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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Toby Young’s Trojan Horse Excuse

Over at the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs, the loathsome Toby Young is taking yet more time away from his day job – being CEO of the West London Free School (WLFS) – to let the world know that, despite the removal of his hero Michael “Oiky” Gove from the helm at the Department for Education (DfE), he is the go-to expert on all matters educational, whatever the subject.
The view from the Weinbunker

The Trojan Horse plot is an indictment of local education authorities, not academieshe asserts grandly today, still assuming that anonymous letter alleging a plot was rather more genuine than has been concluded. “The argument is that if you allow taxpayer-funded schools to break free of local authority control, it's inevitable that some of them will be taken over by extremists” he postulates.

And so he walks straight into a false assumption: religious conservatism is not “extremism”. One might have hoped that someone who runs a school with an intake from a diverse range of cultures and backgrounds might be a little more steady on the hyperbolic tiller. But, as Clive James might have said, I digress. Tobes is on a mission, however dishonest, to smear local authorities.

The school at the centre of the plot, Park View, only converted to academy status last year” he asserts. April 1, 2012, was not last year, Tobes. So when he says “the Islamist infiltration of Park View and other schools was brought to the attention of the local authority two years ago, when the schools were still Birmingham City Council's responsibility, and officers did nothing”, there is a good reason for it.

The school concerned was not Birmingham City Council’s responsibility, so there was nothing officers could do – not directly, at any rate. And when Tobes tells his readers “When the schools became academies, by contrast, and became directly accountable to the Secretary of State for Education, the plot was investigated and action was taken”, this too is bunk. Gove did stuff all for two years.

In fact, the DfE was told four years ago. Remember “How did it come to pass, for example, that one of the governors at Park View was the chairman of the education committee of the Muslim Council of Britain? Is it true that Birmingham city council was warned about these allegations in 2008? Is it true that the Department for Education was warned in 2010? If so, why did nobody act?” Theresa May’s letter?

One might have expected Tobes to remember that, being part of the row that told Young Dave that he would have to demote Gove. Yes, Gove’s department was warned about potential religious conservatism being applied in some schools four years ago, and it did precisely nothing. Tobes telling fibs will not help matters. And, in any case, his latest post is just a re-hash of one from last month.

I do hope WLFS pupils don’t get to read his stuff. It would set a terrible example.

Tories’ Youth Wing In Turmoil

Back in the 1998, William ‘Ague must have thought he’d sorted the fractious behaviour of the Tory Party’s youth wing for good, after three disparate groups were brought together under the single banner of Conservative Future (CF). But it seems that CF may be about to cause the Conservative Party proper a whole lot more grief – less than a year before the next General Election.
CF is at present chaired by Oliver Cooper, who was elected in March last year. Elections are, it seems, held every year, but now comes word that there are to be elections next month – and, moreover, that Cooper has been more or less instructed not to stand. That means he will have been effectively sacked from his post. His downfall can be traced back to the Newark by-election.

The Murdoch Times ran a piece titledSex and vindaloo lures young Tory army to Newark”. In preparing the article, Cooper was interviewed about CF, and the RoadTrip2015 campaign. The comments about sex were, it seems, judged to be the latest – and most serious – in a line of gaffes emanating from Cooper. He was apparently given the hard word at a recent drinks reception.

As the Blue Guerrilla blog has noted, a “senior Road Trip / party activist figure” appears to be personally involved. Well, RoadTrip2015 was founded by Mark Clarke, who was a Tory PPC in Tooting at the last General Election before being directly removed from the candidates’ list. My information is that Clarke is heavily involved in the removal of Cooper and precipitation of fresh CF elections.

Now, here on Zelo Street we are aware that Mark Clarke is a sensitive flower. He was not at all happy when Sunny Hundal called him out over the dodgy nature of his Twitter following, and I doubt he was best pleased when I passed adverse comment on his presence at the now-moribund Trade Union Reform Campaign (TURC), which seeks not to reform Trades Unions, but do them serious damage.

But the question stands: is Mark Clarke behind the move to oust Oliver Cooper, who, it now seems, has accepted his fate? What democratic mandate does Clarke, or whoever else may be involved, possess that legitimises this behaviour? Yes, this is on the face of it a purely internal CF squabble, but just imagine what those out on the right would be doing if it had been a body associated with the Labour Party.

Moreover, what is the role of the Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF) and its head man Donal Blaney in all of this? Clarke was Development Director of the YBF – that self-styled “Conservative Madrasa” – so, once again, the question stands. What is the role of Grant “Spiv” Shapps? Is Tory Party HQ aware of what is going on? If so, what has been the reaction? Will we see a straight denial of any tendency to entryism?

The impression is given that some on the right want to keep this quiet. No chance.

Thomas The Tank Engine – Lighten Up

Until yesterday, I had not heard of Tracy Van Slyke. And, having now read her latest contribution to our understanding of children’s literature, I can safely conclude that, not only have I not suffered any disadvantage by not having heard of Tracy Van Slyke, I will suffer no disadvantage if the writings of Tracy Van Slyke are forever lost to me. This conclusion can be easily explained.
Ms Van Slyke has penned a contribution to the Guardian’s Comment Is Free (CiF), and it is to be hoped that this is a very occasional contribution indeed. Here, she tells that there is – to her, at least – “Classism, sexism [and] anti-environmentalism bordering on racism” embedded in a genre that is lapped up by millions of unsuspecting children worldwide. What is the identity of the culprit?

This supposed vehicle for the subversion of minors is none other than Thomas The Tank Engine. Yes, I too have struggled to see how the Reverend Wilbert Awdry – an Anglican priest – was able to write such horrors into those books which followed from his bedtime stories for son Christopher, who was at the time recovering from a bout of measles. What did everyone miss?

You’ll love this: “when the good engines pump out white smoke and the bad engines pump out black smoke – and they are all pumping out smoke – it's not hard to make the leap into the race territory”. Christ On A Bike, that’s desperate. And the Fat Controller does not wear a “tuxedo”, Ms Van Slyke. It’s called a Frock Coat. We’re talking about something particularly English here.

