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Sunday 30 October 2022

Tories, Leaks, And Coverups

So now Rishi Sunak has his feet under the 10 Downing Street table, his preferred cabinet choices in place, and his agenda ready to go. Poll numbers are beginning to look a little less dire than under Liz Truss. But, as Harold Macmillan, who might have struggled to get into today’s Tory party, given his support for Keynesianism, said, there are always “events, dear boy, events”.

And the problem for Sunak is that the collision of events facing him this weekend includes one that brings his judgment into question, and the ability of foreign Governments to trust the UK into the less likely category. Because, despite all caution and advice to the contrary, he reappointed Suella Braverman, aka Leaky Sue, to the role of Home Secretary.

Ms Braverman had previously resigned from the role because she had been using a personal email account to send classified material, including to someone who should not have seen it. But today, Michael “Oiky” Gove rocked up on Laura Kuenssberg’s BBC politics hour and trotted out the official line that she had said sorry, she had resigned, and that we should get over it.

The problem was that there was rather more to it, as Byline Times’ political editor Adam Bienkov noted. “Michael Gove says Suella Braverman immediately owned up to her ‘mistake’ and then informed officials … The BBC then shows him a leaked email showing her asking a recipient to ‘delete the message and ignore’ it, hours before officials were eventually told”.

In other words, it appears that Ms Braverman, or someone on her behalf, has been seriously economical with the actualité. And those touring the TV studios are effectively covering it up by claiming that there is Nothing To See Here. But a more explicit, and worse cover-up, appears to have occurred concerning the person who first made Ms Braverman Home Secretary.

Liz Truss, in her previous cabinet incarnation as Foreign Secretary, had her phone hacked: “Spies suspected of working for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, gained access to sensitive information, including discussions about the Ukraine war with foreign officials … It also claimed private conversations between Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng criticising Johnson fell into the hackers’ hands, leaving them at risk of blackmail”. And it got worse.

The breach was discovered when Truss, then the foreign secretary, was running for the Tory leadership in the summer, but details were suppressed by the then-prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the cabinet secretary, Simon Case”. Not to ease her way into Downing Street, surely?

Once again, it is the willingness to cover it up, to hope it all goes away and the Tories’ political opponents don’t notice. But Labour’s Chris Bryant has noticed, askingHave I got this right? The Foreign Secretary’s phone was compromised by [Russia] and Braverman as attorney general and Home Secretary compromised national security and the two Prime Ministers covered it up. The UK is not safe in their hands”. There was more.

After the Guardian’s Pippa Crerar notedBoris Johnson and Simon Case ‘suppressed’ details of Liz Truss’s phone hack with allies fearing it could derail her Tory leadership campaign”, Liz Gerard addedThis also shows why it matters that [Braverman] … was sharing state matters on her personal account (quite apart from the leaking)”. But still she remains in post.

So not only is the pressure maintained on Sunak to do something, and thus quell the talk of his agenda being sidetracked because of perceived sleaze within his own cabinet, but also the suspicion that Perfidious Albion once again cannot be trusted will gather force among all those countries with which we are supposed to have close, and indeed trusting, relationships.

The idea that getting rid of disgraced former alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, and his habit of leaving his mobile number lying around, together with those visits to the Lebedev palazzo in Umbria where he was for some reason not accompanied by his security detail, would stop any talk of information getting into the wrong hands is no longer credible.

Sunak can make the sacking decision now. Or he can watch his credibility diminish, only to have the decision forced on him later. Decisions, decisions.

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Saturday 29 October 2022

GB News Ad Revenue - DIDDUMS

Hardly had Gammon Broadcasting™ News (“Bacon’s News Channel”) debuted, with its then star presenter, former Murdoch editor Andrew Neil, telling the few who actually tuned in that “if you want fake news, lies, disinformation, distortion of the facts, conspiracy theories, then GB News is not for you”, than it was doing something rather similar itself.

Angelos Frangopoulos

Because following Neil was the deeply unpleasant Dan Wootton, who claimed “Lockdowns are a crude measure. Mark my words, we will discover that they have caused far more deaths and devastation than the Government has ever admitted. They should be wiped from the public health playbook forever more. But tragically the doomsday scientists and public health officials have taken control. They are addicted to power and the Government’s 15-month-long, never-ending scare campaign has suitably terrified the public into supporting lockdowns”. GB News instantly became Conspiracies ‘R’ Us.

A year and a half on, this endures, with complaints to Ofcom, and hosts from Wootton to Neil Oliver to Mark Steyn to former Brexit Party Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage talking well, but lying badly. Guests appear to be carefully selected to reflect the channel’s worldview.

So it should have been no surprise to GB News’ management that, as early as June 2021, the people at Stop Funding Hate were on its case, politely but firmly reminding those who advertised on the broadcaster of the falsehood and misinformation peddled by hosts and guests alike.

And we now have confirmation that SFH’s actions are having enough of an effect that GB News’ CEO Angelos Frangopoulos has gone blubbering to the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, brandishing his king size onion and protesting that his empire is a victim of non-existent cancel culture.

The plot against GB News: ‘We were cancelled before we launched’ … The 'free speech' channel is growing its audience and star power, yet a sinister boycott is deterring advertisers. Now the fight back begins” is the hilariously OTT headline, and an admission the channel is shipping serious money.

