Guido is on the Beach

In the Hamptons, USA. Might be back next week.

Gossip will resume on my return.

Plagiarist of the Year Awards

Bloggers are often accused of being mere cut ‘n pasters, undoubtedly many of us are, but when we do, we usually give a link, credit or hat tip to our source. But the Dead-Tree-Press of the mainstream media seem less willing to do the same. Guido’s amazing ability to come up with stories and angles that Marina Hyde at the Guardian also thinks up has become legendary. Indeed the Guardian Diarists even think up the same jokes as Guido nowadays. Always just a day or two after Guido…

Guido is an avid reader of Recess Monkey, and noticed a story that he ran on Thursday about an over-heard young researcher using the chat-up line “If you come out with me, I’ll introduce you to the prime minister.” It brought a smile. So this morning when he read the Sunday Times’ Atticus column he was amazed to read the same story. Is the Monkey moonlighting for the Sunday Times?

Or is it another cut ‘n paste job? Guido thinks it time the Blogosphere came together to honour the MSM with its own awards. A nomination panel should be assembled, composed of bloggers who have had stories lifted without attribution. A suitable trophy should be found for the Press Plagiarist of the Year Award.

Contact Guido (box on the right) if you want to be on the nominations commitee and with great examples of cut ‘n pasting. Special prizes for cut ‘n paste jobs which copy errors as well. Only unattributed specimens are eligible, we want to encourage them to give credit where credit is due.

Tory Split

One idea being talked about increasingly in Tory circles now that the Tories are an almost exclusively an electorally English party is that the party could be broken up into a federation.

Tartan Tories in particular think their only hope of winning elections is to fight as a Scottish party, English Tories already win their national elections and Wales, well, who cares its never votes Tory anyway. Crazy for a party that until recently called itself the Conservative and Unionist party?

Doesn’t some ex-Tory tycoon bankroll the New Party in Scotland? Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Labour Broke e-Laws During Election Campaign

This post has been in gestation for a month and has been held up for various reasons, including Zack Exley threatening to sue Guido. It has been edited down to what can definitely be stood up in court – Zack has seen it and whined extensively about it. Despite being invited to make corrections, he has failed to point out any specific errors. There is a lot more to this, (Zack, the comments section is open).

There is evidence of law-breaking by the American left-winger George Bush dubbed the “garbage man” and Labour hired to create its sophisticated email campaign. Zack previously worked at the anti-Bush, Soros backed MoveOn.Org campaign. He also worked on Kerry’s campaign. All the Labour Party campaign emails designed by Zack made bold references to the Privacy Statement on Labour’s website which states

You may be asked for personal information if you complete one of the forms on this site. Please see below the information we ask for and what this information is used for. In each case we will only use the information about you for the purpose for which you provide it. The Labour Party does not sell or disclose this information to outside organisations or individuals, nor transfer it outside the United Kingdom

It is a criminal offence under the Data Protection Act to obtain information by misrepresentation. Guido has evidence that data collected by the Labour Party was in fact, contrary to their privacy claims, disclosed to an outside private corporation. The corporation is Email Reaction, a firm usually hired by banks and similar mass marketers. The Labour Party’s email campaign utilised Email Reaction to embed unique Spyware links in the emails to identify who opened an email. Link tracking systems can analyse signals sent back from embedded software code in the emails to report who clicked on a link in an email and when. The Spyware is sophisticated enough so that individual histories for each individual can be compiled showing their full history (emails sent, clicks, opens, donations made). The Labour party collected postcode details when it collected email addresses for its database which could be used to tie in with the data available from the massive Mosaic consumer database.

David Naylor, partner, Technology Transactions Group at global technology and finance law firm, Morrison & Foerster points out that

the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications 2002 introduces new laws across Europe controlling the use of cookies and other tracking technology used on websites as well as location-based data.

These laws were brought into force in the UK on 11 December 2003, under the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. Companies and other data controllers that ignore these laws may be subject to regulatory investigation and fines, civil liability and, in some circumstances, criminal liability. In certain circumstances, criminal sanctions may be imposed for breaches of data protection laws not only against a company that acts as a data controller, but also against its directors. You should note that the regulations apply to all cookies and tracking devices, whether or not they are used to store personally identifiable data.

