Thursday, July 24, 2008

Westmonster R.I.P.

Westmonster is no more and has gone the way of the now forgotten Honourable Fiend. It won’t be missed.

Traffic was small and they were losing money despite the low costs of blog publishing. The owners couldn’t make it work and honestly admit that they just couldn’t find the talent. Once Sadie Smith* left they did it themselves and then had young, cheap writers – the last of which was dire. They also made the classic mistake of commenting on comment too much and just rounding up other peoples stories instead of getting original news stories. It was a car crash.

*She has her own blog here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sub-Standard

As sent to Times sub-editors:

From : Giles Coren

Chaps,

I am mightily pissed off. I have addressed this to Owen, Amanda and Ben because I don’t know who i am supposed to be pissed off with (i’m assuming owen, but i filed to amanda and ben so it’s only fair), and also to Tony, who wasn’t here – if he had been I’m guessing it wouldn’t have happened.

I don’t really like people tinkering with my copy for the sake of tinkering. I do not enjoy the suggestion that you have a better ear or eye for how I want my words to read than I do. Owen, we discussed your turning three of my long sentences into six short ones in a single piece, and how that wasn’t going to happen anymore, so I’m really hoping it wasn’t you that fucked up my review on saturday.

It was the final sentence. Final sentences are very, very important. A piece builds to them, they are the little jingle that the reader takes with him into the weekend.

I wrote: “I can’t think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for a nosh.”
it appeared as: “I can’t think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for nosh.”

There is no length issue. This is someone thinking “I’ll just remove this indefinite article because Coren is an illiterate Hunt and i know best”.

Well, you fucking don’t.

This was shit, shit sub-editing for three reasons.

1) ‘Nosh’, as I’m sure you fluent Yiddish speakers know, is a noun formed from a bastardisation of the German ‘naschen’. It is a verb, and can be construed into two distinct nouns. One, ‘nosh’, means simply ‘food’. You have decided that this is what i meant and removed the ‘a’. I am insulted enough that you think you have a better ear for English than me. But a better ear for Yiddish? I doubt it. Because the other noun, ‘nosh’ means “a session of eating” – in this sense you might think of its dual valency as being similar to that of ‘scoff’. you can go for a scoff. or you can buy some scoff. the sentence you left me with is shit, and is not what i meant. Why would you change a sentnece aso that it meant something i didn’t mean? I don’t know, but you risk doing it every time you change something. And the way you avoid this kind of fuck up is by not changing a word of my copy without asking me, okay? it’s easy. Not. A. Word. Ever.
2) I will now explain why your error is even more shit than it looks. You see, i was making a joke. I do that sometimes. I have set up the street as “sexually-charged”. I have described the shenanigans across the road at G.A.Y.. I have used the word ‘gaily’ as a gentle nudge. And “looking for a nosh” has a secondary meaning of looking for a blowjob. Not specifically gay, for this is soho, and there are plenty of girls there who take money for noshing boys. “looking for nosh” does not have that ambiguity. the joke is gone. I only wrote that sodding paragraph to make that joke. And you’ve fucking stripped it out like a pissed Irish plasterer restoring a renaissance fresco and thinking jesus looks shit with a bear so plastering over it. You might as well have removed the whole paragraph. I mean, fucking christ, don’t you read the copy?
3) And worst of all. Dumbest, deafest, shittest of all, you have removed the unstressed ‘a’ so that the stress that should have fallen on “nosh” is lost, and my piece ends on an unstressed syllable. When you’re winding up a piece of prose, metre is crucial. Can’t you hear? Can’t you hear that it is wrong? It’s not fucking rocket science. It’s fucking pre-GCSE scansion. I have written 350 restaurant reviews for The Times and i have never ended on an unstressed syllable. Fuck. fuck, fuck, fuck.

I am sorry if this looks petty (last time i mailed a Times sub about the change of a single word i got in all sorts of trouble) but i care deeply about my work and i hate to have it fucked up by shit subbing.

