Staggeringly Shocking

Guido is frankly surprised with Mehdi Hasan’s latest article In Defence of Ed Balls.  Not that the ‘senior political editor’ of the New Statesman is defending the indefensible, it is his admission that “I don’t know him. Never met him.”

How do you get to be a ‘senior political editor’ of a supposedly serious political journal without ever having met Ed Balls?  Staggering.

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…

Why No One Reads the New Statesman Anymore (Part 96)

James Macintyre says that his Downing Street sources say that their private polling shows Labour ahead in the polls.

Not sure if this is the same source that told him Blair would be President of Europe

Speccie v Staggers on Communism and Circulation

speccie-v-staggers

In the week we celebrate the Fall of the Wall (more in this coming week’s Guidogram) the covers of our political weeklies are worth comparing.  The Speccie reveals and condemns Soviet agents at the highest levels of the Labour Party.  The New Statesman glories in a cover with a flattering (old) picture of the communist tyrant Fidel Castro.  On the inside is a feature on his allegedly ‘popular’ variant of socialism.  So popular is Castro’s socialism that he has turned the island into a prison, locked up dangerous poets, not held an election in half a century and jailed dissident democrats.  No mention in the article of the people who to attempt to flee to Miami on floats made out of car tyres or the level of destitution to which the country has been reduced.  Perhaps Castro is popular in the same way that the Staggers is ‘popular’.   Up to date ABC circulation figures are no longer available, but the suspicion is that since they have got rid of the adult political reporters the weekly circulation has gone below 20,000 – less than the daily readership of this blog.  Online data  since the beginning of the year shows the relative downward trend:

Relative Trends

Perhaps if it was more in the real world politically – the latest claim is that the Chief Rabbi of Poland is a Tory stooge – the downward trend of the Staggers might be arrested.  Perhaps they are hoping, vainly in Guido’s view, that a change of government will boost circulation…

Kaminski : "New Statesman's Shoddy Journalism"

Almost every time Guido writes about James Macintyre an email arrives in the inbox complaining about everything from mis-spelling his name to not giving the whole truth. Once he complained bitterly that some nuance was wrong (that he hadn’t formally applied for a job with Ed Miliband, but had been considered for a SpAd job with Miliband and was furious when he discovered that his close buddy Derek Draper told Ed not to hire him – if you are really interested).

The tone is often: “Are you going to correct that o’ fearless truth seeker? Or just bathe in inaccuracy as ever? Which one?”

Macintyre’s journalism, such as it is, and Guido is in a position to verify this with documentary evidence, often amounts to little more than emailing a Labour spin doctor, and asking them have they “got any dirt”. He was not so long ago sniffing (pardon the pun) around for cocaine-related dirt on Cameron. Fair enough, Guido is in no position to criticise Macintyre for muck-racking. This was the manner in which he got his famous “Obama thinks Cameron is a lightweight” line. It was fed to him.

Macintyre has been pushing the Labour spin line that Michael Kaminski, the Tory ally in the European parliament, is some kind of anti-semitic, far-right extremist. Some have been urging Kaminski to sue the New Statesman, Kaminski tells Iain Dale in this month’s Total Politics

What I’m facing here in the UK is not only a very disappointing standard of political debate, but very disappointing standards of journalism.  Rabbi Schudrich made a statement about the allegations in this magazine. He sent them a statement and they ignored it. They didn’t print it.  Rabbi Schudrich made it very clear that he didn’t want to make any political statements about me, but he wanted to make clear that he has nothing against me and does not regard me as an anti-Semite.  Come on. Just recently, I came back from Israel where I was received at the top level of government.  I had my statement posted on the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs.  The Israeli ambassador to Brussels accepted my invitation to visit our group next week; can you imagine that the Israeli state would receive me if they had any doubts about my attitude towards the Jewish people and the state of Israel?

Now it is clear that either Kaminski or Macintyre are not telling the whole truth, and the Rabbi is the one in a position to settle this outright once and for all. The word is that Rabbi Schudric is going to make a definitive statement.

The Relaunch of the New Statesman

Guido v New Statesman v Speccie

The graphic above shows how the New Statesman has lost ground over the last two years.  With the paid-for print circulation now in the low teens of thousands it has only a quarter of the Spectator’s paid-for circulation.   Online the advantage the magazine enjoyed when it was ahead of the game has now evaporated.  It was at one time one of the better online political websites and despite a recent revamp it has continued to lose ground.  “Why?” is the question the new owner Mike Danson must be asking himself.

StaggersThere are two reasons Guido thinks* – the decline of the enthusiasm of the left as a decade of disillusion takes a heavy toll and the fact that it isn’t a very good read.  Serious writers like Martin Bright and the effervescent Nick Cohen have been lost and replaced with new blood who are hardly “must read” material.  Mehdi Hassan is finding his footing, James Macintyre’s articles betray his mentoring by Derek Draper, often reading like the work of a student journalist on a college newspaper.  For a serious political weekly they lack serious political reporters.

