A very special guest at the Guardian’s morning conference today: Hacked Off’s very own Steve Coogan. Must have been some smiles around Kings Place when a gushing memo telling hacks how coke and hookers fan Coogan is an “ethical standard bearer” was delivered this morning. Of course he’s got a film out, so now the press are his best friends. The Royal Charter was only signed on Wednesday and already Hacked Off are running their own paper…
The Telegraph, Mirror, Indy, et all finally played catch up this morning. So what did the fearless seekers of truth over at the Guardian make of yesterday’s latest nudge down the global rankings for press freedom? Poor Rusbridger pet James Ball, who is off to the States to be their new investigations editor after colleagues claim he was approached by another organisation then used that as promotion leverage, did not have a good day. Is this is the level of investigative journalism we can expect from the Guardian in the future?
He went on to claim it was a diary story at best. Perhaps he should be taking over from Hugh Muir instead.
Indeed it was snarky slow claps all round at Kings Place:
But then again if the story’s not handed to you on a plate by Edward Snowden or Julian Assange, why bother leaving the office? Come back Glenn Greenwald, all is forgiven.
Tory MP Julian Smith has been busy doing the rounds in the TV studios today, sticking the boot in to the Guardian for publishing the Snowden files. This afternoon he has a debate in Westminster Hall debate on “The Guardian newspaper and its impact on national security”. Julian clearly takes the concerns of spooks very seriously.
Apart from the time he chose to ignore parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee report on how Chinese firm Huawei – banned by the US and Australia on security grounds – was able to gain a foothold within Britain’s internet infrastructure. When BT, heavily invested in Huawei kit, was awarded the taxpayer-subsidised contract to install broadband in Smith’s constituency, he dismissed any security concerns:
“This announcement is the modern day equivalent of the coming of the railways or the introduction of canals.”
If only he’d had the chance to talk about it on telly…
Back when they were in government Labour used to give the Guardian a helping hand by bunging them taxpayer cash for advertising departmental jobs in the paper. It was one example of government waste the Tories vowed to crack down on. Well in 2012 Maria Miller’s DCMS gave the Guardian £10,698 of taxpayers’ money “as part of the drive to attract a wider spectrum of candidates to the boards of our country’s institutions and encourage more diverse public appointments”. Every little helps…
The Guardian’s efforts to help Chris Huhne on the road to rehabilitation continue with some aplomb. Either Huhne is being super canny and coat-tailing onto the Guardian’s pet causes for their affection, or someone is helping him on the inside. Always worth remembering that Huhne was best man of to Patrick Wintour, the Guardian political editor who wrote today’s front page story. Huhne says that while he was in Cabinet he knew nothing about the controversial Tempura surveillance programme.
“The invasion of privacy is breath-taking. The defence that you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide is as outrageous as it was when made by the totalitarian states. Citizens may – for good or bad reasons – want their activity to be private without in any way being illegal. Privacy matters.”
Enjoyable as it is to read Huhne’s opinions on law, order, liberty and privacy, funny he never felt so strongly about the activities of our security services while he was in power and could actually do something about it.
“many commenting here have not bothered to read my article carefully (or at all), and the headline (which I didn’t write, and which is more provocative than the print Guardian) I didn’t write.”
Of course that hasn’t stopped her from tweeting the very same headline. This excuse didn’t wash for Geoffery Levy. For some reason the same privilege wasn’t afforded to the Mail…
Polly Toynbee, or her Guardian sub, has found the culprit responsible for the deaths of young children at their hands of their parents: the Tories of course! Apparently Baby P and Hamzah Khan’s deaths can be blamed on “Tory vandalism”, Michael Gove to be specific. Just the one problem. Aside from Polly ignoring the role of you know, the parents, or even social workers, teachers and doctors, both Baby P and Hamzah Khan died under a Labour government. And this from a paper that moralises about rival’s ethics.
Margaret Hodge isn’t wasting any opportunity to bleat about the £84 billion Vodafone/Verizon deal today:
“We must demand reassurance that HMRC has thoroughly examined this proposition to ensure British taxpayers get their rightful share of this massive profit. If there’s a flaw in legislation it has to be urgently addressed by Treasury ministers. I don’t understand how anyone can justify such a massive windfall without handing a fair share to the Exchequer. If this is an instance in which Vodafone has simply played the system then clearly they themselves have an obligation to UK consumers, on whom they depend for their business, to do the right thing.”
