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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Twat In The Hat Gets Guilty

Regular readers of Zelo Street may recall that, during Charles Saatchi’s ultimately futile PR battle against his former wife, Domestic Goddess (tm) Nigella Lawson, he engaged the services of one Richard Hillgrove, aka The Twat In The Hat, whose vicious attempts to smear Ms Lawson were exposed by the People, and in any case came to nothing. Hillgrove has been busy of late.
Twat Pictured Wearing Hat

Sadly for Dicky Boy, however – and this is a significantly sized however – he has not been engaged in paid consultancy, but arranging his own defence as HM Revenue and Customs have prosecuted him for the evasion of significant amounts of Income Tax and VAT. As I pointed out last month, these came to well over £90,000. And that he had to conduct his own defence did not auger well.

So how did The Twat In The Hat fare at Bristol Crown Court? Sadly for him, not at all well: as the Western Gazette has observed, “A public relations adviser from Somerton who allegedly failed to pay almost £100,000 in tax after spending the money on ‘himself, his family and his business’, has been convicted by a jury”. And Accounting Web, which has followed proceedings, was unimpressed.

While Hillgrove attracted attention with his celebrity connections and PR-driven defence strategy, his case is a cautionary tale for accountants about the risks they run when acting for headstrong, ethically dubious characters ... For all his efforts to spin the facts of his case in his favour, Hillgrove was unable to convince the jury that HMRC had influenced the contents of this document” [my emphasis].

Hillgrove’s excuse for his failure to pay and his spending habit? “Hillgrove admitted in court that his spending was out of control, but said it was necessary to sustain a lifestyle that put him on an equal footing to his celebrity clients and contacts. Dragons’ Den entrepreneur James Caan and Sting were mentioned in the course of his three-week trial”. Pass the sick bucket.

The “ethically dubious” part was on full view as Hillgrove, who is to be sentenced very soon, claimed he would go to the Court of Appeal (though who would be paying was not told) and tried to blame HMRC for the whole business: “The Prosecution have entered a criminal court to execute what is essentially a financial matter and a matter for the Civil Court to have decided” he bleated.

Then he dug himself in deeper: “HMRC Corruption will not prevail ... I was only ever delaying filing whilst I was servicing a different tax debt in a different legal entity. There was never any effort by me to never file. I always intended to pay my taxes”. And he styles himself “Dragons’ Den PR Guru” because he once worked for James Caan. What a deluded, dishonest, preposterous shitbag he is.

Yes, there goes discredited spinner Richard Hillgrove. On his way ... out.

Gilligan’s Leaks – Hunt The Mole

Today has brought unwelcome news for Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan, as investigations continue into a number of schools in Birmingham alleged to be part of an attempted Islamist infiltration dubbed “Operation Trojan Horse”, after the leaked letter that even Gilligan does not consider totally credible. What is not going to help Gilligan’s case is that someone in Government is on his case.
Stay right where you are, Andy

This is because the allegedly fake letter is not the only thing to have been leaked: as I noted the other day, there have been DfE inspections, especially at Park View Academy, the results of which have been directly leaked – apparently in their entirety – to the Telegraph, or to Gilligan. Given his track record on Muslim-bashing, the intention behind the leaking is not difficult to deduce.

So the DfE – the empire of Michael “Oiky” Gove – has had to admit, as “Control” concluded in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, that “we have a mole”. And this is not the first instance of material from that department being leaked to the Telegraph Group: as I pointed out in February last year, meeting minutes and other correspondence was being routinely leaked to the Spectator magazine.

And, with Dominic Cummings and Henry de Zoete having apparently parted company with “Oiky”, the conclusion has to be reached that they are not the source of the Gilligan leaks, which have resulted in Park View Academy starting to receive hate mail, and Birmingham council leader Albert Bore denouncing the leaks as “wholly reprehensible and completely unacceptable”.

What Bore has also revealed is that the Civil Service is taking the leaks very seriously indeed, and that “the Cabinet Office is investigating the source”. And the matter needs to be taken seriously, given the prejudicial coverage, epitomised by the Mail’s talk ofAn investigation into Birmingham schools at the centre of a plot to introduce hardline Islamist teaching”. Note omission of the word “alleged”.

The Mail article goes on “In a document leaked to The Telegraph, inspectors found that in Park View school, girls were forced to sit around the back or edges of the classroom while boys were allowed to sit at the front”. As I showed, it was not quite so simple, and the report also admitted that boys and girls were mixed in some classes. Leaks mean selective reporting takes hold.

That report also contains the highly questionable assertion “Pupils were also encouraged to begin and end lessons with prayer, and loudspeakers were used to broadcast calls to prayer”. Yes, it’s not under Gilligan’s control, but it is a direct result of his benefiting from DfE leaks. That the Cabinet Office is involved means there is a determination to find the leaker. And after that could come trouble for the Tel.

Andrew Gilligan does seem to be bad news for news organisations, doesn’t he?

Don’t Menshn The Germans

Hardly had Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP launched their £1.5 million poster campaign than the questions began to be asked. And one particularly awkward one was directed by BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson to Farage himself: his wife, who is German, was employed at taxpayers’ expense as his secretary. Could a British worker not have done the job?
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

