible’”. Her colleagues have sent messages of support.

Behold the arbiter of taste and decency

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, sent ‘love, solidarity and strength’, and said that ‘even by just publishing this statement you’ve shown so much bravery and you will have helped so many other people’ … Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader who sits as an independent MP … hailed Whittome as ‘bold and brave’”.

And then came the sneering, smearing intervention from The Great Guido. Titled “Nadia’s Shell Shock Shows Politicians Need Life Experience … Nadia’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”, it juxtaposes Ms Whittome’s photo with that of a World War I soldier. Readers are told “Guido has no insight into what ails the youngest MP in parliament, Nadia Whittome, such that she needs to take a break from parliament due to PTSD. Parliament may be daunting though nothing akin to the trenches of the First World War”.

The authorship of this singularly repellant take is given as “order-order”, which suggests one of three things: One, it’s not the work of Christian Calgie or Adam Cherry, but has been delegated to a new Fawkes gofer, Two, Staines wrote it himself, or maybe Three, nobody chez Fawkes is prepared to put their name to the attack.

This steepling ignorance of mental health issues, not least that PTSD is not restricted to war veterans, and that Ms Whittome worked at a care home while the Covid-19 pandemic was raging, continued as the Fawkes Twitter feed told followers “Nadia’s Shell Shock Shows Politicians Need Life Experience”. The pushback was not long in arriving.

Stan Cross put The Great Guido straight. “She was a frontline care worker during a global pandemic you ugly freaks. What the fuck did you do?” And the Tweeter known as Technically Ron mused “Guido once again showing that he is the journalistic equivalent of shitting yourself in public for attention”. Ms Whittome’s fellow MPs were also unimpressed.

Zarah Sultana told “This extreme right-wing blog is truly the worst of gutter journalism. It should be shunned by anyone who cares about decency in politics, but instead is disgracefully accepted by much of the mainstream. Solidarity to [Nadia Whittome], who has bravely spoken about mental health”. Dawn Butler added “I think you're wrong to refer to it as journalism Zarah. Solidarity to the wonderful Nadia”.

And Mic Wright concluded “The next time Guido Fawkes is included in a Sky or BBC news review, remember this. It has been allowed to be treated as a legitimate pipeline into established media when it is, in fact, an open sewer”. Also, I’m sure it has nothing to do with Ms Whittome not being white. Another fine mess, once again.

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Tuesday 25 May 2021

So Farewell Than Max Mosley

Dead men don’t sue. A truism in which our free and fearless press is indulging itself freely today, after former motor racing driver, team principal, Formula 1 supremo and press reform campaigner Max Mosley died at the age of 81. Last year, he had been optimistic as he recovered from treatment for cancer, but it was a battle he ultimately could not win.

There must, it seems, have been two Max Mosleys: the Very Bad Guy the press hated, and the Rather Good Guy those of us campaigning for effective press regulation knew, admired, and respected immensely. The reality was that the press characterisation is so much guff: they hated Mosley because, from them, he took no messing, and no prisoners.

It’s true that he - briefly - supported his Dad’s far-right politics, but by the mid-60s, he had moved on, and became involved in motor racing. There, he was judged not on what his Dad might have done, but on what he was doing there and then. By early 1968, graduating to the ranks of Formula 2, he learned one lesson that remained with him.

That year’s F2 season began at the Hockenheimring. Then, the circuit - through heavily forested countryside - had none of its later chicanes to slow the cars, and nor did it have any run-off areas or Armco barriers. It was just a flat-out blind through the woods. The first heat of the 1968 race brought cold and wet conditions.

And it was in that first heat that double F1 world champion Jim Clark’s car suffered a failure - probably a sudden deflation of the right rear tyre - and he lost control, the car going off the track into the trees. Clark was probably killed by the initial impact.

Nowadays, F1 pilots mainly don’t drive in other disciplines. But in the late 60s, they would do endurance races (including the 24 hours of Le Mans), some would try their hand at the Indianapolis 500, during the winter they might compete in the Tasman series Down Under, and yes, they would do F2 as well. They were racers; it was race experience.

