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Saturday, 13 February 2016

Independent - Murdoch’s Crocodile Tears

For a national print title to close - and for good - may be a sign of the times, but it is a loss to the plurality and diversity of the press. So when news came that the Independent and its Sunday sister paper were to cease print publication, most media commentators judged this to be a bad thing. Press Gazette’s headline, “'Sad day for us, bad day for journalism': Industry mourns loss of Independent newspapers”, summed up the reaction.
Kevin Maguire of the Mirror reflected “Mourning loss of The Independent, a vital liberal voice in a British press dominated by Tory papers. Thoughts with good journos losing jobs”. Isabel Hardman of the Spectator mused “So so sad to hear about closure of the Independent, a fine paper with such good people working for it. Will miss writing columns for it”. And, from one unexpected source, came another expression of regret.

Rupert Murdoch took to Twitter - clearly still resisting efforts to let someone think first and Tweet on his behalf later - to tell “Sadly UK's Independent print paper closes after about 30 years. Any loss of diversity bad”. Any loss of diversity is indeed bad, but for Rupe to show regret for the loss of the Indy is hypocrisy of the most blatant kind. Had it been left up to him, the paper would have gone out of business in the 1990s.
In 1998, the Lords backed a ban on so-called “predatory pricing” of newspapers, against the wishes of the Blair Government. As the BBC reported, “The vote follows criticism of Mr Murdoch's News International group for dropping the cover price of The Times from 35p to 20p on Mondays and Saturdays … Rival papers have claimed this is "predatory" price-cutting designed to force weaker competitors, such as The Independent, out of business”.

The Indy itself broke the news thatRUPERT MURDOCH'S News International was found guilty yesterday of deliberately selling The Times at a loss, after an investigation into predatory pricing by the Office of Fair Trading … The OFT also warned that News International had been put "on notice" that any future price-cutting campaign could result in fines or a referral to the Competition Commission if it was found to be anti- competitive”.

Then, in the run-up to the 2010 General Election, far from welcoming the diversity provided by the Independent, Rupe’s son James, with the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks at his side, barged into the paper’s newsroom to confront then-editor Simon Kelner over a front page that told readers “Rupert Murdoch won't decide this election. You Will”. Kelner later recalledTheir use of language and the threatening nature of their approach came straight from the ‘Mafioso for Beginners’ handbook”.

And last week, when the closure of the Indy was made public, former Sun editor and current columnist Kelvin McFilth, appearing on the BBC’s Daily Politics, shrugged his shoulders, made a number of disparaging comments about the Indy’s journalism, and sneered “It's not going to be any sad loss to be honest”.

That is what Rupert Murdoch really thinks about the Independent ceasing print publication. He couldn’t give a crap as long as he wins in the end. No change there, then.

Daily Mail Human Rights Hypocrisy

This morning, the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre are in their element, ranting about the subject that keeps them in the style to which they have become accustomed, while frightening their readers witless because Criminals and Scary Muslims (tm) are coming to get them with the Government and EU’s connivance. Yes, Human Rights is the name of the game. And it’s not fair!
The headline “POLICE: WE WON’T NAME FUGITIVESis explained in the Mail’s own inimitable fashion: “identities of suspected killers and rapists on the run are kept secret, and you guessed, it's because of human rights”. So what is going on? “Forces use Data Protection Act and human rights laws to stop publication”. And how did this come to light? “Refusals emerged from FOI requests submitted by the Daily Mail”.

So what is the Mail up to? “The refusals emerged from Freedom of Information requests submitted by the Daily Mail to the UK's 45 police forces, asking for the number of suspects classed as 'wanted'. A further question requested the names, photos and details of the ten suspects who had been on the run for the longest time in their force areas … These could include those who jumped bail after arrest or during court proceedings. But 21 forces refused to give the names on privacy grounds”. Well, tough titty, Dacre doggies.

The article concludes by helpfully explaining “The refusals come amid a row over the FoI Act, which Whitehall wants to dilute by allowing more exemptions, and charging for requests. But there is a growing backlash against the plans after it emerged that town halls and NHS trusts had united in a ‘sinister’ bid to crush the public’s right to know”.

All of which sounds most public spirited. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, the Mail has, as so often, been playing both sides of the field on Human Rights laws, as the excellent Inforrm’s Blog has noted. Under the headline “Daily Mail loses Human Rights Act challenge to CFA success fees and insurance premiums” we see that the Mail has been trying to use the HRA for its own advantage.

As the post explains, “In a judgment delivered at the High Court today in the case of Miller v Associated Newspapers, Mr Justice Mitting rejected a Human Rights Act challenge to recoverable success fees and ATE insurance premiums brought by the Daily Mail”. Andy Miller won his libel case against the Mail in 2012: the paper, or rather its parent company Associated Newspapers, was left with a legal bill ultimately estimated at £3 million.

The Mail was arguing that “the award of additional liabilities to the Claimant [Miller] would be incompatible with the Defendant’s [Mail] right of expression as a publisher under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights”. But the Judge rejected the Mail’s arguments. The post goes on to note “A number of commentators on have drawn attention to the apparent inconsistency of the Daily Mail - known for its strong and principled opposition to the Human Rights Act - relying on the Act to attack a piece of costs legislation enacted by the sovereign British parliament”. Quite.

