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Friday, 22 September 2023

So Farewell Then Rupert Murdoch

As the dust settles, and we see clearly a political landscape ravaged by hatred, bigotry, paranoia, division, denialism, faux populism, and an Overton Window dragged deliberately and relentlessly to the right, those elected to serve may take responsibility for the impoverishment of debate and livelihoods, and they may not. But they are just the fall guys.

Out goes the old face of evil ...

In the English-speaking world, from his native Australia to the UK to the USA, which gave him citizenship, one individual bears responsibility for poisoning the well, and his name is Keith Rupert Murdoch. Here we have had a mafia boss to outrank all other mafia bosses, whose empire has messed up whole countries, and with no comeback to worry about. Let that sink in.

So when the news came yesterday that Don Rupioni was finally relinquishing the reins of power to his favourite son Lachlan, and some commentators began to praise the old tyrant, one could be sure that this reflected only the emptiness and amorality of so much of the media class. Rupert Murdoch was not just an unelected foreigner. He was the embodiment of pure evil.

One need only consider the kinds of people that the Murdoch mafiosi have willingly employed: the deeply unpleasant Kelvin McFilth, their UK CEO Rebekah Brooks (twice), the singularly repellant Dan Wootton, and over at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) there were wackos like Glenn Beck, Jeanine Pirro, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson.

When the new media idiocy like Darren Grimes (not at all craftily) say of himRupert Murdoch has been a force for good in the world throughout his life and through his media empire”, you can deduce two things: Grimes is full of crap (which you probably knew anyway), and he is desperately trying to gain the attention of someone in the Baby Shard bunker - to score some money.

This is not an isolated example: as with the central premise of Terry Southern’s Magic Christian, people will do anything for money; everyone has their price. The Murdoch empire added fear to that equation: do as you’re told and you’re paid well, don’t do as you’re told and you become a journalistic Unperson in very short order. And don’t even think about whistleblowing.

... and in comes the new one

So while the BBC report on Rupe kicking himself upstairs is procedural and anodyne (the Beeb is also scared of him), the Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has brought usPower and scandal: how Murdoch drove the UK, US and Australia to the right”, which is rather more revealing, reminding us that phone hacking is still a thing, and Fox News is in big defamation trouble.

He notes “The Sun, whose Page 3 topless photographs lasted 44 years, turned from Labour to supporting Margaret Thatcher. Murdoch bought the Times titles with a supportive government in the background and fought the print unions at Wapping - before switching later to Tony Blair, eagerly backing him over the invasion of Iraq and sticking with him long after it had been revealed to be a disaster”. Hundreds of thousands dead. A failed state.

Every Murdoch newspaper backed the Iraq War. All 170 plus of them. The idea that all those editors came to the decision independently is pure tosh. Sabbagh again: “When the polls turned again, the papers, always with the proprietor making the final call, backed David Cameron, then Brexit, a once marginal cause that had been kept alive by a handful of rightwing newspapers … until it eventually went mainstream”. Another disaster.

And another disaster for which Don Rupioni does not have to face any kind of judgment. He is a politician unanswerable to electorates, the ultimate example of Stanley Baldwin’s “Power without responsibility”.

What, then, of favourite son Lachlan? He is just as far to the right as his father. He also, it seems, would continue the now loss-making Sun. The editorial line at Fox News is unlikely to change. The hatred, bigotry, paranoia, climate change denialism and faux populism will carry on. The elected politicians will bow down before the new Capo di Tutti Capi.

Unless the Murdoch family indulge in a little infighting. That’s your only hope.

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Thursday, 21 September 2023

Rishi Sunak Slags Off Himself

With the Tories still well north of 20 points behind Labour in the polls, amateur Prime Minister Rishi Sunak needed something to take to Conference season, something his loyal followers could sell on the doorstep. So-called Inaction Man had to become active. So what would a sensible PM have done? What would an honest PM have done? What would Nietzsche have done?

"Honest" Sunak - not waving but drowning

Such is the desperation of not only the Tories, but their cheerleaders in and around our free and fearless press, that the answer consisted not merely of talking well, but lying badly, but a retrospective redefinition of reality, so that Sunak could claim he was ditching a host of policy commitments that had not existed in the first place. And the press followed him down his rabbit hole.

Here’s the claims put out on Sunak’s behalf. “We’re stopping heavy-handed measures … Taxes on eating meat … New taxes to discourage flying … Sorting your rubbish into seven different bins … Compulsory car sharing … Expensive insulation upgrades”. The first four of those five points do not exist, so to claim they are being stopped is a flat-out lie.

And the fifth, on insulation upgrades, is firstly a “no citation” claim (how is it ‘expensive’?), and secondly, the beneficiaries are in most part going to be the landlord class - the already well off. So the only real change proposed will not benefit working people. “There is nothing to be scrapped.. You're making a series of claims that aren't truehe was told on the Today programme.

His response? “I don't think its right to chase the short term headlines, just assert some goal for the future without a clear plan to deliver it and without being honest”. But that is exactly what he is doing. And the short-term headlines are just as he would have wanted, with the Daily Brexit, still called the Express, leading the way with the fantasy and propaganda.

‘HONEST’ RISHI: NATION WON’T AND CAN’T PAY NET ZERO BILL”. Putting “HONEST” in quote marks? OH WHAT A GIVEAWAY! The Mail was also bending reality to suit itself, with “I’LL SPARE FAMILIES RUINOUS COST OF NET ZERO, VOWS RISHI … PM takes on eco-zealots in bold move that could transform Tory fortunes”. But the Sun went one worse.

Sun Campaign Victory … Rishi delays bans on new cars & boilers … Scraps meat & flight tax in eco pushback … Given us a brake!” As Harold Macmillan almost said many years ago, could we have an English translation of that? The supporting article, under the by-line of the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, still pretending to be a journalist, maintains the dishonesty.

THE PM hailed The Sun tonight as he delayed crippling net zero targets”. What makes them “crippling”, Master Cole? You wouldn’t be just recycling a Downing Street press release, would you? He also claims “he bins petrol car ban” when no ban on petrol cars is proposed. He should have said NEW petrol cars. So “Drivers have a five-year reprieve from going electric” is crap.

Then we get “A ban on gas boilers was binned, along with taxes on meat and flying”. Would that be NEW gas boilers? So misleading again. And those taxes on meat and flying don’t exist. So that’s lying to boot. And it got worse. “Mr Sunak … announced ‘BONKERS proposals for seven household bins, forced car pooling and taxes on meat and flying would never return’”.

There is no proposal for seven household bins, or forced car pooling. But the non-existent taxes on meat and flying get another mention. So why is the Sun going all-in with the whoppers? “Writing in The Sun today, the PM added: ‘Hard-pressed families shouldn’t have to pay an unaffordable price to reach net zero’”. Ah, the Murdoch mafiosi get a press release, sorry article, out of it.

