The Sheep With The Wool Pulled Over Her Eyes


Janet Daley’s stunning insights into the character of Gordon Brown in her Daily Telegraph column last year caused disquiet with many on the right because she is seen to be of the right. She firmly bought into Gordon’s project, thinking that he would be intellectually firm in the face of the shallow flim-flammery of Cameron.

She wrote immediately after the Glasgow terror attack:

Mr Brown made a terse and perfectly judged statement. For all its brevity, it conveyed the essential message of calm resolution and national unity: “I know that the British people will stand together, united, resolute and strong.” This was High Seriousness delivered in the old-fashioned way, with spare wartime urgency and without sentimentality.

He even became to her a great, non-neurotic TV performer:

Again, yesterday, in his interview with Andrew Marr, Mr Brown did not put a foot wrong … Interestingly, these were the first television appearances I have seen in which there was no sign of his peculiar nervous mannerism of rolling his tongue inside his mouth that is so beloved by satirists. Has he been trained out of it, or has he been transformed by his role and the state of national emergency? Either way, its absence helps to remove the impression of neuroticism that would not have inspired public confidence.

So no more laughing at Gordon the Great. The next month in August 2007 she contrasted Brown’s biblical strength to the effete Dave. Gordon had, in Janet’s view, the strength to withstand the trials of power:

First the terror attacks, then the floods, now the pestilence. Gordon Brown seems to be undergoing the trials of Job. But in this case, it is not so much his faith that is being tested as the country’s in him. And, my goodness, isn’t he rising to the challenge?

Once again he has appeared on our television screens within hours of terrible news, not just to assure us that he personally is taking charge of the foot and mouth crisis but to thank the authorities in affected communities for their cooperation and competence – to make it clear, in other words, that he is in command but also deeply respectful of people on the ground who must deal with the problems over which they have singular expertise.

Wow! Will this guy ever put a foot wrong?

Gee, Janet, who knows? Your psephological predictions suggested not: What the voters will look for is not a leader who bangs on about how things look, but one who can cope with reality.

Reality struck Janet hard in September :

Can Gordon pull it back? This week is the true beginning of the Brown era, as opposed to the fag end of the previous one. With the Queen’s Speech and the first Brownite legislative programme we should get the answer to the political question of the moment: was the New Brown a figment of our imagination, the most transitory illusion ever to capture the imagination of the Commentariat, or was there really something there worth grasping?

Almost a redemptive mea culpa.

The Commentariat collectively, Janet in particular, wrote in the summer of 2007 with all the considered judgement of a herd of sheep. They however would have you believe that they possess valuable insights and good judgement based on their intellect and access to the key players. They have opinions just like everyone, no better, no worse. They merely express them better than most. More often than not their access and close proximity to the subjects they write about clouds their judgement. Mostly their opinions are not worth the chip-wrapping they are written on…

+++ Live PMQs Chat Here 11.45 +++

We will be watching Daily Politics. Would a co-conspirator like to volunteer to be a moderator? Basically let everything pass with few exceptions even if it upsets Suzanne Moore. No drinking before midday. Email Guido.Fawkes@order-order.com.

Coming Next Week : Holding the Punditry to Account

The exasperated collective counter-attack by the establishment Commentariat on bloggers has inspired Guido to start a new regular feature. When the great and the good assembled at the RSA last Wednesday, shepherded by Julia Hobsbawm, John Lloyd (in absentia) and Matthew Taylor*, to bemoan their diminished status, they drew the battle-lines for a battle that should be joined and won for the blogosphere. The Commentariat desperately want to maintain their monopoly role as media gate-keepers, as the sub-edited filters of democracy and the monopoly producers of public commentary. Guido has said this before; in an age of near costless technological disintermediation “the news” is no longer what they say it is, we can make the news ourselves, unfiltered by the metropolitan media elite. Successful boutique news sources are proliferating. The media Goliaths now face an army of blogging DavidsA lot of what was said at the Editorial Intelligence event was plain ignorant, the conflation of blog writing with blog comment interaction in particular. It is true that the comments left here and on the Guardian’s CiF can be pretty vitriolic and profane, but they are genuinely reflective of what readers really think. Polly Toynbee hates the contradictory “barrage” of comments that follow her articles because she has an over-inflated view of the value of her analysis. Many of us only read her articles for the pleasure of seeing them torn to shreds in the comments that interactively follow. Polly is highly paid and successful because she is a provocative columnist, not because she is a better analyst of social affairs than Frank Field. That is a valuable hack talent she shares with Richard Littlejohn…

