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Monday, 22 January 2018

Andrew Adonis Gets Rogered

Since the DfT announced that the Inter City East Coast (ICEC) franchise, run at present by Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC), was going to end prematurely, politicians have been queuing up to claim that VTEC, or perhaps Richard Branson personally, have been “bailed out” to the tune of around £2 billion. In the vanguard of this claim-o-rama has been former Labour minister Andrew Adonis. The Great Man rather let himself go with his attack.
London's Kings Cross terminus, start of the East Coast Main Line

Handing a cheque worth hundreds of millions of pounds to Richard Branson and Brian Souter [chair of Stagecoach] would be indefensible at the best of times but we are now at the worst of times with a Brexit squeeze on the public finances and with rail fares going through the roof … The cost of this bailout is going to be a slashing of the national infrastructure programme and even bigger fare rises” he claimed.

Also, Chris Grayling would have to go: “I think he is going to have to go because, as he is forced to defend a massive bailout to the private sector, the question will be asked by the public accounts committee and the National Audit Office - why didn’t you adopt the alternative course which was to set up state companies to avoid the need for a bailout? He has no answer to that”. But those with a little industry knowledge did.

Roger Ford of Modern Railways magazine was one of them (and if you want the detail, subscribe to his Informed Sources e-preview), as I told recently. As a result of Adonis generating plenty of heat but not necessarily much light, he has returned to the subject to inflict a little reality on all those shouting “bailout” from the sidelines.

Here’s what he has had to say: “The VTEC affair is being promoted by opposition politicians as the Department for Transport ‘bailing out’ Stagecoach and Virgin from their franchise commitment to pay ‘£3.3 billion’ in premia over the life of the franchise … Actually adding up the annual premia at 2014 prices I make the total £2.7 billion. But the important number is the total payable in the last four years from April 2019”.
Roger Ford - at the controls

There is more. “I put the premium payments for those last four years at £1.6 billion. This compares with the £1.1 billion which VTEC will have paid [my emphases] in the first four years to 31 March 2019. Thus, all this £3.3 billion stuff is typical political misinformation”. And the “£2 billion” claim seriously over-eggs the premium pudding.

Then we come to the great bailout conspiracy. As I’ve been explaining … the premium payments for the second four years depend on VTEC being able to generate revenue growth from the more intensive higher frequency faster timetable which was due to be introduced from May 2019. As the franchise agreement makes clear VTEC will use its ‘best endeavours’ to deliver the timetable, but it still depends on Network Rail delivering”.

Now comes the crunch part: “At the moment all we know is that the infrastructure to support this timetable won’t be ready by May 2019. What parts of it will become available and when, no one seems to know … So it pretty obvious that, despite VTEC’s best endeavours, the premium profile is wrecked and there is nothing VTEC can do about it”.

Ford concludes “Even in the arcane world of political semantics, being ‘let off the hook’ through someone else’s shortcomings is not the same as being ‘bailed out’”. Quite. And after noting that Adonis claims he will involve the Public Accounts Committee, claiming “I am ready to share troubling evidence with the PAC and other parliamentary committees investigating the bailout”, he calls out the former minister directly.
Andrew Adonis - a mere passenger this time

What this ‘troubling evidence’ is has yet to be revealed. It looks as though we are entering conspiracy theory territory here”. One doubts that Adonis will have read this verdict with anything over than the apprehension at being imminently exposed as having overreached himself to the point of ridicule. But Grayling did not get off Scot free, either.

And as for the ability of the DfT to set up new arrangements for ICEC by the appointed time, Ford is deeply sceptical: “The chances of setting up Chris Grayling’s new East Coast Regional Partnership by 2020 are on the emaciated side of slim, so I could see VTEC running the renegotiated Intercity East Coast franchise, possibly up to its full term”.

Shades there of the Team Shambles award I gave the DfT over the West Coast débâcle. But what this shows, once again, is that politicians - in this case those left of centre, but don’t think the Tories don’t indulge in the same kind of attack lines - are more than willing to be creative in bending reality to fit the desired narrative.

No-one is being “bailed out”, no matter how loudly and frequently the claim is made. But the reality is more complicated. Politicians need it to be kept simple. Thus the problem.