New Statesman Owner Buys LabourHome

Guido has been hearing rumours that LabourHome was “in play” and that two bidders were after the site. Tom Miller’s Newer Labour has the exclusive confirming that LabourHome has been bought by Mike Danson, the new owner of the New Statesman.
Newer Labour reports that it went for a “high five figure sum… with some of the existing editors, like Alex Hilton, one of the foremost Labour bloggers and co-founder, Jag Singh, staying on board.” PoliticsHome had also shown an interest in bringing the site into the “home” network – Freddie Sayers had been in negotiations with the site but got gazumped.

Guido called Alex Hilton, LabourHome’s chief commissar, to commiserate with him for not getting a six-figure valuation. (Guardian Media Group just bought PaidContent for $30 million, the Gawker group of blogs is valued at over $100 million.) Alex would only say “We are very pleased to have the support of the New Statesman” from his yacht in the Caribbean.

Guido reckons that if the valuations being achieved in the U.S. were reflected here, the leading blogs would be worth seven figure sums. Mrs Fawkes has become noticeably less intolerant of Guido’s blogging of late…

Vote to See Sky’s Miranda Semi-Naked

Iain is doing his annual blog guide, compiling a list of the top 100 political blogs in the UK.

Miranda from the Boulton & Co. blog is canvassing for votes with the promise that if they get into the top 10 there will be “semi-naked photos of all our political correspondents made available on the blog.”

So if you want to see Miranda, Adam Boulton, Jon Craig, Cheryl Smith and Niall Paterson semi-naked vote for Boulton & Co in your list of top 10 favourite political blogs.

Email your top 10 list to toptenblogs@totalpolitics.com

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How Will MPs Cope With 76 Days of Unsubsidised Booze?

As they slip off this afternoon to face a tough 12-weeks holiday in the real world without subsidised drink, Guido wonders how will MPs cope?

The House of Commons Refreshment Department operated on a subsidy of £5.5 million of taxpayers’ money in the 2007/08 financial year, which is equivalent to the total annual tax receipts from 35 pubs. The subsidy is equivalent to £8,500 per MP – that is approximately £50 per diem on top of the £30 per diem they voted to award themselves every working day in cash.

The subsidy, which for some inexplicable reason was not published in the House of Commons’ Annual Accounts, was £693,000 higher than in 2006/07 – a 15% increase. No belt tightening for MPs despite the Chancellor’s warnings.

It accounted for 43% of the operating costs, meaning that the taxpayer coughs up £4.30 for every £10 spent refreshing our politicians: even before they claim back their outgoings without receipts through the expenses system. These figures don’t include the multi-million pound re-fit of the wine cellar.
MPs are members of the best London club with a dozen bars on the parliamentary estate, plenty of dining rooms, brasseries and banqueting suites all operating without a licence and no restrictions on hours – you can even smoke in some.

A pint in the Stranger’s Bar costs £2.10, outside parliament in the West End you pay £3.50 to £4.00. An 8-year-old Scotch costs £1.35, while our politicians can enjoy a Pimm’s on the pleasant Thames-side terrace for just £1.65 – which is a third to a half of prices a mile down the road. Do you really think they need to pay politicians more to attract people?

*Not including all the additional expense claims for essential new kitchens, appliances, window cleaning, garden pergolas, plasma TVs….


[Incidentally to all PRs who send Guido press releases - the AMLR press release was the best Guido has seen in years. Clever, on a relevant subject, well aimed and timed.]

Shanghai Surprise Just Chinese Takeaway

The spin from Downing Street is that an unnamed aide was the “victim of honeytrap operation by Chinese agents.” The incident occurred in Shanghai on the second day of the China tour. That night a crowd of Downing Street staffers and Lobby hacks went to a packed hotel disco, Michael Jacobs was approached by an attractive Chinese woman. The couple fooled around on the dance-floor and later disappeared together back to his hotel room to further Anglo-Sino relations.

Anyone who has spent time in Asia will laugh at the honey-trap-spy media spin, far more likely that it was just a good time girl who pinched his Blackberry and wallet. Why on earth would Chinese intelligence agents care what Michael Jacobs, the right-on former secretary-general of the Fabians, hero of Hampstead, fully paid-up Guardianista and now Gordon’s environmental adviser, had on his Blackberry? Laughable.

