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Saturday, 30 July 2016

UKIP - The Russian Connection

After eyebrows Stateside were raised at the way in which the Republican Party’s nominee for President, Donald Trump, had first of all eulogised about Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, and then suggested the Russians hack the personal details of his Democrat opponent, some in the UK have looked again at the links between Russia and the populist right in this country. And the results have been both revealing and worrying.
Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, former Oberscheissenf├╝hrer of the Kippers, has previously attracted suspicion over his willingness to conceal potential Russian links, as Matthew Holehouse observed: “Nigel Farage and his MEPs voted today against measures calling for greater transparency of donations from outside the EU to political parties … It came in a series of anti-Putin proposals proposed in Strasbourg”. There was more.

His article, from June last year, continues “Ukip were joined by the European radical right in opposing the measures, including the [French] Front National, which has received funding from Russia … It comes after Mr Farage and his colleagues have poured praise on Mr Putin and criticised the EU for ‘provoking the Russian bear’ … Ukip MEPs including Mr Farage, Patrick O’Flynn and Tim Aker voted against the measures, as did Marine Le Pen, the FN leader, and members of Hungary’s Jobbik”.

Mr Thirsty has also been a regular fixture on Russian state sponsored broadcaster RT, as the Guardian noted: “The Ukip leader has appeared so frequently that he is cited in literature for the TV station Russia Today as one of their special and ‘endlessly quotable’ British guests. ‘He has been known far longer to the RT audience than most of the British electorate,’ Russia Today claims”. And it gets worse.

UKIP’s sole MP, Douglas “Kamikaze” Carswell, who is often at loggerheads with Farage, has also struck a conciliatory tone towards the regime in Moscow. Taking his cue from a past European territorial dispute, on Ukraine he told “What should we do? Take great care, for a start … At the time of the Schleswig-Holstein question, when Britain was the world's hyperpower, we avoided wading in. We would be wise to be cautious now”.

And then there is Arron Banks, another Farage pal who has given (or maybe just loaned) generously to groups advocating for Britain to leave the EU. As The American Interest observed, “He lives in Bristol with his Russian wife Katya, formerly named Ekaterina Paderina”. She might have been deported “were it not for the intervention of her local MP, the Liberal Democrat Mike Hancock”. Now there’s a name to pitch.

Hancock’s links to Russia are well-known. Indeed, the Guardian related howFormer colleagues said they had raised serious concerns about the activities of Hancock's young Russian companions”. There may be a completely innocent and coincidental explanation to all this, but everywhere you look in Kipper land, it keeps coming up Russians.

Perhaps UKIP’s next leader will disown such links. But don’t bet on it.

Toby Young’s Lunch Isolation

Free Schools, and their freedom to make the kinds of rules that might not find favour throughout the education world, have come back into the news after a letter from the deputy head teacher at one of them fetched up at the Daily Mail. Michaela Community School, in North-West London, is headed by Katharine Birbalsingh, a favourite of former Education Secretary Michael “Oiky” Gove.
More less than totally grown-up analysis from Tobes

The letter read “The deadline for this term's lunch payments was 1st June 2016. You are now one week over due [sic] … You are currently £75 overdue. If this full amount is not received within this week your child will be placed into Lunch Isolation … They will receive a Sandwich [sic] and piece of fruit only. They will spend the entire sixty minutes [sic] period in lunch isolation. Only when the entire outstanding sum is paid in full will they be allowed into family lunch with their classmates”. “Entire” and “in full” together. Must try harder.
Katharine Birbalsingh

So what did Ms Birbalsingh have to say to that? “Miss Birbalsingh admitted that she and Miss Kelly [the parent] 'did not see eye to eye’”. She discussed her dealings with parents with someone from the Daily Mail. Ri-i-ight. She alsosaid criticism of the school’s policies such as the lunch isolation sprang from ‘middle-class liberal guilt’”.

So what did Free School enthusiast Toby Young have to say about Ms Birbalsingh and her “zero tolerance” disciplinary methods? Would he exercise discretion, perhaps keeping schtum for once, leaving it to Michaela Community School to deal with the press and the education establishment? But Tobes cannot bear to do such a thing: for him, anyone running a Free School who has the Gove seal of approval is automatically right.
Thus when Ms Birbalsingh and pundit John McTernan were the target of adverse Twitter comment, Tobes stood firm and declared “I'm proud to live in the same country as both of them. They're the best of British”. But still the criticism kept on coming, with one Tweeter asserting “Free schools not required to treat the children as humans @toadmeister must be proud what he [and] his like have achieved”.
Fighting talk for Tobes! What say he? “I wish I could claim some of the credit for Michaela. It's one of the best schools in the country”. It is? Have there been any exam results we can see, which will bear out this claim? Well, no there aren’t, as Michaela Community School has only been established since 2014, so (for instance) GCSE results are still some way off. Perhaps there has been one of those Ofsted visits?
Sadly, no there hasn’t, not yet. So Toby Young, self-proclaimed expert on education matters, says Michaela Community School is “one of the best schools in the country” on the basis of no more information than the claims made by its deputy head (the one who wrote that less than totally grammatically correct letter), and the fact that the Tory Party thinks the head teacher is A Very Wonderful Person.