Mr Thirsty flannelled, deflected and waffled as only a seasoned pub bore knows how, but Robinson knew he had his man impaled on the skewer. The UKIP campaign was dented even before their chief spinner Patrick “Lunchtime” O’Flynn had his facts checked. But help was at hand from an unexpected, and singularly stupid, source: step forward former Tory MP Louise Mensch.
Achtung! Nigel #Farage’s German wife, his expenses-paid secretary, is ‘taking a British person’s job” #UKIPFail” she trilled. Nasty stereotyping, much? Maybe we should count ourselves lucky she didn’t follow the “Achtung” with, oh I dunno, “Minen”, “Panzer” or “Spitfeuer”. Cue repeats of ‘Allo ‘Allo with Sam Kelly raising right hand and going “klop”.
That Tweet alone was quite enough stupidity for one day, but Ms Mensch never leaves it at just the one: back she came in short order, asking “Why doesn’t it surprise me that #Farage not only marries, but employs on #expenses, a German? Wretched hypocrites #UKIPFail”. She hasn’t yet figured out the difference between expenses and allowances, or indeed marriage and employment.
And something else Ms Mensch has not figured out is the difference between Twitter handles and hashtags, as witness the next tirade: “#Farage says nobody but his German wife could do her #expenses-paid job as his secretary. When was it advertised to Britons? #UKIPFail” she ranted, while not noticing that neither Farage, nor anyone else in UKIP, would be looking in.
Unless she uses the @ occasionally, Mr Thirsty won’t see, as well of course as not caring, just like anyone else who matters. But this didn’t put her off: “Nobody but a German could be Nigel #Farage’s secretary? Did #UKIP advertise the job to British workers to find that out? #expenses” she continued, and still nobody at the Farage fringe was listening. But she did have a positive message for her followers.
Fixed the UK economy. Taking our borders back from the EU. Only one party can give you a referendum. Vote Tory”. Tell that to the 1.75 million of the poorest households who’ve seen an absolute cut in their income in the last three years. Our borders are in the same place as they were in 2010, thanks. And as to a referendum ... don’t make me laugh. Cameron reprising Harold Wilson for sheer desperation.

Yes, when it comes to stupidity, nobody does it quite like Louise Mensch,

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Susanna Reid Bashing Season Opens

Rarely can the press appetite for generating cheap copy from the broadcasters, pretending not to go for sales and clicks by pushing the Phwoarr! Factor, and obsession over What Other People In The Media Are Getting Paid have come together with the force of the arrival at ITV’s breakfast offering of former BBC presenter – and Strictly performer – Susanna Reid.
Susanna Reid

The travails of ITV in this area are well-known: a previous raid on the BBC to secure the services of Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley went down like the proverbial lead balloon, and Daybreak has not done well since, meaning the Beeb, despite all the media mud slung in its general direction after the move to Salford Quays, has taken a significant lead in the ratings.

So what is the press’ problem here? Strangely, nobody has taken issue with the name of the soon-to-be-revamped show, Good Morning Britain, which was the name of the initially ill-fated TV-am offering trounced by the BBC before being rescued by Roland Rat. No, the real problem is that Ms Reid is getting paid Serious Money, an area where free market economics becomes A Very Bad Thing Indeed.

Cue faux outrage and good old-fashioned envy from the Mail: “Can breakfast TV viewers really relate to '£1million' signing Susanna Reid?” it sneers, telling readers “Poised, polished and posing in an eye-catching dress, Susanna Reid looks every inch the '£1million' breakfast television presenter” and referring to her as “Miss Reid” despite the fact that she is a 43 year old mother of three.

Then, playing both sides of the field with ease, the Mail grumps “according to her predecessors, no one will be impressed with the extra added gloss. In fact they think Miss Reid’s alleged huge salary will prompt viewers to switch off altogether” before giving the full lowdown on her dress and how aspiring fortysomethings can buy one like it. Over at the Telegraph, meanwhile, there is faux concern.

Susanna Reid has dismissed talk of the ‘curse of Strictly’ and said she is confident that her on-screen chemistry with her new co-stars on ITV will win over audiences” it tells. Yeah, it’s such a curse that Strictly made her hugely bankable. Indeed, the Tel describes her as “one of television’s hottest properties”, and to illustrate what this means, readers get a suitably Phwoarr-related photo.

And Phwoarr was the name of the game at the Express, where readers were informed that “SUSANNA Reid has undergone a serious makeover ahead of her new role on Good Morning Britain, and it's certainly bound to set some hearts racing”. Meaning the press, who can’t race fast enough to generate cheap copy on the back of someone else spending money.

Woman secures well-paid job in competitive market. Nah, nobody’ll read about that.

Militant Atheists! Run Away!

As if to show that he has grabbed hold of the wrong end of the response to Young Dave’s affirmation of Christianity – part looking to offload even more of the welfare burden on the church, part trying to claw back voters unhappy about same-sex marriage – the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre has decreed that anyone opposing the Cameron line is to be given a good kicking.
What's f***ing wrong with kicking atheists, c***?!? Er, with respect, of course, Mr Jay

So it should surprise no-one to see the Daily Mail going after those criticising the PM: “'Britain IS a Christian country - and we respect that': Hindu, Muslim and Sikh leaders back the PM after 'militant atheists' tell him to keep quiet on religion ... Celebrity atheists wrote open letter criticising David Cameron for calling Britain a Christian countrythunders the carefully crafted headline.

Those who signed the letter to the Maily Telegraph are dismissed as “The Celebrity Anti-God Squad”, although the calibre of the Mail’s spiritual talking heads has to be in doubt after they fall back on former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, the rent-a-quote face of the “Christianity under attack” brigade, as a reliable witness. And it can’t be a Christian country if Christians are being marginalised.

But this is a minor blip on the radar, as Dacre also calls on the services of Stephen “Miserable Git” Glover, who declares “This new breed of militant atheists are as intolerant as any religious fundamentalists”. What’s “militant” about someone who has done nothing more than sign a letter to the Telegraph? Ah, but Polly Toynbee is somehow involved. And she’s an Obligatory Daily Mail Hate Figure.

Glover really lets rip: “furious letter ... metropolitan liberal atheists ... astonishingly intolerant ... divisive ... angry letter-writers ... at least some of the signatories are zealots ... new breed of militant atheists ... unreasoning ... intolerance ... anti-religion diehards ... unhinged ... unceasing hatred of religion ... dishonest little letter ... atheistical zealot”. As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point.

One commenter who responded to Glover’s tirade mused “A letter to the Telegraph doesn't seem very militant to me”. This is true, but misses the point: anyone not showing sufficient respect to organised religion – which is what Dacre has decreed is A Good Thing – has to be ritually smeared pour encourager les autres. And over at the Tel, Charles Moore has chimed in agreement.