Oh, and the most damning indictment of the Thomas genre is that James The Red Engine got the piss taken out of him when he was summoned by the Fat Controller to do a job while still in pink undercoat. Well, have I got news for Ms Van Slyke: Thomas The Tank Engine does not contain any coded messages. For goodness’ sake, these are stories for children, no more, no less.

Small wonder that one of those stopping by to comment on this hyperbolic confection observed that “peak Guardian” had been reached. Few have taken it seriously, although some of those trying – again – to pretend that CiF equals Guardian editorial line have revealed their own shortcomings in the process. Step forward the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog.

The Great Guido took grave exception to Ms Van Slyke’s talk of engines emitting smoke: “It’s not white smoke you numpty, it’s steam. They are steam engines”. Staines and his rabble must have missed the overall roof at St Pancras before it was cleaned. Likewise King’s Cross, Manchester Piccadilly, Liverpool Lime Street, and yes, even Crewe. Of course they pump out smoke.

And now the smoke has gone, there are pundits to pump out guff instead.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

So Farewell Then Tabloid Troll

Overnight, it appears that the abusive and threatening Twitter presence known as @tabloidtroll first went private, and then was deleted. Thus was closed a less than pleasant chapter in the realms of trolling, threatening behaviour, and stalking, to the general relief of those who would rather it had never been there in the first place. He is going to write a book – well, so long as I don’t have to read it, and all that.
Although @tabloidtroll was a singularly unpleasant individual – claims that the account had more than one author were not, as with much of its content, grounded in fact – there were lighter moments among the threats, smears, obsessive pursuits, unsolicited phone calls (I kid you not), trolling of contributors to the Leveson Inquiry, and the constant talk of arriving on the doorstep.
Take the hacking trial, for starters: almost exactly two years ago, @tabloidtroll proclaimed to the world, in the style of the woman from the Resistance in ‘Allo ‘Allo, “Saying this once: Hope Andy Coulson isn’t charged today – and if he is that whatever they lay on him doesn’t stick. Great journalist”. Thus was Coulson cursed: he is now doing a stretch in Belmarsh.
Likewise @tabloidtroll’s unequivocal support for Neville “Stylish Masturbator” Thurlbeck: “Neville Thurlbeck has told the BBC he is ‘most surprised and disappointed’ to have been charged with phone hacking  ... and that he will ‘fight vigorously’ to clear his name ... these are just charges. Proving is something else”. Nev is, apparently, sharing a cell with Coulson.
For some light relief, there was the occasional discussion of what would happen when @tabloidtroll turned up on the doorstep of one of his critics (given his behaviour, there was always a good choice of these). He was “ever more convinced one-on-one is required here”. A friend offered to accompany him; clearly no man is of perfect courage. And someone else would film proceedings.
But for sheer unintended hilarity, there was the insight into investigative journalism: “So who is this blogging clown speaking of his admiration for Gaddafi?” he announced triumphantly. He had found someone called Tim Fenton. The problem was, it wasn’t me, and I was the intended target. @tabloidtroll had not understood that there are several people who style themselves thus.
This message did not at first get through. So a little later, we got “Happily for anyone in Crewe who has forgotten Gaddafi’s war crimes the Guardian archive has this”. But it still wasn’t me. Although he knew where I lived, which would be useful, were I to forget. And @tabloidtroll did everyone a great service: nobody needed to explain the worst tabloid hack mentality. He was it. And now he’s quit.

I’d like to have something positive to say about him. But sadly I don’t. At all.

Murdoch Tulisa Hypocrisy

The press has picked up on the collapse yesterday of the trial on drugs charges of singer Tulisa Contostavlos, after Judge Alistair McCreath concluded that Sun on Sunday’sace reporter” Mazher Mahmood had lied to him, with the sole purpose of manipulating evidence. Or rather, most of the press has picked up on the story: no prizes for guessing which title kept schtum.
Tulisa Contostavlos

Yes, while the Mail thunderedThe 'lying' Fake Sheikh who tricked Tulisa and new shame for The Sun as former X-Factor judge is CLEARED of arranging cocaine deal with undercover reporter”, and the Mirror went for the more prosaicTulisa trial collapses: Dramatic scenes at Southwark Crown Court as case THROWN OUT”, the Murdoch Sun remained tight-lipped and ashen-faced.

While the Evening Standard noted thatTulisa Contostavlos weeps as judge throws drugs case out of court ... ‘Fake Sheikh’ tainted integrity of the court, says Tulisa judge”, and the Guardian told thatTulisa Contostavlos trial collapses over Mazher Mahmood's evidence ... Judge says case cannot go on because of belief that 'fake sheikh' had lied at pre-trial hearing”, Rupe’s downmarket troops said nothing.
That was then ...

Even the Times only managed a footnote on the front page, which one might have easily missed, were one not looking out for it. How different it all was when Mahmood stung Ms Contostavlos: under the proclamation “World Exclusive”, the Sunday Sun headline screamed “Tulisa’s Cocaine Deal Shame ... X Factor star caught setting up secret sale with drugs pal”.

The paper’s daily stablemate was not backward in coming forward for a piece of the action, announcing beneath the claim of a “Drug Shame Exclusive” the news “We Will Arrest Tulisa Say Cops ... Star to be quizzed over cocaine deal”. So anyone trying to spin the angle “the daily wouldn’t comment because they’re two separate papers” is advised to take that lame deflection and shove it.
... but this is now

What about today’s Super Soaraway Currant Bun? You jest: while everyone else is reporting the shame of Britain’s allegedly favourite paper, the Murdoch faithful ask readers to “look over there” at Young Dave being jolly tough with Vladimir Putin, the only trace of sleb presence being Katie Price. That means they’re desperate. Not even a mention of their having suspended Mahmood.