So what’s the excuse? “There are many fronts in the war on free speech but one of the most insidious is being fought out in the basement of a building in Paddington Basin, west London … a fierce battle is being waged to secure the future of the fledgling broadcaster”. Yes? Yes yes? Yes yes yes?

Because, although the increasingly professional station is finding its feet and a growing audience, a sinister Left-wing outfit which aims to starve it of advertising revenue is maintaining a relentless campaign. And it seems that many in the advertising industry are its willing accomplices … The campaigners go under the title of Stop Funding Hate (SFH)”.

Curses! They’ve been rumbled!! But there’s more. “For GB News chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos, countering the threat from Stop Funding Hate (SFH) has been a constant worry since the station was founded: ‘We were cancelled before we launched,’ he tells me”. Yeah, right. If they were cancelled, how come they launched and are still broadcasting?

Do go on. “GB News … has set itself the task of standing outside the establishment by giving a platform to voices the other broadcasters shun. Frangopoulos … maintains that doesn’t mean the content is ‘hateful’; if it was, he says, the company would be in trouble with Ofcom”. Er hello Telegraph droids, GB News is already on its third Ofcom investigation.

But the Tel does want you to know that GB News is increasingly popular. However, “so far this audience success hasn’t translated into advertising revenue”. And guess why that is? “The problem, it seems, is the attitude of the media planners who work for the advertisers and who act as the interface between the broadcasters and the brands”. And that means what, exactly?

Stop Funding Hate has tapped into the prejudices of the sort of folk who make up the workforce in the average advertising agency. As in certain parts of the media itself, as in academia, the higher reaches of the civil service, as in every influential institution in the country it seems, a groupthink prevails dictating a certain set of ‘progressive’ attitude”. And to that I call bullshit.

The Rotten Lefties™ done it. A big boy did it and ran away. It’s a sinister plot against FREEZE PEACH. Or, more accurately, it’s none of the above. A minor media player protests that nefarious forces out there are agin them, and in the process gives the game away: GB News is shipping a lot of money, and those overseas investors may be unlikely to keep stumping up more.

GB News may be for a time, but not for all time. Just rejoice at that news.

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Friday 28 October 2022

Fortune May Not Favour The Braverman

It was the cabinet appointment - indeed, reappointment - that caused some pundits to wonder if Rishi Sunak’s judgment may be just a little wobbly, a little short of self awareness: Suella Braverman, whose apparently enforced departure from the Home Office had stressed Liz Truss’ tenure in 10 Downing Street beyond the feasible limit of its structural integrity, at the Home Office.

The MP known in private, and now increasingly in public, as “Leaky Sue” had used a personal email account to send classified material. She had sent it to someone who was not even an MP, perhaps accidentally. But little more than a week after that departure, here she was again. It was rumoured that Sunak may have offered her the job to get her on board in the leadership contest.

That, in turn, may have enabled Sunak to both head off any possibility of momentum building behind Penny Mordaunt, and the greater danger, a vote of the Tory membership between Sunak and disgraced former alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson which Bozo would have won, such is the total lack of racist bigotry among the Tory grassroots.

But now Ms Braverman is back at the Home Office, and distracting significantly from any move by Sunak to get on the front foot, to get his agenda out there and begin to improve Tory poll numbers ahead of the inevitable General Election. So he needs to take action. Because while he prevaricates, the horror stories about Ms Braverman are mounting up.

Jake Berry, who represents Rossendale and Darwen, and who served with Ms Braverman in Ms Truss’ cabinet, told Murdoch property TalkTV that she had committedmultiple breaches” of the Ministerial Code, including “documents on cybersecurity”. Labour’s Yvette Cooper asked Sunak “what security warnings did you ignore when you reappointed Home Secretary?

Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips wondered if someone may have, as the saying goes, misled the Commons: “Sunak said today in the Commons that Braverman raised the issue of the security breach. But that doesn't seem to be the case, so did Braverman lie to him or did Sunak lie to the Commons?” In one bound, Sunak may find himself embroiled in the mire.

Meanwhile, the pressure on Ms Braverman continues to build, with the Tweeter known as My Sweet Landlord spelling out why her story may not hold up for long, telling “What we need to establish is whether Suella Braverman lied when she stated that she immediately reported herself through official channels for leaking a sensitive document”.

Labour MP Chris Bryant was interviewed by former BBC man Andrew Marr, now at LBC, and told Marr that, in his opinion, Ms Braverman was a threat to national security. The London Evening Standard told readersBritain’s spy chiefs may be reluctant to share sensitive information with Suella Braverman after her controversial reappointment as Home Secretary”.

A sense of Ms Braverman’s appointment unravelling was inescapable: with the Sunday papers looming in the very near distance, My Sweet Landlord musedAndrew Percy has a copy of the Suella Braverman email. With time-stamp. Braverman claimed she did not have her phone with her during the dawn immigration raid. Let's see what time it was sent. Very simple way of getting to the truth”. And a further question then entered.

If Sunak is as ruthless as some of his detractors have made out, could he have gamed the whole thing and concluded that before long, information will emerge that will make Ms Braverman’s position untenable, even by the standards of today’s Tory party? If so, she will have outstayed her usefulness and, secure in Downing Street, he can dispatch her to the back benches.