Clark’s death shocked his fellow drivers: if it could happen to Jimmy, it could happen to any of them. Mosley had seen that motor racing, in the late 60s at least, was a seriously dangerous occupation, and the following year he retired as a driver. But he remained in the sport as a team principal for the new March Engineering concern.

Alongside Max at March, in the early 70s, was one Bernie Ecclestone, who ran Brabham. The two of them became an unlikely but effective double act as F1 was transformed into a multinational - and highly lucrative - business. But safety improvements had not kept pace with the faster, more powerful and technically complex cars.

The moment of truth for F1 came at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, held at Imola. A fatal practice accident had claimed the life of Roland Ratzenburger; the next day, during the race, and in front of a worldwide TV audience, triple world champion Ayrton Senna was killed when his Williams left the track and struck a concrete retaining wall at well over 140mph. The force of that impact meant Senna would not survive.

That was not all: at Monaco, Mercedes driver Karl Wendlinger suffered a serious accident and spent weeks in a coma as a result. Although he survived his injuries, it was clear that action would have to be taken on driver safety, and taken it was. Mosley also became head man at the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), which not only oversaw motorsport, but also ordinary motorists. First a safer F1, then safer motoring for all.

From 1996, the FIA took the lead in promoting the European New Car Assessment Programme, nowadays just called Euro NCAP. Car manufacturers were initially resistant, but by 2000, the EU Commission had concluded that “EuroNCAP had become the single most important mechanism for achieving advances in vehicle safety”.

Max had said previously “That is what really interested me: [in F1] you maybe save one life every five years, whereas [in] road safety you are talking about thousands of lives”. Many hundreds, if not thousands, across the UK have survived accidents because of advances in vehicle safety. And for that they have Max Mosley, at least in part, to thank.

But in F1, Max’ methods were not universally appreciated: that he knew how to get something done, and was prepared to be occasionally Machiavellian to get there, didn’t always go down well, although it has to be said that in an industry like F1, there are rather a lot of oversized egos rubbing up against one another.

And it was during the most turbulent part of his time at the top of F1 that our free and fearless press decided to intervene: the late and not at all lamented Screws splashed Mosley across its front page, claiming that he indulged in a Nazi-themed sex act with five prostitutes. His Dad knew Hitler, nudge nudge, wink wink.

Max did something the press is not used to seeing: he stood up to them, took the Screws to court for invading his privacy, and won. Mr Justice Eady concluded that there was no Nazi theme, that there was no public interest in the Screws’ exposé, and that Mosley was as entitled as anyone else to not have his privacy breached.

Building on that fightback, when the phone hacking scandal broke, Max was there again. Those whose voicemail had been hacked could not, in some cases, risk losing a legal action against the Murdoch press. He would underwrite their costs, and later underwrote the costs of independent press regulator IMPRESS. The press disliked him even more.

He was part of the campaign to have the Leveson recommendations made the standard for press regulation in the UK, and an unswerving supporter of Hacked Off. While this ensured the press would be dripping spite and hatred at him today, for those of us who have advocated for press regulation that actually regulates the press (rather than the worse-than-useless IPSO), he was an ally, and yes, he was a friend.

In his later years, Max was rather deaf, his time in the pit lane having taken its toll. But while he spoke softly, those who tried to mess with him soon realised that he had taken Teddy Roosevelt’s advice, and was carrying a very big stick indeed. The press hatred was because he took no crap from their unappealing array of sycophants and nonentities.

While the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph snipes “Max Mosley, the fascist sympathiser who made an enemy of the truth”, and the Mail thunders “Mosley, tycoon who waged war on free press, dead at 81”, remember that, One, neither title would have dared say that while he was still alive, and Two, compare the work on F1 and everyday road safety that Mosley achieved. Then see who has room to talk.

The press never advocated to save lives in the way Max Mosley did. But they have ruined plenty of them. He was one of the good guys. And our free and fearless press aren’t.

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