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Saturday, 25 October 2014

Cameron EU Budget Strop Fail

Young Dave was incandescent with rage: those ghastly foreigners had gone too far this time, with a totally unexpected and unjustified demand for more money. It jolly well wasn’t on, especially as the dastardly Germans and the appalling garlic-crunching French were going to benefit. And, worst of all, it had been sprung on them at the start of the Rochester and Strood by-election campaign.
So off went Cameron, and his chum Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, to Brussels to tell Johnny Foreigner where he jolly well got off (that would be, as usual, the nearest tram stop). And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. The budget adjustment was not unexpected, and there was nothing unjustified about it. But minor points, eh?

Facts are certainly not getting in the way of the routinely rabid anti-EU element in the press, which would be most of it. “Britain Closer To Quitting EU” screams the Express today, which wouldn’t diminish that €2 billion bill. “One Step Nearer To The EU Exit” proclaims the Mail, which suffers from being equally incorrect. But it is the Murdoch Times which makes the daftest accusation.
Cameron defies EU over ‘wealth tax’ as costs spiral” it tells, which would be interesting if true: a budget adjustment, in accordance with the rules under which all member states play, following Dave’s achievement of an overall cut in the future budget, cannot be described as a “spiral”, but then, this is yet another demonstration of how the Times has fallen from its position as a paper of record.

So what is the reality? Well, the news of the budget adjustment was given to Cameron and Osborne not at less than a day’s notice, but the previous week. This is why Dave’s outrage was utterly synthetic – another trait he has inherited from the blessed Tone. And the method of calculating contributions was agreed by all member states – including the UK – despite alternatives being suggested.
We know this as José Manuel Barroso has authored a statement on behalf of the European Commission which sets all this out. And, on the subject of calculating budget contributions depending on a country’s Gross National Income (GNI), he states the bleeding obvious: “we cannot have a negotiation about the GDP of the different countries”. Cameron is not entitled to his own personal facts.

We agreed to play by these rules. We joined with all other member states to vote down a proposed alternative system. We benefited from the arrangement in 2008. We knew what was coming. We knew the figures the week before the announcement was made. Yet now our brave and principled leaders don’t like it.

One has to ask Cameron and Osborne: what part of those rules, which you have not objected to for the past four years, do you not understand?

Friday, 24 October 2014

Guido Fawked – Daily Politics Dishonesty

As has been promoted endlessly by Himself Personally Now, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines appeared on the BBC’s Daily Politics yesterday and attempted to get the Guardian’s Michael White – a wiser man than any of the Fawkes rabble – to concede that Staines had been right when he had claimed that there was a second email system inside 10 Downing Street.
Feared. But not at the Guardian

White was having none of it, well, not without a reliable citation, and with good reason: one would not trust The Great Guido any further than one could usefully chuck the SOB. And on the specific claim, his instincts served him well. Either Staines is a technophobe, which I doubt, or he is a natural and congenital liar, which I don’t doubt at all. The explanation is straightforward.

Staines was fed this story, or something on the same lines, while Pa Broon was still Prime Minister. Thus he came to believe that, if he could only get someone who had worked there at the time to give him the nod, he would be proved right and all those rotten lefties at the deeply subversive Guardian would be wrong. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, he never got that nod.

Instead, when Damian McBride reminisced about the time when Brown and his team moved from the Treasury to the Top Job, he mentioned that there had been one desktop computer at 10 Downing Street that was not connected to the Government network. This would allow staff to access their personal email accounts, whatever the service provider – rather like one would in any large organisation.

Is this enough to be called a smoking gun? Well, no it isn’t: the idea that this proves the Staines accusations is bunk. If the one machine wasn’t connected to the Government network, and there was no series of shadow email accounts, then he’s just guessing, and not for the first time. Nor does the stand alone machine prove that Tone’s official spokesman had misled reporters.

The key word is “system”. One isolated machine doesn’t prove there was another system. And had it not been there, anyone wanting to send something from a private email account would only have had to nip out with their laptop to the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot, or at a pinch visit an Internet Cafe. Only the creative interpreters of facts at the Fawkes blog could spin it as a “second email system”.

So, if anyone ought to be giving anyone else an apology, it is Staines for trying to get a reputable journalist to buy into one of his packs of lies. There is no second email system within Downing Street, McBride never said there was, and The Great Guido once again can be seen with trousers well ablaze.

Pa Broon once told McBride “it’s the lie that gets you in the end”. It’s certainly what gets The Great Guido all the time. Another fine mess, once again.

Dan Hodges Needs Protection

As I noted the other day, Telegraph blogs has all but passed into irrelevance: the number of posts has been as little as one on some days, and last weekend nothing at all was posted there. One reason for this is that some posters, as I suggested, have had their contributions upgraded to the status of Real Proper Comment, for which the reader is expected to pay. In money.
One so blessed is Dan Hodges, formerly the Colonel Nicholson of the Labour Party. The standard of his output has not improved – although he hasn’t directed a mardy strop at Mil The Younger for a couple of days – but nevertheless he has been deemed fit to “monetise”. This will no doubt bolster Hodges’ fragile ego; he has great difficulty taking forthright criticism on board.

And there has been plenty of that criticism of late, with every outburst of petulant whining directed at Miliband bringing comments which often run not merely into the hundreds, but the thousands, many asking why he cannot drop this particular bone and suggesting ways in which his dubious talents could be otherwise employed. This, it seems, has hurt this sensitive flower.

