Riddell Redundant

In news smuggled out from from behind the Wapping paywall it is revealed that Peter Riddell the veteran politics commentator is, after 40 years on Fleet Street and 21 years at The Times, taking redundancy.

After relating an anecdote in the Guardian, which reflected on him unfavourably, about asking a group of Oxford students who in the media they trusted more, Peter Riddell took umbrage with Guido. He told a Iain Dale that he really should disassociate himself from yours truly. When independent analysis came along to back up the contention that Riddell was not only less trusted, but his opinion was less sought after, the froideur was total.

Guido’s new ambition to be read by more people than read The Times’ political comment and news looks ever more achievable…

UPDATE : The Guardian is reporting that The Times is losing three members of the business reporting team. Wonder if we will start to see news syndicated across from the Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal in The Times. Makes compelling commercial sense for a paper losing £10,000 an hour.

Negative Campaigning Works

Guido thinks the Libdems have learnt a hard lesson. A lesson learnt by Mandelson, Blair and Brown in the mid-90s. When the British press launches an onslaught against you it hurts, you might want to believe it doesn’t work, but it does.

After the post-TV debate Cleggmania the front-page scrutiny of Clegg was brutal, it wasn’t a pretty sight, some of it was loopy, but it definitely put uncertainty into the minds of many voters. You can kid yourself otherwise, but the tabloids can do damage when they go negative…

To Be or Not to Be…

Journalism for Billionaires, by Billionaires

Just perusing yesterday’s Lebedev Evening Standard in which they do a vox-pop to get the views of the man in the street on the golden boy of the moment, Nick Clegg. You know the type of article, a paragraph on a student, another about an office worker and the high earner is for contrast.

This article’s high earner is Bhanu Choudrie, he declares Clegg the winner and says that he will vote Lib Dem in the election. Which doesn’t surprise Guido seeing as he is one of the Lib Dems biggest and most controversial donors. Is he actually on the electoral roll?

The Observer says he is a non-dom who “has been accused of accepting tens of millions of pounds in kickbacks from an arms deal between an Israeli company and the Indian government.” So he is not all bad.

Along with his brother he has donated nearly £585,000 to the party in recent years. Despite coughing up a lot of dosh for them he say “the Lib-Dems don’t have much substance.” A very odd article, was it written by Lebedev himself? Who bumps into billionaire arms dealers in the street?

Kevin Maguire's Alternative Reality

Guido often contrasts the way intelligent hacks treat their readers patronisingly in the tabloids. Compare Fraser Nelson, Britain’s most read political columnist, in the News of the World to Kevin Maguire in the Mirror.  Today the difference is startling.

Neither would deny they were partisan, but compare their reports of last night’s debate. Fraser, calling it for Clegg says reasonably:

“He enjoyed the novelty factor. I hope he enjoys it: tonight may very well be the high point of his political career.”

In contrast Kevin Maguire, crassly talking down to his readers and taking them for fools, writes in this morning’s Mirror:

“It was a man against two boys. Gordon Brown finally reminded Britons why he’s respected around the world. Assured, determined, he was the Prime Minister. The other pair were 40-something rookies… It wasn’t a game-changer, but Brown’s back in the game.

Clegg too has reason to be cheerful… Cameron lost the most… his aura of invincibility shattered. Brown edged it and, privately, Cameron knows it.”

Brown bombed big-time in prime-time. Does Maguire really think his readers will believe this hagiography rather than the evidence of their own eyes?

The Bus to Nowhere

As the hacks following the Prime Mentalist were sitting in traffic on the M62 an hour or so ago, there were boos and jeers as the Tory’s Vote for Change convoy sped past in the opposite direction. And it wasn’t just political, apparently all is not well on the Brown Battle Bus. Despite having paid £13,000 for the pleasure of  travelling with the PM, they hardly ever do. He’s on the plane with them – secured off at the front, but never travels on the bus. He is also dodging questions and as a result of a concern over too many sound booms in the pictures, Labour insisted that Brown would only have one pooled radio mic. Cue shock horror when the sound guy wired him up at one stop and told the PM that he was now live and the hacks could hear everything he said or did. One minute later Jonah announces that he is off to the loo…

Apparently the coach driver has no idea where he is most of the time. At one point he managed to miss Stansted airport and people and things keep on getting left behind. One Sun hackette was left on a train waving and screaming as her colleagues drove off. The next day it was the lunch that got left behind resulting in a raging mob. The anger is made worse by the fact those travelling on the Ashcroft-mobile are living it up. Via The Times we learn “as the Tory plane headed for the North West yesterday, passengers dined on parma ham, mozzarella and rocket salad, followed by rare roast lamb on a bed of lentils and peppers, with chocolate mousse for pud.” On the bright side spare a thought for the cub-reporters following the Lib Dems. All they get is a warm cheese sandwich.