Human Rights: bad when the Mail says so, but when the readers aren’t looking, those rights become A Very Good Thing that the paper relies on in court to try and swing judgments its way. What a complete and absolute shower of stinking hypocrisy.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Flannelled Fool Fox Fib Busted

While Young Dave is doing the rounds of other EU member states selling his idea of an allegedly reformed Union in advance of telling the British people what a jolly good deal he has secured for them honestly, those in the Tory Party more interested in promoting Themselves Personally Now have been manoeuvring for position, looking forward to the distinct possibility that Cameron might quit if Britain votes to leave.
An unsavoury sleazebag airs his views

Those jockeying for position now include former Defence Secretary Liam Fox, not only a has-been, but arguably a never-should-have-been-in-the-first-place, whose tenure was brought to an end after the deeply subversive Guardian caught the SOB “breaching the ministerial code of conduct” in 2011. His pal Adam Werritty was also a key player. It could - and should - have happened a lot earlier.

As I pointed out at the time, Fox’s department sprang a number of politically advantageous leaks - advantageous to him, that is. It was never established who did the leaking, but as I surmised, it would probably have stopped if Cameron had sacked Fox there and then. There has since been no way back for Fox, save for an offer of a minor role after last year’s General Election, which Fox declined. It was probably more than he was worth.

But now, not unconnected to Fox’s fervent Anglo-US stance, has come an attempt to paint Fox as a future Tory leader (no, don’t laugh). This has come from a predictably clueless and partisan source, the Sun’s alleged “Westminster Correspondent” Harry Cole, who has brought long-suffering readers “Brexit Fox beating chickens in race to be next Tory leader … This could be the return to the political frontline Dr Liam Fox has been waiting for”.

Do go on. “Anti-EU ex-Cabinet minister Dr Liam Fox has rocketed to the top of Tory activists’ list for the party’s next leader … The former Defence Secretary’s prominent role in the Leave campaign has seen him overtake Theresa May and Boris Johnson, and has pushed George Osborne into fourth place – according to the shock poll by the ConservativeHome website”. It’s not such a shock, though, is it?

ConHome polls are surveys of party members. 700 votes were cast. It’s also clear that those voting are heavily Eurosceptic and looking for someone who suits their mood, given so many cabinet heavyweights are rallying round Cameron and backing the remain campaign. So what did Fox think? “The right-wing stalwart refused to comment on the development tonight but Westminster allies said the Scotsman was ‘buoyed’ by the news”.

That would be the Westminster ally Fox sees when he looks in the mirror, then. At least Cole has come clean and included a response that many Tory MPs would endorse: “Though not every Tory MP welcomed the development, with one telling The Sun tonight: ‘The Conservative Party would have to be sick in the head to call for that doctor’”. Dead right. Liam Fox is a clown. He is not a credible candidate. Full stop. End of story.

That Master Cole is prepared to talk him up makes his paper even less credible.

Don’t Menshn Brexit

Few newspapers can claim to be the equal of the New York Times, especially on objectivity of journalism, clarity of style, thoroughness of research, and above all detachment from partisanship. But the paper also provides opportunities for pundits to vent their opinions via Op-Ed columns, and so have, for reasons best known to themselves, given a platform to (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch.
Ms Mensch, who has made a name for herself by getting her facts wrong while being unable to admit it, has declared herself to be opposed to Britain’s continuing membership of the European Union. Titled simply “Britain, better-off out of Europe”, the former MP’s thoughts are deserving of attention. They are also deserving of sufficient analysis to demonstrate that much in the article ranges from the debatable to the simply untrue.

After considering David Cameron’s renegotiation - by doing so, Ms Mensch at least suggests that any preference to remain in the EU hinges on this, which as I’ve previously said, is seriously misleading - the sleight of hand enters. “After these terms were announced, the pro-exit camp’s lead in polls soared to nine points”. Wrong. One poll showed a nine-point lead. ICM showed a one-point lead.

One recent survey of Conservative Party members found that more than 70 percent supported Brexit”. As the party’s membership was around 150,000 in 2013, and has declined significantly since then, this is hardly relevant. The Labour Party has put on more new members since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader than the Conservatives’ entire membership numbers.

Brexit offers Britons more money, more control, free trade and planned immigration”. Pure speculation, no citation in support, and nor will there be one. Then we see “Britain sends about £55 million, or about $80 million, per day to Brussels. To place that in context, Daniel Hannan, a Conservative member of the European Parliament, calculated that …”. Citing Hannan is not a wise move: the nominally Conservative MEP told Fox News Channel that the US Healthcare Reforms were “A Government takeover of health care” and would mean “death panels”. Both claims are totally untrue. Hannan is not a reliable source.

In 2015, Britain’s net contribution was £8.5 billion; in 2016, it is forecast to top £11 billion. If we ended these payments, we could end our austerity measures”. Firstly, the estimated £11.1 billion would be followed by £7.9 billion for 2017. Secondly, this assumes there would be no cost in maintaining membership of the Single European Market. There certainly would be a cost, as Governments in Norway and Switzerland can attest.

On the question of refugees, where Ms Mensch used that term and “migrants” interchangeably, she tells “the recent sexual assaults on women in Cologne, Germany, by marauding groups of migrants have confirmed the fears of many in Britain”. Few of the Cologne attacks were carried out by refugees. Ms Mensch does not cite reliable figures.