Fake News Attack Is More Fake News

Once again, our free and fearless press has decided to instruct its readership to “look over there” at all those so-called “Web Giants”, but not because the latter are better at scoring advertising revenue, oh no. This time, the excuse for trying to hobble the competition is that there is a danger from Fake News - plus they don’t take down all those vile video nasties when they are flagged up. Social media, we are told, can’t be trusted.
And in the vanguard of this latest assault on the likes of Facebook is the Murdoch press, in another example of how, on Rupe’s watch, the Times has been taken from paper of record to yet another propaganda sheet. There can be no other credible explanation to the inconvenient fact that the campaign has also featured in today’s Sun editorial.

So what is the evidence being ponied up in support of this campaign? Well, after telling readers “Trust in social media has fallen to a record low as Britons lose faith in companies such as Facebook and Twitter, according to research”, we learn that the research is “The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer”, which you can see HERE.

This tells us that when the Times tells “Sixty-four per cent want social media companies to face tighter regulation”, not only is the question of the press’ own extreme reluctance to be subjected to properly effective regulation being ignored, but also that the Murdoch goons are being highly selective in the way they interpret the Edelman Trust findings.
Take the claim “Trust in traditional media such as newspapers and television has jumped 13 percentage points in a year, a six-year high, as consumers look for reliable news coverage”, and then consider two mildly inconvenient points. One, there is no separation of newspapers and television, and we know which is trusted in the UK and which is not. And two, the Edelman study shows that the media is the UK’s least trusted institution.

And when it comes to Fake News, the study concludes that on journalism, large majorities of those responding agreed that news organisations “are more concerned with attracting a big audience than reporting … sacrifice accuracy to be the first to break a story … support an ideology vs. informing the public … The average person does not know how to tell good journalism from rumour or falsehoods … It is becoming harder to tell if a piece of news was produced by a respected media organisation”. There’s trust for you.
Moreover, more than 65% of respondents in the UK “worry about false information or Fake News being used as a weapon”. And away from the Edelman study, we already know that the net trust index in written press was at an all time low in the UK for both 2015 and 2016. To that can be added a previous study that showed trust in the Murdoch Sun at the same level as posts on Twitter. Doesn’t look much to cheer about now, does it?

It takes some skill - and not necessarily of the most noble kind - to call Fake News on others, but by so doing, produce a piece of, er, rank Fake News. That is the latest achievement of the Murdoch goons. You really couldn’t make this up.

Meanwhile, the UK, home to our free and fearless press, ranks a lowly 40th on the World Press Freedom Index. And there’s no spinning your way out of that one, press people.

Murdoch’s Fergie Dilemma

On the face of it, yesterday’s Mail On Sunday story, telling readers that Sarah Ferguson was suing the Murdoch mafiosi for a whopping £45 million - an amount which had increased significantly of late - was an open and shut case of blatant and shameless greed. Fergie was expecting poor old Rupe to bankroll her lifestyle? Someone with her propensity to blow money at an eye-watering rate? Come off it, eh?
Sarah Ferguson

The problem for the press establishment, though, is that it’s not quite that simple, and it seems Ms Ferguson and her legal team knows this. Someone in that team has been doing their homework on those named in proceedings. The MoS does not so much as hint at this - but by showing us the names in the frame, it has let the cat out of the bag.

Fergie demands £40MILLION from Rupert Murdoch for lost wages after Fake Sheikh sting - including missed £5m for personal appearances, £22m for her TV animation shows and £9m on a health products deal … Duchess of York's claim over cash-for-access sting has doubled to £40m … Claim against Rupert Murdoch says the 2010 sting destroyed her reputation … During sting she offered to introduce reporter to Prince Andrew for £500k” gasps the headline. The line taken is, predictably, sympathetic to Murdoch.
Oh look, another Red Top ...

Readers are therefore told “in a vigorous counterattack, lawyers for Mr Murdoch’s publishing company accused her of ‘dishonesty’ and attempted fraud, describing her case as ‘defective and embarrassing’”, which is followed up with “She wants Rupert Murdoch to stump up for all this”. And there are more incriminating details.

Better known for spending rather than making money, the Duchess has a chequered financial history. At one point, she owed Coutts bank almost £5 million and, later, her American ‘lifestyle and wellness’ company, Hartmoor, collapsed with debts of more than £600,000 … In April 2010, a month before the News Of The World story, the Duchess reportedly faced financial ruin after being taken to the High Court by a leading legal firm for debts of more than £200,000”. But then we get to her claim.
... and another

This shows the “Claimant” as Sarah Ferguson, with the “Defendants” Mazher Mahmood, News Group Newspapers Limited, Colin Myler and Tom Crone. The MoS does not dwell on this, other that to refer to Maz’ sting on Ms Ferguson. But those three names spell trouble for the Murdochs. When you add in the almost desperate attempts to keep claims for hacking and blagging out of court, the dilemma becomes all too clear.