Then Toby Young wonders why he gets nicknamed Captain Bellend. What a trouper.

Channel 4’s Coulson Shame

As Zelo Street regulars will know, this blog is always prepared to cut the people at broadcaster Channel 4 some slack: they get it in the neck quite enough from the right-leaning part of the press, most recently from deeply unpleasant former Sun editor Kelvin McFilth, who has difficulty with Channel 4 News being anchored by a presenter wearing a headscarf. But the broadcaster can also get it wrong.
Hayley Barlow - Andy's pal from way back

And how wrong they got it: Channel 4 has become part of the rehabilitation of Andy Coulson, disgraced former editor of the late and not at all lamented Screws. Coulson’s time in the editor’s chair coincided with a period when the paper was effectively being run as a borderline criminal operation, sustained not just by phone hacking on an industrial scale, but also regular use of what are known as “The Dark Arts”.

But that, the trial, and subsequent jail term, were then, and now Coulson is back, as Popbitch has observed: “It’s five years to the week since the News of the World closed. Former editor Andy Coulson has been trying to shake off the long shadow cast by all those years of legal action (and subsequent stretch in prison) by starting up a PR consultancy … Clients have not been easy to come by, so … Coulson has finally accepted advice that he needed to be seen out and about again”. And there was more.
Favours were duly called in from old friends like Tom Bradby and Piers Morgan - so if you were wondering why Coulson was suddenly appearing on TV as a Brexit analyst, now you know”. That would also explain Morgan’s hair-trigger reaction when Evan Harris of Hacked Off mentioned his friendship with Coulson on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

So far, so redemptive, but one name is missing from those being called on by Coulson to give him another second chance, that of Channel 4 News “Head Of Communications”, Hayley Barlow. Ms Barlow’s CV includes more than eleven and a half years as Head of PR at the Screws. She and Coulson go back a long way.
Indeed, as Martin Hickman observed, on the same day that Neville “Stylish Masturbator” Thurlbeck tasked Glenn Mulcaire to hack Milly Dowler’s voicemail, “the News of the World wrote to Surrey Police requesting an exclusive interview with the Dowlers - before mentioning that the paper was considering offering an award for information about her whereabouts … Hayley Barlow, the executive who wrote the letter, told the family an interview would be conducted with the ‘utmost sympathy’ and offered them the News of the World’s full support”. We now know what happened next.

And now? There was Ms Barlow yesterday, taking to Twitter to tell “In an authored film on tonight’s [Channel 4 News], former No 10 spin doctor Andy Coulson on Brexit, the past and the future”. You scratch my back, I’ll get you on Channel 4 News and raise your profile a notch or four. Well, what are friends for, eh?

Sad to see Channel 4 News becoming part of this tawdry whitewashing. But not surprising.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Brexit Trade Deal Fantasy Fawked

Following the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, those who advocated a Leave vote have mostly been inhabiting a kind of parallel universe, where countries can make instant trade deals with one another, those outside the EU can be part of the Single Market and keep out all those nasty migrants, and all the while may indulge in the ritual incantation telling the easily led that “Britain is open for business”.
Nowhere is that parallel universe better shown than in the hopelessly optimistic propagandising by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, and today has brought forth another example of the genre, with readers being told “27 Countries Seeking UK Trade Deals”. It looks too good to be true, and that is because it is too good to be true: the central conceit soon unravels.

The above map shows all the countries in which government officials or prominent business figures have declared a desire to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain. Out of the 10 largest economies in the world, just two (France and Italy) have not yet made moves for a deal. Every continent on earth is represented, with 27 countries already signalling their intentions” gushes The Great Guido.
See the cracks yet? Let’s start at the very beginning, as it’s a very good place to start. “Government officials or prominent business figures” does not confirm Government policy: indeed, one of the countries shown is the USA, and they’ve just rebuffed the clueless Liam Fox. The Fawkes blog cannot name one country whose Government has an official policy to make such a deal. And it gets worse in short order.