Anyone out there who enjoys a bet may already have put a few quid on her no longer being Home Secretary come Monday morning. If only because, as Andrew Marr warned on his LBC show yesterday evening, the longer she is in post, the more damage she does to Sunak’s premiership. “The Braverman problem is wrecking [his and the Tories’] fresh start” he concluded.

And if Sunak sacks her, there will be no way back. Just rejoice at that news.

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Monday 24 October 2022

Bozo Cons His Useful Idiots AGAIN

The grand old con man Boz
He took you for a clown
He had you spin his packs of lies
And then he let you down

The attempt by former very occasional Mayor of London and disgraced former alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson to revive the political career of Himself Personally Now has come to an abrupt end, as he and the useful idiots willing to spray their credibility up the wall in his service tried to pull one whopper too many and the house fell in on them.

Liz Truss resigned as PM; a Tory leadership contest was therefore triggered. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak was favourite to replace her; Penny Mordaunt would also declare she was a candidate. And then Bozo, on yet another holiday, this time in the Caribbean, returned home to join the race. Only he had the mandate, we were told.

Sadly, it soon became clear that this was a campaign destined to develop not necessarily to his advantage: while MPs were declaring for Sunak, rather fewer of them were backing Bozo. Rishi was through the 100 threshold to get on the members’ ballot, but Johnson could not break the 60 mark. Even when his anonymous backers were added in, he was becalmed in the mid-70s.

But, come the weekend, help was at hand from a most unlikely source - the hated BBC. The Corporation’s new political editor Chris Mason, to his shame, told his followersI’m told Boris Johnson now has more than 100 backers and so could be on the ballot if he chooses to be”. This was total bullshit.

To which Sarah Lonsdale repliedIt's hard being a journalism lecturer, trying to drum into my students the importance of not reporting information until it's verified/second sourced when this kind of thing is put out by high-profile journalists. I'll have lots of questions from my students next week”. Quite.

The rest of the useful idiots were, though, rather more obvious, like the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, still pretending to be a journalist and still a Bozo booster, tellingThis is the memo Johnson campaign is circulating to MPs tonight claiming their man is ‘the best chance the Conservatives have at avoiding electoral wipe-out’”. Only he can avert the looming catastrophe!

And, despite Sky News’ Beth Rigby pointing out that their sources still had Bozo on just 59 definite and identifiable supporters, back came Master Cole: “Chris Heaton Harris tells Boris supporters Whatsapp that the verified paperwork with 100 names backing Johnson has been ‘completed’”. Except Heaton Harris had not mentioned the number 100 anywhere.

Then, to no surprise at all, Master Cole’s claim was all but endorsed by another alumnus of the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham: “Here’s Johnson MP Chris Heaton Harris in their campaign WhatsApp group claiming they’ve now verified 100 MP nominations and completed paperwork to get on the ballot … we’ll find out tomorrow”. Maybe Bloomberg just can’t get real journalists to work for them.

It was becoming all too obvious that this was a con, and a cheap and obvious one at that. But not obvious enough for the member for times long past Jacob Rees Mogg, who declared before the inquisition of Laura Kuenssberg “Clearly he is going to stand. There’s a great deal of support for him”. But did he have the 100 names required? “The people who are doing the numbers for Boris’ campaign tell me that they have the numbers. The 100 … are there”.

They weren’t. This minor detail, though, did not deter Bozo groupies like Michael Fabricant from proclaiming[Boris] WILL go to the membership. He has exceeded the 100 certified supporters … There will NOT be a coronation tomorrow”. And then, as so often with Bozo’s bluster and boosterism, reality intervened. He had been lying. And his useful idiots just lapped it up.

So it was no surprise at all when, yesterday evening, just in time for his pals in our free and fearless press to spin it for today’s front pages, Bozo did something he didn’t manage with Petronella Wyatt: he pulled out. Paul Brand at ITV noted thatHe claims he got 102 nominations (way above the number who’ve publicly declared)” and that “he says Sunak and Mordaunt won’t work with him”. It was someone else’s fault that they saw him coming. As it were.

Did he get 102 nominations? Did he buggery. He lied, and despite being taken for mugs so many times before, his useful idiots lied on his behalf. They, and Bozo, thought he could just fly back from the Caribbean, soft soap enough Tory MPs to get on the ballot, and win the members’ vote. The prospect of a Standards Committee suspension, resulting in an enforced by-election (which he would lose), was not allowed to enter.

And the saddest part? If Bozo were to get the chance again, he’d try it on again, and the same useful idiots would let him con them something rotten again. When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

Boris Johnson was for a time, but not for all time. Just rejoice at that news.

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Saturday 22 October 2022

Tory Death Cult’s Final Act

Those in and around the Tory party who know just what kind of person disgraced former alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson really is have warned against returning to him as a successor to the disastrous, but mercifully short, premiership of Liz Truss. Their voices have been largely ignored as the death cult approaches its date with destiny.

