The poisoning of public discourse by our free and fearless press is not a solo effort: aiding and abetting those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet are all manner of supposedly freewheeling and independent new media outlets, but some of those, as should be known by now, are merely outriders for the press and its boot boys.
Milk, no sugar, hold the smears
This brings us not just to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, but specifically to their newly anointed teaboy Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, whose vicious and puerile dishonesty has been public knowledge for a matter of years. Wickham was already established as a creep of zero repute when he tried and failed to disrupt a Commons lobby event for campaigning group Hacked Off in February 2015.
He sneeringly trampled roughshod over the sensibilities of many victims of press misbehaviour, then lied repeatedly about what had happened. Thus his modus operandi was well known. Sadly, this knowledge has not permeated the Tory Party, where Wickham’s latest magnum opus has been swallowed whole without question - because it is an attack on one of their opponents, a Labour MP from the left.
Emma Dent Coad - right wing hate figure
Emma Dent Coad, who won Kensington from the Tories, has become a hate figure for the Tory right and their press allies. Her blog, which goes back several years, has now been trawled and picked over by the Fawkes schoolboys in an effort to find dirt on her - and by pure coincidence, you understand, has now been presented in a selective and slanted manner just in time to distract from a new initiative on the Grenfell Tower aftermath.
“Labour MP Emma Dent Coad labelled black Tory candidate Shaun Bailey a ‘token ghetto boy’ and ‘free-loading scumbag’ who is ‘not welcome’ in her Kensington constituency” claimed Wickham, which is, to no surprise, not true. He doubled down by opining “In a vicious 2010 blog post - which really is dripping with poison and hate”. He’d know all about “poison and hate”, if he could stop himself sniggering long enough.
But Wickham has also given the game away: when you look at Ms Dent Coad’s original post, it is clear that the word “ghetto” is what Bailey has originally said about the area. She is merely quoting it back at him. Moreover, as even Wickham admits, she has not called Bailey a “free-loading scumbag”. That came from one of his former neighbours.
Wickham sneers that this neighbour is “conspicuously anonymous”, although that kind of source is fine when it’s the Fawkes rabble using it. Then, not having proved any racist intent on Ms Dent Coad’s part, he declares her to be a racist. Yes, the blog that spends a disproportionate amount of time laying into Diane Abbott, Chuka Umunna and Sayeeda Warsi is calling “racist” on others. And it gets worse.
Tory MP James Cleverly, who might have been thought to check first before taking Wickham’s claims seriously, failed to do so and instead went for party political advantage. Wickham gleefully posted his comments and sniggered “Doesn’t look good for Dent Coad”.
Then Shaun Bailey also joined in. Did he forget what he said all those years ago? This gave Wickham the opportunity to smear Labour a little more generally: “Yet another Labour race row. And once again they are very slow to react”. Yet another?
The real reason for Wickham's attack
As to “slow to react”, that is code for “We are Guido [not Devo], and we are important, so we demand you jump when we smear you, because, er, that’s what you’re supposed to do”. Given Wickham has lied and misrepresented Ms Dent Coad, what does he expect?
Whatever - he has another Tweet from more than six years ago, because he has decreed that Ms Dent Coad be sanctioned by Labour and they have failed to do his bidding. “Guido has found this tweet from 2011 in which she again attacked Bailey, calling him ‘ghetto man’ and ‘a low life’”. And once again (a) she is quoting his words back at him, plus (b) we don’t get to see what Karen Buck’s original Tweet said. No context? That’s Wickham for you.
And the inevitable conclusion
So we don’t know what Bailey might have said to provoke the comeback. But we do know that Ms Dent Coad has today told her followers “The inside story of the most unequal borough in Britain: overcrowding, malnutrition and 20-year life expectancy gaps. Today I launched crucial report on housing and inequality in Kensington & Chelsea after Grenfell – you can read here”. Thus Alex Wickham’s true motivation.
What better way to deflect from another inconvenient truth than for one of the right-wing’s boot boys to jump up and down and scream “Look at the leftie racist”. Those who got suckered into backing Wickham’s latest “but it’s a direct quote” hatchet job should hang their heads in shame. Pity their press pals will not.
Alex Wickham does not reach as high as Emma Dent Coad’s ankles. It’s yet another sad reflection on the state of the press establishment that he has been let into their tent. There must be a staggeringly unpleasant smell of piss in there by now.