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Friday, 30 November 2012

Leveson – What He Said

Not everyone at the Leveson Report presentation yesterday was taking notes. And not everyone sounding off about it was even there. So it should surprise no-one that one or two details failed to make the newspaper coverage today, not least that the industry was so desperate to head off the potential acceptance of the recommendations by politicians that it was lobbying Leveson beyond all deadlines.

This revelation may not have been in the Executive Summary to which all media organisations have had access. But it was in Leveson’s statement: Lords Hunt and Black had presented to him a yet further revision of their “PCC 2” idea after the report had gone to the printers. There could be no other reason but to try and steal the thunder of what would be in the Report.

In any case, Leveson was clear that the Hunt and Black proposals – all of them – fell well short of what he considered acceptable. This was because what was being proposed did not give the proposed regulator independence from the press, nor the freedom from interference by proprietors and editors. Hunt and Black were still proposing that editors be allowed onto the main board of such a body.

Leveson was adamant that editors should not be allowed to influence any new regulator. This he told with no little feeling. The reason is not hard to find: when Richard Desmond pulled his titles from the PCC, it wasn’t just to save money. Indeed, being outside could make future legal actions more costly for him. There was also the presence of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre to consider.

Dacre had been equally adamant in his evidence before the Leveson Inquiry that any regulator needed editors to be part of it. Leveson showed by both the tone and content of his presentation that this had not persuaded him. Perhaps Hunt and Black will also reveal – as they seem to like giving out information – what input Dacre and his pals are providing for the so-called Free Speech Network.

What Leveson also said – and what is to no surprise also not being reported today – was that a free press was in the public interest, and that he was at all times considering the public interest. That was the first reason why he asserted that there must be legislation: the legal duty of Government to ensure press freedom, that is, free from political interference of any kind.

In doing so, Leveson was offering the press the equivalent of what in the USA is contained within the First Amendment of the Constitution. It would be a form of statute, but then, so is the US Constitution, and the latter is lauded by those across the political spectrum, especially on the right. Instead, the press is smearing and baying, its reporting selective and dismissive.

For some, that is preferable to listening and taking notes. No change there, then.

Leveson – Letts Tell A Few Whoppers

After the Lord Mayor’s show, and all that: this morning, as I signposted yesterday, the odious Quentin Letts (let’s not), who was not taking notes at the presentation given by Lord Justice Leveson yesterday, has offered his routinely dishonest take on proceedings. This is accompanied by the occasional smear, as is obligatory for anyone labouring in the service of Paul Dacre.

Harry Potter and the Gobshite of Arslikhan

Leveson, in the Letts account, “summoned us” – he didn’t, Quent, you had to apply by email for a seat, just like me – to a “windowless room”. With the winter sun outside at a low angle even in the middle of the day, he’d have complained yet louder if it wasn’t. Leveson “entered stage right”. Wrong again, Quent, from where you were sitting it was the left. Minor details, eh?

But do go on. “A smell of garlic filled the room”. It sodding well didn’t, unless it was confined to that front row where you were sitting. Maybe Mail pundits carry some around to ward off marauding facts. Leveson “sat down ... in front of two glasses of clear liquid”. It’s called water, Quent, the same stuff that was being dispensed at the back of the room. You walked past the jugs and glasses to get to your seat.

Never mind, though, Quent’s got a smear up his sleeve: “the old liverspot” he calls Leveson, thus telling his readers that the old boy’s a bit past it. Not as past it as someone who talks of “thumbs intertwined” while the photo used shows nothing of the sort. Nor someone who applied to attend a presentation where he was told there would not be a Q&A, only to whine that Leveson spoke “sans interruption”.

At the end, several people clapped. One gathers that they were not journalists”. You didn’t bother to check, Quent, did you? Most of the people in my field of vision joined the applause, including the team from Northern and Shell, who as any fule kno have been removed from the jurisdiction of the PCC, Richard Desmond’s principal complaint being the disproportionate influence of Letts’ own editor.

Quent also fails to mention the Hacked Off people. It’s not as if he couldn’t see them: Evan Harris, Hugh Grant, the Dowlers and Dr Kate McCann (sitting together across the aisle) were easily picked out by the camera to Letts’ right, and he looked around to his left regularly to talk to a bloke in the second row. If he wanted to know the source of that applause, it was literally right in front of him.

Then there is a final whiff of bullshit: “After that ... we cartwheeled back to the Commons”. No you didn’t – you queued for the lifts (just like I did) before shuffling out the door to the sight of an unfeasibly large number of long lenses. But, like me, none of them would have been interested in Quentin Letts. They were there to record the sight of the victims – the ones Quent doesn’t bother mentioning.

After all, Dacre wouldn’t like that from an obedient hack. No change there, then.

UKIP Fails The Protest Test

[Update at end of post]

Many years ago – we’re going back to the days when what was then just the Liberal Party really could get all its MPs in the back of a London taxi – when Parliamentary by-elections came round, there was the opportunity for a protest vote. This would be aimed at the Government of the day, who would lose a seat to the Liberals, only to regain it convincingly at the next General Election.
The list was once as memorable – Orpington, Birmingham Ladywood, Ripon – as the reversion of the seats was predictable. The Liberals were barely relevant then in Parliament, but they did a cracking by-election campaign. Well, now their successors are in Government, and so when voters want to show momentary displeasure, they have to look elsewhere. Like to Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and UKIP.

UKIP never look close to taking seats at General Elections. But the favourable coverage they have been receiving – generally, from the Europhobes in the press, and specifically with the Rotherham fostering row – plus the ability to put more resources into by-elections, meant they should have had at least one Old Liberal Party Protest Moment last night. They didn’t get any.

Given the abysmally low 33.6% turnout in Rotherham, UKIP had the opportunity, but despite coming second did not seriously trouble a Labour candidate who was not the first choice of many party members. As they are no longer the party of mid-term protest, it was no surprise that the Lib Dems lost their deposit. And the Tories have nothing to smile about, as their vote collapsed too.

True, UKIP also came second in Middlesbrough, but the turnout appears to be even worse than that in Rotherham, and getting 12% of the popular vote isn’t going to get anyone into Parliament (UKIP were also second in the Barnsley Central by-election recently, but again were nowhere near troubling the Labour winner). And coming third in Croydon North masks their only just retaining their deposit.

The only place where UKIP have secured electoral success is in elections for the European Parliament (EP), where persistent low turnout, whipped-up Europhobia and a proportional system all play to the party’s strengths. But that EP presence is going to increasingly come under fire as Farage and his pals’ presence on the expenses gravy train yields little more than the odd yah-boo protest moment.