The Guardian noted that “Often posing as a rich Arabic businessman or royal, he claims to have conducted stories which saw 100 people jailed, including paedophiles and arms dealers. He has also duped celebrities such as the Countess of Wessex and Sven-Göran Eriksson into revealing secrets”. Perhaps Mazher Mahmood might like to try a first-hand investigation of the criminal justice system next?

And perhaps the Murdoch faithful can come clean about their stables. Which aren’t.

Fake Sheikh – Pants On Fire

He enacted sting after sting for the now defunct Screws: Mazher Mahmood, aka The Fake Sheikh, was a legend among those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet. Many convictions have depended wholly on his evidence, and his activities. And yesterday he was exposed as a liar. Thus the idea that bad press behaviour ended when the Screws was shut down was exposed as a sham.
That's no Sheikh, he's 100% fake

Mahmood has, in the past, gone to great lengths to conceal his identity; he claims that, as an undercover reporter, publishing photos of him would be detrimental to his work. Well, given he’s not only a lying sleazebag, but a proven lying sleazebag, here on Zelo Street we say Stuff That For A Game Of Soldiers. So here is Mazher Mahmood, in all his less than total glory.

Mahmood’s run of good fortune came juddering to a halt yesterday at Southwark Crown Court as the trial on drugs charges of singer Tulisa Contostavlos collapsed. The judge concluded that Mahmood “told me lies when he gave evidence to me on the 27th of June ... there are strong grounds for believing that the underlying purpose of these lies was to conceal the fact that he had been manipulating the evidence”.

As Mahmood was “the sole progenitor of this case; the sole investigator; the sole prosecution witness; someone who appears to have gone to great lengths to get Ms Contostavlos to agree to involve herself in criminal conduct, certainly to far greater lengths than would have been appropriate had he been a Police investigator”, there could be no other outcome to the case.

But what was most worrying was that the Murdoch press – supposedly cleaned up after the demise of the Screws – was still prepared to indulge Mahmood. The Screws had paid a witness in the alleged Victoria Beckham kidnap trial; the trial subsequently collapsed. The payment was considered to be a factor. Mahmood and his paper had their arses wiped by the supine PCC.

That wasn’t an isolated incident: Roy Greenslade told yesterday that he had been prepared to be a witness on behalf of Ms Contostavlos: “I had prepared a statement in which I outlined the reason he departed from the Sunday Times in 1988 after lying about changes he made to editorial copy”. It got worse.

I revealed the details of that incident to the Leveson inquiry. It led to Mahmood being recalled because he had previously lied about it in his evidence to Lord Justice Leveson”. Mazher Mahmood worked for decades in the service of the Murdoch empire. He appears to have been prepared to lie in order to progress stories. Many of his stings resulted in criminal convictions. Some may have to be revisited.

Ms Contostavlos is urging Police action against Mahmood. And once again the whole sordid business comes back to one man: that man is Rupert Murdoch.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Guido Fawked – Say Sorry To Owen Jones

One thing you soon realise about the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog is that, for them, sorry is indeed the hardest word, so hard, in fact, that they cannot bring themselves to utter it. Saying sorry, for The Great Guido, is for other people to do to them. So when they tried a smear too far against Owen Jones this morning, saying sorry was out of the question.
Remember who The Great Guido supports

Under the heading “Sick Owen Jones Papped Mocking Teen Polar Bear Tragedy”, the Fawkes folks produced a slice of magnificently creative logic, telling that Jones had passed severely adverse comment on the comrades at Socialist Worker who had, for whatever reason, thought that the death of student Horatio Chapple was a cause for mickey-taking, as he had gone to Eton.
What the Fawkes folks pulled - Take 1

Jones pointed out that mauling by a polar bear is not something to take lightly, merely because of where someone went to school, which in any case is unlikely to have been Chapple’s decision. Jones concluded that this might be the Socialist Worker’s form of socialism, but it certainly wasn’t his. Then he was photographed at the Tolpuddle festival last weekend, at the Greenpeace stand.
What the Fawkes folks pulled - Take 2

This featured a polar bear that was most definitely not a live one: it was part of the Greenpeace campaign to persuade oil giant Shell to desist from further exploration in the Arctic. Jones was pictured in front of the display. The ridiculous and out of order conclusion of the Fawkes rabble? “Here are Owen and two friends at Saturday’s Tolpuddle festival, mocking Horatio Chapple’s death”.
And here's a particularly stupid Tory MP

The grammar is reasonably correct, so this was probably the invention of newly anointed teaboy Alex Wickham, who makes up for his slight presence by being just as full of crap as his pals. The idea that Owen Jones was mocking someone’s death by being photographed in front of the Greenpeace stand was even more stupid than a stupid idea from the department of stupidity at the University of Stupid.
One person emerges with dignity intact

But was there an apology? Was there heck. But at least this spiteful and unnecessary post was taken down. Also removed was a Tweet in support of the Fawkes rabble from Tory MP Stewart Jackson, although he too was not big enough to say sorry, either to Jones or to Peterborough’s Labour prospective Parliamentary candidate, who he managed to smear by association.

Owen Jones has now Tweeted that he considers the matter closed, as the offending post has been removed. By doing so, and with the Fawkes rabble and their now-disgraced Tory MP pal too yellow to apologise, he has the moral high ground while The Great Guido and his associates once again find themselves occupying a space somewhere between gutter and sewer.

They’re full value for their 4% positive trust rating. Another fine mess, once again.

Mail BBC Bashing Weather Washout

Another day brings another attempt by the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre to put the boot in on the hated BBC, and today’s specialist subject is Regional Weather Forecasts. “Why does the BBC waste your money on so many weather forecasters? One forecast last week - and a dozen different faces across the countryis the headline on Ross Clark’s rant.
What's f***ing wrong with my journalists' research, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

Er, hello, this is rather obvious, isn’t it? The regional forecast gives the kind of local detail that the national picture cannot do, for reasons of both time and relevance. But on ploughs Clark: “At a time of austerity, when the Culture Secretary has indicated he is prepared to be radical in reconsidering BBC funding, claiming many families find the annual £145.50 licence fee ‘a lot of money’, how much do all these weathermen — and women — cost?” he demands.

