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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Sun Washes Hands Of Polish Victim

The thought that any of the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker possessed even the faintest trace of self-awareness vanished for good today as the Super Soaraway Currant Bun took time off from administering a punishment beating to singer Lily Allen to tell readers, in a suitably shocked tone, “Murder Probe: Six Held … KILLED BY TEEN MOB FOR BEING POLISH … ‘Attacked over foreign lingo’”.
This story is, for some reason, not prominently displayed on the paper’s website, but is not difficult to turn up. “Gang of 12 teens beat family man to death after hearing him chatting to pals … FACTORY worker Arek Jozwik, 40, was rushed to hospital after assault but died from serious head injuries … SIX boys aged 15 and 16 have been questioned over the killing of a Polish man - allegedly beaten to death after a gang heard him speak a foreign language”. And there is more - rather a lot more.
Arek Jozwik, 40 was attacked by a teenage mob as he chatted to Polish pals outside a pizza takeaway in Harlow, Essex … The brother of the Polish man claims  he was attacked by the teenagers because they heard him speaking in his mother tongue … Mr Jozwik died of head injuries after he and two Polish friends were beaten unconscious in what police believe may be a hate crime”. Who might have been behind that hatred?
At that point, the Sun tries to suggest the attack happened partly because Jozwik and his pals didn’t go and eat their pizza somewhere else, or that the Police should have been on the scene and weren’t. What they are not doing is to reflect on their own poisonous coverage of anything and everything concerning migrants from Poland.
Even it today’s paper, while Page 5 tells readers “Kids heard him talking Polish and in seconds 12 attacked”, on Page 2 we see “Employment Shambles … 800,000 HIDDEN MIGRANTS IN JOB … EU workers ‘significantly higher’ that stats”. And then there are all the pejorative stories run at the time of the referendum in June.
Earlier this month the Sun ran “EU RIGHTS ROW … Only 600,000 EU citizens may be at risk if we leave the EU in 2019 … IF BRITAIN LEAVES EU IN 2019 WE WON’T BE ABLE TO BOOT OUT 3M”. Wonder what effect that had on the bigots? Or what about the infamous March front page Exclusive: “EU Welfare Farce … POLE CHANCERS … Migrants’ guide to raking in UK benefits”?
Or what about the front page the day after the referendum, with its “SEE EU LATER” headline? And all the suggestions that there would no longer be people talking foreign on the high street, that all those Polish shops with their funny food and letters that were difficult to pronounce would magically vanish?

Small wonder the Sun isn’t shouting about this story on its website right now. It’s just a pity that the likes of Rebekah Brooks, probably too busy networking, Tony Gallagher, who may still be editor of the Sun if only in name, and PR Dylan Sharpe couldn’t see what was coming. You poison the minds of the public, the poison infects their pals, their friends, their children … and you get an innocent bloke kicked to death.

As Stanley Baldwin put it, the prerogative of the harlot through the ages - power without responsibility. The Sun and its hacks should hang their heads in shame - but they won’t.

Sun’s Lily Allen Obsession BUSTED

Singer Lily Allen was at the Notting Hill carnival last weekend. There, she drank some cider, had a swig or three of JD, and may have smoked a roll-up. And, so what? Well, for one newspaper, this was a big deal. A big deal that has spilled over from Sleb interest into the creepiest kind of obsession. Because Lily Allen has incurred the displeasure of Rupert Murdoch, a man with no discernible sense of humour.
Lily Allen

After the Sunreported” on Ms Allen overdoing it at the Carnival - that’s “reported” as in the online copy of the article featuring a video clip and Twenty-Seven photos - complete with the obligatory “an onlooker” (code for “someone in the Sun newsroom who’s good at making stuff up”) and graphic description of events, which involved an obsessive pursuit of her and her friends, has come another hatchet job today.

PICKLED LILY After carnival carnage we look at the debauched decade that’s turned Lily Allen from budding star to tortured soul … Mum-of-two pop star is partying harder than ever as her marriage falls apart - leaving pals fearing she's headed for an almighty fall”. Which “pals” would those be? As if you need to ask: we get one “source close to the singer”, which means a Sun hack who once met her.

Then there is “a source”, which means roughly the same as “an onlooker”, and just for good measure “a music source”, which probably means a Sun hack who knows how to download stuff from iTunes. All of those not-really-pals of Ms Allen agree that her life may be “spiralling out of control”. But it was an incident where Ms Allen was very much in control that sparked the obsession, not that the Murdoch doggies will tell you that.
The real reason for the Sun’s obsession is nothing to do with concerns for Ms Allen’s health, but a straightforward punishment beating meted out as crude and vindictive retaliation for what happened only last month, when she met Don Rupioni at a garden party. She didn’t just meet him, she let the world know about it.
Taking to Twitter, she told her followers “I'm at a garden party. Hope I'm not sitting next to Voldemort or Fromage. I might be sick”. Voldemort was a reference to Murdoch. Fromage was former UKIP leader Nigel “Thirsty” Farage. Creepy Uncle Rupe is clearly not best pleased at being snapped by Ms Allen. He will have been even less happy at her Tweeting a brief video telling “Liam Fox , Murdoch and Farage , breaking bread here”.
This showed the continuing ability of an interfering foreigner to stick his bugle into UK politics - and the willingness of clowns like Fox to indulge him. But it was another short video Ms Allen Tweeted out, showing Murdoch being led away by new wife Jerry Hall, that sealed her fate. It was captioned simply “Nappy change”.

Rupert Murdoch doesn’t do “sense of humour”. Nor does he tolerate mere upstarts suggesting that he might be past his prime. He therefore has to show that he is still strong. Hence the hit pieces in the Sun, with all their voyeurism and obsession.