So now, it seems, the nice people at the Tel step in from time to time and shield Dan from all those horrible people outside the Westminster bubble: when he came late to the party over UKIP and their desperation to hold together their group at the European Parliament (EP) in order to trouser More And Bigger Paycheques For Themselves Personally Now, comments had been turned off.

This may have been a wise move: not only had most of what he wrote been covered elsewhere (Zelo Street began following these particular exploits of the Farage Fringe last week), but he also passed severely, if justified, adverse comment on Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his tendency to run UKIP as some kind of personal fiefdom (surely “semi-mobile pub crawl”? – Ed).

That kind of opinion, when so many of those who drift around the comments sewer labour under the belief that the Kippers are actually the answer to the UK’s problem, is likely to provoke serious blowback for its author. But, strangely, the Tel has decided against the usual clickbait strategy and rush to Dan’s aid instead. Sadly, though, this state of affairs is not allowed to continue indefinitely.

So today, back came Hodges with another freshly minted pile of tedious Kipper bashing, and with it came around 1,500 comments, mostly not in agreement with his argument, and often pointing out how wrong he keeps calling it. But, as Colonel Ross said to Harry Palmer at the end of The Ipcress File, when the latter pointed out the hazards of his occupation, “That’s what you’re paid for, isn’t it”?

Stop whining at the criticism, Dan. Protesting about it won’t make you a better writer.

Newton Dunn Guardian Bashing Fail

The Sun’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn clearly thinks he is on to a winner by backing an article by the Daily Mail’s associate news editor Stephen Wright, who has indulged in a little Guardian bashing – no surprise there – by alleging that Alan Rusbridger and his team are being given preferential treatment by the Police, because of Phonehackgate.
What neither Wright nor Newton Dunn appear to have taken on board is that Nick Davies’ dogged campaign to get the Met to act on all that information they had obtained from the likes of Glenn Mulcaire ultimately led to the departure of Yates Of The Yard, and covered the Metropolitan Police in rather more than embarrassment. The idea that the rozzers would favour whoever did that is laughable.

But Wright’s research of those Police officers passing information to the press at first looks convincing: he compares the case of Guardian journalist Amelia Hill and her principal informant with those of three cops who passed information to red-top journalists, and finds that the CPS decided not to prosecute Ms Hill, while the tabloid hacks were not so fortunate – at the time of his writing.
Then he stresses that none of the journalists concerned paid their sources for information, a point famously conceded before a select committee by Rebekah Brooks before Andy Coulson intervened to correct her. From this, Wright triumphantly concludes that it looks rather like the Guardian is being afforded more favourable treatment to that meted out to the tabs.

On this note, he concludes the defence case. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, Wright has, without perhaps knowing it, let the cat out of the bag in his examination of Ms Hill’s case. While the DPP’s legal offier said “these articles contained confidential information derived from Operation Weeting, including  the names of those who had been arrested”, there was a further point.

She also told that “the information disclosed by the police officer, although confidential, was not highly sensitive. It did not expose anyone to a risk of injury or death.  It did not compromise the investigation. And the information in question would probably have made it into the public domain by some other means, albeit at some later stage”. That was the basis on which it was decided not to proceed.

Wright then manages to miss that test out of his examination of all those officers, serving or otherwise, who passed information to the tabloids. Thus the culture of those who work in the service of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre: the facts carefully selected to fit the argument, rather than giving the whole picture. The idea that Tom Newton Dunn is unaware of this is not credible.

Nice try Tom, but your citation’s been rumbled. Must try harder next time.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Philip Davies – Grow Up

Tory MP Philip Davies, so far to the right of the party that UKIP declined to field a candidate against him in 2010, is one of those reasons I would hate to still live in the Shipley constituency nowadays, even though most of the folks there are sound and the area is, after all, in God’s Own County. He is, as they say in Yorkshire, all wind and piss, something he prefers to call “straight talking”.
"Who, me?" ... Yes, YOU

In this, Davies continues the recent tradition of Shipley enduring apparently useful but in reality pretty poor Tory MPs (those of A Certain Age will recall the similarly bluff Marcus Fox, who was more concerned with maximising the return on his many directorships than bothering to serve his constituents). Much of Davies’ hot air generation has been directed at alleged lefties and supposed political correctness.

To demonstrate this commitment, and show that he was indeed A Man Of The People, Davies showered the Equality and Human Rights Commission with numerous faux concerns, such as “Is it offensive to black up or not, particularly if you are impersonating a black person?” and “Whether it was racist for a policeman to refer to a BMW as ‘black man's wheels’”.

For folks like me who call a BMW a Bavarian Manure Wagon, this was additionally confusing, but as Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point. But, while Davies loves handing out this meaningless guff, he hates anyone standing their ground and calling him out on it. So when he was asked A Real Question by news anchor Jon Snow during a tour of the ITN studios yesterday, it was mardy strop time.

While Snow and co-presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy made light of the exchange, the blubbering Davies ran off to tell teacher – well, the right-leaning press, anyway – that the rotten lefty was the one wot done it. Here, he was well served by the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre: “The luvvie newsreader, the bluff Yorkshire Tory and a furious scrap played out across the newsroom at 'Left-wing' Channel 4” thundered the Daily Mail today.

And, as the man said, there’s more: “Mr Davies allegedly accused presenter of being biased suggested retirement ... But the Tory MP said the allegations were 'lies' and insists he said 'nothing' ... Mr Davies told Mail Online he was 'ambushed' during tour of newsroom. What actually happened? Snow asked Davies to give one example of the “left-wing bias” accusation he makes of him.