Voices like William ‘Ague, who put it directly: “Him returning is the solution? That would be going round in circles and that could become a death spiral of the Conservative Party. And I think it's possibly the worst idea I've heard of in the 46 years I've been a member of the Conservative Party”. Paul Goodman at Conservative Home was also using the D-word. But in German.

First, Johnson made the Tories a comedy. Then Truss turned them into a laughing stock. A Johnson return would risk emptying the theatre altogether, as most of the public run screaming for the exits … Conservative members may not grasp the extent to which their party is becoming a joke - here and abroad”. Then he makes the connection very few of his contemporaries have.

The thought occurs that maybe the Conservative Party no longer cares. Perhaps the sum of its ambition is to become the provisional wing of the right-wing entertainment industry: happy to preach to a diminishing band of true believers, and good for a newspaper column or fringe TV turn, while Keir Starmer gets on with the tiresome business of actually running the country”.

If so, it can look forward to a Prime Minister staffing his government with fifth raters, since the bulk of the 66 Ministers who resigned in the summer will refuse to serve. If a by-election forced by a Commons suspension doesn’t get him. If the Tory benches don’t first vote down the report into his conduct that would trigger it, thus speeding the spiral of decline”. There was more.

The Germans have a word for it: Totentanz - a dance of death. Conservative MPs, peers, donors, hacks and activists caper onwards an open grave, with Death himself - sorry, Johnson - leading the procession. The dance possesses them; it has a momentum of its own; they are powerless to stop”. Or perhaps they are merely unwilling to confront reality.

Matthew Parris, the former Tory MP who called Ms Truss’ disastrous interlude correctly, was all too willing to confront reality, telling “Put a stake through this vampire’s heart now … Johnson leaves only political death or injury in his wake so a return could kill the party and wound the country”. But for those who consider this just another game, reality has gone out the window.

This combination of denial and stupidity was exemplified by the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, still pretending to be a real journalist as political editor of the Murdoch Sun. “Even if Boris doesn’t run, the mere idea of it has provided one of the most enjoyable viewing experiences on twitter in ages. The horror, the horror. Something must be done. But, but, but.. splutter. *Heads exploding*” he blubbered, in between visits to the buffet.

For some reason, Master Cole managed not to mention the latest YouGov poll, which gave Labour a 37% lead over the Tories, and a 13% lead for Keir Starmer over Bozo as Best PM. The Blond carries a larger negativity rating than his opponents Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt. What Cole and his pals also miss is that it would be in Labour’s interests for Bozo to win.

As to that popularity, reporter Harry Taylor noted that “Sky News reporter Mark Stone, who is on the flight with Boris Johnson back from the Dominican Republic to Gatwick, said that Johnson was booed by passengers as he boarded”. Although Bozo was apparently flying economy, he, along with Carrie and the two kids, were allowed to board the aircraft first.

And from Germany, Jon Worth concluded “If you take a risk based approach to [Johnson’s] candidacy you conclude immediately it’s too risky. You can only stomach Johnson if you deny reality”. Which some right-wing commentators are now doing, including those at Gammon Broadcasting™ News (“Bacon’s News Channel”). Bozo is OK because he triggers the Rotten Lefties™.

The problem for them is that this is no longer a game. As the BBC has reported, “The UK's economic outlook has been lowered to ‘negative’ by ratings agency Moody's due to political instability and high inflation. Moody's changed the UK's outlook - which is a marker of how likely it is to pay back debts - from ‘stable’”. They saw Bozo coming. And they deal in reality.

The right-wing idiocy is beyond the looking glass. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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Friday 21 October 2022

Why Bozo Fever Is A No-No

The goldfish bowl of Westminster politics seems to have induced goldfish-like memory spans in some of its observers: one look at today’s front pages shows that the right-leaning part of our free and fearless press has not only forgotten its complicity in installing the disaster that was Liz Truss, but it has also forgotten just why there had to be a change of leader in the first place.

Amid growing calls for a General Election, driven partly by Ms Truss having junked so many of the Tories’ 2019 manifesto commitments, and partly by the inability of the Tories to actually govern, the question was straightforward enough: what would a sensible and rational political party have done? What would a reality based party have done? What would Nietzsche have done?

Sadly, all too many of the Tories’ MPs, hangers-on and press allies do not inhabit such a lofty intellectual plain. So it is that the Daily Mail has thundered “BORIS v RISHI: FIGHT FOR SOUL OF THE TORIES”. The increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph offers “Boris Johnson tells Tories: I can save party from election wipeout”. The Murdoch Sun claims “BOJO: I’LL BE BACK”, and the Daily Brexit, still called the Express, asks “HE COULDN’T COULD HE … WILL BORIS BOUNCE BACK TO No 10?

None of these less than august organs manages equal prominence for the mildly inconvenient fact that disgraced former alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is at present on yet another holiday, this time in the Caribbean, when he should be serving his constituents and lending his support to his party by bothering to turn up to the Commons.

Nor do they manage to explain why someone who was forced out in disgrace not so long ago should be allowed anywhere near the levers of power, such is the appetite among the client journalist and courtier establishment to elevate one of their own to the Top Job. The game of Fantasy PM combines with the herd instinct and inconvenient reality goes out the window.