That’s what happens when you cross Rupert Murdoch. No change there, then.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Andrew Gilligan Fails Upwards

No hack or pundit was more useful to the campaigns for the London Mayoralty of former very occasional incumbent Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson than Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan, who spent the best part of Bozza’s 2008 and 2012 sorties denouncing Ken Livingstone as a “liar” while turning a blind eye to inconvenient facts such as Bozza being a serial, er, liar. He was rewarded with a job in the Johnson administration.
Gilligan had already made a name for himself by making claims for his particular brand of journalism that it did not merit: back in 2003, he had almost single-handedly hobbled the BBC not merely by his decision to kick off a fight with Alastair Campbell, but also by his inability to take notes in a fashion which would enable him to stand up his claims before a judicial Inquiry. The BBC disposed of his services soon afterwards.

More recently, Gilligan has been writing scare stories to order on the HS2 project, including two articles claiming that the trains would derail at high speed. The selective nature of his research has been the subject of adverse comment here on Zelo Street - see posts HERE and HERE - although the more easily persuaded part of the Fourth Estate, plus the usual cast of anti-HS2 activists, has duly lapped up his propaganda.

All of that, though, came to an end in May when the purge at the Telegraph extended to include him. Gilligan kept confirmation of his exit from the Buckingham Palace Road bunker quiet, but no more: he will join the Murdoch Sunday Times as a part-time “Senior Correspondent”. And there is rather more in Dominic Ponsford’s report.

Gilligan wrote for the Telegraph part-time whilst also working for London mayor Boris Johnson as his cycling commissioner … At the Sunday Times he will have a brief to work on investigations and exclusive stories. He will be part-time at the title whilst also working for the Policy Exchange think tank”. So does that mean Gilligan has, in the wake of his hero Bozza leaving City Hall, departed from his part-time post there, too?

Perhaps he will be able to rectify the omissions he made after his pal Bozza became London Mayor: as Ponsford tells, “Gilligan joined the Evening Standard in 2004 and won the Press Gazette British Press Award for journalist of the year in 2008 … The BPA judges praised his series of stories revealing allegations of corruption surrounding the office of then-London mayor Ken Livingstone”. But he missed Bozza’s contribution to the genre.

So all the wasted money on the vanity cable car, vanity buses, vanity Garden Bridge, vanity water cannon, and the rest eluded Gilligan. So did the cronyism. That is what the ST’s readers have to look forward to: selective use of facts, recycling of scare stories about HS2, turning a blind eye to that part of the establishment prepared to bung him a sinecure, and a tendency to pretend that everyone else is a liar.

Gilligan might even bring his own fire extinguisher to the Baby Shard bunker. Bring on the combination of fact checkers and burning trousers.

Irexit Fantasy Fawked

The weird and wacky parallel universe inhabited by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog has seen some remarkably foolish ideas floated over the years, but few have come close to the suggestion that Ireland may be on the brink of leaving the EU because of the result of the UK referendum. But Staines, who holds Irish nationality, is apparently convinced that it’s going to happen.
To this end, the Fawkes blog has today brought forth a particularly pungent and indeed steaming missive telling readers “EU Ruling Against Ireland Will Boost Chances Of Irexit … EU About To Boost Irexit Prospects Massively”. So what grounds does The Great Guido have for backing the Irexit Massive? “The European Commission is expected to levy a judgment against Apple soon that could total in the billions of euros”.

So that’s it, is it? “This is as a result of Apple domiciling in Ireland and benefiting from its competitive tax regime. Essentially the Commission is seeking to undermine Ireland’s low tax policy which attracts multi-nationals to the Western periphery of Europe”. Except for the ones that are attracted to Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and, well, many other EU member states. But do go on.

Ireland’s EU burden share will increase post-Brexit as the EU loses the second biggest net-contributor. This will change the debate, particularly as Dublin watches Ireland’s biggest trading partner Britain continue to thrive outside the EU”. Britain, as Staines ought to know, has not left the EU yet. Moreover, he might live in Ireland, but, in the words of the old Ford Fiesta advert, he needs to get out more.

Support for remaining within the EU in Ireland is the thing that is massive, as the Irish Times told only last month: “Support for remaining a member of the EU closely mirrored views on the British decision to leave. Less than one in 10 voters (9 per cent) are in favour of following Britain out of the union, while a whopping majority (86 per cent) believe Ireland should stay in. Five per cent say they don’t know”. 86% for remaining.

Well, how about having a referendum on Ireland’s membership of the EU? Wouldn’t that be a good idea? The Journal, after telling its readersA new campaign group calling itself Ireland Exit has launched an official campaign for a referendum on Ireland’s EU membership … The centre-leaning group says it believes ‘the time is right’ for such a referendum”, asked its readers what they thought. So, “Should Ireland hold a referendum on leaving the EU?” Result - 68% said No. No to even having a vote.

And it gets worse for the Fawkes rabble: a few days after the UK result was announced, Irish Central declared “Massive support for a united Ireland poll after Brexit”. Northern Ireland voted to Remain in the EU. After reminding readers that “The 1998 Good Friday agreement has a provision for such a vote”, the question was asked, and the answer was emphatic: “Out of the 3,381 of you who voted in the poll, 88% believe that now is the time for a border vote on a united Ireland”. The Great Guido is totally out of touch.

Something for Staines to consider over his chorizo burger and bottle of Chablis this lunchtime. Yes, for this Man Of The People, it’s yet Another Fine Mess, once again.

Telegraph Pounds And Ounces - BUSTED

Once again, the desperation of increasingly stretched Telegraph hacks and an editorial line that requires the elevation of every scrap of anti-EU sentiment to the level of serious discussion have come together to give readers another slice of hokum as they are told - with a straight face - “Shoppers want fruit and veg in pounds and ounces”. This story carries the by-line of “Chief political correspondent” Christopher “No” Hope.
Ignoring for the time being all those shoppers who are already buying their fruit and veg not in pounds and ounces from Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Waitrose, Aldi, Lidl, the Co-Op, and even the local farm shop, this story is total crap. Let’s have a look at Hope’s excuse note in more detail to see why.