The Telegraph was appalled at this, and also weighed in: “Mr Davies denied reports by the Guardian website that he had started the row by accusing Mr Snow of Left-wing bias and suggesting he should retire”. But it had to admit that Davies was unable to back up his claim of bias.

Philip Davies needs to grow up, get off his hobby-horse, and try being an MP.

Farage Hires Self-Promoting Tosser

News arrived on Zelo Street late last month (no names, no packdrill) that Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP had secured the dubious talents of Raheem “call me Ray” Kassam to spin for Mr Thirsty. Kassam is famous for, er, not very much, except that his expertly self-crafted Wikipedia entry was deleted because, unlike the l’Oreal advert, he wasn’t worth it.
Now it's squeaky spinner finger up the bum time

The appointment is in many ways predictable: Kassam has been among those at the batshit collective that is Breitbart London, along with the equally over-rated James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, and Milo Yiannopoulos, failed entrepreneur and amateur human being. Breitbart organised Farage’s recent trip Stateside as part of promoting UKIP as the “UK Tea Party”.

Mr Thirsty was received by the likes of Rand Paul, Republican Senator, and Laura Ingraham, radio host and stand-in for Bill O’Reilly on Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse). Breitbart told thatBreitbart News hosted Farage last week in New York and Washington, D.C. in a trip orchestrated by the Breitbart London team which focused on the parallels between the U.S. and British political landscapes”.
Pretentious? Who, moi?

Giving Kassam a berth may be seen as payback from the Kippers, and they will be hoping that his presence is rather less disruptive than it was at The Commentator, from which “call me Ray” departed after an acrimonious falling-out with humourless founder Robin Shepherd, which, according to Iain Dale, ended up with the services of Mr Ephraim Sue and his pals being sought.

But Raheem Kassam will be an ideal appointment for UKIP: appallingly narcissistic, mildly paranoid, and laughably pretentious. He was the one who responded to the questionDo you consider yourself a Libertarian or a NeoCon?” by answering “Neither, honestly. I consider myself a Goldwater conservative”. Kassam may think that Barry Goldwater is so long ago that he can get away with that one.
Kassam's hero - Barry Goldwater

Sadly for “call me Ray”, though, the former five-term Senator from Arizona was famous for two things: persuading Tricky Dicky to quit the Presidency in 1974 in the face of almost certain impeachment, and securing the Republican nomination for the 1964 Presidential election, in which Lyndon Johnson defeated him in a landslide. He was not, outside the USA, well-regarded at the time.

Indeed, Private Eye magazine put him on the cover of Issue 67, with the most unfortunate of photos giving the suggestion that Goldwater was talking out of his arse. That quality is what Raheem Kassam will bring to UKIP: someone about to go down to a monumentally heavy defeat, who talks out of his arse. And someone whose high opinion of himself is not shared by the real world.

So let the reign of Raheem at UKIP begin. Get the popcorn in, folks.

Guido Fawked – The Mark Pritchard Mystery

The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade observed yesterday that the settlement reached between Tory MP Mark Pritchard and the Sunday Mirror, after he had been targeted by the fictitious “Sophie Wittams”, apparently as part of the sting exercise that netted Brooks Newmark, included the paper making a payment – in this case, a donation to a charity of Pritchard’s choice.
He's feared. By whoever has to sit next to him on the plane

Why, Greenslade wondered, was a payment made? And why, as there was no involvement by new press regulator IPSO, or indeed any legal intervention, was the settlement confidential? Moreover, what could possibly have triggered the complaint in the first place, if the Newmark sting, as the current defensive line holds, was “narrowly targeted” on the one man?
Lloyd Embley, managing editor of the Sunday Mirror

This has so far not been told. But we do know that the presence behindSophie Wittams” was Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, newly anointed teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog. The Fawkes rabble cemented its place at the heart of the Establishment with a celebration dinner on Tuesday evening. And a look at the guest list should prove instructive.
Spot the last-minute addition to the guest list

On the first page of names, there are a number of handwritten amendments at right. Conor Burns has been moved to a different table – he is on the printed list already – but there are a number of additions. Tory MPs Chris Kelly, standing down from Parliament next year, is one, and Kwasi Kwarteng, definitely not standing down next year, is another. But the third name is the one to watch.
Mark Pritchard MP

Yes, there he is, added in at the last minute – Mark Pritchard. The one MP on the list of seven to be invited along. And at the same gathering as not only Wickham and his pals, but also Lloyd Embley of the Mirror titles. The potential for Pritchard to have had a number of interesting conversations is only exceeded by the potential for yet more of those inconvenient questions.

Why was Pritchard, alone of those targeted by “Sophie Wittams”, invited along, and only at the last moment? Was this merely the inclusion of an MP who was otherwise at a loose end, and willing to come along and make up the numbers, or was there any connection with not just the sting operation, but also the Mirror reaching that confidential settlement that somehow involved a payment?

Then there is the Sunday Mirror correction: “although the Sunday Mirror did not publish any allegations about Mark Pritchard MP, we are happy to make clear that Mr Pritchard was not at any time suspected or accused of sending inappropriate or explicit messages and/or pictures to anyone via social media or otherwise”. They didn’t allege anything, but still made a payment.