With no curbs on the free movement of migrants under Europe’s Schengen Agreement, British voters expect a wave of unwanted immigration once these migrants are given asylum elsewhere in Europe”. Britain is not a signatory to Schengen.

Brexit was never a left-right issue. In the 1970s and ’80s, it was supported by both Margaret Thatcher and the left-wing politician Tony Benn”. Right on Benn, totally wrong on Thatcher. Mrs T campaigned for aYes” vote in 1975. She signed the Single European Act in 1986. She was Prime Minister when Britain joined the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, precursor to the Single Currency.

We are pro-free trade, and as the European Union’s chief export market, we will not need to pay for access to its markets; and we want more freedom to trade with India, China and the rest of the world”. The idea that Britain would be allowed free access to the EU single market is sheer fantasy. And trade with India and China would be subject to negotiation, something that would be time-consuming - and costly.

The pro-European camp used to tell us that joining the euro was a good idea, and that to stay outside presaged disaster; instead, we’ve seen a meltdown in Greece”. This presupposes that Britain’s economy is similar to that of Greece, which it is not.

We do not plan to cut off our European allies. Britain’s treaty with Portugal is the oldest formal alliance in the world”. One of the last times that treaty was invoked was when the Portuguese asked for Britain’s help after India made to annex Goa. No help was forthcoming. I doubt very much whether the authorities in Lisbon would lose much sleep over Britain leaving the EU. The treaty would not overrule any EU treaties or laws.

Post-Brexit, we would continue to trade with our European friends as we have for a thousand years”. Yes - by negotiating the terms under which that trade takes place. And the idea that other EU member states would stand by and let Britain remain a Single Market player for free is, once again, fantasy. If we want access, we will have to pay.

Finally, Ms Mensch once again treats NYT readers to her famously shaky research: “The European Union, however, is a relic of the ’70s - about as relevant as bell-bottom jeans”. The European Union did not exist until after the Treaty of Maastricht was signed in 1992. And its precursor organisation, the European Economic Community, dates from the Treaty of Rome in 1957. Neither is a product of the 1970s.

I would add one consideration which neither Ms Mensch, nor many of those supporting “Brexit”, have considered. English is the de facto universal language of the EU, and is spoken by more than half of its citizens. A post-“Brexit” EU would be in a strong position to pick off institutions like banking and finance by offering an English speaking workforce.

One could go on. All the likes of Ms Mensch can offer is some ill-defined concept of “freedom”. But the reality is that this would be freedom to ask if Britain could enter into negotiations, or otherwise pay to access the EU’s market in the same way Norway does now. Her idea that we would merely say “You need us more that we need you” would not move any minds. That is the reality here in Britain.

Many right-leaning pundits have spoken favourably of Ms Mensch’s effort. That, I would submit, says rather more about their judgment than the quality of her analysis.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Jeremy Hunt Caught Fiddling

The hospital doctors’ dispute is not finished yet - but one of the main protagonists might well be, after it was revealed that Jeremy Hunt (the former Culture Secretary) had, if only by inference, been accused of sleight of hand with the letter he claimed had been signed by 20 NHS CEOs, and which effectively endorsed imposition of the pay deal, after talks between the Government and the BMA broke down.
Hunt made his claim, and soon afterwards, several of those CEOs let it be known that they did not support contract imposition. By this evening, nine of the 20 had so claimed. Then an intervention on Twitter by Andrew Foster, who is CEO of the Wrightlington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust, shone a bright light upon why there had been so many dissenters: someone had changed the text to which he had signed up.
The ball was set rolling by Emma Preston, who asked two direct and straightforward questions of the 20 CEOs: “Two basic q.s to all CEOs: 1)Did you support Dalton's offer? 2)Do you support the imposition? Surely no grey areas for them there”. Sanjay Sastry, a Welshman working abroad in Greater Manchester, tagged Foster and simply asked him “Your answer please?” It was the reply that set tongues wagging.
Foster simply said “1) Yes 2) No   Clear enough?” But the letter published on behalf of Hunt at least implied that the CEOs supported contract imposition. Sastry had another go: “Yes, thank you. Although raises serious questions re judgement. Were u naive to sign or r u changing your mind after event?” to which Foster replied unequivocally “The letter we supported was a different one to that published today”.
Clive Peedell put his own question to Foster: “Dear @andrewkfoster, If there's an exodus of junior docs resulting from contract imposition, will you consider resigning for supporting it?” Foster once again pointed out to him “I have not supported contract imposition. I have supported the view that the offer made is reasonable”.
Back to Clive Peedell: “This is what you supported in Dalton's letter. The implications are obvious. Hunt took his advice”. He appended the paragraph in question. Foster’s reply was, once again, unequivocal: “That is not the paragraph that I agreed to. I did not agree with imposition”. What is needed now, then, is for the wording to which Foster and the other 19 CEO signed up. And if it is different, there can be only one conclusion.
Should there be any significant difference in the wording, and if Foster is right in his (repeated) assertion that he did not support imposition - that there are at least another eight CEOs making the same claims suggests he is not alone - then either Hunt, or someone under his control, has changed the wording. That is not merely unforgivable: it is a resigning offence. And if Hunt is found to be bang to rights, and declines to do the right thing, then Young Dave should step in and sack the SOB.