Ministers are under pressure to allow shops to sell meat, fruit and vegetables in pounds and ounces ahead of Britain leaving the European Union … Customers have been asking shop owners if they can have groceries weighed in pounds and ounces rather than grams and kilograms ahead of Brexit … The British Weights and Measures Association said that ‘one or two’ shops had been in contact every week since the June 23 referendum asking if they can sell produce in imperial measurements”. And that’s it.

It gets worse: shops can already sell produce in imperial measurements. But the scales on which that produce is weighed have to be metric ones, with the imperial measurement a conversion from the equivalent metric. This is just pandering to the Tel’s oldest voters, as is “The requirement to display in metric should end when Britain repeals the European Communities Act 1972 and formally leaves the European Union”.

So is the flagrant dishonesty, like flat earth MP Peter Bone being allowed to get away with “our biggest trading partner by a mile - the United States - is still on imperial measurements”. Our biggest trading partner, by a mile, is the rest of the EU. The USA is in a minority of one when it comes to retaining imperial measurements, and even then, some of those used Stateside do not match the UK equivalent (like gallons).

That does not stop the paper backing up Hope’s hopeful copy with an editorial which perpetuates the dishonest claim “Because Britain is still, for now, an EU member, our laws forbid traders to sell goods measured solely in pounds and ounces” and then tells readers “The EU demands the metric scale be used, regardless of the fact that many British shoppers still think in imperial measures - including many of the younger generation”.

Er, the “younger generation” weren’t taught imperial at school, so how does the Tel figure that one out? You’ll love his slice of idiocy: “The customers of fast-food chains have grown up ordering their burgers by the quarter-pound, not in 113-gram servings”. Just f*** right off. I mean, seriously, just f*** off and then f*** off some more. It’s a product name, for Christ’s sake. Like a Whopper or Big Mac. Or a Telegraph bumper shit bucket.

Seriously, Telegraph hacks, try to make the excuses look convincing. Because this isn’t.

[PS desperate Telegraph executives - looks even worse running Europhobic rubbish like that when you’ve got a honking great Eurostar ad at the foot of the page teasing cheap trips to Paris]

Monday, 29 August 2016

Tory Bullying - The Johnsons Reply

After the dismissive letter sent to Ray and Alison Johnson by Tory Party chairman Patrick McLoughlin, asserting that the party had behaved “entirely correctly” in its handling of the complaint by their son Elliott regarding the bullying behaviour of one Mark Clarke, has come the family’s reply. You may not have seen this in the papers - although most, if not all, of them have seen it. Why that might be I will leave for them to explain.
Alison and Ray Johnson - still looking for answers ((c) Guardian)

Ray Johnson registers disappointment at McLoughlin’s letter and the Clifford, Chance summary, “which you decided to publish without prior notice to our family. We can only consider that this was a deliberate attempt to ensure that we were unable to answer the inevitable press questions which followed immediately afterwards”.

He also notes that, despite the recent change of leadership, no attempt has been made by the Tories to reach out to the Johnson family - except the letter to which he is replying. But the most damning part of that response is that which addresses McLoughlin’s attempt to pretend the Tories behaved “entirely correctly”.
Upon reading your letter, we were taken aback by the sheer arrogance of your summing-up of Elliott’s letter of complaint in a mere one and a half lines … The next paragraph then goes on to detail the changes that you are instituting to your ‘not fit for purpose’ complaints procedures, and instituting a ‘code of conduct for volunteer leaders’, as ‘lessons to be learned, contradicting your previous comment”. And there is more.

In addition we have had a chance to read the summary we can see that it does not clear the Conservative Party. By its terms of reference Clifford Chance were required to pay ‘particular attention to the circumstances leading up to Elliott Johnson’s death’, yet the summary expressly excludes ‘the circumstances leading up to Elliott Johnson’s death’. Similarly the findings of the summary ‘do not include details of the Party’s preliminary investigation’. The contents of the report itself have been repressed, even from us”.
And the damning verdict is not yet complete: “This is a very ‘selective’ publication, which does nothing to answer the many issues that arise from the death of our son, it reads as if its principal objective is to absolve the Conservative Party’s senior management and senior volunteers of any responsibility - and somewhat inconsistently, with blame being attributed to failures in process, or more sinisterly, upon more junior officials”.

The Johnsons call for the full version of the Clifford, Chance report to be released. Certainly, if issues such as inappropriate behaviour by many of those representing the Tory Party had actually been tackled, and the press had done its job, we would not have the current situation where McLoughlin is clearly hoping all those of inconvenient opinion will just lost interest and run along. I have to tell him that they will not.

Ray and Alison Johnson are going nowhere. They are right to make a stand. In the meantime, that full report should be released - and the press should make an effort to let the public know what so many of them know already - there has been some appallingly inappropriate behaviour in and around young Tory volunteers and it needs to be revealed - so that those involved are banished from public life for good.

There will be more on this story later - much more.

Are You Being Served The Sun?

The BBC has commissioned a number of one-off sitcoms for a celebration of the genre, with some being recreated from original scripts - the tapes having been wiped long ago - and others having new editions written specially. The Mail, as I noted at the time, was ready and waiting to have a go at the Corporation, and then there was the Sun, which passed its own judgment without bothering to do any viewing.
You think I jest? The first thing that leaps off the page in the paper’s predictable rant at the one-off remake of 70s and 80s staple Are You Being Served? is that Louise Randell, the paper’s “Senior Showbiz Reporter”, has based her entire piece on a trawl of social media, and particularly Twitter. This technique - trawling for opinions that match the agenda already decided upon - has the benefit of cheapness. And, er, that’s it.

What is also clearly evident is that Ms Randell’s memory of the original show, which ran from 1972 to 1985, is at the very least sketchy: after commenting that “Viewers of the original were outraged by the remake”, readers are told “The original series captivated viewers with its charm”. What have the Sun’s hacks been watching? There was little charm, and zero subtlety, about the show. That was the whole point.