Those questions keep on mounting up for The Great Guido. Another fine mess.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Don’t Menshn Monica Lewinsky

After her experiences from life as an intern during the Clinton presidency, and a career in and out of the spotlight, Monica Lewinsky decided to take things easy and join the social media world by signing up to Twitter. After all, the current Prez is on Twitter, Hill is there, and indeed most of the best known people from Washington DC to New York and on to Boston are, too. What could possibly go wrong?
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

Ms Lewinsky discovered the answer to that question yesterday morning, as someone with rather more time on their hands than is good for them appointed herself as her Very Best Twitter Friend, whether she wanted it or not. Yes, into action swung (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch, to let her know that she was there for her, even if she hadn’t asked first.
You have been shabbily treated, and you are an important voice for women as a survivor of life-changing bullying” declared Ms Mensch, before telling her followers “Great to see Monica Lewinsky on Twitter. Instant follow. Beat them and join us”. Who were “them”, and who indeed was “us”? Ah, but that’s a secret.
Instead, Monica’s new friend went off on a wibble-fest: “Monica Lewinsky is a real-life Hester Prynne. Young person makes bad sexual choice, HOLD THE FRONT PAGE. Stuff that! Welcome Monica [maybe by this point Ms Lewinsky would have stopped and thought] you’ll find for every troll (there are thousands) there are ten Tweeters who admire your bravery. PS ‘mute’ is the best”. Hmm, trolls, much?
She wasn’t finished: “finally, sister, just remember, they can yap about you all they want, nobody’s talking about them. Welcome to Twitter”. And then a stern warning to anyone who dissed her hew bestest pal: “For my part, people’s attitude to Monica Lewinsky is a great barometer of who they are as a human being. Will block any anti-Monica trolls”. And there I was, thinking that was Ms Lewinsky’s choice.
But then Ms Mensch did something eminently sensible: “And we can start with that subhuman pig [Milo Yiannopoulos], I think”. Yes, a stopped clock moment. Then it was back to those stern warnings: “Better not see anybody who called themselves a Christian bullying Monica Lewinsky either. ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone’”. Or indeed “she”, Louise, eh?
What Ms Mensch seemed not to notice was that her new bestest friend was not taking a jot of notice. Maybe she had that in mind when she observed “Everyone on Twitter has done something bloody stupid in their lives they’d be embarrassed to see publicised”. Yes, as opposed to doing something bloody stupid on Twitter every day of the week – and sometimes more than once.

Monica Lewinsky is not listening to her. Nor is anyone else who matters. Nor is Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse). You’re no longer important, Ms Mensch.

UKIP Insults British Jews

The Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) has expressed its disquiet at the new alliance forged in the European Parliament (EP) by Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP. This is understandable, given that the MEP providing a seventh country for Farage’s EFDD group is from a party whose leader is a racist Holocaust denier.
Squeaky far-right finger up the bum time

However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, rather than taking on board the criticism and concerns of the BoD, some Kippers have reacted furiously, making a number of singularly unpleasant and unfounded accusations, which suggests they have written off getting any votes next May from any even moderately observant followers of Judaism.
BoD Vice President Jonathan Arkush put it plainly: “The Board is gravely concerned by reports that UKIP may sit in the same parliamentary grouping as a far-right Polish MEP in a bid save its funding.  Robert Iwaszkiewicz belongs to an extremist party whose leader has a history of Holocaust denial, racist remarks and misogynistic comments”. And he is quite entitled to voice that concern.
He went on “Extremists and racists should be roundly rejected, not embraced. Even France’s far-right Front National rejected the JKM as being too extreme ... For Ukip to choose such a figure as Robert Iwaszkiewicz as a bedfellow, apparently for money, is beyond belief. Nigel Farage now has some very serious questions to answer. He has placed in issue the credibility of Ukip”.
The reaction from Kippers was typified by Frank Fisher, UKIP’s party secretary in moderately upmarket Macclesfield, where they weigh the Tory vote. “You have no problem with other EP groupings? Only UKIP’s?” After suggesting the BoD “look over there” he followed up with “Just another arm of the Establishment using any excuse to attack UKIP”. Yeah, right.

Even Mr Thirsty was creative in his defence, telling that he had found “nothing in this guy’s background to suggest that he is a political extremist at all” and asserting “All of us in the European parliament have to make compromises to make sure our voice is heard ... I want us to have our voice. I want us to be heard. But I will not do it at any price”, except that appears to be exactly what he has done.

Indeed, Rafal Pankowski of Polish anti-racist group Never Again has said thatThe Congress of the New Right’s leaders and leading members have often used anti-semitic stereotypes in their discourse and used the phrase ‘Jewish communism’ many times in speeches and articles”. One of this party’s MEPs has just been welcomed into EFDD by UKIP. And Farage can’t see the problem.

Nor, it seems, can his supporters. Anti-Semitism is no problem for UKIP.

Guido Fawked – Ten Years A Crawler

[Update at end of post]

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which”. Thus ended George Orwell’s Animal Farm, written in 1945 and about Soviet Russia, but the quotation would have described nicely the final sell-out by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog.
He's feared. Well, by rickety chairs and soft sofas, he is

Yes, last night The Great Guido ventured beyond parody and hosted a dinner to celebrate ten years of crawling his way into the heart of the establishment, and thus confirming what he had earlier told Esquire magazine, that “Lying in politics is on an industrial scale”, with Staines doing rather a lot of it. “We’re not part of the system ... I’m pretty resolute about that”. Yeah, right.
He certainly does

Young Dave diplomatically bodyswerved Staines’ celebration of Himself Personally Now, but, it being mid-week and Parliament sitting, there were plenty of freeloading MPs and lobby hacks eager to pretend they had a soft spot for him and his gofers, while woofing down the scran and washing it down with the moderately upmarket vino – before piling off and avoiding the SOB for the foreseeable future.
Next one with bars, eh Alex?

