Clegg's Pointed Jibe

Nick Clegg just told the Press Gallery lunch:

“Whatever people say about Chris Huhne, I don’t know any politician better at getting his points across.”

It’s almost as if he’s enjoying his old foe suffering…

Balls Calls for VAT Cut to Boost Consumer Spending

Data released today by the Office for National Statistics showed UK retail sales slumped during May. Including fuel, sales volumes fell by 1.4% last month, while excluding automotive fuel volumes decreased by 1.6%. George Osborne believes that lower tax economies are higher growth economies, he told us so many times in opposition. Just because Ed Balls advocates it today doesn’t automatically make it wrong to cut VAT. Balls is calling for a temporary suspension of the VAT hike to boost consumer spending and growth. Why not?

Is Hilton Going On His Bike?

As Downing Street’s Digital Communications guru takes the money and flies off to Dubai to work for mega-spin-shop Hill and Knowlton, speculation turns to policy guru Steve Hilton’s future. Sam Coates in The Times suggests that there is a “50-50 chance” of Hilton walking out within six months, disillusioned with the realities of governing from Downing Street and having lost key battles to Osborne. Hilton was an advocate of big-bang reforms, Osborne is more cautious about securing a Tory majority.

It isn’t only Osborne he has been losing out to, Andrew Cooper has been providing an evidence-based reality check and pulled Cameron on to the right side of the argument over Ken Clarke’s discounted jail terms for rapists. Craig Oliver is also competing successfully for Cameron’s ear. So speculation mounts that Hilton may be on the way out…

Puddick Precedent Will Be Important

Guido has been awaiting the trial of Ian Puddick with avid interest. Puddick set up a series of websites to vent his anger over his wife’s 10-year affair with her boss, Timothy Haynes. On the first day of the case there has been no suggestion that anything posted online by Ian Puddick is untrue, simply that the widespread and repeated dissemination amounts to harassment. He was raided by the City of London Police on dubious grounds. This is as Mr Puddick himself says “a very interesting case”.

Tory MP Nadine Dorries is hounded online to a degree that is amazing for a backbench MP, even for one as admittedly colourful as Nadine, her persecution is extraordinary. Every thing she says, writes or tweets is deconstructed. Any slip of the tongue is a lie, any poorly phrased blog post is used in evidence against her. She is an outspoken woman with strong views, a socially conservative opponent of abortion. In some circles this is a thought-crime.

Her forays into blogging and tweeting have brought her nothing but grief, Guido advised her some years ago to quit the online limelight. There is little she can do about what people write about her online if it is not defamatory or a provable lie. Opinion is hard to action.

Lawyers believe the Puddick case could help define the limits of free expression online, the prosecution claims the plumber’s actions were harassment such that they forced the adulterous director to leave his position due to stress. In Guido’s opinion unless the harassment takes the form of direct communication – email, telephone, faxes, letters, tweets – it should not be actionable. If this case sets a precedent that online publication can be harassment won’t it have a chilling effect on free expression? For years this blog wrote almost daily negative stories about Gordon Brown, we know that this stressed him greatly. Should Brown be allowed to sue Guido for harassment? Should Nadine be allowed to sue her enemies for harassing her online?



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Quote of the Day

George Osborne paraphrases Boris, telling the FT:

“If the ball came loose at the back of the scrum, I wouldn’t fumble it”

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