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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Liz Jones – Come On Down!

I wasn’t going to do it: the decision had been made not to give the appalling Liz Jones the benefit of any more stick, no matter how utterly desperate and totally barking her latest offering. And then she goes and writes an even more totally gaga slice of self-aggrandisement that the temptation becomes too much. This woman, were she not real, would not be a credible characterisation.

What do you think of it so far?

The headline says it all: “I thought tattoos were for sluts...until I was branded with a 4-inch high prancing horse. My boyfriend's reaction? 'Rock and roll! Now you might have sex with your top off!” and from there it goes downhill in short order. She’s had a tattoo, and she also once had a boyfriend who was black. And, even though you didn’t want to know, “I’ve only in the past few weeks bought some sexy underwear”.

No thanks Liz, I’m trying to hold down my lunch. She wants to make “a tad of difference to my personality, which, to be honest, I’m tired of”. You’re tired of it? Soil the bed, dear, think of the rest of us. So what’s the deal? Liz has ventured to the badlands otherwise known as Shoreditch, which is “relentlessly urban” (this could be something to do with it being in an, er, urban area).

Here, she encounters “men with facial hair and kilts, and women with Beatles caps and Dr Martens” although she then concludes that the people there are “thoroughly nice” as she staggers around the cobbles in her “polished Prada platforms” (what was that about being on her uppers?). And she is reassured that tattoos are no big deal, because Sam Cam has one. Allegedly.

Liz decides on having the tattoo on her upper arm, because “should I ever go strapless, it might also distract from my cellulite”. Yes dear, like anyone gives a flying foxtrot about your expletive deleteding cellulite. Thus tattooed she takes herself to Paris Fashion Week, “where I sat, on a teeny gilt chair, arm bravely exposed”. So sitting there seeking attention, then.

But this is not attention-seeking according to Liz: “I have never wanted anyone to look at me” she protests. How shall I put this? Two words come to mind, and one of them is “off”. The whole point of the entire Liz Jones oeuvre is to cause folks to look at her. She claims to be “the very opposite of a slut” because they have “messy make-up and loud opinions”. Is that right? You don’t say.

She tells Mail readers “I am permanently torn between ragged nervousness and a desire to improve myself so that I don’t frighten people on the street”. Well, Liz, I have news for you. You can indeed improve yourself and not frighten people in a way that benefits everyone. And you can do this by ceasing the relentless self promotion and the barrage of photos of Yourself Personally Now.

But you won’t be listening, and will be back for more later. No change there, then.

Rowling Bashing Spreads

The howlings of those in the Fourth Estate not granted an interview by Jo Rowling prior to the release of her novel The Casual Vacancy have continued in the pages and website of the Mail, while spreading to the Maily Telegraph, where the insufferable Charles Moore – despised even by his own editor – has decided to launch his own sniffy hatchet job on the book.

No publicity is bad publicity for sales figures

Moore’s criticism, of course, is of a truly superior kind, and don’t his readers know it: he has, after all, read and inwardly digested the output of Anthony Trollope, Jane Austen, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy. He attended Eton and then went up to Trinity College, Cambridge. So he knows all about ordinary people, having devoted so much of his life to the art of talking down to them.

He asserts that Ms Rowling “made a fortune from the provincial life that she now so clearly despises”. Now, going once again into Jon Stewart mode, two things here. Describing a small town in a warts-and-all manner does not indicate that the author despises small towns: nor, as Moore later suggests, are small towns like the one described a “southern” phenomenon.

Towns that give off the air of entrenched middle class affluence, while also hosting significant areas of social housing, can be found all around the country. Perhaps Charles Moore never walked all the way round the city walls of York, and so missed its rather less upmarket eastern suburbs. Or when he visited Knutsford, he saw the boutique shops but managed not to see the Longridge estate.

And the second point about Moore’s sniffy rant is that Ms Rowling made a fortune not out of “the provincial life”, but characters that she dreamed up on a delayed train journey somewhere between Euston and Manchester. And her new novel does not, as far as can be told, show any dislike for rail travel. Moore is just trying to keep up with the Mail, and there the Rowling bashing is continuing apace.

Having one Glenda put the boot in was clearly not sufficient for the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, and so he has ordered another of them over the top: Amanda Platell has asserted that “Rowling’s so wrong to sneer at her readers”. Yes Mandy, far better to leave sneering to the likes of you. Platell sells the pass by taking Jan Moir’s catty rant as data. But the knocking copy keeps on coming.

And the latest comes from Viv Groskop, who is unhappy about the swearing. Er, excuse me, someone from the Mail doesn’t like swearing? Two more points here: one, swearing is de rigueur at any meeting featuring Paul Dacre, and two, frequent swearing, whether the Mail approves or not, is part of everyday life – across the whole of the class spectrum.

It’s feeble stuff. And it still won’t get them an interview with Ms Rowling.

Top Six – September 30

So what’s hot, and what’s not, in the past week’s blogging? Here are the six most popular posts on Zelo Street for the past seven days, counting down in reverse order, because, well, there’s more blog stuff to write up. So there.

6 Guido Fawked – Twitter Lawyer Howler The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines told his tame gofer, the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, “we got lawyered” but then the Tweet disappeared. Sadly for Staines, Cole retweeted it. But there was no further news about what got “lawyered”, other than it was part of their Daily Star column.

5 Mitt’s Goldfinger Gaffe GOP Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney wondered why aircraft windows don’t open. Then it was revealed that he was joking. But you don’t joke about that kind of thing, and especially when your campaign is already lurching from bad to worse.

4 Kelvin McFilth Protests Too Much As if the revelations and fallout over the Hillsborough tragedy could not get any more bizarre, former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie ordered his lawyers to demand an apology from South Yorkshire Police for misleading him. He won’t be getting one.

3 Rowling Gets Hatcheted Jo Rowling is not the Daily Mail’s kind of person, so when her first adult novel came out, there had to be a hatchet job. The duty fell to Jan Moir, cattiest and most sour of Paul Dacre’s line-up of Glendas, but the result just showed mean-spiritedness and got the paper nowhere.

2 Daily Mail – Bigotry On Parade Routine racism and homophobia came from Richard Littlejohn and Peter McKay as the Mail happily printed copy suggesting that non-whites should not be able to afford an iPhone5, that wearing a pink tie made an MP’s sexual orientation suspect, and calling gay men “fairies”. No change there.

1 Rowling Gets Dacred The initial assault on Jo Rowling’s reputation was followed up by a particularly nasty piece, inventing concepts like “invading her own privacy” and making potentially actionable assertions about people in her past. There will no doubt be more, just because she won’t give the Daily Mail an interview.