The Fawkes blog even published the menu, so that all could gaze in awe at the correctly-spelled courses of Proper Grown Up Food, while hoping that nobody pointed out that it was the kind of stuff Delia was doing around twenty years ago. There were prawns; one hopes that someone decided to hold the 1970s pink sauce. And there was ice cream. How very distinguished it must have looked.
The nuance and subtlety of last night's Fawkes message is explained to an adoring public

All was kept rather quiet before the gathering of the great and good; perhaps the Fawkes rabble were expecting Hacked Off to gatecrash, following The Great Guido’s abject failure to do the same at Steve Coogan’s place during last year’s Labour Party conference. But then, a Hacked Off bash is worth gatecrashing, while seeing Staines and his pals getting Elephant’s Trunk and Mozart is routine tedium.

There were even awards, for those eager to avail themselves of a different style of door-stop, or a little something to prop open the swing lid of the waste bin. Awards – what could be more establishment? Yet there was Staines telling Esquire “I think it’s ironic that we’re being accused of being part of the establishment”. Who was treated to an award? Who knows? And, indeed, who cares?

Staines, the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, and newly anointed teaboy Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, have fallen into the same trap as their comedy turn, London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. So desperate to be loved and courted by the establishment, they have become part of it, a sad and grotesque side-show that others do not laugh with, but laugh at.

Three not very little piggies on their hind legs. Another fine mess, once again.

[UPDATE 1850 hours: Peter Oborne, who readily confessed to being one of those freeloading hacks, has revealed part of the guest list for The Great Guido's celebration last night. Many of the names are as expected, and amid the sprinkling of well known names, there are some very small fry indeed.

So some of those present were definitely there to make up the numbers and burnish the image of Staines and his pals. But an inspection of last minute amendments to that guest list should prove interesting for those who have also taken an interest in the Brooks Newmark sting.

Zelo Street will have more on that tomorrow. At which point, there will be yet more questions for some of last night's attendees]

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Power Station Fire – Lights Not Going Out

A fire late last weekend at Didcot B Power Station required the attendance of 25 fire engines and a hundred firefighters; one of the two units at the plant has subsequently been placed out of action “indefinitely”. This has sent the media into Corporal Jones mode, telling readers and viewers that the light are going to go out, and then telling them not to panic, while panicking themselves.
Yes, it's a mess. But don't worry about it ((c) BBC)

There was, as Captain Blackadder might have observed, only one thing wrong with the idea that half of Didcot B being down will bring power blackouts – it was bollocks. The plant operator stressed “We have a very resilient network in the UK and the way the National Grid can operate, they are able to call upon other power stations across the country to fill the gap that this power station has left as it's come off”.

That has not stopped the usual hyperbole, with the Mail tellingThe devastating blaze at the Didcot B site in Oxfordshire comes days before National Grid sets out its winter outlook, amid worries over how it will keep the lights on if there is an 'energy crunch'. It is expected to put further pressure on the UK's squeezed electricity network and could result in supply failing to keep up with demand”.

Yeah, right. But even the usually sober Guardian caught blackout fever: “The government has attempted to quell blackout fears this winter after a fire shut down half the capacity at a power station in Oxfordshire ... But National Grid said the longer-term effect on supply was difficult to judge and that its annual winter outlook report, published next week, would take account of Didcot’s reduced capacity”.

So what’s the reality? Didcot B has a total generating capacity of 1.36GW, with 680MW of that off-line for the immediate future. To put that in perspective, right now (I’m typing this at 1640 hours) wind power – yes, those allegedly useless windmills – is generating 5.65GW, and with it just under 15% of the UK’s power needs. And wind has been posting those kinds of numbers since late last Friday.

Moreover, Coal and Gas output can reach a total of 40GW with ease, but at that same time, were generating 13.44GW and 11.3GW respectively – so there is lots of spare capacity. The only potential problem is with nuclear, where the usual 7GW or so is down at less than 4.5GW, although it’s not needed right now. Yes, colder weather and longer nights will raise demand – but the system has plenty in hand.

On top of that, the Grid can switch in as much as 2GW from pump storage at peak times, as well as draw around 2GW through the French interconnector. It will not have escaped attention that all of these numbers are significantly larger than the loss of less than 1GW from the closure of one unit at Didcot B.

The lights are not going out any time soon. It’s another example of not believing the scare stories in the papers, and sticking to the facts. Boring but true.

Telegraph Blogs Is Dead

[Update at end of post]

The constant shuffling of deck-chairs on the deck of the SS Telegraph Titanic has seen the deployment of lots of buzzwords, and the throwing overboard of many hacks and pundits, but one part of the paper’s online world, the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs, has carried on more or less as before, despite the departure of former editor Damian Thompson.
Something else being used as a cash machine, eh, Tel people?

Not any more: for a group blog that can (or perhaps that should read could) call upon the services of so many eager contributors, the offering has just topped a miserable week where the number of new posts failed to rise above six in any one day. It gets worse: over the past weekend, no new content was posted at all. Not a single post. Zero. Zilch. Nil. Nada. Bugger all.