Apart from the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks in the hacking trial, only one other individual was given the top level of legal firepower dedicated to their defence by the Murdoch mafiosi. That individual was Mazher Mahmood, although this did not prevent him from getting guilty over lying to the judge in the Tulisa Contostavlos case.
Mazher Mahmood - "a criminal with an NUJ card"

Several of those who got stung by Mahmood, and received criminal records as a result, are now seeking to have their convictions declared unsafe. Maz’ whole back catalogue could be raked over if Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry goes ahead - one reason the press doesn’t want it to happen. Too much light shone on the Fake Sheikh’s sting of Sarah Ferguson is just what the Murdochs don’t want, and don’t need.
Tom Crone, former Murdoch lawyer

Then there is Tom Crone, accused of a series of dirty tricks and probably lucky not to be censured by the Bar Standards Board recently. The former Murdoch lawyer - he racked up 25 years’ service - was also accused of putting a private investigator on the tail of fellow lawyer Mark Lewis in an attempt to dig dirt. Lewis was “lined up for punishment” after he “crossed” Rupert Murdoch. The mafiosi won’t want him to face too much scrutiny.

And finally we come to Colin Myler, whose revelation after the hacking trials showed that he was certain both Ms Brooks and Neil Wallis, another who claimed not to have known hacking was going on at the late and not at all lamented Screws, knew that hacking really was going on - because he had told them both.
Colin Myler, last editor of the Screws

Add to that the extreme reticence of the Murdochs to allow all those recent hacking claims to get to court, and you see the totality of the dilemma facing them over Sarah Ferguson’s claim. That is most likely why the numbers claimed are so eye-popping, and also why the MoS would not even think about mentioning it.

Do the Murdoch mafiosi dare try and bluff their way out of this one - with the knowledge that all manner of dirty laundry would turn up in court, should the action get there - or do they try and quietly pay her off? How many more millions will it take to buy Ms Ferguson’s silence? You thought it was an open and shut case of a greedy ex-Royal? Think again.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Sun Spins More Worboys Lies

The case of “Black Cab Rapist” John Worboys, who is due to be released on parole later this month, has given our free and fearless press a golden opportunity to play their power without responsibility game, kicking the parole board, the Government, and anyone else who gets in their way. It has also given the Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun the chance to make up its own version of the story as it goes along.
John Worboys

To this effect, readers have today been served upBEST OF FIENDS Levi Bellfield gave advice and helped ‘best pal’ black cab rapist John Worboys on his bid for parole” in a last-ditch attempt to bend the parole board to its will, by pretending that Bellfield, whose arrest for the murder of schoolgirl Milly Dowler was obstructed by the late and not at all lamented Screws messing around with the Police investigation, was involved.

Let’s see what this alleged “exclusive” claims. “BLACK cab rapist John Worboys was helped on his legal bid for parole by his jail ‘best pal’ Levi Bellfield … Worboys … became friends with Bellfield when they were both held inside Wakefield Prison … Milly Dowler killer Bellfield, 49, was Worboys’ ‘McKenzie Friend’ - someone who is on hand constantly to aid legal bids and dole out advice … And they stayed in touch when serial killer Bellfield was moved to Frankland Prison, Co Durham”. Ri-i-i-i-ght.

So Worboys was not in the same clinky as Bellfield when his suitability for parole was being assessed. Just how do the Murdoch goons expect that being “on hand constantly to aid legal bids” to have worked then? Also, how does legal advice work when the parole board is not examining legal arguments, but the psychological state of the prisoner and their suitability for release? The whole thrust of this article is dishonest.
Someone thinks she's still in Government

And what is their source for this dubious claim? “Our source said: ‘John was close to Bellfield and was upset when he moved. They were always in each other’s cells and having coffees and meals together … They would chat and banter about football and I expect John will visit Bellfield once he is out”. Given Prison Officers won’t go near the Murdoch press after all those trials recently, that source must have been a former crim.