Why that reality matters was hinted at by LBC host James O’Brien, who musedThe list of things that people agitating for Johnson's return clearly don't care about is incredible when you think about [it]: corruption, law-breaking, cronyism, avoidable deaths, bullying, lying, rule-breaking, Russian spies, ethical breaches, trashing parliamentary standards etc”.

James Doleman had a few specifics as to why Bozo left the first time. “Sections of the media may have forgotten Boris Johnson had to resign for covering up for a sex offender then lying about it. I doubt most of the public have”. Also, there was the illegal proroguing of Parliament, which involved misleading The Queen, then trying to rewrite the rules to protect another disgraced Tory MP, Owen Paterson. Then came the standards committee.

As Josiah Mortimer, whose usual beat is covering London Mayoral politics, put it, “Privileges committee insider tells The Sun that No 10’s *own evidence* handed to the privileges committee is so damning it is likely to lead to a Commons suspension of the person leading the leadership race by some counts: Boris Johnson”. And, most likely, a recall by-election. In Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Which Bozo would be highly likely to lose.

What’s the investigation about? As Left Foot Forward has put it, Bozo “is currently under investigation over whether he misled MPs over the partygate scandal, after he insisted no rules were broken”. In other words, it’s about him allegedly lying to Parliament. And talking of Bozo having a succession of trouser igniting moments, Peter Oborne has reminded us that there is more.

His article chronicling Bozo’s lies, which only goes up to May this year, tells with some restraint of “A list of misleading statements made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons which remain uncorrected on the official record in defiance of the Ministerial Code”. There are more than 60 instances of Bozo lying to the Commons. And some Tories want him back.

In 2019, trust in the UK’s written press had fallen to 15%. One look at those Mail, Telegraph, Sun and Express front pages tells you how that has come about. Bozo may be an SOB, but he’s their SOB. Meanwhile, the electorate knows that he’s a shameless and unprincipled liar, a workshy sponger, a sexually incontinent charlatan who is far less nice than he looks.

Why might all those foreigners be laughing at the UK? You might wish to ask that. I couldn’t possibly comment.

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Thursday 20 October 2022

The Tories Disintegrate

Everyone with a merely tangential grasp of reality told those in and around the Tory party that making Mary Elizabeth Truss the next Prime Minister would end one way, with the certainty of night following day: it would be a disaster from which that party might not recover for some time, if at all. That advice went unheeded, the inevitable happened, and here we are.

Where might that be? Looking on as the Tories squabble - resorting not only to the usual dirty tricks and sly briefing, but also to physical coercion - then collapse not so much by implosion, but by disintegration under the stresses caused by ideology buffeted by its encounter with reality. Spending a day travelling, sometimes out of range, now means missing resignations, sackings, fighting, and the sound of opinion poll ratings hitting bedrock.

What started with Kwasi Kwarteng’s alleged mini-budget (you’ll remember him, he was Chancellor of the Exchequer once) and markets taking fright has now become the Tories sweeping all before them in the latest round of the Team Shambles awards, together with the prospect of electoral wipeout.

Kwarteng was effectively sacked by Ms Truss; in his place came Jeremy HUNT HUNT HUNT HUNT HUNT HUNT HUNT. Right-wing pundits were incandescent with rage: the deeply unpleasant Dan Wootton, former Brexit Party Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and the rest of the convocation of contrarianism at Gammon Broadcasting™ News (“Bacon’s News Channel”) banged on about Globalists and lack of democracy.

Ms Truss has not submitted herself to the electorate, but they don’t mind that, such are the high principles of having power without responsibility. But the departure of Kwarteng was a mere hors d’oeuvres for the much more substantial entrée that was the acrimonious sacking of Suella Braverman from the Home Office, something many wished had happened rather earlier.

Ms Braverman had sent an official document from a personal email address, which is against the rules, and to make matters worse, had sent it to someone who was not in the cabinet, and not an MP either, as she had not addressed it correctly. Thus she confirmed her lack of suitability for high office, or indeed for any role that involved addressing emails correctly.

But to her credit, Ms Braverman’s bridge-burning resignation letter should put an end to any prospect of her getting anywhere near high office ever again. She was replaced by Grant “Spiv” Shapps; Farage went off on one about Globalists again, this time with added anti-Semitism. Shapps is Jewish.

With the so-called mini budget consigned to history under the revising eye of HUNT CULTURE HUNT CULTURE HUNT CULTURE, the member for times long past Jacob Rees Mogg at one point admitting that he was not sure who was still in the cabinet, and letters of no confidence piling up in Graham Brady’s in-tray, the prospect has to be faced: will Ms Truss last the week?

Is there a Government chief whip? Wendy Morton suggested last night that she wasn’t. Then she was. Her deputy may also have resigned and then un-resigned. Shapps was too busy to turn up to answer a Labour Urgent Question this morning; perhaps facing off against Yvette Cooper was not such an appealing prospect. But, ultimately, this is no laughing matter.

Inflation has officially been confirmed at its highest level in 40 years, industrial unrest is spreading, eco-protests are spreading likewise, the act of national self-harm that is Brexit is making matters worse, fuel bills are rocketing, poverty is worsening accordingly, and we have a Government that is largely absent from the field of play. And that’s not good enough.