Count them up: last Tuesday, there were just four posts. This improved to six the following day, but slumped to a mere three on Thursday. Friday brought us six more, although one of those was Peter Oborne taking the long e-handle to the appalling Craig Oliver. Then, after a lost weekend, yesterday brought a solitary post from Dan, Dan The Oratory Man, on his travels in Europe.

Has the Tel given up on Telegraph blogs? Some of the formerly regular contributors have been posting little this month: the loathsome Toby Young has featured just twice, Cristina Odone once, and Brendan O’Neill, a useful clickbait generator, has not posted since early September. Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan has not been seen since July. Small wonder Dan Hodges (10 October posts) stands out.

Who has been sitting in the editor’s chair since Thompson left, in what he claims was an amicable parting? The Tel is supposed to be all about “content” nowadays, but there is precious little of the new stuff in evidence at Telegraph blogs: so far today there have been no posts at all. How do Jason “Psycho” Seiken and the rest of the New Tel World Order expect to generate all those clicks?

Tel blogs gives every appearance of following the Mail Online’s Right Minds blogs, which launched amid great fanfare under the editorship of Simon “Enoch was right” Heffer, only to soon be allowed to wither on the vine. Today, Right Minds exists mainly as a category to denote opinion pieces that appear in the Mail print titles. Perhaps Tel blogs is being killed off. Most likely is trying to “monetise” content.

So come on, Telegraph people, what’s the plan? Do you expect readers to pay for the same content instead? Strange that, with so many right-wing voices out there, the two papers that have tried to harness them for their own group blogs seem to have failed, while the Guardian’s Comment Is Free sails serenely on, and there appears to be no shortage of takers at the HuffPo.

Pay for it or leave it? You’ll find, Tel people, that readers will leave it, thanks.

[UPDATE 1810 hours: the inactivity at Tel blogs may not be unconnected to the latest round of job cuts at the paper, which, it has been estimated, will mean 55 people being sent down the road in the very near future. Roy Greenslade has noted that Telegraph management have been shy to put a figure on the number who will be leaving.

Meanwhile, today's first Tel blogs post has appeared - one post, and it didn't appear until well into the afternoon. Someone there has to either populate the area with more content PDQ, see it wither on the vine, or admit that it's dead - as pronounced right here.

Right now Zelo Street has posted more content in the past week than Telegraph blogs. And this is a solo effort. Do something, Tel people - or see your click sources diminish]

UKIP Far Right Desperation

The prospect of Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP facing a £1 million hole in their finances, following the collapse last week of their group in the European Parliament (EP), saw the Kippers’ minds focused as never before: they had to find an MEP – any MEP – from a seventh EU member state to join, or lose all those bonus Euros.
Squeaky extremist finger up the bum time

Just how desperate the Farage fringe were to hold on to this extra revenue source became clear at the weekend, as Martin Sonneborn of Die Partei, Germany’s foremost satirist and an MEP whose primary purpose in being in Brussels is to take the piss, revealed that UKIP had approached him in an attempt to get someone from a seventh country on board.

It got worse: yesterday, Farage proudly announced that he had indeed found an MEP from a country not already represented in his EFDD group, who was prepared to join and restore its status. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, Robert Iwaszkiewicz represents the Polish Congress of the New Right (KNP). And just how far to the right would that be?

Well, it would be rather a long way to the right, so far that it has been asserted that the KNP was too extreme even for the tastes of Marine le Pen and the French Front National (FN). One look at the Guardian’s headline, “Ukip does deal with far-right, racist Holocaust-denier to save EU funding”, tells you all you need to know about the level of desperation stooped to by Mr Thirsty.

KNP leader Janus Korwin-Mikke recently declared that “the minimum wage should be ‘destroyed’ and said that ‘four million n****rs’ lost their jobs in the US as a result of President John F Kennedy signing a bill on the minimum wage in 1961. He went on to claim that 20 million young Europeans were being treated as ‘negroes’ as a result of the minimum wage. He ... was fined 10 days of allowances for his comments”.

Nice chap, eh? He’s alsocalled for the vote to be taken away from women, has claimed that the difference between rape and consensual sex is ‘very subtle’ and said that Adolf Hitler was ‘probably not aware that Jews were being exterminated’”. He “told the Wroclaw Gazette earlier this year that beating would ‘help bring many wives back down to earth’”, then claimed it was a joke.

One can only wonder what UKIP’s main partner in the EFDD, Beppe Grillo’s Five Star movement, makes of their latest recruit. Strangely, given their recent attempts to turn voters away from the Kippers, the right-leaning press in the UK has been silent on the affair. But then, the far-right is a difficult area for some of them.

Just how ridiculous do UKIP’s manoeuvrings have to get for the electorate to see this rabble of spivs and chancers for what they are? One can only wait and see.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Tories And Mail Working Together

Former Tory MP Mark Reckless, who has now joined Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP, has discovered that pollsters have been phoning round his constituents in Rochester and Strood, asking some most unusually worded questions. He wondered whether this was a Tory Party dirty tricks operation, but it turned out to be the Mail On Sunday behind it.
Tom Pride picked up on this – you can see his post HERE – but the difference between the Mail titles and Tory propaganda, as we saw from the MoS running “Web Trolls To Get Two Years In Jail” yesterday, which was not news, having been known about since March, is becoming indistinguishable. Chris Grayling organised an information leak, the MoS splashed on it.

The ever-closer relationship between the Tories and those in the Northcliffe House bunker – by no coincidence, a situation that was precipitated by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre lunching at 10 Downing Street recently – was further confirmed this morning by the assault from the Daily Mail on Labour over the NHS, accompanied by a typically thundering and condemnatory editorial.