Image taken from the travelling Niall Paterson’s Twitter, which is worth a follow for bus news. Guido understands he has so far managed to keep his clothes on…

Staggers Coughs for Slurs

Former intimate friend of Derek Draper, James MacIntyre, the New Statesman’s wayward political editor, got his fingers well and truly burnt in a smear straight out of the MacBride/Draper play-book. Macintyre has been moaning about the apparent easy ride the Tories are getting in the press. It seems he likes to hold them to extreme accounts, regardless of the truth. It took Guido days to trawl around for the last edition of the New Statesman but he finally managed to snatch one from a passed-out tramp. Hidden away in it was this apology:

A Carter-Rucking later and a substantial five figure sum gives us confirmation of what was already common knowledge in the  Westminster village: make-it-up-Macintyre smears Conservatives as racists.

How Hacks Work

Guido has had three calls today, obviously coincidental, from hacks asking how this blog is financed. (Clue: can you spot any adverts?)

Rajeev Syal said he was calling from the Guardian, although Guido thought he was the Observer’s investigations editor, we talked about how much the Guardian was making from Tory adverts on their website, the tax advantages of the ownership structure of the Scott Trust and the Scott Trust’s use of Cayman’s registered offshore companies to buy the EMAP magazine group.  He asked Guido similar questions, than an odd one popped up:

Q. Has Lord Ashcroft or his representatives offered to buy you?
A. If he wants to pay a couple of million, c’mon down Michael.
Q. So you would sell?
A. If James Murdoch is interested and the price is right he can have it as well, tell Alan Rusbridger to send over his bid too.

So apart from natural curiosity as to who is trying to plant the story, Guido wonders: what headline is Rajeev aiming at?

Smiley Dave

Be gone talk of doom and gloom. It was all happy faces today. Guido spent much of the morning at the Tories’ dubiously named “Big Society” event at the posh eco-council estate by Waterloo.  On the positive side, the idea is to deregulate voluntary activities to ease a roll-back of the state. On the negative side was Dave’s ill-advised Abe Lincoln “by the people” moment, swiftly followed by JFK’s “ask not what your country can do”, thankfully not sugared any further by “I have a dream.

Is this the influence of the aforementioned Ian Birrell?

On questions Nick Watt was straight out the box asking “What about the welfare state?” with his Guardianista pal Jenny Russell demanding to know what Dave would do about corrupt charities. Fair questions, but they clearly show the metropolitan media’s bias against anything not run by the state – Guido’s never seen them so quick to ask about corruption whenever it’s government proposing to provide a new community service.

At least the Shadow Cabinet managed to stay in line, for once – extraordinary with so many present. Though after Chris Grayling’s reference to “my friend Ben Brogan over there”, the friend in question was careful to make sure he wasn’t in the front row for the next session.

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Any villager should know that walking down Victoria Street yelling into their phone is never going to end well. A co-conspirator, walking just behind one of Labour’s regional coordinators, was most amused to hear about a massive pledge of support from Unite in a meeting this morning, “politics is a funny old business, but we shall see” about activist turnout and most amusingly high praise for Dave. Apparently his question to Brown at PMQs about crossing picket lines caused much amusement, and the general consensus in Labour HQ was that it was a very good line.

Over at Portcullis House on the last busy day of this Parliament, other eyes and ears have been at work. One of the greatest uses of the EyeSpyMP twitter feed is the busting of hacks and their sources. Stewart Jackson was spotted earlier chatting away to the Standard’s political team, and hey presto, Paul Waugh tweets some insider gossip:

We are watching you…

UPDATE : Stewart Jackson emails: “I never “briefed” Paul Waugh or showed him any Whip’s messages. My only comment in a two minute chat – with another Conservative MP present – was that David Cameron had played a blinder!”  Very loyal.  So who was the other MP?