Liz Truss is finished, a PM in name only, a zombie leader. Any idea that the Tories can get away with swapping her for Rishi Sunak or anyone else without going to the country is not credible, with their 2019 manifesto now so much ancient history. This is a party that has finally run out of road.

We need a genuine change of Government, and that means a General Election. If the result brings a Tory wipeout, well, BOO FUCKING HOO.

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Wednesday 12 October 2022

More Lawsuits - Sun And Mail Silent

The inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker have today decided that, despite the share crisis, the pension funds crisis, the Sterling crisis, the cost of living crisis and whatever other crises emerge from our terminally inept Government, we should Look Over There at its campaign to have the May Day bank holiday moved because of King Charles’ upcoming coronation.

Phone hacking? Not at the Sun when I was editor ...

Likewise, the Murdoch faithful working on the Super Soaraway Currant Bun want us to look at yet another Maddie story, as if the public needs to know, and indeed whether the McCann family wants the constant reminders. But what neither title is going to tell you is that the litany of lawsuits against them has just taken on a new impetus. And they won’t like it one bit.

The Sun’s management won’t want to be reminded that they spent so many years telling the world that phone hacking had only happened at the late and not at all lamented Screws, which was closed down as a result (OK, Rupe and Co wanted to close it anyway, and turn the Sun into a seven days a week operation, but we’re supposed to ignore that). They didn’t do it, right?

Indeed, as James Doleman has pointed out, “It was a key part of Rebekah Brooks' defence in court that there was no evidence phone hacking took place at The Sun while she was editor … Indeed, it was an ‘agreed fact’ put to the jury”. So guess what is now alleged? You got it - that phone hacking did indeed take place at the Sun during Ms Brooks’ time as editor.

As Jim Waterson at the Guardian has told, “There are now eight additional ‘Sun-only claims’ working their way through the legal system. The group is led by the actor Hugh Grant, who has been joined by the 7/7 London bombings survivor John Tulloch, the jockey Kieren Fallon, and David Beckham’s father, Ted. The other individuals making Sun-only claims include Charlotte Church’s mother, Maria, George Best’s former agent Phil Hughes, Paul Gascoigne’s friend Jimmy ‘Five Bellies’ Gardner and Tricia Bernal, the mother of the murdered stalking victim Clare Bernal”. And there was more.

The Sun-only claims come after more than 150 individuals launched new phone-hacking cases against Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers (NGN). They include … Gerry McCann … Peter Mandelson, Andy Burnham, Tom Watson, Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, Alistair Carmichael [and] Tim Farron … Tom Parker Bowles and Andrew Parker Bowles … Doreen Lawrence”.

Any more? “Tulisa … Christopher Jefferies … Shaun Wright-Phillips and Robbie Fowler … Jimmy Carr, Christopher Biggins … Sam Mendes … Tom Bradby, Clare Balding, Chris Moyles, Diane-Louise Jordan, Anne Diamond … Louise Redknapp, Gary Barlow and Nadine Coyle”. That’s a lot of claimants for something that never happened. But for the Mail, the news is worse.

... and not at the f***ing Mail either, c***

Remember that the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, now editor-in-chief of the Mail titles, told the Leveson Inquiry that his paper - he was then editor of the Daily Mail - had not indulged in phone hacking. And even the claims that someone working on behalf of the Mail had planted bugs and listened in to landline conversations did not necessarily mean hacking took place.

Jim Waterson again: “The Daily Mail’s parent company is facing its first legal claim for phone hacking, after the former Liberal Democrat MP Sir Simon Hughes filed a case against the newspaper publisher. Hughes is alleging that Associated Newspapers … misused his private information. He is expected to claim that the newspaper publisher employed a private investigator who improperly accessed his voicemail messages”. Ouch!

Dacre’s testimony to Leveson - “I cannot be any more unequivocal, that all my inquiries and all the evidence I’ve received, and having spoken to the editor of my group: our group did not hack phones” is repeated. Waterson’s colleague Jane Martinson tells why this is bad timing for Dacre.

News of the legal action … and the subsequent revelation that [Simon Hughes] has filed a case accusing Associated Newspapers, the owner of the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, of phone hacking have done little so far to dent expectations of Dacre’s imminent elevation to the House of Lords”. But there are misgivings about the Vagina Monologue’s peerage.

Chris Bryant … who has accused Dacre of ‘poisoning the well of British politics’, has called for any potential peerage to be delayed during the legal action”. Ms Martinson concludes “for [Dacre] to go to a place of public service without clarity about claims that allege a great deal of public harm would be a travesty”. Lords Appointments Commission take note.

The Murdoch mafiosi said there was no hacking on Ms Brooks’ watch. Dacre said his paper didn’t do hacking. So there’ll be no payments to any of those claimants, will there? Meanwhile, there may be a garden bridge for sale.

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Friday 7 October 2022

Mail - Shame And Silence

The Mail titles, right now, are continuing their assault on the Sussexes, with their pointless Phil Space “journalism” exemplified by headlines like “'The wild lad died the day Prince Harry met Meghan Markle': Bombshell new book claims 'dashing' Duke of Sussex was saved from turning into a 'seedy old roué' when he began dating ex-Suits actress”. There was no bombshell.