Yes, on the basis of one uncorroborated source who has been banged up for his trouble, the Sun is making a whole series of claims about John Worboys which do not stand up to the most basic of scrutiny. And they’re not finished yet: “Worboys was to be freed yesterday but the Ministry of Justice delayed it amid anger over the case”. Was he now. So where did the Sun get that information, seeings no-one else has pitched it?

You see, that’s the problem: the press starts lying, and sooner or later it throws in a whopper too many, a fib so blatant that it jumps off the page and confirms that a story which looks too good to be true is indeed too good to be true. The Murdoch goons don’t know when Worboys will be released. They made up the claim about delays. Worboys will be released when victims have been consulted and his licence conditions are in place.

This “story” is not an exclusive. Most of it is demonstrably untrue. And when Worboys is released, more of those Sun readers will stop paying their hard-earned cash just to let a bunch of overmonied hacks insult their intelligence. Physician, heal thyself.

Mail Free Speech Is Only For Itself

Earlier this month, the House of Lords inflicted two defeats on the Government via amendments to the Data Protection Bill, which effectively force the Government to proceed with Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry, and commence Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act. For the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail, this act could not be allowed to go unpunished. So a hatchet job was ordered.
Why the f*** can't I defend my £2.5 million pay packet, dinners with the PM and lack of accountability to the plebs, c***?!?!?

That the resultant article was indeed a hatchet job is confirmed by the name on the by-line, that of Guy Adams, personal purveyor of smears to the Vagina Monologue. His mission, as ever, is to make the available facts fit the headline, which to no surprise is “A very shabby revenge? How a third of the 200 peers who voted to make it far harder for journalists to investigate corruption have been exposed by the media they’re seeking to muzzle”.

Sadly, neither amendment will “muzzle” anyone, although in the longer term they may allow all those little people who the Mail routinely craps all over to find out about the relationship between the press and the Police - like whether it was corrupt in any way - and to get access to redress when they find themselves on the receiving end of the Mail’s vicious and spiteful smears (as opposed to being told to run along by IPSO).

Also sad to see is the easily debunked argument Adams advances, as he tells “For a moment, imagine a dodgy foreign country where lawmakers, whose epic venality had been exposed by the Press, decided to pass a law to stop newspapers investigating such behaviour in the future”. No-one, repeat no-one, repeat NO-ONE has not even hinted at such a move. Nor does his ignorance of recent British history help his cause.

Doubtless you would be comforted, when reading about this appalling action, by the knowledge that you’re lucky enough to live in a centuries-old democracy which is impervious to such self-interested manipulation of the law”. Britain has only had universal suffrage for both men and women since 1928, so not a “centuries-old democracy”.
And what would the proposed amendments mean? “Both measures would severely limit free speech, deal a devastating blow to investigative journalism, and be a boon to the wealthy, powerful, and corrupt, making it immeasurably harder for Fleet Street to hold them to account - one of the bulwarks of a free country”. Bullshit. The reverse is true. And when did the Mail last do any useful investigative journalism? Don’t make me laugh.

In any case, the idea that this was some kind of revenge for press exposure would only hold water if all those voting the other way had not been exposed by the press in any way. Did Adams bother to find out? Did he heck. It wouldn’t fit the headline.

Moreover, when Adams and his fellow Mail hacks whine about anyone being “unelected” - that line is also regularly used in attacks on the judiciary - they miss out one unelected body. Who might that be? As if you need to ask: the press itself, with its invite-only access to the Prime Minister, its lapdog the backside-wiping sham regulator IPSO, and its ability to wade into any and every controversy without having to take responsibility for the result.

The press is the last unelected, effectively unregulated, and utterly unaccountable bastion of power in the UK. A bastion that doesn’t give a flying foxtrot about free speech for anyone except itself and its pals. That is what Guy Adams is defending. Very badly.