The Fawkes rabble cite France and Italy in that quote. Their list of countries “seeking UK trade deals” also includes Ireland and Germany. All four are EU member states. That particular competency has been pooled and is an EU-wide function. This means that none of those four countries is in a position to negotiate their own trade deals with a post-Brexit UK. Anyone who knew their subject would be aware of this.

And it gets still worse, as The Great Guido proclaims “The total GDP of all of these countries is nearly $50 trillion dollars – 67% of global GDP. In comparison, the EU’s GDP of $16 trillion equates to just 22%”. YOU JUST COUNTED IRELAND AND GERMANY TWICE, DIMWITS. And the point about not being able to strike trade deals with individual EU member states still stands. Can it get even worse than that?

Sadly for the Fawkes rabble, yes it can: “Britain is open for business and Guido will be updating this map over the coming weeks and months. Over to you, Dr Fox”. Soil the bed, what planet are these goons on? WE’RE STILL IN THE EU AND NO TRADE DEAL NEGOTIATION CAN START UNTIL WE HAVE LEFT. The earliest that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty can be triggered is going to be next year - if it is ever triggered. Then it’s at least two years after that before any negotiation can start.

We know that Staines and his pals are enthusiastic Leave supporters. That is a stance they are free to take and hold. But Christ On A Bike lads, try to keep one foot in the real world once every so often. This is so misguided that it qualifies as fiction. But then, that’s another example of “no change there, then”. Another fine mess.

Chris Evans, The Sun, And MONEY

The Murdoch doggies at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun have waged an incessant hate campaign against broadcaster Chris Evans from the moment he was given the job of continuing motoring show Top Gear following the dismissal of Jeremy Clarkson. Even after the series finished and Evans resigned, saying he had given it his best but it had not been good enough, the lurid stories kept on coming.
There was the routinely creepy sight of Evans being tailed by a snapper, so he could be photographed at the side of the M4 taking a pee break with a colleague, but the nastiest has been the promotion of stories concerning an allegation of historic sexual misconduct. Readers were left in no doubt that, whatever the circumstances, He Done It. But after Evans was interviewed yesterday, the case was dropped.

Curiously, the first news of the investigation being closed came not on the Sun’s website, but at the Murdoch-bankrolled Heat Street, where Miles Goslett, who had churned out so much Evans knocking copy himself, had to admitPolice have closed their inquiry into an alleged sex offence involving BBC broadcaster Chris Evans”. For some reason, no comments have (yet) been left in response to the post.

The Goslett post is short on detail, something that did not happen when Heat Street was going after Evans. Nor was the Sun backward in coming forwards with the nudges and winks, such as “TOP Gear presenter Chris Evans is to become the most high-profile BBC star to be quizzed by police over historical sex assault allegations”. Not that they’re trying to link Evans to Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris, you understand.

The Sun even claimedBeeb face dilemma over whether to take Evans off Radio 2 breakfast show with motor show future already under scrutiny”, which was complete crap. While we are unlikely to get an admission from the Murdoch mafiosi as to why they went after Evans, though, one question which will continue to be asked, and to which the answer will inevitably come out, is whether the paper was paying his latest accuser.
Quite apart from the participation of Goslett (“the man who exposed Savile”), there has also been some interest shown in the affair by one Patrick Foster, the hack who exposed Police blogger Nightjack and later obtained a criminal record over the affair. After Foster admitted the Evans case was being dropped, the Tweeter otherwise known as Joe Public asked “Did they get paid by The Sun and/or Heat Street though”.

That question was put to both Foster and Goslett. And it needs answering. Did any part of the Murdoch empire pay money to Evans’ latest accuser? Why was this story constantly driven forward by the Sun, with all the suggestions that the BBC were about to sack Evans? Who else was paid to slag off the presenter? And did the Sun pay that snapper, and/or any of his fellow snappers, to follow Evans?

Has the Sun been wasting Police time? It wouldn’t be the first time, would it?

Breitbart Twitter Share Plunge Fantasy

When Twitter finally lost patience with the antics of self-promoting man-baby Milo Yiannopoulos and banned him permanently, The Great Man did not take it well. He was the victim, they would regret it, this was an assault on free speech, his rights were being infringed, all the usual victimhood soundbites were deployed. It didn’t work. Yiannopoulos remains on the Twitter banned list. There is no way back.
Been locked out, have you? Aw DIDDUMS!

This created a dilemma for his current platform among the unappealing convocation of the terminally batshit otherwise known as Breitbart, which only gets its propaganda out there by the kinds of self-promoting use of Twitter which Yiannopoulos had, in his own inimitable style, made his own. Somehow, the banning had to be portrayed as bad for Twitter, as well as being framed to make them the aggressor and Yiannopoulos, again, the victim.