And what makes current Net Zero proposals “unaffordable”? It’s just another example of what Peter Oborne called “shovelling it on” - don’t bother with doing any analysis, don’t interrogate your source, just recycle what they feed you. Master Cole gets called a “Political Editor”, yet all he and his contemporaries are doing is recycling press releases for the Tories.

It’s the only recycling scheme the press can agree on. So it will continue.

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Tuesday, 19 September 2023

Debanking - Farage Lying Again

It was the stand-out story of the silly season: former Brexit Party Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage was to have his account with exclusive private bank Coutts closed. This was because, once he had repaid an outstanding loan, he would no longer meet the criteria for having an account there. But he was offered an ordinary NatWest account.

Nige was incandescent. Didn’t they know who he was? Well, yes they did, and Coutts also considered the reputational risk of having a racist bigot and congenital liar on the books. Ultimately, all turned out well for him: he got to keep his Coutts account, had a couple of NatWest bosses resign, and kept his undeserved high profile. So he kept appearing on the airwaves.

His latest crusade was all about Debanking. Especially all those who were having their accounts closed because of their political views, something he had largely made up. To this end, the Financial Conduct Authority would launch an investigation into the 12-month period to last June. Jeremy Hunt (the former Culture Secretary) told the FCA to get a move on and report.

And now report they have. As Sky News has told us, “The watchdog brought forward the publication of its findings, covering practices at 34 lenders, after an apparent leak to the Financial Times”. Do go on. “The FCA said the evidence it had gathered ‘suggests that no firm closed an account between July 2022 and June 2023 primarily because of a customer's political views’”.

But, they conceded, there was more work to do: “It added that it planned to work further with banks, building societies and payment companies to verify the data they supplied and better understand why and when they close accounts due to reputational risk”. These findings, though, were not in accordance with the requirements of Mr Thirsty. So he kicked off.

The FCA says it finds no evidence of politicians being 'de-banked' over political views. This new report is a whitewash and a joke … If we don't have a regulator that is fit for purpose, what hope is there for our banking industry?” So let’s pick apart his torrent of invective, false assumptions, logic leaps, opinion passed off as fact, and general dishonesty.

Whitewash and joke” is his opinion, based on no evidence at all. Equally, he provides nothing to back up his inference that the FCA is not “fit for purpose”. That claim appears to depend wholly on his “whitewash and joke” opinion being recast as fact. The major take-away from this latest Farage outburst is that any assertion he makes needs backing up with a reliable second source.

Meanwhile, the BBC has added thatThe watchdog's investigation looked at data from 34 banks and payment companies covering the period from June 2022 to June 2023. It said it had reviewed a number of cases where political views or other opinions were cited as a cause for closing an account”.

HOWEVER, “But in none of the cases was this the main reason, with customer behaviour, such as the use of ‘racist language directed towards staff’, most often to blame”. Nige wasn’t having any of that, either. “Mr Farage called the findings ‘absolutely farcical … To suggest no one gets debanked for their political views is total nonsense,’ he said, adding that there were ‘dozens’ of examples of where this had happened”. He knows what to do.

And that is to pony up the details of all those dozens, so that the FCA can check them out. After all, he wouldn’t have a problem with that, unless for some reason he was exaggerating, misinterpreting information, or just lying. So we can see how truthful his claim “I can only conclude that they're part of the problem, rather than part of the solution” really is, or maybe not.

Farage has declined to take any responsibility for the slow-motion national economic car crash that has followed Brexit. No doubt he will decline to take responsibility for hostility to banking institutions following his smearing of them. So once again the question has to be asked: why does the media class keep on awarding him a credibility that he does not deserve?

He said Debanking was a thing. He lied. I’ll just leave that one there.

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Monday, 18 September 2023

Russell Brand - Mail Plays Catch-Up

Having said nothing about what Russell Brand may or may not have got up to during his journey through media circles, the inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker are now pretending that only they have the real story. The problem they also have is that the rest of the press, and many of their readers, know that they don’t. And today’s best shot only goes to confirm that view.

Guy Adams in self-descriptive pose

The Dacre doggies have deemed the need to not only show that they knew all about Brand, but also use the exposé by the Times, Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches strand to kick the left. To this end, the Mail has taken out the long handle in the form of a hit piece from their specialist hit piece supremo Guy Adams, where he talks well, but lies badly.

Why was self-confessed narcissist Russell Brand ever lauded by the Left? How the liberal media feted the comedian as a political messiah - and set him on his path to becoming a conspiracy-peddling crank” trumpets the headline, but sadly, Adams drops a mirth-inducing whopper in the first paragraph.

A very special guest shambled his way into the Guardian newspaper's morning editorial conference and took a seat next to editor Alan Rusbridger on a striking yellow designer sofa”. Striking yellow designer sofa? As Billy Connolly once said, there’s going to be some swearing … FUCK OFF.

Full disclosure: I have seen the Rusbridger-era Guardian editorial conference room. And I’ll give Adams the Yellow part. The seating was indeed yellow. But the only striking thing about it was the lack of comfort. Not sure on “sofa”, and as for “designer” - there’s going to be an awful lot of involuntary hilarity among current and former Guardian staffers. This is the lowest form of tosh.

Worse, you don’t have to look far to see references to that furniture (Evening Standard, of all publications, recalls it HERE). And that’s the problem: having seen Adams lying at the top of his article, the reader is bound to suspect that the rest of his screed will be similarly afflicted. Like “The August 2013 meeting kicked off a series of high-profile and doubtless lucrative collaborations between Brand and various pillars of Britain's liberal media establishment”.

What the f***'s this got to do with me, c***?!?!?

DOUBTLESS? What Adams means is that he doesn’t know, and his bosses dare not let his article out without the necessary caveat. Because this isn’t someone from the general public who can’t afford to sue - Russell Brand is rich enough to hit the Mail with a lawsuit if he finds them not only lying, but defaming him. Adams’ piece had to include another of those tell-tale caveats when it came to former Labour leader, and Mail hate figure, Ed Miliband.

Impressed by the audience Brand could generate, and again seemingly unfazed by the sometimes bonkers and occasionally sinister fringe views he'd expressed, Ed Miliband subsequently decided to seek an endorsement from [him]”. SEEMINGLY. Best include that, cos Mil the Younger’s wife’s a Judge.

Elsewhere, Adams tells his readers nothing of substance. Brand got invited on to Newsnight (so what?). Pax Jeremiah didn’t approve (so what?). He called former Brexit Party Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage “a pound shop Enoch Powell”. Which sort of negates the headline claim of “Liberal media” if it keeps giving airtime to Mr Thirsty.