The fear and ignorance heard last Wednesday did not showcase the “Power of the Commentariat”, it highlighted their decline. They are weakened and rightly so, for they have time and time again failed to hold political power to account successfully. Proximity breeds compromise and the politico-media class has for example tolerated lying about expenses by politicians for decades and that toleration spread to tolerating spin, which is as often as not professional lying. Democracy is worse off because the Commentariat are compromised by being so embedded in the political class – or as Polly Toynbee explains “in sympathy with politicians”.

Laughably the Commentariat simultaneously fear and deride what they perjoratively term the “cult of the amateur”. The irony of this is not lost on Guido. The pundits of the unpopular press really need a re-think here, very few journalists earn as much as top bloggers. Guido can think of a few lone website owners who produce their content and make far more than most journalistsof the Dead Tree Press. They are also profit making publishers, unlike the Independent, Guardian and Telegraph.

This misplaced arrogance of the Commentariat deserves a research-based response. The writings of the Commentariat no longer just end up as fish and chip wrapping, their writing is accessible via the internet forever. So tomorrow, hopefully with the assistance of the wisdom of the blogging crowds, Guido will start putting the profundity of their punditry in context and under the microscope, starting with Janet Daley.

What did she, with all her intellectual authority, tell us about Gordon Brown last summer? Feel free to be profane…

*Matthew Taylor has complained bitterly about bloggers before. Contrast Taylor’s attitude to Rupert Murdoch’s attitude to the democratising of commentary. Overwhelmingly the Commentariat basically has a protectionist attitude, the increasing pluralism of news sources scares them because it devalues them. Shrewdly and counter-intuitively, Murdoch has an enabling attitude, expanding by freeing the market for commentary. He gets it.

PMQs : Don’t Shout Abuse at the Telly

After the alcohol driven success of the local election night live-chat Guido will be hosting on the blog another live chat session from 11.30 until 12.30 covering PMQs. We will be watching the Daily Politics as our point of reference.

On election night it was fun and profoundly profane. No doubt this time it will be full of respect for our political masters, completely free from bad language and vitriol. Or maybe not…

The system allows Guido to let 10 chatterers go freely unmoderated, the rest have to have their comments click-approved. So if you want to be unmoderated, be wittier and more amusing…

Ofcom : “Guido is a Public Service”

Guido has only just become aware that Ofcom has published a consultation paper on Public Service Broadcasting in the Digital Age. So what?

Well, this blog is cited in the review of “public service content available online” as “an example of a widely read and influential blog that has become a must-read in Westminster.” Of course, but is it a “public service”? It is, after all, primarily for Guido’s personal amusement and mischief making merriment. This is not a public space, it is private property.

On the other hand, the Tories have a policy proposal to top slice the telly-tax to other public service providers to promote diversity and stimulate the creative industries market. If Guido is a public service content provider, does that not mean as content goes multi-platform, with online video-on-demand and suchlike, that Guido should get a splash of the £3 billion gravy train? Drinks all round on the telly taxpayer, why waste all that money on the BBC?

“Politics Home” Beta Snapshot

“Politics Home”* is the beta working title of the still-under-wraps site that aims to be the Bloomberg News of politics – it certainly looks a little familiar to the users of the financial newswire service. No original editorial as far as Guido can see, more rolling news headlines from not just the blogosphere, the entire English speaking online political universe. The rolling news feed will take headlines from mainstream media sites and video feeds as well.

It looks like it will kill off the ailing ePolitix site, which has now taken to cutting and pasting stories from Guido. Rumours of staff losses including the abrupt leaving of the finance director might explain the 80% drop in Huveaux plc shares. (Huveaux is the parent company of the House Magazine, Dods and ePolitx). “Content is king” is the view of Guido and Rupert Murdoch (originally). Convenience is cool too, could this overcome the info-overload tsunami that political junkies now suffer?