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

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Telegraph Second Guessing Leveson

The publication of Lord Justice Leveson’s findings, following his Inquiry into the workings and behaviour of the Fourth Estate, will not appear this side of November, which means it is over a month away. And what he decides and recommends is unlikely to be swayed by the protestations of the likes of Tony Gallagher of the Maily Telegraph. Yet the paper keeps on bleating about the matter.

The threat to our free press is grave and foolish” proclaims today’s leader column, and continues with aloof and slightly sniffy proclamations such as “In a country governed by the rule of law, the independence of the press is a constitutional necessity”, before letting the cat out of the bag: “This might sound like the opening of a self-interested piece of special pleading on behalf of the newspaper industry”.

There’s understatement for you. And, as the man said, there’s more: “There is a real danger that, because some newspapers allegedly behaved in a criminal manner, efforts will be made to reduce the whole press to an emasculated cipher of high-minded opinion”. Allegedly? Christ on a bike, there’s no “allegedly” about it. And Phonehackgate wasn’t the only such example.

Perhaps Gallagher never heard of Operation Motorman, which concluded that Steve Whittamore and his network of blaggers and bent insiders spent many years illegally obtaining information for a number of newspapers, with 305 different journalists requesting 13,343 items, most of them illegal. A total of 11,345 items were “certainly or very probably” in breach of the Data Protection Act.

More recently, there have been damages awarded to the McCann family and Robert Murat, and both damages awarded and contempt proceedings as a result of the Christopher Jefferies case. The impression of casual criminality is inescapable, and is not just confined to the Murdoch press. In the face of this, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has been signally useless.

The replacement of the PCC with a body that works within a statutory framework – note that this does not make such a body a public or Government one – is all but inevitable. The argument of the Tel – that the new body would be a statutory one and therefore a burgeoning bureaucracy – wilfully makes the logic leap from statutory framework to statutory body to in order to argue against it.

There are frighteners talking of a press “beholden to the state”, but all that it would be “beholden to” would be the law – and ceasing the practice of scaring complaints away by threatening them with more expensive lawyers, while defining the PCC codes so that many legitimate claims can be batted away as falling outside their terms. What the Telegraph is arguing against is accountability.

And accountability is what the public both need and want. Get over it.

Mail And Express Outrun Facts

Dramatic licence has its limits, and a piece in today’s editions of both Mail and Express points this up superbly. A man was detained by Police in the Medway town of Gillingham on Friday of the previous week after jumping the barriers of a railway level crossing and narrowly avoiding being collected by a passing train, which, given the comparative masses involved, would have been instantly fatal.

But this is not sufficient for the papers involved, so readers are told that he narrowly missed “a 140mph train”. As any fule kno, whatever the potential top speed of any train, the line speed at the location concerned is what is relevant, and in this case it is just 60mph. Moreover, no railway line in the UK with level crossings on it is cleared for a speed over 100mph.

The Mail goes further, and tells that the Javelin train, operated by SouthEastern, is “Britain’s fastest train”, which, despite advertising this claim, it is not. The Eurostar trains are capable of 186mph, and regularly exceed 140mph on the part of the London to Paris and Brussels runs on this side of the Channel Tunnel. Trains that work the East and West Coast Main Lines are both potentially capable of 140.

And the Mail piece also manages to invent a feature called a “train tower”, which suggests that someone is looking in the Stateside book of rail terminology. In this country it’s a plain old Signal Box, or Crossing Box. And the Javelin trains don’t have a separate engine, so there isn’t a “thundering engine”. All of that demonstrates the perils of not getting copy read for technical accuracy, and over-dramatising.

That obscures that real tragedy of the situation: only at the end of the Mail article (and not at all by the Express) is it noted that Police later detained a 61 year old man under the provisions of the Mental Health Act.

Megan Stammers And The Foot In Mouth Brigade

[Update at end of post]

The disappearance of 15 year old schoolgirl Megan Stammers, along with Jeremy Forrest, one of her teachers and twice her age, gave the press a whole week’s feeding frenzy as the two crossed the channel and were eventually detained in the southern French city of Bordeaux. But the means by which the arrest was legitimised presents hacks and politicians with a difficult dilemma.

Why so? Well, Megan might have been below the age of consent in the UK, where it is 16, but she wasn’t in France, where it is just 15. So the couple were not breaking the law there, and so there was no reason for the authorities to detain them. Only when a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was issued was there any obligation on the French to search for the couple and make an arrest.

And it is that use of the EAW to yield the result that the assembled hacks, pundits and editors had effectively demanded that puts them all in a corner. Because many of them, together with many Tory MPs and MEPs, and UKIP MEPs, had spent the previous years demonising the EAW. Only last week, Dan, Dan the Oratory Man was urging withdrawal as a way of celebrating 800 years since Magna Carta.

So one has to wonder how some of those foot-in-mouth artists will spin the Megan Stammers case, especially the Telegraph’s purveyor of dodgy journalism Andrew Gilligan, who opined “while we kowtow to EU arrest warrants, other countries are shielding citizens with opt-outs”, and that folks “can also be seized for offences which are not even crimes in Britain”. Likewise those that are not crimes in France, then?

The Mail has also been hot on the trail of the EAW, with seasoned ranter James Slack bemoaning the number of eastern Europeans being deported under its provisions, while the paper plays the other side of the field when its legendarily foul mouthed editor decrees it, whining about the EU, er, not allowing us to deport eastern Europeans.

And one also wonders what all those UKIP MEPs will dream up as their get-out card in this case: last year they were jumping on the Julian Assange bandwagon and claiming that the EAW was being “possibly abused. Party leader Nigel Farage has Tweeted that “The EU arrest warrant has made us ... subservient to the EU”. Wonder if many French politicians are making the same complaint?

First Mail priority - select the appropriate wine

There is, to no surprise at all, no criticism of the EAW in the Mail’s report of the arrest of Jeremy Forrest, nor in the Telegraph. But the Mail does manage to illustrate the location of Bordeaux with a wine map, showing that some journalistic habits have survived the move out of Fleet Street. Perhaps the odd case of claret will help them all to get over this latest bout of rank hypocrisy.

Until the EAW gets used by some dastardly foreigners. No change there, then.

[UPDATE 30 September 1105 hours: today's Observer has noted that senior Police officers are telling Young Dave that opting out of EU-wide co-operation on crime is Not A Good Thing. Their case has been significantly reinforced by the arrest of Jeremy Forrest via the issue of an EAW, which has not only enabled him to be detained in a country where the age of consent means his relationship with Megan Stammers is not illegal there, but also shortens the time taken to extradite him back to the UK.