We get a slice of guilt by association: “Last year, after being suspended from YouTube for promoting vaccine misinformation, he moved to Rumble, a video site also used by misogynistic social media star Andrew Tate”. There is the obligatory sneer at the alleged value of his house: “a £3.3million house in Henley, Oxfordshire, where Brand built a studio in a garden shed”.

Press Gazette has noted thatThe Mail was ... criticised online for appearing to take credit for reporting the allegations against Brand ‘first’. In the Mail on Sunday, a headline claimed: ‘First with the news again… yesterday’s Daily Mail was the only paper with the story.’” But the Mail is, for the second day running, desperately playing catch-up, knowing that those who actually broke the story have follow-up content ready to go.

The Mail’s been caught doing opinion and no journalism. It may not recover.

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Sunday, 17 September 2023

The Mail And Russell Brand

The exposé by the Murdoch Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches of comedian Russell Brand has told us many things: the rich and powerful enjoying the limelight can get away with behaviour that would get lesser mortals a criminal record, it takes a lot of journalistic hard yards and yet more legalling to get an exposé published, and not everyone likes the result.

Russell Brand

Bev Turner at Gammon Broadcasting™ News (“Bacon’s News Channel”) was one of them. “You are being attacked [Russell Brand] … Establishment media don't know what to do with the fact that you have 6million subscribers”. But not to worry, Brand was welcome on her show anytime. That one of her fellow presenters is the desperate and devalued Dan Wootton is somehow missed.

Aseem Malhotra told Brand “We support you mate” before the Tweet announcing his endorsement disappeared from view. An observant Tweeter asked “Was it the Times article or Dispatches?” Floor crosser Paul Embery declaredRussell Brand is entitled to the presumption of innocence”. Except that there was no criminal case against him. Then came the hypocrisy.

From media noise floor occupant TalkTV, tedious self-promotion specialist Julia Hartley Dooda: “I waited to see the … investigation of [Russell Brand] before forming an opinion on the allegations … I also want to hear [his] defence … Without a Police inquiry or court case, we can’t know for sure what really happened”. Which wasn’t what she said about Huw Edwards.

But in the biscuit-taking pantheon of media shithousery, these bad faith actors paled into insignificance before the inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker: the Mail on Sunday, as befits the modus operandi of the Dacre doggies, after saying less than boo for the duration of the Sunday Times and Channel 4 investigation, suddenly and miraculously knew more than everyone else.

We know this from the MoS’ front page headline: “As comic brazenly takes to the stage, Police urge victims to come forward … BRAND IS ACCUSED OF RAPE - AND GROOMING A GIRL OF 16”. Moreover, readers are told of an “Exclusive MoS Dossier”. The paper has devoted six pages to “The Full Extraordinary Story”. The problem for the MoS is the lack of exclusivity.

Which does not extend much further than “Four women alleged they were assaulted by Brand, one of whom had previously told the Mail on Sunday of his ‘controlling and manipulative’ behaviour”. So why didn’t the Mail titles, armed with the best media lawyers, say anything earlier? Why wait until someone else does the e-legwork and has it all legalled?

And it is in answering these questions that we arrive at the heart of how the Mail titles operate. They may or may not have had something about Brand in the safe, but especially with recent budget cuts, so much of their allegedly original content comes from all those opinion writers, and the likes of their “Royal Correspondents” who recycle press releases and make stuff up.

The Daily Mail, and MoS, can Doxx a target’s home - maybe not specify the address, but a photo is fine by them - along with an estimate of what the property is worth. They can trawl social media histories for dirt, and when it is deemed necessary, get a private investigator to dig up more. The titles have a grim reputation for illegal information gathering (pace Steve Whittamore).

But the kind of investigation that the Times and Sunday Times, to their credit, and Channel 4 have undertaken? Not the Mail. They wait until after the story breaks, and then tell readers “Amid a series of explosive allegations … BBC and Channel 4 bosses faced questions over whether complaints by staff about Brand's alleged behaviour were ignored”. Bash the broadcasters.

The Beeb sacked Brand, and Channel 4 was a party to exposing him. All the Mail did was to dump on both organisations while doing next to nothing in the way of original journalism. Even when they had the story - “One of the alleged victims, Jordan Martin, told this newspaper in 2015” - they did nothing. All the Mail does is get righteous, kick the BBC, and sponge off others’ work.

Then in the retelling, claim the credit. It’s reality, Jim, but not as we know it.

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Wednesday, 13 September 2023

Laura K’s Contact Book Chaos

Broadcast on BBC2 last Monday was the first of a three-part series called State of Chaos, fronted by the Corporation’s former political editor Laura Kuenssberg, and was, ultimately, more about her contacts book, and the ridiculous attempts to “both sides” everything, than the claimed subject, the post-referendum civil war within the Tory party and its wider implications.

Lots of gossip from her contacts ...

Except there weren’t many of those wider implications. Ms Kuenssberg becomes fixated upon trivia such as “civil servant Simon McDonald had let on to Foreign Office colleagues that he was a Remainer”. So what? Would she care to tell viewers how this impacted upon his ability to discharge his duties with due impartiality? Then she can tell Robbie Gibb, too.

Sadly, as the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph concedes, “Some of these [talking heads] are usual-suspect rent-a-gobs”. Like former Brexit Party Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, who had no part in the Tory party infighting, or indeed any of the Brexit negotiations.

So there was no point in her wasting her time with him. The Guardian, at least, hints at the real problem for Ms Kuenssberg, after noting “It offers a portrait of baffled officials, from ministers to civil servants, splashing around in the muck, out of their depth, sometimes pointing a finger at somebody else”. As usual, when the Tories foul up, it’s someone else’s fault. There is more.

... but nothing about his lying ...

There is a great display of the BBC’s grand balancing act throughout [like “here’s a Professor in European studies, and on the other hand, here’s Darren Grimes”], though notably, the only Labour figure interviewed in the opening episode is Hilary Benn”. The leader of the opposition in 2016, and after the departure of Theresa May, was Jeremy Corbyn. Where is his take on the chaos unfolding across the Dispatch Box? We don’t get to hear that.

We do get “Kuenssberg suggests that this is the moment a ‘new, radical ugliness began to emerge’ in British politics”. Maybe one day we will also get her part in that: not calling out Vote Leave for breaking electoral law, and not saying boo about the constant lying from the likes of Matthew Elliott, and former chief Downing Street polecat Dominic Cummings.

Then the Guardian tells “The programme is sprawling, yet it feels as though people are missing: the biggest characters in this carousel of chaos do not appear, and their absence is notable”. Who might that include? Well, anyone from the EU side, from where the pressures came that helped to sink Ms May. No Michel Barnier. No Ursula von der Leyen. No Guy Verhofstadt.

... maybe he would like to comment?