And, guess what, the Beeb won’t tell him: “Strangely, I have discovered this is confidential information. The number of weather forecasters and presenters employed by the BBC is, apparently, a secret ... The Beeb simply refused to tell me how many regional forecasters it employs”.

That, Dacre doggies, may be not unrelated to many of them performing other duties apart from weather forecasts: here in the North West, it is not uncommon to see Dianne Oxberry and Eno Eruotor on reporting duties. And talking of our resident evening forecasters, which one has the Mail featured? Ah well. This is where the Dacre doggies sell the pass big time.
So that's Mel Coles, is it?

Clark’s article has a photo for every regional presenter (what a busy life these Daily Mail hacks lead, eh?). And here’s the North West one, captioned “Mel Coles seems happy in the North-West”. Riiight. We have a problem, Northcliffe House bunker: that is not Mel Coles. And Mel Coles is not at BBC North West. Just so you can see that it is not Mel Coles, here she is.
Er, maybe it wasn't, Dacre hacks

The photo is regular BBC North West weather presenter Dianne Oxberry, who will be spending most of today getting teed off by fellow staff members calling her Mel. But, you may point out, Mel Coles does occasionally pop up on North West weather forecasts – so how can that happen if she doesn’t work there? Simples. The BBC has been making cuts in the number of weather forecasters it employs.

Those cuts mean presenters from BBC East Midlands also record a North West forecast as well as one for their home region – especially at weekends. Yes, the cuts the Dacre doggies want to see happen have, er, already happened. And the effect of those cuts has been most keenly felt at the Daily Mail, where it has caused Ross Clark to get his regional forecasters confused.

You want proper journalism? You won’t get it from the Daily Mail, that’s for sure.

MH17 – Citizen Journalism Shames The Press

Damning US intelligence puts Russia in the dock” proclaims the Times’ front page lead this morning. Thus the orthodox line: only at superpower level can you find the quality of intelligence to nail Vladimir Putin and his followers. This recalls the aftermath of the then USSR shooting down flight KAL007 after it had accidentally strayed over Soviet airspace.
Old media: the Murdoch Times

The USA had what we now know as Global Positioning System (GPS): their military could see that the Russians were dissembling. But what the Times, and most of the mainstream press would rather not admit, is that, with less and less being spent on proper investigative journalism, but more ordinary people having access to the video technology and the internet, the incriminating evidence can come from anywhere.

And nowhere has this been seen to better effect than in the pursuit of evidence to show that a Buk missile launcher was in the rebel-held area of eastern Ukraine at the time Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down last Thursday. Photos and videos were linked to the towns of Snizhne and Torez by using tools such as Google Earth and local language skills.

Not that you would know this from reading the report fashioned by the Daily Mail, which does not credit those who did the hard work, but instead subsumes the results of their research inside a much longer piece giving a wider picture of the shooting down. For citizen journalism to get the credit it deserves, you have to look in at the deeply subversive Guardian.
New media: Eliot Higgins in sofa over-occupation shock ((c) Guardian)

Here, Eliot Higgins (aka Brown Moses) and his new venture Bellingcat are name-checked. Why is this project important? Ah well. Here we enter a world that the Times doesn’t want to talk about, and the Mail doesn’t want to credit. Eliot has made Bellingcat open for anyone to view for the next 48 hours, so you can see how he and his contributors located the Buk.

HERE he analyses a video showing the launcher driving through what was claimed to be the town of Snizhne. Crowd-sourcing and online tools and maps were all that was needed to confirm that it was indeed taken in Snizhne, the apartment block used as a vantage point, and therefore that the Buk was around 10 to 15km from the crash site around the time MH17 was shot down.

HERE the language skills of Aric Toler are used to pinpoint the location where a Buk launcher was seen minus at least one of its rockets. This was shown to be the nearby town of Torez: the yellow facade of the store was key. There is a Kickstarter open for Bellingcat, and you can contribute HERE. I have already done so, as have around 450 others. If the press won’t do this work, there is one alternative.

You want it done properly? Do it yourself. Please support Bellingcat – today.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Reshuffle – It Was Wonderful. Or Not

Tokenism. Insulting. A takeover by “The Blob”. All sentiments from right-leaning pundits after Young Dave completed his ministerial reshuffle last week. But time is ticking down to next May’s General Election. It is time for all loyal Tory-supporting pundits to come to the aid of the party, however lame the narrative. And so in they all trooped, spin prepared, to tell that it was really rather good. Well, nearly all.
Yes, "Oiky", the pundits like you. But you're still demoted

For starters, having Michael “Oiky” Gove demoted to Chief Whip, according to the odious Quentin Letts (let’s not), was No Bad Thing: “Michael Gove sat in the end-of-bench berth reserved for Chief Whips ... To see the Gover in that august position perhaps reminded one that Chief Whip really is quite some job”. Then he pretended that Young Dave had won last week’s PMQs, as he always does.

Letts told that Philip Hammond was another rather good choice, even suggesting him as future Prime Ministerial material (does he have a wisdom tooth excuse, though?). So Letts is already saying it was all excellent. Bruce “Brute” Anderson at the Telegraph tried to outdo even that: the reshuffle was “just about the most abused ever. In my view, the critics are completely wrong”.

What of the Gove sacking? “The removal of Michael Gove was the most dramatic aspect. It aroused great alarm and despondency: would this mean the end of the Gove reforms? There is a simple and emphatic answer to that: absolutely not. Mr Gove was not only a good education secretary. He was a great one, and he brought to his daunting tasks radical energy, indomitable courage and a profound idealism”.

So that’s another inhabitant of cloud cuckoo land, then. But there was no shortage of eager pundits wanting to talk up Cameron’s new team, as witness Matthew d’Ancona, whose Gove take is, er, interesting: “Cameron had tailored an entirely bespoke role for his friend and colleague ... It is certainly true that Gove had discussed a move of this sort with both Cameron and Osborne”.