Dan Hodges Loses The Labour Plot

Some pundits struggle to connect with the world outside the media bubble. Others struggle to connect with the world within it. In the latter category, groping fruitlessly for some strand of originality which he can grasp in order to salvage what remains of his reputation is the Mail on Sunday’s not even slightly celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges, who is ranting hopefully about the Labour Party while all around have moved on.
He's desperate, Dan

Desperate Dan has had all week to devise an original sermon to put before his adoring flock, whomsoever they be. Sadly, all he can manage is to whinge aboutthe Corbynites’ crushing takeover of the party’s ruling National Executive Committee, and the wave of deselections that would reportedly follow”. Yes Dan, “reportedly” being the operative word, because there haven’t been any, except in floor-crossing pundits’ fevered imaginations.
Still, he is in no doubt that we must be frightened of “Jeremy Corbyn and his army of fanatical followers … the Corbynite White Walkers … last week’s surrender”. Er, WHAT? There was a surrender last week? Yes? Yes yes? Yes yes yes? Who dunnit? Actually, there wasn’t a surrender last week. Three Left Slate candidates were elected - it’s that pesky democracy thing once more - to Labour’s NEC.
What, then, is Hodges driving at? Ah, but he is convinced that these alleged “moderates” are enabling Very Bad Things in the Labour Party. And he has an example to give to us: “Before the Election, the moderates were able to mask their complicity. As their party became a safe-space for anti-Semitism”. Yes, he’s on his anti-Semitism hobby horse once more. And once more, Desperate Dan is plain flat wrong.
This is, after all, the pundit so desperate that he sniped at one Jewish Labour member “if you want to be Jeremy Corbyn’s useful Jewish idiot, you go right along”. The pundit who asserted “Sorry to be repetitive, but it’s a binary issue. You can oppose anti-Semitism. Or you can be a member of the Labour Party. But you can’t be both”. Jewish Labour members have not been backward in coming forward to denounce the smears.
Adam West’s response was typical: “As a Jewish socialist and Labour member, it’s impossible to find the words to describe how offensive this tweet is. But I’d recommend Dan has a think about it himself”. Heather Mendick pointed out that Hodges was on very shaky ground himself: “This is offensive to the many Jewish members of Labour who include my mum, my brother, my aunt, my cousin, many friends and comrades and me. It positions us as self-hating Jews which is itself an antisemitic trope”. Quite.
And one Tweeter had to point out to The Great Man “The evidence does not support his claims. According to the latest YouGov survey, you are more likely to be anti-semitic if you are a Conservative/right wing than Labour/left wing”. That link was from the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism’s Anti-Semitism Barometer 2017.

So perhaps Dan Hodges will embrace reality and seek out the anti-Semitism where it has always been - out there on the right. Nah, I’m kidding. He’s the Pundit Establishment’s equivalent of a stuck record, and will just keep on whinging to no purpose.

But he’s being paid a shed load dosh to write this drivel, so that’s all right, then.

Momentum Hit List - Gilligan Whopper

The Murdoch Sunday Times knew who they were taking on when they gave a berth to Andrew “Transcription Error” Gilligan. He lost the BBC one of its best-regarded Directors General - and, for a time, much of its credibility - and cost the Sunday Telegraph around £650,000 just before they let him go, after he libelled businessman Mujibul Islam over the obsessive pursuit of former Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman.
Gilligan would have cost the Sunday Tel rather more, if Byline Media and campaigning group Hacked Off had had the means to take the paper to the cleaners over The Great Man’s hatchet job on them over the John Whittingdale story. So when Gilligan’s name appeared on the by-line of the ST’s lead today, it will come as no surprise that few took the story seriously. Because it was a prize whopper, a complete pack of lies.

Under the dramatic headline “Corbyn allies plot to oust 50 Labour MPs … Secret hitlist of moderates for deselection”, we see just how credible Gilligan’s latest claim really is.

Let’s start at the very beginning, as it’s a very good place to start. “Up to 50 Labour MPs are on a deselection hit list drawn up by left-wing supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, it has been claimed”. “Up to” 50, which includes the number Zero. And “it has been claimed”, meaning a single, anonymous source. In other words, made up.

Do go on. “Moderate Labour MPs have been warned that Corbyn’s allies want centrist candidates replaced with more left-leaning ones”. No citation, and there won’t be one.
Ready to be hauled in there, eh Andy?

Have another go. “Chris Leslie, the former shadow chancellor, and Hilary Benn, the former shadow foreign secretary, are believed to top the list”. Believed. By whom? Don’t ask. “Angela Eagle, who challenged Corbyn for the leadership in 2016, and her sister Maria Eagle, the former shadow culture secretary, are also thought to be vulnerable”. Thought to be vulnerable. One anonymous source. And it gets worse.

‘Allies of Corbyn have admitted they have a list of MPs they want to get rid of’, said a source”. A source. Gilligan looking in the mirror, was it? Then comes the dead cat.