The dullness quotient can be high elsewhere in the magazine.  Maguire’s cheeky diary was often a work of fiction, but at least it was entertaining fiction.  Peter Wilby usually has something interesting to say, Pilger is Pilger if you like that sort of thing.  A lot of the rest of the stuff is worthy and boring. The Spectator is far more fun, mischievous and readable.

It is hard to see how even as canny a publisher as Danson can avoid losing money if it doesn’t change editorial course.  If  of course he bought it vainly for influence, fine, though even there how much influence does it have nowadays?  The circulation numbers don’t lie, with a declining readership half the size of this blog’s audience, Guido thinks the announced “greater focus on photography” is unlikely to cut the mustard in Labour’s inner circles.  A political weekly needs to get great political stories to succeed.  When was the last time the New Statesman had a real scoop?

*Third possible reason applies to all left-wing, politically correct publications  since the late sixties – it is hard to be fun when you are earnest and have to watch your words. Fun sells.

Give Us a Job Ed

The low circulation New Statesman continues to fascinate Guido, a co-conspirator has sent in an example of a lavish bit of sycophancy which really deserves a bigger audience.

ns_logoYou may remember that James Macintyre was not so long ago bitterly disappointed at failing to become Ed Miliband’s SpAd after Derek Draper advised Ed against hiring him.  This week Macintyre was embedded on a junket to Bangladesh and India with Ed Miliband and Dougie Alexander to see poverty first-hand and get a few photo-ops with the ministers.  Looks like Macintyre is re-applying for the SpAd job with the man he describes optimistically as “a leader-in-waiting”:

ed+dougieIt is amazing to think that if the conventional wisdom is right, and Labour loses, these talented ministers, with so much to offer, will suddenly be out of a job. I can’t remember who their Tory opposite numbers are, but it is fair to say that certain parties I have spoken to, from NGO workers to diplomats to foreign politicians, are keeping their fingers crossed that the consensus will be proved wrong.

Can you hear that sucking up sound?  You would think that the ‘political correspondent’ of a magazine with pretensions to being a serious journal would know his subject. It falls to Guido, again, to help out the Statesman’s political team: Andrew Mitchell and Greg Clark are their opposite numbers…

Muddled Mehdi

mehdiMehdi Hasan is the New Statesman’s ‘Senior Politics Editor’. He gets a lot of flack from the Islamophobic Jihadis-Under-the-Bed crowd for being soft on Islamo-Fascism.  They variously accuse him of wanting to sublimate the West to a new Caliphate and kill all non-believers or suchlike.  Frankly Guido has lost track of the detail and suspects they might be slightly misrepresenting Mehdi’s actual beliefs.

Nevertheless Mehdi does hold some strange beliefs which he reveals to us in the Statesman, for example he claims the BBC has an institutionally right-wing biasHave you noticed?

ns_logoToday he writes of the Farage v Bercow election challenge that it isa shame they can’t both lose.” It should hardly fall to Guido to educate the ‘Senior Politics Editor’ of Britain’s leading left-wing political publication.  Nevertheless it is Guido’s understanding of the current system of British parliamentary democracy that there is in fact a way they could indeed “both lose”If another candidate stands and gets “more votes” they would “both lose”.  Hope that helps Mehdi…

Staggering Sillyness from Macintyre

The New Statesman is running an implausible story that relations between Dave and Boris are ‘at breaking point’. Predictably, it’s written by James Macintyre.  Silly season must have started before recess for him.

How can we take seriously anything that comes from James Macintyre? He was already under suspicion of being a willing conduit for Labour spin inventions after he reported – unsourced – a claim that Obama thought Cameron was a “lightweight” – a story that Guido knows to be an invention.  Ask yourself – does young Macintyre really have Whitehouse contacts that would provide him with that kind of insight – if it were genuine?  His journalistic credibity vanished altogether when his email exchanges with Derek Draper were made public in Private Eye. They revealed Macintyre’s desperate disappointment at not becoming a Labour SpAd for Ed Miliband. Wily Draper played his former intimate, young James, like a sucker and “borrowed” several thousand quid from him to boot. Gullible Macintyre remains owed the money.

Macintyre has no Tory contacts at a senior level around Boris or Dave, this will within ten months prove something of a career crippling problem for the political editor of a serious political weekly. In view of Macintyre’s latest spin invention, we can safely assume he’s back on the hunt for a government job.