Only last March, those in the Tory Party opposed to the EAW seemed in the ascendancy. Now, they, like the anti-EU tendency in the press, have gone quiet. What they also all too easily forget are those cases in the past where the UK has wanted to extradite terrorist suspects from the Irish Republic, but the requests have failed due to offences such as conspiracy not having an equivalent in Irish law. The EAW would have made a significant difference, and potentially could again, although hopefully not in the case of Ireland]

Friday, 28 September 2012

Cruddas Discovers The New Conservatism

We’ve already encountered that clutch of right-leaning groups that generally call themselves “think tanks” or even profess “grassroots support”: the ASI, IEA, CPS, and of course our old friends at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) are some of them. In addition one cannot forget Policy Exchange, and the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) whose foundation is built on not having any policy.

There is also the Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF) which trains conservative – note not necessarily Tory – activists, and bodies like the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), which has recently been hijacked by the ideological right. All promote the idea of cutting back the state under the guise of lowering taxes as some kind of “fairness”, while some promote a hawkish hard-right foreign policy approach.

Taken together, these are pieces in the jigsaw of The New Conservatism, which holds, more or less, that to be more conservative – rather as the Tea Partiers in the USA – is the way to go, and that if only the electorate were not blinded by the rotten leftie media, they would sign up in droves. This drives the anti-state stance of groups like the TPA, which relentlessly churns out knocking copy demonising Government.

None of this will be significantly new news to Zelo Street regulars, and slowly but surely the discovery of this strain of Conservatism is reaching those in its line of fire, as Labour MP Jon Cruddas has indicated in a piece for the deeply subversive Guardian yesterday. He has homed in on a tract authored by five Tory MPs called Britannia Unchained: Global Lessons For Growth And Prosperity.

The five are Kwasi Kwarteng, Dominic Raab, Liz Truss, Chris Skidmore, and the self-promoting Priti Patel. But the ideas contained in this tract are not their original thought: we have seen them all before, especially from the TPA. Cruddas correctly deduces that the state-slashing agenda is part of “a destructive economic liberalism that threatens the foundations of modern conservatism”.

Got it in one: like the lurch to the right by Republicans in the USA, this strain of New Conservatism will ultimately poison the party within which it is taking root. And the ideal worker in this ideology – “one prepared to work long hours, commute long distances and expect no employment protection and low pay” – won’t gain any support among the hard working taxpayers they claim to champion.

Yet here are elected Parliamentarians willing to join the chorus of demonisation against safety nets, or indeed any form of welfare in which the state participates. This is the advance guard of the New Conservatism: it has little grassroots support, but its talking heads know how to get into the papers and onto the TV. It needs to be identified and countered, and fortunately the Labour Party is waking up to the threat.

My congratulations to Jon Cruddas. Good to have you on board!

Guido Fawked – Brown Not Yet Through

Some former Prime Ministers are, to the rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, places where one just does not go. The name of Margaret Thatcher is inevitably mentioned with utmost reverence. There is little said of “Shagger” Major. But – not that they’re Conservatives or anything like that, you understand – Tone and particularly Pa Broon are fair game for whatever invention and abuse can be mustered.

Nah, Alex wrote it cos I was pissed, oh shit no, talking about being pissed. In the pub, oh bollocks, I mean office. Over a cup of vodka, oh sod it, I meant tea

This lesson has rapidly been learned by new teaboy Alex Wickham, who this morning was on his usual duty, taking copy from newspaper websites and dressing it up as something original, the kind of thing that enables the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines to claim “we’re #1” whenever routine criticism of the Fawkes blog comes up, which it does with the certainty of night following day.

The Maily Telegraph – by definition a source likely to find adversely on anyone connected with the Labour Party – had asserted that Pa Broon had cancelled a press conference because only one journalist – from the Tel, natch – had turned up. This much was gleefully recycled by young Wickham, along with the customary abuse about Brown. But there was a problem with the original.

Because the Tel also concedes at the end of its report that Brown was on a panel debate with Queen Rania of Jordan and Aung San Suu Kyi “which overran”. Both debate and press conference were held at the United Nations building in New York, and it does not take much application of grey matter to figure out that the press pack would have been watching the former event.

Hence their not appearing at the press conference, because they knew Brown couldn’t be in two places at once. And if Pa Broon was at the debate, he could not have been “stood in the background” as Mark Hughes asserts. The Telegraph piece is just a routine slice of knocking copy: if Brown was so unpopular, he wouldn’t be in demand for speeches and TV appearances, which he is.

But such details are of no concern to the rabble at the Fawkes blog, so Wickham selects the parts of the Tel piece that suit the narrative – just as the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, another of Staines’ heroes, do on so many occasions – and there it is, an item guaranteed to slake the thirsts of sneering right-wing boo-boys all across PR and Think Tank Land.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the third member of the Fawkes triumvirate, the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, is clearly unhappy that “no one else is finding my jokes funny this morning”. No change there, then.

Rowling Gets Dacred

As I noted yesterday, Jo Rowling is not the Daily Mail’s kind of person. She has been a single parent, has dared to speak out about the less savoury behaviour of those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet (including an appearance before the Leveson Inquiry during which she found adversely upon press intrusion), and has not been reliably conservative in her politics.

She should stick to Harry f***ing Potter, right, c***?!?

So it was inevitable that the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre would order the most bitter and catty of his Glendas, Jan Moir, to write a hatchet job on the first Rowling adult novel The Casual Vacancy. Now it seems that the round of interviews prior to the book’s launch did not include the Mail, thus compounding the anger of the Vagina Monologue, and meaning that more smears and abuse would follow.

This has duly come to pass, with today’s rant entitled “Hypocrisy and the ruthless PR sorcery behing J K Rowling’s invasion of her own privacy”, under the by-line of Paul Bracchi. Why is Ms Rowling (who is always, in the antediluvian world of the Daily Mail, styled “Miss Rowling”) a hypocrite? Because Dacre has deemed it to be so. The facts will then be carefully selected to fit the narrative.

How does someone “invade their own privacy”? It’s a ridiculous concept: what the Mail really means is that Ms Rowling has given interviews to media outlets that do not meet with the approval of the Vagina Monologue. And which outlets are these? Have a guess: “favoured newspapers and broadcasters — namely, the Left-leaning Guardian and the BBC”. Rattle out of pram time, children!

And the literary world does not approve of the embargo on reviews for the new book before release date. We know this because Bracchi has quotes from “a highly respected literary editor”, who remains anonymous – to no surprise at all – while delivering the desired quotes, such as “it smacks of bullying”, which anyone who deals with Paul Dacre knows all about.

Ms Rowling, it is emphasised, “is worth an estimated £560 million”. The Casual Vacancy is alleged to be based on the village where she grew up, where “some folk there now feel betrayed”, but none are even quoted, let alone named. There is a particularly nasty allegation about Ms Rowling’s former agent, which will not be repeated here, as I fear it may be actionable.

