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Saturday 30 April 2022

The Sun And More Phone Hacking

The Murdoch mafiosi have claimed all along that phone hacking was confined to the late and not at all lamented Screws: the Super Soaraway Currant Bun did not, they maintain, stoop to such depths in sourcing and standing up its stories. So it is pure coincidence that a significant number of payments have been made to those taking legal action against News UK, because they claim to have had their phones hacked by the Sun.

Another week, another claimant paid off

One of the latest to settle has been Evan Harris, who you can call as he’s a doctor, and who had a statement read out in open court earlier this week which makes for most interesting reading. He backed that up with a further statement made outside the court, and which has been captured on video. He is sure It Was The Sun Wot Done It.

The information ponied up as part of the disclosure process showed that, in early 2006, “there were several short calls from the Wapping HQ ‘hub’ telephone to his mobile number”. And what might that indicate? “Dr Harris believed these calls were suspicious of phone-hacking because he did not recall ever being called at that time by any journalist working for The Sun or the News of the World”. Voicemail interception. Potentially.

Evan Harris

There was more. “Dr Harris believes the disclosed material shows that [Steve] Whittamore was commissioned to ‘turn’ the ex-directory number of Dr Harris’s London flat and to carry out credit traces on some of Dr Harris’ former addresses and at least two relating to his ex-wife’s family … Further disclosure led Dr Harris to believe that, around the same time, he was the target of surveillance by Mazher Mahmood and his team”.

So far, so unsavoury, and so much par for the Murdoch newsgathering course. But then came the dead giveaway. “Disclosure provided by NGN in 2020 showed that 384 calls were made from NGN’s Wapping HQ to Dr Harris’ mobile number between 5 September 2003 and 9 December 2011. Twenty of these were made after the closure of the News of the World in 2011”. But the Sun still didn’t hack phones, honestly.

Moreover, there were very few stories about him published by the Sun or Screws: it seems that he was targeted because of who he knew. Back in 2006, that meant the Murdoch tabloids pursuing Simon Hughes. In 2011, it meant the pursuit of Dr Harris’ fellow participants to the Leveson Inquiry - like actor and campaigner Hugh Grant.

So was this misbehaviour merely a few bad apples, the result of a little al fresco waywardness? That isn’t how Evan Harris sees it: he is sure that Rebekah Brooks, former editor of both Screws and Sun, and now CEO of News UK, has been intimately involved, despite her claims during the hacking trial, and at Leveson, that she had no knowledge of illegal activity. It is also suggested she was involved in destroying evidence.

But, once again, this is a case which will not go to a full trial: as Dr Harris has pointed out, were he to be awarded a lesser sum in damages than the offer made by News UK, he would then be liable for all costs, which would most likely bankrupt him. So all we know is that he “will be paid substantial damages (the quantum of which is confidential, though not at Dr Harris’ request) and his legal costs”. The pretence that the Sun didn’t hack goes on.

And the Murdoch mafiosi are prepared to stump up tens of millions a year to make sure it stays that way. They say they didn’t do it, even though the evidence suggests they did.

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Thursday 28 April 2022

Covid Rule Misinformation BUSTED

As Zelo Street pointed out yesterday, Durham Constabulary have confirmed that, contrary to claims made by Tory MP Richard Holden, and amplified by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, there will be no re-investigation of allegations that Labour leader Keir Starmer broke lockdown rules while campaigning.

The untrue pretence

For any rational reporter or observer of politics, that would be that, but such is the desperation of those fully subscribed to the adoration of alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson that the lying perpetrated by The Great Guido has now been taken up by a number of bad faith actors, not least those working at the Murdoch Sun and the Rothermere Daily Mail. For them, there is only one imperative.

And that is to gaslight their readers into believing that Labour is just as bad as the Tories, that Starmer broke the rules just like Bozo did, that the cops should therefore be fining both of them, and if they don’t, it’s just so unfair and the Rotten Woke Lefties are to blame.

