Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kinnock Clan Question

Probably not the best time to ask, but was Neil Kinnock appointed Chair of the British Council before or after his son got the director’s job. Just asking…

Fourth Company Endorsed by Hain Got£1m from Welsh Assembly Government

When Peter Hain is eventually reshuffled away or forced out of office he can just continue his career in advertising making those celebrity endorsements; “St Tropez, for a perma-tan, will last longer than my career…”

Here is a fourth corporate endorsement, he praised a firm as a “modern, dynamic company” which he wanted to see go “from strength to strength” in the run up to their stock market floatation. It is handy for a Cardiff based spin firm doing government relations if the Welsh Secretary himself gives you a boost despite the obvious conflict of interest. Very reassuring to potential investors…

Freshwater UK plc, which even more handily also got a £1m investment from the Welsh Assembly Government development arm, had coincidentally paid £10,000 for a table at a Labour fundraiser four days prior that ringing endorsement. Peter Hain was seated at the Freshwater table at the event, which was also attended by John Underwood, Freshwater’s business development director and Hain’s campaign treasurer. It was Underwood who set up the faux think tank as well to channel money to Hain4Labour. Yet another amazing coincidence in the Hain saga…

The London Evening Standard has been trying to get hold of Hain4Labour’s campaign manager, the increasingly elusive Morgan the Organ. Morgan Allen Moore’s vice-chairman Richard Moore told the Standard that the fake think tank matter sharing a registered office with them was “purely coincidental”. “The only connection between Morgan Allen Moore and the Progressive Policies Forum is that we have the same registered address with a firm of London solicitors.”

Too many coincidences to be believable.

Electoral Commission Did Not Write to MIC

Word reaches Guido that the Electoral Commission wrote to “certain” unincorporated associations last week, not including the Midlands Industrial Council. Lisa Klein, Director of Party and Election Finance, wrote the letter reminding them about original money sources being permissible donors.

The MIC has long been the target of Labour complaints and has gone to some lengths to satisfy the Electoral Commission.

Lisa Klein was unavailable for comment…

Today Radio 4 : Guido on Drudge

Guido will shortly be paying homage to Matt Drudge on the tail end of the Today programme this morning. They will probably wheel out some old Guardian hack to tell you how it was better in the old days, before the internet. Wonder who…?

UPDATE : It was David Hencke, the Guardian’s sleaze investigatior, so not a confrontation, more a consensus. Be warned Tango-man fans, we swapped titbits in the green room…

UPDATE II : You can catch-up on BBC listen again. Scroll down to 08.30 – 9.00, fast forward 22 minsutes, it is some 7 minutes from the end.

Ten Years Ago Today:
Drudge Ended the Reign of the Media Gate-keepers

On the night of January 17, 1998, Matt Drudge revealed that Newsweek editors had spiked a story about Bill Clinton and an intern named Monica Lewinsky. His story ended once and for all the gate-keeper ability, if not the mentality, of the mainstream media elite. He later said “We are all newsmen now.”

It was denied. He was derided, attacked for his political views, and for working out of a $600-a-month rented Hollywood apartment. He was right. Today his website reputedly makes him $500,000-a-month and Drudge lives in an exclusive penthouse in Florida.

Love him or hate him, you can’t dismiss him. Having been accused of emulating Drudge, all Guido will say is – “you bet!” As a fan and voracious reader, Guido is happy to say he has learnt a lot from the master – namely what matters if you want to be a news maker:

  1. Content. Original relevant content. Go get the story.
  2. Don’t follow the herd. Have a clear unique online personality.
  3. Updating regularly is hard work, if you have nothing new to say, nobody will read you. Link to hot news at least.
Conventional journalists in the MSM have shifted from sneering to fearing, from deriding to envying. Technology means that any talented trouble maker with a modem can achieve Karl Marx’s dream: ownership of the means of production and distribution. The internet requires no printing presses, delivery vans, distributors or news stands. No editorial restrictions, no proprietor, no once-a-day news cycle.

Drudge has millions of readers and more influence than any other single newsmaker in America. Ironically his ability to direct reader traffic means he is now probably the biggest gate-keeper to conventional journalism today. The Pew Research Centre produced some data on the influence of news sources on the 2008 Presidential campaign. When they asked where Americans got their campaign information online, after the internet portals the New York Times website (6%) was the most cited source, confirming that it is after all the most influential paper in the free world. Second came the Drudge Report (3%), not bad for a three man operation (one of whom is based in London) and way ahead of the Washington Post website (1%). The twentieth century reign of the MSM gate-keepers is over.

Matt Drudge’s greatest achievement was not exposing Bill Clinton, it was deposing the MSM. Guido salutes you Matt, you made him a newsman.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Murkier and Murkier

Two Labour MPs John Mann* and Kevan Jones** have written to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner with a list of donations to 80 Tory MPs they want probed. Guido asked a Labour contact for some background on them, he said “they think they are being clever, but they are idiots”.

