Blog Today, Print Tomorrow (Again)

Iain Dale has alerted Guido to the fact that the blog post on Huhne was recycled in the newspaper diaries this morning. Guido doesn’t usually read ’em, but they clearly read him…Peter McKay’s Ephraim Hardcastle in the Mail even pinched the carbon based life forms crack. Is Guido bitter? He’d like a case of decent Margaux sent over from Associated Press this time. The Evening Standard’s diary has been stealing stories from Guido and Iain for years without ever paying a penny. Guido is still smarting from receiving a mysterious letter from the Evening Standard headed “Dear Londoner’s Diary Contributor”… is someone fiddling the expenses at Associated?

Undercover Journalist Uncovered by Google

Iain has a story about the Daily Mirror Caught Trying to Infiltrate Conservative HQ with a posh girl. She came unstuck after they Googled her name and came up with her Mirror byline, then they checked the source of her email back to the Mirror’s offices. Doh!

Iain mutters darkly about legal action – presumably lying on her CV and at the interview – which is a form of attempted fraud. Don’t hold your breath on that going anywhere. Who hasn’t?

Anyway isn’t this what investigative journalists are supposed to do?

Telegraph Political Team in Meltdown

As reported here three weeks ago, it seems that the Little and Large blog is dead, it is an ex-blog. Jonathan Isaby and Brendan Carlin seem to have abandoned the idea. Look around some of the other blogs and they are also pretty dead. Ben Brogan at the Daily Mail and Danny Finkelstein at The Times are really the only serious Dead-Tree-Press political bloggers going now.

Elsewhere at the Telegraph the experienced George Jones has apparently been given the push in such a cack-handed way that he’s suing and expected to get a six-figure pay-off. His job is being given to the silent-but-deadly Andrew Porter, of the Sun, formerly on the Sunday Times who is an old chum of Telegraph editor Will Lewis. Key qualities: won’t tell Lewis not to be such a silly boy; won’t be a member of Telegraph ancien regime.

Porter’s place on the Sun (keep up) is being taken by Graeme Wilson of the Telegraph. Wilson’s place on the Telegraph is being taken by James Kirkup from the Scotsman. Toby Helm is rumoured to have wanted to get out of the Lobby – if you’d been passed over for the top job you might conclude there was little point in hanging around to see if you got it next time. One of the things the imported Mailograph newsdesk didn’t realise about him – his sister is married to Jonathan Powell, although that is not such an asset nowadays. The new Mailograph is obsessed with getting scoops, a-la Andrew Pierce. But a lot of Pierce’s scoops stay exclusive, and with good reason.

Sir Michael White Loses It

My friend the Axegrinder notes a memo going around the press gallery yesterday sent by the doyen of the Lobby;

Good to see that the people’s ink spills from the pen of plutocrats.

(Yes, it is a slow news day).

Guardian Front page Cock-Up ‘Fess Up

Now this is what Guido calls a cavalier attitude to the facts:

Thursday July 26, 2007
Corrections and clarifications

A chart showing David Cameron’s personal rating in a Guardian/ICM poll (front page, yesterday) contained several mistakes. It did not include those voters who said they liked both David Cameron and the Conservative party, and muddled some other figures. The correct figures are: likes Cameron, but not the party, 18%; likes Cameron and the party, 25%; doesn’t like Cameron, but does like the party, 26%; don’t know, 26%. Five per cent refused to answer. Voters were not asked if they did not like both Cameron and the party. We did not make clear that the chart showed figures for all voters, not just Conservative voters.
Just to remind you, the front page graphic showed no-one liking Dave and the Tories. Wishful thinking…

Guardian/ICM Poll : Nobody Likes Dave and Tory Party?

Guido was sure his brain was too addled by alcohol when he saw the front page of the Guardian this morning. Rich Johnston emailed it in and the penny didn’t drop until he explained it slowly. According to the Guardian’s ICM poll sample of 1005 randomly telephoned adults, not one single person likes David Cameron and the Conservative Party. Some like the party, some like Dave, but none like both. Guido knew the polls were bad for Dave, but really, does no one like ’em both?

UPDATE : Turns out that it was a difficult to explain Grauniad cock-up, the actual figures from ICM were very different – 25% liked both Dave and the Tories. Pretty “cavalier with the facts” report, it should have been obvious that something was wrong, maybe over at the Guardian they can more easily believe that nobody likes Cameron. In the real world he is a bit more popular than on Farringdon road.

Wot, No Little & Large?

Since that little embarrassment over the reporting of postal votes in Ealing Southall, the Telegraph’s Little & Large blog has gone silent. The last posting was a week ago.

If Guido shut up shop every time a writ was threatened…

Informed Sources?

Everybody, everywhere, has been going through Campbell’s The Blair Years so Guido hasn’t bothered. But one little snippet has caught the eye and proves a point. Phil Webster, The Times’ political editor, gets a little testy whenever Guido or his own colleagues hint or suggest that he is a less than objective Brownite patsy.