After all, if we get Farage, we should hear from those he so loudly and dishonesty slags off. But that’s the BBC “both sides-ism” writ large. It does not occur to Ms Kuenssberg that if we are talking about Brexit, the “both sides” should include mainstream European figures. Instead, it means airtime for Mr Thirsty, and nonentities like alleged Tory hard man Steve Baker.

Alexander Clarkson of KCL certainly noticed. “There is something epically absurd in a BBC documentary claiming to tell the story of the impact of the UK leaving the EU on the British political system that manages to not talk to anyone from the EU side including Ireland, nor anyone in Scottish, NI or Welsh politics”. Point, given Scotland voted overwhelmingly to Remain.

There was more: “not a single EU or Irish, Northern Irish or Scottish leader setting out all the factors external to Westminster that constrained May's freedom of action within it … As long as the story of Brexit is presented on the BBC and other key media as merely a matter of Westminster politicians negotiating with other Westminster politicians then the UK state and party system will keep making the same mistakes over and over again”. Quite.

As Patrick Howse put it in a Byline Times article, “What they got [Ms Kuenssberg] was a journalist with access to the upper reaches of the Government, with a determination to get on air and tell everyone the whispers that she had heard from ministers, advisors and officials - before Sky or ITN [but] What the BBC needed was someone who could take a step back, away from the scrum, and tell audiences when they were being lied to. That was something neither the BBC nor Kuenssberg has ever come to terms with”.

Flawed former political editor makes flawed TV series. No surprise there.

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Monday, 11 September 2023

Proms - Fascism Season Starts Early

Proms. THE Proms. The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts Presented By The BBC. From July to September, a daily series of concerts of classical music priced to be affordable to as many of the population as possible (a seat up in the Rausing Circle could be had for around £16 this season). A series of concerts that owes its continued existence to the Beeb.

To end each season of Proms concerts, there is the Last Night Of The Proms, complete with the post-interval nationalism of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March #1 (“Land of Hope and Glory”), Rule, Britannia, Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs, Jerusalem, and a good rousing outing for the National Anthem to round things off. And the waving of flags.

Ah, the waving of flags. Something which the headbanger Brexiteer tendency approves of when it is Union flags or flags of St George that are being waved, with those from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland tolerated. But waving the flag of the European Union? Sacrilege! High DYAH they?!? High utterly GHESTLY! Also, it provides the excuse for another whipping up of hatred.

And so it came to pass: first, the more factual and detached version from the Guardian. “The sight of hundreds of European Union flags at the Last Night of the Proms has prompted outrage from Brexiters and a call for the BBC to investigate. Those waving the EU flag in the Royal Albert Hall appeared to outnumber those waving the union flag”. And then the screamingly batshit.

Who would care to go first? Here’s the Mail to howl at the moon: “Viewers of the Last Night Of The Proms last night were up in arms after thousands of EU flags were spotted in the crowd … audience members in the historic venue brought out the blue and yellow flags during a rendition of Rule Britannia, a traditionally patriotic song”. Why oh why oh why oh why. There was more.

Flags have long been an integral part of the Proms, with the final concert showcasing traditional British orchestral anthems - and some audience members using the night to demonstrate their political ideology [however] the EU emblem dominated TV screens … Some audience members could also be seen in EU patterned suits and berets”. TRAITAHS! STRING ‘EM UP!!

You think that was bad? Here’s the Daily Brexit, still called the Express, turning up that howling just a little bit more. “The BBC has come under fire after a ‘seething mass of remainers’ that ‘hijacked’ Rule Britannia were shown waving EU flags during its Last Night of the Proms coverage”. Do go on.

The coverage - which featured footage of the crowd waving of EU flags during the traditional performances of patriotic anthems Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory - has been blasted as ‘disgraceful’ and ‘nauseatingly woke’”. EH? In what way is the waving of a flag showing that one is “alert to injustice in society, especially racism”? But there was worse to come.

Gammon Broadcasting™ News (“Bacon’s News Channel”) was howling yet louder. “The BBC has sparked outrage following its coverage of the Last Night of the Proms, with a former Tory MP calling for an inquiry into flag-waving pro-EU activists. Hundreds of European Union flags were being waved throughout the final performance of the summer festival”.

There was more. “Thomas Arne’s 1740 classic Rule Britannia, which is synonymous with the end-of-season concert, was seen as a tipping point for many on social media”. A succession of Brexiteer idiocy was cited in support. Nile “Chauncey” Gardiner wibbled about FREEDOM. Without realising that FREEDOM includes the FREEDOM to wave your chosen flag.

It’s nothing more than an early start to the Poppy Fascism season: it was not so long ago that ITV presenter Charlene White was bombarded with sexist and racist abuse for the heinous crime of Reading The News During Early November While Not Wearing A Poppy. Now we can add Proms Fascism: FREEDOM to wave flags, providing they are agreeable to Brexiteers.

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression. You either support both, or you’re an authoritarian and a fascist. Hello Mail, Express, and GB News.

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Sunday, 10 September 2023

Train Tickets - Politics And Rackets

In the UK, there is an almost constant and often heated debate on how much it costs to travel by train, especially over longer distances. Those asserting that companies operating trains over the National Rail Network are ripping off customers frequently cite other countries, where demand management has not been taken to such lengths as in Britain. But they miss something.

A southbound Intercidades, of Corail coaches, calls at Entroncamento

It’s not just the ticket costs, but also the captive market for items like railcards: seniors and young people who travel at all regularly have to buy these just to get a third off full price tickets. And I have to tell you all in the UK that this is a racket. Moreover, tickets do not have to cost so much: this is, as I point out so often, a political decision. Other countries’ politics bring different results.

So let’s bring all of this together: next week I have to visit the city of Coimbra. This involves, in units Brits will recognise, a journey of just over 130 miles from Lisboa Oriente (north east of the city centre) to Coimbra-B (on the western fringe of the city). As a comparison, I fed the same dates and times into the National Rail journey planner for London to Bristol.

Travel both ways will be by Intercidades (Inter City) trains. These are what your average rail enthusiast will recognise as a Proper Train™, having a locomotive at the head, and a rake of coaches. They are not Portugal’s fastest trains - the tilting Alfa Pendular is quicker, and is also more expensive - but they make rapid enough progress, and offer a decent travelling environment. I decided to travel in the comfier end of the train.

So that’s First Class, Lisboa Oriente to Coimbra-B and back. 130 miles each way. Ticket bought on Friday 8th September for outward travel Thursday 14th, and return Saturday 16th. What is that going to cost?

It’s going to cost €26. 26 Euro. Not much more than £22.

There must, you will think, be a catch. OK, there is one factor I should mention: it’s half price, because I’m an Old Fart™. So double that amount to €52, or around £45. Now look at the National Rail journey planner for London to Bristol off peak - that will be £46.95 (with a railcard). Standard Class, or what is still called Second Class in Portugal. How much for First Class, then?