Moore wibbles on about “Prof Jim Al-Khalili, who led the signatures, derives his first name from an apostle of Jesus, as do his co-signatories the novelist Philip Pullman and the anti-religious fanatic Peter Tatchell, who is named, ultimately, after the first Pope”, and thus adds sweet jack to the discussion. But this is symptomatic of the bile the right-wing press will dump on anyone questioning reliance on religion.

Speak out of turn and Dacre will come after you. Not that he’s a bully, of course.

UKIP – Poster Frauds

Yesterday brought the launch of UKIP’s poster campaign in support of the party’s campaign for elections to the European Parliament (EP). Party backer Paul Sykes is paying a cool £1.5 million to fund this – and fund it directly, not through Nigel “Thirsty” Farage’s party machine. Anyone would think that Sykes does not trust the party he supports to spend his money wisely.
Another squeaky finger up the bum time coming!

And now the posters are out there, the debate has started as to the credibility of the assertions they make, with UKIP’s chief spinner Patrick “Lunchtime” O’Flynn doing his best to justify arguments which expose his party’s hypocrisy and dishonesty in roughly equal measure. Starting at the very beginning – as always, a very good place to start – the first poster deploys an unemployed construction worker.
What's that, "Lunchtime"? Those rotten politicians wouldn't let you any closer to Parliament?

This may seem surprising, given apparent labour shortages in that industry, but “Lunchtime” is adamant: “Unemployment may have been falling slightly in construction, but there have been an awful lot of builders out of work in the last few years and their pay rates have fallen since the accession of the A8 countries”. Sadly, he has yet to come up with a reliable citation for that one.
from Political Scrapbook

Still, what’s another pair of burning trousers to a party spinner, eh? Next is the tired chestnut asserting that “75% of our laws are made in Brussels”. Except they aren’t, and nobody said they were. “The 75 per cent figure was stated by Viviane Reding” says O’Flynn. Except she didn’t say 75%, and neither did she say what the UKIP poster is asserting. Fire extinguisher for Mr O’Flynn!
from Beaubodor

And while we’re on the subject of quoting Viviane Reding, that is, as the late John Smith might have put it, a bit rich coming from a party whose leader accused her recently ofscraping the barrel”. So Ms Reding is one of those sources from which UKIP can pick and choose, in the style of well-cultivated hypocrisy. Then, as “Lunchtime” gets his blazing trousers extinguished, there is unemployment.
from Beaubodor

26 million people in Europe are looking for work. And whose jobs are they after?” howls the UKIP poster. The inference is clear: freedom of movement rules mean all those rotten foreigners are coming over here to take your job. Except the 26 million figure includes UK unemployment. So the total has been bulked up by sleight of hand. O’Flynn says “There’s nothing wrong with that”.
Man of high principle speaks

Well excuse me, “Lunchtime”, but there’s everything wrong with that. And there is also the minor fact that O’Flynn is on the UKIP list for the East of England – he is ranked first, ahead even of the party’s sitting MEP Stuart Agnew. So it is in his own personal interest to push this mix of whoppers and frighteners, in order to secure a well-remunerated job for Himself Personally Now.

Doing whatever it takes to get elected? New party, same as all the other parties.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Manchester United – History Repeating Itself

[Update at end of post]

The media is suddenly awash with speculation that Manchester United, a club that might be thought to have been cured of any tendency to play “sack the manager”, is about to dispense with the services of David Moyes after less than a season in the job. Moyes, previously manager of Everton for eleven seasons, was the personal selection of outgoing boss Alex Ferguson.
David Moyes ((c) BBC)

Well, he may be about to get the boot, and he may not, but for those of us of A Certain Age, the historical parallels are already coming to mind. Manchester United have been here before: when Matt Busby retired after 24 years in charge, his successor Wilf McGuinness lasted little more than one season. The regular sackings continued. And the club were even relegated in the mid-70s.

It was at this time that Liverpool – now back at the top of the table – really came to prominence under Bob Paisley. Man United became perennial under-achievers. The club’s drinking culture, which had been prevalent in Busby’s last days, became entrenched. Frank O’Farrell was sacked. Tommy Docherty was sacked. Dave Sexton was sacked. And Ron Atkinson was sacked.

And, had his team not won the FA Cup in 1990, Ferguson would have joined them: the board, despite continual protestations in the years since, had Franz Beckenbauer waiting for the call. Pulling the club round was a difficult job, epitomised by the occasion Ferguson, brandishing his Manchester A to Z, walked into a pub one afternoon as Norman Whiteside was being ushered out the back.

The drinking culture – something that Arsene Wenger also had to stamp out on his arrival at Arsenal – took some beating. The job of getting Manchester United back to the top of the pile was such a long haul that it took even Ferguson seven seasons. When he lifted the inaugural Premiership trophy in 1993, showing it to an elderly and now dying Busby in triumph, it was 26 years after their previous top-flight win.

And if that is not cause to make the club’s management think long and hard about what they are about to do, they could easily look at Liverpool, where poor choices of management and upheaval behind the scenes have made that club the kind of underachievers Man United were through the 70s and 80s. Only now are the Reds coming back to the top of the pile.

Sacking the manager is an ever-popular game which does not always yield the result desired. If Manchester United make a wrong move, it could cost the club dear, not least because of the debt that the Glazers have imposed upon it, and the need to service it. So maybe they are about to play “sack the manager”. For their own sakes, they need to have the game plan well and truly thought through.

It’s another case of being careful what you wish for – because you may get it.

[UPDATE 22 April 0845 hours: Manchester United announced just after 0830 hours today that David Moyes had left the club, or, to put it more directly, had been sacked as manager after less than a season in charge.

Ryan Giggs will take temporary charge until the end of the season. A number of names are in the frame to take over - but there will be no Champions League money coming in for next season.