Le Monde's Malingre Mocks Osborne

Paul Waugh is enjoying Le Monde’s profile of George Osborne which gives him quite a kicking.  Is it really that remarkable when a left-wing, French journalist gives a eurosceptic, British conservative politician a rough time?

She does have form, in a recent profile Virginie Malingre characterised another eurosceptic right-winger as a Conservateur Barbare. Charming…

Mirror Apologises to Michael Spencer Over Smear

The Mirror was the only newspaper with a hack who was in on the McBride / Draper emails (Kevin Maguire).  Today it has had to apologise to Tory treasurer Michael Spencer over claims made last week that he and his firm profiteered out of the 9/11 terror attack.

Mirror hack Graham Brough claimed last week that Spencer, the CEO of ICAP, had tried to exploit the deaths of rivals at Cantor Fitzgerald – where 658 rival money brokers lost the lives on 9/11.

We offer Mr Spencer and ICAP our sincere apologies for these errors and for any distress caused to him.  We have agreed to make a  substantial contribution to a charity of ICAP’s choice.

Tory donors are on the offensive and not taking Labour coordinated smears lying down, Ashcroft is taking legal action against the Indy over defamatory allegations.  Readers will understand why Guido is treading carefully regarding Lord Paul…

Jim Devine Explains Everything

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Point of Order Order

When Guido reads articles about how powerful and influential this blog is he laughs because it was set up on a whim and primarily for his own amusement. The insight that perhaps makes this blog successful was that political gossip and tittle-tattle is far more compelling than people will admit.   Now bearing in mind that the readership of this blog is heavily concentrated in the media, parliament, political parties, the law and the City, which story do you think was most popular yesterday?

The critical analysis of the political paralysis surrounding the fiscal situation? The report back from the Shadow Chancellor’s benchmark launch? The highlighting of the hypocrisy of a senior political journalist?

No of course not. Kirsty Wark’s Prada skirt wardrobe malfunction topped the lot and was easily the most popular story yesterday, followed up by the Telegraph and the Mail this morning.  Which is why this is the blog you love and they hate. Happy 55th Birthday Kirsty!

Millionaire Maguire in Glass House Shocker

Guido has just got off the phone with our Kev after reading his column in Public Affairs News about hacks failing to declare other work in the register of journalists’ interests. The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner recently ruled Martin Bright, Melissa Kite, Andrew Neil and Fraser Nelson should have declared their outside interests while in possession of Lobby passes.  Maguire was quick to have a go at them in his column, and Guido thought he better check Kev’s own glass house was in order.

Despite being the Daily Mirror’s political editor Magure isn’t afraid to take the Murdoch shilling – appearing on Sky News almost every day and regularly reviewing the papers at £150 a pop with a limo back to his Richmond mansion thrown in. These have all been properly noted, but before he went on the attack you would have thought he would have registered his very obvious outside interest – his column in Public Affairs News that he admitted, with a raucous cackle, having had for two years.

In true Labour style Kev says he is going to report himself after being caught out.  He better be quick to beat Guido’s complaint faxed over…

Crowd Sourced Gossip : We Are All Watching Them Now

Guido is very much enjoying the growth of @eyespymp – in just a couple of days it has garnered nearly 1500 followers and is starting to bear more fruit than even its predecessor. Guido hears that some MPs are up in arms about invasion of their privacy and that hacks are chortling away. Though people are often too quick to dismiss her, Nadine was the first to clock that the Lobby might not be laughing for long: “The hacks are going to realise that @eyespymp may yet bite them on the bum!And indeed the penny is starting to drop.

Yvettte Cooper was outed earlier lunching with Polly Toynbee in the Atrium restaurant on Millbank. Whatever tit-bit she was trying to plant in tomorrow’s Guardian has had its source well and truly blown. Former hack-pack totty turned yummy-mummy Gaby Hinsliff* has had a moment of enlightenment:wow. @eyespymp is going to make it hard for lobby journalists to protect sources. start looking for more obscure lunch venues.” Lazy hacks might have to actually trundle even further than Shepherd’s at this rate.