Are You Being Served? was wall-to-wall in-your-face grotesque characterisation and double entendre from start to finish. Whether it was Mr Humphries telling anyone in earshot that “I’m free” - and putting on a mock deep voice to answer the phone “MENS’ WEAR” - or Mrs Slocombe calling her pet cat “My pussy”, charm was nowhere to be seen. Crudity, yes, and more of that double entendre, but no charm.

Still, the Sun did manage to find some Twitter users who claimed to have seen the remake and were not happy about it. In fact, the Murdoch doggies manage to find about a dozen such users. And how many tuned in to watch the remake? That would be around 5.2 million. That means the Sun’s sample is around a quarter of a hundredth of one per cent of the actual audience. And there is another problem.

Although the Mail has dutifully rubbished the show, and an updated one-off episode of the Ronnie Barker vehicle Porridge, its account conceded “However, despite several critics to the one-off programmes, some fans were delighted their favourite shows had been revived and called for both series to return”. The Sun presenting a one-sided view just to kick the main competition to Sky? That’s, sadly, all too predictable.

What the Sun is going to find so much more challenging is when the Beeb recreates episodes of Steptoe And Son and Till Death Us Do Part from original scripts. It will be difficult to claim that they are poor remakes, or that political correctness has somehow run riot. In an audience of over five million, it is never going to be difficult to find a dozen disappointed viewers. And that is why the Sun is being utterly dishonest with its readers.

Still, Rupe will throw his obedient doggies a biscuit for that. No change there, then.

Tory Bullying - McLoughlin’s Brush-Off

As Zelo Street regulars will know, the Tory Party has recently released a summary of the investigation by solicitors Clifford, Chance on the bullying scandal that erupted following the tragic death of activist Elliott Johnson last year. That investigation is widely considered to have been a whitewash, little more than an exercise in tidying away loose ends in the hope that what happened to Elliott Johnson will not happen to others.
Happier times: Elliott Johnson, Mark Clarke and Marina Muttik

What may not be as well-known is that the whitewashing extended to the manner in which the party dealt with Elliott’s family, typified by a letter sent from Party Chairman Patrick McLoughlin to his parents Ray and Alison and dated 17th August. That letter is included in this post in full, so that there need be no doubt as to its contents.

Here is what McLoughlin had to tell the Johnson family.

Today I am publishing the Summary of findings of the Clifford Chance investigation into allegations of bullying, harassment and inappropriate behaviour, and the response to such allegations by Conservative Campaign Headquarters.

The report and summary are both clear that the Conservative Party acted entirely properly in relation to the complaint received from Elliott in August 2015”.
McLoughlin expresses his sympathies for the family’s loss. He tells that lessons will be learned. But he is direct to the point of bluntness in his covering of the corporate backside.

Moreover, he makes an assertion that sits uncomfortably with what actually happened in the aftermath of Elliott Johnson’s complaint, which, let us not forget, concerned the behaviour of someone McLoughlin manages not to mention, Mark Clarke.

After that complaint was made, Clarke effectively carried on as before. He was employed within CCHQ. He was subsequently given a life ban by the party. Yet, by leaving him in post, the Tory Party claims that it acted “entirely properly”.

Worse, the response to that complaint included a claim that Elliott Johnson was being “protected” from Clarke, except that what actually happened was that a vulnerable young man was made redundant from his job.

Of course, Conservative Way Forward, for whom he had been working, was not a wholly owned subsidiary of the party, but to claim total detachment and lack of association - or, indeed, responsibility - is the stuff of shameless sophistry.

Had the Tory Party acted “entirely properly”, then Clarke would not have been left in post, action would have been taken to cleanse the stables there and then - not after someone had died - and the “inappropriate behaviour” would have been identified.

The “inappropriate behaviour” was never investigated properly. Had it been, several Tory MPs would now be looking for alternative employment.

Ray and Alison Johnson have good reason to be repulsed and outraged at their treatment by the party for which their son worked so enthusiastically. Their reply follows - soon.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

No One Likes Us, We Don’t Care

Our free and fearless press prides itself on its ability to keep on selling its product day in, day out to the great British public. Sales may be in decline, but the Fourth Estate still enjoys the trust of its readers - or so it believes. Anyone suggesting otherwise is routinely ignored, a fate that has befallen the findings of the EBU’s “Trust In Media 2016” report, which most of the papers have declined to report upon.
Why should that be? Ah well. The EBU (European Broadcasting Union, or Union européenne de radio-télévision if you prefer), the body that brings us the Eurovision Song Contest among other delights, has found that, while the United Kingdom records a net positive score for both “Trust in Radio” and “Trust in Television” - that’s across all Radio and TV channels and offerings - the picture is less rosy when it comes to the press.

Although the UK’s trust of Radio and TV is very close to the average for all 28 EU member states, it is not for the press. And the “net trust rating” makes for grim reading. Although the EU28 average shows a negative trust score for the press, this at -7% is as nothing compared to the whopping -51% for the UK. Worse, the UK scores the worst trust rating for the press, by a whole 12 points - next to worst trust being in, er, Serbia.
Yes folks, even Turkey, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia mistrust their press less than we do. The press in much-derided France gets a positive score. So does Albania. And at the top of the pile when it comes to trust in the press is Finland. Not far behind are the Netherlands and Denmark. These are further reasons why our free and fearless press doesn’t want to talk about the EBU findings.

Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark occupy three of the top four places in the World Press Freedom Index for 2016 (the UK is in 38th place, behind Jamaica, Namibia, Uruguay, Surinam, Ghana, Samoa, Chile, Cape Verde, Belize and Tonga). As Private Eye magazine might have put it, “I wonder if the two are in any way connected? I think we should be told”. And there’s another inconvenient fact our press aren’t telling us.
Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark have rather more credible, and rather more independent, press regulation than the UK. That in Denmark is backed up, in theory, by judicial enforcement, although recourse to this has not yet been necessary. Finland’s press regulation is backed up by a strict privacy law. Yet we are told that such things would mean a loss of press freedom. Well, maybe, just maybe, our press got this one wrong.