The list is a list of donations from unincorporated associations consisting of mainly Tory dining clubs and support groups. There is a real and important issue of transparency here. What Mann and Jones seem to have forgotten is that Labour too has had some £2 million from unincorporated associations. In fact Harriet Harman got £5,000 from one for her leadership campaign…

It might not be illegal, but it is shady, and none of the parties have anything to be proud of on this front. However it is of an entirely different order to Hain’s fake think-tank. Hain’s campaign didn’t even report the donations never mind the source.

UPDATE : Am reliably informed that Kevan Jones was put up to this by his former boyfriend Nick Brown, the long time Gordon loyalist henchmen and enforcer. Kevan was, a long time ago, Nick Brown’s researcher and has enjoyed the patronage of Nick Brown ever since. One amusing story that Guido has been reminded of is that during the 2003 backbench Tuition Fees Rebellion Kevan Jones was summoned to see Gordon who told him he should vote for Tuition Fees. Jones said he represented a working class constituency in the North East and they could not afford to pay for their children to go to university. Gordon’s reply was classic, “I’m not f***ing asking you, I’m f***ing telling you.”

*
John Mann flew to Nigeria recently on a junket courtesy of Shell. Shell is the largest operator in Nigeria providing most of Nigeria’s export earnings. Shell were implicated in the judicial execution of Nigerian environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. In September 2001 a court in New York granted relatives of Ken Saro-Wiwa and another of the executed activists, the right to sue Shell. The suit alleged the company fabricated evidence to support murder charges against the two men.

**Kevan Jones loves a junket, Guido counted at least half a dozen trips to Washington and elsewhere courtesy of various arms trade interests on the register in the last couple of years.

Steve Morgan Sleaze Investigation

The Spin Industry’s self regulatory body, the APPC, describes itself “as the representative and regulatory body for UK public affairs professionals in the consultancy sector.” It was set up in the wake of brown-envelope lobbyist scandals by some of the more respectable lobbying firms to try and prevent the most egregious happenings that are endemic to a murky industry.

Guido has learnt that the APPC has received a complaint from James Davenport, a former employee of Morgan Allen Moore, concerning ten separate breaches of the APPC Code of Conduct by Steve Morgan, Hain’s campaign manager. The book is well and truly being thrown at “Morgan the Organ”…

Official Complaint About Ministry for Incompetence’s SpAds

Peter Hain’s DWP employs numerous Special Advisers who are paid for by the taxpayer and barred from doing party political work. SpAds are Civil Servants and must abide by specific rules laid out in a code. Yesterday the SpAds sent out a press release headlined

TORIES AIM TO DESTROY FINAL SALARY PENSION SCHEMES

The press release includes the line “don’t ever vote Tory”. Guido is no expert, but he suspects that may breach the code’s requirement that They should act in a way which upholds the political impartiality of civil servants”.

The Taxpayers Alliance keeps a hawkish eye on government waste and has made an official complaint to Sir Leigh Lewis, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Work and Pensions about the behaviour of his department’s SpAds campaigning on the public payroll for the Labour Party. Are the DWP SpAds going to blame it like their boss does on incompetence or amnesia?

Hat-tip : Taxpayers Alliance

Hain’s Ryder Cup Cash Link

Peter Hain is getting a lot of cheering from Labour MPs during an unusually well attended session of Welsh questions this morning. Labour backbenchers have clearly decided, perhaps with encouragement from the whips, to prop up the Welsh Secretary. They are cheering him, as Guido writes, for “bringing the Ryder Cup to Wales”.

No opposition MP had the wit to question the conflict of interest and propriety of Hain receiving a £1,500 donation to his campaign from PGA Ryder Cup PR firm TM Communications. More here

Why Don’t Politicians Have a Specific Donations Account?

Dizzy makes a splendidly straightforward suggestion, why don’t politicians have one bank account for donations? They then record each transaction’s source on a register. Guido would also suggest that benefits-in-kind went on the same register. Both the account and register records would be made publicly available online.

If a politician failed to report an item within 30 days they would get a fixed fine of £100. If they failed to report an item after 60 days a £1,000 fine. If they fail to report an item after 90 days a mandatory one month suspension from the house – unpaid.

Party and constituency reporting would continue as now. To accept donations any other way would be a criminal offence. Simple enough even for the most incompetent politician…


Seen Elsewhere

How Avoidable Scandals Destroy Stupid Politicians | Alex Wickham
UKIP Mosque Confusion | The Week
Let’s Ban the Word Internet | Padraig Reidy
Are the Broadcasters Ready For the Election? | Specccie
Moral Bankruptcy of the BBC | David Keighley
UKIP’s ‘Starsky and Hutch’ | Total Politics
Innocent Sun Journo Just Doing Her Job | Sun
Boris Sent Up North | Times
The Only Way to Mend the EU | Leo McKinstry
Northern Labour Tearing Party Apart | David Aaronovitch
Osborne is Son of Brown | Peter Oborne


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Tony Blair threatens Ed:

“If you had a strong political lead that was combining the politics of aspiration with the politics of compassion, I still think that’s where you could get a substantial majority…  If I ever do an interview on [the state of the Labour Party], it will have to be at length…”



Left on Left says:

The lefties are attacking because the panellist is a millionaire and lives in a London home worth upwards of two million. Someone had best tell them he’s called Ed Miliband.


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