Maybe the club will bounce back under whoever is brought in to replace Moyes. But anyone knowing Man U's history will remember what happened the last time they played "sack the manager"]

Gilligan Hoist By His Own Petard

As the succession of articles by Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan about supposed Islamist takeovers of schools in Birmingham has continued, this blog has suggested that he quits referring to reports of which he has “had a sight”, and actually show us the proverbial money. And, although I’m sure Gilligan wouldn’t dirty himself with looking in on Zelo Street, he has now done just that.
However, and in this case there is a significantly-sized however, Gilligan is, by his own admission, still not showing readers anything in its entirety, as these are “selected extracts”. And in one of the areas where he has been claiming illegality, he has been shown to have not told readers the whole story – the subject of gender segregation, which is a hot potato not just for Muslims.

Teaching male and female pupils separately has been practised for many years by Roman Catholics and even some ostensibly secular schools, especially those where there are boarders. It’s not the same as gender segregation within the same school, or the same classroom, but the distinction is not as great as Gilligan and his pals would like their readers to believe.

But back to the supposed plot: Gilligan has previously talked ofthe so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ plot by extremists to ‘Islamise’ secular state education in Birmingham which has allegedly seen the illegal segregation of pupils” [my emphasis, note his use of quotation marks]. Also, “The report, disclosed in The Telegraph on Friday, accused Park View, Nansen and Golden Hillock of illegally segregating pupils”.

And what form did this segregation entail? “Girls at Park View and Golden Hillock were made to sit at the back of the class”. Now let’s look at what the report Gilligan chose to reproduce actually said (Paragraph 50).

There was gender segregation in some classes at Park View Academy and Golden Hillock. Some classes observed had boys sitting at the front of the class and girls around the edges. There were also lessons where boys and girls sat at the same table but on opposite sides. We also observed lessons where boys and girls were mixed. Boys and girls are taught separately for PE lessons, which is not unusual” [my emphases].

Perhaps someone more familiar with the legal niceties can advise where the law is being broken here. What Gilligan has also managed not to let readers know is that Park Hill, a school where the vast majority of pupils are eligible for free school meals, has a five-subject GCSE A-C pass rate of around 75%. After all, this is supposed to be about children’s education. Isn’t it?

On top of that is the thought that, had the schools concerned remained under the control of the local authority ... Gilligan won’t be going there.

Cameron’s God Delusion

To many peoples’ surprise, after he had previously suggested his Christianity was akin to a radio signal that gets a bit fuzzy out in the Chilterns, Young Dave has now declaredI believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people's lives”. Jolly good show, eh?
Or perhaps Cameron is trying to shift a little more responsibility away from the state and on to churches, as well as charities, as he also said: “In being confident about our Christianity, we should also be ambitious in supporting faith-based organisations to do even more”. Yes, that sounds familiar.

In any case, this apparent volte-face has not been universally cheered, unless of course you read the part of the press that goes in to bat for those who are, in the words of the odious Quentin Letts (let’s not), “middle stump Anglicans”. So the Maily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Murdoch Times were rather pleased by Dave’s damascene conversion. Others were not so persuaded.

And so it came to pass that a group of public figures wrote to the Tel to signal a dissenting tone: “The group, which includes writers such as Philip Pullman and Sir Terry Pratchett, Nobel Prize winning scientists, prominent broadcasters and even some comedians argue that members of the elected Government have no right to ‘actively prioritise’ religion or any particular faith”.
A little well-merited cynicism ((c) Steve Bell 2014)

The letter went onWe are a plural society with citizens with a range of perspectives and a largely non-religious society. To constantly claim otherwise fosters alienation and division in our society. Although it is right to recognise the contribution made by many Christians to social action, it is wrong to try to exceptionalise their contribution when it is equalled by British people of different beliefs”.

So far, so interesting, but over at Northcliffe House, the smear machine was being fired up: “The Prime Minister's assertion that Britain is a Christian country risks dividing society, claim 50 liberals including Sir Terry Pratchett and Dan Snowthundered the headline over the by-line of the eponymous Daily Mail Reporter. That’s “liberals”, as in right-wing abuse, by the way.

What the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre have failed to pick up on is that, yes, there is an element of getting churches to intervene more in social issues, but the major part of Cameron’s rediscovery of God is to reach out to more conservative Christians upset over same-sex marriage, as Sunny Hundal has pointed out. And, in any case, it’s not going to move the Tories’ vote share forward.

Winging it is never a good way to do electoral strategy.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Gilligan And Gove Jump The Gun

Clearly, the Telegraph has invested a considerable amount of its credibility in the series of attacks by Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan on a number of schools in Birmingham, taking as data an unsigned and undated anonymous letter alleging that something called “Operation Trojan Horse” is under way, and is some kind of conspiracy to impose Islamism on those schools.
Yes, "Oiky", I'm asking about your involvement

So Gilligan is published once again in today’s paper, and, as with the previous article where he claimed to have had sight of a number of WhatsApp conversations, this time he has had sight of a preliminary report by DfE inspectors, the report confirms what he had already told readers, and we have to take him on trust, although the paper could easily provide example redacted copies of the text.

But here a problem enters for Gilligan: he now says that six schools will be placed in special measures, but he said that about one of them – Park View School in Alum Rock – last month, and the deed has not yet been done. Moreover, much of his report today is merely restating what has been said in previous pieces. And not everybody is as convinced as he is of the case against the schools.

The TES notesthat these inspections have again been mandated at the direct behest of Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, and there is substantial concern that the so-called Trojan Horse Document may yet turn out to be a hoax”. There still does not appear to have been any effort to authenticate the letter that is being used as the pretext for all the upheaval.

Also noted wasThe apparent advance briefing on a report that has still not been published” (ie someone leaked part of it to Gilligan) and “sources at the Birmingham secondary have told TES that they were also alarmed by the behaviour of DfE inspectors who asked ‘very leading’, ‘very personal’ questions that made students feel ‘uncomfortable’; and appeared to be selective in the evidence they gathered”.