Or rather, they call it the way they do because it best serves those running it. To admit that countries that do what Lord Justice Leveson hinted at have a more trusted press would be to admit they were wrong to slag off the Royal Charter, IMPRESS, Hacked Off and anyone supporting them. Better to avoid a tricky issue and not bother reporting on it at all.

I give you our free and fearless press, and their reprise of Millwall FC’s best known chant: No-one likes us, we don’t care. Because we don’t. And neither do they.

Corbyn Sidekick Sells The Pass

I am not supporting Jeremy Corbyn in his bid to retain the Labour leadership. But nor am I supporting his challenger Owen Smith. Nor am I in league with any interest group, cabal, conspiracy, or media organisation. So what you read on Zelo Street is how I see it. No other body has influence, or holds sway, over this blog. Why the need to stress this? Because, sadly, the mindset of many Corbyn followers necessitates it.
You talking about me?

Hardly a comment on Jezza goes by without complaints of bias, partiality, closet Smith support: I lose count of the “Your stuff is usually very good BUT” comments. Zelo Street has called out the press’ more ridiculous attempts to demonise Corbyn. It will also call out the more ridiculous attempts to justify his and his pals’ mis-steps. That is what freedom of speech is about - it’s not a freedom only to hear what you want to.

So we come to the latest manifestation of the Corbyn camp pulling off another “One step forward, two steps back” stunt, this one from shadow chancellor John McDonnell, usually one of Jezza’s more reliable lieutenants, who has suggested that Richard Branson should be stripped of his knighthood, because he is not currently resident in the UK, and not because of the Traingate row that involved his pal Jezza, honestly.

The Labour-supporting Mirror has put it plainly. “Labour calls for Richard Branson to be STRIPPED of his knighthood after Jeremy Corbyn Traingate row … John ­McDonnell slams the Virgin billionaire as a ‘tax exile who thinks he can try and intervene and ­undermine our democracy’”. And how has Branson intervened to undermine our democracy? God knows. But no doubt there will be a justification along soon.

And what would be the reasoning? Branson, as founder of Virgin Group, has a minority stake in the train operator that so irked Corbyn - 90% of Virgin Trains East Coast is held by Stagecoach Group. No move has yet been made to strip Stagecoach chairman Brian Souter of his knighthood, despite the latter’s past support for the Tories’ controversial “Section 28” law which banned the “promotion” of homosexuality.

Moreover, how does Traingate “undermine our democracy”? Did anyone become disenfranchised as a result? Was freedom of speech somehow curtailed? Or is a train carrying more passengers than its seating capacity deemed the ultimate mark of shame? If it is, that would disqualify the operators of every franchise awarded since the system was introduced - as well as Good Old British Rail, who did it too.

Whichever way McDonnell’s pronouncements are looked at, they do not make sense. If a future Government were to take rail franchises into public ownership, I doubt that it would fuss Branson, Souter or any of the other current participants. Sticking their bugle into that controversy is not where their heads are at. And if a future Government wanted to reform the honours system - fine, let them get elected and then get on with it.

The problem for Corbyn, McDonnell and the rest is that right now they are not going to get elected. And spare me the “look over there at Owen Smith”. Stop blaming him, stop blaming Branson, stop blaming pundits and bloggers who say you are wrong, and get real. Because without getting real, there isn’t going to be another Labour Government. Ever.

Telegraph Instant Brexit Unravels

The decline of the Telegraph titles from paper of record, to broadsheet version of the Mail, to what is now something far worse, has been well reported, not least by Private Eye magazine. What may not be as well reported is the increasingly poor and often desperate news coverage, which appears to have been framed with the sole intention of attracting clicks and more interest at the news stand.
Nowhere was this more clearly illustrated than in yesterday’s lead headline “May heads for Brexit without vote by MPs … Public’s decision is final, says Downing St in blow to last hope of Remain campaigners”. The supporting article tellsTheresa May will not hold a Parliamentary vote on Brexit … the Telegraph has learned”.

Do go on. “A Downing Street source said: ‘The Prime Minister has been absolutely clear that the British public have voted and now she will get on with delivering Brexit’”. That does not support the claim in the headline. The rest of the article is comments from a range of politicians, together with a little supposition thrown in. That is a clear breach of the IPSO Editor’s Code Of Conduct. Worse, it is now unravelling.

As the Mail On Sunday has put it, “Theresa May will hold a 'back to school' Cabinet meeting this week during which she is expected to order feuding Brexit Ministers to end their turf wars … The meeting – the first to be held by the Prime Minister at her Chequers country retreat – will mark a sharp escalation in Mrs May's efforts to assure restless Eurosceptics in her party that she is on track to deliver an early exit from the EU and will not fob them off with ‘Brexit-lite’”. That suggests there is no firm plan at present.

Indeed, the Sunday Times has added thatSenior Tories say Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is resisting plans by other ministers to pull out of the EU single market … A Whitehall turf war has broken out, with the Treasury muscling in on Brexit negotiations - to the irritation of David Davis and Liam Fox, the ministers appointed to lead the planning”. The planning has clearly not even begun in earnest.

What most certainly has begun, though, is the briefing to receptive newspapers desperate for quick and cheap copy because their reporting resources have been so significantly depleted - like, oh I dunno, how about the Telegraph? And one name leaps off the page from that Times report, that of Liam Fox. The chosen conduit for leaks from departments Fox has been involved in of late is … you guessed it, the Telegraph.

The leakers may also include the likes of Iain Duncan Cough, no longer bound by Cabinet responsibility. Much of what is being leaked is “senior Tories” moaning that the Civil Service is holding up Britain’s departure from the EU, and the idea of “Instant Brexit” is something to which Duncan Cough, Fox and the rest of the flat earth brigade are highly susceptible. All that is needed is for someone to be foolish enough to take them seriously.