And the timeline is a dead giveaway: last Wednesday, the Welsh Tories made great play of Labour’s supposed failures over cancer treatment in the Principality. That there was no equivalent to England’s cancer drugs fund was underscored. The Daily Mail line in today’s attack on Labour – apart from its personal kick at Mil The Younger – was along exactly those lines (it’s been countered HERE).

The Tories’ HQ then jumped on the Mail’s attack as if it were a genuine news story, and to no surprise at all were ready and waiting to capitalise upon it. They reported how self-promoting MP Priti Patel was telling all who would listen how shocked she was at this earth-shattering news – that the party had already fed to the Daily Mail last week. It would be funny if it were not so deliberate.

Allied to this is the behaviour of pollster Survation, which is prepared to offer voters the alternativesMark Reckless is a hero” versus “Mark Reckless is a traitor”, and bring up the (one) time when he was too pissed to vote (one might lose count if the number of times Mail hacks and pundits were rendered incapable due to their having become Elephant’s Trunk and Mozart were to be tallied up).

This might not be push polling. But it is becoming, as John Arlott might have put it, very adjacent. And it’s not just UKIP who are on the receiving end. Watch out for more Tory talking points and agenda items recycled by the Mail titles in the near future – and then picked up on by the party’s press operation. Dacre is having to work hard for that gong – perhaps it’s a peerage, not just a K.

It’s journalism, Jim, but not as we know it.

Guido Fawked – IPSO Isn’t Finished Yet

Even as the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog celebrated the apparent ending of IPSO interest in the Brooks Newmark sting undertaken by their newly anointed teaboy Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, the decision had been taken by retired judge Alan Moses, who heads the new press regulator, which would prove the celebration premature.
Fart in lift inquiry suffers a blowout

Yes, soon after Wickham told “Pleased IPSO complaint over Sunday Mirror Brooks Newmark story has been dropped”, and his colleague, the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, opined “It would appear IPSO has passed its first big test”, it became clear that IPSO had dropped nothing, and nor had any test been even attempted, let alone passed. Alan Moses had decided to proceed alone.
Also wrong

All that sniping at the Guardian’s Jane Martinson by the Fawkes folks was shown to have been totally ineffective as readers were toldWatchdog to pursue inquiry into sex sting against MP Brooks Newmark ... Investigation of the Sunday Mirror will be the first time Ipso has continued action in the absence of a complainant”. The decision of Tory MP Mark Pritchard had not ended the matter.

IPSO advised “Ipso is considering whether this case raises broader questions which demand further investigation from the regulator”. The Guardian noted that “None of the other MPs understood to have been contacted in the sting have commented on the case. Ipso may still decide there is no case to answer once it has gathered further information, but the spokesman suggested it was likely to continue doing so for some weeks”. Wickham isn’t in the clear yet.

What might the new press regulator want to consider as part of that investigation? The full set of messages exchanged between Newmark and fictional Tory PR woman “Sophie Wittams” will be a must. Extracts carefully selected for the benefit of the Fawkes rabble will not suffice.

And there is one other area Alan Moses may wish to examine: the inability of the Fawkes folks to be open and honest about their behaviour. One example will suffice: the assertion that they did not publish any of the photos of “Sophie”, which were in any case culled from the Web and used without informing the women concerned, let alone asking for their permission.

As this blog showed, they lied about this, and then edited a post on the Fawkes blog in order to cover their tracks. But whoever did the deleting managed to miss the posting of that same photo to their Facebook page – where it is still posted, and therefore still available to view (HERE). The screenshot was taken yesterday.

The Great Guido and his pals are too inept even to cover their tracks properly. Yes, they’re even useless at lying. Another fine mess, once again.

Two Years For Trolling Was Not News

One of the modern characteristics of the press, as Nick Davies showed in his go-to book on its workings Flat Earth News, is the herd instinct: once a story is running, nobody wants to be seen to be out of step. All pile in, lifting copy, spreading the initial message, and – worst of all – not stopping to ask whether the story they are running is factually correct, or even whether it is actually news at all.
What's f***ing wrong with telling readers to vote Conservative, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

This was illustrated superbly by the announcement by the Mail On Sunday yesterday, which I eyed with some scepticism at the time, that the maximum jail term for those convicted of what is known as “trolling” would be increased from six months to two years. And, as Jon Stewart might have observed, two things here. One, this was leaked by Chris Grayling’s mob. And two, it wasn’t news.

That thought was not allowed to enter as first the Sunday Express, and then every other newspaper’s website, churned the story over. Even the broadcasters ran with it. Nobody stopped to think that this might be party propaganda leaked to a paper whose editor-in-chief, the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, has clearly taken the decision to support the Tories in the run up to next year’s General Election.

So how was the “two years for trolls” story not news? Well, it had already been announced. Moreover, it had then been included in a Minister’s speech. And, worst of all, it had been flagged up as early as last March. We know this because of a little research undertaken by legal eagles Jack of Kent and Joshua Rozenberg. That would be “research” as in what the press couldn’t be arsed doing.

The information detailing the two year maximum sentence was included in the Criminal Justice And Courts Bill (2013-14 to 2014-15), the contents of which are available HERE. The quadrupled maximum was included in July. That would be THREE MONTHS AGO. Then Lord Faulks included it in a speech to the Criminal Justice Management Conference. That was LAST MONTH.