The factual reality (read Adam's take HERE)

So it was that the Mail thundered “POLICE REVIEW OVER STARMER’S LOCKDOWN DRINKS … Police chief to probe why officers let Labour leader off [not true] … Local party held ‘quiz and social’ on the night he visited [irrelevant] … Full video emerges of Sir Keir swigging beer with colleagues [so what?]”. The lying continues in the supporting article.

“POLICE last night opened the door to a full probe into claims that Keir Starmer broke lockdown rules when he was filmed drinking with party officials … Durham Constabulary said it would consider a request from Tory MP Richard Holden to review a controversial decision that cleared the Labour leader”. The only controversy was that taking no action against Starmer was contrary to the wishes of the Mail’s editors.

The rules that Starmer did not break

Still, if at first you don’t succeed, suck some more seed, eh? Which brings us to the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, continuing his pretence to be a real journalist as political editor of the Murdoch Sun. Like the Mail, Cole claims an “exclusive” forKEIR’S BEER CRISIS Sir Keir Starmer in fresh row over ‘breaking lockdown rules’ for a ‘quiz and social’”.

Those quote marks are doing some seriously heavy lifting. But do go on. “SIR Keir Starmer was last night embroiled in a fresh row over whether or not he broke lockdown rules like the PM. It emerged an invitation was sent to activists for a ‘quiz and social’ on the same day he was snapped in the party’s Durham office swigging a beer”. So what?

What the Mail and Sun are therefore doing

It didn’t concern Starmer. The result is that Master Cole, like his opposite numbers at the Mail, is misleading, as when he says that “despite rules at the time saying electioneering was no excuse for flouting restrictions”. Did he not bother to consult the rules that he wants his readers to believe Starmer broke? Zelo Street has bothered. And here’s the exception.

Exception 20: campaigning … Exception 20 is that … (c) the gathering is reasonably necessary for the purposes of campaigning in an election or a referendum held in accordance with provision made by or under an act”. Starmer was campaigning. The gathering was part of that campaigning. It was allowed under the Covid rules.

He didn’t attend the “quiz and social”, which in any case was held virtually. He didn’t break the rules. He isn’t going to get fined. The cops aren’t re-investigating. Case closed.

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Wednesday 27 April 2022

New Starmer Beer Inquiry ISN’T

As the possibility of alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson receiving several more of those fixed penalty notices for attending Downing Street parties that weren’t really happening, or that he didn’t know were parties, so his devotees in that part of the media, those who are fully paid-up Bozo boosters, have persuaded themselves that the lawbreaking could not possibly be limited to The Blue Team.

So it was that an image of Keir Starmer drinking what looked like a beer after a session campaigning took on great significance: here was the proof that the Rotten Lefties™ were at it too. Sadly for those out there on the right, the relevant Police force decided that no breach of the Covid regulations had occurred. And that should have been that.

But, for the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, Ron Hopeful is ever present, and so it came to pass that they proclaimedDurham Police To Re-Examine Keir Starmer Covid Rule-Breaking … POLICE REEXAMINING STARMER CASE”. The missing word “alleged” may be a serious lapse of judgment.

But do go on. “Richard Holden MP confirming Durham Deputy Chief Constable will ‘make enquires’ with the Constabulary’s investigation team over Starmer’s potential rule-breaking in April 2021”. Note, however, that the response to Holden tells “The Chief Constable has asked me to respond to the matters you raised in your letter and also to consider the matters you raise under the Freedom of Information Act”.

That does not say that any allegation of lawbreaking is being re-examined. But some of the assembled idiocy had already seen something that wasn’t there. And the idiocy is especially strong with former Fawkes teaboy Tom Harwood, now at Gammon Broadcasting™ News (“Bacon’s News Channel”), who has claimed erroneously “EXCLUSIVE: Durham Police to re-examine Keir Starmer beer case”. Do go on.