During the campaign Guido had been digging into this for a few weeks when he exchanged emails with Zack Exley and challenged him on this issue. Despite initial denials, when presented with proof he later admitted that the links were in the emails, but denied they were utilised and claimed they were an over-sight by the outside software supplier Email Reaction. He tried to put Guido off the scent, eventually threatening that he would “cut you off for life” if Guido disclosed this information. (Guido will cope.)

Subsequent campaign email sent out by the Labour party did not contain the unique identifiers. The press office and the legal department will not respond to any information requests. Failure to disclose the Spyware and failure to offer opt out facilities are criminal offences under the Data Protection Act and the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. Melanie Onn, the Constitutional and Legal Officer for the Legal and Financial Compliance Taskforce for the Labour Party stonewalled on giving answers to all questions and requests prior to May 5. Applications and requests under the Data Protection Act were ignored – in breach of the law. But breaching the Data Protection Act by not supplying blogging applicants such as Guido and Tim Ireland with the information they are obliged to supply, in the time they are supposed to do, is the least of Melanie Onn’s worries. Guido understands that privacy advocates are contemplating legal action in what would be a test case, who better to test the laws against than the governing party that introduced them?

Guido is Overseas

Away for the christening of baby Ms Fawkes. Blogging from the Blackberry (if you can read this…)

Galloway : Oath Oaf

A reader, Gary, writes to make an interesting observation about the member for Baghdad Central & Bethnal Green.

Galloway has I think left London to fly to Washington for his sparring match with the US Senate sub-committee which has accused him over the oil scandal.

Problem for him is, that he has not sworn the oath in the House of Commons. He will not be back in London until after the Queen’s Speech, which is the deadline when all MPs have to have affirmed or taken the oath.

Unless the Speaker lets him off, if he sets foot on the floor of the House when he gets back, he will be fined £500, and his Bethnal Green and Bow seat would be automatically vacated.

Maude : Sieghart’s Fantasies

Writing in The Times last week, Mary Ann Sieghart claimed Maude was caught plotting with Stephen Dorrell and Andrew Tyrie to get Andrew Lansley to run as the modernisers’ candidate. Maude told the Indy it was “pure fantasy” – Guido did wonder why they would choose Lansley, a latter day Major type figure. She also said Willets ought to be leader.

So she was wrong on both counts.

Yes m’Lord

How times change, the second chamber was ‘an ancient indefensible relic…waiting to be blown away by New Labour’ according to Lord Adonis in 1997.

As for Tony Lord Banks…

Integrity, Integrity, Integrity

Guido has cast his eye over Lord Drayson before. Remember him? The businessmen, who has been appointed as a Defence Minister, gave a £50,000 donation to the Labour party. Then had a business breakfast with the Prime Minister, gave a second donation of £50,000 to the Labour party while the government in 2001 was weighing up who should be awarded a £32m contract to supply vaccines in case of a biological attack by terrorists. His company Powderject was bidding on the contract, fortunately for him it did not go to tender. Kippers might not have been on the breakfast menu, but it was fishy. Surprise, Powderject got awarded the contract, making a quick £20m profit on it. What value for money for the taxpayer, what a return on investment!

Loaded now, he gave another £500,000 donation to New Labour, and got made a life peer by Mr Blair six weeks later. He sold his company two years later, trousered £100 million and joins the government today. Hey, that’s politics with integrity…

The appointment was defended by Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, who said Lord Drayson was a distinguished industrialist (translated, “big donor”). Guido understands that tomorrow the Sunday Times will be highlighting some “tax efficient” structures (translated, “dodges”) he used to save himself millions via offshore trusts. Gordon Brown has been cracking down on such structures. Tsk, tsk.

Guido Thanks Guardian Readers

Fear of Boris

The Tory leadership race came up on Question Time, Dimbleby intervened “Before I ask Boris Johnson on this, I just want to take a question from the audience.” The audience member asked whether Boris should be leader and the whole audience started cheering. Boris, typically, mumbled some bemused appreciation and tried to answer the preceding point. David Dimbleby forced the issue. Boris eventually admitted he would love the job.
Boris? Guido bows to no-one in Boris appreciation (well maybe I am not as appreciative as BorisWatch), but PM? Boris once stated that he had as much chance of being Prime Minister as of being decapitated by a frisbee or of finding Elvis. He is now only 80 /1 at the bookies, so he best duck if he sees Elvis. If the Tory membership were given free reign they might just select him…

Therein lies the fears of Howard about the current system.