Faro to Lisboa Oriente Intercidades, made up of older coaches, arrives at Pinhal Novo

The website helpfully lets you know “First Class from £91.70”. HOW MUCH? Might just pass on that, thanks. And it gets worse: London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads is around 15 miles less than Lisboa Oriente to Coimbra-B. It still costs more, with a railcard, to do the former and sit in the cheap seats, than it does to pay full whack for the latter and go first class.

And then we get to railcards. They are, once more, a racket. Another way of raising a bit more cash. Another of those political choices. Why so? Simples. You don’t need anything like that to get Old Fart™ discount in Portugal: you just show a photo ID, which you will also have to show to the conductor or ticket inspector as required. No additional cost involved. No racket.

Yes, there are differences: in the UK, an off peak ticket allows break of journey and the ability to just get on the next train, or not. Inter City trains in Portugal are booked to be journey and seat specific: you have to decide which train you want to travel on beforehand. In the UK, you can get on a busy train and stand all the way; in Portugal, when the seats are sold out, that’s it. No more tickets sold. Same in Spain. Same in France.

Maybe the trains aren’t up to the kind of standard you might expect in the UK? Er, no: the trains I’m travelling on use coaches similar to the French Corail design, built under licence in the mid 1980s and using stainless steel construction under licence from the Budd Company. The French originals are mainly still in service across France, especially where there is no TGV.

Some Intercidades, like Faro to Lisbon, use older coaches, with interiors similar to the Corails. All have air con. These trains are also popular with visitors because the fares are low and the travelling environment is OK. Once again: fare levels in the UK are a political choice, and railcards are a racket.

Here endeth the lesson from southern Europe. Have a good trip.

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Saturday, 9 September 2023

Elon Musk - Unsafe With Any Influence

Being unfeasibly rich, and having control over technology that includes the military, as well as the still widely used social media platform formerly known as Twitter, one might think that Elon Musk might stop and think before proving the dictum attributed to the late Denis Thatcher true: “Better to say nothing and be thought a fool, than open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”.

But Musk is too full of himself, so sure that no-one else in this world is as clever as Himself Personally Now. He alone has the correct answer to whatever question the lower orders may choose to pitch. As a result, he is now mired not only in a racism controversy that has seen Twitter revenue plummet, but also stands accused of interference in the Ukraine conflict.

More specifically, the racism controversy was anti-Semitism, to which Musk decreed “To clear our platform’s name on the matter of anti-Semitism, it looks like we have no choice but to file a defamation lawsuit against the Anti-Defamation League … Oh the irony!” To which Ron Filipkowski had a caution.

Discovery should be interesting. I imagine that ADL’s defense will be predicated on showing how many people were allowed back, who they were, what the criteria was, what they’ve posted since, & how millions of complaints/reports are being handled by what’s left of Twitter Safety”. Point.

And his own behaviour might get included in that defence, as Mehdi Hasan alluded to: “Elon Musk has spent recent few weeks on this platform he owns amplifying, and even sometimes agreeing with, white supremacists, anti-Black racists, Islamophobes, and, over the past few days, antisemites”.

Meanwhile, lawsuit came there none. But columns like that from the LA Times titled “Elon Musk comes around to blaming the Jews” did. And Stop Funding Hate observedTime and again, self-described ‘free speech absolutists’ end up threatening to sue other people for using their free speech... ‘Free speech absolutism’ is incoherent in theory and unworkable in practice”.

As Melanie d’Arrigo pointed out. “Elon Musk is blaming a Jewish organization that fights anti-Semitism, for the downfall of his company that platforms anti-Semites. If his business model requires the engagement of Nazis to be successful, then his business shouldn't exist”. Point, once more. Worse, as Cathy Young discovered, “Just to make clear, an account whose username is a call for the extermination of Jews hasn't broken rules against ‘threatening violence’”. Could it get worse for Musk? It could. And it did.

Campaigner George Takei notedThe Daily Beast is reporting that Elon Musk ordered engineers to switch off his Starlink satellites just as Ukraine was preparing to attack the Russian naval fleet with drones. He said he feared nuclear retaliation by Russia. It’s high time we ask the question: How much power and influence does it make sense to hand just one person?

Dabbling in the Russia-Ukraine conflict? Seems so. And it got worse, as Seth Abramson musedThis is an earnest question, as this is outside my area of expertise. If Elon Musk knows that U.S. policy is to arm Ukraine and sanction Russia, and he then has secret communications with Russian military leaders and takes concrete actions to aid Russia’s military...what is that?

And so it got even worse, as Christopher Miller of the FT toldMusk gave biographer confidential texts from Ukrainian Deputy PM Mykhailo Fedorov without seeking permission, revealing exchanges over the entrepreneur restricting Starlink service to thwart Kyiv’s military, Fedorov told us today”.

Elon Musk could easily defuse the anti-Semitism row by ceasing to amplify the far right, dealing with hate speech without fear or favour - and saying sorry. He should then keep his North and South buttoned: this will enable the Twitter/X ad revenue and share price to recover. But he won’t, because he’s too intercoursing clever to even contemplate such actions.

As to his interfering in a way that has already caused more deaths in Ukraine - well, good luck with that one, smartarse. He’s still a clown, young man.

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Friday, 8 September 2023

Queen Anniversary - Mail Smear

The state of both economy and Government continue to inspire no confidence at all, and so for our free and fearless press, there is the need to get their readers to look elsewhere. Mostly, that means scaring the crap out of them by once more majoring on an escaped prisoner, of whose whereabouts the Metropolitan Police appear clueless. And there’s always Royalty.

Yes, it’s a whole year since Brenda finally shuffled off and left the Top Job to Brian, and an opportunity for the press to admit that they have to keep putting out grovelling propaganda for fear that The Great Unwashed might begin to question what the purpose of the dysfunctional Saxe-Coburg-Gotha gang was all about. So out is wheeled the King’s thanks for all the love and support.

What that? Apart from telling those of us who live somewhere that dispensed with Royalty more than a century ago that their adoptive country did the right thing, give or take the odd assassination or two, it props up the myth of a people prepared to support the monarchy because, well, it’s written, that’s why. And nowhere is it written more grovelingly than the Daily Mail.

The Dacre Doggies’ venture into Tedious Maximus territory is presented as “6 pages of sparkling tributes”. Perhaps you need to have necked a bottle of Méthode Traditionelle before reading it. There is the inevitable “Republicans foretold end of monarchy - they were wrong”, just to tell readers which side of this debate is the right one for the Mail’s Kind Of People.