Tory MP [Richard Holden] told by Durham police that enquiries will be made with the investigation team … He will be updated with the result of those enquiries”. Also swallowing the Kool-Aid was Harwood’s GB News pal, the deeply unpleasant Dan Wootton. “Boom! As I've been calling for over many months. If Boris broke the rules being presented a cake by his work colleagues, then Starmer certainly did by downing booze”.

But Liam Thorp, political editor of the Liverpool Echo, had actually read the letter from Durham Constabulary, and had bad news for Tom’n’Dan. “Yeah that really isn’t what the letter says. It’s an FOI that they have to respond to”. Adam Bienkov of Byline Times took the step that any actual journalist should - he contacted Durham Police.

And the news he brought was not good for The Great Guido and others out there on the right. “Asked whether Durham Police are re-examining the case against Keir Starmer, their spokesperson tells me: ‘that’s not the case … As a courtesy we've replied to Mr. Holden to confirm we've received his letter and will consider its contents before responding in due course.’” You never take the Fawkes blog, a borderline fake news outfit, on trust.

That tells you all you need to know about The Great Guido, GB News, and anyone who takes either of them seriously. Blazing trousers all round. Another fine mess, once again.

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Mail Picks Strange Hill To Die On

Remember all the times the likes of Peter Hitchens told anyone who would listen that the Mail on Sunday and Daily Mail were two different titles, each with their own journalists and columnists? Ah, the predictable riposte, the righteous and outraged tone, the impression that someone was not paying attention at the back. It was all so much tosh.

The protestation of righteousness ...

Confirmation of that has some not from Hitchens - as if - but by today’s Daily Mail front page lead, where the presence of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre has ensured that the paper has told the world the hill on which it is prepared to die. In doing so, it has not merely cast itself as a victim, but also shown the Mail and MoS are as one title.

In her own words, night Angela Rayner laughed and joked about comparisons with Sharon Stone” it begins. Note that the rest of the press pack is actually reporting news, while the occupants of the Northcliffe House bunker are pretending they were right to smear Ms Rayner, portraying others as aggressors and themselves as victims.

... the name on the byline ...

Which brings us to the main event: “With an overreach that startled MPs, the Commons Speaker summoned the Mail on Sunday’s editor to appear before him over its Angela Rayner ‘Basic Instinct’ report. To which, in the name of a free press, the Mail respectfully replies … NO, MISTER SPEAKER!” When you have no respect for your targets, you drag up the word “respect” and bandy it about righteously. It’s transparent drivel.

So who has been caused to lend their name to the by-line of this confected reverse victim screed? The Mail on Sunday’s not even slightly celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges. Another who would like us to pretend the Mail and MoS are two different titles. Did Desperate Dan actually write the article? But that is not the point.

... the supporting pundit ...

Working for the Mail and MoS, you’re paid a shed load of money, and if the word is handed down that your name is going on the by-line, well, as Colonel Ross told Harry Palmer, that’s what you’re paid for, isn’t it? Which brings us to another Mail-to-MoS crossover columnist, Sarah “Vain” Vine, who has told Ms Rayner she should “own” the Basic Instinct smear. She’s well paid, a woman’s name was needed on the by-line, and it’s her turn.

The whole charade is dressed up as, you guessed, a FREEZE PEACH issue. Speaker Hoyle is demonised for wanting to meet the MoS editor, as if an act of censorship was being contemplated (it wasn’t). The same tactic used when the Mail smeared the memory of Ralph Miliband, by claiming it was a press freedom issue, and not a blatant act of anti-Semitism, when Ed Miliband demanded the right of reply. You know, FREEZE PEACH.

... and the c*** who's giving the f***ing orders

Ms Vine is also at pains to play the victim, because someone at the hated Guardian may or may not have made a disparaging remark about her. How dare they? That’s HER job! But, as one former Mail staffer told Nick Davies, “Dacre kills with headlines”: readers’ minds will have been made up with one glance at that front page.

Attack verging on incitement? The Mail will defend its right to do that over and over again, whether it’s politicians, lawyers, refugees, LGBT people, Muslims, the GRT community, Haz and Megs, or indeed anyone who is not the Mail’s kind of person.