UPDATE : Boris has publicly called the story piffle. A source not a million miles from Cameron’s office was (via email) scathing about Macintyre after this story went up. Boy Macintyre himself has been in touch to complain that he didn’t claim his source for his “Obama thinks Cameron is a lightweight” story was Whitehouse, it was apparently a “diplomatic source”. It was transparent spin is what it was.

+++ New Statesman Paid Circulation Less than 15,000 +++

Guess that is what happens when you make Derek Draper’s “lunch partner”, James Macintyre, political correspondent.  That source has now dried up…

+++ Danson Takes 100% Control of New Statesman +++

Guido thought the deal was that he would buy out Geoffrey Robinson’s 50% when Gordon left office. Oh, hang on…

Guido Confesses

The New Statesman’s James Macintyre, a regular lunching companion of Derek Draper, has just rung up to ask some stupid questions.  One line of questioning was jaw-droppingly bizarre:

JM : Do you deny having links to the intelligence services?
GF : Errrm [bemused pause]. Do you know the name of the Israeli secret intelligence service?
JM : Mossad?
GF :  They are supposed to be the best in the world.
JM : Yes.
GF : Do you know the name of the Irish secret intelligence service?
JM : No.
GF : So why do you think Mossad are better?
JM : Right, but do you deny having links to intelligence services?
GF : You got me, I am agent 003 1/2 of the Irish intelligence service.  You are a total hoon* Macintyre.

It ended up in a shouting match.

UPDATE : Had Macintyre on the phone again. He says this is not accurate.  This bit of the conversation was only a small part of the conversation.  He, to be fair, actually tried 50 ways of asking the same stupid question for the most part.  He says that it was just being juvenile (really).  He also wants to make it clear that it was Guido who called him a hoon* and that could I stop mentioning he is a lunching partner of Derek Draper.  This clarification is to stop his whining.

*Euphemism employed.

Bright Moves Up from Statesman to Spectator

Paul Johnson did it. Melanie Philips did it. They of course had God by their side when they shifted. Bright hasn’t found God as far as Guido knows and he still sees himself, perhaps needs to see himself, as a man of the left. Bright, until recently political editor of the New Statesman, is now blogging for the Speccie.“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Can it be long before Nick Cohen follows?

No News from the New Statesman

The Staggers remains rudderless and loss making. Geoffrey Robinson has gone on holiday for a fortnight, so don’t expect any news until he gets back. Meanwhile over at the loss making Indy, Roger Alton is taking over as editor. They don’t call it the Dead-Tree-Press for nothing…

Steve Richards Offered Editorship of New Statesman

Sam Coates says the Indy’s Steve Richards is to be the next editor of the New Statesman. Maybe. Guido understands he was offered the job and has been “thinking about it”. He has not however as yet formally accepted the worst job in political journalism – working for Geoffrey Robinson…

Guido Writes for New Statesman

Bet you thought you’d never see that. Don’t worry it “was for charidee”. Amnesty actually. The article is about the Chinese online campaigner and now political prisoner, Shi Tao, and an email that got him a ten year prison sentence.
Tomorrow Guido will be writing here about the wrongdoings of a New Statesman ex-staff member. Someone who should actually be locked up for political corruption.

Mirror’s Maguire Brown-Nosing Into Downing Street

Kevin Maguire fantasises that he will be the Alastair Campbell of the Brown regime. He has Campbell’s old job as political editor at the Mirror and certainly sucks up to Gordon enough to make himself a candidate to follow his predecessor’s footsteps. Guido saw Maguire at the Milburn / Clarke website launch and wondered if he was actually there reporting or spying. It is also noticeable that of late he has been putting himself about giving “media training” to Labour party candidates and is increasingly seen at regional party events.As well as practising his Brown-nosing at the Mirror, he is part of the New Statesman / Sith nexus, so it is no surprise that he was one of the few hacks to quote the recent discredited “Opinion Leader” poll. Maguire soothed Brownite nerves in the Mirror last week

the poll that really counted this week may prove to be an Opinion Leader Research survey of senior public figures. Political heavyweight Brown was judged to “believe” what he says by 87 per cent, lightweight Cameron by 59 per cent.

Maguire claims the poll that mattered wasn’t either of the two field-tested four-figure population polls from ICM and Communicate research, it was the one organised by Gordon’s pollster, Deborah Mattinson, of 100 carefully selected “opinion leaders”. Does he really believe what he writes?If Maguire gets to be Brown’s spinmeister don’t expect a highbrow moral tone from the man who this week wrote of often dreaming of Margaret Thatcher’s death and how “back home on Tyneside at the weekend, I found many a Labour voter eagerly awaiting the day [the] former premier is dead and buried.” Strangely yesterday morning on Marr’s BBC show he didn’t recount his dreams to Carol Thatcher – who was sharing the sofa with him. Now that would have really livened things up.