The Breitbart opportunity came when Twitter posted its latest quarterly results: although, as CNBC told, “The company posted second-quarter adjusted earnings of 13 cents a share on revenue of $602 million. Wall Street expected it to post earnings of 10 cents a share on revenue of $607 million, according to a Thomson Reuters consensus estimate. Profit per share was up from 7 cents a year earlier, and revenue rose 20 percent … Average monthly active users came in at 313 million, slightly higher than analyst estimates”, the figures were short of market expectations.

CNBC again: “The social media company said it expects third-quarter revenue of $590 million to $610 million, well below analyst expectations for $678 million … The company's shares dropped more than 10 percent in after-hours trading Tuesday”. Twitter shares were losing value - for Breitbart, that had to be down to the Yiannopoulos ban!

You think I jest? Here they came: “Twitter Shares Drop By 9% As Company Escalates War On Conservative Media” was the Breitbart headline. Yes, there are 313 million average active monthly users, Yiannopoulos had a following extending to 338,000 of them - or just over a tenth of one per cent. This was real Ron Hopeful stuff.

As Javier Hasse at Benzinga has pointed out, “Twitter Shares Have Historically Dropped 9% The Day After Earnings”. As the BBC reported, Twitter suffered a share price fall in the wake of last October’s results, and again in February this year. This reality, though, is not allowed to enter the fantasy world of Breitbart, where the notion is being spun that the latest figures mean Twitter could be the subject of a takeover bid.

Ben Kew’s post talks of “the site actively choosing to alienate conservative users by making clear their double standards in terms of censoring content”, such is the paranoia engendered by Yiannopoulos’ actions. But Kew’s actions are not a surprise: he is, after all, one of Yiannopoulos’ gofers, paid to tell the world great things about The Great Man.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Yiannopoulos is off Twitter for good, it isn’t affecting the platform’s revenue, and the blubbering Breitbarts need to get over it. Game over.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Don’t Menshn Otto English

Michelle Donohue-Moncrieff is not merely double-barrelled, she is also a Tory Councillor who sits on Scarborough Borough Council, and represents a ward near the North Yorkshire seaside town of Filey. But, sad to say, she is not well versed in the ways of the Web, to the extent that she has ended up blaming someone else for the error of her ways, even though a former Tory MP has gone in with both feet in her defence.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

Ms Donohue-Moncrieff is clearly pleased about the result of the EU referendum, and to show her appreciation of local support for the Leave campaign, she Tweeted out a photo telling “Hero of the Revolution: Farmer outside of Muston in N.Yorks who painted Vote Leave on his storage tank”. Given that is probably the main road through the village in the foreground, the identity of the farm will not be hard to find.
This does not seem to have occurred to her. So when the Tweeter otherwise known as Otto English observed “If it's the one I think it is they've received about £100k in last 5 years”, she was incandescent: “totally inappropriate to do this. What are you encouraging people to do?” Eh? He wondered why she had acted as she did: “Struggling to understand why you have copied North Yorkshire Police into your tweet”.
Still blissfully unaware that she had already identified the farm, Ms Donohue-Moncrieff carried blithely on: “you are attempting to identify people in order to imply they voted Leave. This is intimidation”. Otto English put her straight: “if you don't want to publicise someone I'd suggest not tweeting the name of the place their farm is at”. Quite. But then came the inevitable intervention from (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch.
Ms Mensch, as would be expected, knew more about the subject than everyone else put together, except she didn’t. So she not only got everything totally wrong, she also advocated the wasting of Police time for good measure. She stated by telling Otto English “you should be censured for such repellent doxxing on the basis of a vote”. There had been no doxxing. And it got worse - a lot worse.
For reasons of politics you publicized the address of a farmer for voting a way you didn't like”. Wrong. And she doesn’t know how he voted, or wanted anyone else to vote. Rob Smith pointed out “But the farmer wrote Vote Leave on his silo, farmer advertised his own voting intent”. Indeed. And another Tweeter had worse news for her.
It was down to Ms Donohue-Moncrieff: “Which @MichDonohue duly shared on social media. As an ex-CID officer, trust me - no case to answer”. Instead, Louise Mensch has encouraged Ms Donohue-Moncfieff to waste Police time making a complaint, defamed Otto English for non-existent doxxing, and failed totally to understand how locations can be identified from place names, photos and landmarks.

To appeal to authority based on ignorance of the subject and wilful stupidity is quite an achievement, even for Ms Mensch. And remember, they allowed her to become an MP.