The disclosure [!] comes as three Momentum-backed candidates, including its founder Jon Lansman, were elected to Labour’s national executive committee last week”. So what? Three new members of the NEC means only that there are three new members of the NEC. How on earth can it then mean there is a plot against 50 Labour MPs? It can’t.
What else has Gilligan managed to dredge up in his fruitless search for credibility? Well, someone put an item on the agenda for discussion by Haringey Labour Party. And someone else was not convinced by evidence that Bashar al-Assad’s forces were using chemical weapons on their own people. But that was in 2013, and Gilligan hasn’t bothered asking the same person their views now. That’s how rubbishy his article is.

Andrew Gilligan is not known as “Gilligoon” for nothing. He’s a crude propagandist, as his shilling for London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson shows. His attention to detail is laughably bad, as the Hutton Inquiry exposed. And as Momentum’s statement shows - “We are not campaigning for the deselection of any sitting MP” - he’s talking complete crap here. So no change there, then.

Top Six - January 21

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 to be out and about later. So there.
6 Tommy Robinson Threatens Murder Stephen Yaxley Lennon was caught on record telling Ali Dawah that he would not only “kill him”, but “kill him instantly”. One for his pals at Bedfordshire Police to look at, perhaps.

5 Nigel Farage - Arrest Soon? Mr Thirsty, who is already a “person of interest” to the FBI, has now been fingered as a regular visitor to the Ecuadorian embassy in London to see Julian Assange, regarded to be a Russian asset. And taking him a thumb drive.

4 Guido Fawked - Fake News Hypocrisy The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog went after James O’Brien for not deleting wrong information - which they do all the time. Another fine mess.

3 Tory Press - Don’t Mention Carillion Paul Mason was proved right when, the morning after the Carillion collapse, the right-leaning part of the press either relegated the story to a very minor item, or kept it off the front page altogether. The Daily Mail even used an Iceland supermarkets press release as its lead story instead!

2 Toby Young - The REAL Reason He Went Another week on the Top Six for this post - the loathsome Tobes knew he was about to be identified as an attendee and speaker at a eugenics conference just before he resigned his board position at the newly formed Office for Students.

1 McDonnell - Sunday Politics In Trouble The BBC’s flagship politics show once again came under fire after making claims about shadow chancellor John McDonnell which then had to be “clarified”.

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

Saturday, 20 January 2018

John Worboys And Clueless Pundits

The Tories have once again talked the populist talk, only to realise that when it came to walking the practicality walk, they were out of ideas - and totally out of line. After news emerged that “Black Cab Rapist” John Worboys would be paroled later this month, there was an outcry, not least from some of his victims who had not been informed of the move. The press, as so often, demanded action, but did not bother with such things as the law.
Tim Shipman, the alleged doyen of political pundits

As the reasoning of the parole board was, as the law stands, confidential, this could not be openly challenged, but our free and fearless press knew that, whatever it was, it had to be wrong and therefore could easily be overridden. The press also knew that they would not be the ones having to execute this largely fanciful manoeuvre.

And despite knowing that not only the judiciary, but also that parole board, were independent of politicians, new Justice Secretary David Gauke declared that he would seek a Judicial Review of the parole board’s actions. The impression was given that, in accordance with press demands, Worboys would be staying behind bars. It was only when Gauke had had the opportunity to repent at leisure that he realised he had fouled up.
John Worboys

So he appeared before the Commons and meekly admitted that he would not be seeking any kind of review: Worboys would be released in accordance with the parole board’s decision. London Mayor Sadiq Khan was not so persuaded, and will continue to examine the feasibility of judicial review. But meanwhile, the pundits were stirring.

As so often, the Press and Pundit Establishment decided that not only was it qualified to pontificate on the Worboys case, it also knew (how? Don’t ask) that no-one else knew as much as they did, whomsoever they be. This is the default knowledge mode assumption of that Establishment: they know, and you don’t, so there.
This brings us to the obscenely overrated Tim Shipman, now of the Murdoch Sunday Times, who knew more than everyone else put together, including anyone who had the audacity to respond in a less than adulatory fashion on Twitter. His outpourings demonstrate in spades the flawed nature of the Press and Pundit Establishment.