You think that was barking? The peroration was even more out there: “This reshuffle was not a victory for Left or Right, men or women, but for sturdy Tory pragmatism. It is this which has guided Cameron’s career for 20 years. More to the point, it is this which he believes, with growing confidence, will steer his party to victory next May”. Cue endless re-runs of that Smash advert. Anyone care to dissent?

You betcha, says Sarah: at the Spectator, under the titleDavid Cameron’s Stepford Ministers” [ouch!], Melissa Kite observed that “As women routinely break through the glass ceiling purely on their merits, in arenas from banking and law to engineering and information technology, Cameron presides over the last bastion of soft misogyny”. No invites to 10 Downing Street receptions for you, Ms K.

And she may have something: Cameron is, after all, a former PR practitioner.

Gaza – Mad Mel v Mandela

The situation in Gaza has become desperate: hospitals have been overwhelmed,  mortuaries are overflowing with the death toll rising beyond the 400 mark, most of those civilians. So when a huge demonstration took place yesterday in London, one might have thought that even the most hawkish right-wingers would pause for thought. But not Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips.
Definitely not Fair and Balanced

Mad Mel was at her screaming, intolerant worst. That the Israeli Government might be overreacting and indulging in disproportionate behaviour was not allowed to enter. Anyone dissenting from her view was hell-bent on the destruction of Israel.
The demonstration was her main target. “‘From river to the sea’: London demo reveals true aim of Gaza mob is racist destruction of historic Jewish Israel” she frothed, not realising that Israel is, historically, just 66 years old.
And note that a peaceful demonstration is, in the retelling, a “mob”. But there was more: “Hamas double war crimes ignored; instead Israel defence against them called war crime. Mass moral derangement in UK”. The Guardian doesn’t agree with her.
But someone does: “Douglas Murray calls out real agenda for pro-Gaza demonstrators as Jew-hatred. All decent folk should share disgust”. Yes, I’m disgusted that anyone should take an Islamophobic bigot like Murray on trust.
That, though, did not concern Mel: “Largely Muslim Jew-hating Gaza demos London and Europe threaten harm not to Israel but Europe, says Douglas Murray”. Citing Murray in support even once is bad. Twice ... you figure it out.
And then there was a suitable canard to finish: “As others have observed, if Gaza demilitarised there would be peace and no dead Palestinians. If Israel demilitarised there would be genocide”. And what kind of comparison is that?

It’s a pretty poor one. And we can get some idea how poor when considering how someone who experienced decades of the Apartheid regime in South Africa viewed how Israel is behaving towards the Palestinians. Nelson Mandela noted thatThe so-called ‘Palestinian autonomous areas’ are Bantustans. These are restricted entities within the power structure of the Israeli Apartheid system”.

He continued “Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children”.

Before Melanie Phillips talks of “demilitarisation”, she should heed those words. But she, and too many others, will not. There is no military solution available in Gaza.

Owen Paterson – The Curse Of Booker

The Telegraph’s serial fraud Christopher Booker had no doubt about the real hero of sorting the Somerset floods, when dispensing his dubiously sourced pearls of wisdom the weekend before Young Dave’s cabinet reshuffle. “The real unsung hero of this story has been our Environment Secretary, Owen Patersonhe told readers. The fact that it stopped raining might have also helped, of course.
For years now, Paterson has had the powerful ‘environmental’ lobby foaming at the mouth, because he has dared to question so many of their fashionable delusions. But it is hard to think of any minister whose decisive, down-to-earth leadership has been more effective in helping to solve such an immense practical problem” rambled Booker, as he heaped praise on his new hero.

His words were more effective than he could have predicted: soon afterwards, Paterson had been summoned by Cameron to be given the hard word, and he was out, replaced by Liz Truss. The sacked MP duly found solace in somehow allowing his thoughts to be heard by Mail On Sunday political editor Simon Walters, in a move which may not find favour at 10 Downing Street.

If you sack me it is a smash in the teeth for the 12 million people who live in the countryside. I am one of the few Conservatives who really understand them ... If you chuck me out you are rejecting everything I have stood for ... I can out-Ukip Ukip” he is reported to have recalled, with “A Senior MP” telling “Owen was shocked to be told he was losing his job. The PM said he had to make way for new faces”.

Who was that “Senior MP”? Most likely Paterson himself, rather like the “Well-placed source” who said “Mr Paterson launched a passionate defence of his record, saying: ‘I have been every bit as radical in environment as Michael Gove has been at education and Iain Duncan Smith with welfare ... I have not been afraid to take on the greens on everything, from fracking to GM foods, the badger cull, even bees!’

So that’s a routine level of counter-briefing, then. But despite his refusal to go quietly, and mildly inconvenient stance on a number of issues, Booker has rushed to defend Paterson: “It is hard to recall recently a more direct political insult than his contemptuous sacking of Owen Paterson as our Environment Secretary; a man who, below the media radar, has been the most effective of all his ministers”.

There was more: “Cameron’s treatment of his most effective minister is not just an insult to Paterson – it is also an insult to the countryside and to the political process; a surrender to those who put mindless spin above the need to see our country sensibly and intelligently run”. One might think that, after cursing Paterson once, Booker might stop and think. Who knows what fate may befall the MP next?

With friends like Christopher Booker, no politician is in need of enemies.

Top Six – July 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 to go into town later. So there.
6 Toby Young Plagiarism Hypocrisy The loathsome Tobes, in a particularly mean-spirited rant, asserted that a head teacher who had re-worked a letter to pupils from the USA should be sacked, if only for plagiarism. He would know about plagiarism, as he’s been called out for it previously.

5 Tory Tax Attack Unravels Young Dave made another of his rabbit-out-of-hat claims during the last PMQs before the summer recess. But his interpretation of Harriet Harman’s words was disputed, not least by Iain Dale, on whose LBC show she said them. He’s a former Tory Parliamentary candidate.