Bracchi finally mentions the content of the book, but only briefly, and while getting another kick at the Guardian and BBC before sneering that Ms Rowling is “reportedly spending up to £250,000 on a pair of tree houses for her children in the garden of her Edinburgh residence”. What is the Mail’s problem? Jo Rowling has made her pile, and if she wants to keep hold of her intellectual property, that’s her call.

And no amount of attack pieces will get the Mail access to her. Get over it, Dacre.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Mad Chief Inspector Dies

Czech born actor Herbert Lom, who has passed at the age of 95 – now that’s an innings, and then some – starred in many films, but will be remembered not for his portrayal of Napoleon Bonaparte, or any one of a number of suave villains, but as Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus, playing opposite Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther series, starting with A Shot In The Dark in 1964.

The formula was much the same with each appearance: Sellers’ Inspector Jacques Clouseau, with the cod French accent becoming ever more eccentric with each film, would literally send Dreyfus mad with his bungling. The idea was spiced up for The Pink Panther Strikes Again, with Dreyfus escaping from custody and overseeing the construction of a doomsday weapon to bargain against getting Clouseau.

But perhaps the most memorable moment comes in the final completed film, Revenge Of The Pink Panther, as Dreyfus has to give the eulogy at what is believed to be Clouseau’s funeral (except the dead man is actually a criminal who hijacked Clouseau’s car at gunpoint). Dreyfus appears overcome by emotion, but is actually having to restrain himself from laughing.

It’s a sublime comedy performance, and shows Herbert Lom’s versatility as an actor. The Pink Panther films may have been about Sellers first, but they would have been unthinkable without Lom.

Herbert Lom 11 September 1917 – 27 September 2012

Guido Fawked – Baseless Coventry Rumour

[Update at end of post]

Those who follow the dubiously sourced (at best) rumours propagated by the rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog may remember one particular recent whopper, where it was alleged that the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the Seventeenth Baronet, was about to abandon the North West and be parachuted into the safe seat of Kensington and Chelsea . This was, to no surprise at all, complete crap.

My story's right, cos I'm on telly!

But such trivialities do not deter those whose positive trust rating among their possibly less than adoring public sits at a staggeringly lame 4%, and so it has come to pass that the tame gofer to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, has switched his attention from Tory to Labour to invent yet another pile of freshly steaming bullpucky on the same subject.

Master Cole has discovered that Tone’s son Euan is working in Coventry, and that he is not only a member of the Labour Party, but also an active one. From this unpromising set of facts he has then spun, with the assistance of local hack Les Reid, the thus far mere rumour that the Blairs are about to install their son into the Parliamentary seat at present occupied by Geoffrey Robinson.

Behold the benign and tolerant approach of the self-appointed "journalist"

Reid works for the Coventry Telegraph, which, it may surprise Fawkes blog observers, is part of the Trinity Mirror stable of titles (the Mirror is a favourite Fawkes whipping boy). He and Cole give the impression of being in this alliance for personal benefit rather than factual accuracy: Reid gets the supposedly edgy cachet of association with The Great Guido, while Cole can claim he’s right because it’s in the local paper.

But the substance of the story relies, as ever with the flannelled fool, on baseless assumptions backed up with bluster and smears: he denounces the rival Coventry Observer as “Robinson Patsies” and their story as “BS” on the grounds that it does not meet with his approval. Facts do not enter. The word of The Great Guido is the only one that will be tolerated.

Usual standard of English ... in a thin glass

Let’s cut to the heart of this one: just because Geoffrey Robinson is 74 does not mean he is about to retire, or be retired. Euan Blair worked for some time as an intern on Capitol Hill, but no-one suggested then, or is suggesting now, that he was about to run for Congress. He has worked for a merchant bank, but no-one suggested that he was about to be appointed to the staff of Merv the Swerve.

All that the Fawkes blog is doing is to copy the kind of smear-by-association trash pumped out regularly by the likes of Quentin Letts (let’s not), although Letts’ favourite target is Cherie Blair, not Tone or the children. The Osborne story was utterly false, and there is no evidence, other than Cole’s bluster, that this one is any different. Let’s see a single fact in support (we won’t).

But it keeps the flannelled fool out of trouble. Another fine mess, once again.

[UPDATE 1720 hours: Les Reid has been in touch and is sticking by his story, although to be fair to him, he does not suggest that Euan Blair has a "part time and possibly voluntary" job in Coventry - that was invented by the buffoon Cole - and asserts only that approaches were made on behalf of the younger Blair to invite him to local Labour Party meetings and "get him involved".

He also notes that the idea of Euan Blair becoming a local MP is at present part of the local rumour mill. That much I accept unreservedly. The problem comes when the Fawkes blog, as it did with the Kensington and Chelsea story - which has turned out to be a turkey of the first order - made its customary logic leap, this time on the basis that "another MP's son may be doing it a hundred miles away so therefore the Blairs are at it too".

Maybe Euan Blair is being lined up to become an MP. Maybe he isn't. But there's a difference between rumour, and fact. The local report has stayed on one side of that divide, while the Fawkes blog has crossed it in characteristic style]

Rowling Gets Hatcheted

Those who have observed the agenda of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at work over the years will know that there are certain kinds of people who do not fit in with that agenda: these are not the Daily Mail’s kind of people. Those of an ethnic minority background – especially if they are followers of The Prophet – together with anyone who has been a single parent, are typical.

How high would nice Mr Dacre like me to jump?

On top of those are those in the public eye, especially if they have had the temerity to object to the behaviour of the press, and anyone who is not at least conservative with a small C. To these can be added anybody who has been divorced, and those who have been quoted approvingly by the deeply subversive Guardian, especially if they have succeeded despite the vitriol dumped on them by the Mail.

Many of these buttons are pressed by author Jo Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books which adorn so many childrens’ bookshelves. So it should surprise no-one that Dacre has ordered one of his bevy of bitter and catty Glendas to write a hatchet job on Ms Rowling’s first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy. To no surprise at all, this task has fallen to the deeply unpleasant Jan Moir.

Ms Moir, forever infamous as the Glenda at the front of the Dacre cab rank when the call came to ritually trash the memory of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately, does not disappoint her editor. First come sneering dismissals of the reviewer from the Guardian, and the BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz (crazy name, crazy guy?!?!?), and then it’s time to kick the lefties.

The book is, according to Ms Moir, “more than 500 pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature crammed down your throat” whilst its author is “the kind of blinkered, Left-leaning demagogue quick to lambast what she perceives to be risible middle-class values, while failing to see that her own lush thickets of dearly held emotions and prejudices are riddled with the same narrow-mindedness she is so quick to detect in others”.