A source at Park View told “They asked one male pupil, ‘Are girls here forced to wear headscarves?’ and his answer was ‘Well there are three girls sat in the room that aren’t wearing them. So what do you think?’” and the TES article goes on to say “One girl told school staff that DfE inspectors asked her: ‘Do you have to pray after every lesson?’” at which point something starts to smell slightly fishy.

Going into schools without authenticating the letter that precipitated the action, asking what appear to be highly provocative and leading questions, and all the time maintaining a constant stream of leaks to a hack who has a record of organised Muslim bashing does not look good – and then there was the appointment of a former counter-terrorism officer by Michael “Oiky” Gove.

Something does not look right about the Birmingham business. There’ll be more yet.

Mail Foodbank Reporter’s Disturbing Past

The Mail On Sunday has brought a mixture of anger, ridicule and sheer dismay down upon it today after running a story that was so contrived, cynical and spiteful that it went beyond even that paper’s low standards. “No ID, no checks... and vouchers for sob stories: The truth behind those shock food bank claimsthundered the headline. But it was the “undercover reporter” who generated the blowback.
Who're you calling a f***ing sleazebag, c***?!?

Ross Slater is pictured under the headline “How MoS Reporter Got 3 Days Of Groceries ... No Questions Asked”. Yes, there were so few questions that he was asked his name, date of birth, address, phone number and the reason for his visit. The food bank’s assessor then “asked our reporter a series of questions about why the food bank vouchers were needed”.
So the article is, let us not drive this one around the houses too much, a flagrant pack of lies from beginning to end. And Slater helped this process along very nicely by joining in with the lies, or he wouldn’t have secured the £40 worth of groceries that he is pictured showing off. Nor do we find out whether the food bank might have sent the authorities after him at a later date had he not handed it all back.
The response to this plainly nasty sting has been derisory: “NEXT WEEK’S MAIL ON SUNDAY EXCLUSIVE: How fire engines turned up at our reporter’s home when he reported a fire that DIDN’T EXIST” was one. “In tomorrow’s Mail, as our reporter is given a full course of chemotherapy after faking cancer, we ask is the NHS wasting taxpayers’ money?” was another.
One Tweeter mused “I’m kind of heartened by that food bank story. Even undercover journos can get groceries. Helpful given so many of them will soon be on [the] dole”, while another returned to the theme of cynicism: “That charity helped us when we lied and told them we were the exact person they were trying to help! The HORROR!”, and then someone looked at Ross Slater’s Twitter feed.
This has been deleted during the morning, but one resourceful soul got a capture of one Tweet Slater sent at the time of the 2012 Olympic Games. Sent to someone called Phil Parkin, it reads “Been asked by Mail On Sunday to locate rarely seen pix of [a] young Jess Ennis. Told you are the best hope, can [you]? Ross”. A phone number is helpfully provided for Parkin to tell Slater where he can stick his request.
Have a think about that. The nobly intentioned Ross Slater, fearless Mail On Sunday reporter, has not only lied through his teeth to half-inch £40 of groceries from a food bank, he is also adept at soliciting photos of little girls. And there I was thinking that the MoS wants to expose such people as sleazebags and wierdos. Or perhaps it’s all about being selective and just flogging a few more papers.

High principles and Northcliffe House never do seem to go together, do they?

UKIP Mired In Hamilton Sleaze

Next month, elections to the European Parliament (EP) take place, with Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP expected to do better than ever. The party has been posting record high poll ratings. Farage has, by common consent, bested Nick Clegg over two live debates. Hatchet jobs seem to just bounce off him. So what could possibly go wrong?
Simples. The presence within Mr Thirsty’s team of the deeply ambiguous Mostyn Neil Hamilton as “campaigns director”, together with the attention of Guardian Media Group, which caused him such discomfort during the days of “Tory sleaze”, are what is now going very wrong for UKIP, as readers are told that Hamilton has been eased out of his role in favour of Patrick “Lunchtime” O’Flynn.

O’Flynn, formerly at the Daily Express during the time when the paper became firmly established as the “Daily UKIP”, with its barrage of anti-EU front pages that were almost exclusively totally untrue, has been brought in to helpfully spin the message of the Farage fringe, and, although he is keeping schtum on Twitter, has had to dig deep to explain Hamilton’s move.
The party leadership decided we were entering a particularly active phase of the campaign, where communicating the message becomes the most important thing. As a result of that, the leader and chairman asked me to take on the additional role of campaigns director early in March”, “Lunchtime” told the Observer, managing not to mention the disgraced former Tatton MP.

Hamilton, according to the paper, has “upset colleagues by publicly accusing Ukip's main donor, Yorkshire-based tycoon Paul Sykes, of failing to deliver the finances he had promised”. As a result, Sykes “said the party wouldn't see a penny of his money if Neil was in charge of the campaign”. And “There is widespread resentment of Hamilton among party members who see him as a ‘Tory with baggage’”.

That baggage extended to the Guardian famously denouncing Hamilton as “A Liar And A Cheat” after his legal action against the paper collapsed. Now he’s been welcomed by UKIP and made a party vice-chairman. And he’s been joined recently by convicted former Tory council leader Brian Silvester, whose ward near Crewe is just down the road from Hamilton’s former constituency.

So far, only the Guardian and Observer are reporting this story. But then, for some time, these were the only titles covering Phonehackgate. Patrick O’Flynn has said “I don't think there's anything specific directed at Neil”, but that might just change if the story spreads and all those prospective Euro-votes get endangered by a raking over of the less than fortunate past of Neil Hamilton.

And UKIP have no-one else to blame: they let him in. They can have no complaints.

Top Six – April 20

So what’s hot, and what’s not, in the past week’s blogging? Here are the six most popular posts on Zelo Street for the past seven days, counting down in reverse order, because, well, I have domestic stuff to do later. So there.
6 Why Daily Mail Libelled Jo Rowling She passed adverse comment on the activities of the press at the Leveson Inquiry, signed the Hacked Off “Leveson Declaration”, and was deservedly popular. So the mean-spirited and spiteful Dacre hacks were instructed to put the boot in.