The Mail titles long ago ceased to prioritise actual news. But you knew that already.

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Tuesday 26 April 2022

Tracy-Ann Oberman LOSES Lawsuit

Philip Proudfoot lectures in power and popular politics at the University of Sussex. He specialises in the Middle East, conflict, war and humanitarianism. He is also the founder and current leader of the Northern Independence Party, which opposes political and economic centralisation in London. In addition, as one might expect, he has a social media presence, which recently attracted attention of an account seemingly involved in trolling.

Philip Proudfoot

Concluding that he was being trolled and harassed, Proudfoot blocked the account. He used Twitter block chain, which also blocked followers of the account. So far, so procedural, but then came the accusation from minor thesp Tracy-Ann Oberman that Proudfoot “has a Jew blocklist”. The problem for Ms Oberman was that this was not true. Moreover, the direct inference, if someone is blocking Jews, is one of anti-Semitism.

That happened just over a year ago. Proudfoot contacted Ms Oberman the day after she made her claim, but it has taken until now, and the services of his legal team, to bring the matter to a satisfactory conclusion and cause Ms Oberman to apologise. She has now admitted “I accept that Dr Proudfoot has at no time had a Jew block list and apologise for stating otherwise. I made a mistake and appreciate that my comments were hurtful. I have therefore deleted my tweet, agreed to pay substantial damages and legal costs”.

Tracy-Ann Oberman

Why was Proudfoot trolled? His statement following the settlement gives a clue: “I am a humanitarian researcher. I’ve seen the horrors of war in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. It is for this reason I am a supporter of the struggle for human rights in Palestine. And it is for this reason I am appalled and disgusted by antisemitism, and all forms of prejudice”.

And although Proudfoot’s lawyer Zillur Rahman told his followersFantastic win for our client, Dr [Philip Proudfoot]. Although Tracy-Ann Oberman is a contestant on Celebrity Bake Off, this is more a case of humble pie”, he also made a serious point about the pursuit of those who publicly voice pro-Palestinian views.

Antisemitism is a serious problem in our society and it is unfortunate that some people like Philip, who show solidarity with the Palestinians in their struggle for freedom from Israel’s oppression, have been falsely accused of antisemitism, which can have a chilling effect on free speech against injustices and human rights violations”. Got it in one.

As the Guardian article reporting the settlement (there does appear to be a lack of enthusiasm among the rest of the press pack to break the news to their readers) has told, “The level of damages has not been disclosed”. But, given the case has been going on for more than a year, Ms Oberman’s costs, which she will have to have paid, will most likely be significant. Like, oh I dunno, well into five figures significant.

She has, though, by inadvertently giving prominence to Proudfoot’s advocacy, made sure his audience, and indeed many more, read his words, which include “it is harmful to allow the fear of false accusations to prevent us from speaking out against apartheid in Israel. Speaking out against injustice is also a fundamental political right. We must defend our rights, defend Palestinians, and never allow defamation to scare away solidarity”.

That may not have been Ms Oberman’s intention. Oh dear, how sad, never mind.

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Monday 25 April 2022

French Fash Thrashed - Farage Bereft

In the end, it was a comfortable victory: Emmanuel Macron beat Marine le Pen in the second round of voting for the French Presidency by 58% to 42%, and so became only the second Président of the Cinquième République to win a second term while in control of the Government after Charles de Gaulle in 1965. The le Pen family have thus made it eight losses out of eight attempts to persuade French voters to back The Fash.

Some of those out on the right have pretended not to care about the result: at the increasingly alt-right Spectator magazine, Freddy Gray, who had expended so much of his credibility fawning over appalling bigot Éric Zemmour, claimed “Bof! That useful French word – an older and slightly less irritating version of the American-English ‘meh’ - is how many people feel about the re-election of Emmanuel Macron”. There was more.