And the first hint that exit from the EU will cause manufacturers and finance houses to up sticks from the UK – someone has forgotten why Nissan, Toyota and Honda came to Washington, Derby and Swindon in the first place – will hole the good ship UKIP below the waterline. Nigel Farage ought to think on before he cackles a little too loudly into his third pint of Landlord.

Because this is as good as it’s going to get for his party.

[UPDATE 1345 hours: as if to prove me right, one of Farage's supporters has Tweeted a particularly nasty smear illustrating not only their sour grapes at not capturing Rotherham, but the true nature of the party's modus operandi.
"Labour & union activists were telling voters they'd know if they voted UKIP in Roth & they'd lose council hse" was the gist of this particular attack. How voters were known to have council houses in the first place - given that the Council is not the only provider of social housing in Rotherham, and much of the local authority housing stock has already been sold off - is not told. Maybe someone should have engaged brain before Tweeting.
Also not engaging brain is the flannelled fool Henry Cole, odious tame gofer to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, who has retweeted the smear with the endorsement "V big shout". What will Tom Watson make of all that, I wonder? Another fine mess]

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Leveson Live At The Mountbatten Room

So there we all were, gathered together in the room on the very top floor of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, waiting for Leveson. And even as we waited, news came in from those who had already had a sight of the Report and its key points. So who attended? Well, there were few well known faces, and for very good reason – many were legal teams and business executives.

Ready for the off

There was, however, one familiar face on the front row, and that was the odious Quentin Letts (let’s not), who was moreover not taking notes. I mention this in passing, as when Quent gets to file his account of proceedings, he will doubtless demonstrate near perfect recall, if only those details which support his interpretation of what was said, which will be in accordance with his editor’s wishes.

The advisors arrived before Lord Justice Leveson, and I thought David Bell looked remarkably chipper, given the amount of mud that the Mail and Sun have slung at him in the past week and a half. He did look a bit unusual for someone held to be part of a sinister left-wing nexus of power, some kind of leftist equivalent to an old boy’s network and maybe even quasi-masonic.

Filing in and taking their seats – close enough to me for their name tags to be readable – were the legal team from Northern and Shell. Yes, there’s more than one of them: I counted six individuals, all keeping watch on behalf of Richard “Dirty” Desmond, which is interesting considering that Des has already removed his papers from the overview of the PCC.

So perhaps Desmond is worried about what Leveson has to recommend. Also concerned enough to turn up, but not enter the building, was what looked like every snapper in the Greater London area. Never before can groups of people filing in and then filing out of a building have been considered so interesting, nor deserving of communal attendance. And they weren’t the only ones.

I spotted an ITN van outside, which may be only expected, but one from NBC? The whole business must be deemed newsworthy beyond the UK. And that is because the impact of the printed word, despite the protestations of publishers and editors, still carries a crucial impact. It is given a trust that social media is not. Its practitioners wield influence that mere bloggers do not.

So perhaps I should not have been surprised to see the NBC van, or all the snappers. So what light did Lord Justice Leveson shine upon the workings of the press, and what did he recommend for the future? I will consider than next, and then look at the reaction from politicians. As Leveson pointed out, this was the seventh look at the press in 70 years. And on that he had only one further comment.

That was that he would rather there did not have to be an eighth.

Luckhurst Lets It Slip

The desperation emanating from much of the Fourth Estate over the prospect of what might be contained within the Leveson Report is as nothing to the terrible torment demonstrated on Twitter by their pal Tim Luckhurst, professor of journalism at the University of Kent, where management must be hoping that nobody notices that he is in almost permanent wobbler-throwing mode right now.

Tim Luckhurst - man of selective principle

Luckhurst is all about principle, and that principle is that he is right, and anyone who disagrees with him is wrong, to the exent of being labelled a “Marxist”, “Totalitarian”, or worse. Moreover, any reading material he cites is authoritative, while anything not to his liking may be summarily dismissed. And don’t get him started on those who are partial to sun-dried tomatoes.

And in his sights is the Hacked Off campaign, which he clearly considers the gravest of threats to his preferred kind of press freedom. In pursuit of his target, he constructs a straw man of significant dimensions in banging on about democratic legitimacy. Hacked Off has as much of that as his own Free Speech Network, and Lord Justice Leveson has not treated it with any special respect. Wrong indeed.

But Luckhurst is not finished with his democracy angle: those who he claims oppose Hacked Off are “true democrats” who are for his own version of “liberty”, which would be the kind not applied to the Taylor sisters, the Dowler family, the McCanns, or Christopher Jefferies. By definition, Hacked Off is somehow not “democratic”. That’s one very big straw man.

Moreover, any move to change press regulation that does not meet with his approval is also “undemocratic”, and utterly so. Luckhurst’s superior insights extend to calling this “state sanctioned”. Everyone else is whingeing, and indulging in misrepresentation. Those of differing opinion should be subject to an intelligence test: thus the true voice of tolerance and plurality of opinion.

And Luckhurst has one advantage over Hacked Off: a time machine. He can therefore claim the support of John Milton, John Wilkes, John Stuart Mill, George Orwell and Martha Gelhorn. Thus the Free Speech Network is a superior construct to Hacked Off, and they can laugh in the face of the likes of Hugh Grant.

Then Luckhurst finally lets it slip: “If we crush Hacked Off this week” he begins. Yes, the champion of democracy is really about taking the jackboot to those who dare to speak out against the less than shining behaviour of the Fourth Estate. And save us the talk of an “ethical future” – all that means is more papering over of the cracks and editors and owners allowed to carry on as before.

Tim Luckhurst epitomises the desperation of much of the popular press. He reveals its true motives and sheer intolerance of dissent.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Murdoch Is Served (88)


Back in August, Zelo Street covered the legal action begun by Andy Coulson, former Murdoch editor and chief spinmeister to Young Dave, following the decision by News International (NI) to stop paying his legal fees in respect of actions that he had taken while occupying the editor’s chair at the Screws. This effectively left Coulson with a six-figure bill which he would be most unlikely to be able to pay.

Moreover, all those actions had been taken in the service of NI, and were ultimately to their benefit: the Murdoch empire got the stories, the kudos, the sales, and the continuing profits. Their duty to Coulson was clear. And it wasn’t just a matter of duty or logic: a “termination agreement” had been drawn up and signed by all parties when Coulson left his post following the Royal hacking affair.

