“Rothermere Drops Boris” Twitter Conspiracy Unravels

Over the weekend Twitter was trending with news that Boris was yet again doomed because Jonathan Harmsworth (Lord Rothermere) had turned against him. Guido has tracked down the sources of this conspiracy theory…

On Saturday night Tim Walker tweeted about an article he had written for the New European – where Alastair Campbell is Editor-at-Large – which claimed:

It’s over now for Johnson. The Mail papers were his last defenders. They’ve given up on him now, too. The dynamic here was Rothermere and his concern for his papers and Dacre and his concern for his peerage. Rothermere has had enough of that. … Trust me, this change of direction is seismic.

Likewise, Adam Bienkov, political editor of the conspiracy website Byline Times, joined in by opining on Sunday:

The Mail turning on Boris Johnson means the last prop keeping him in power is starting to fall. If it weren’t for his few remaining press supporters, Johnson would have long ago been forced out of Downing Street.

Tim Walker had some kind of breakdown over Brexit, and Adam Bienkov has written for a decade about the coming collapse of Boris. Their followers lapped it up and it was trending on Twitter with much rejoicing and admiration for the new-found wisdom of Lord Rothermere. Monday came, and this morning’s Mail leader will have unravelled all their hopes:

A Daily Mail editorial, fulsome with praise and advice for Boris that suggests perhaps the paper hasn’t turned against him. As it “asserts this paper unequivocally believes Boris Johnson is the right man to lead the party and the country”. Walker and Bienkov have yet to explain how their seismic weekend scoop has unravelled on Monday… 

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Plaid Cymru’s Quiet Take Over of BBC Wales

Yesterday Guido revealed the BBC has appointed a Brexit-hating Plaid Cymru-voter as its new Radio Wales Editor. There was plenty of material in Carolyn Hitt’s social media history to comb through, and it turns out her anti-Tory tweets and op-eds barely scratch the surface. There’s a lot more going on over at BBC Cymru Wales…

In February 2020, Hitt doubled down on her Welsh nationalism by appearing as a keynote speaker at the YesCymru conference, a gathering organised by the pro-independence group which claims to be committed to “civic nationalism“. There she said she was “willing to pick up the ball and run” for independence…

How someone so obviously partisan came to land a cushty job at the BBC becomes clear when looking at who appointed her: Rhuanedd Richards, the Director of BBC Wales, was a special adviser to Elin Jones in the Labour-Plaid “One Wales” coalition before going on to serve as chief executive of the party for over five years. The idea that anyone in Westminster would land a similar job in Broadcasting House is laughable.

By pure coincidence, in 2020 Carolyn Hitt appears to have gone on a fun trip to Dublin with none other than Rhuanedd Richards’ former boss, and current Speaker of the Senedd, Elin Jones. To whom Hitt is reportedly very close…

Lesley Griffiths, a Labour member of the Welsh Assembly, is also in the holiday snap. In a statement after the appointment, Richards insists Hitt won the role after a “very competitive recruitment process“. Certainly looks like it.

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Meet the BBC’s New Brexit-Hating, Plaid Cymru-Loving Radio Wales Editor

It didn’t take long for the BBC to drop Matthew Stadlen as a new 5 Live presenter after Guido revealed a string of pro-Labour, anti-Tory tweets – including him mulling standing as a Labour candidate at the next election – though by the look of things they haven’t learnt any lessons about vetting new hires after the row. It’s now come to Guido’s attention that their latest hire over at BBC Wales may not gel with DCMS’ new impartiality drive

Earlier this week Carolyn Hitt announced she was leaving the Western Mail and WalesOnline after 30 years to take up a new role as the editor of BBC Radio Wales and Sport. Welcoming the appointment, the director of BBC Cymru Wales said she’ll bring “a wealth of experience and creativity to this vital role”. She also brings a swathe of Tory and Brexit-hatred…

Given Guido doesn’t want to be accused of a Hitt job, he also took time to browse some of Carolyn’s op-eds from her time at Wales Online. She was clearly shocked and disappointed that her Welsh countrymen dared to vote out in the EU referendum, penning a piece entitled “EU Referendum: We don’t really keep a welcome in the hillsides anymore, do we? Wales’ sense of self has been shaken to the core by voting overwhelmingly to leave the EU”, in which she admonished the Welsh people for not voting the same way as Northern Ireland and Scotland but with “middle England”. 

In September 2019 she came out backing Welsh independence, writing “Boris, Brexit, the possible breakaway of Scotland and growing support for a united Ireland should shock us out of Cymric complacency and get us thinking what would be left for Wales in the shake-down of a break-up of the union.”