So Guido wonders how he will feel about this comment about a time in October 1997 when New Labour faced a little PR difficulty; “The words went to Webster, the spin was applied, and away we went,” writes Alastair. Kind of gives the game away…

Sieghart Says Times Colleagues Craven to Brown

Startlingly candid admission in farewell column:

As this is to be my last regular column for The Times, I am in a different position today from other commentators. I don’t have to worry about whether the new regime at No 10 will return my calls, at least until the autumn. I don’t have to curry favour with anyone or worry about giving offence. Instead I can give you an unvarnished prediction of what the next few years of a Gordon Brown premiership will be like.

She has, it is rumoured, taken up the offer of a redundancy payout in the latest round of News International job cuts. Last time Guido indulged in a bit of Times-bashing they got very upset. Peter Riddell even called up an associate to tell him to stop associating with Guido, there was talk of them getting Guido back with an “exposé”. But here you have it from someone who knows; Peter Riddell, Phil Webster et al suck up to Brown and Balls out of fear. It must be true, it is printed in The Times…

Fancy a Bet George?

The Sun’s George Pascoe-Watson, author of this famous front page prediction, says we may have an election in October, but most likely next June. Guido is offering 2/1 against George, if you are interested.

Talking of betting with journalists, Mark Townsend, the Observer hack who wrote in the loss making Sunday paper that the CPS would wind up their inquiry into Loans for Lordships last October with nothing doing and wagered with Guido accordingly, still has not paid up.

Phone calls and emails go unanswered. Guido strongly recommends that he pays up this week.

Lobby Slower than Guido Again

Yesterday morning Guido reported that Blair would resign as an MP. Today the rest of the Dead-Tree-Press is catching up and reporting that he will do so this afternoon. Tory party Chairman Frankie Maude put CCHQ on by-election alert after reading the story here yesterday morning.

Guido even managed to beat blogging Benedict Brogan, which is becoming increasingly difficult to do nowadays. Do keep up the rest of you…

Glover : Editors Should Not Associate With Levy

Stephen Glover in the Indy this morning agrees with Guido, that it may prove to have been inadvisable for editors to attend Sleazy Levy’s leaving party.

Not long now…

Le Totty Watch : Socialist Affairs

The French press is even more craven in the reporting of political misdoings than our own tame/feral* Lobby. So it is no surprise that it was the French blogosphere, not the Paris press, that made it impossible to keep Socialist party leader François Hollande’s affair secret.

François had four children with Ségolène Royal (pictured left), the losing French Socialist Presidential candidate. He is having an affair with TV8’s political reporter, Valerie Trierweiler (pictured right). When announcing their split the elegant Ségolène said that now “he was free to enjoy his romantic life alone”.

France has strict privacy laws of the kind that some of our politicians would love to have over here. Blogs now make those laws almost impossible to enforce. Technological progress.

Hat-tip : EuroSoc

*You choose.

Informed Sources?

Guido reads in the Indy’s Pandora column that David Davis is horrible to his staff and that Hilary Armstrong “is rumoured” to not be staying in government come the Brown takeover. Startling revelations.

Hilary formally announced she was standing down two weeks ago.

Journalists Consorting with Known Police Suspects

Peter Wilby, the ex-editor of the New Statesman, writing in the Guardian on Monday, backed the Guido thesis, that the Westminster embedded Lobby is too cosy with its subjects. He wrote that “political correspondents tend to give politicians the benefit of the doubt… The lobby system makes the press a poor watchdog over government“.
Guido wonders what kind of coverage will be given to Levy’s expected trial by the likes of Anne McElvoy, Dominic Lawson, Matthew d’Ancona (Speccie editor), Will Lewis (Telegraph editor), Charles Moore, Nick Lloyd, Eve Pollard, Piers Morgan and errm, Sue Lawley. Lobby low-lifes were also at Levy’s leaving party in numbers.One wonders about the wisdom of frontline editors like Will Lewis and Matthew d’Ancona attending, could it lead them to compromise their coverage? Even encourage them, in the words of Peter Wilby, to give the Sleazemaster the benefit of the doubt?

Incidentally, Guido’s champagne-swilling co-conspirator spied Dominic Lawson deep in conversation with John Scarlett for much of the evening.

UPDATE : Just noticed that d’Ancona outed himself as an attendee on his blog this morning. He mentions the “oblique reference in His Lordship’s own speech to the great cloud of loans for honours and the files now with the CPS.”

Further Reflections on that Blair Speech

Guido’s instant reaction to Blair’s speech is below. Having now re-read the speech it seems a reasonably accurate analysis of the state of media coverage of politics. The problem is that Blair has to a great extent brought this upon himself, contemporary politicians have got the media coverage they deserve. It is not really a development borne out of technological advance, the cynicism is their own creation, not a product of technological change or 24/7 rolling news demands – as he seems to imply. New Labour conceived the Downing Street grid of rolling media announcements, firing out releases to fit the government’s narrative and control the agenda.One section made Guido laugh, when Blair said;

It used to be thought – and I include myself in this – that help was on the horizon. New forms of communication would provide new outlets to by-pass the increasingly shrill tenor of the traditional media. In fact, the new forms can be even more pernicious, less balanced, more intent on the latest conspiracy theory multiplied by five.