Jeremy Hunt gives every appearance of being a liar and a cheat. That’s not good enough.

Toby Young Doctors Smear Busted

After seeing his latest allegedly improved offer to hospital doctors turned down, Jeremy Hunt (the former Culture Secretary) decided today to raise the stakes in the Government’s stand-off with the BMA by imposing a new contract on doctors, whether they like it or not. This has not gone down well: as the BBC has reported, “The British Medical Association said it was ‘considering all options’ as the dispute threatens to escalate further”.
More grown-up debate from Captain Bellend

In this kind of situation, the last thing that is needed is for someone on the Government side to start declaring victory and slagging off the doctors and their Union. So along has come the loathsome Toby Young to, er, slag off the doctors and their Union, while declaring victory. Sadly, the standard of research performed in so acting would not have exactly earned Tobes top marks at his West London Free School.
The level of triumphalism and sheer idiocy on display was more than enough to satisfy the whole range of Tobes watchers: from the outset, his lack of tolerance of those who opposed Hunt’s stance was clear to see. “Well done @Jeremy_Hunt for not giving in to a militant, intransigent trade union. We cannot allow the NHS to be held hostage by the BMA”, he sneered. And there was more. Sadly, rather a lot more.
List of the NHS chief execs backing @Jeremy_Hunt. Let's hope the #BMA sees sense on this” he declared, except that his list was not those backing Hunt, but the position set out in David Dalton’s letter to him. So when Faisal Islam of Sky News told “Now @Jeremy_Hunt live on Sky News blaming  @TheBMA ‘contracts have support of 20 chief executives, as being fair and reasonable’”, this was only the beginning.
Islam soon returned to Twitter with less good news for Hunt and Tobes: “Junior Docs -another 2 hospital chief execs out of 20 who signed Dalton letter, now say don't back Hunt contract imposition”. That made three in all. And it got worse: “Royal Free confirms chief exec David Sloman (Hunt letter signatory) replied to Doc's letter ‘I do not support contract imposition’ - so 4/20”. Tobes research fail twice over. Oh dear!
But on went Young’s dirge: “My sister’s an NHS nurse. I hope Mark Porter’s right and the government will offer her a 13.5% pay rise as well”. Real Ron Hopeful stuff. You do know, Tobes, what a shower Hunt is? Your sister probably will soon enough. Next was “A handy guide to BMA activists”, those whose views could be safely discarded as they had expressed support for parties of which Tobes does not approve.
Then came the pièce de résistance, as he blathered “If you’re going to bring in the historical record, the BMA originally opposed the creation of the NHS”. SO DID THE 1940S TORY PARTY. So what? If Tobes is arguing that the 2016 Tory Party is not the same as the one that fought Nye Bevan tooth and nail over creating the NHS, he’s got no chance arguing the other way about for the BMA.

Fortunately, someone else does the teaching at his Free School. What a clown.

Tory Bullying - Look Who’s Still Here

After the bullying scandal broke over the Tory Party, in the wake of young activist Elliott Johnson’s death, there was much expression of remorse and regret. And no-one was more regretful and remorseful that the head man at both the Young Britons’ Foundation and Thatcherite pressure group Conservative Way Forward, Donal Blaney. He was in the papers and on the radio showing how sorry he was.
Donal Blaney

Not only that, he would resign as Chairman of CWF: as the Mail On Sunday’s political editor Simon Walters told, “Blaney said he was resigning as CWF chairman to look after his ill wife in their US home. He added he no longer had enough time to carry out his CWF duties and planned to expand his legal work in America”.

Blaney’s spokesman, quoted in the Telegraph, went into more detail: “Because he needs to be in the United States on an increasingly full-time basis to care for his wife who suffers from a progressive and degenerative circulatory condition called Raynaud’s Disease, Donal is naturally unable to dedicate the time needed to execute his statutory and fiduciary responsibilities as a director or Chairman of CWF”. And there was more.

He also has a busy legal practice to run which is expanding across the Atlantic too. He resigned as a director and Chairman of CWF earlier this week. There is and can be no suggestion of any wrongdoing on the part of Donal or CWF. Others are accountable for their own wrongdoing. He cannot be”. So when did Blaney say his goodbye to the UK and go off to Tampa to care for his wife and her circulatory condition?
Who's this in the circle?

It seems that whatever move he made was not as permanent as he has made out: Blaney was caught on camera at last week’s CWF 25th anniversary party at the Millennium Hotel in London’s Mayfair. The photo, kindly sent to Zelo Street by one of the blog’s regular sources, shows Blaney deep in conversation with a strangely familiar figure who had his back to the camera. As Rolf might have asked, can you guess who it is yet?

The mystery figure has been identified as none other than the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, aka Guido Fakwes, whom one might think would be the last person Donal Blaney would want to be seen conversing with, given his clear suggestion that he was seeking rather less of the limelight, and a lot less of the recent scandal that has followed the unfortunate Elliott Johnson’s death. Well, well.

So Donal Blaney has not had to move to the USA on a full-time basis just yet. And his willingness to deal with The Great Guido is yet more interesting. I wondered the other day if the Fawkes blog story about expenses incurred during the Newark by-election campaign had been informed by someone close to Mark Clarke. Having seen Staines and Blaney chatting together last Friday, one has to wonder if that guess was right.