5 Cyril Smith And A Daily Mail Cover-Up The Mail accused everyone bar themselves of covering up the former Rochdale MP’s activities. But the paper had been told about him as far back as 1979, and its current editor was news editor when Smith was directly accused by his Labour opponent during the 1987 General Election campaign. They knew, and did nothing.

4 HS2 – Wolmar Sells The Pass A lengthy piece in the LRB from Christian Wolmar was, sadly, full of the inaccuracies that anti-HS2 groups have been peddling for years – and which have since been debunked.

3 Toby Young – “State Schools Break The Law” The loathsome Tobes denounced “tens of thousands” of schools as being “lawless”, mainly on the say-so of a shopkeeper he was talking to the other day.

2 Esther McVey Commits Career Suicide Wirral West’s Tory MP won’t be getting re-elected next year, after her Twitter feed continued to spew political messages during the Hillsborough memorial service last week. And the apology was too little, too late.

1 Don’t Menshn The Pulitzer Prize The Guardian’s US operation was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for public service. So stupid Louise Mensch took to Twitter to pretend that they hadn’t won it after all. More unintentional hilarity ensued.

And that’s the end of another blogtastic week, blog pickers. Not ‘arf!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

No FT, No Press Regulation Stitch-Up

One story from the realm of the Fourth Estate managed to get featured by Very Few Papers Indeed when it broke at lunchtime on Thursday, and for good reason: the Financial Times (FT) has declined to join the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), successor to the discredited PCC, and will instead set up its own system for handling complaints.
There are good reasons for the FT not to be part of any mainstream UK press regulator in any case: three-quarters of the title’s readers now come from outside the UK, the PCC had in any case received very few complaints about its reporting in recent years, and editor Lionel Barber sees his competition as coming from global news organisations, not the UK press.

And yet, and yet: the FT had been signed up to the PCC. Those who set up IPSO must have hoped to use the title to chip away at the last of those undecided, of which the Guardian and Independent (plus one significant regional title, the Evening Standard) are still perched firmly on the fence. Moreover, the disappointment in press ranks will not be assuaged by the way the FT is setting up its own system.

As Roy Greenslade has noted, “This will involve the appointment of an ombudsman-style person, called an editorial complaints commissioner, who will be independent of the editor”. Barber has asserted that “The successful candidate will be appointed by a three-person committee and will be independent of the editor”. That suggests the FT will be closer to the Leveson recommendations than IPSO.

Why the title should make its own highly individual choice is clear: Barber and his board appear to consider their way has a better chance of maintaining confidence in the FT’s journalism and integrity. They have concluded that their own system will be more worthwhile than IPSO (perhaps it will also be less costly). And they do not rule out joining a regulator recognised under the Royal Charter.

This last strengthens the arguments of both Hacked Off, whose spokesman has said that “The public already know that Ipso is nothing more than a shabby facsimile of the discredited PCC”, and also Jonathan Heawood’s nascent Charter-compliant regulator Impress, which he is in the process of crowdsourcing, aided by recently-libelled Daily Mail target Jo Rowling.

So where does that leave IPSO? Ah well. That is why most of the press has totally ignored the FT’s move, because this has shown there is an effective alternative which is better at maintaining public confidence in the product. Now, the problem for Lord Black of Brentwood and his pals is to head off any waverers from within their own ranks from following suit and saving themselves money and hassle.

The FT’s action has not been good for IPSO. The damage could be significant.

Charles Moore And Islamophobia

The allegations of “Islamist infiltration” into a number of schools in Birmingham have been examined on Zelo Street before (see HERE and HERE), and the involvement of the Telegraph’s Muslim basher par excellence Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan has been noted. But now, the paper has taken its campaign to a whole new level, by allowing senior pundit Charles Moore to jump in with both feet.
Showing the crashing ignorance and prejudice inherent in his piece is the headline: “A weak establishment is letting Islamists threaten British freedoms ... Birmingham council and police must do all they can to uncover extremist subversion in the city's schools. All Islamist schools of thought are hostile to democracy”. That is bad, even for the routinely clueless and paranoid Moore.

Then he really sells the pass: “As always with stories about Islam in Britain, the details are incredibly opaque, although The Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan is getting us closer to the truth”. Just f*** right off Charles, Gilligan wouldn’t know “the truth” if it jumped up and fly-hacked him in the undercarriage. Moore wants “the truth”? Well, one local school governor may be able to help him.

I serve as Vice-Chair of Governors at Regents Park School in Birmingham, a school named in the press as being among those 'infiltrated'. I categorically refute those allegations, and have demonstrated their emptiness to HM Inspectors for Schools” tells Anglican priest Oliver Coss, who for some reason does not appear to have been contacted by Gilligan, or anyone else from the Tel.

And, as to the appointment by Michael “Oiky” Gove of a former head of counter-terrorism to investigate the allegations made by the likes of Gilligan, he has this to say: “Majority Islamic neighbourhoods are well used to the 'terror' maps produced by the police, with big red blotches strategically placed over my church to scare me into submission; they are used to the Counter-Terrorist 'Neighbourhood' Unit; and they are used to accusations of 'Islamism' or 'extremism' being hurled at them, not because such things exist, but for the simple crime of being Muslims”.

Moore, however, is not even on the same page: “In the Birmingham case, it seems we are dealing with a war within Islam, between the more articulate, extreme and mysteriously well-funded Salafists (or Wahhabis) and the quieter, more traditional and numerous Barelvis” he assumes without getting a second source.

Instead, he insists the Muslims are out to get us: “Everything to do with Islamism is a web of obscurity, designedly so. People who believe that the Western way of life is a lie which should be overthrown have no scruples about concealing their actions and motives”. This is dangerous rabble-rousing nonsense.

And Charles Moore is an utter disgrace who should leave this to the authorities.

Murdoch Pundit Bitch Fight

An extraordinary row has broken out over there on the right, as two takers of the Murdoch shilling have begun fighting among themselves. And, although I would be more than happy to see both parties lose, the participants know that there will be only one of them on the losing side. Moreover, given that one party, the serially clueless Tim Montgomerie, is a Times staffer, that loser may not be him.
What's that, Guido? You'd like to resign?