That agreement not only gave Coulson his company car, share options and reimbursement of expenses incurred during his time at NI, but also contained a Clause numbered 4.6, which as I pointed out at the time gave every appearance of meaning NI could not get out of paying his legal bills.

This is the wording of Paragraph 4.6: “To the extent that it is lawfully able to do so, the Employer will pay any reasonable professional (including, without limitation, legal and accounting) costs and expenses properly incurred by the Employee after the Termination Date which arise from his having to defend, or appear in, any administrative, regulatory, judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings as a result of his having been Editor of the News of the World” [my emphases].

Today’s ruling by Lord Justice Laws, Lord Justice Sullivan and Lord Justice McCombe was to agree that “I am satisfied that clause 4.6 does cover Mr Coulson's costs and expenses of defending the criminal allegations”. Laws made another point.

I cannot accept the judge's view that because Mr Coulson's duties as editor comprised only lawful duties, it cannot have been identified that activities outside his lawful responsibilities would be covered by the indemnity ... That would surely deprive the indemnity of all practical use. It would not even cover the editor for the costs of defending proceedings arising out of the publications of alleged libels or publications said to constitute contempt of court, the very occupational hazards of editorship”. So Andy Coulson gets to retain the shirt on his back, then.

This should be the case whether or not Coulson or any other current or former NI employee is liked, loathed or merely generates disinterest. It’s not about whether he gets guilty or not. It’s that he did what he did for the benefit of the Murdochs and they therefore owe him. Moreover, it just happens to be covered by an agreement signed by Rupe’s old mucker Les Hinton. End of story.

Spectator – Cut Off Nose, Spite Face

And yet still nobody outside Parliament knows what Lord Justice Leveson will propose in his report, to be released to the general public tomorrow. But this has not stopped Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, from assuming that whatever is recommended will not be to his satisfaction, and he has therefore declared that his mag “will take no part in state-sponsored press regulation”.

Fraser Nelson

He goes on “That is to say: we would not attend its meetings, pay its fines nor heed its menaces”. This is a supremely wrong-headed approach, and for several reasons, which I will outline (not least that nobody in his position should jump before knowing how the land lies, and that the report may bring news that will benefit him). But let’s start at the very beginning, which as we know is a very good place to start.

It’s Not His Decision: unless Nelson has already agreed this stance with his publisher and owner – that would be Andrew “Brillo Pad” Neil – then his bluster is immaterial. Neil has not survived in the media business by digging in his heels and refusing to take a pragmatic and practical line along the way. The Spectator’s stance has to make sense for him.

There Will Be Immediate Reputational Damage: if the Speccy refused to join what every newspaper was joining, the conclusion could readily be drawn that the magazine was not sure that its journalism would pass muster on fundamental tests such as accuracy and honesty. Not for nothing does Nelson’s perpetually thirsty pal Paul Staines get himself a 4% trust rating for the Guido Fawkes blog.

It Could Prove To Be Economically Suicidal: were the new regulator to have a complaints procedure that had to be followed and exhausted before going to law, this would work in favour of smaller scale publications. It would have helped the Speccy in the recent case where Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips left the mag with a large legal and damages bill.

One Big Legal Bill Could Finish Them: given the tendency of some Spectator regulars to be of forthright view – no names, no packdrill – a Speccy out on its own and hit with a libel action by someone rich and determined could spell the end. So Nelson and his pals will have to err on the side of caution – after all, they’ll have few friends if they refuse an option that would have headed off such an action.

Ultimately, Nobody Will Care: if the Spectator folded, Nelson and his fellow contributors would be able to claim martyrdom, but after the passage of time, they would all be forgotten, especially if any new regulatory regime is seen to work for press and public alike, and moreso if it maintains freedom of speech while avoiding political interference.

Fraser Nelson’s defiance is a pointless sham – and it will get him nowhere.

Leveson Is Served (35)


Today, Lord Justice Leveson’s report has been passed to Young Dave for his exclusive perusal, and it may not even be leaked to anyone else. The report has been in its final form for some days now. This much is at least conceded by all concerned. But, in advance of general publication tomorrow, the barrage of propaganda from the Fourth Estate shows little sign of letting up.

And typical of the barrel scraping mud-slinging is an attack by Richard Pendlebury on behalf of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre. The Mail piece singles out Gavin Freeguard, who has previously worked for the Media Standards Trust (MST) – indeed, he was the contact for the MST’s Orwell Prize for a while – and who has now secured a role advising Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman.

This is a double bonus for the Vagina Monologue: Ms Harman is a Mail hate figure for, well, being herself, and Freeguard’s presence allows Dacre and his pet hack to wheel out the hatchet job on David Bell, citing a “powerful nexus of left-of-centre individuals”, suggesting that this is all some kind of conspiracy, and for good measure throwing in the name of Johann Hari.

Sadly, what Dacre and his flailing minions cannot or will not take on board is that, as far as the Great British Public is concerned, the game is well and truly up, as a YouGov poll for the MST demonstrates. The sample size, at 3,620 adults, is a large one, and the results should at least cause some editors and owners to stop and think, not least that 79% of respondents backed an independent regulator.

Moreover, 86% believed that continuing with self-regulation would bring the risk of repeated unethical and illegal behaviour. 82% believed that newspapers should be obliged to join a new independent system, and the same percentage said it was no longer acceptable for owners and editors to control the complaints process. Support for an independent regulator was 81% even among Daily Mail readers.

The margin supporting the contention that Government should implement Leveson’s recommendations was ten to one (60% to 6%, the remainder being “don’t knows”). Peter Kellner’s analysis of what we can glean from this and other recent polls makes equally persuasive reading: the current system will not do, and its replacement must be genuinely effective and independent.

Much of this ground was covered by Hugh Tomlinson QC, as I noted the other day. It is, as the hackneyed but true saying goes, not rocket science: regulation that is independent of both politicians and papers that is seen to be fair to all, while protecting the freedom of the press to be otherwise as raucous and analytical as it pleases. It is surely now time for the protests to end and engagement to begin.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Nadine Dorries Foot In Mouth

Catching many by surprise, Tory MP for Mid Bedfordshire (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries arrived back in the UK from Australia to a moderately warm welcome from the press, and much enthusiasm from some who believe the populist rhetoric and are not aware of the less charitable side to her personality. But it has not taken long for Ms Dorries to remind everyone about that.

For starters, there was an act of straightforward dishonesty, as she proudly told that “In my seven and a half years as an MP I think it is important to state that I have never taken a single day away from parliament on one of the many jollies most MPs enjoy to various parts of the world”. As Unity from Ministry of Truth pointed out, she managed to miss a trip to Israel back in 2006.