When not dreaming of Carol’s mother’s death he calls Cameron “Druggie Dave, the Bambi Killer”, which may be fair comment or an indication of the nature of the coming Brown onslaught on the poll favourite. If Brown appoints Maguire it will signal that he intends to fight a dirty, class-based political struggle which appeals to Labour’s activists – a style reflected in Kevin’s journalism that has helped the Mirror lose 25% of its readers since 1997. Can he do for his party what he has done for his paper?

Is the New Statesman Compromised?

The old New Statesman historically was the discussion journal of the Labour party. Issues and personalities of the left were analysed within its pages and it still has serious journalists holed up at its offices. Yet compare the vitality of the Spectator to that of the Statesman, all shades of conservative and other strands of thought appear in the Speccie. But search for anything critical of Brown in the Statesman and you will find little.

Improved as it has been under Kampfner’s editing it still lacks something because the hand of Geoffrey Robinson is suffocating it. He is prone to wandering up to writers post publication and congratulating them with the line “Gordon liked your piece”. As if any self respecting serious writer on the left would care.

The whole issue of Robinson’s ownership and his total devotion to the Brown cause depresses staff. The embarrassment of being known as the Brownite house magazine with the symbiotic “independent charitable non-partisan think-tank” – which just so happens to have moved offices three times with them in the last ten years (can you guess who?) – makes staff blush.

Guido was filming outside their offices recently when Kampfner came out, “What are you up to?” he asked of us. “We’re doing a piece on the Smith Institute, care to comment?” “Oh no”, he said and walked off. What kind of state of affairs is it when the editor of the liberal left’s house journal won’t discuss the question of the independence and integrity of his magazine? It shares offices with a controversial think-tank under investigation by the Charity Commission for dubious practises involving the future leader of the Labour party. Every newspaper in the country is covering the story and the New Statesman ignores the elephant literally in the same room as it. Not a single story about the Smith Institute has appeared in the magazine with which it shares offices. Bizarre.

Nick Cohen, a New Statesman journalist, has a bestselling book out, What’s Left? How Liberals Lost Their Way. Guido can’t help but wonder if part of the answer can’t be found in the silence and timidity of the left’s leading journal when it comes to discussing what is going on under its own roof.

UPDATE : Guardian’s Greenslade challenges Kampfner, Martin Bright tries a Sith mind trick, these are not the stories you are looking for, you can go about your business…



Tip offs: 0709 284 0531
team@Order-order.com

Quote of the Day

Alan Sugar on Jeremy Corbyn:

“It’s clear you alluded to students refunds to get votes from young impressionable people. You are a cheat and should resign.”

Sponsors

Guidogram: Sign up

Subscribe to the most succinct 7 days a week daily email read by thousands of Westminster insiders.
IPSO Throws Out Baroness Scotland Complaints IPSO Throws Out Baroness Scotland Complaints
100% Inheritance Tax: Stupid or Evil? 100% Inheritance Tax: Stupid or Evil?
Paul Mason’s Play in 60 Seconds Paul Mason’s Play in 60 Seconds
Sunday Shows Sunday Shows
City Confident as Hiring Rates Rocket City Confident as Hiring Rates Rocket
Watch: Best Maiden Speech of 2017 Intake Watch: Best Maiden Speech of 2017 Intake
Child Protection Investigation ‘Stalled to Help Labour’ Child Protection Investigation ‘Stalled to Help Labour’
Davis Accepts Donations from Top Blairite and TV Remainer Davis Accepts Donations from Top Blairite and TV Remainer
BBC #NotOnTheList Stars Paid Via Production Companies BBC #NotOnTheList Stars Paid Via Production Companies
Pants-Wearing Councillor Boasted He Had “Vaz in My Right Pocket” Pants-Wearing Councillor Boasted He Had “Vaz in My Right Pocket”
Champion: ‘Not Possible’ to Keep Student Debt Promise Champion: ‘Not Possible’ to Keep Student Debt Promise
BBC Rich List Revealed: Salaries In Full BBC Rich List Revealed: Salaries In Full
Torbynista Greening Loses Fight for New Money Torbynista Greening Loses Fight for New Money
New Labour Spinner Boasted of Bullying Angela Eagle New Labour Spinner Boasted of Bullying Angela Eagle
Remainers Behind Smears and Negative Briefings Remainers Behind Smears and Negative Briefings
Byline Fined For Defamation in First Impress Ruling Byline Fined For Defamation in First Impress Ruling
Freedom From Abuse Not Abuse of Freedom Freedom From Abuse Not Abuse of Freedom
Milne & Blonde Pictured in Restaurant Milne & Blonde Pictured in Restaurant
Corbyn Spends Evening With Assad Loving Genocide Denier Corbyn Spends Evening With Assad Loving Genocide Denier