And how will Blaney’s wife Marci manage without him to care for her? From her recent Facebook post tellingWow, it’s hot today so I decided to get a sun tan!!! Love Florida in the winter time!” perhaps she is managing just fine.

What you will not read in the authorised version. No surprise there, then.

Sun’s Sick Dowler Hypocrisy

The latest revelation about the last hours of Milly Dowler’s life was justification in itself for the Government to yield to the pressure to enact the second part of the Leveson Inquiry, especially when put alongside the press interference in both that case, and that of murdered private investigator Daniel Morgan. That the sick hacks at the Murdoch Sun have used the story for profit today merely underscores that view.
The banner headline in today’s Sun is “JUST SAY SORRY”, the latest instalment in the press campaign against Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan Howe. But it is Rupert Murdoch, his CEO Rebekah Brooks, and the rest of the shower who inhabit the Baby Shard Bunker who should be saying sorry - to the Dowler family, for shamelessly revisiting Milly’s story not just on the front page, but in a double-page spread inside the paper.

It merely underscores the stinking hypocrisy of Murdoch and Ms Brooks, who both wanted to give the impression of sincere apology and even contrition when the now-defunct Screws was discovered to have hacked the dead girl’s phone - and, as I observed yesterday, interfered in the Police investigation into Milly’s disappearance. It was so different then: Murdoch made his apology to the family personally.

Mark Lewis, the Dowlers’ lawyer, said at the time “We told him that his papers should lead the way in setting the standard of honesty and decency in the field and not what had gone on before … At the end of the day actions speak louder than words … He was humbled, shaken and sincere. This was something that had hit him on a personal level. He apologised many times and held his head in his hands”.

In resigning her position as CEO of the then News International, Ms Brooks said she felt a “deep responsibility for the people we have hurt”. She wanted to “reiterate how sorry I am for what we now know to have taken place”, and concluded “I have believed that the right and responsible action has been to lead us through the heat of the crisis. However my desire to remain on the bridge has made me a focal point of the debate … This is now detracting attention from all our honest endeavours to fix the problems of the past”.

Now we know just how sorry Murdoch and Ms Brooks really were: not at all. Rupe has re-appointed Ms Brooks as CEO of News UK, and she has now overseen another appallingly intrusive example of using others’ grief for corporate gain. Had she and Murdoch really been sorry, they would not have countenanced running today’s story.

Sun editor Tony Gallagher should not escape censure either: did it not occur to him to run that story past Ms Brooks and ask if she was OK with it? If he didn’t, he’s an even bigger louse than I thought. If he did, and she passed it, then she is not merely a hypocrite, but one of the lowest forms of newspaper life going.

Whatever the excuses that the Murdoch doggies will no doubt pitch in order to try and wriggle off the hook, there is only one acceptable course of action open to them. That is to say sorry to the Dowler family. In person. And this time show that they mean it.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Milly Dowler - Leveson 2 In One

Some media watchers might have noticed talk this week of “Leveson 2” and wondered why there should be another Inquiry, given the length and rigour of the first one. And we know that the Government would rather it did not happen, as Politics Home has told. But then, events come together to remind the public just why there was a first Leveson Inquiry, and show in stark clarity why its second part must go ahead.
As the BBC has reported, “The first part of the inquiry, in 2011-2012, examined press ethics, but hearings into ties between newspapers and the police were put on hold amid criminal inquiries over phone hacking”. Ties between newspapers and the Police. That, as Nick Watt at the Guardian has told, means revisiting the brutal murder of private detective Daniel Morgan in 1987. And it also means the case of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Just as those wanting calls for Leveson 2 to go away may have thought the Daniel Morgan case had not pricked the public conscience sufficiently, the full horror of the Milly Dowler case returned to prominence with some force, as it was revealed that her killer, Levi Bellfield, had kept Milly alive for 14 hours after initially abducting her, and subjected her to a catalogue of abuse which we do not need to describe further.

Worse, the Police only let the Dowler family know this because Bellfield had told another prison inmate, who was due for release and might have sold his information to the press. That is bad enough. But through both the Daniel Morgan and Milly Dowler cases runs a thread of corruption, of one newspaper deliberately hindering Police investigations, and that paper was the now-defunct Murdoch Screws.

It was the Screws that was caught working with Southern Investigations - the firm Daniel Morgan was a partner in before his murder - snooping on the senior Police officer charged with re-opening the case. The surveillance was so intrusive that Rebekah Wade, as she then was, was hauled in by the Met, only to come out with one of the World’s Lamest Excuses - they thought DCI Dave Cook and DS Jacqui Hames were having an affair.

It was one of the World’s Lamest Excuses because Cook and Ms Hames were married - to one another. And the Screws was later caught interfering in the Dowler case, bullying the Police into going on a wild goose chase to Telford, because an employment agency there had dialled a wrong number, and the Screws was hacking Milly’s phone, having blagged her number and PIN from her classmates.

Worse, the Murdoch hacks took information to the Police that they had very obviously obtained by hacking the dead girl’s phone. The cops took that information and did nothing about the hacking. Then the Screws ran a story about a “Hoaxer”. But there was no hoaxer. All there was was a dead schoolgirl having her phone hacked in the pursuit of selling a few more papers. That is the justification for Leveson 2 in one.