Moir is not keen on the book’s characters, and “their liberal use of the F-word”. Heck, one of them even uses the C-word, so anyone who has endured a Daily Mail editorial meeting – like her – should be right at home. But she’s not through yet: the book is all about class warfare! It features a council estate and the author dares to sympathise with the residents! There are Asians in the vicarage!

It sounds very much as if Ms Rowling has veered too close to the real world for this to be a comfortable experience for the Daily Mail’s kind of people. But fortunately, Jan Moir’s hatchet job is so lame and amateurish that it is unlikely to dent the prospects for The Casual Vacancy. Good thing too.

But it keeps the odious Glenda in paycheques, so that’s all right, then.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Letterman – Careful Dave

[Update at end of post]

The lure of the late night show has clearly got to Young Dave, who is managing to squeeze in an appearance on Late Night With David Letterman during his visit to the USA. No doubt Cameron thinks this is a jolly whizzo idea, but he ought to take care: Letterman might have been doing his show for thirty years, but he’s still sharp and still well capable of sending down a curve ball.

Cameron could – and maybe should, although they’re probably not on the best of terms right now – have asked occasional London Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson about the advisability of doing the Letterman show. Bozza managed to get the most blatant of propaganda past his host, including the assertion that the cycle hire scheme was “totally communist”, but there was a sting in the tail.

Just as Bozza thought he’d come through unscathed, Letterman unleashed the killer line “How long have you been cutting your own hair?” to which even Boris couldn’t manage so much as a “yikes” or “cripes chaps”. “That was a low blow” he protested to a background of loud laughter. But his host got him again during a discussion on Bozza’s ambition. “You think it’s the hair that’s holding you back?”.

Boris was quite jolly throughout, though, and one does wonder if Cameron can maintain the same kind of levity. And it doesn’t matter which of the late night hosts you face, as Tone found when he got a spot to plug his book on the Daily Show, where Jon Stewart gave him the most effective critique of the whole Iraq War business he’d ever faced.

But Blair was, by the time he did the Daily Show, well out of Downing Street, and so was Pa Broon, who also appeared with Stewart. Cameron, who has a tendency to appear peevish and humourless when things aren’t going his way, is halfway through a term of coalition Government that is under press scrutiny as never before. His is a high risk strategy – perhaps needlessly so.

And just in case Cameron thinks he can get away with not turning up, he should see what happened to previous Republican Presidential hopeful John McCain, who cancelled on Letterman, only to turn up on CBS News with Katie Couric when his reason for calling off the appearance was that he had to race to the airport to get back to Washington DC.

Not only did Letterman give McCain some stick for the cancellation – including showing him in the CBS News studio and definitely not en route to the airport – but he also got Keith Olbermann to fill in as guest. That, in case you missed it, meant that a liberal leaning host got ten minutes’ worth of time to find adversely upon the GOP’s latest Presidential hope.

So Dave has to go ahead and see Dave. And that might be interesting.

[UPDATE 27 September 1010 hours: Cameron did get the odd cheer from Letterman's audience, particularly when he told them that political parties were not allowed to advertise on TV in the UK (not surprising, given the saturation coverage suffered by many US citizens with the Presidential election now approaching), but he also got tripped up once or twice.
He wasn't able to give the English translation of the Latin Magna Carta - although he did correctly assert that it had been signed at Runnymeade - and wrongly guessed that Edward Elgar had written Rule Britannia, whereas it had been composed by Thomas Arne (Elgar wrote the music we know as Land Of Hope And Glory).

But what benefit he gained from the appearance is hard to fathom. He and Letterman didn't exactly hit it off]

Kelvin McFilth Protests Too Much

[Update at end of post]

Hardly a day passes without someone out there on the right proving true what is known as Olbermann’s Dictum: “The right exists in a perpetual state of victimhood”, and today’s adherent is none other than former editor of the Super Soaraway Currant Bun Kelvin MacKenzie, who has decided that all that grief he and the Sun got after Hillsborough was the rotten rozzers’ fault.

You think that the first day of April has come early? It certainly looks like the most ridiculous of propositions, but he is apparently serious: according to the Spectator, Kel has instructed lawyers to demand an apology for what has resulted in him suffering “personal vilification for decades”. And he suggests that the Sun only got the treatment it did on Merseyside because of its support for the Tories.

Er, hello, this is crap, isn’t it? I mean, wall-to-wall crap of the freshest and most steaming kind? While Kel is right to point out that his paper was not the only one churning over the smears orchestrated by South Yorkshire Police to cover up their utter ineptitude, the others all withdrew their stories pronto – and apologised – as soon as it came clear that the facts were rather different.

The Sun never did that. And the idea that it was singled out by those in Liverpool just because of its support for Margaret Thatcher is equally bunk: the Mail and Express were both supportive of the Tories throughout the 80s, as were the Telegraph and Times. None of these titles – not even the Murdoch ones – attracted the ire of Scousers. MacKenzie is once again playing the victim.

And Kel also forgets – conveniently – that his decision to run the front page that got the Sun into so much trouble was queried by one of his senior reporters, but that he ultimately wielded such power at the paper that nobody dare actually stand up to him. It was, as with everything else, down to his behaviour and ultimately his refusal to retract and apologise repeatedly over the years.

After all, the Taylor report – published the year after the Hillsborough tragedy – stated at the outset that the cause of the crush that led to 96 Liverpool fans dying was a failure of Police control. That should have caused MacKenzie to at least stop and think. He did not. Time and again, he declined to apologise, or on the occasion that he did, later stated that this was only because Rupe told him to.

So now he’s going to law to try and dump his obstinacy and prejudice onto the Police, the very group of public servants that the Sun under his editorship unfailingly supported throughout the 80s, whatever their actions. As Richard Littlejohn, one of Kel’s contemporaries, would have been quick to say, you couldn’t make it up. One can only hope that any action gets laughed out of court.

After all, that couldn’t happen to a nastier specimen than Kelvin McFilth.

[UPDATE 27 September 2045 hours: South Yorkshire Police, via their current Chief Constable David Crompton, have said that, while they have apologised to the fans and their families, they will not be apologising to Kelvin MacKenzie.

As Crompton points out, "he chose to write his own headline and he should accept responsibility for it". The secretary of the Hillsborough Families Support Group has said that Kel's attempt to play the victim "beggars belief".

MacKenzie is of course free to pursue his legal action further, but the most likely outcome is that he gets a final response along the lines of that delivered in the case of Arkell versus Pressdram (1971). He is uniquely qualified to interpret those wise words]

Express – Lead Stories For Nothing

While some newspapers still indulge in proper investigative journalism, for the poor folk at the Desmond stable of titles, this is at best no more than a fond memory. Successive rounds of staff and budget cuts have meant that even lead stories have to be brought in for no more than the cost of a few phone calls to those on the approved list of talking heads. And today has brought a classic of this genre.