Why are the newspapers being so coy about reporting the name? After all, Guido understands that the political editors of the Sun (George Pascoe-Watson), Mail (Ben Brogan) and Telegraph (Andrew Porter) were at the same disco. “What goes on tour, stays on tour”, eh boys?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Right’s Think Tanks Enjoying Revival

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: James Purnell’s “workfare” proposals are being warmly welcomed by Chris Grayling his Tory welfare shadow. “Much of today’s package is a straight lift from our Green Paper in January… Because these are Conservative proposals we will support them. We will help him get them through this House.”

The Government’s Green Paper may be lifted from the Tory Green Paper from January which itself bears a remarkable similarity to the Adam Smith Institute report from November 2007 – Working Welfare. The ideas in that were were first expounded by the former MP for North Norfolk, Sir Ralph Howell. A resolute free-marketeer, Howell was the author of the ASI report “Why Work?” in the mid-1990s. The ASI’s Madsen Pirie says “this idea has taken longer than we would have wanted to become government policy”. The ideas were theoretical at that time in the 1990s before they were implemented in Wisconsin.

Michael Gove’s advocacy of the Swedish model of “free schools” may owe a little to another recent ASI report – Open Access for UK Schools: What Britain can learn from Swedish Education Reform. Over at the new look Centre for Policy Studies things are getting more lively after a quiet period, Policy Exchange is becoming something of a powerhouse (incidentally, it was cleared by the Charity Commission of tit-for-tat allegations of partisanship).

Alas only the venerable Institute of Economic Affairs has yet to join the renaissance of right-of-centre think tanks in Westminster’s wonkland…

Will He Make Another Illegal Donation?

As Barack heads to Europe the Washington Post asked yesterday of Obama, “Surely a man who has said he would talk with U.S. adversaries such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can spend a few moments with journalists from friendlier countries.” After all, McCain spares a moment for foreign press questions – probably because he is comfortable with foreign affairs issues.

Hold on a second, which sleazy lobbyist currently under police investigation was spinning to the local Welsh press that he was in charge of foreign media relations for Obama’s campaign?

Steve Morgan will hopefully do for Barack Obama what he did for Peter Hain.

+++ Policy Exchange Boss Joins Team Boris +++

So what is arguably currently the top job in wonkland is now up for grabs…

Via CoffeeHouse

Waning Warm-Up Act

Despite having promised Palestinians mortgages (Eastern Rock?) he is not getting much coverage in Israel. The coverage he is getting is not exactly warm:
Brown’s arrival is also in the shadow of the recent visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarah Brown may be a founding partner in a public relations firm and a supporter of charities, but she’s no Carla Bruni.

But that isn’t the only reason for the lack of coverage of Brown’s visit. Former U.K. prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair were considered great statesmen but while Brown may hold the same title, he lacks their political clout.

A member of Brown’s entourage says his weakness on the international stage stems from troubles at home. Last month Brown celebrated his first year in office after taking over from Blair.

For a decade, he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, presiding over a period of prosperity for Britain. But when his time finally came to take charge, the New Labour magic disappeared and widely became known as an irascible but tired figure.

Poor Gordon, pitied in the promised land…

Hat-tip : Croydonian


Seen Elsewhere

Multiculturalism: At What Price? | Allison Pearson
Labour Failed Those Victims | Labour Uncut
We Cannot Ignore the Race Issue Here | Dan Hodges
74 MPs Who Back Stop Mills Motion | Speccie
Milibande | Ian Birrell
The True Meaning of Political Correctness Gone Mad | Speccie
Nigel, Nigel, Nigel! | Bloomberg
Bercow Blinks | Guardian
Speaker on the Ropes | Indy
Outgoing Clerk Slams Bercow – Row Goes Very Public | BBC
Darling Was Wrong on OBR | Speccie


VOTER-RECALL
hot-button new-advert


Shaun Wright’s understatement about the Rotherham child abuse scandal…

“..I could have taken more action and probably dealt with this issue better.”



Owen Jones says:

We also need Zil lanes.


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