He isn’t loved. The abstention rate today is estimated to be 29.6 per cent; up two per cent on the second round of 2017. His job approval rating is around 41 per cent, according to the latest surveys”. The “abstention rate” in the UK was rather higher than that in 2019, and as for the 41% approval rating, Macron is doing better than his UK counterpart.

But at least Gray manages not to be too anxious about The Fash losing, unlike former Brexit Party Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, who has been on Gammon Broadcasting™ News (“Bacon’s News Channel”) early doors to whine the house down about how bad a Macron victory will be for Brexit Britain, and indeed for Himself.

Nigel qui?

How much of a friend to the UK was Macron? “Oh no, he loathes us. I mean, absolutely, the classic French anti-British, especially anti-English, leader. He’s an EU fanatic. He’ll never, ever, forgive us for Brexit and we can expect more obstructionism, especially on things like Northern Ireland where, clearly, compromise is very important. If we can’t get it, then the Government may well have to trigger Article 16”. There was more.

We’ll get zero cooperation on the cross-Channel migrant problem, so no - Boris Johnson can use whatever warm words he likes - it’s not going to be a good relationship between us and France”. But he did have warmer words for Ms le Pen. “Every election that goes by, she gets a little bit stronger. And it reminds me of the journey of an anti-establishment in Britain who they dared to call extreme”. Because UKIP was extreme.

Mr Thirsty is as dishonest as ever - the Northern Ireland Protocol, for instance, is not Macron’s call. The Brexit vote had already happened when he became Président in 2017. There is no citation for the “anti-English” claim, because Farage is just making it up. Remaining in the EU as a pragmatic choice does not make a leader a “fanatic”. But there is another reason why Nige is slagging off Macron for winning.

And that is his prediction five years ago that, this time round, The Fash would triumph. “I’m supporting Marine le Pen, and if she fails this time, she will win in 2022” he told readers of the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph. Then when Robert Peston asked The Great Man “Is she going to win?he declaredMarine le Pen, I do believe, will become the French President, however it’s more likely that will happen in 2022”.

Eh merde! Monsieur le Fromage caught talking out of his derrière, encore une fois.

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Sunday 24 April 2022

Mail Aggression Creeps Out Angela Rayner

Meeting Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner on the campaign trail, you see quickly and clearly that she connects with voters, that they warm to her, that there is an ease about her, no side, nothing is put on for the cameras. Taken alongside her ability to dismantle alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson across the Dispatch Box, this makes the Tories, and indeed their press pals, scared shitless of her.

Yes, this actually got written, approved - and published

Thus both Tories and press resort to smearing, to take her down by whatever means they deem necessary. Should they succeed, the end will be considered to have justified the means. Unfortunately for those going on the attack, the latest crude slice of misogyny has fallen some way short of success, while inducing revulsion across the political spectrum.

Glen Owen, clearly overjoyed at his latest handiwork

It fell to the increasingly wayward Mail on Sunday to administer today’s smear, and unlike the leering attack on Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon, where Sarah “Vain” Vine was somehow persuaded to have her name appear on the by-line, it seems no female hack was prepared to follow suit. So it is attributed to Glen Owen, the MoS political editor.

Evening all

The headline tells why this may herald the nadir of Owen’s less than stellar career: “Stone the crows! Tories accuse Rayner of Basic Instinct ploy to distract Boris”. Notice who gets the surname name check, and who gets first name recognition. Woman wears skirt and on occasion crosses legs shock horror. It’s puerile, misogynist, and plain creepy.

What's my f***ing photo doing here, c***?!?!?

We need not be concerned with the rest of this deeply unpleasant attack, save to note one thing: the article did not just appear in today’s print edition. It will have been signed off, implicitly or otherwise, by a whole host of editing staff, and more than likely will have been approved not only by senior editors like Ted Verity, but also by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre. This is not merely one rogue reporter. It is a culture of misogynist aggression.

Female and Male, left and right, inside and outside politics, have condemned the attack. Like Kate McCann from TalkTV. “You see all those female MPs and journalists tweeting their rage at this story? It’s because nearly every single one of us has experienced something like this in the course of doing our jobs - often repeatedly - and we are utterly, utterly sick of it”. Gary Neville: “An obscene article”. Dan Walker: “Get in the bin”.