Flaws in legislation, you say? Well the two companies are exploiting the so-called “Substantial Shareholder Exemption” loophole to legally dodge the tax, the very same loophole used by Guardian Media Group when it sold Autotrader. SSE is a corporation tax exemption for businesses disposing of a substantial shareholding in a part of their business. The idea is that businesses should be able to restructure their businesses without having to worry about chargeable gains implications. And who was it introduced by? One Gordon Brown…
UPDATE: That “flawed tax law” Hodge is complaining about? She voted for it.
Spare a thought for the Daily Star today. They have splashed on the “shock secret love children” of Coronation Street actor Charlie Condou, sensationally revealing that he “secretly fathered two children with a straight girl pal”. Just the one problem. Unfortunately Condou’s kids were less than secret, he wrote a column devoted to them in the Guardian for a year.
In their defence, it’s not like anyone would have read it…
A reconstruction, obviously…
The full story of how state security came to oversee the destruction of the Guardian’s hard drives, not in the Guardian, but the Mail.
Something they deny:
Who do you believe?
Guido gives you a fair and balanced (as always) run down of everything you need to know on the developments of the last few days. As well as the key questions to both the Guardian and the security services that have gone unanswered.
- David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, was detained at Heathrow by UK security services. They took his computer and memory card.
- It has since emerged that Miranda was carrying sensitive information from one of Greenwald’s contacts, something which was not mentioned in the initial Guardian report.
- Miranda says he did not know anything about the contents of the documents but was simply transporting them for Greenwald.
- Why did the Guardian fail to mention any of this in their initial report? Why has their side of the story, at least in part, begun to unravel?
- What justification do the security services have for detaining him under the Terrorism Act? Did they believe he was a terrorist?
- Alan Rusbridger claims that GCHQ spooks smashed hard drives in the Guardian basement after a series of demands that they were returned.
- Why did Rusbridger allow this to take place? Why did he not begin a legal battle or do his reporting from abroad, as he ponders in his article?
- With the knowledge that the Guardian would have made copies, for what purpose did GCHQ do this other than intimidation? What did it achieve?
Fascinating stuff from Alan Rusbridger last night. The Guardian editor claims that two months ago he was approached by a government official on behalf of the PM demanding he destroy material they were working on. A month later Rusbrisger says he received a phone call in which he was told “you’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back”. Then a quite extraordinary day at Kings Place:
“And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. “We can call off the black helicopters,” joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.”
You can read his account in full here. Of course there are unanswered questions, chiefly why did Rusbridger allow the spooks to do this? Though what this comes down to is that state security was in the Guardian’s basement destroying their hard drives. Which is a hugely worrying development. After all, this could be Guido one day…
Three weeks since Guido published the remarkable similarities between Andrew Rawnsley’s Observer column and a piece in the Economist. Three weeks since Andrew Rawnsley has appeared in the paper. Still no comment from him despite Guido asking again and again. Hope he is enjoying his break…
Press Gazette’s scoop on Friday that Guardian hack Nick Davies is off to America will remain exclusive. They reported that the paper’s “US invasion gathers pace” as “Nick Davies joins Paul Lewis Stateside” in a now pulled piece.
No need to get the PCC involved this time, but still. Ouch.
Whatever your position on the Guardian’s in-house “pompous douchecanoe” Glenn Greenwald, the detention of his partner under the Terrorism Act raises eyebrows, to say the least. Front of the queue is Labour’s favourite bandwagon-jumper Keith Vaz:
“What is extraordinary is they knew he was his partner… Bearing in mind it is a new use of terrorism legislation to detain someone in these circumstances, I’m certainly interested in knowing, so I will write to the police to ask for the justification of the use of terrorism legislation – they may have a perfectly reasonable explanation. But if we are going to use the act in this way … then at least we need to know so everyone is prepared.”
Yvette Cooper is particularly angry:
“Any suggestion that terror powers are being misused must be investigated and clarified urgently – the public support for these powers must not be endangered by a perception of misuse. The police and security agencies rightly work hard to protect national security and prevent terrorism. But public confidence in security powers depends on them being used proportionately within the law, and also on having independent checks and balances in place to prevent misuse.”
While Tom Watson has helpfully chipped in:
The answer, of course, is that David Miranda was detained under the Terrorism Act that Watson, Cooper and Vaz’s party voted in. If it turns out it is being used to go after journalists and their partners, it won’t take a whistleblower to work out where the blame lies…
According to the ONS the median gross annual earnings for full-time employees in 2011/12 was £26,500. A lower sum than that paid to every single full-time editorial member of staff at the Guardian. Guido has been leaked the pay structures of junior staff, and it makes for an intriguing read in these austere times.[…] Read the rest