But the real purpose of the inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker is to use the first anniversary of the Queen’s passing as an excuse to put the boot in, once more, on the Sussexes. The Mail has to hate someone, and today’s two minutes is directed at Haz. “Ahead of first anniversary of our late Queen’s death, proof the reconciliation she longed for is as far away as ever … WARRING ROYAL BROTHERS STILL 100 MILES APART”.

For someone who the press claims is no longer relevant to the Monarchy, Haz sure generates a lot of copy, most of it entirely made up, such as the “reconciliation she longed for”, for which we are supposed to take the Mail’s shower of Royal “experts” (ho ho ho) on trust. Yeah, right.

We are also supposed to take on trust the idea that two people taking different paths in their lives are therefore “warring”. Take this snippet from the supporting article: “Amid the poignancy of the occasion, their continuing rift is a sad reminder of the pain Harry’s action caused Queen Elizabeth in the latter years of her life”. Pain that the Mail’s Royal correspondents also made up.

There was more. “Harry, 38, made the whirlwind trip to the UK minus his wife and children [Boo! Baddie! Cue rift stories!] and without seeing any of his immediate family, including his father who is in Scotland [Boo! Bad boy!]. He attended an awards ceremony on behalf of WellChild, a charity supporting terminally ill youngsters and their families”. Not even the Mail can diss that.

Nor does it sneer at “He will fly on to Dusseldorf to attend the Invictus Games for injured service personnel, which he helped to found, and where he will be joined by wife Meghan next week”. Oops, hold the rift stories. Leave them to devalued, desperate Dan Wootton at Gammon Broadcasting™ News (“Bacon’s News Channel”). Oh hang on, there’s a Sack The Sub moment.

Harry will be launching the bi-annual games on his own in Germany as his wife Meghan remains home in California with their two young children”. But we are left in no doubt that Haz, who has taken out a lawsuit against the Mail titles, don’t forget, is in the wrong, whatever he does.

Yesterday the brothers were less than 100 miles from each other, undertaking public engagements, but have no plans to meet before Harry heads to Germany tomorrow”. If they did meet, it would result in yet more knocking copy, more obsession from the terminally devalued Wootton, and yet more obsession from former Screws and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, whose fixation on Megs for blanking him is beyond creepy.

If the press carries on with this obsession, it could end in the thing they want to avoid at all costs: the end of the monarchy. Careful what you wish for, eh?

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Thursday, 7 September 2023

UK Rejoining The EU - SLOWLY

The Tories were adamant, and so, sadly, were Labour: rejoining the EU was not going to happen. So there would be more food shortages, more food inflation, blocks to trading with all those other countries just across the Channel, more countries with lots of English speakers picking off jobs from the UK, and more of those travel difficulties to look forward to.

Rejoining? Oh no, no, no, no, no, no ... YES

But, it seems, no part of our free and fearless press has noticed that the Tories have in fact started, piece by piece, to align the UK with EU standards and institutions, while trying to pretend that what they are doing is a win for US over THEM. The papers have the excuse of a Look Over There front page item concerning a terror suspect who broke out of prison yesterday.

10 Downing Street has announced the good news. “DEAL DONE: The UK is joining Horizon Europe. Following negotiations with [the European Commission], UK scientists will now have access to the world’s largest research and innovation programme on better terms for British taxpayers. It’s another step to grow the economy”. Shouldn’t that be “rejoin”?

Whatever. “Under the deal the UK becomes a fully associated member during the lifetime of the programme, giving British companies and research institutions unrivalled opportunities to develop new technologies and research projects in areas from health to AI”. What’s with the “fully associated” verbiage? Why the need for an excursion into estate agent speak?

There was, sadly, more: “This is the right deal for the UK, creating thousands of jobs, growing the economy and cementing the UK’s status as a science and tech superpower by 2030. UK scientists can start applying to Horizon now”. Superpower my arse. Besides, Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman rather undermined his PM by owning up to what had really happened.

PM [Rishi Sunak] has cleared the way & negotiated UK re-entry to Horizon (now the worlds biggest R+D program): Full Association to Horizon + Copernicus & Fusion carveout … UK researchers+ Companies can apply from TODAY … New UK Funding Guarantee”. So the UK is re-entering a programme that it left as part of the agreement to leave the EU.

And it wasn’t the only item on the agenda, as former Labour MEP Richard Corbett pointed out: “So, Britain has now reversed Brexit as regards: - the EU research programmes (‘Horizon’) - the CE marks certifying a product’s conformity with European health, safety, & environmental standards … Much more to come”. OK, a bit Ron Hopeful there. But maybe not so much.

As for those critical of the Tories, the response was far from enthusiastic, with Tone’s former chief spinner Alastair Campbell reminding usSunak now trying to claim great credit for getting back a weaker version of something we should never have lost. PS following his previous great triumph - the Windsor Framework - a reminder the N Ireland institutions still not up and running”.

Point. And LBC host James O’Brien had his own take: “This is an interesting thread, but not for the intended reason. It tries to convey that rejoining a small part of the EU is both a ‘good thing’, which it obviously is, albeit as a mere ‘associate’ member & on terms the EU decides”. There was more.

But, pathetically & for obvious reasons, it also tries to convey a sense of ‘us’ having scored some sort of victory over ‘them’. The continuing need to feed the delusion that leaving was a good idea has rarely looked more tragic. They are trying to celebrate the partial restoration of something they celebrated abandoning”. And once this partial rejoining is done, there will be more.

The problem for Sunak and his team is how they continue in this direction without setting off waves of howling protest from the Brexit headbanger tendency. And the problem for Keir Starmer is being wrong footed by one of the lamest PMs in history, in a field that contains some serious competition, not least comedy PM Liz Truss, and the now disgraced figure of former alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

But the inevitable rowing back of Brexit has begun. Just rejoice at that news.

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Wednesday, 6 September 2023

Starmer And The Mail

In the mid-90s, as John Major’s valiant but doomed efforts to hold an increasingly fractious Tory party together merely contributed to the sense of decay, that The Blue Team’s time in power had run its course, even the right-leaning part of the press deserted him. Except for one title: the Daily Mail shilled for the Tories right up to election day in 1997.

Tony Blair and his team wanted so much to have the Mail on side, to at least give Labour a level editorial playing field, but the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, then as now the driving force behind the paper, was having none of it. And now, with Keir Starmer being cast as Blairite Redux, we have the exact same situation. The Tories are spent, but the Mail still wants the Tories.

It is a truth that those running Starmer’s new-look Labour are, it seems, increasingly reluctant to take on board. For them, all that is needed is to dump all over the party’s left wing, refuse to commit to spending, well, anything over and above what the Tories are spending, spew out plenty of approved soundbites, appear competent and managerial, and they’re in.