Howard Slaps Down John Bercow & Ian Taylor

Howard told the meeting of the parliamentary party yesterday that ultra-moderniser Bercow and Ken Clarke acolyte and Europhile Ian Taylor were examples of how MPs should not behave if the party is to have a civilised discussion about its future.

Sieghart : Backs Baldie Two Brains

Writing in The Times Mary Ann Sieghart sheds some light on matters and hits the nail on the head for the modernisers. Who to do it, not what to do, is their problem.

My new source was correct apparently about a meeting of the modernisers on Monday. Sieghart says Maude, Dorrel and Andrew Tyrie discussed who they should support. She says they opted for Andrew Lansley. Dorrell told Alan Duncan and Damian Green their views. If Sieghart is correct it seems very unsporting that Francis Maude, party chairman, is getting involved in intra-factional infighting. Her judgement however has to be questioned since she backs Willets.

Guido has a simple suggestion, it will bring increased involvement in the party, and it would emulate the most successful right-of-centre political party in the world, the Republicans. Hold primaries, let the membership choose two leadership candidates who would be voted on by their MP colleagues. In the twenty-first century, democratic parties require democratic procedures, any attempt to edge out the membership’s primary role is ridiculous. If you want to be leader, communicate your message around the country to party members at hustings, get their support, don’t get yourself foisted on the membership by the parliamentary party.

Yes, IDS was a disaster chosen by members, but Major was chosen by MPs. You don’t want a leader in this day and age who is not trusted by the party membership. Unless you are Tony Blair of course.

Who Had the Dippy Idea?

The LibDems wanted to abolish the Department for Trade and Industry, so New Labour, spinners to the core decided to do the same. Well, er, not exactly, they decided to abolish the name and replace it with the Department for Productivity, Energy and Industry.

A name mocked by the CBI as “old-fashioned corporatism” (the CBI attacking corporatism, that is the kettle calling), the unions weren’t keen on the productivity bit either.

Alan Johnson declaimed all responsibility for the idea in the FT “I don’t know. It certainly wasn’t mine.” So who had the dippy idea of the DPEI? Was it Hewitt? Leaks to the usual places (see the box on the right).

Beeb Gathers Magic Moments

For those of you who miss the election campaign, the Beeb has some of the best moments on its website, the Reg Keys speech in Sedgefield, Howard’s resignation, Galloway v Paxman, Tony Blair on Question Time, and sleepless Kennedy unable to explain LibDem policy.

Some other juicy bits ‘n pieces as well, enjoy.

The Race : Hague Not Vague

To my gambling friends a warning, despite the cajoling of Lord Parkinson and the Yorkshire Post, Hague is adamant he is not running. So punters might want to get on to Betfair and lay him. He was categorically clear yesterday “I certainly will not be standing for the leadership, however many people ask me to do so”. Hague also hinted that Osborne should not run. The Guardian reckons Hague turned down Howard’s offer of the Shadow Chancellorship.

Letwin has confirmed he is out, “I am not going to contest this time. I think one has to know one’s limits.” Quite.

A new (untested) source tells me that some of the modernisers met up earlier this week to try to agree on a candidate – apparently without succeeding. To Guido the race looks like one of Tim Yeo, Andrew Lansley or Alan Duncan being the real moderniser candidate against David Davis, Doc Fox and Rifkind. Since everyone is claiming a ‘modernising’ agenda the terminology is becoming redundant. Yeo is too left-wing for the right, Lansley is nice enough, but a bit like Major in some ways. Alan Duncan would be an interesting candidate – it would certainly test the modernisers’ thesis to the limit. The bookies choice, David Davis, seems a shoo-in, but the Tory party never selects the favourite.

Its hard to say what some of the candidates are going to offer to differentiate themselves – certainly not popular profiles – maybe the Tories just need a likeable leader (with hair) for a change?

UPDATE: Tebbit to ITV on Rifkind “I don’t think a Scottish lawyer would win an enormous amount of seats in England. We’ve forgotten that we have a majority of votes in England – we’ve polled more votes in England than Labour. Now we have got a problem, but it is not one which I think the Scottish lawyer would be the natural to resolve.”