Queen’s Anger At Hamza Farce” screams the headline in today’s Express, thus ticking a number of key boxes: promotion of royalty, the idea that law enforcement authorities – implicitly because of the hated EU – are somehow unable to do what the paper asserts they should, whipping up anger by using pantomime terrorist villains, and of course there are Muslims out there.

But this is not new news: the story came from BBC Radio 4 yesterday, when security man Frank Gardner inadvisedly let slip that Brenda had confided in him her dismay at the apparent inability of the authorities to detain outspoken cleric Abu Hamza. One should not allow such conversations to go any further, but Frank did, and the Beeb spent the rest of the day in grovelling apology mode.

That clearly hasn’t bothered the Express, where Anil Dawar didn’t even have to lift the phone to get his quotes: that from Tory MP Patrick Mercer was available to anyone with a subscription to PoliticsHome. The quote from Labour’s Keith Vaz comes from the BBC. The rest of the Express lead could also be pieced together from similar sources or BBC Audio.

And there you have it: a front page splash that did not cost the Express anything to produce, over and above paying the hack who cobbled it together, and other fixed costs, such as providing the office space and IT equipment. One has to wonder if the unfortunates who labour in the service of Dirty Des have to pay for the product of the coffee machines, as well as produce this mind-numbing drivel.

But that won’t trouble Richard Desmond, as long as his empire is turning a profit. And there’s better cost control when you cut out those niggly extras like proper investigative journalism and replace them with day-old cut and pasted stuff from other sources, meaning that the hacks don’t need to leave the office, don’t have any extra travel expenses, and can be made more productive as a result.

Which means just one thing: another Benchmark Of Excellence.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Murdoch Is Served (83)


As if to underscore that they are now majoring in the transition of Phonehackgate into Computerhackgate, IndyVoices, once more under the aegis of Tom Harper, has published more details of the deeply dodgy dealings between Jonathan Rees, the Metropolitan Police, and Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Screws. Rees has begun, ever so softly, to sing. And it’s looking worse by the day for the Murdochs.

We now know that the reason Derek Haslam, who had been planted by the Met within Rees’ domain at Southern Investigations, left was because his cover was blown. This happened after Haslam’s private email account was hacked, spyware was installed on his computer, and the fruits of the hacking passed to Rees. The hacker had links to the Screws, and had been accused of hacking for the paper.

Haslam is now taking action against the Met for failing in their duty of care to protect him, not least because it seems no action was taken in respect of the hacking. All of this merely reinforces the thought that the relationship between Rees, the Met and the Screws was close, so close that at times it was hard to tell exactly who was working for whom.

Alastair Morgan, whose brother Daniel was murdered in a south London car park after threatening to expose corruption in the Police, has had no hesitation in demanding that there should be a judicial enquiry into the whole business (see his interview with the Brown Moses blog HERE). Rees was happy to get the hacked document, but is keeping schtum about how he got it.

All of this is, of course, in addition to the phone hacking, where the list of claimants continues to pile up. As he opened a case management review today, Mr Justice Vos revealed that his niece’s husband was one of the latest. The queue of other new appellants includes Sarah Ferguson, Tony Adams, Chris Tarrant, Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson, Uri Geller, Leslie Grantham and Tamzin Outhwaite.

This brings the total to 155 cases for civil damages against News International (NI), although as some are joint actions, the number claiming is around 175. Even if those cost NI no more than £100,000 each – and remember, they’ll be footing the legal bill, which in many cases will total far more than the amount of damages – they’re looking at the thick end of another £20 million, and maybe much more.

If the computer hacking is traced back to the Screws, and if it was widespread (remember, phone hacking was only one case at first), there could be tens of millions of payments to come, plus any criminal action, something that is already well advanced in the former case. Yes, other papers could have been at it, but as ever the evidence is what is needed to proceed. And on that, NI was caught red-handed.

Daily Mail – Bigotry On Parade

As this blog has noted many times, anyone contributing copy for the Daily Mail that does not meet with the approval of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre is unlikely to keep well. And so it can be safely assumed that whatever is churned out by long established pundits is in accordance with the Dacre agenda. So what kind of erudite and uplifting copy is on offer from them?

Racism, Guv? Nah, it's just Blacks, innit?!?

Well, first off today is a prime helping of unreconstructed racism followed up with a casual hint of homophobia from the unfunny and tedious Richard Littlejohn. Dick has seen a photo of the huddled masses queuing up for the new iPhone5, and has been aghast at what he sees. There are faces in the crowd that are not white! There are several of them! You couldn’t make it up!

Has Apple opened a Sangatte?” asks Dick, pretending that he’s only putting the questions that the ordinary bloke in the pub might, wherever that may be. “If you want a graphic illustration of how unfettered immigration has changed the demographic make-up of Britain, look no further than the picture in Saturday’s Mail of the crowd waiting for the Apple store in London to open” he continues.

What’s his problem? “It looks like the queue for the lorries at Sangatte” he opines, before suggesting that those not of Caucasian appearance should for some reason not be able to afford £599 for an iPhone5. Then he shoots himself in the foot by admitting that some of those present had been paid to queue. So it’s not necessarily a representative cross section of buyers in any case.

Why Black and Asian Britons should be short of six hundred notes is mystifying. Those who follow The Prophet might find the dosh just by not venturing regularly to the Rub-A-Dub and becoming Elephant’s Trunk And Mozart. Just a thought, Dickie boy. But he’s not finished, and follows his casual racism with a homophobic attack on under-fire Tory MP Andrew Mitchell.

What I want to know is why a 56-year-old Tory MP is wearing a pink tie and riding a midwife’s bike”. Very good Dick, you can’t tell a blokes’ bike from a woman’s version (Mitchell’s is clearly in the former category). And if anyone thought the homophobia was an isolated occurrence, there is Peter McKay, the World’s Worst Columnist, with more of the same in the latest Ephraim Hardcastle drivel.

Wake up Peter, you've been fired

Radio 4’s Today presenter Evan Davis, apropos Andrew Marr’s discussion about fairy stories on Monday’s Start the Week, informs listeners: ‘There’s a CD with three magical retellings of classic fairy tales in The Guardian on that theme, by the way, just in case you want those.’ That’s enough fairies already” he snarks. Yes Peter, we know Evan Davis is gay. Now go back to sleep.

Yes, bigotry is alive and well at Dacre Towers. And that’s not good enough.

Mitt’s Goldfinger Gaffe

[Update at end of post]

We’ve all seen Goldfinger, third in the long-running franchise featuring Ian Fleming’s fictional MI6 operative James Bond, which concludes as the villain of the title ill-advisedly looses off a gun in an aircraft cabin and is sucked out through the shattered window by the force of the depressurisation. So we all know why the windows on modern aircraft are sealed.