*They say that is not going to be the final name.

Gordon Tells Court His “Manifesto Pledges are Not Subject to Legitimate Expectation”

Guido thought that this attempt to take Gordon Brown to Court by a UKIP member for breach of contract over not holding a referendum on the EU Constitution was crazy. It was in the manifesto and a manifesto commitment is a promise. So they do have a case of sorts but with little chance of success methinks.

But it was absolutely worth it for the admission in Court by Gordon’s barrister that you should not believe a word Gordon writes in the manifesto. Q.E.D.

Incidentally, the quote was taken down in Court and blogged before any broadcaster, newswire or newsroom got it out by Is There More to Life than Shoes? Good work pussycat…

Guardian Online Doesn’t Have Much to Boast About

The Guardian was boasting this week that it has 3.6 million UK users a month. Guido has got the breakdown of those numbers from the online industry’s competitive intelligence monitors Hitwise.

In December the Guardian politics pages had some 455,000 UK users, compared to Guido’s 305,000 users. Iain Dale is on a similar number. In fact any two of the top five blogs get more British readers in a month than the whole of Guardian Online’s politics pages. Something that should be worrying the boys and girls on the Farringdon Road…

A Story You Won’t Get from the BBC, Guardian or The TimesThe Secret of Three of Westminster’s Media Gate-keepers

Yesterday on the Today programme there was a discussion as to if the mainstream media would sit on a story that Guido would not. Sarah Montague dismissed the idea that there is in fact a cosy media elite.

Well here is another story that everyone in the Westminster media knows yet won’t publish. It involves three household names; Jackie Ashley, the Guardian’s cheerleader-in-chief for the Brownies, Alice Miles of The Times, who cheers for the Cameroons and Andy Marr, Gordon Brown’s much favoured BBC interlocutor.


If this story was about soap stars, footballers or chart-toppers it would be all over the papers. If an actress on EastEnders had an affair with an actor on Coronation Street who was married to the star of Emmerdale which resulted in a love-child it would be front-page news on every newspaper.

Yet Andy Marr fathering a child with Alice Miles whilst married to Jackie Ashley goes unreported. Across newsrooms, at Islington and Hampstead dinner parties it has been common knowledge for years. These three journalists are at the heart of the politico-media nexus that constitutes the new ruling class. The producers and editors who are the media gate-keepers would not be keen to dish the dirt on their own… despite the fact that it would be of huge interest to the public.

UPDATE : Lots of high minded left-windbag pomposity about this story. Excellent. The great Stanislav returns in the comments with a verbal tour-de-farce which very eloquently mirrors Guido’s thinking. Don’t recall any of those now attacking “gutter blogging” raising any such hackles when another prominent political journalist’s sexual foibles and follies were exposed. In fact most of them rejoiced everytime Boris Johnson was caught with his pants down…

UPDATE 2011: According to reports, following a DNA test Andrew Marr turns out not to be the father despite having paid paternity for years.

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.

The Odd Couple

Telegraph TV asked Guido to appear on their new online politics channel. They couldn’t afford him, so you will have to make do with the wisdom of Widdecombe. Heffer and Dale will also be going head-to-head. Two Essex boys made bad…

BBC Invade America, Taxpayers Only Casualties

As Speedbird pointed out in the comments earlier, the BBC has Jonathan Beale, Justin Webb, Kevin Connelly, Matt Frei, Jon Sopel and David Grossman covering the primaries.
All reporting on the same thing, all giving the same (incorrect) analysis. Actually to be fair, David Grossman for Newsnight was different, telling us how he’d accidentally put diesel in the car and even filming his own cameraman and producer. At any minute he seemed to be on the verge of saying “Hello mum, I’m in America, on the telly!”

Does the duplication of efforts produce anything of value? Well it gives us clear evidence that the BBC has no budgetary discipline, massive over-staffing and a lot of West Wing fans in News & Current Affairs.