IPSO CEO Gets Teed Off

Our free and fearless press is, mainly, regulated by a body calling itself IPSO, which stands for Independent Press Standards Organisation. This is meant to show unbelievers that this relatively new body is properly independent, unlike the discredited Press Complaints Commission (PCC), which certainly was not. But there is one problem with IPSO, and that is that it is not independent at all.
What's that on the wall? MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN ... What's that all about? Bloody migrants get everywhere

IPSO is funded by the Regulatory Funding Company, which is controlled by that part of the press which signs up to IPSO’s regulation. So if the allegedly independent regulator goes off-piste, it can be brought to heel in very short order simply by having the RFC turn off the money tap. IPSO is a press puppet, and does as it is bloody well told. Worse, its CEO, one Matt Tee, has also shown that his impartiality is non-existent.
Tee, whose latest media outing included the priceless claim that “Migrants as such are not a group that can be discriminated against” - try telling that to the Mail, Express, Sun and several other titles - has been excusing IPSO’s inability to do anything about pro-am motormouth Katie Hopkins’ Sun column comparing refugees to cockroaches, offering the suitably lame excuse that the regulator cannot stop bad taste being published.
You see, bad taste is not covered by the Editor’s Code, a document that is in any case not worth the paper it is sometimes printed on, as the press manages to ignore it when push comes to shove, with IPSO then wiping their collective backsides. Yes, Tee was in proper hand-wringing mode, but later became positively Napoleonic when challenged over his clear lack of impartiality - a discussion with a very revealing conclusion.
After Tee had openly advertised an article in the FT which made partisan political comment, Tweeting “Top analysis and writing. Janan is a must read”, another Tweeter questioned his judgment: “why is the head of the ‘neutral’ press regulator sending out supportive Tweets on anti Corbyn pieces?” Good question. Would the IPSO CEO care to respond? “Because I celebrate quality journalism, whatever perspective it comes from”.
Not as CEO of IPSO, you don’t. His inquisitor came back with “Okay, but if I was the press regulator I wouldn’t comment on party political comment”. Privately, yes, but not on an open Twitter feed. What did The Great Man have to say to that? Tee summoned up all of his intellectual reserves and declared “And I am and you're never going to be”. He can be as partial as he likes, and with no risk that anyone will do anything about it.
Indeed, once can almost imagine Tee - another of those immodest men with much to be modest about - attired as Napoleon and declaring “L’IPSO, c’est moi”. There was never a more outstanding example of IPSO’s sheer uselessness, combined with the breathtaking arrogance of its placeman CEO, than Tee’s Twitter outburst, coming on the back of his excuse-making for more of that incitement which masquerades as journalism.

IPSO is the PCC, er, fluid in a differently labelled bottle. That’s fluid, as in the kind of fluid that Matt Tee is so full of. In addition to the wind that goes with it.

Sun Jihadi Exclusive Isn’t

Today’s front page splash from the Super Soaraway Currant Bun surfs the wave of paranoia following recent attacks in Nice and Northern France, telling readersSun Investigation … LONE WOLF PLOT TO BLITZ UK … We expose jihadi car bomb bid”. This slice of hokum might persuade the more susceptible among the paper’s readership, but this is not only not worth the “exclusive” tag, it is also not a new story.
Today's non-existent plot isn't a new story ...

Moreover, the claim “Jihadi spent two months coaching our man on the orders of ISIS’s top recruiter” is bunk. There is no evidence that the man at the other end of the conversation struck up by a Sun reporter pretending to be Muslim, and an ISIS sympathiser, was working on anyone’s orders but his own. And there was no “lone wolf” - unless you are willing enough to suspend disbelief and apply the term to a Sun hack.

It gets worse: the Sun story describes how their man was sent a bomb-making manual and instructed to load the device into a car, along with fireworks and a gun, and to drive somewhere like a shopping centre, then describes this as a “Nice style attack”. Except the Nice attack wasn’t a bombing - it was a truck driven through crowds of pedestrians. The only reason the attacker died was because he was shot dead.

What the Sun describes is a suicide attack - the driver of the car would be killed instantly when his bomb detonated. Then it gets worse still: the Sun tactic of claiming the paper had foiled an IS attack, and then running the story hard on the heels of a genuine terror attack elsewhere, is not new. The same kind of story was splashed across the front page just after last year’s beach massacre in Tunisia.
... it was run by the same paper last year

And there it is: “I. S. PLOT TO BOMB UK TODAY … Lee Rigby parade blast plan smashed”, from June 27, 2015. Same idea as today’s story. Same exchange of messages with supposed IS presence somewhere outside the jurisdiction of the law enforcement services. Same bomb-making manual sent. Same shoddy journalism (last year’s story couldn’t decide whether the targeted parade was in Woolwich, or Merton).