Keep quiet, c***, or you're f***ing next

But there was the usual Megs bashing, with headlines such as “Princess Diana would NOT have been an admirer of Meghan Markle because 'she would think she'd stolen her son Harry', royal photographer claims”, and “Courtiers 'felt sick' when they had to work with Meghan and Prince Harry who 'carried out loyalty tests' on Palace staff, royal author claims”.

On and on and on, a constant churn of hatred, lots of claims from fringe nonentities given undue importance by the obsession of the inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker, driven on by the greater obsession of their editor in chief, the mass of boiling rage that is the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre. Why do they do it? An article given rather less prominence tells why.

The publisher of the Daily Mail last night unambiguously rejected 'groundless' and 'preposterous smears' after legal claims were lodged by a group including Sir Elton John, Prince Harry and Baroness Doreen Lawrence … These unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims - based on no credible evidence”. The rebuttal carries the imprimatur of the chief reporter.

But apart from the whining braggadocio, we learn little about what is being alleged. For that, we have to look elsewhere. Like the BBC: “Sir Elton John is among several public figures taking legal action against the publisher of the Daily Mail over what they call ‘gross breaches of privacy’. The Duke of Sussex, Baroness Doreen Lawrence and actresses Sadie Frost and Elizabeth Hurley have also filed cases against Associated Newspapers Ltd”.

There was more. “The company's alleged activity includes having listening devices secretly placed inside people's cars and homes”. Also alleged is “The commissioning of individuals to surreptitiously listen into and record people's live, private telephone calls whilst they were taking place … The payment of police officials, with corrupt links to private investigators, for inside, sensitive information … The impersonation of individuals to obtain medical information from private hospitals, clinics, and treatment centres by deception”.

The Guardian report addsTheir lawyers issued a statement claiming they have ‘compelling and highly distressing evidence’ they have been the ‘victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy’ by Associated Newspapers. The group claimed this could be the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and there may be many more alleged victims”. There is more.

Lady Lawrence’s decision to start legal action against the newspaper group is particularly notable given the Daily Mail led a campaign for her son’s killers to be brought to justice”. And, my goodness, is the Mail crying like a mardy toddler over that. But the allegations are mounting up.

Byline Investigates notes that they also include “Private Investigators allege that landlines were tapped - a much more serious offence than phone hacking … Further allegations include breaking into cars and bugging homes”. Oh, and “the paper’s long-serving Editor-in-Chief Paul Dacre denied his papers hacked phones in sworn evidence at the Leveson Inquiry … If it turns out the Mail were involved and he knew, Dacre potentially faces 51 weeks in jail for misleading a public inquiry”. And maybe no peerage.

But at least the fear factor is keeping other papers from embarrassing the Mail by republishing the story. And the Mail titles are maintaining their righteous denial while keeping up their campaign of obsessive hatred against the Sussexes. The reason for such righteousness is not hard to fathom: the Mail managed to get out of the phone hacking débàcle more or less unscathed. This time it is set to look very different.

Worse for them, it will only increase the clamour for Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry, shelved by the Tories in a deal with the devil the party may come to regret, to be revisited. Hence the discomfort of the Vagina Monologue.

The Mail so often got the story before others. This case may reveal how.

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Tuesday 4 October 2022

Service Interruption

Gone are the days when Zelo Street put out the thick end of a hundred blog posts a month, and no, they’re not coming back. But even the more reduced and occasionally leisurely writing régime of 2022 is sometimes too much: the next few days, and maybe a few more periods of a few days after that, will most likely demand enough of my attention to interrupt normal service.

There’s going to be a lot of travelling, meeting people, getting to grips with as yet unknown ways of working, and lots of the kind of stuff that leaves folks in an ever so slightly stressed state. So the likelihood is that blog posts will be an occasional item until next week, and not much more than occasional for a week or two after that. Needs must. Some things you don’t do so often.

I may well reveal all some time after the dust has settled. In the meantime, there’s always the back catalogue, filled with observations and revelations from thirteen and a half years at the blog face. Yes, it’s really that long ago.

Maintaining radio silence does not mean I’ve gone away. Not yet, anyhow.

Sunday 2 October 2022

Truss’ Dictatorship Delusion

Unfortunately there are a lot of things that seemingly only I can do”. Is that taken from the front page lead of the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph today? After all, with that lead story carrying the headline “Truss: only my plan for growth will reverse UK’s slow decline”, one might conclude thus. But the person who said that was not interested in democracy.

No, those words came from António de Oliveira Salazar, who was only in favour of democracy if he and his minions could rig the result in his favour, and for more than 35 years they did just that. His continued presence in office was justified, as one historian put it, as “He considered himself the guide of the nation, believed that there were things which only he could do”.

Salazar was not the only dictator who held to that view: his next-door neighbour, Francisco Franco, clung on to the bitter end, partly through a similar mindset. No doubt there were others. The dictators knew they had power and could hold on to it. For Liz Truss, somehow elevated to the rank of Prime Minister, she cannot count on that certainty. So she looks delusional.

This was the impression given by her appearance on the BBC’s new Laura Kuenssberg show: the Corporation might have wished they could still call on the services of Andrew Marr, or perhaps Andrew Neil, but then, Ms Truss may well have bodyswerved both. The revelation that reinforced that impression was when she admitted that the cabinet had not been consulted, or even informed, of the decision to abolish the 45p income tax rate.