The BBC is hardly likely to get a scoop unless it can track down Steve Morgan, Peter Hain’s fundraiser who is in hiding, hopefully doing for Hilary what he did for Hain…

UPDATE : Comment makers point out that Simon Mayo is a long way from the Radio 1 Roadshow, he is reporting the primaries for 5 Live. Radio 4’s Jim Naughtie is there as well. Kevin Connolly is padding out 5 Live’s coverage as is somebody called Rhod Sharpe. Jonathan Marcus and James Coomarasamy are covering for the World Service.

Any more Beeboids across the Atlantic?

£24,000,000,000 of Public Money is a Matter of Public Interest

Yesterday the FT lost a High Court battle to publish the investment memorandum being circulated in the City for Northern Rock. In it was revealed that by the end of this year £24 billion will have been borrowed from the Bank of England by Northern Rock.

It also revealed that possible options might involve continuing public money supporting the private company for years. These are vast sums under consideration. Gordon Brown refused to answer legitimate questions from Vince Cable about this yesterday. Northern Rock injuncted the FT, and got the memo removed from a U.S. hosting service where it had been uploaded yesterday.

It is public money and the public have a right to know what is going on, as incidentally do shareholders because arguably there is currently a false market in the shares. The reasons for this being suppressed are not commercial, they are political. Everybody in the City already knows what is in the memo. The government just doesn’t want the political embarrassment. Schillings are acting for Northern Rock trying to suppress the memo, which is all over the internet. One copy which might last longer is being hosted in India on Yahoo. Their offices in Mumbai will be closed by now, so Schillings might find it difficult to get it removed quickly. Don’t worry if it goes missing, another will pop up somewhere like China or Australia.

UPDATE : Link is now dead, traffic overwhelmed bandwith limits. working. It will no doubt pop up somewhere else.

UPDATE II : Schillings got the Indian site deleted. You can still find the memo here www.Banks-Implode.com, and many other hosts.

No M’Lord

The FT may have lost a High Court battle to print the Northern Rock investment memo, Gordon somewhat pathetically at PMQs claimed it was “commercially sensitive” information to get him off the hook discussing it. Vince Cable lashed into him when he made that “absolutely bogus” claim. £24 billion of taxpayers money on a bail-out is a legitimate matter of public interest.

It is definitely not secret any more. Guido told you 4 hours ago where it could be found online in the U.S., it is as of now the top Google search result for Northern Rock Summary. You can’t keep politically expedient secrets in an open source world…

UPDATE : Our old friends Schillings are at it again. No Pasaran!

New Media versus Old Media

The news that the Telegraph lost £10m last year encourages Guido to believe that in the coming years the truth will slowly dawn on loss making media moguls. Comment is just a click away. Good quality comment is free of charge at places like ConservativeHome, PoliticalBetting and UK Polling Report. The value of your paper pundits will therefore decrease to zero. The “we know best” gatekeeper mentality just won’t do.

To all those media executives shaking their heads, don’t forget that this blog is more profitable than the Telegraph, Independent and Guardian combined. Better value for readers as well…

[See also Henry Blodget’s fisk of a speech from AP’s Tom Curley.]

Even Mark Thompson Admits BBC Ridiculously Over Staffed

Guido has been accused of relishing the reduction in the headcount at the BBC. That is unfair and a gross misrepresentation of the true position. He feels their pain. Guido is not relishing that pain, he is too busy celebrating. Loafing Beeboids are (after the Houses of Parliament) the biggest identifiable group of readers from Guido’s server records. Do some real work you mongs…

The BBC boss Mark Thompson made a revealing comment, he said that following the announcement of staff reductions he had “one interview request from ITN, one from Sky and 37 from the BBC”. All asking the same bloody questions…

UPDATE : On the Sky News blog Jon Craig points out that the Beeb has in Brussels today; Chief Political Editor Nick Robinson, News 24 Chief Political Correspondent James Landale, Newsnight Political Correspondent David Grossman, Radio 5 Live Political Correspondent John Pienaar, Europe Editor Mark Mardell. All at the same press conference, with their production teams, running up expenses….

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…

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