Moreover, of the five days covered by that trip, Parliament was in session on four of them. And Unity has managed to find a photo from the visit, which does appear to suggest that the term “jolly” would be a fitting one. For those of us who recall her blather about her blog being 70% fiction, or maybe not, this comes as no surprise. And nor has her vicious smearing of a fellow MP.

Steve McCabe, who represents Birmingham’s Selly Oak constituency, has previously mocked Ms Dorries for jetting off to take part in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. So after she met with Tory chief whip George Young and remained suspended but told to “rebuild bridges” with her fellow MPs and constituents, she launched an attack on his Parliamentary attendance record.

What a sensitive soul she is!

Sadly for the fragrant Nadine, she did not bother to find out why McCabe had only attended for 63% of the time that the Commons had been sitting. This was important, as the reason was that he had had open heart surgery and was under doctor’s orders to take it easy while he recuperated. McCabe had done some work in the constituency, but had not travelled to Westminster.

But, as McCabe had reported Ms Dorries to the Parliamentary standards watchdog for employing daughter Philippa – at taxpayers’ expense – he had become fair game. So even after pointing out that he had indeed been recovering from heart surgery, Ms Dorries merely snapped back “I think with your 63% attendance record, you should be quiet. Obviously been taking a few holidays of your own!

And there has thus far been no sign of Nadine Dorries so much as retracting that comment, far less apologising, but then, she tends not to do apologies. What George Young will make of that particular attempt to “rebuild bridges” with her fellow MPs is not yet known. But she is unlikely to have made many friends in the West Midlands today. Or in any other part of the country.

Anyone would think she didn’t care about other MPs. Why might that be?

TPA – Still Sponging Off The Taxpayer

Although they remain implacably opposed to telling anyone who pays the bills, the dubiously talented convocation of non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) are clearly in receipt of more money than they need, as word has gone out that they are expanding. That means more staff, and not mere interns: they’re talking “competitive” remuneration here.

More guff from Tufton Street

So one might think this new injection of dosh would mean the TPA could afford to stump up for its job adverts to be placed in publications and on websites where one has to pay for such things. And, given the impeccably free market and libertarian credentials of this body, they would have no truck with anything funded from the public purse. After all, they surely have things called principles.

Sadly, as with so much that surrounds the right-leaning and libertarian fringe, that thought would be badly misplaced: the TPA is as ready to take a freebie and sponge off the taxpayer as anyone else given the opportunity, despite constantly railing against those who do just that. So their job adverts, to no surprise at all, have been placed on the House Of Commons W4MP site.

Yes, the TPA is once again blatantly sponging off the taxpayer. Moreover, W4MP is primarily about jobs in and around Parliament: the TPA is not thus connected and is merely an Astroturf lobby group. It should not be allowed near that site, and any attempt at further sponging should be directed towards somewhere that charges the full market rate, in line with the TPA’s free market principles.

And it doesn’t get any better with the advert wording: “The TPA is Britain’s independent grassroots campaign for better services and lower taxes” it tells proudly. But it has no grassroots: less than one tenth of one per cent of taxpayers subscribe to its cause. And if it was interested in better services, it would engage with the organisations it complains about, rather than engaging in FoI fishing expeditions.

Candidates are required to have “a sympathy for the objectives of the TPA”, although those objectives are not spelled out in any detail. But help is at hand: I can assist with two of those objectives, having followed the activities of the group for a while now. And one of those is cutting the state back to the kind of size it had immediately before World War 2, which means one thing.

And that is the absence of the NHS. Yes, the TPA wants big tax cuts, but these would benefit their rich backers most, and for ordinary folk, would be eaten up with health insurance premia. On top of that, you can forget free education for all up to age 18. I’m sure that all job applicants will have these objectives spelled out to them, along with at least one good reason for sponging off the W4MP site.

Or perhaps they’ll keep schtum. What a bunch of steaming hypocrites.

Calling Brogan’s Bluff

The Maily Telegraph’s political editor Benedict Brogan used to toil in the service of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre. Anyone who had not already picked up on that detail will have been left in no doubt this morning, after his intervention on the lead up to the Leveson Report: “It has taken the Left years, but finally the press is at its mercy” he thunders, in an almost Pavlovian response to the Dacre bell ringing.

Yes Ben, you've been rumbled

Leaving aside the inconvenient fact that this view is more or less the same one advanced previously in the Mail during its hatchet job on David Bell, and copied assiduously by Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, this is yet another attempt to frighten the readers into then believing any old drivel they are fed on giving the Fourth Estate one last chance.

Yes, the status quo must continue because ... Lefties! That’s Brogan’s argument in a nutshell, and the rest of his screed is no more enlightening, although at one point there is unintended hilarity as he tells that Labour MPs Tom Watson and Chris Bryant “have led the charge against ... Murdoch ... with ... consistently ruthless efficiency”. I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition.

Brogan then signs off, after deploying every left-bashing and smearing technique known in Dacreland, with “My hunch ... is that Mr Cameron will say [the left has overreached itself] on Thursday”. So it’s only fair that we look at how good the Brogan “hunch” has been in the past, and we need go back no further than January 18 last year to see this remarkable device in action.

On that day, Brogan penned “Andy Coulson’s staying power in Downing Street”, telling “Andy Coulson commands an extraordinary hold on David Cameron and the government machine ... the PM shows no sign of being troubled by the difficulties News Corp is having”. Three days later, Coulson walked, and the decision had been made two days previously. That’s the day after Brogan’s article.

The same day that Brogan went into Ron Hopeful mode, I observed “The man from the Maily Telegraph may be nominating himself for a ‘famous last words’ award”. This put him in the same circle of cluelessness as Iain Dale (“Coulson’s accusers can go to hell”) and the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines (“Punters now give Coulson a 96% chance of surviving”).

As I later noted, this inability to read the most obvious of runes was shared with Tim Montgomerie of ConHome, Matthew d’Ancona, and London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. All are in the same camp on Leveson. I will leave it to others to make the connection and conclude just who is calling this one right, and who is going to end up with yet more egg on face.

Wilful denial might look foolish, but it certainly seems to pay the bills.

Monday, 26 November 2012

UKIP: Open Mouth, Insert Foot

While Nigel “Thirsty” Farage feigns outrage at the Rotherham fostering affair, he is in reality ecstatic at all the publicity his party and its by-election candidates are receiving. Sadly, though, not all those candidates are on the same page when it comes to showing the world that they are of mainstream opinion and have no problem with people who speak foreign.