Even Owen Jones, whose political antenna are usually well-tuned, has gone all mid-90s: “One of the many reasons the Tories are now cooked is that the media have collectively decided they’re finished. That means media outlets stop worrying they’ll lose access if they’re not deferential enough. They’ll compete over finding scandals to seal the Tories’ fate”. Except the Mail.

Dacre’s unflinching faith in his ability to bend reality to his iron will has resulted today in yet another of those text-book examples of the power of the press lying not just in what they decide to publish, but what they do not. With Birmingham City Council effectively declaring itself bankrupt, mainly over a long-standing equal pay bill of over £750 million, the Mail is off and running.

Today’s Mail editorial kicks off withA chilling glimpse at life under Labour”. Chilling? How so? “Families have to operate within a budget, as do governments, as do businesses. So why should it be any different for local authorities?” Governments who have control of their own currencies don’t, Mail people, whatever Mrs T claimed in the early 80s. But do go on.

Stop f***ing using my photo so much, c***

Labour-run Birmingham City Council going into effective bankruptcy with debts of £760million shows a cavalier disregard for the prudent handling of public money” [no citation]. “This is symptomatic of a wider malaise within local government. Birmingham is the fifth English council to issue a bankruptcy notice in recent years, with another 26 said to be on the brink”.

There is, sadly, more: “the culprits are looking to central government for a bailout. Not every ailing council is Labour controlled, of course, but the majority are [no citation] - offering a vision of how life could be with Sir Keir Starmer in Downing Street”. Anyone remember Croydon? Thurrock?

Neither being Labour authorities. But the biggest whopper is saved for last: “Since Ken Livingstone’s profligate [no citation] Greater London Council, Labour has been synonymous with municipal waste and sky-high council taxes. The Birmingham debacle shows the party still can’t be trusted to control the public purse strings”. Synonymous mostly because havens of bias and bigotry like the Mail keep telling their readers that.

No mention from the inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker that the Tories have imposed round after round of funding cuts on local authorities, all the while having their pals in the press point the finger at Labour. That is what is behind all those potential follow-on bankruptcies. It is also the part that the Mail chooses not to publish. And it won’t get any better for Labour.

One hates to mention the presence of Peter Mandelson for the 94th time, but as soon as the flag drops for the next General Election, the Mail will mention him. And Jeffrey Epstein. And the times he was sacked by Tony Blair. They will give a prominent mention to the Hindujas, cos they’re not white and therefore not The Mail’s Kind Of People. They will shill for the Tories.

For the Dacre doggies, the Tories can be so far to the right they’re falling off the political spectrum. They can be utterly inept, intellectually and politically bankrupt. They can be irredeemably corrupt, bereft of anything but hatred and intolerance. They can get away with blaming all ills on someone else, which usually means the EU, other foreigners, and of course Labour.

That is why Starmer drifting right is pointless. The Mail will still hate him.

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Monday, 4 September 2023

Mail Ghost Racism EXPOSED

Racist bigotry has for many years been a stock in trade of the right-leaning part of our free and fearless press. Their problem has not been doing the racism - they have no difficulties with that - but ensuring they can muster the appropriate level of plausible deniability, deployed along with righteous indignation, in order to minimise the fallout following publication.

Dominique Samuels

This is done in a variety of ways: the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph crudely excused its anti-Semitic smear of George Soros by telling staff that it wasn’t. Far more convincing was the Mail hiding behind Jewish staff members to excuse its anti-Semitic attack on the memory of the late Ralph Miliband. As well as having a Jewish name on the by-line.

The Mail has now been called out doing something similar to push anti-black racism: having a black author’s name on the by-line. But here’s the twist: the black author didn’t write what appears below that by-line. Ghost writers are nothing new: the Mail is applying a novel twist of saying “It can’t be racist, because a black writer wrote it”, when that writer didn’t.

You think I jest? That is what is alleged by right-wing “culture warrior” Dominique Samuels, in a move that may incur the displeasure of those who labour under the régime of the Mail’s editor in chief, the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre. She’s been asked to have her name on others’ copy.

As she put it: “The outrage fest about Notting Hill Carnival is tiresome and to be honest manufactured … I was asked to be the face of a ghost-written, negative, bordering on racist piece by the Daily Mail paper last year and eventually turned it down because it was a complete misrepresentation of what I witnessed whilst I was there … The violence etc that happens is of course not acceptable but it’s estimated that 2 million people attend the festival every year”. Ava-Santina of PoliticsJOE was unimpressed.

I think this is a tweet we should be paying a LOT more attention to … Ghostwritten racist piece? Sorry?” Lily Allen was equally unimpressed. “This is beyond fucked up. Unsurprising, but fucked up nonetheless. I wish people wouldn’t buy into these divisive tactics”. Unsurprising. And why so?

Why'd you f***ing keep using my photo, c***?!?!?

The Mail wants to show that Carnival is not the sort of event that the Mail’s Kind Of People should attend. It wants to show that having all these black people around is Not A Good Thing, but doesn’t want to get called out for yet more crude racist bigotry. So it puts a black name on the by-line, and by doing so shows “We can’t be racist, because a black person wrote it”.

Except, as Ms Samuels has now admitted, they didn’t. And it wasn’t the only example: asked about another Meghan hit piece [“This clash of the Royals was about culture - NOT colour”] “was this ghost-written for you?” she conceded “yeah it was”. Professor Jonathan Portes of KCL observedEven by the standards of the Daily Mail, this is pretty jaw-dropping”. So it was.

Meanwhile, Ms Samuels toldIt’s pretty much standard for newspapers to have ghost writers for guest columnists, and I thought because I’d never written for them before it would be fine. Eventually when it came to the Carnivsl article and I been published by them multiple times, I’d had enough and wanted to write it myself for this particular topic”. Or was it?

Ash Sarkar of Novara Media registered her dissent. “I don’t mean this to be shady, but it’s not standard practice at all! Ethics aside, it doesn’t make sense for a newspaper to pay out twice … It's not ‘standard’ to ghostwrite a political opinion piece from a commentator - if true, it's deeply racist and unethical”.

Writer Nels Abbey applied context. “This is very revealing, a public service even. Britain's most popular newspaper ghostwrote a racist article and went hunting for a Black 'culture warrior' to be the face of it. This is the very racism laundering and diversity drenched racism we've been screaming about laid bare”. Or, as another Tweeter put it, “The most important point here is that they’re paying to put the face of a person of colour on racist honk most likely written by some white dude”. The Mail is well and truly busted.

But don’t expect them to stop. The agenda is unchanged, they throw around enough money, and someone will be desperate enough to bite. Sad, really.

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Sunday, 3 September 2023

The Slow Exit Of Tom Newton Dunn

The extreme reluctance of those in and around our free and fearless press to take action against those within its ranks whose professional standards slip, sometimes habitually, was never as evident as in the saga of the Sun’s former non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn, who has finally left the employ of News UK after a tenure lasting for 19 years.