I can't open the plane's windows?

All of us, it seems, except US Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who has continued his campaign of gaffes during a fundraising visit to California. Mitt’s wife Ann was also present at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, despite an unsettling moment when the plane taking her to Santa Monica had to make an unscheduled landing at Denver, Co., because of an electrical fault.

And, as the candidate talked of his concern, there came the gaffe: “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous”. Oh dear, Mitt.

So the man bidding to take over the most powerful job in the Western world does not know why aircraft windows do not open. And he believes that this is a problem. Hell, Mitt, it they did open, then it really would be a problem.

[UPDATE 26 September 1215 hours: he didn't mean it seriously, folks, he was joking! Yes, now the story is that the Romney gaffe was really a pre-scripted joke. Really? Now, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here.

One, jokes about aircraft safety, especially just after your wife - who happens to be standing next to you - just got involved in an emergency landing, are Not A Very Good Idea. In fact, if you look at the video of Mitt's remarks, there are Very Few Laughs after he delivers the "joke".

And two, making your joke hard on the heels of being painted as gaffe-prone is only going to make folks think you are indeed gaffe-prone, rather than suddenly having discovered an off-the-wall sense of humour that nobody can remember you having had before.

So the joke is more than likely to end up backfiring. Like this one did]

Monday, 24 September 2012

Monetising The Web

Quality newspapers – the Maily Telegraph at present excepted – are losing money. The Times titles are effectively being cross-subsidised by the seven day Sun, the Independent ones are propped up by the generosity of Evgeny Lebedev, and the deeply subversive Guardian also cross-subsidises the paper from profits made elsewhere in Guardian Media Group (GMG).

The Murdochs have for some time protested at the hated BBC “dumping free content” on the web, which they deem to be jolly rotten, given that the Beeb is funded through the TV licence. By contrast, their paywall model for the Times website does not appear to be doing at all well, with those looking for news and information going instead to the Telegraph and Guardian.

But websites are in themselves not generating sufficient profit, not even Mail Online, with its “sidebar of shame” and borderline soft porn to entice readers to click on its offerings. So the more thoughtful of the media world have at least read through and inwardly digested David Leigh’s suggestion that broadband bills should have a monthly supplement levied to then be distributed around news providers.

The problem with rational assessment of the Leigh idea is that he writes for the Guardian, which would be a prime beneficiary, as well as being a favourite target for the boo-boys on the right who would love nothing more than to see the paper and its influence vanish for good. So the rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog have called the proposal a “bill to bail out bankrupt newspapers”, which it is not.

It’s about content available for free. Fortunately, Dominic Ponsford of Press Gazette, who has contributed an item for the Staggers on the subject, has taken a more rational and constructive view. While he thinks Leigh’s idea is a non-starter, he does concede “Leigh is right that something needs to be done”. He reaches this conclusion after a stark assessment of the “do nothing” scenario.

And that is “Without the work that national and regional newspaper titles do we would be left with a view of the world dominated by PR and advertising with some blogger propagandising thrown in for good measure”. The Fawkes blog, trusted by just 4% of respondents to a recent survey, shows what “blogger propagandising” really means. So what’s his big idea?

My alternative idea is for the Newspaper Publishers Association, the Newspaper Society, the PPA and the commercial broadcasters to get together and create their own news search engine. The accompanying search advertising could then be split between their members ... I suspect that professional publishers’ share of Google’s £3bn in UK advertising income would be more than the £500m brought in by the Leigh tax”.

An interesting starting point – so let’s see the sensible debate begin.

Guido Fawked – Twitter Lawyer Howler

One endless source of material for bloggers is Twitter gaffes. We’ve all done it – put something in a Tweet that might have been better advised remaining unsaid, or relaying information that should have been sent by Direct Message – but when those who set great store by gaffe spotting drop the Twitter clanger, it is particularly enjoyable to call them out. Especially today’s subject.

The rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog has, inexplicably, been given a column by the Daily Star Sunday, most downmarket rag of the Dirty Des portfolio. Equally strangely, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, who frequently asserts that what he calls the “Dead Tree Press” is finished, considers this a great achievement. Most of the paper’s readers probably don’t even notice.

But this consideration does not deter Staines, who proudly announced just after mid-day on Saturday that he had “just filed” the latest Fawkes column (and note that, like his tame gofer, the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, he knows how to talk just like a proper journalist, even though neither of them are). But later in the day came a setback, which Staines also relayed on his open Twitter feed.

We got lawyered” he told Cole six hours later. But then The Great Guido had second thoughts and apparently deleted the entry from his timeline (below). And there it would have remained, had the flannelled fool not Retweeted it. This did not get picked up by the deletion attempt. The impression is given that something was removed from the Fawkes column by Des’ lawyers.

Moreover, it also looks as if Staines originally intended to send Cole a DM, not Tweet the news openly, rather like Lib Dem MP Chris Huhne, whose gaffe was pored over by the Fawkes blog at length, and with much sneering and jeering. So, Fawkes folks, what exactly “got lawyered”? What part of that “copy” that was dutifully “filed” got “spiked” or just re-worded to avoid any comeback?

And, one has to ask, if Dirty Des’ legal eagles are being told to go over the Fawkes column before it gets passed, will it survive the next – inevitable – round of Des’ cuts? Staines has already been less than unequivocal as to whether he and Cole were actually being paid for their efforts, so I’m not expecting a straight answer, but the less than dynamic duo could be judged not to be worth the candle.

Not that they’re bothered about the Dead Tree Press, you understand. Another fine mess, once again.

Mitchell – Damned By Faint Praise

[Update at end of post]

The row now known as Gategate rumbles on, much to the irritation of Young Dave, who thought he had drawn the proverbial line under it, only to discover he hadn’t, thus making him look, well, like an out-of-touch posh boy for not understanding that both Police and general public do not take kindly to those who verbally abuse the cops while their pals call for the arrest of those who, er, verbally abuse the cops.

Nope, they're still locked

Andrew Mitchell has apologised for his rant at the officer who declined to open the gates at the end of Downing Street just so he could ride his bicycle through them without the inconvenience of dismounting and using the side gate. But he has also changed his story, never a good thing in these matters: first he hadn’t sworn, but then “a friend” (that means him really) admitted he had.

But, he maintains, he never called anyone a “pleb”. This, not surprisingly, does not tally with the supposedly “official” report from the officers who were on duty at the time, which by the most miraculous of coincidences has found its way to the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, much to the annoyance of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, who will be expecting the Mail’s finest to match that for tomorrow’s paper.