And the Daniel Morgan case should not be forgotten: as Nick Watt suggests, the truth of the private detective’s death rests on Leveson 2 being enacted. We owe it not just to the Dowler family, once again thrust back into the spotlight, but Alastair Morgan, who has campaigned tirelessly to reveal the facts behind his brother’s killing. And we owe it to all the other victims of the corrupt police-media nexus. That is all.

Simon Danczuk - BT Bashing Crawler

Rochdale’s nominally Labour MP Simon Danczuk appeared to show some concern for his long-suffering constituents, as he moved yesterday afternoon’s debate in Westminster Hall, on “Communications Infrastructure and Flooding in the North West”. Here was a politician drawing attention to the needs of his electorate, addressing their concerns, and seeking answers. Or so it might have appeared at the outset.
Sadly, though, it soon became clear that this was merely a platform for Danczuk to continue his attack on BT, which, as I’ve previously noted, is also a tactic employed by the Murdoch press, which by the most fortunate of coincidences serves the interests of the wider Murdoch empire, for which BT is a competitor whose competition they would rather do without, especially when it comes to Sky and sports.
Danczuk’s line of attack was soon evident: “Held debate in Parliament today on failure of BT to fix problems after flooding”. It was all about knocking BT. On one occasion he did refer to telecoms providers more generally, but then it was back to just the one provider. To no surprise, there were many outside Westminster Hall who brought up the inconvenient fact that he had absented himself the night Rochdale flooded.
Despite much of the town being inundated with water, he went off on a night out elsewhere. And his “case study” for the BT attack also came in for criticism: “My debate in Parliament today talked of failure by BT Openreach to reconnect businesses after floods & used @LolaAshleighfl1 as case study”. That’s the same Twitter handle as “‘@LolaAshleighfl1: Happy 9th Birthday party Lola, great party’ Happy Birthday Lola! x”.
Was this some personal friend that he was championing, rather than a business selected at random? We can be more certain that it was, after ex-wife Karen Tweeted before the split “VERY disappointed that Lynn Brossnon has been picked to replace me. @lolaashleigh1 is a young hard working mum in touch with community!” That was about her replacement as a Labour councillor in Rochdale.
So that looks like more BT bashing, combined with crawling to the Murdoch press, together with giving a pal a mention in his debate. But on he went, pretending to be A Proper Labour MP, telling “Read my latest blog on the Trade Union Bill and why our unions face a fight to stay relevant”, and ending the Tweet with the hashtag #HeartUnions.
Firey Fairy wasn’t at all happy about that: “Yet he flatly refused to support local Firefighters when they were striking over pension cuts … As I said when Firefighters begged him here to support by signing the EDM Danczuk repeatedly refused”. Support for the Trades Union movement is not something that you can pretend, or bluff your way through. It means showing support even when it might not be to the press’ liking.

Simon Danczuk did his best yesterday to pretend that he was a real man of the people. It didn’t work, people saw through it, and he will have to do a lot better in future.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Tories In By-Election Expenses Mire

One of those sights that strikes fear into many Tories - alongside the sight of another investigation by the Guardian’s Nick Davies - is the appearance of Michael Crick, now at Channel 4 News, bearing down on their affairs. And so it has come to pass that Crick has looked into the party’s spending on three recent by-elections, and found apparent undeclared overspends totalling tens of thousands of pounds.
The report tellsHundreds of pages of receipts obtained by this programme seem to show undeclared expenditure by the party in three crucial parliamentary by-election campaigns in 2014 … The documents appear to reveal a pattern of undisclosed spending and link directly to Conservative HQ and senior figures within the party”. And there’s more.

Campaign spending in each by-election is subject to a legal limit of £100,000 to ensure fairness, so contests are not skewed in favour of richer political parties … If all the receipts had been declared, the party would appear to have flouted spending limits in all three by-elections in Newark, Clacton, and Rochester & Strood during 2014”.

And the amounts overspent? “This includes £56,866.75 undeclared hotel bills in Rochester, which would have taken them £53,659.83 over the £100,000 spending limit; £26,786.14 in Clacton, which would take them £10,835.36 over the limit; and £10,459.30 in Newark, which would mean a £6,650.28 overspend”.

Typically, the Guido Fawkes blog has run a spoiling post, suggesting that much of the Newark campaign expenditure was hidden away as a “Road Trip Annual Dinner”, which took place well away from the constituency in Nottingham. They even tell readers the names of the bars where activists drank that evening, which suggests that their informant may not be unrelated to the now-expelled Mark Clarke.

Given the small alleged Newark overspend, the Fawkes intervention could be a “look over there” tactic: as Crick’s report suggests, if there was blatant overspend anywhere, it was in trying to prevent Mark Reckless being returned as a UKIP MP in Rochester and Strood, an exercise which was not successful. And mentioning the RoadTrip movement only turns attention to the costs that part of the campaign may have incurred.

According to Elliott Johnson, whose death sparked the Tory Bullying furore, while 600 activists signed up to go to Newark, more than 1,300 put their names down for Clacton. Robert Semple claimed that 400 activists were transported to Rochester on one Saturday of the by-election campaign alone. Where were those costs declared?