4 Guido Fawked – Anti-Semitism Hypocrisy The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog are hot on what they see as anti-Semitic attacks. But that hasn’t stopped one of their number doing just that, so they could kick Ed Miliband.

3 Guido Fawked – A Sketch Too Far Simon Carr’s obsessive hatred of the Labour party spilled over into inexcusable abuse as he said Ed Miliband was “like a spastic marionette”. And this from a blog whose owner is a Tory donor.

2 Gove Has Gone Let joy be unconfined! Young Dave bowed to the inevitable and demoted Michael “Oiky” Gove in the face of his mounting unpopularity and inability to keep his polecats under control.

1 WLFS – The Horrors Continue More unfavourable news arrived on Zelo Street on goings-on at the West London Free School. And there could be worse to come.

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

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Russia – We Must Do Something

The shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 by what looks to have been a missile fired from a Russian Buk mobile anti-aircraft battery has led some among the punditerati to remarkably hyperbolic conclusions. This is somehow the act that shows Britain is no longer a world power, as if it was right up until someone loosed off that missile before figuring out what he was firing at.
On the other hand, Vladimir Putin is held to be the one with real power, and the West is painted as disinterested, which is a strange line for a press that pretends to be free and fearless to take. Daily Mail Comment, the authentic voice of the Vagina Monologue, wailsAs Flight MH17 is shot down over our continent, almost certainly with weaponry supplied by the Kremlin, where are the statesmen of stature?

That the “statesmen of stature” are not going to order up a nuclear strike on Moscow does not enter. Instead, the Mail blames, well, Brussels. “Don’t look ... to the EU, where the know-nothing former local council officer Lady Ashton, ludicrously in charge of foreign affairs, has poked the Russian bear with a puny stick by attempting to lure Ukraine into the Brussels fold”.

Cathy Ashton has achieved more through quiet persuasion than Dacre has by his repeated bludgeoning of anyone of dissenting view (see my take on that HERE). But we in the West are painted as powerless, and this, according to Max “Hitler” Hastings, is because Putin is a liar. Cathy Ashton is derided as “ridiculous”. European leaders are mere “marshmallows”.

Over at the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs, there is a yet more screaming click-bait take by the increasingly deluded Dan Hodges: the shooting down of an airliner that was not owned by a British carrier, was not built in Britain, and was not flying to, from, via or over Britain, signalled the end of British “soft power”. Perhaps “soft power” prevents aircraft around the world from crashing.

Why oh why oh why are we not doing something – in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Egypt, Libya, and Ukraine? The urge to scratch the interventionist itch, so catastrophically indulged by Hodges’ hero Tone, keeps returning. We should spray money we supposedly don’t have up the wall to show these Russian, Middle Eastern and African Johnnies that we know what’s good for them.

If we take the line being pushed by Hodges, Hastings and Dacre – that we’re powerless because we’re not intervening, but relying instead on the “soft power” of trade and aid, then where does this leave China, which is less inclined to military excursions, rather than, er, trade and aid? Does that render China powerless? Was the West powerless because it didn’t go to war with the USSR over KAL007?

Belligerence does not equal strength. But that’s too hard for pundits to understand.

WLFS – The Horrors Continue

After the spin and denial from the loathsome Toby Young, more news arrives on Zelo Street regarding recent events at the West London Free School (WLFS). And the picture it paints is a particularly grim one. How grim? My information suggests that, unless the school improves across the board, and rapidly, it will soon have to be taken over by an academy trust that knows what it’s doing.
Is Tobes' time in the Weinbunker at an end?

Yes, folks, things are that bad. One might expect, then, that the press would be all over WLFS, but then, so far, Tobes has managed to satisfy them with spin – except, I’m told, the Evening Standard, which had started to get a sniff of the school’s problems. Their investigation, though, seems to have been “bought off” in exchange for that recent exclusive which I covered last week.

My latest information confirms that former head Sam Naismith was caused to resign after it was discovered that he was running a consultancy in the school’s time and on its premises. Two other staff members were involved, and both have either left, or are in the process of leaving. Tobes no doubt has his form of words at the ready, but, in effect, all three were given the sack.

Several recent departures from the teaching staff have cited a worrying variety of reasons for moving on: that the leadership team is not up to the job, discipline has deteriorated, with enforcement of standards and sanctions thought inconsistent and even contradictory, teachers feel overworked, not all the staff are considered to be pulling their weight, and that all of this is getting through to the pupils.

So it is, apparently, not unusual to hear them tell that “everyone keeps leaving us”. Things are no better for new teachers, many of whom are on their first teaching job. Those expecting some kind of structured induction programme are coming away disappointed. Worst of all, when it comes to teaching the new Govian GCSEs that Tobes has previously lauded, WLFS is not at present fit for purpose.

The tale of woe extends beyond the core curriculum: I’m told that a recent school trip had to be hastily rescheduled after the teachers who should have been accompanying it slept in and failed to show. And a particularly worrying allegation has been made regarding the funds that are intended to follow, and be used exclusively for, children with special educational needs.

So don’t be surprised if Ofsted arrive on the WLFS doorstep mob-handed in the near future. Meanwhile, some on the governing trust have taken exception to Tobes taking to a variety of publications to sound off about matters educational, if only because of the possibility of blowback if and when WLFS is revealed to be found wanting. The end of Tobes’ time as CEO may be closer than even I imagined.

Anyone with further information on the WLFS debacle – email address is at right.

Mail Swallows Its Gove Spin

There can be no sadder sight in journalism than those who have been deliberately spinning and talking up politicians who do not otherwise merit their position keeping up the pretence, even after that politician has been removed from office. Thus it has been with the thoroughly deserved demotion last week of Michael “Oiky” Gove, and the desperate wailing of pundits in its wake.
Yes, "Oiky", you're sacked. Off you go

This refusal to confront reality – that Gove’s flagship Free Schools policy had gone over a billion notes over budget, that some of them had been forcibly closed down, with others courting a variety of controversy over location, probity, organisation and standards, together with his alienation of the teaching profession and many parents - is most noticeable within the Northcliffe House bunker.

