Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Major Goes For Kelvin

There’s been more than one disputed phone call this week. A brief side show from today’s main Leveson action was John Major claiming that the infamous “bucket of sh*t” conversation between him and Kelvin MacKenzie never took place. Kelvin provided one of the highlights of Leveson so far with his impression of the former PM, but Major has denied that there is any truth behind the story:

“I certainly don’t recollect the same conversation that has been circulated. There are more myths about Black Wednesday than the Greeks ever created.”

Note he didn’t actually say it didn’t happen. There was a witness after all…

Wall Comes Down

The Times‘ paywall has finally been breached this afternoon as the paper’s bosses decided to allow some of its opinion writers to be read online for free. The move appears to be a first step towards a Wall Street Journal-style semi-permeable website. Could editor James Harding be set to usher in a new age of glasnost?

This is the digital opinion equivalent of 1989…

UPDATE:

It is not too pedantic to say self-evidently that is not completely true…

Ed’s Evidence Points to Brown’s Perjury

Ed Miliband wasted no time in dumping his old boss in it at Leveson. When asked yesterday whether any of his advisers had briefed against colleagues, Gordon Brown insisted:

“I would hope not, I have no evidence for that.”

Yet Ed says that’s not the case. Asked whether Ed Balls, Charlie Whelan or Damian McBride had ever engaged in negative briefings to the press, he said:

“Ed Balls, no. Charlie Whelan left, I believe in 1999…one of the reasons he left was he briefed. On Damian McBride, when I was a Cabinet minister, I did raise a specific concern that I had with Mr Brown, I believe in 2008, about some of Mr McBride’s activities.”

Gordon says he knew nothing about the dark arts of Whelan and McBride, but Ed says he personally told him about it in 2008. Brown was on oath…

UPDATE: 

Mr Jay’s Miliband Conflict

As Guido reported in the Daily Star Sunday at the weekend, there’s a bit of a conflict of interest coming up at Leveson this afternoon:

“The inquiry’s chief inquisitor Mr Robert Jay QC might have to miss out on two of the biggest names though. He’s the boss of the 39 Essex Street chambers where Justine Thornton, also known as Mrs Ed Miliband, works. This apparent conflict of interest should see someone else interrogate the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.”

It would be a shame to miss out on a Mr Jay showdown with Dave on Thursday, but Guido can’t really see how he can question Ed.

UPDATE: It’s Jay. Imagine the fuss if Jay was Sam Cam’s boss…

UPDATE II:

UPDATE III: As reported by the Guardian:

“Jay reopens the inquiry by confirming he is head of chambers at the law firm where Miliband’s wife works. However, he says he has not met Miliband outside the circumstances of this inquiry.”

Gorgeous George’s Rampant Ebay Spree

When George Galloway put an old jacket up for sale on eBay this morning he made the rookie error of leaving his buyer feedback open for all to see. It seems the Bradford MP buys his Valentine’s day gifts from the auction site, including a pack of “retro love heart tea light candles” and Valentines’ candy. But the shopping did not there – in February Gorgeous George made an order with Funky Bunky, an adult shop selling “sex toys, cleaners, massage oils, creams, lubricants and great adult games”:

Here kitty, kitty, kitty…

UPDATE: The account used by Galloway – georgegalloway-bradford-charity-boxing-page - appears to be an eBay charity page. Odd use of a charity account…

A Little Detail About Brown’s Witnesses

Guido has been looking through the “evidence” that the Prime Mentalist has provided to Leveson to back up his claim that he never threatened Rupert Murdoch in the now infamous “declaration of war” phone call in November 2009. Lots of noise has been made about Civil Servants supporting Brown’s version of events, but that is not quite true. Statements have been provided by various staffers who heard the call:

  • Stewart Wood – then Brown’s SpAd, now Lord Wood and Ed’s consigliere – a political appointment known to mop up and cover for Brown’s messes in the past. The Prime Mentalist was witnessed roughly pushing Wood, but he still denies it ever happened.
  • Gavin Kelly –  then deputy chief of staff and another political loyalist. Brown once grabbed him by the collar and said “they are out to get me”. Hardly a credible witness either.
  • David Muir – another political spinner.  Claims “Gordon would shout and be exasperated and angry about things” but covers for him adding “it was for the right reasons”.
  • Michael Dugher – yet another political spinner. Now and MP, but spent the dying days of the Brown government forcing the line. Old habits die hard.