And just to cause The Blue Team a little more discomfort, Crick has separately enquiredDid the Tories spent twice as much in defeating Nigel Farage in Thanet South last year as they were legally allowed under the rules?” The RoadTrip concept, with its Battle Buses, visited many marginal constituencies in the run-up to last year’s General Election, with Sebastian Payne at the Spectator noting thatCCHQ will be paying for accommodation and sustenance during [activists’] five days on the road”.

If Michael Crick wants something to get his teeth into, the RoadTrip costs may just be it, and for both by-elections and General Election. Just a hint, you understand.

The Sun Now Backs UKIP

The Murdoch press is clearly under instruction to peddle the most virulently anti-EU line it can muster, even if it means backing the views of Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP. And a prime example of this desperation has come from the Sun’s appallingly snooty political editor Tom Newton Dunn today, as he tries to suggest that all those rotten foreigners are harming the NHS.
That’s the NHS that Newton Dunn and all the others who go private wouldn’t touch with a bargepole, but hey ho. The screaming headline tells you all you need to know: “NHS ‘bled dry by EU tourists coming to Britain for expensive cancer treatments’”. And who would the source be for this highly creative assertion? “Top doc Angus Dalgleish warns hospitals struggle to cope with pricey treatments”. Really? Do go on.

EU citizens coming to Britain for expensive cancer treatment are bleeding the NHS dry, a top doctor claims … As David Cameron negotiates to keep us in the EU, Professor Angus Dalgleish will tell a Brexit conference our hospitals are struggling to cope with foreign patients coming for care worth up to £200,000 a year … He will say: ‘The NHS is on its knees and could collapse completely’”. Do we get an example of this “bleeding dry”?

Well, no we don’t. And nor does the Sun let its readers know that Angus Dalgleish is not the kind of “top doc” you are likely to see when visiting hospital. Since he returned to the UK from Australia in 1984, he has been a researcher. He does not work on the NHS front line. And he is a fully paid-up member of UKIP, something that Newton Dunn mentions only in passing (Prof Dalgleish’s election address can be seen HERE).

Newton Dunn then tells readers that Dalgleish “also said EU red tape has held back the search for life-saving cancer cures”. What he fails to mention is that Dalgleish founded a biotech firm developing cancer vaccines, is that firm’s research director, and sits on the medial board of another biotech firm. He is not a disinterested observer.

And his use of pejorative language like “bled dry” should surprise no-one: Dalgleish’s rants include “Following the sinister change from the EEC to the EU …”, “The EU Clinical trial directive has destroyed …”, “The EU working time directive has destroyed …”, and “The freedom of movement act [?] has destroyed …”. It’s all about destruction, see?

It’s also about paranoia: “the UK suffers more than any of the other countries in the EU, due to the fact that our government agencies rigorously enforce these suicidal directives, whereas many other countries in the EU ignore them”. Enforcement of suicide too - is there nothing these dastardly foreigners will not do in order to subjugate us Brits?

Tom Newton Dunn could have chosen any number of mainstream Eurosceptics to use in putting together his copy. Instead, he goes to a ranting Kipper with a track record of using highly inflammatory language, who can’t back up his hot air with a single fact, except to keep on telling anyone who will listen that the foreigners are coming to get us.

And it’s the Outers who say their opponents are desperate. Not at the Sun, though.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Leon Brittan - Met Cleared, Press Bust

The case of “Jane”, who alleged that former cabinet minister Leon Brittan had raped her many years ago, generated a significant amount of heat last Autumn, with the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate quite sure who was in the wrong: Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan Howe, and Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson. They were responsible for hounding Brittan. And the Police officer who agreed was praised.
That officer was DCI Paul Settle, whose appearance before a Parliamentary select committee chaired by Leicester East MP Keith Vaz was lauded by press and pundits alike. Richard Littlejohn asserted that thereal hero on Wednesday was Detective Chief Inspector Paul Settle, the original investigating officer in the Brittan case … Labour's Deputy Leader must share the blame … for Brittan's treatment … Heads must roll, starting with Hyphen-Howe [sic] himself”. And there was more.

Littlejohn’s paper, the Daily Mail, told readersPressure grows on Hogan-Howe to quit as Scotland Yard chief after admission that rape case against Leon Brittan was reopened because of fear of public backlash”. Hack Guy Adams was on the case. Watson had to apologise, and so did Tory MP Zac Goldsmith.

There was a suitably righteous Daily Mail Comment, commanding Watson to apologise, as instructed by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre. Only two days ago, Adams was back on the attack, sneeringly commenting on Hogan-Howe’s new car and floating the false equivalence that rising crime in London was down to Hogan-Howe personally assigning detectives to enquiries of which the Daily Mail disapproved.

Over at the Sun, Kelvin MacKenzie has been equally forthright and unwavering: “THE courage of Detective Chief Inspector Paul Settle should not go unremarked or unrewarded … He has sacrificed his own Scotland Yard career, forced the appalling bully Tom Watson to make a grovelling public apology and won for Leon Brittan’s family their first moment of real peace in years … DCI Settle is one of the good guys at the Yard”.