Today’s story is equally lame, telling “Our evidence has been passed to anti-terror police and MI5 … We are not revealing the location of the shopping centre at their request”. The cops were so excited, they commented “It is always helpful when journalists share with police information that could indicate terrorist or criminal activity”. Notice use of the word “could”. Because all this is is a Sun hack going looking for a story.

The shoddy journalism backing up the story includes this gem: “During the Telegram sessions with The Sun’s reporter, Khurasani referred to the IS attacks in Nice, Germany and the gay club in Florida as examples of what jihadis could achieve”. Nice was not a suicide bombing. There has not been a suicide bombing in Germany. The shooting at the gay club in Florida was not a suicide bombing.

So not only is this last year’s Sunexclusive” reheated, the standard of hackery is equally lame. There was no plot then, and there is none now. Crap newspaper, crap journalism.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Daily Mail Refugee Smear Exposed

The Daily Mail’s Scottish edition has been making a characteristic contribution to the demonisation of refugees in its own inimitable manner by pretending that those who have found a new home on the island of Bute want to leave, that they are somehow ungrateful for all the taxpayers’ cash that has been spent on them. They might have got away with it. But the locals are well used to the Mail’s modus operandi.
We want to leave, plead refugees on Scots Island … Syrian families say Bute ‘is where people come to die’is the headline of Maureen Sugden’s article, which was included with the Scottish Daily Mail last Monday. The framing of the story is typical Mail: “It was a scheme designed to offer Syrian refugees a new life in Scotland, away from the horrors of their war-ravaged homeland … But some of the first to be given sanctuary in Rothesay eight months ago have spoken of their unhappiness on Bute, saying it is ‘full of old people’ and a place ‘where people come to die’”.

Only later on do we read that the refugees are “Struggling to learn English”. They could have also meant “where people come to retire” - the concept being a European one, and likely to be unknown in their native Syria. But this fits the Mail’s agenda, while the paper indulges in some industrial-scale brass neck when identifying the families.

Names have been changed because of fears about family members still in Syria” tells Ms Sugden. SO WHY THE FULL COLOUR PHOTOS IDENTIFYING THE TWO FAMILIES YOU INTERVIEWED? But enough: you get the picture all too well. Local author Lisa O’Donnell was horrified at what she read, and put the Mail straight.

She took to Facebook to tell “A journalist came to the Island … and wrote this article based on information received from a local refugee with very limited English skills. It is clear to me what has been lost in translation … given he probably saw houses bombed and innocent children slain on Syrian streets it's fairly unlikely he said something like this … the deliberate misinterpretation of that grief by the DM is designed to incite hatred by making the family appear ungrateful”. And it got worse for the Mail.

Local island paper The Buteman ran an article yesterday painting a very different picture of how the refugees are faring there. “Of the 26 individuals needing help with the language, all except a small minority have regularly attended classes. To date, nine have achieved ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) SVQ qualifications, and 15 have received a certificate of achievement to mark their progression and attendance”.

There was more: “Some of the refugees are already in full-time employment, a number have summer jobs and several have applied for college courses. Five of the refugees have recently completed a Skills for Work programme … several are volunteering to help with setting up the site for this weekend’s ButeFest music festival”.

People on Bute have seen through the latest attempt by the Mail to turn the local population against refugees. Well done Lisa O’Donnell. Well done The Buteman. And shame, once again, on the appalling journalism of the Daily Mail.