*Is it just Guido that thinks Gaby might be missing the cut and thrust of Westminster life? She is tweeting away all day and he has seen her byline more times since she went to live a life of domestic rural bliss than when she was working for the Observer. Poor Mr Hinsliff must be close to a “it’s Twitter or me” moment.

News Streams Will Kill the News Cycle

Guido gave a talk at Microsoft’s groovy London HQ to the Online News Association’s UK chapter. We did the usual bit of blogger v journalist banter, laughed at Nick Robinson’s ‘Michael Fish moment‘ and then Guido tried to push his new meme.

Having spent a few years writing the advance obituary for the “Dead Tree Press” as well as pushing the digital disintermediation meme, the new, new thing for the start of this decade is the idea that the “news stream” has killed the “news cycle”. Guido recognises that this might sound a bit like a Steve Hilton strategy memo.

Sorry the above slides are more of an aide memoire than a presentation.  The last slide contains the logos of a few “news brands” which are more profitable in aggregate than the whole of what was once called “Fleet Street”. The British newspaper industry is  for the most part a form of vanity publishing, not a business.

UPDATE : Just noticed there was live real-time reportage of the event : live blog and Twitter stream.

Guido's Plan to Save the Indy (Part II)

There is a lot of speculation, most of it horrified, that Rod Liddle is being lined up to take over the editorship of the Indy by  Lebedev.  Back in May last year Guido advanced two ideas to save the Indy.  The first was abandon the loss making print edition and go all digital.  The second was to seize the

Digital Indyglaring broadsheet market positioning gap … by shifting from an editorial stance that reluctantly backs the LibDems towards enthusiastically backing Cameron’s liberal conservativism. With the Telegraph floundering editorially the Indy is never going to capture the ground held by the Guardianistas. The Times is probably going to row in behind Cameron with a heavy dose of skepticism from Murdoch. The Indy should therefore enthusiastically embrace the socially liberal Notting Hill Cameroons, in all their weed tolerating, groovy green glory. Become the modernised news brand that Cameroons are not embarrassed to be supported by…

Rod Liddle is not the man to do that Mr Lebedev. If you are looking for an editor to move the Indy from the Guardian dominated liberal-left space to the market opportunity on the liberal-right, there is one perfect candidate available.  The Indy could become the Cameroon’s house-paper with the inside track on the next government if the editor was Matthew d’Ancona.  Go for it…

Who Really Broke the Hoon-Hewitt Scoop?

As so often happens, who broke the story first is fiercely contested.  Guido doesn’t have a dog in this fight, but for the record, since the Staggers is trying to cite Guido as evidence to back up its claim that it broke the news, here is the timeline:

  • Unnoticed by Guido when it happened was Andy Sparrow’s PMQs live-blog, which had this at 11:57:

    11.57 am: Hot news: We’ve just heard that Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt are going to make some kind of statement about Brown’s leadership after PMQs. That’s all I know at the moment.

  • The first Guido knew was when someone shouted out across the newsroom after Andy Sparrow’s Tweet came up on the Guy News Tweetdeck screen, that was time-stamped at 12:01.
  • The Guardian’s website also had a teaser headline at 12:15.
  • The New Statesman at 12:17 publishes what it calls an Exclusive that “A letter is being circulated among Labour MPs this afternoon calling for a secret ballot on Gordon Brown’s leadership. According to one MP who would like Brown to leave office, the letter is being co-ordinated by a number of rebels, including the former cabinet ministers Charles Clarke, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon.”

So there you have it. The Guardian was first, though in the augmented reality of the Staggers It was the NS wot got itIn reality, you snooze, you lose, it ain’t news.

Sparrow told Guido that “it would be nice to take the credit myself, but actually Patrick Wintour obtained the information.” Incidentally, Guido understands that ITN’s Channel 4 News has changed policy on breaking news.  Whereas it restricted scoops to the 7 p.m. broadcast they now put it up as soon as they can on the website and tweet the link.  A cultural change for a mainstream media source.  Steve Hilton getting nicked was tweeted last night by Cathy Newman in advance of telly viewers being told.

It almost goes without saying that Guido tries to be first.  If not first, fast.  When inevitably occasionally wrong, not for long.  We no longer have news cycles, we have news streams…

Don't All Rush

Beyond parody :

At least he is a Christian…[…] Read the rest

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