That was last October, but only three days ago Kel was back on the subject: “So desperate is Hogan-Howe to hang on he would apologise to Kenneth Noye if he thought it would allow him to keep the uniform … But if I were his ultimate boss, Home Secretary Theresa May, I would allow him to make the apology … then fire him”. London’s increasingly occasional Mayor Boris Johnson also passed adverse comment on Hogan-Howe.

Then came the allegedly quality papers and their pundits: Nick Cohen in the Observer stated that Watson “sinks lower than the News of the World”, while managing to miss the three convictions, including that of Charles Napier, that followed from the MP’s interventions. Alice Thomson of the Murdoch Times, allegedly a close friend of the Prime Minister, assertedDespicable Tom Watson should stand down”.

And the hapless David Aaronovitch - another who has taken the Murdoch shilling - told readersWhy let the facts spoil a good smear campaign”. Sadly, when he later discussed the case on the BBC’s Daily Politics with my good friend Peter Jukes, his campaign developed not necessarily to his advantage, although I wouldn’t be so unkind as to mention that The Great Man lost his rag big time afterwards.

The result of all these attacks was not unadjacent to zero: as I observed soon afterwards, Tom Watson was vindicated after the Guardian demonstrated that he had not influenced the Met’s enquiries. The select committee hearing which was reported so partially by the right-leaning press was actually told by DPP Alison Saunders that Watson’s letter, made so much of by the pundits, had “absolutely no effect” on her decisions.

It got worse: three days ago, the Independent - note, not one of those papers that had praised him so effusively - had bad news for DCI Paul Settle, as it revealedThe behaviour of a senior police officer who investigated a Westminster sex ring is to be examined by the Independent Police Complaints Commission over  a claim of leaking information to the media … The officer [is] believed to be DCI Paul Settle”.

And now, in a final blow to all those highly selective and variously clueless pundits, has come the news that the review into the Met’s handling of the “Jane” case “has upheld that the investigation was ‘necessary, proportionate and fully justified despite the significant passage of time’”. As David Hencke has noted, “This contradicts the critical findings of MPs who preferred to rely on the evidence given by  Det Supt. Paul Settle  rather than senior Met officers”. It was not, of course, just MPs who expressed that preference.

I will spare Zelo Street readers the full Norwegian football commentator spiel. But Keith Vaz, Richard Littlejohn, Paul Dacre, Kelvin McFilth, Nick Cohen, Guy Adams, Alice Thomson, David Aaronovitch, Boris Johnson, the conclusion is the same: your boys took a hell of a beating.

Not that I’m demanding any of them apologise, of course. Perish the thought!

Dirty Des’ Lottery Lies Exposed

Richard “Dirty” Desmond, owner of the Express and Daily Star titles, where hacks have not had a pay rise for eight years, likes to tell anyone listening that he does not interfere with the content of those papers. He said as much to the Leveson Inquiry. But Dirty Des was caught being seriously economical with the actualité in 2009, when he sued biographer Tom Bower and lost, landing himself with a £1.25 million legal bill.
The propaganda ...

During that case, Desmond was shown to regularly interfere with the content of his papers, using them to run hatchet jobs on his opponents. Worse for him, Bower called Roy Greenslade, who knows a thing or two about proprietorial interference. He “told the jury Desmond had a worse reputation than any newspaper proprietor since the second world war, including Robert Maxwell”. And he’s still at it today.

The Daily Star has this morning treated readers not to the usual sex’n’slebs combination, but a story planted to specifically promote another of Desmond’s businesses, the so-called Health Lottery. “ANGRY BRITS SAY BALLS TO ‘NO WIN’ LOTTERY … Fury at 29th rollover since numbers increasedthunders the headline, as Dirty Des puts the boot in to the National Lottery, in an effort to drum up a little more business for his rival outfit.

And to no surprise at all, this story has also appeared in the Daily Express, under the headline “Yet ANOTHER rollover as new Lottery proves massive disappointment for punters”. The recent spate of planted stories has been as impressive as it has been predictable, kicking off with the Express’Now 'rip-off' National Lottery adds 10 MORE balls – slashing odds of winning to one in 45m” on October 10 last.
... versus the reality

That was followed byFury as National Lottery hits 10th jackpot rollover”, also in the Express, on December 29. Then it was over to the Daily Star, where readers were told of “Angry punters call for Lotto boycott after 14th consecutive rollover” on January 8, followed three days later byFury over National Lottery rollovers windfall”. And while using his papers for business propaganda is bad enough, there is worse news to come.

The National Lottery allocates 5.6p in every £ to running costs and profits. For the so-called Health Lottery, that rises to a whopping 50.4p, and gives Dirty Des a very nice little earner indeed. The “return to society” - all those good causes that both lotteries claim to benefit - shows that the so-called Health Lottery gives less than half the percentage of takings than the National Lottery. And it’s the same when it comes to prize money.

Desmond’s lottery has been running since 2011. The idea that it is still repaying start-up costs is not credible. So there can be only one conclusion: if anyone’s lottery is a “rip-off”, it’s Dirty Des’. Worse, the so-called Health Lottery is publicised by stories planted in Desmond’s papers which are so seriously misleading as to veer very close to the defamation line. The so-called Health Lottery is crap, and it’s backed up by deceit.
And Richard Desmond still has the worst reputation of any newspaper proprietor. So what does that give us? Yes, it’s another Benchmark Of Excellence!