Murdoch EU War Hypocrisy Busted

While Theresa May’s band of Ron Hopefuls continues to not impress anyone who matters, with Liam Fox demonstrating a sense of cluelessness that will have the Civil Service cringing in embarrassment, and David Davis believes we can discover a free trade area with a larger GDP than the entire world, the EU side of the Brexit negotiation has decided to act, and appoint the Brussels “Minister For Brexit”.
As the BBC has told, “Michel Barnier, a former French minister and ex-European Commission vice president, has been appointed as the commission's chief Brexit negotiator, by Jean-Claude Juncker. Mr Juncker said he wanted ‘an experienced politician for this difficult job’. Mr Barnier will take up his position on 1 October”.
This news induced apoplexy in the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate. The Sun’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn was in no doubt about the significance of the appointment: “Juncker appoints Michel Barnier as EU Commission's Brexit negotiator. Hard to think of a more anti-British figure, declaration of war”.
Another taker of the Murdoch shilling, Tim Shipman of the Sunday Times, was, to no surprise at all, in agreement: “Appointing Michel Barnier, one of the least popular ex commissioners in London, as point man for Brexit is an act of war by Juncker”. I mean, these rotten Eurocrats, how dare they take this Brexit business seriously?
The press people were not alone in their analysis, either, with the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog also deciding that war had been declared, even though it hadn’t. But Aoife White was unimpressed by the Fawkes folks: “Naming @MichelBarnier Brexit negotiator is ‘act of war’ to @GuidoFawkes - unfair to the most affable ex-commissioner”. And there was soon more pushing back.
Claire Stewart put it succinctly: “Melodrama of calling choice of Michael Barnier 'an act of war'. Who did you think it was going to be? Elmo?” Well, yes: the EU is taking the whole business seriously, and showing the referendum decision the respect it deserves, even though Ms May has appointed a troika of the variously clueless to fight our corner.
It gets worse: although the press seems to think that using the W-word (as in War) is fine for them, it is clearly not A Good Thing for broadcasters to do the same, and the Murdoch Times’ serially clueless pundit Tim Montgomerie went after BBC contributor Hugh Sykes for doing so: “‘Top’ BBC reporter Tweets that letting people have say on EU membership was ‘act of stupidity’ and ‘worse than war’”. Sykes didn’t say that, but hey ho.
Sadly, not only was that an act of monumental hypocrisy by the Murdoch doggies, Montgomerie had gone after a Real Journalist (tm) as Jimmy Smallwood pointed out to him: “@montie, @HughSykes has reported from war zones, survived a roadside bomb in Iraq and NI death threats. Don't question his credentials”. Ouch!

The moral of this particular story is clear: the Murdoch empire and its hangers-on can hyperventilate to their hearts’ content, but woe betide anyone they don’t like having an opinions. Oh, and the standard of EU reportage ain’t making it, guys.

Liam Fox - Terminally Clueless

If one man had to be selected to symbolise the disconnect between the belief of right-leaning pundits and hard reality, that man would be Liam Fox. Lauded by the likes of Conservative Home, many MPs on the right of his own party, and a string of equally clueless pundits, Fox is not just someone whose previous disgrace makes him unfit to even be an MP, he is ignorant to the point of national embarrassment.
Coming soon: it's goodnight from them

Liam Fox has been appointed Secretary of State for International Trade by new PM Theresa May. One might therefore expect that he would be able to muster sufficient knowledge of that subject to be able to speak coherently on it, even if only to yield sufficient soundbites to satisfy the press corps and not insert foot in mouth when so doing. Sadly, though, this straightforward task has proved beyond him.

This week’s events should prove instructive to all those prepared to judge Fox on the available evidence, rather than talking up his every utterance. Typical was his announcement that the UK would set up its first USA trade office in the state of North Carolina, an area that has faced protests and trade boycotts over a new law aimed at transgender people. PepsiCo and GE have since avoided the place.

Not only did Fox apparently blunder into this faux pas, he managed to get the Labour Party some press attention into the bargain, as leadership challenger Owen Smith called him out for his poor judgment - or maybe lack of it. Still, there was always Fox’s demand that Ms May take the UK out of the EU customs union. That would restore his reputation, wouldn’t it? Well, no: Chancellor Philip Hammond is not going to buy that one any time soon.

It gets worse. Fox had also proposed a free trade deal with the USA: “The US has rebuffed attempts by Liam Fox to open negotiations on a free trade deal, saying that ‘meaningful’ talks before Brexit were impossible … Dr Fox, the international trade secretary, who is on a three-day charm offensive in the US, later had comments he made on a possible trading agreement with the EU ‘clarified’ by No 10” reported the Times.

But it is his comment that, while withdrawing from the EU customs union, the UK “would probably seek to enter a free-trade agreement with the EU” instead. That is code for “he doesn’t have the first idea what he’s talking about”. Fox can have had no complaints about being stitched up by the rotten lefty media: his comments came in an interview for the Murdoch Wall Street Journal. He won’t get a more sympathetic platform.

Then he gave a speech in Chicago: “Promising there would be no backtracking on the UK referendum decision, he outlined a vision of the UK negotiating a phalanx of bilateral free trade deals”. Ri-i-ight. Backtracking will not be down to him - Ms May will see to that - and negotiating “bilateral free trade deals” will need someone to negotiate that. We don’t have any trade negotiators in Whitehall right now.

If Theresa May were setting up Brexit to fail, she could do no better than let Liam Fox show the world that he is the most singularly inept Englishman abroad since Carlton-Browne of the FO. And he was a fictional character in a comedy film.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Manchester Mayor - Labour Stitch-Up?