Moreover, UKIP’s founder, Alan Sked, told the HuffPost UK that the party today was “unbelievably right-wing” and was about “creating a fuss, via Islam and immigrants. They've got nothing to say on mainstream issues”. He went on “at the last general election, with the country facing the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, [Ukip's] flagship policy was to ban the burqa”.

And, in case you didn’t quite get that, “They're not an intellectually serious party. Their views on immigrants and on [banning] the burqa are morally dodgy”. Not surprisingly, a UKIP spokesman characterised Sked as merely an embittered former leader, while stressing that the burqa policy had now been dropped. But it was not denied that it was UKIP policy at a General Election in the UK.

But that wasn’t the only shot across the bows of the good ship UKIP: the Croydon Advertiser’s reporter was given an exclusive interview by Winston McKenzie, who is representing UKIP in the Croydon North by-election next Thursday, and he was most certainly not on message where tolerance of minorities is concerned, and especially on the subject of gay marriage and adoption.

McKenzie, who seemed to treat “adoption” and “fostering” as equal terms – they aren’t – said that placing children with gay or lesbian couples was “unhealthy”. When asked why that should be, he explained that the couple might try and raise the child to be gay: “There are people out there who bring up their kids encouraging them to believe they are gay themselves”.

Then he managed, without prompting, to bring deportation into the discussion: “If it's a case of being adopted by a gay couple or deportation then what can do you? But if you ask me, I'm not for heterosexual children being adopted by gay couples”.  And how would he know whether a child was gay or straight? “I don't want to get into that. It's a touchy subject”.

McKenzie then went off on a rant about people who supposedly pretend to be gay: “They can't help it but the other bunch take on being gay as a fashion and push it because they have nothing better to do with their lives. They let the side down”. But he knows that “Whoever has gone out today to make UKIP look really terrible is wrong and it has backfired”. I wouldn’t be too sure about the last part.

Maybe Farage and his pals are not as mainstream as they’d like voters to think.

Leveson Is Served (34)


Cometh the hour, cometh the man: with so many in the press talking the most ridiculous guff about the supposed horrors of what Lord Justice Leveson might dump on their industry, Hugh Tomlinson has cut through all the verbiage and told clearly and concisely what, ideally, should be contained in any new regulatory regime and why it would be beneficial for both press and public.

Tomlinson is not any old lawyer: he represented both Robert Murat and Christopher Jefferies, as well as several slebs who found themselves on the wrong end of the Screws’ appetite for phone hacking. He was at the forefront of pressing for the release of information on MPs’ expenses. And – full disclosure here – he is a founder member of the Hacked Off committee.

His intervention, in The Lawyer, argues that Leveson “should propose a system of media regulation that promotes and protects the right of the media to publish information on public interest matters and the right of the public to receive it” and “should balance between the expression rights of the press with and the rights of individuals to privacy and reputation”.

He continues “It should guarantee the right of the public to accurate information on matters of public concern. It should provide a mechanism for the swift and cost-effective resolution of disputes involving the media”. Two things here: that would encourage the press to more effectively separate news and comment, and would work in their favour – it would bolster, not undermine, public trust.

Moreover, an effective dispute resolution system, which Tomlinson recommends should be exhausted before taking action for libel, would save significant sums of money for all concerned – and such a suggestion gives the lie to those who keep asserting that lawyers will benefit from any new system, their implicit suggestion also being that such people are by definition self-serving.

Then Tomlinson nails it here: “The key features of a system of media regulation that achieves these objectives are independence and effectiveness. The new regulator should be independent of both the Government and the press. This independence should be guaranteed by statute”. Statute, as David Allen Green noted earlier, can be used to guarantee independence. Here is an excellent example.

A regulator that is free of both press and politicians would give much needed confidence to the public. That should be welcomed by the press, and used to show that they are prepared to play hard, but play fair. As I suspect Leveson will propose something rather similar, one has to wonder what all the protests are about. If only those protests were directed to giving the public that same confidence.

Common Purpose Paranoia

Who needs David Icke? When it comes to raging paranoia, built on the back of a good old-fashioned whipped-up conspiracy, there was nothing to beat the former sports presenter and self-styled healer, but now even the excursions into La-La land no longer need him: since the Daily Mail went after training and networking organisation Common Purpose, they’ve all been jumping aboard the bandwagon.

The Mail hatchet job was of course intended first and foremost to discredit the Leveson Inquiry, by undermining the legitimacy of his advisors. In the case of David Bell, this was partly achieved by linking him to Common Purpose. Then the Mail found “indirect” links between the group and two other Leveson advisors, and from there asserted that it was “the left’s old boy network”.

Moreover, it was an “incestuous” organisation, and may have broken Data Protection law once, as opposed to the Mail, which in hiring Steve Whittamore, broke Data Protection laws on well north of three hundred occasions. The supposed revelations were in reality little more than a petulant rant crossed with the Mail’s expertise in nudge-nudgery, but that was enough for the paranoia to take hold.

And to no surprise at all, those usual suspects included James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, who has combined the Rotherham UKIP fostering row with Have I Got News For You to decide that Ian Hislop may not be part of Common Purpose, but is somehow in league with it. Del Boy talks of a “secretive Fabian organisation” and laughably calls the Mail hatchet job a “bravura investigation”.

Private Eye is then smeared as “soft-left establishment”, HIGNFY is said to be in thrall to Common Purpose graduates, and the Mail’s piece is declared to be “established fact rather than conspiracy theory”. Hislop is denounced for not offering evidence to support his scorning the Mail attack, and yes, this comes from someone who never offers credible evidence to support his ranting and abuse.

And Delingpole is not alone: the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, who styles himself Guido Fawkes, has warned of “the Common Purpose organisation which pursues a ‘we know best’ Fabian-style progressive agenda in the public sector”, this being proved because the Rotherham council Director of Childrens’ and Young Peoples’ Services went on one of their courses.

Staines sounds as if he is channelling Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips, as he talks of “progressive ideologues ... obsessive efforts to normalise and celebrate non-traditional family structures ... progressive imperative ... undermining marriage”. I’m sure Staines and Delingpole are not paranoid, but that doesn’t mean they’re not coming to get them.