This is unreal, perhaps he imagined that if the media was democratised by citizens they would be more susceptible to his charm than hardened journalists and media moguls. In reality the citizen-journalists of the new media are less manipulable, less embedded in the Westminster politico-media nexus, less needy in terms of access and more likely to tell it as they see it without fear. That is not shrill, that is clear and unspun. Blair went on to complain that

it is rare today to find balance in the media. Things, people, issues, stories, are all black and white. Life’s usual grey is almost entirely absent. “Some good, some bad”; “some things going right, some going wrong”: these are concepts alien to today’s reporting.

Whether from the left or right, bloggers do tend to see things in black and white terms, right and wrong, not in shades of grey. Is it naive to expect high moral and ethical standards from those who seek the privilege of serving the public in a democracy? Maybe. Guido thinks we should still demand the highest moral and ethical standards of our law-makers. Is that too much to ask?

Picture credit : GQ

A couple of months ago Bryan Appleyard wrote an article arguing that “Guido is Blair’s true legacy”, the Speccie’s Matthew d’Ancona in the latest GQ magazine says bloggers have “changed the terms of trade”. Good, because politicians really do deserve the treatment they get here, they don’t deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt, to be allowed to keep their dirty secrets, to quote Paxman, political journalists need to always be asking themselves “Why is this lying bastard lying to me?” The damage which saps the country’s confidence and self-belief has been done by politicians, not by the messengers of the old or new media. Politicians, and particularly Tony Blair, have only themselves to blame.

Finally to those who worry about regulatory threats to blogging, forget it. Guido got it direct from Tim Toulmin (director of the Press Complaints Commission), they know they can’t touch Guido and they won’t even try. Short of going down the Iranian/Chinese route of censoring the internet there is nothing they can do but bluster. So feral and untamed Guido will happily stay.

Politicians are Feral Spinners

Blair must reap what he sowed. The culture of New Labour is a culture of rapid rebuttal, the set “line”, the vicious rubbishing of enemies, the off-the-record briefing all backed up by armies of government media handlers and Special Advisers. 24/7 rolling spin…

Remember, for example, what they told us about the Women’s Institute member who led the slow-hand-clapping of Blair – that she had a National Front past. That was feral spin, vicious and untrue. Do you remember Alastair Campbell’s plan to “fuck” David Kelly? That was feral. Do you remember Alastair Campbell’s foul mouthed tirades? They were feral. The old woman mistreated at an NHS hospital during an election campaign? “Racist” they smeared, without any evidence. The Brownite pack’s undermining of Blairite colleagues like Ruth Kelly and John Reid? Wasn’t that feral?

Blair’s treatment by the media got rough only after he was completely found out. It was the dodgy dossier, and the false prospectus for war that did for him, his spin was until then more than a match for the media pack.

UPDATE : The IPPR has just emailed out a piece (on the back of the Blair speech) by Sir Michael White where he blames everyone else for the “gross tabloidisation of national journalism” including of course the “unmediated internet”. He repeats his claim that the Loans for Lordships investigation is just political opportunism by the SNP and Blair’s political enemies. Michael White has spent 30 years covering politics close-up, he is no longer able to see that selling seats in the legislature is just plain wrong. He basically says “everybody did it”, why the fuss now?

The better question is, why only now has there been a fuss? Well if a young new MP had not stumbled upon the corruption legislation, if a less determined detective had not been given the case and the story wasn’t pushed relentlessly by “unmediated” voices, there would have been no fuss.

Just as well the likes of Sir Michael White and Nick Robinson were ignored and some kept on at the story in an unmediated and grossly tabloid way, eh?

Informed Sources?

Isn’t today the day that the Sun’s George Pascoe-Watson revealed on the front-page that Blair would leave office? ITS MAY 31ran the headline.

Not quite…

Hefferlump Shot

Simon Heffer is no longer going to edit the comment pages at the Torygraph. There will be cheering in Notting Hill tonight…

UPDATE : A co-conspirator points out that this is something like the eighth comment editor in three years.

Hat-tip: Image stolen from B3ta

Parliamentary Women’s Lobby

Guido is amused by the deliberations of Kitty Donaldson’s Parliamentary Women’s Lobby. It was set up in 1999 as a dining club to allow political figures to meet women political reporters. Anyway Kitty wanted to formalise things with a constitution requiring declarations of interest and a code of conduct (not about starting with cutlery from the outside).[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Noel Gallagher tells NME…

“Fuck Jeremy Corbyn. He’s a Communist…. the communists don’t care about the aspirational.”

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