All Modernisers Now

Maude’s appointment as party chairman signals that Howard wants the modernisation of the Tories to be his legacy. Now everyone’s a moderniser despite whatever they said last week. Doc Fox rather weakly tried to position himself as a moderniser too, a freedom loving libertarian even, “whose instincts are economically conservative and socially liberal in tune with the diversity and aspirations of Britain in the twenty-first century”. He told the Politeia crowd some other platitudes about the reality of modern urban Britain. If it was a leadership speech it was hardly barnstorming.

Some real modernisers have been writing in the anti-Tory press about what they think the Tories need to be doing. John Bercow has been putting himself about telling the Indy and anyone else who will listen what needs to be done (he won’t run, but might be a key lieutenant). Tim Yeo said similar things in the Guardian, Alan Duncan got profiled in the Indy, Malcolm Rifkind in the Observer signaled he wants to go back to watered down socialism. All very well, but do Tories read those papers? Chaps, who elects the next Tory leader?

Guido thinks it amusing, and a sign of shrewder judgement, that only David Davis has thought to write in the Torygraph for the benefit of his potential constituency. Maude and Stephen Dorrel, neither of whom are running, are the only others to do so. Of everything so far, John O’Sullivan talked the most sense in the FT about what is going on.

Nick Sheridan Westlake

Nick Sheridan Westlake still fascinates Guido. Information still continues to arrive in to the inbox on the subject of the man, his hairdo and the unlikelihood of him surviving for much longer at Tory HQ.

Can it be true that he still lives with his mum? Nick its time to leave home, you are 30.

UPDATE: Could someone clarify this story about our hero declaring in the Oxford Union bar that he wanted to be known as “Shezza”?

Blog Today, Gone Tomorrow

The Guardian Election blog is no more and with it many political bloggers will lose a handy source of traffic. Here at Guido was getting about 3000 hits a day and post-election Guido is seeing 1000 hits a day. Partly as a result of less interest in events post-election and partly due to reduced frequency of posts. Guido is also suffering post-election fatigue and the continuous sleep deprivation that follows the birth of baby Miss Fawkes. The collaborative effort that was is also in hibernation until the next election.

Guido plans to post daily but not five-times-a-day as before. Those of you who don’t subscribe to the syndicated feed are recommended to do so – it saves checking the blog. Guido uses Bloglines to monitor all the blogs he reads, it saves clicking from site-to-site amongst favourites, only to find them not updated and valuable click time wasted. Click on the little [SUB-BLOGLINES] subscription button in the right-hand column half way down and follow the instructions – it makes life easier.

Apparently Guido won the Guardian’s Political Commentary Blog of the Year Award – for what its worth. My view of the Guardian is that they have been trying to feed vampirically off the buzz and energy of the Blogosphere for whatever edgy cachet it has, to “get down with the blogs”. Despite loathing its public-sector politics, Guido admits it is the most web-savvy serious paper, but whilst many of my fellow bloggers are seduced by the hope of a mention on the Guardian’s website and the traffic it brings, personally I’m not really impressed by the Dead-Tree-Press hacks who attempt to patronise bloggers. Unlike bloggers, journalists may have a sub-editor, but not a proper job. Admittedly bloggers failed during the election to claim any scalps, unlike in the US where they got Dan Rather and helped destroy Kerry. Hopefully Guido will do better in the next parliament…

Tory Reshuffle : Howard Plays His Joker

George Osborne, the 33-year-old heir to a wallpaper fortune, is to face off against Gordon Brown – a chance for him to shine or fall flat on his face. Doc Fox becomes shadow foreign secretary and David Cameron gets education. Rifkind is up against Blunkett as work and pensions spokesman.[…] Read the rest


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Quote of the Day

John Curtice on fiscal policy:

“Attitudes to taxation and spending are basically counter-cyclical. If a government comes in and tries to reduce spending and taxation, after a while people will get worried about the state of public services. If a government increases taxation and public spending, after a while they’ll get concerned about increasing taxation…. In as much as there are lots of ideologues out there who think the state should be this proportion of GDP, they’re all wrong. Because the public’s view is counter-cyclical to the recent experience. It’s basically impossible to satisfy the public.”


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