Pity David Icke: thanks to the Mail and its devotees, we no longer need his wisdom.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Press Reform – No More Last Chances

[Update at end of post]

As the Fourth Estate maintains its attempts to strong-arm politicians into doing their bidding after Lord Justice Leveson presents his report on Thursday next, the Mail On Sunday has presented what looks at first like the voice of sweet reason, admitting that there has been inexcusable behaviour, and that the Hunt and Black plan will make things better. But in reality it is just another excuse note.

This may have been authored by Geordie Greig, now editor of the Sunday title, but will have been drafted with the approval of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, without whose approval no-one in Mail land keeps well. The style of the editorial piece looks to show contrition, but the underlying tone on phone hacking and contempt of court is that “they should have prosecuted so it’s not our fault”.

There is no doubt that the British newspaper industry will in future be more restrained” it opines, but they said that last time, and the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that, going back to 1953, as the Hacked Off campaign has summarised today. The same paper suggests that Young Dave will let the press off with another last chance. This is not credible any more.

It goes on “The press treatment of Christopher Jefferies, the blameless Bristol teacher groundlessly suspected of involvement in the murder of Joanna Yeates, was unequivocally wrong and should never be repeated”. Two things there: Jefferies is retired, and is no longer a teacher. And he is in no doubt that the Hunt/Black plan will not improve matters – and that the misbehaviour will be repeated.

Fleet Street understands very clearly that it bears a heavy responsibility for maintaining, preserving and strengthening the great treasure of British press freedom” comes the protest, but whoever wrote this just does not get it: nobody, but nobody, wants to harm press freedom. The problem is that the mantra of “press freedom” has been used to justify some quite unacceptable behaviour.

Without such a confident press, who would have dared name the culprits in the Stephen Lawrence murder, as our sister paper did?” it continues, managing not to understand that Paul Dacre and the Mail’s lawyers went ahead because they were confident that the potential sales boost well exceeded the vanishingly small possibility of any of those named being able (or prepared) to sue.

Other countries, such as Ireland and Denmark, have far more rigorous press regulation and still retain press freedom – and free speech. As for an underpinning statute, as David Allen Green has told, “What ‘statutory’ does not necessarily mean is that either government or parliament will have any control or influence over the activities of a statutory body”. The Mail On Sunday editorial is mere empty talk.

And we have had quite enough of that. Now let’s hear what Leveson recommends.

[UPDATE 26 November 1435 hours: the Sun's Trevor Kavanagh may not have read the MoS editorial, but his latest press excuse note is remarkably similar in both content and ground covered.

The sentiments are utterly predictable: "special new laws ... legal shackles ... nobody thinks it is a priority", and then he goes totally gaga. "Health and safety regulation seemed a good idea at the time ..." he whines. Dead bloody right it did, and for one very good reason - in the days before H&S, workplace injuries and deaths were a regular occurrence. Would the Sun's man like to return to those times? If so, he should stop using his mealy-mouthed whining as a smokescreen and say so.

Then he concludes "The world will be watching our reaction to the Leveson Report". Very good, Trev - you just said nobody thought it was a priority, remember? Try scribbling with the Autopilot disengaged for once]

Leveson Is Served (33)


The Daily Mail has a history of less than tolerant behaviour towards minorities. Nowadays it’s Muslims, travellers and anyone of minority sexual preference, but in the past it included, at least by implication, followers of Judaism. Thus the paper gave its wholehearted support to Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts in the 1930s, an openly fascist party with Nazi sympathies.

The anti-Jewish tendency receded in the light of events during the Second World War, but such is the desperation of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and his obedient hacks – and this includes the Mail On Sunday, of which he is Editor in Chief – that today the smear has been exhumed so that the MoS can put the boot in to Lord Justice Leveson, in advance of his report being published.

Not content with the shamelessly dishonest headline from the online version of “Cameron set to defy Leveson on law to allow state-controlled press... for now”, which once more not only suggests knowledge the MoS doesn’t have, but also wilfully misrepresents statutory underpinning, Mick Hume’s “Q&A” addendum to Simon Walters’ article goes further.

In reply to the question “Who is Lord Justice Leveson?” the answer given is “Brian Leveson PC [Privy Council] QC is a Liverpool-born, Oxford-educated Orthodox Jewish lawyer”. You read that right. Quite apart from being inaccurate – Leveson was educated at Liverpool College and only took his first degree at Oxford – none of that has any relevance to his presence as head of the Inquiry.

And the only reason for digging up “Liverpool-born” is for the sniffier part of the punditry to look down their noses: they’re all crims and whingers, because, well Kel said so and so did Bozza’s magazine, so they must be. Then there is “Orthodox Jewish Lawyer”, which is loaded with prejudicial bigotry. Leveson is a Lord Justice. So we don’t need to know that he’s a lawyer. It’s blindingly obvious.

Moreover, that he is Jewish is not even slightly relevant to the conduct of the Inquiry, and whether or not he is more or less Orthodox is neither here nor there. So why has the MoS let that one past the sub-editors? There can be only one reason: that it is part of the paper’s script. The Dacre campaign against Leveson is now so desperate that a little anti-Semitism has been sanctioned.

No doubt there will be protests along the lines of “we employ Jewish people so we can’t be bigoted”, but they pulled that one with gays, wheeling out Andrew Pierce on the one hand while letting Letts and Littlejohn put the boot in on the other. Forget the article trying to pretend Young Dave will do the Fourth Estate’s bidding – the real story is that the Mail is prepared to sink so low. Bang out of order.

Top Six – November 25

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

6 Leveson Is Served (30) Not that they were biased, but hacks from the Sun and Mail queued up to denounce whatever Lord Justice Leveson recommended and threaten whatever retribution they could muster.

5 Guido Fawked – No Trust, No Principles The identity of those who exchange emails with you is confidential, isn’t it? Not for the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, who styles himself Guido Fawkes, it isn’t. Another fine mess.

4 Mad Mel Twitter Hypocrisy Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips told of a “sadistic mob” on Twitter getting to thousands of users. But what she didn’t tell readers was about sadistic mobs on newspaper websites getting to millions, going around trashing reputations – like her good self.

3 Rotherham, UKIP, And What We Don’t Know Michael “Oiky” Gove and Nigel “Thirsty” Farage went off the end of the pier over the Rotherham fostering row. But there is a lot about this case that we still don’t know. What we do know is that every political party is trying to use the story for its own ends in the run-up to the by-election next Thursday.

2 Murdoch Is Served (86) The photos of Saddam Hussein in his underpants that appeared simultaneously in Murdoch papers on both sides of the North Atlantic may have been obtained by paying a US official. That’s naughty.