But as time goes on, the Telegraph hokum unravels further. It’s printed on big pieces of paper. But that does not excuse making up stories based on uninformed leaks.

Top Six - August 28

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 have places to go and people to see later. So there.
6 Katie Hopkins - Beyond Bigotry The pro-am motormouth’s not-even-slightly-hilarious poll following the deaths of five young Londoners at Camber Sands was removed from Twitter - but she was too stupid to say sorry.

5 Corbyn Mired By Traingate Jezza got more than he bargained for when he claimed he couldn’t get a seat on a train from London to Newcastle and had to sit on the floor.

4 British Empire Olympic Fail The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog thought it would be a great idea to show how many Olympic medals the British Empire would have won. If only they had a GCSE History between them.

3 Murdoch Muscle In Decline Why do so many politicians, Slebs and sports stars do the bidding of the Murdoch empire, when its audience share has declined so significantly?

2 Simon Danczuk Through The Keyhole What kind of person makes claims against the Rochdale MP in the papers and then lets him stay at her place?

1 Sun’s Sick Drowning Migrant Claim The Murdoch doggies tried to frame the drowning of five men at Camber Sands as one of illegal migrants - but it turned out they were Londoners on a day out.

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

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Rupert Murdoch And A Dirty Great Dossier

What happens in the Murdoch empire is, ultimately, down to one man, Rupert Murdoch. Others may make the decisions, crossing lines on decency, defamation and the criminal law, but it all comes back to Creepy Uncle Rupe. The involvement of the late and not at all lamented Screws in dark arts, phone hacking and the murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan - along with its subsequent cover-up - happened on his watch.
Yes Rupe, two all too similar organisations

So did the smearing, bullying, lying and all the rest practised by the Sun under the editorship of the repellent and unrepentant Kelvin McFilth. It all leads back to Murdoch - he sanctioned it, even if only by his keeping schtum while Kel invented story after story demonising the Irish, gays, lefties, greens, travellers, and anyone who was not white. He kept schtum while the Screws hacked phones on an industrial scale.

And now we know that Rupe kept schtum over the overbearing and paranoid reign of Roger Ailes at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse). Ailes was Murdoch’s appointment, he was left to his own devices, and we now know he was a serial harasser of women. As one former host put it, “Fox News masquerades as a defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny”.

Not only that, we now know the lengths to which Ailes would go in order to, shall we say, dissuade anyone who might even consider passing adverse comment on him and FNC, let alone those who might do a little digging in order to shine a little sunlight on the murky world in which the operation existed. Ailes was a deeply paranoid individual.

Murdoch would not have been worth a fraction of his reputation if he did not know this. And the parallels with the Sun and Screws are as disturbing as they are uncanny: Gabriel Sherman wrote a book about Ailes, but a whole two years before it was published, the Fox News boss had had a 400-page dossier compiled on him. Much of the information it contained was in the public domain. But maybe not all of it.

The Murdoch press in the UK had its targets put under surveillance. Ailes had his enemies put under surveillance. Personal information was dredged up. Campaigns were run against them. In the UK, the papers’ newsrooms were infamously laddish and misogynist. FNC, it seems, was much the same. And there in ultimate charge of both was someone who didn’t know what was going on - until he was called to account.

Now, Rupert Murdoch has taken personal charge of FNC, and for part of the week he can be found occupying Ailes’ former office. It’s almost as if he knew the ropes already. Maybe he does. After all, Murdoch did not get where he is today without knowing the behaviour patterns of those he has trusted to run his empire. It beggars belief to dismiss the similarities between his UK newspaper operation and Fox News as mere coincidence.

That dirty great dossier is as much his doing as Roger Ailes’. Likewise the whole gamut of bad behaviour at the Sun and Screws. He now needs to own it. And own up about it.

[You can discover more on UNTOLD: the Daniel Morgan murder HERE]

Who Is Helen Carroll?

You may never have heard of Helen Carroll. And if you have recently done business with her, you may wish you had never heard of her. This is because Ms Carroll, whose Twitter bio claims that she is a “national newspaper and magazine journalist” who is “Always looking for case studies and great stories”, she is, in reality, looking for stories that will fit the agenda of just one major national newspaper.
Helen Carroll: desperately seeking desperate punters

And the level at which her stories are pitched can be deduced from this headline: “Our life in eight BRAS... that’s how many the average woman owns - and here three share the revealing stories behind their choices … A third of women own eight bras and yet wear only wear two - says survey … Women tend to hold on to bras for all kinds of emotional reasons … A bra worn every day should be replaced every six months, expert says”.
Ah, the sound of pointless clickbait combined with the mildly judgmental attitude towards a readership that is known to have a majority of women. Yes, Ms Carroll is on the lookout for case studies and great stories … that will suit the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and his obedient hackery at the Daily Mail. The Mail pays good money. It fits everything to its Middle England agenda. So that is what its freelance contributors provide.
So who is in Ms Carroll’s sights? Or perhaps that question should be more on the lines of “who should be wary of an approach from Ms Carroll and bodyswerve it like the plague”? Well, it seems the Mail is about to get all judgmental about drinking Prosecco: “Are you a woman, aged over 35, who has done something you regret after drinking Prosecco? Good fee paid on publication”. Yeah, right. Not half as good as Ms Carroll’s fee.
Seriously, who in their right mind would reply to that? Well, apart from someone who was desperate enough and didn’t know what a complete and absolute shower the Mail was. What else is in the Carroll line-up? “Looking for people in their 20s and 30s who moved in with grandparents for financial reasons”. Ah, right, there’s going to be a why-oh-why article about how expensive house prices are. The ones that the Mail keeps talking up.
Ooh look, a really judgmental one: “are your parents spending your inheritance having a ball in their retirement”? If my folks want to spend money, that’s their business. It’s their sodding money and they spent decades earning it. Christ on a bike, that’s just nasty. And another old chestnut: “I'm looking for married couples who separated and then got back together”. Yeah, so you can drive the poor souls apart again. Next.
Can it get worse? It surely can: “Looking for separated parents whose children stay in the family home while they take turns to look after them”. Why oh why won’t they think about the children? Except for the ones who can’t afford to buy a house, the ones who are jealous that their parents aren’t destitute, and the ones who fall over after downing too much Prosecco. Don’t call us Ms Carroll, and we won’t call you.