In the old days, when journalistic standards were upheld rather more rigorously, Newton Dunn would not have got away with a fraction of his list of transgressions before being sent Down The Road. The sacking of one Boris Johnson by Times editor Charles Wilson for making up a quotation is evidence enough of that. But it took until this year for Newton Dunn to go.

Press Gazette has not mentioned any of the bad behaviour as it tellsIn a statement announcing his departure, News UK said: ‘Tom has brought astute and authoritative reporting and commentary to every role he has held and we hope he will continue to contribute to News UK’s titles in the future.’

Do go on. “Newton Dunn, known colloquially as TND, said in a statement: ‘I’m very grateful to News UK for giving me so many opportunities with The Sun, the Times titles, and the move to broadcast. Helping to launch Times Radio and then a new TV channel 18 months ago has been a huge privilege. It feels now is the right time though for me to move on’”. And not “be moved on”.

No mention that Newton Dunn was carpeted by Sun management as long ago as 2012 - that’s eleven years ago - as then Labour MP Tom Watson observed: “Whitehall editor at The Sun Clodagh Hartley, has recently had a complaint of bullying upheld by an independent adjudicator. According to a number of credible sources, the adjudicator found that her line manager, Sun political editor Tom Newton Dunn, was guilty of bullying”.

Not so long afterwards, Private Eye magazine told of a most unfortunate incident in Moncrieff’s Bar, in the Commons, where Newton Dunn had kicked off with one of the staff. But still he continued in his role as Sun political editor. As he did over the front page splash “EXCLUSIVE: SHOCK POLL … 1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis … ‘Wake-Up Call’ After Paris Blitz”.

As he did over the infamousQUEEN BACKS BREXIT” pack of lies, which was so blatant that it resulted in a complaint by the Royals to press non-regulator IPSO. As he did over being the paper’s contact for private investigator Steve Whittamore. As he did over apparently trying to get a criminal records check - illegally - for a Tory PPC.

Newton Dunn was heavily tipped at one point to become political editor of BBC Newsnight. But the Corporation, fortunately, dodged that bullet. Not so the Sun, which was so desperate to smear former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that it ran a story called “Hijacked Labour”, claiming “Ex-Spooks say Corbyn is at the centre of a hard-left extremist network”. There was more.

Jeremy Corbyn is at the centre of an extraordinary network of hard-left extremists pieced together by former British intelligence officers”. The splash used a graphic based on “The Traitors [sic] Chart”. The hard-left elements thus exposed included the Guardian, Stand Up To Racism, Labour’s NEC, the BBC, the People’s Assembly, and campaigning group Open Democracy.

OD was included as it received funding from George Soros. That alone should have rung alarm bells with the paper’s lawyers, and eventually it seems it did just that, as the story’s URL told of a “Legal Removal”. The story had Newton Dunn’s by-line on it. But still he remained in post.

Only in Summer 2020 did he leave the Sun to go to Times Radio, and then TalkTV. How low the Sun’s political editorship had sunk was shown when he was succeeded by the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, former tame gofer to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog. So now we have an update to the increasingly well-known rhyme.

Tom Newton Dunn, Tom Newton Dunn,
Such a great shit, he got binned by the Sun.

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Saturday, 2 September 2023

So Farewell Then Mohamed Fayed

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”. That quote, originally from the John Ford film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, could so often be wheeled out when analysing the machinations of our free and fearless press, with today’s prime example being the passing of Mohamed Fayed, not a multi-billionaire, not called Al, and not a confidant to anyone Royal.

Today, the legend ...

Fayed became, as the late Russell Harty might have put it, famous, nay, notorious, initially because of his business dealings and involvement in the issuing of cash in brown envelopes to buy the services of MPs like the singularly unpleasant Mostyn Neil Hamilton. His further notoriety came when his son Dodi had a brief friendship with Diana, Princess of Wales.

He owned the Ritz Hotel in Paris, and House of Fraser in the UK, including flagship department store Harrods. Which all looks very grand, but it did not take much perusal of Private Eye magazine at the time of the Fayed ownership to see the money-go-round of loans that kept the whole thing afloat - along with his brief tenure as owner of Fulham FC.

His Wikipedia entry gives a flavour of how trustworthy Fayed’s word really was. “After denials that Harrods was for sale, it was sold to Qatar Holdings, the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, on 10 May 2010. A fortnight previously, Fayed had stated that ‘People approach us from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar. Fair enough. But I put two fingers up to them. It is not for sale. This is not Marks and Spencer or Sainsbury's. It is a special place that gives people pleasure. There is only one Mecca’”. He told them to Fug Off. Then he sold.

Fayed was also the subject of a whole host of sexual harassment accusations, with one of the more eye-catching ones claiming “A dozen ex-employees I spoke with said that Fayed would chase secretaries around the office and sometimes try to stuff money down women's blouses”.

That isn’t making any front page appearances today. Nor is the Vanity Fair article claiming “Fayed regularly walked the store on the lookout for young, attractive women to work in his office. Those who rebuffed him would often be subjected to crude, humiliating comments about their appearance or dress”.

... back then, the fact

But we are told of “Diana’s Loyal Friend” by the Daily Star. The Mirror prints the same juxtaposition of Fayed next to a portrait of the late Princess. And the Murdoch Sun takes the biscuit in no style at all with “On Di Crash Anniversary … Al-Fayed dies 26yrs after Dodi … Buried Next To His Tragic Son”. What readers are not told is Fayed’s role in that fatal car crash in Paris.

Diana no longer enjoyed the same level of security as the Royals by the time she dined with Dodi Fayed at the Paris Ritz late in August 1997. Had that been the case, she would not have been ushered into a car driven by someone who was intoxicated and driven at high speed across the city.

That driver, Henri Paul, drove the car because he was ordered to do so. By Fayed. And staff at the Paris Ritz knew not to decline an order from the boss. Paul lost control of the car on the approach to the tunnel adjacent to the Pont d’Alma: the subsequent crash killed him and Dodi Fayed, and fatally injured Diana. Mohamed Fayed pretended Someone Else Done It.

He did so to the extent of accusing anyone and everyone he could think of - including the Duke of Edinburgh - of being in on the alleged conspiracy. He also claimed erroneously that Diana was pregnant at the time. She was, whisper it quietly, wanting to end what relationship there had been between her and Dodi Fayed. But now the legend has become fact.

So we aren’t seeing any of that on today’s front pages. Nor is the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph - which has a large photo of Fayed on its front page - making any link between the way the Fayed empire was kept afloat, and the way the Barclay empire is allegedly kept afloat. That’s the same Barclay empire that could lose control of the Tel. And Spectator.

No, today is a day for printing the legend. Even if it is a bit of a crap legend.

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