1 Cyril Smith And Child Abuse Past allegations against the late MP were back in the papers this week. Here’s the original story from Private Eye, published in May 1979, which shows what is being investigated.

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

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Rotherham, UKIP, And What We Don’t Know

[Update at end of post]

I have no doubt that Tony Gallagher hates his paper being characterised as the Maily Telegraph. But the fact remains that his top story today – that two foster parents allegedly had three children withdrawn from their care because they were members of UKIP – would never have appeared in the Telegraph of old. This would have been Daily Mail or Daily Express material.

I shot my mouth off? Perish the thought!

But the Mail is today hung up on gay marriage (because the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre does not approve of such things), and the Express on another of Nathan Rao’s weather shock horror splashes (because it’s free), so the Tel it is. And the first thing that comes clear from looking at what information there is about the case, and the reaction to it, is that there is a lot here we don’t know.

Moreover, despite there being a lot that we don’t know, that has not stopped some of those who should know better – most prominently Michael “Oiky” Gove – from shooting their mouths off anyway. Gove denounced the move by Rotherham council as the “wrong decision, made in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons”, following which he said his Department would “ask the necessary questions”.

Why would they do that? Well, that would enable them to find out what happened, which is all very well, but their boss has already opened his North and South and condemned the decision, so if his Department still has to find out what happened, Gove cannot have known how the decision was reached, and for what reasons, and in what way, so he should have kept schtum until he knew more.

What we also don’t know is the full story: the council has talked about the “ethnic needs” of the children, but that just leaves us with the Telegraph story, which by its very timing must raise suspicion: there is a Parliamentary by-election in Rotherham next Thursday, which Labour would have expected to win comfortably. But as the majority party on that council, they now have a problem.

That is despite the action of council officers not being based on the political leanings of the council, and party officials and MPs all the way up to Mil The Younger have expressed concern about the affair. They too want to know what is going on. One person who doesn’t seem to need any further information, of course, is Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, who is milking this for every vote he can get.

And one has to bear in mind that, despite Farage’s protests that UKIP is not a racist party, you don’t have to look far to find cases like their election agent Maggie Chapman, whose language suggests the Farage message of inclusivity has not yet reached her. Moreover, “Oiky” Gove should remember that it was his party leader who called UKIP “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”.

Before everyone jumps to conclusions, let’s find out what’s really happening here.

[UPDATE 1 December 1010 hours: as has now been revealed by the deeply subversive Guardian, there is indeed more to this case than the Telegraph article was letting on. The children were from an Eastern European Roma family, there now being a Roma population of around 3,500 in the Rotherham area. Small wonder that UKIP and the BNP have done better than might be expected in the by-election: Roma are a favourite whipping-boy for the anti-immigration brigade.

There was also the concern that foster placements would leave the children unable to speak their mother tongue, and there were safety concerns not just for the children, but also the foster parents, in case the birth parents found out where they were living. Moreover, the reason for the children being taken into care in the first place - concerns over the birth father - appear to have been resolved.

Added to all of that is ongoing tension between the Roma community and Rotherham council, partly stoked by media reports in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which has left a deep mistrust over the motives of the authorities. There is no doubt more to come on this case.

But there has been no expression of regret from Nigel "Thirsty" Farage, nor from "Oiky" Gove. Nor, I suspect, will there be, and nor will there be any regret from the papers who pounced on Rotherham council, demanding resignations and routinely smearing its staff. What was that about the press getting its house in order?]

Dorries The Delusional

Although she has been evicted from the latest series of ITV reality show I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, Tory MP for Mid Bedfordshire (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries is still in Australia, and will be until early next month, as part of her commitments to the show. But this has not stopped her giving an exclusive to Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun.

And that interview gives every impression of showing that, whichever planet Ms Dorries is currently inhabiting, it isn’t the same one as her fellow MPs, and certainly not the one where Young Dave and his jolly good chaps live. “REBEL Tory Nadine Dorries last night vowed to use her I’m A Celebrity fame to topple PM David Cameron” begins the article, illustrating her restraint and modesty.

The piece then tells that the fragrant Nadine is nicknamed “Balls of Steel”, which she isn’t. Anyone of either sex considered “ballsy” doesn’t resort to smearing their Lib Dem opponent at a General Election as a “stalker” – a needlessly pejorative term that should be beneath an MP – or constantly engage in mean-spirited bad mouthing of their party leadership that has gone beyond making that “posh boys” point.

But Ms Dorries has got a way forward for her party, and that is to swap one posh boy for another: she is enamoured of the supposed talents of London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, believes that he is the saviour of the Parliamentary Tory Party, and that with him in 10 Downing Street, everything in the true blue garden will be wonderful – and highly popular.

Alongside this mildly optimistic set of assumptions is the frankly strange Dorries view of the current leadership: Cameron is alleged to use a “control mechanism” and “tamper” with the way MPs vote. Have I got news for Nadine – it’s called the Whips’ Office, and she’d have to live with it whoever was PM. And Bozza wouldn’t get her any nearer to lowering the 24 week limit on abortions.

One only has to look at the way that Johnson has discharged his mayoral duties – and his relationship with London’s only evening paper – to see that Bozza follows the money and the freebies, while keeping his pals sweet and not giving a toss about the rest. His appetite for vanity projects, if transferred to the national arena, would be utterly disastrous for his party, although maybe not for him personally.

This does not appear to trouble Nadine Dorries. It should do. She’d get no more of her agenda progressed under Bozza as she is doing now with Young Dave. She’d get none of that freedom she clearly believes Johnson would bring. And, as for the idea that “I can’t be de-selected” – don’t you believe it. Johnson would be if anything more ruthless than Cameron in order to get his way.

Anyone believing otherwise is simply delusional. Like Nadine Dorries.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Green Energy Smears Continue

Today I have discovered a hack who is more shameless than Quentin Letts (let’s not), Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan, Simon “Enoch was right” Heffer and any of their colleagues at the Daily Mail and Maily Telegraph: step forward Rowena Mason, who has penned the ridiculously titled article “Wind farms to increase energy bills by £178 a year”. Because they won’t, and she says so herself.

Not actually guilty, m'Lud

She does? Ho yus. Just look at the sub-heading: “Energy bills are poised to rise by up to £178 a year under a deal struck between George Osborne and the Liberal Democrats to pay for a series of wind farms and nuclear power stations”. And as we all know, the phrase “up to” includes the figure zero. Oh, and what was that little detail tacked on the end about nuclear power stations?