Members of the Labour Party are now casting their votes to select the nominees to go forward as the party’s candidates in the new Greater Manchester and Merseyside Region Mayoral contests. And word has arrived on Zelo Street that all is not well with many members in the Manchester area, who suspect the local establishment of being less than totally transparent about delays in getting ballot papers out - and maybe worse.
The story has already reached the press, with the Manchester Evening News report being typical: “Andy Burnham has sent a formal complaint to the Labour party after it emerged mayoral ballot papers had still not been sent out to members across Greater Manchester … The papers were originally meant to go out two week ago - but only started arriving today … Some Labour party members are still waiting”.

It got worse: “There have also been reports of confusion around e-ballots, which some members have either not received or have misunderstood and so deleted them”. Burnham has been joined in submitting a complaint by Steve Rotheram, who is running for the Merseyside Region nomination. The reason for the confusion with e-ballots becomes clear as soon as you see the email, a copy of which has been forwarded to Zelo Street.

The email, from which personal details have been redacted, tells “Over the coming weeks Labour members and supporters will choose our candidate for next Prime Minister of Britain. Details for that contest will be sent in due course … Enclosed in this email are details of this year’s ballot to elect your representatives on the National Executive Committee (NEC)”. Nothing about nominees for Mayoral elections there.
Indeed, the email is titled “Labour NEC Ballot: How to cast your vote”, and only in the final paragraph before voting instructions are given does it concede “This year, members will be electing six Constituency Labour Party representatives to the NEC. Labour Councillors also have a vote for two Local Government places. Some members will also be able to vote for Labour’s candidate for directly elected Mayor in their area”.

As the Mayoral contests were not mentioned in the title of the email, and indeed, were introduced in an almost discreet fashion well down the body of the text, it’s not difficult to see why so many Labour members either binned the email, or assumed it was not relevant to the Mayoral nomination. The MEN story hints at the likely beneficiary.

Neither Tony Lloyd nor Ivan Lewis has backed Andy Burnham’s complaint. Mr Lloyd said extending the date when ballot papers have a deadline of August 5 printed on them would lead to more confusion … Mr Lewis’s campaign declined to comment”. It’s entirely off the record (of course) but word from Tony Lloyd’s camp is that the lower the turnout, the greater the likelihood of their man winning the contest.

It may be mere coincidence that Tony Lloyd stands to benefit from what appears to be more cock-up than conspiracy, of course. I’ll just leave that one there.

Corbyn - We Have To Talk

Lyndon Johnson had to ask an old colleague to draft him a speech on the subject of economics. He approved enthusiastically: “It’s exactly what I want to say. I’m not going to change a word. It’s great”. Then he added “But I can tell you something. Nobody else will think so”. And then came the legendary dose of scatology. “Did y’ever think … that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else”. The Johnson metaphor is still relevant today.
It speaks to the problems faced by the Labour Party right now, and would go some way to showing why having half a million members will not necessarily propel The Red Team into power - if those who have invested their faith in Jeremy Corbyn would listen.
Here on Zelo Street, we give those gratuitously attacking politicians and public figures for no good reason short shrift. As a result, many who have pursued the Corbyn leadership for nothing more than self-promotion and the satisfaction of proprietorial or editorial diktat have found adverse comment passed upon them. But that does not mean Corbyn’s shortcomings should be given a free pass, and they have not been.
There are many deficiencies in Corbyn’s leadership, but we need only consider one of them today: his ability to look Prime Ministerial enough to persuade swing voters to back him in a General Election. It is little use having half a million people who think that leadership seems hot to them, when it is a number millions larger that has to be swung behind his banner. He does not look electable to the voters he needs to persuade.
And to underscore this lack of electability has come the latest poll from ICM, which shows General Election voting intention percentages at 43% for the Tories, and 27% for Labour. A Tory lead of 16%. This would translate into the Tories gaining 45 seats, and Labour losing 44. That means ending up with fewer seats than Michael Foot won in 1983, generally accepted as the recent nadir in Labour electoral fortunes.
But, those protesting will tell, look at the internal strife caused by those dissenting from the Corbyn leadership, and the rotten press coverage. Well, yes, but Ed Miliband was frequently mired in talk of challenges and plots - and his treatment by the right-wing press verged on the vicious. At this stage in the electoral cycle, Labour under Miliband had an 8% lead over the Tories. His worst opinion poll return was a 6% Tory lead.
Every polling measure shows Labour under Corbyn way off the pace, typical being “Best team to run the economy”, which has Theresa May and Philip Hammond on 53%, with Corbyn and John McDonnell on 15%. So many have said it, but I will say it again: there is no path to securing change without securing power. And the most effective way of securing power is to win elections. Right now, Corbyn is on course not to win, but be routed.

All those followers enthusiastically pissing down their legs will not change that. Just because it feels hot to you does not mean those who matter are listening. That is all.