Liz Truss? Can I monetise that?

What was the cabinet there for, then? This wasn’t a mere detail of budget, for which the cabinet would not expect to be told, but the headline item, the move that would lead coverage in the following morning’s papers. Ms Truss doubled down: she would be making use of her 80-seat Commons majority.

Which gave Ms Kuenssberg the opening she needed: “How many people voted for your plan”? It was a fair question: the mini budget goes against the manifesto on which the Tories won the last General Election. If she is going to change course so radically, she should be seeking her own mandate. But her apparently dictatorial leanings (plus her lack of popularity) mean she won’t.

It looked like she would cut public spending, for which she also has no mandate. This was covered with a fog of verbiage: “Truss sending pretty clear signal she will cut spending - tho she calls it ‘input' … I believe in outcomes … how does it feel for a patient? Quite often the debate focuses on the input…” noted Paul Waugh. She was asked to confirm or deny this.

Liz who?

Waugh again: “Truss refuses to confirm benefits will rise in line with inflation. But DOES say pensions will”. Biggest block of Tory voters kept sweet. The poorest thrown under the bus. The much better news was that former cabinet minister Michael “Oiky” Gove, who was on the Kuenssberg show panel, concludedUsing borrowed money to fund tax cuts. That’s not conservative”.

He went further, as BBC economics editor Faisal Islam observed: “headlining a Budget on 45p shows ‘wrong values’ … And pressed on whether he would vote for such a Budget he answers ‘I don’t believe it’s right’”. Which sounds like an abstention at the very least. How many more Tory MPs will defy the whips and threats of deselection? Can she pass the budget measures?

And that is where the dictator’s delusion splashed across the front page of the Tel comes unstuck. Those who already held absolute power, and the ability to keep it that way for the foreseeable future, could call themselves indispensable. Another of what Robin Day memorably and rightly called “here today and gone tomorrow politicians” could not.

With as many as 70 Tory MPs ready to call for Ms Truss to go, either she changes tack or they remove her. Multiple opinion polls registering a Labour lead of 30% or more may have caused push to come to shove. The Telegraph front page may be the last straw. This week’s Tory conference could be very eventful indeed. As could its immediate aftermath.

The time of Liz Truss was for a time, but not for all time. Just rejoice at that news.

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Saturday 1 October 2022

Why Trussonomics Has Already Failed

Why, some out there on the right have wondered, have the markets reacted with such contempt for the mini budget put forward by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng on behalf of Liz Truss, who has somehow been elevated to the rank of Prime Minister? The economics, after all, had the impeccable pedigree of the finest think tanks in SW1 behind it. What was not to like?

And that is where all those credulous right wingers went wrong: those advising Ms Truss, bodies like the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, and the IEA, are not “think tanks”. They are Astroturf lobby groups, whose modus operandi includes getting their copy in the papers as a means of raising their public profile. But the way they do that should ring alarm bells.

Sleight of hand, logic leaps and downright dishonesty, combined with economic illiteracy, are all deployed by these groups. They are never discovered by the right-wing press that laps up their propaganda, but the markets can see through the façade in no time. Let’s see some examples.

The TPA published a “report” in 2009 called Taxpayer Funded Lobbying, claiming that the then Brown Government was paying firms to lobby itself. However, there was no proof of what the payments were for, and the firms concerned did things other than lobbying. On being called out for the logic leap, the TPA tried to lie their way out of it. They failed.

No matter, back came the TPA with the claim that speed cameras, far from reducing accidents and casualties, actually made matters worse. This was sleight of hand, covered up by a regression analysis and Chow Test. However, their claim only works if all speed cameras were introduced on the same date - 1991. Most did not appear until after the turn of the millennium.

And then we come to the HS2 project, where both the TPA and IEA indulged in economic illiteracy in order to dupe the press. The TPA went first, claiming that HS2 would need Crossrail 2 to be built in order to disperse the crowds of punters using its trains when they arrived at Euston. Therefore, they claimed, the cost of Crossrail 2 should be added to the HS2 cost/benefit analysis.

The IEA followed the Crossrail 2 cost addition line, but doubled the projected cost from £10 billion to £20 billion to make the numbers that bit scarier. But neither of these groups carried over the projected benefits of Crossrail 2, hence the economic illiteracy. Projects dependent on one another is not the problem - it is the deception that is. The IEA is now four-square behind what is being called Trussonomics, and this is why everything is unravelling.

Logic leaps, sleight of hand, deceptive use of statistical analysis tools, selective use of figures to dishonestly load a cost/benefit analysis, and then being prepared to spin and lie about any or all of it, does not impress the markets. On the other hand, trying to justify screwing over the poor in order to bung the rich a bit more dosh by saying it’s “fair” doesn’t impress the public.

Getting your propaganda in the papers, bagging a berth on the Daily Politics, Question Time, the Kuenssberg show, the Peston Show, or the Sky News equivalent is one thing. The real world is quite another. Shame on the broadcasters for platforming these spivs and chancers, and God help the rest of us now that we are being softened up for swingeing spending cuts.

Our Prime Minister is not dealing in reality. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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