But first, the numbers: “Energy bills have more than doubled since 2004 to more than £1,300 a year per household, largely due to rising gas prices. Bills will go up over the next two decades by an estimated £178 a year under all the Government’s green and fuel poverty policies, with the contribution to nuclear and renewables making up £95 by 2020”. Ms Mason should be working at the Express.

So if the contribution to renewables, and the nuclear cost, are equivalent, that makes them both £47.50 by 2020, or around 25% of the figure claimed in the headline. And with each new nuclear reactor coming in at around £7 billion at today’s figures, coupled to the proposal to build at least ten of them that has already been floated, you can see where most of that £95 is going to go (not on wind power).

But why hasn’t any new nuclear capacity already been started, given that Sizewell B was completed in the early 1990s and first generation Magnox stations have been shutting down their reactors in the intervening period (one reactor at Wylfa, the last Magnox plant to be completed, is still running, but will be shut down for good in 2014)? Ah well. The market somehow did not provide.

This is what the Telegraph, and all the other right leaning, libertarian and free market supporting enthusiasts will not tell you. Nuclear programmes such as that in France have gone ahead because successive Governments have stood behind them. The UK’s nuclear stations only got built because the then CEGB was a nationalised undertaking. The private sector will no longer take the risk with nuclear power.

Left to its own devices and shorter-term goals, the market has provided lots of gas fired power stations that will become increasingly expensive to fuel (and before anyone shouts “shale gas”, let’s see it properly costed, rather than the usual hectoring hot air). Where that has left the UK is with another case of “If I wanted to get there, I wouldn’t start from here”.

But Rowena Mason would rather tell her readers fairytales about windmills instead.

Leveson Is Served (32)


As notice has duly been given that Lord Justice Leveson’s report into the culture, practices and ethics of the press will be published on Thursday November 29, and that the report is available for pre-order, with a summary also available at time of publication for those unwilling to shell out over £200, it can be concluded that the content has already been finalised.

So now the barrage of sometimes threatening behaviour by the Fourth Estate has moved from trying to bully Leveson into changing the content – a supremely pointless exercise – to trying to bully MPs into rejecting it. And the bullying and threats have come together in an attempt by Associated Newspapers (publishers of the Daily Mail, to no surprise) to force the issue.

On Associated’s behalf, Peter Wright, former editor of the Mail On Sunday, has written to all Tory MPs – presumably Labour and Lib Dem ones were deemed not worthy of arm-twisting – telling them “I am taking the liberty of enclosing a copy of last Friday's Daily Mail. In case you missed it due to last week's recess”. This is the issue which dedicated eleven pages to smearing Leveson advisor David Bell.

Wright goes on “it contains a special investigation into the links between Leveson inquiry assessor Sir David Bell, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism behind the defaming of Lord McAlpine, and the various vociferous lobby groups calling for statutory regulation of the press”. Yes, lobbying against the preferences of the Mail is “vociferous”. Not like Wright’s own concluding remarks.

I fully understand you will have your own views on the issues surrounding press regulation. All I would hope is that, with Lord Justice Leveson's report now imminent, you find time to read this investigation, and give it some consideration before deciding your response” he tells those Tory MPs. That’s code for “we know where you live” and a threat not to stray into the wrong voting lobby.

While that level of nastiness is only to be expected, a novel side-show has been provided by Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, who superbly demonstrates Olbermann’s Dictum (“the right exists in a perpetual state of victimhood”) as he whines about politicians contacting him to express displeasure at the behaviour of his writers. Like they have done for decades. Pull the other one.

Nelson, previously a Screws columnist, has also penned a Telegraph article in which he makes comparisons with Bahrain – a welcome change from Zimbabwe – and then says that we should “declare a truce”. Oh what a giveaway! Here is an admission, however inadvertent, that the press believes it is at war. Thus the convocation of paranoia, threats and bullying was completed.

Cyril Smith And Child Abuse

[Update at end of post]

In the wake of the still mounting allegations about the past conduct of Jimmy Savile have come other stories of young people being routinely abused. The North Wales care homes scandal has been re-examined, and now there are murmurings about the late Cyril Smith, famously oversized MP for Rochdale from his 1972 by-election victory until stepping down in 1992.

He really was that fat

And now the Police are to re-examine their records from the 1960s and 1970s to try and clear up whether Smith was indeed involved in less than appropriate behaviour in his interactions with young males. But the current coverage does not go into any detail, which is interesting, given that it has been there for more than 33 years, having been detailed in Private Eye back in May 1979.

Moreover, the Eye had merely taken previously published copy from the Rochdale Alternative Press (RAP), and in neither case was any action taken by Smith or anyone acting on his behalf. The allegations centred on Cambridge House Boys’ Hostel, opened by the Rochdale Hostel for Boys Association. Smith was its secretary at the time (all of the cases date from the early 60s, the hostel closed in 1965).

Eye 454 - click for full size image

The Eye account is reproduced here, so that Zelo Street readers can peruse it. Three accounts have been quoted: the first man told that “He took me into the Quiet Room. He told me to take my trousers and pants down and he hit me four  or five times with his bare hands on my bare buttocks”.

The second man’s account was rather more eyebrow raising: “He then told me to take off my trousers and pants and bend over his knee. He trapped my hands between his legs. He hit me many times with his bare hand, and I pleaded with him to stop, because he was hurting me. This took place at the hostel. Afterwards, he came to my bedroom and wiped my bare buttocks with a sponge”.

And a third man recalled “After a few days I was given a kind of medical examination by Cyril Smith. He told me to take my trousers and pants down. He held my testicles and told me to cough”. These accounts were not the only ones given under oath to the RAP – there were four others. And, on top of those, there was an account given by a detainee at Risley Remand Centre, which triggered a Police investigation.

After all of that, it is not certain what happened to the file generated by that investigation: the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) appears to have developed selective amnesia about it at the time the RAP tried to find out. But, even though the Staggers also reprinted the allegations, no writs flew and no action was as much as threatened. Maybe the new investigation will find out.

But it’s another example, like Savile, where the facts only emerge after they die.

[UPDATE 28 November 0930 hours: it has now been confirmed that the DPP were asked to consider prosecuting Smith on no less than three occasions, but each time no further action was taken, as it was believed there was not a reasonable chance of obtaining a conviction.

However, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has now ruled that "prosecutions that would not have been attempted in the past are now brought successfully". Moreover, "if the same evidence was presented to the CPS today there would have been a very realistic prospect that Smith would have been charged with a number of indecent assaults, and that the case would have been brought to trial".

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have concluded that Smith did sexually abuse young men in the 1960s]