In 2017 she opined that she had been wrong about Jeremy Corbyn, who in the end “came over as a decent bloke who stuck to his principles and engaged with and listened to the public“, going on to describe The Sun, The Daily Mail and the Daily Express as “far-right rags” that “reached new levels of toxic propaganda”. Good luck with the new job Carolyn…

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Broadcasters Fail to Mention Striking Barrister was Labour Parliamentary Candidate

It was a busy morning for criminal barrister Mark McDonald, who made a whistle stop media round earlier today as he and his colleagues went on strike over the profession’s salary and conditions. Having rejected the government’s offer of a 15% pay rise, McDonald made the case for a 21% increase on BBC News, along with a quick chat to Kay Burley on Sky to slam the government for a minute or so for good measure. A decent media performance for a broadcasting novice… 

What both channels forgot to mention is that McDonald was the Labour candidate for Stoke-on-Trent in 2019. Here he is posing alongside the absolute boy himself just before the election…

McDonald is also a founding member of the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, and his Twitter account is full of the usual anti-Tory talking points you’d expect of a man backed by Momentum. Unfortunately he lost to Jack Brereton at the election, so he didn’t quite manage to advance his interests from the Commons benches. Back to donning his wig and robes instead…

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TalkTV Too “Rubbish” to Air in Parliament

With Russia Today taken off-air in the UK, a slot has opened up for a new channel to take its place on Parliament’s internal TV system. Putting aside the eyebrow-raising decision to allow Russian state media to be broadcast in the corridors of Westminster, Guido hears authorities have now held discussions over what should replace it. One leading candidate was, of course, TalkTV. Given GB News is also available on the annunciators, it seemed inevitable that TalkTV would join the mix…

After some deliberation, however, TalkTV was deemed so “rubbish” that it wasn’t worthy of a slot. BBC Four, a channel which only airs between 7pm and 4am, will take RT’s place instead. For the rest of the day, MPs and staffers who bother to tune in will be greeted with this screen:

This is apparently deemed preferable to watching a live broadcast of TalkTVA real shame – all 650 MPs tuning in to Tom Newton Dunn’s show would have boosted his viewership by about 15%…

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Lord Frost Takes Fight to Online Harms Bill, as Cost Balloons by £400 Million

Today Lord Frost joins Guido in the fight against the Online Harms Bill, launching an all-out assault on its threat to free speech. Frost’s no holds barred attack, including calling the bill “fundamentally flawed” and un-conservative, has been published alongside a new paper by the IEA, which accuses the bill of handing “unprecedented censorship powers to Secretary of State and Ofcom”. Objectively correct.

In full, Frost says:

“There is so much wrong with this Bill that it is hard to know where to start, but the report rightly highlights the fact that it will mean some speech that is legal offline will effectively be impossible online. That makes no sense and will be highly damaging to public debate, especially given the weakness of the free speech protections in the Bill.

Overall the Bill also panders to the view of the perennially offended – those who think the Government should protect them from ever encountering anything they disagree with.  A Conservative Government should not be putting this view into law.

“The best thing the Government could do would be to slim down the Bill so they can proceed rapidly with the genuinely uncontroversial aspects, and consign the rest where it belongs – the waste paper basket.”

Reading through the IEA’s paper, one thing that immediately jumps out to Guido is that the government’s own expected cost of the bill has jumped up from £2.1 billion in May 2021 to £2.5 billion today – a whole £400 million extra in a year. A figure the IEA rubbishes as a nonsense underestimation anyway:

“The impact assessment asserts that it will cost businesses, on average, £700 over ten years to read and understand the regulations, for example. However, this would not realistically cover the fees of a specialist law firm for two hours, let alone the internal staff time costs. The impact assessment specifically assumes staff will only require 30 minutes to familiarise themselves with the requirements of the 255-page legislation and 90 minutes to read, assess and change terms and conditions in response to the requirements. Legal advice is estimated to cost £39.23 per hour  an order of magnitude less than the fees of hundreds of pounds per hour typically charged by lawyers in this field.”

Turning to the inclusion of ‘legal but harmful’ speech, which platforms will have to crack down on, huge questions remain on specifics given the government has still not formally specified categories this will include. While the obvious woke labels of ‘misogynistic abuse’ will likely be included, shadow DCMS secretary Lucy Powell has already let the mask slip on the future plans of Labour ministers to massively abuse this power:

“Lucy Powell has raised concerns that the Bill as it stands would allow ‘incels’ and ‘climate deniers’ to ‘slip through the net’. She clearly envisages an extension of the notion of ‘harmful’ to cover matters of public policy debate.”

David Davis also pitches in, warning “could end up being one of the most significant accidental infringements on free speech in modern times.” Guido can’t understand why Nadine believes this won’t backfire on Conservatives like her. Big Brother Watch already proved that her “nail your balls to the floor” tweet, if posted to Facebook, results in the post being deleted by the platform. That’s before her new free speech clamp down comes into force…

Guido encourages all policymakers to read the paper – embedded below. If the government wants to get the Boris show back on the road, and reassure Tory members and MPs that this government is worth fighting for – while saving at least £2.5 billion – scrapping swathes of this big-state bill could not be a more obvious starting point…

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