James O’Brien of LBC mused “So Boris Johnson is a vulnerable & pitiable victim of his own well-documented sexual incontinence while Angela Rayner is a brazen temptress because she has legs. Surely the cheapest, most misogynistic horror show to appear in a British newspaper since Kelvin MacKenzie had a job”. Yes, it was that bad.

Meanwhile, Adam Ramsay drew the obvious conclusion: “If Boris Johnson is incapable of doing his job with women in the room then Boris Johnson is incapable of doing his job”. And Caroline Wheeler of the Sunday Times reminded us what the MoS wasn’t telling its readers: “Three cabinet ministers and two shadow cabinet ministers are among more than 50 MPs facing allegations of sexual misconduct”. Fifty of them. FIFTY.

It was the MoS’ daily stablemate that told us we should not dwell on Partygate because there were more important issues facing the country. That line didn’t age well.

And don’t expect IPSO to even say peep. That’s our free and fearless press for you.

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Saturday 23 April 2022

Rees Mogg And No Government Efficiency

Member for times long past Jacob Rees Mogg has let it be known that he wants to see more Civil Servants at their desks each weekday. His problem has been in how he accomplishes this task. What, then, would one expect a Government minister to do in solving this problem? What would an experienced businessman and politician, steeped in the ways of man-management, have done? What would Nietzsche have done?

The evidence so far is that The Moggster may not operate on such a level: it was revealed yesterday by Dino Sofos that he, or someone on his behalf, was leaving glorified post-it notes around Whitehall telling “Sorry you were out when I visited … I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon … With every good wish … Rt Hon Jacob Rees Mogg MP … Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency”.

Passive-aggressive, much? Not even the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog were prepared to cheer that one on, or spin it. The comments showed why, with Chris Grey musing “The irony of this note is that it shows the Minister for Government Efficiency behaving exactly like the worst stereotype of a bureaucratic middle manager, flaunting his petty authority to enforce 'red tape' rules of office conduct”.

There was more. Significantly more. George Peretz QC added “Any thug can use formal and flowery language. Real gentlemen, with genuine good manners, don’t bully those who work for them”. OUCH! Sam Freedman had more. “Sometimes I think Jacob Rees-Mogg must be the worst cabinet minister in living memory. And then I remember Priti Patel is in the cabinet. And ‘Sir’ Gavin Williamson was”. Could it get worse? Don’t ask.

Henry Mance of the FT showed that it could: “nothing says government efficiency like a minister going desk-to-desk with a pile of printed notes”. Ahir Shah had a different angle: “Consistently ashamed that my ancestors were conquered by a ruling class this shit”. And Adam Bienkov wondered if Rees Mogg had thought it through properly: “This is a ballsy move for someone best known for literally lying down on the job”.

The Secret Barrister was dismissive. “A simpering affectatious halfwit born on a pile of money, who has been handed every privilege imaginable and boasts that he is too lazy to have ever changed his own children’s nappies, is possibly not best placed to pass judgement on how hard people are working”. James O’Brien, though, saw the bright side.

At least one person in this story has far too much time on their hands. On the other hand, sneaking around leaving glorified post-it notes on strangers’ desks is probably the safest deployment of Rees-Mogg. He does serious & lasting damage when he’s allowed out of nursery mode”. While Tom Peck had other concerns. “Spare a thought, as ever, for those of us who are nominally meant to be parody these people”. Indeed.

But the worst was yet to come: Rees Mogg’s gesture was then revealed to have been to no avail by Jonathan Jones, who knows a little about what goes on in Whitehall nowadays. “But … almost no civil servants have fixed desks … so he won’t know who he was ‘visiting’, where they were, or who they are if he ‘sees them in the office’”.

The Minister for Government Efficiency demonstrating in the least efficient manner how to spray taxpayer funds up the wall to no discernible benefit. The Tories in a nutshell.

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