Monty has, not for the first time, incurred the displeasure of his fellow right-wing cranks, and this time it is the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog who have engaged full stampy tantrum mode at the stance of the Times’ comment editor. Staines, his tame gofer, the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, and newly anointed teaboy Alex Wickham, write for the Sunday Sun.
Last Tuesday, after the Times had gone after Nigel “Thirsty” Farage over his trousering of expenses and allowances from the European Parliament (EP), the Fawkes folks in turn rubbished the Times, although to be fair they also noted Farage’s flakiness before the interrogation of Dermot Murnaghan on Sky News (“first for breaking wind”). Then came today’s Times leader.
We side with UKIP against [The Times], they write a leader – hiding behind Sarah Woolaston’s petticoats no less – saying we’re too aggressive” squealed the Fawkes rabble. Monty was dismissive: “Wrong: ‘As for the ‘aggressive male bloggers’ ... there is not much evidence of anything particularly ungentlemanly'” he quoted. On this occasion he is right. Staines and his pals are getting paranoid.
The Great Guido is seeing one event follow another and instantly assumes the two are connected. Now, had it been someone siding with another party against the Fawkes blog, the events would have been connected: Staines is, behind the veneer of good-humoured agreeability, one of the most viciously vindictive SOBs known to humankind. But he should not judge others by his legendarily low standards.
Back at the argument, the Fawkes rabble sniped back at Monty “Concludes after amplifying – arguably hiding behind – Sarah Woolaston’s accusations”, confirming that there is one woman MP with whom they have a woman problem. “Rubbish. Hadn’t realised BTW that you sided with UKIP. Now noted” mused Monty. “Another mark against my name in your little black book” returned the Fawkes folks.
There is all sorts at work here: jealousy at Monty getting his staff berth, paranoia in that the Fawkes rabble think the Times is picking on them (as if), and sheer petulance as The Great Guido demonstrates a flakiness, an inability to take the stick that is so readily given out to others. But under all of this is the thought that Rupe’s management may not look favourably on the unedifying spectacle.

Yes, there may be a loser from this scrap, and it ain’t going to be Montgomerie.

Friday, 18 April 2014

David Axelrod – Good Labour Call

Barack Obama's most influential adviser during two presidential victories has been hired to advise Labour on its 2015 election campaign, ensuring that Ed Miliband will put inequality and the break between family finances and economic growth at the centre of his election campaignobserved the Guardian today. David Axelrod will join for the 2015 General Election campaign effort.
Do not underestimate this man

Readers are reminded that he “was integral not just to Obama's two presidential victories in 2008 and 2012, but also to Obama's election as a senator in 2004”, along with a statement of the obvious, “His arrival on the British scene will pit him against the Australian Lynton Crosby, the Conservative campaign consultant, who is one the toughest campaign operators”. So how seriously are the Tories taking this?

And the answer to that is very seriously indeed: we can deduce this from the amount of gratuitous knocking copy already being generated. The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog have led the way with a dirt-digging “appraisal” which holds, more or less, that Axelrod is rubbish because some of those he worked for did not win, or suffered falls from grace further down the line.
Not that The Great Guido is a Conservative, you understand. And this view can be dismissed: anyone telling that Douglas “Kamikaze” Carswell should be involved in writing the next Tory manifesto is not dealing from a full deck. Meanwhile, Tim Montgomerie is worried “Axelrod’s appointment clearest indication yet that Labour will run a bash-the-rich campaign. I fear 35% of Britain will indeed vote for it”.
So says the totally unbiased former Conservative Home man. And, talking of ConHome, Mark Wallace, former stalwart of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance has also passed adverse comment: “Odd decision by Labour to do a video of Axelrod, their new strategist. Isn’t he meant to be strategising rather than fronting the campaign?” so he didn’t have anything to say, either.
Except, of course, to make sure this hire was A Very Bad Move, a sentiment echoed by Willard Foxton: “It is worth noting when hiring Obama advisors, that electing a uniquely charismatic candidate is easier than electing Ed Miliband”. They all make that same mistake of sneering before stopping to figure out Miliband. And Foxton manages to miss the one hurdle Obama was not expected to be able to clear.

It takes former Blair Political Secretary John McTernan to put the Axelrod appointment in the kind of plain English all can comprehend: “David Axelrod can do for Ed Miliband what he did for President Obama: get him elected”. Sadly, though, the right is not listening. They think if the yah-boo is maintained up to polling day, all will be well. And by taking that attitude, they tell us how good Axelrod really is.

Given the instant abuse, that would be very good indeed.

UKIP – Farage Under Fire

Patrick “Lunchtime” O’Flynn, now an honest supporter of UKIP and their Director of Communications, exemplified the party’s inability to inhabit the real world when he leapt on a remark by the Sun’s deputy political editor Steve Hawkes, who had spoken too soon when he mused “I see EU diplomacy has worked wonders in Ukraine”. “Coming round to our way of thinking, Steve” replied O’Flynn.
European squeaky finger up the bum time imminent

Hawkes reminded “Lunchtime” that “[You] don’t have to be in or out of the EU to fail at diplomacy”. It was a pretty desperate punt by O’Flynn, and, despite some promising poll numbers, Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his pals have good reason to feel insecure, as the party comes under a more critical spotlight and its leader appears rattled when nasty words like “Expenses” are turned back on him.

Previously, “Expenses” was part of the UKIP armoury, to be spat out all over what the more feeble-brained of their supporters call “The LibLabCon”. Yes, “Expenses” are what the Westminster parties get up to. UKIP, held to be pure as the driven snow by comparison, do not dirty themselves with such tawdry behaviour. Moreover, they are an inclusive party, with none of that baggage carried by the rest.
Someone trying too hard to get support here

But now someone within the Fourth Estate has figured out that Farage is no stranger to those “Expenses” either: indeed, Mr Thirsty had, by 2009, trousered around £2 million over and above his salary as an MEP, and was more than happy to sound off about it. Now that the media is getting critical, though, Nige is not quite so happy, as when he was confronted over his annual £3,000 electricity bill.