Did Helen Carroll not make the grade as an estate agent? Just a thought, you understand.

Canary Corbyn Vote Paranoia

Voting is now underway in the latest Labour Party leadership election. It will be a straight fight between incumbent Jeremy Corbyn, and challenger Owen Smith, with Corbyn the strong favourite. The electorate is in the hundreds of thousands, so the result is more than likely going to be a majority - for whichever candidate - measured in the thousands, or even tens of thousands. Hang on to that thought.
At the same time, Labour is undertaking a process to ensure its membership actually consists of Labour Party supporters. Some applicants for membership are discovering that they have been rejected; others who had previously been members are being expelled. When your membership runs into the hundreds of thousands, and that membership is under constant media scrutiny, this is inevitable.

But for those at the staunchly Corbyn-supporting Canary, this is not a merely routine exercise, but a purge of the party faithful. It is evidence that dark forces are at work looking to disenfranchise Jezza’s fans and therefore to subvert democracy. To this end, the Canary’s Number 1 Corbyn backer Steve Topple has pennedAnother Labour purge has begun, and this time it’s massive”. Yeah, y’know, it’s big … BIG. Really big.

Countless members and potential members are being expelled or having their applications rejected … there appears to be no limit on who the party is willing to disenfranchise. Unless, of course, they are high profile members writing in right-wing newspapers … it appears many people are being denied membership on less than scrupulous grounds”. Something’s afoot, and it may not be twelve inches!

But do go on. “The Canary asked people to get in touch with their stories relating to the ‘purge’. And many came forward. Some felt angry. Others felt disappointed. Many were very upset. But the overwhelming feeling was one of confusion. Nearly 90 people got in contact, and most spoke to The Canary on condition of anonymity”. So how many specific cases can Topple muster in support of his “purge” idea?

Well, not that many. Even throwing in the case of Ronnie Draper, general secretary of a Labour-affiliated Trade Union, the number of individual cases does not get into double figures. Even if all of the “nearly 90” who got in touch were added into the mix, there would be no more than a hundred. A hundred cases in a party which numbers its current membership not in the hundreds, but the hundreds of thousands.

That does not stop Topple going into full tinfoil hat mode: “If you’re a grassroots member who says anything deemed inappropriate? Sorry. No vote allowed. But if you’re a political commentator writing in right-wing newspapers, or a senior party member? You can apparently say whatever you like … But don’t you dare support progressive ideas or stand up for what you think is right and just. If you do, you may also face the Labour purge”.

But not to worry - they’re not coming to get him, because he’s not paranoid.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Uber - Where’s The Money Going?

Driver and rider matching service Uber was Founded back in March 2009 - almost seven and a half years ago. It enjoys a market valuation of around $69 billion. It is backed by the likes of Google and Goldman Sachs. The app, which enables riders to call a driver, might have been expected to have paid for itself by now. Uber charges its driver around 20% of their incomes as a commission. They have hundreds of thousands of drivers.
So it may come as a surprise to some industry watchers to know that Uber is losing money, not just occasionally and in trivial amounts, but consistently, and billions. Worse, the losses appear if anything to be getting worse over time. In 2015, the company lost “over $2 billion” (how much more is not known). But in just the first six months of this year, Uber has lost $1.27 billion. Net revenue was just over $2 billion.

What was the reason for the loss? “The subsidies Uber grants its drivers was the main reason for the loss, finance head Gautam Gupta told investors in a quarterly conference call, Bloomberg said, citing sources”. Subsidies? What subsidies? Uber drivers are self-employed. They pick up the cost of their cars, insurance, licensing, tolls and congestion charges, and of course traffic fines, themselves. What subsidies?

Moreover, where can all the money be going? The app should need little more than customising for each new area in which Uber operates. Drivers just activate the app when they become available, deactivate it when they are not. Otherwise the whole thing should more or less run itself. At first, the scale of the losses is mystifying.

And then the potential reasons for those losses come to the fore. One, Uber has secured finance from a number of sources over the years. The conditions attached to loans and parcels of debt would be interesting to see - especially the rate of interest being paid, and for how many years Uber has been locked into the deal.

There is more: Two, Uber is embroiled in legal disputes with a variety of Governments, its drivers, and other groups on a regular enough basis for this to rack up significant costs. Another item that would be interesting to see - and in full - is the scale of the lawyers’ bills, not just now, but those pertaining to current legal actions, due for payment later.

On top of that is Three, the cost of all that PR and lobbying. Uber is in a constant PR war against established taxi and minicab operators, employing specialist PRs and lobbyists to persuade everyone from the ordinary folk all the way up to the top of Government that they should be allowed to have the playing field tilted in their favour. And then there is the constant rumour that journalists have been bribed to generate favourable copy.

Yes, it would be most revealing to see what Uber is having to pay for all that finance, the cost of its mammoth legal bills, and the whole PR and lobbying circus that it needs to keep on the road in order to convince authorities to let the show roll on.

All those self-employed one-man and one-woman bands in their London black cabs might find it interesting to see just how much Travis Kalanick and his pals are prepared to spray up the wall in an act of vindictiveness, just to put them out of business.

Sun Burkini Ban Pundit BUSTED

[Update at end of post]

The controversy sparked by banning Islamic swimwear - aka the Burkini or Burqini - by women has crossed La Manche and pitted usual soulmates the Sun and Daily Mail against one another. The Mail has, to its credit, gone with the personal liberty angle, that the women should be free to choose what they wear, but the Sun is for the crackdown.
You are English types, yes?