He kicked off with “The Worboys affair has been very revealing for this political hack. The political incompetence is my bread and butter. More telling has been the number of pompous, sanctimonious, patronising lawyers prepared to defend a process that has so obviously failed”. That “political incompetence” extended to David Gauke. For the rest of his targets there is no citation. And I doubt there will be one. But there is a Straw Man.
Had he read the Secret Barrister’s thread on the case? “I have … He’s arguing we shouldn't jump to judgment before knowing the secret details. I'm arguing that many lawyers are jumping to the view that the decision must be defended without knowing the details”. Another Straw Man. No citation. And it wasn’t getting any better.

The decision seems mad. The onus is on those who made it to justify it, not on the rest of us to accept it on the basis of assurances that the parole board is a wise and just institution. We don't trust our politicians. I'm no more inclined to trust our judges”. He doesn’t know how the parole board arrived at their decision. But very revealing that he deploys yet another Straw Man - and gets wrong that the judiciary is somehow involved.
Shipman was told what any judicial review would examine - whether the process was flawed - but he was not listening. Instead, we learned that he had been talking to a victim: “but there are enough questions about the engagement of victims (including the one I've been dealing with) to suggest that should be tested in court. Just saying ‘it's a great process and it must be fine because it's British and it's the law’ isn't good enough”. And yet another Straw Man. Plus he doesn’t know what consideration was given to the victims.

What Shipman was prepared to advocate, though, was breaking the law in a way which would generate More And Bigger Self-Promotion Opportunities For Himself Personally Now. When reminded “The parole board is not allowed to reveal the reasons”, his response was to declare “Then they should leak”. Heads he wins, tails they lose.
And when Andrew Cooper observed with justifiable cynicism “Thank God for the faultless professionalism, thoroughness and integrity of political journalists”, there came back the inevitable scoffing response of entitlement: “Thanks for your warm endorsement. We don’t make the laws or enforce them. No one needs faith in us. You can buy our product or not. We are stuck with the judges and politicians. At least we can vote out the latter”.

What Tim Shipman fails to understand is that, as the Fourth Estate is the last bastion of unelected, effectively unregulated, and therefore unaccountable power, he is chucking significantly sized rocks in a very draughty glasshouse. The size of his megaphone, the dysfunctional way in which the press, without bothering itself to become knowledgeable, barges in, declares its view to be reality, and demands action for which it never has to assume responsibility, are all ignored by The Great Man, as if they did not exist.
He and his colleagues don’t care to understand what is going on, except to denounce it. They know this is a delicate and potentially inflammable situation, but throw in as many tinder-dry Straw Men as they can muster. They claim to speak for victims, and the public at large, but in the final reckoning care not a fig for either.

The legal profession which he denounces in such cavalier terms is as concerned about this case as anyone else. So are many of the politicians and judges he doesn’t trust. But Shipman does not care to understand, let alone consider, such matters.
As with any subject that requires specialist knowledge, the press has over the years sent most of its expert correspondents down the road in pursuit of cost cutting. This is where it leads - pundits who are so full of their own importance that they, and their papers, potentially get things very wrong. And when the Sunday Times goes wrong, not only do most of the rest of the press pack go wrong, but so do many of the public.

We have in Tim Shipman another reminder of what Stanley Baldwin said back in 1931: “What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility - the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”.

Anyone outside the Press and Pundit Establishment can see that. It is the greatest pity that those within, and especially Tim Shipman, cannot. That is all.

UKIP - Beginning Of The End

Too skint to hold another leadership election, membership numbers in freefall, and with the departure of Jonathan Arnott, another MEP lost, the motley convocation of saloon bar propper-uppers otherwise known as UKIP faces that final curtain. The party will decide the fate of leader Henry Bolton tomorrow - or he may just ignore their confidence vote and tough it out, all the while shipping members, money, and credibility.
The last Kipper gets smoked

Not only do the Kippers not have the means to hold another leadership contest without first disposing of at least one staff member, they also, as Arnott pointed out, do not have anyone better than Bolton to replace him. There will be no return of Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, as UKIP is now on its uppers, and Nige ain’t going anywhere other than where the money is at. The bankers could pull the plug as early as next week.