Yes, at the Daily Mail, Gove is still not unadjacent to some kind of earthbound deity. Pundits are rallying round to his wife Sarah “Vain” Vine, who has taken “Oiky’s” defenestration particularly badly – only yesterday she was happily Retweeting another supportive article on the subject – with one message, that Young Dave was wrong. Typical of the supporters is Amanda Bloody Platell.
Awww bless!

My fellow columnist Sarah Vine’s tweet after her husband Michael Gove was demoted from Education Secretary to Chief Whip bears repeating. ‘Biggest losers in today’s reshuffle?’ she asked. ‘Bright kids at low-achieving state schools.’ Indeed. For the PM to put his own future before that of children is despicable; to boot out one of our greatest education reformers is unforgivable” she whined.

And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. One, as noted, Ms Platell takes the spin that Gove is some kind of “great reformer”, which he was not. And two, the author of that Tweet was not Ms Vine, but LBC host Julia Hartley-Brewer. Thus the lousy quality of Daily Mail journalism summed up in one. But support is at hand from Simon “Enoch was right” Heffer.
Award-winning journalistic accuracy in action

The Hefferlump tells thatthe greatest damage has not been done to Mr Gove — who will surely rise again — but to generations of children who will now not benefit from his radicalism as Education Secretary ... What is so depressing is how  Mr Gove’s demotion perfectly symbolises the short-termism that characterises David Cameron’s whole approach to politics”.

He goes on (unfortunately) “For the Prime Minister ... nothing matters but the re-election of one David Cameron”. Rather than handing Labour a majority so that the Mail’s clueless pundits can moan even more loudly, you mean? Gove pissed all over his colleagues, he wouldn’t keep his SpAds in line, he presided over the spraying of taxpayer funds up the wall, and the public hated the sight of him.

Amanda Platell and Simon Heffer think that’s A Very Good Thing. Er, hello?

Friday, 18 July 2014

Daily Mail Endorses Daily Mail Sexism

The obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre found itself once more accused of routine sexism, and gratuitously objectifying women, this week in the aftermath of Young Dave’s jolly good cabinet reshuffle. Selecting only the younger female new recruits to Government, the Dacre doggies went over the top as they talked of the “Downing Street catwalk”.
Behold the arbiter of what constitutes acceptable behaviour

This was compounded by calling the likes of Esther McVey and Liz Truss “girls”, although they are 46 and 38 respectively. There was leering talk ofthigh flashing”. Ms McVey is then reported to suggest the Mail’s behaviour is fine, because she “has laughed off her new title of Queen of the Downing Street catwalk as 'fine if it inspires girls to go into politics'”.

There was much mockery of the Mail: Nick Clegg Tweeted a photo of his outfit the following day with the commentWhat I wore to the office today. Fingers crossed the Mail approves. Hope I don’t look too ‘80s cabin attendant’”. Becky Barrow, leaving the Mail for pastures new, said “One thing that I will not miss about working for the Mail: unspeakably awful and demeaning spreads about women”.

 Cheryl Gillan was appalled: “I sat at the breakfast table with my male colleague, saying I cannot believe we have all these exciting politicians into key positions and what people are talking about it is what they are wearing, their makeup, how tight their jacket is and what their shoes look like. I think it's just insulting. In the same way, when I left office, I was very cross with the media treatment

Yes, the Mail was made the butt of jokes across the political spectrum. How to respond? Simples. It’s Friday, so it’s the deeply unpleasant Jan Moir, the Glenda to end all Glendas. “Call me sexist, but women's clothes DO matter!she harrumphed. “What an utter disgrace against taste, against humanity, among all the hard-fought gains women have made over the centuries” she blethered. It is? How so?

I’m talking about Liz Truss pairing black shoes with a blue handbag. Has the woman gone mad? It’s as if Accessorize and the concept of tasteful mix-and-match had never happened ... the fact of the matter is that women are extremely interested, not to say fascinated, by what other women wear. I know I am”. Well, that’s telling me, and no mistake. And, as the man said, there’s more.

Just look at Penny Mordaunt, an MP for whom I have enormous admiration, sailing into No 10 in a fabulous dress like a magnificent purple ship. I felt like cheering; her dress was so modern, perfect, appropriate — and just a little bit joyous, too. It said something about Mordaunt, something rather life affirming. And what is wrong with that?” So that means more of those “unspeakably awful and demeaning” spreads.

The Daily Mail approves of its own behaviour. Isn’t that a remarkable coincidence?

Guido Fawked – Anti-Semitism Hypocrisy

Those wondering why using terms like “marionette” when talking about Jews was not a clever or sensible thing to do, following my adverse comment on the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his superannuated sleazebag sketchwriter Simon Carr’s abusive characterisation of Mil The Younger the other day, are in luck: The Great Guido himself has told us why this is A Very Bad Thing.
1930s anti-Semitism using a Marionette caricature

As the Holocaust Chronicle shows, during the 1930s there were a number of portrayals of Jews as “puppet masters”, with those they thus controlled therefore mere marionettes. This was also confirmed by the Fawkes rabble when they launched an attack on Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell, although Bell had deliberately used glove puppets and not marionettes.

Bell’s suggestion that Israeli PM Binyamin Netenyahu was manipulating William ‘Ague and supposed Middle East envoy Tone was milked heavily by The Great Guido, to the extent of Staines ordering up a crude Hitler characterisation from his resident and not very talented cartoonist. The message was clear: the Fawkes folks were hot on any suggestion of “Jews as puppet masters”.

Now look at Carr’s “sketch” from Wednesday, which asserts that Ed Miliband “dances at the despatch box like a spastic marionette”, following that with talking of his “convulsive string master taking another swig of the meths”. Quite apart from the barrel-scraping abuse of “spastic”, there is a clear instance of anti-Semitism – from a blog that likes to pretend it is hot on anti-Semitism.