So while the Mail tells readersThe French ban on the burkini is threatening to turn into a farce as police officers armed with pepper spray and batons marched onto a beach today and ordered a woman to strip off”, the Sun has employed the services of genuine French pundit Anne-Élisabeth Moutet to counter-claim “If you’re upset by burkini cop image, you’ve have been sucked in by Islamist propaganda”.
Ms Moutet’s mildly paranoid screed tells “She has no book, no sun cream, no beach bag. Her clothes are not suited to swimming … Another [photo] shows her sitting quietly, looking around, as if waiting for the police to come. Hoping for the police to come? … [The photos are] professionally shot … The photographer was there long before the incident … A belief shared by many is that this ‘victim’ and the snapper wanted the police to intervene - the photos are brilliant Islamist propaganda”. Ri-i-i-i-ght.
One could also posit the opposite position, that the snapper saw the woman there, knew it was a beach where the ban had been imposed, and so hung around to see what would happen when Les Gendarmes fetched up. Journalistic and professional sixth sense.
Ms Moutet is not a disinterested neutral on this. Consider her Twitter excursions: after the FT suggested opinion in France was split on the Burkini question, she sniped “French opinion is ‘split’ 95%-5%. Fuck you, FT”, before telling her followers to Look Over There: “Of course, Islamophobia runs rampant in the Kingdom of Morocco”. They did it too!
We should also Look Over There at someone who agrees with her: “Why the burkini is WRONG, by the great @Nervana_1.Required reading before you start babbling on the French sitution [sic] … Hope you've also read @Nervana_1's great piece on why the burkini is wrong. Egyptian writer, doctor”. And well-known sample of one.
Ms Moutet was also prone to going a little Katie Hopkins: “Belgium: no Middle East colonial past, no headscarf or burqa ban. And yet…”. And yet we don’t know who did it and why. But she was firm on the Burkini ban: “Utile pour comprendre. L'interdiction du burkini est une décision d'ordre public nécessaire”. It was a public order measure; maybe all those Muslim women at the beach would get out of hand. And then came a dead giveaway.
Liberal Outrage Over France’s Burkini Ban is the Latest Failure of Western Feminism http://heat.st/2bAyrK2  via @heatstreet”. Oh dear Ms Moutet! Quoting Heat Street with a straight face. But she’s not a right-winger, no sirree: “Been blocking a slew of Corbynistas eager to derail #traingate. I love the smell of napalm in the evening”. Or maybe she is.
And that 95% was only 64%: “Poll: 64% of French reject the Burkini on our beaches. My @TheSun guest column this morning”. Then the pièce de résistance: “She came to the beach without suncream,towel, bag, book, but with a professional photographer. It was police-baiting”. As I thought: a ranting, intolerant right-winger. And bang to rights.

[UPDATE 1505 hours: France's highest administrative court has overturned the "Burkini Ban", concluding that it "seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms to come and go, freedom of beliefs and individual freedom".

Amnesty International's Europe director has commented "French authorities must now drop the pretence that these measures do anything to protect the rights of women ... These bans do nothing to increase public safety but do a lot to promote public humiliation".

So it's all about the Liberté part of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, then. One might have expected a French journalist to understand that. Unless they were just another screaming right-winger hell-bent on spreading a little anti-Muslim prejudice, of course]

Katie Hopkins - Beyond Bigotry

The behaviour of some pundits out there on the rabid, paranoid, insular nationalist right does not improve over time, no matter how much slack they are cut or whether they are ignored and left to their own devices. This, inevitably, leads us to pro-am motormouth Katie Hopkins, who saw the tragic drowning of five young Londoners at Camber Sands the other day not as a time for quiet reflection, but an opportunity to spread a little more hatred.
Viewers may want to look away now

So it was that, like the hacks at her previous berth, the Sun - the paper that dispensed with her services because she was too poisonous even for them - Hatey Katie did not concern herself with waiting for such minor inconveniences as facts, but immediately concluded that the five must have been illegal migrants. This may not have been true, but it fitted her agenda and her paranoid state, which for her is more important.

Ms Hopkins took to Twitter to conduct what she no doubt believed was a jolly funny poll, stating “5 dead at Camber Sands were …”, with the possible answers “Aspiring footballers”, “Mentally Ill”, “Fans of Anders Brevik [sic]”, and “Big fans of inflatables”. Thus her own prejudices: nobody who is not white is allowed to suffer from any kind of mental health condition, because they’re all Scary Muslims (tm) and terrorists!
And the Police all over Europe are covering it up! That, and the other equally unfunny and feeble not-so-wisecracks did not impress very many people, and those least impressed included Sussex Police, who, in a bizarre twist, concluded that, while nothing criminal had been done, they would report Hatey Katie to Twitter anyway. Whether forcibly or otherwise, the Twitter poll has since been removed. But that was not the end of it.
Why should that be? Well, if you’re going to have a self-awareness failure, you might as well do it properly, and Ms Hopkins has in her lack of wisdom decided that, no matter how significant the show of disgust at her bigoted insensitivity, she was right, and she would make sure all those rotten lefty whingers knew it.

So after the BBC reported “Six men are due to be interviewed by Border Force officers after being recovered from a small boat off the Kent coast this morning”, off went Hatey Katie to shout “look over there”, Tweeting “Not to worry, as long as we are policing Twitter, all will be well”. Hello Katie, the five dead were still not migrants.
Oh, and the Police were not “policing Twitter”, they had merely passed it on to, er, Twitter. That was a concept Ms Hopkins found too challenging to grasp, and hence off she went again: “Our police are busy policing Twitter. So I thought I'd go try and offer our hard grafting truckers any help I can”. Well, quite so, they might have some sympathy with all those refugees, and that would never do - Katie to the rescue to stiffen their sinews with few tutorials in plain old-fashioned paranoid bigotry.

Katie Hopkins is so blinded by her combination of prejudice and paranoia that she cannot see when she is not just wrong, but totally out of order. And it’s pointless suggesting she says sorry, because her intellectual capacity does not stretch that far. Sad, really.