The only non-political witness statement provided is from Simon Lewis, who was the PM’s Official Spokesman. The only civil servant Brown uses for back up was the only witness not to actually hear the call. He stresses that his statement relies on what he was told to brief to the press. Funny that…

UPDATE: A reliable Westminster watchers notes: “I think the contention from Murdoch is that there was a call in late September (just after the Sun came out), rather than in November which is the call people refer to.”

Labour General Secretary Breaks Strike Ranks With Leadership

Labour’s neutered General Secretary Iain McNicol seems to be breaking ranks from the party leadership and backing strikes. Yesterday he promised the GMB conference that Labour will be out on the streets in support of the next demonstration. The next planned action is the Unite bus drivers strikes during the Games. Yet Ed said any strike over the Olympic period would be “unacceptable and wrong”…

According to today’s Morning Star Tom Watson received a jubilant standing ovation from hundreds of delegates for his war on the press. He told them that “there have been some dark and very lonely nights since News International started coming for me”. The best ones write themselves…

UPDATE: Labour sources get in touch to point out that McNicol was referring to a TUC day of action in autumn.

Brown Met Murdoch Press Most

Treasury Denies Secret Eurozone Contingency Planning
Revokes “Trading With Enemy” Legislation Without Debate

The Treasury has denied to Guido that a discreet Statutory Instrument is part of a secret contingency plan preparing for the potential collapse of the European Central Bank. At the end of May the government rushed through an order revoking the 1939 Trading with the Enemy Act, which prevented the UK from trading so-called Negotiable Instruments with former enemies – including former enemy Axis powers. The Act will now allow the UK to trade complex debt packages directly with EU countries, effectively allowing us to directly provide bailouts for European states unable to repay the money they owe to their British counterparts. Greece and Italy are on the list of countries that have now had their enemy status revoked for the purposes of dealing in their government’s debt paper.

The S.I. was slipped through quietly just before the Jubilee break at the end of May. Senior Treasury sources ignored our questions for weeks, until finally a junior press spokesman then directed Guido to Vince Cable’s  BIS. When Guido pointed out it was clearly a Treasury initiated Statutory Instrument they tried to play down the impact of the order, insisting that the existing legislation was obsolete and that it was simply an attempt to clean up the statute book. Yet with the Eurozone entering a new critical phase of financial crisis, the timing seems more than a coincidence…


Seen Elsewhere

Guido’s Column | Sun
NUT’s Loony Defence of Status Quo | Jago Pearson
A Dozen Reasons to Be Cheerful | John McTernan
Political Bloggers Are Equal Opportunities Attackers | ConHome
Michael Gove Should Resign | Conservative Women
Sarah Wollaston’s Naming and Shaming of Bloggers | LibDemVoice
Fraser Nelson: Put Your Money on Ed Miliband to Win | Guardian
Guido Fawkes is Too Aggressive | The Times
Ditch Tobacco Plain Packaging | Grassroots Conservatives
What Farage, Boris and Rob Ford Have in Common | William Walter
Labour Spell New Adviser’s Name Wrong | ITV


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Kevin Maguire on the less than electrifying Ed Miliband…

“I bet if you went into a pub tonight and started a conversation about ­politics you’d hear strong opinions. David Cameron would be out of touch and Nick Clegg despised while Nigel Farage would divide people sharply. Miliband? In a lot of boozers he’d be the fourth most interesting man in British politics.”



Alexrod says:

It’s money innit.


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