Then there is the taint of intolerance that hangs over UKIP: when Marine le Pen, leader of the French Front National (FN) “said that she would welcome collaboration with UKIP with ‘open arms’”, the Farage spokesman retorted thatthey were ‘not interested in any deal’ because ‘in the parties DNA there is prejudice and anti-Semitism in particular’”. Any link to the far-right, they know, is bad news.
Sun man calls this one right

And there are also the twin pincers of the fruitcakes – such as the councillor who blamed recent flooding on same-sex marriage – and the criminal fringe, exemplified by Crewe’s very own dodgy dealer Brian Silvester, not only binned by the Tories, but now under investigation by Cheshire East Council for misuse of taxpayer-funded resources. That’s an awful lot of cats to herd.

But herd them Farage and his fringe must, if they are content to let the proverbial “nutcases and criminals” sit at their table. And Mr Thirsty can’t keep railing at the establishment and not expect to be called out for hypocrisy: he is, after all, a product of private schooling and the City of London. Last week’s events show that the press may have at last caught up with Farage the flim-flam man.

Can he hold off the criticism through the European election campaign?

Come Back Bob Crow, All Is Forgiven

Tube strikes? Londoners, the Daily Mail wasted no time in telling its readers, were sick and tired of them. And there could be only one villain of the piece: Bob Crow. He was a militant! He got paid a salary and pension contributions too! He still lived in a council house (and a photo was helpfully provided, so readers knew where to find him)! He sometimes ate out at decent restaurants!
Unfunny and talentless churnalist Richard Littlejohn was in no doubt as to Crow’s malign influence: “Barbados Bob, great train robber who uses industrial brute force to make rail passengers stand and deliver” he declared only last February, before telling another load of whoppers about Clive Jenkins, which he can get away with because the former union leader is long dead.

Dicky Windbag even surmisedFor some time now I have suspected that Bob Crow is an MI5 agent ... If you tried to invent a man to discredit and destroy the trades union movement from within, there could be no finer candidate ... Bob Crow seems determined to bring down not only his own union but the entire TUC”. Interesting way of saying “he did exactly what he was elected to do”, that.

And then Crow got a pay rise! “Militant union baron Bob Crow has brushed aside calls for wage restraint – and quietly pocketed an astonishing 12 per cent pay rise. The hardline general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union has taken the £10,000 salary increase, despite the painful pay freeze affecting millions of workers in both the public and private sectors” howled the Mail in protest.

One could have been forgiven for getting the impression from the Mail’s characteristically hostile coverage that there were only tube strikes because of Crow, and that, were someone else at the helm of the RMT Union, all would be well. I mean, he was not only “militant”, but “hardline” too! And he claimed expenses! And on top of that, he claimed travel costs!

Then the Daily Mail, and all the other repositories of right-leaning frothing and ranting, unexpectedly got their wish when Crow died suddenly last month. Now he was no longer around, there would surely be a more conciliatory and moderate tone from the union’s leadership. Wouldn’t there? Er, no there wouldn’t: five days of strike action have been called, starting in less than a fortnight’s time.

So what does the Mail have to say about that? “The industrial action announced by the RMT Union today will be the first since the death of its firebrand leader Bob Crow last month”. What they really mean is that they wanted Crow still to be around, so the hacks could have a clear target for their ire, someone they could demonise and use to flog more papers. Now it’s just strikes and no convenient bogeyman.

And proof that Bob Crow wasn’t especially militant, hardline, or anything else.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Dorries Desperate Development Spin

Although her novel is now selling for as little as £3.99 a copy, Mid Bedfordshire’s Tory MP (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries is clearly not downhearted, despite the indifferent reviews – those from the Guardian, Staggers and Telegraph, which awarded the book 2, 1 and 1 star ratings respectively, come up at the top of a Google search – and has now taken up arms against wind power.
Cranfield Residents: Object Now!proclaims her not-really-a-blog. For why? “The plan to install six wind turbines near the villages of Cranfield, Marston, Brogborough and Lidlington has now been filed and it is vital that residents object ... I’m convinced that in fifty years time our grandchildren will look at these turbines and laugh at our foolishness in allowing such monsters of inefficiency to blight their landscape”.

So that’s a partisan stance and a highly subjective claim just to kick things off, then. But maybe there is some substance to this objection? “My objections to the forcing of wind turbines on communities I represent are legion, but it comes down to the principle that the benefits gained are dwarfed by the distress caused. These things cause serious disturbances in their local areas”. They do? How so?
From Private Eye issue 1364

Many kinds of background noise are filtered out by the brain but that is not the case with turbines. The non-repetitive nature of the noise, due to changes in the strength of the wind, means that people can’t ‘zone out’ the noise in the same way. It is constantly present”. Do we get a reliable citation for this assertion? And how can something that is “non-repetitive” be “constantly present”?

In fact, there isn’t any citation, because she doesn’t know. “Studies are ongoing into the potential dangers this causes to the health of people living nearby, but having a horror film soundtrack playing in the background of your life is hardly conducive to relaxation and wellbeing!” and there I was thinking that there was a difference between a wind turbine spinning in the breeze and the Psycho shower scene.

So what do we do about our energy needs? “I believe the government should be focused on investing in new nuclear technology, complemented by some renewables such as solar and off-shore wind”. That would be “putting it somewhere else”, then,  which comes from Ms Dorries’ “having stood at the last election on a manifesto committed to the localism agenda”.

And there I was (again) not realising that localism is another word for Nimby. Yes, there are wind turbines near where I live. Meh. Big deal. I’d think more of the fragrant Nadine if she backed this up with some fact-finding, rather than knee-jerk nimbyism. And the press would pay more attention, only she just decided to alienate part of it because they wouldn’t say nice things about her book.

I suspect those wind turbines will be built sooner or later. Just my opinion.