And, on top of the rank hypocrisy, Staines will have known full well that Carr had a tendency to this kind of behaviour. Take this sketch from March 2011: “Over here we have the tall, well-dressed captain of the Upper Blues, popular with the grown-ups, easy way about him with the younger boys. And over there, that specimen is the head of the Lower Reds with the ears, teeth, and peculiar mouth”.

Ready? Here it comes: “Not exactly swarthy, but not what you'd call properly English either. Something rum about him”. And what, Simon, would you have meant by that? Something Middle Eastern, perhaps? As inDisney could use him as a model for a villainous vizier in the Arabian Nights. Do you get him up in the morning by rubbing his lamp?” Swarthy. Not properly English. Rum. Perhaps Middle Eastern.

Then Carr introduces his “marionette” jibe, and we know exactly how “swarthy”, “not properly English”, and “rum” he means. How very far-right 1930s. How very nod-and-wink. How very driving-it-round-the-houses-to-avoid-a-direct-Jewish-reference. And how blatant does the combination of anti-Semitism and hypocrisy have to be to give off such a stench that someone calls a halt to it?

Staines and his pals have revealed their true colours. They’re totally out of order.

Malaysia Airlines MH17 – We Have Been Here Before

Air crash investigation, by its thoroughness and impartiality, helps prevent recurrence of accident types. So it is the worst feeling when an aircraft crashes and it becomes clear that we have been here before; that it really should not have been allowed to happen. Thus the feeling in the aftermath of yesterday’s downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine with the loss of 298 lives.
Modern airliners like the Boeing 777 do not just fall out of the sky on spec. The aircraft was en route from Schiphol to Kuala Lumpur and in level flight at well over 30,000 feet. Meanwhile, rebel forces in eastern Ukraine had been happily potting military aircraft recently as part of their campaign against the Government in Kiev. But, it is thought, these were all flying at rather lower altitude.
Someone, though, had got hold of a Buk surface-to-air missile launcher, which can take out an aircraft at up to 70,000 feet. They then loosed it off without correctly identifying what they were firing at. Yes, we have been here not once before, but arguably twice, and both involved the same catastrophic loss of life. The first such incident that comes to mind happened in the Strait of Hormuz in 1988.
The warship USS Vincennes, without correctly identifying its target, shot at and destroyed an Airbus A300 flying Iran Air flight 655 from Bander Abbas to Dubai. The death toll of 290 remains the worst involving an Airbus aircraft. Worse, the subsequent evasion and dissembly by the USA helped set in train events that led Abu Jibril’s gang to bomb Pan Am flight 103 the following December.
There was a precursor event even to this appalling mistake: in 1983, during a period of heightened tension between the USA and then USSR, Korean Air flight KAL007 deviated from its flight path between Anchorage and Seoul, the error taking it so far to the north that it crossed well into Soviet airspace – worse, this was clearly understood to be prohibited airspace.
The pilot of the interceptor that rocketed the Boeing 747 correctly identified the type of aircraft. But he had his orders, and the “intruder” had already flown over the Kamchatka peninsula: why would a civilian airliner do this? The 747 was on the point of exiting Soviet airspace and a spur of the moment decision was made: 269 people died. The USSR was in the doghouse for some time after that.
And the USSR’s successor nation, the Russia of Vladimir Putin, is now well and truly back in that same doghouse. Just as his predecessors in the Kremlin, and the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H W Bush, his reaction thus far has been to deflect and dissemble. But if his armed forces are so inept that they can’t stop the Buk falling into yet less competent hands, it is nobody’s fault but theirs.

We should never, but never, have to re-learn those lessons from the 1980s.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Toby Young Plagiarism Hypocrisy

The loathsome Toby Young has a new bee in his bonnet: plagiarism. And not just any old plagiarism, but the kind practiced by one of those rotten lefty teachers who have been cheering to the rafters after Young Dave dispensed with the services of Michael “Oiky” Gove at the DfE, leaving a disconsolate Tobes to blubber into his reassuringly upmarket Waitrose muesli.
Tobes remains stuck in the Weinbunker

Rachel Tomlinson, head teacher at Barrowford primary school – that’s near the Lancashire town of Nelson – had sent a letter to pupils along with their Key Stage 2 (KS2) test results. The letter “told them the tests do not always assess what makes them ‘special and unique’”. Ms Tomlinson, however, “denied the letter was telling pupils that test scores did not matter”.

She explained “We never give pupils the message that academic attainment isn't important - what we do is celebrate that we send really independent, confident, articulate learners on to the next stage of their school career”. And she made no secret of her having modelled the letter on one available from the web: the original featured in a blog from the USA.

So far, so uplifting, but for Tobes, this is clear evidence of how our education system has gone to the dogs: “Nicky Morgan should read this. It will give her a good idea of just how much more work there is to do when it comes to improving England's state schools”. Barrowford primary was rated “good” at its last Ofsted inspection – the same rating achieved by Tobes’ West London Free School (WLFS).

He therefore has little room to talk, but he’s going to anyway: “Yes, Nicky Morgan, you should read this letter – and then encourage the local education authority in Lancashire to sack Ms Tomlinson. She doesn't have any confidence in externally-moderated Key Stage 2 tests. She thinks if children don't do well in them it's their fault, not hers. She's encouraging practices at her school that will entrench inequality. And she's a plagiarist”.

Quite apart from the characteristically mean-spirited tone, Tobes has clearly not bothered to do the most basic research before shooting his mouth off – no change there, then – and, although he isn’t going to tell you this, plagiarism is one area where he has no room to talk.

Tobes’ memoir of his time at Vanity Fair in New York, How To Lose Friends And Alienate People, stood accused of plagiarising an article for the New York Times by John Tierney. Graydon Carter, who both hired and fired Tobes, asserted thus. His excuse? That British journalists and authors were “a little less precious about this kind of thing”. So Toby Young says plagiarism is OK. Then he doesn’t.

Toby Young is an ocean-going, unprincipled hypocrite, and shameless with it.