And adding to the collective-nervous-breakdown-cum-self-destruct-inevitability of UKIP right now have been yet more revelations of most unfortunate social media outbursts from the young woman who Bolton took up with, then dumped, but then dined with last week and who accompanied him all the way back to the location on the Kent Coast where he has a flat. Jo Marney’s intolerant and bigoted back catalogue had more nasty surprises.
Ms Marney’s Facebook messages include one tirade which contains the observations “I’m voting UKIP … I hate these PG English people who are scared to speak out about the tidal wave of European scum coming over here in case they get labelled as racist … Personally, I freely admit I am racist. I didn’t use to be, but I am now. These people are given more rights than us in our own country … They come here purely to use and abuse our system”. She isn’t too clued up on human rights, either, but then, she votes UKIP.

There was, sadly for Henry Bolton and his decision making process, more. “Just let ‘em all come over … let ‘em all live off us … have 50,000 brats … and claim benefits … well, that’s what’s happening … it’s the truth … and personally, I couldn’t care if we do kill Iraqi kids … I personally think the entire country needs a nuclear bomb dropping on it”.

She isn’t too good at separating EU member states from those in the Middle East, too, it seems. And as Bolton has decreed that he does not rule out “rekindling” his relationship with Ms Marney, it is most relevant to his suitability for continuing as UKIP leader. Is he in favour of these dishonest and spiteful attacks on EU citizens (and, indeed, Iraqis)?
Meanwhile, five of the party’s councillors in Hartlepool “have resigned from the party citing ‘national distraction’ and formed a new Independent Group … Councillors John Tennant, Shane Moore, Bob Buchan, Tim Fleming and George Springer, have quit the party amid increasing negative headlines and in-fighting within the party at national level”, following the move by Arnott, their local MEP. There are likely to be more.

UKIP can’t afford to dump Bolton, they don’t have a credible alternative, and all the while their members and elected representatives are drifting away. The party is visibly breaking up. Next week it may all be over. Just rejoice at that news.

Katie Hopkins Through The Keyhole

For once, there is no need to look round that alleged Sleb house while Loyd Grossman systematically murders every pronunciation rule in the English language, because this all-new edition of Through The Keyhole features someone who was never really much of a Sleb, and it’s not on telly, mainly because she has fallen so far in recent months that no-one who matters - except the lawyers - cares much about her.
Viewers may still want to look away now

Yes, this al fresco Through The Keyhole looks at the enforced sale of a house in Exeter which is at present occupied by pro-am motormouth Katie Hopkins and her family. The has-been pundit who recently told her local paper “Here in Exeter people are nice and I can be just Katie. Realistically you would have to be quite ballsy to say anything to my face” may not be here in Exeter for very long - well, not in the same, desirable area.

That article is also a commensurate work of fiction, appearing in early November but claiming “Katie still writes a column for the Mail Online and is also in demand internationally from Switzerland to America”. She had already been binned by Mail Online. What it also didn’t mention is that Ms Hopkins had a significantly sized legal bill hanging over her. And that her house was now on the market.

As the Mirror has reported, “Featuring a neon coloured open plan kitchen, country cottage courtyard, and a lurid hot pink carpet in the living room, these photos reveal the million pound mansion Katie Hopkins has put up for sale a year after losing a libel case over two tweets … The luxurious five-bedroom family house is now up for sale on Right Move for £950,000 following Katie's legal defeat to food writer Jack Monroe last year”.

Do go on. “Located in a quiet suburb of leafy Exeter, the former columnist's home had provided a retreat from her hectic showbiz commitments in London … Boasting a generously-sized kitchen with separate utility room, the property would be an ideal base for a large family”. So the washing machine does not have to be in the kitchen, which should please Kirstie Allsopp. And that “generous size” is a whopping 33’ by 17’.

What else? “The house also features three separate reception rooms - one of which Katie has transformed into a music room - and a downstairs cloakroom and shower … All five bedrooms are spacious and future buyers would enjoy the luxury of a recently refitted large bathroom on the first floor … The top tier of the house features a huge double bedroom with connected dressing room and bathroom”.

And now it has to be sold in order for Hatey Katie to stump up the estimated £300k she owes, after losing that libel action brought by Jack Monroe. Ms Hopkins could, of course, have said sorry at the time. She could have thought twice before Tweeting about a Muslim “final solution”, thus guaranteeing she lost her LBC radio show. She could have avoided this humiliation. She is in this position because of her own actions.

Even identifying the house was made possible through her previously showing Now! Magazine around it. And like many who have observed the rise and fall of Katie Hopkins, I’m not too fussed where she fetches up - so long as it isn’t anywhere near me.