So the Fourth Estate is on his case, but making matters much, much worse is the foot-in-mouth defence being mounted by those who support him. Pride of place here goes to a singularly ill-advised intervention by Tim Montgomerie on ConHome, where he more or less confirms that Mitchell is just as big a total and unreconstructed bully as his opponents say.

Andrew Mitchell may be a bruiser but let's not forget that the Police Federation has an agenda” asserts Monty. Yes, the Police Federation does indeed have an agenda – sticking up for its members who routinely have to put up with abuse from those among the public who should know better, like Andrew Mitchell. Nowt gets past Monty. But he then drops the Chief Whip in the mire in short order.

He's a bruiser who sometimes winds people up the wrong way ... He was pretty brutal to me at times but it was always because he cared” he continues. This is like a Piranha Brothers re-make, isn’t it? “He was a cruel man ... cruel but fair”. Indeed, Matthew d’Ancona at the Telegraph manages a little Python quotation himself, while pretending that Mitchell is “a decent man” who couldn’t possibly have said “pleb”.

What the parade of right-leaning apologists cannot get into their heads is articulated by the folks at PR Week, where Matt Cartmell has put them straight: his media handling has been “a disaster”. Mitchell has to confront the row over his alleged use of “pleb”. And the Tory Party needs to stop the likes of “Shagger” Mellor making matters worse by smearing the Met with suggestions that the Sun paid them.

Someone who knows his PR should have closed this down by now. Dave? Dave??

[UPDATE 25 September 1450 hours: the Maily Telegraph was first with the complete Police log of the Mitchell swearie, which they have had no hesitation in publishing today. There has been more of that subtle damnation, this time from full-time Tel pundit and occasional London Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who still says that swearing at cops should get the culprits arrested, but that Mitchell is OK because he apologised and there wasn't a complaint. Not yet, perhaps.

However, "The Mole" in The Week asserts plainly that Mitchell is a "dead man walking", and that "he may not lose his job, but he is finished". Ominously, a ministerial colleague is quoted anonymously as asserting that Mitchell "is a nasty piece of work ... and he's disliked right across the party at Westminster", which is code for "Cameron won't sack him? Let's push him a little harder". In the circumstances, Mitchell would be doing everyone in the Tory Party a favour if he falls on his sword - and soon]

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Romney Cheerleaders Versus Reality

They blame the media. They blame the rotten lefties. They blame circumstance, presentation, misunderstanding, and yes, they blame the polls for not giving the numbers that they know favour their party, their candidate, their ticket. The cheerleaders of the right want to believe that the Republican campaign for the US Presidency is not a slow motion car crash.

Another week, another own goal

Their representatives in the UK include the other worldly presence of Janet Daley, who uses her pulpit in the Telegraph to pretend that Mitt Romney is on to a winner with his message that 47% of the electorate aren’t worth bothering with because they’re a bunch of scroungers. Moreover, she asserts that, a week ago, the race was a dead heat, and that it still is close. She’s off her trolley.

And what confirms that Ms Daley is most likely on the District Line train carrying Melanie Phillips beyond Barking is her further assertion that putting Paul Ryan on the ticket has made the GOP even more appealing. Way to go, Jan: yes, in addition to alienating the low-paid, seniors, veterans, African-Americans, Latinos and anyone not rabidly heterosexual, Ryan adds the alienation of many women.

That’s because of his fiercely anti-abortion (under any circumstances) position, and his equally hard line on birth control. This is now sinking in with citizens across the USA, and the results are not looking good, as can be seen from the feedback from the Rand American Life Panel. Far from being tied a week ago, the Democrats were already more than two points ahead. The gap is now over six points.

Will this be taken on board? Doubtful. Not in the world inhabited by another Tel pundit, Tim Stanley, who you can tell as he’s a doctor. Here, Mitt is painted as someone who deep down is a “good citizen”. Yes, and so were Walter Mondale, Mike Dukakis and Barry Goldwater. These were all fine and upstanding citizens. And they all lost Presidential elections. Heavily.

Unless Romney performs some kind of miracle during the Presidential debates – as well as keeping off the gaffes for the next 40-odd days – he will be finished come the election in November. Advisors are jumping ship, as with so many rats. Many on the right are already writing off the poll, choosing instead to focus on 2016 when the Dems will have to choose a new hopeful.

There is nothing to talk up, Telegraph people. Get over it.

Mail Caught Scaremongering Again

The great paradox of rail and air travel is that, while these are nowadays the two safest travel modes for distance covered, the Fourth Estate sets great store by frightening readers by wildly exaggerating any kind of incident involving either mode, while proving reluctant to pony up the numbers showing that the frighteners are not justified. This was illustrated superbly by a recent incident at Birmingham Airport.

A Boeing 737-300 of now defunct carrier BMIBaby

Monarch Airlines, who began operation as the house airline of tour operator Cosmos in the late 1960s with second-hand Bristol Britannia aircraft (and, yes, these are part of my memory of air travel experiences), have of late needed to hire in aircraft to meet schedule commitments. This included a 300 series Boeing 737 of Lithuanian carrier Aurela – until last weekend.

This aircraft was working a sector from Nice to Birmingham on Friday lunchtime. The flight was uneventful, although passengers reported a juddering movement when taxiing at Nice prior to take-off. Approach and landing at Birmingham were also as expected. Then, as the plane taxied from the runway to the terminal, there was more juddering and it left the paved taxiway, coming to rest on the grass.

All of this suggests that there was a problem with steering the aircraft while on the ground. There was no panic and all passengers were disembarked safely. But for at least one paper, this was not enough. There had to be “terrified tourists”. Yes, the Daily Mail, scourge of all sexed-up copy, sexed its copy up. And the stuff they made up on the fly is very, very obvious.

Terrified tourists evacuated from Monarch plane after it overshot the runway and skidded onto grass at Birmingham Airport” screams the Mail headline, which is two porkies already: it wasn’t a Monarch plane, and it didn’t overshoot the runway. But where the Mail veers off its own paved surface is when it introduces “An aviation source at the airport”, who clearly knows nothing about aviation.

One minute you are experiencing a normal landing, the next your [sic] skidding all over the place” it tells. But the landing had been completed, and there wasn’t a skid. “If the plane was coming in at speed, it's a dangerous way to come into land”. It had already landed (see above). “A wet runway could have been a factor but shouldn't have been if everything was working probably [sic]”. See above (again).

And on it drones: “He could have just simply have been going too fast and misjudged the landing”. Bullshit (also see above). “If one reverse thrust engine was on more than the other, that can also cause imbalance”. It wouldn’t have produced the same result (and again I say see above). This contribution is one of towering ignorance and has clearly been made up. It’s blatant scaremongering. It’s bang out of order.

But it gets a few more copies sold, and ups the page hits, so that’s all right, then.