And, as if that were not bad enough, under the heading “UK moves towards longer jail terms for trolls” by David Meyer, we were told that “An amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill would see online harassment cases moved to a different type of court that can dole out sentences of up to two years”. That information was published LAST MARCH.

All this information was – and still is – readily available. So why did no other media outlet spend a few minutes checking out the story before rushing to churn it over, especially knowing that Dacre had recently lunched at 10 Downing Street and the Mail came out for Tories more or less immediately afterwards?

Yesterday was not the print and broadcast media’s finest day. The worrying thought enters that there will be many more of them in the next six months.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Guido Fawked – Lying On An Industrial Scale

Back in July, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog persuaded Esquire magazine to swallow the Kool-Aid and write a suitably flattering feature about them, in which Staines pontificated that “The lying in politics is on an industrial scale”. In order to illustrate his point, Staines then tells the interviewer “No-one’s off limits”, which is, er, lying on an industrial scale.
Feared: are politicians more scared of him ...

The Great Guido also helps the impression to be given that his office overlooks the Houses of Parliament, due to the placement of a photo of the corpulent Staines with china cup in hand and Parliament in the background next to a description of that office. This is merely misleading: the location is a flat in Parliament View, the details of which are readily available online.
... or are they more intimidated by him?

The combination of lying and misleading has been passed to Staines’ acolytes among the Fawkes folks, who as a result have great difficulty saying things that are factually correct. Thus when Tory MP Mark Pritchard told earlier that “Glad to have reached ‘amicable settlement’ with Sunday Mirror and have now withdrawn my complaint from IPSO. The settlement is confidential”, it had to be spun.
First to creatively retell this news was Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, the Fawkes blog’s newly anointed teaboy, who asserted “Pleased IPSO complaint over Sunday Mirror Brooks Newmark story has been dropped”. IPSO did not make any complaint, they may yet choose to investigate the sting of their own volition, and one or more other parties may complain via IPSO – and may have already done so.
Still, apart from those three minor problems, Wickham was at least right that a complaint concerning IPSO was no longer hanging over him, although he missed that “settlement”. Meanwhile, his colleague, the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, was also having difficulty with factual analysis on the subject: “It would appear IPSO has passed its first big test”. It would?
Sadly for Master Cole, it would appear to be nothing of the sort: IPSO had not been involved in the discussions between Pritchard and the Sunday Mirror, and so had not been subjected to any test. It therefore could not have passed that test. Small wonder that Twitter commenters were soon passing adverse comment, including the observation that Cole is once again having trouble getting his story straight.

One part of The Great Guido’s story whose accuracy is in little doubt is his thirst: the Esquire article talks of his “usual tipple” at lunchime being “a bottle of Chablis”. He talks of targeting Labour MPs like Luciana Berger, but the last Fawkes attack on her was a pack of lies. Cole’s former blog Tory Bear is lauded, yet its foot-in-mouth ability was legendary. Yes, the lying is indeed on an industrial scale.

Yet our politicians are supposed to fear this shower. Maybe not. Another fine mess.

Only The Press May Troll

The Mail On Sunday and Sunday Express are singing from the same hymn sheet this morning. “Two Years’ Jail For Vile Trolls” thunders the Express, while the Mail concurs: “Web Trolls To Get Two Years In Jail”, going on to tell of “Cyber-mobs poisoning Britain”. But, as Captain Blackadder might have observed, there was only one thing wrong with this idea: it was bollocks.
Trolling is A Very Bad Thing!

While the Mail rants “Internet trolls who subject victims to vile abuse are to be jailed for up to two years under a tough Government crackdown. Harsher sentences are to be introduced following a series of shocking, high-profile cases, including rape threats made against model Chloe Madeley last week”, it seems that someone is having a bout of double standards here.

One only has to see the comments of Chris Grayling, the non-lawyer who has somehow been handed the post of Justice Secretary, to see that the press is being singularly disingenuous: “These internet trolls are cowards who are poisoning our national life. No one would permit such venom in person, so there should be no place for it on social media”. Really? Do go on.
Yes, trolling is really, really bad!

This is a law to combat cruelty – and marks our determination to take a stand against a baying cyber-mob. We must send out a clear message”. So the Government wants to end “cruelty” and the rule of the “baying mob”, those who would not dare dispense “such venom in person”, and who are “poisoning our national life”? If so, it’s looking the wrong way right now.

While the cheaper end of the Fourth Estate is imploring us to “look over there” at the unfortunate Ms Madeley, the Mail and Express are not averse to doing a little of that “cruelty” of the “baying mob” themselves – and stuff the consequences. What they do in print – and then reinforce via, well, social media, actually – does far more damage than any keyboard hero secreted away in his bedroom ever could.
But this kind of mob cruelty is fine

Both papers were in the vanguard of presuming Christopher Jefferies was guilty. Both indulged in disgraceful hounding of Kate and Gerry McCann, with the Express having to publish a front page apology. And, if we’re talking teenagers being subjected to cruel treatment, don’t forget the Mail’s vicious attacks on Rory Weal for speaking at the Labour conference, or the creepy luring of Paris Brown.

And let us not forget the Mail’s monstering of transgender schoolteacher Lucy Meadows, which included a cruel and insensitive (even by his low standards) attack by the tedious and unfunny Richard Littlejohn – which was followed by her suicide. Yet, by inference at least, the press is telling us that these cruel and vicious attacks are fine – so long as they are the ones doing them.

Shame on Chris Grayling – legislating at the behest of the press, for their benefit.