Tories Astroturf Newsnight

On Tuesday’s Newsnight Paxman asked the audience of grassroots party members if any of them thought the child benefit announcement had been handled well. Only one person put their hand up to defend the Government…


But who was this  loyal grassroots member? Well none other than Richard John, a party staffer and recently appointed Head of Communications for the Welsh Conservatives. The only person who would defend the handling of the announcement was being paid to do so. Apparently he was spinning away on Monday’s show as well. Would the BBC class Andy Coulson as a “grass-roots member” too?

David Miliband Party Animal

Do you detect the influence of the editorial values of Guy News TV in last night’s Newsnight? Laura Kuenssberg is good enough to replace Emily Nomates…

Worth watching until the end for the focus group “David Miliband Party”Miliband is eminently mockable…

Where's the Cut?

Last night John Redwood flummoxed Kirsty Walk on Newsnight (here) when he said that the government was not cutting public expenditure. She didn’t really know where to go with her line of questioning since it was so off her script. The BBC weltanschauung is that we will soon be seeing massive and terrible cuts in government spending which will provide endless material of the grinding down the poor and vulnerable kind for them.

The truth, as Redwood points out, is that the government is still planning on spending rising every year, government debt will continue to rise year-on-year and the deficit will not be closed even in 2015. The unfunded overspending will be restrained in comparison to Gordon Brown, but will continue regardless. This government will continue to spend more than it receives and the budget will not be balanced. There will be no overall cut in spending…

Newsnight's Olly Grendlestein Problem

Newsnight’s regular political panel, made up of Cameroon Danny Finkelstein, the LibDem’s Olly Grender and Blairite insider Peter Hyman, has a bit of a problem. Ever since the coalition emerged Grender and the Fink have moved closer and closer to each other, not only on the sofa but in terms of argument. They seem to agree on almost everything now with only some nuanced differences.

It’s essentially two pro-government mouthpieces against one for Hyman who has to fight them both – Labour is bound to start really moaning about this sort of thing…

Newsnight's Pie Fight : Unappealing Politics at its Best

If you missed last night’s Newsnight, you missed a classic of its kind.

Prezza, Pickles and the Huhney monster trashing each other and squabbling in a manner that would make fish wives embarrassed.  Every now and then Prezza would shoutAshcroftlike he had a politicised version of  Tourette’s syndrome.  Huhne accused Blair of wanting a Labour government to protect his lobbying interests. Pickles tried to out-gruff Prezza.  It was so bad, it was good.

Watch it on iPlayer here.

Graphic Example of Media Influence

On Tuesday Guido posted a graph displaying an inverse correlation: every time Gordon showed a whiff of recovery the value of the pound went into free fall. Whenever Labour goes up in the polls the pound goes down on the exchanges.

Well it seems last night the Newsnight economic team not only copied the concept, but Emily Nomates’s graphic too – the start dates and margins are identical to Emily’s original graph.

Nice to know where the BBC’s great and good come for an economics lesson.

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!

Kirsty Makes Newsnight More Exciting

And you thought Emily Maitliss was the leggy one…

Jacqui Smith : Crime Without Punishment

Crime Without Punishment

Guido is grateful to Newsnight’s David Grossman for revealing how it passed that Jacqui Smith’s investigation by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner and critical report to to the Committee on Standards and Privileges resulted in a mere slap on the wrist.

Guido has, for once, no complaints about Commissioner John Lyon’s report to the Committee.  Paul Waugh says that the Commissioner “confided during the course of his inquiry that he has to “keep a keen eye on the blogs”. Government sources feel that Lyon believed he was under heavy pressure to do a tough report…” Good.  It is fair to say that John Lyon and the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics were in correspondence from the outset – remember the Commissioner at first rejected Sunlight’s original request for an investigation into Jacqui Smith.  Sunlight persisted, citing precedent and the existence of witnesses and he reluctantly began an investigation.  (Sunlight’s correspondence was noticeably omitted from the final report.)

The former Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Alastair Graham, is shocked that despite the findings, which include that the former Home Secretary attempted to mislead the investigation as to where she spent most of her nights, the MPs’ Committee on Standards and Privileges ruled she just had to apologise.  Guido has said it before; MPs judging MPs will always give them the benefit of the doubt, it is like selecting jurors from prison.  In this case the composition of the Committee was disgraceful.  One Tory, Greg Knight, was outnumbered by five Labour MPs, Andrew Dismore, Chris Mullin, Kevin Barron, Paddy Tippin and Dr Alan Whitehead.  So despite being found to have wrongly claimed £116,000, to have mislead the investigation and broken the rules, her ‘honourable’ friends ruled she had to merely apologise.  She was not ordered to repay a  single penny.  This is crime without punishment…

Cuts, Lies and Videotape

Remember Fraser Nelson pleading with the Prime Mentalist to tell the truth?

The tape doesn’t lie.  Unlike Gordon.

UPDATE 23.10 : Newsnight’s David Grossman has just run this pooled clip, without the Sky overlays. If you look carefully you can spot Grossman smirking in the front row.

Newsnight's Politics Pen

Tim Montgomerie and Iain Dale have got quite worked up about the Newsnight line-up for its Politics Pen experiment. Essentially the charge is they had four Labour insider / cronies vetoing public expenditure control policies from wonks (and a comedian).

pen_participantsThe political Dragon’s Den / Politics Pen types were Lord Digby Jones (former Labour Minister), Deborah Mattinson (Gordon Brown’s pollster), Matthew Taylor (Blair’s Head of Policy) and Greg Dyke (former Labour donor and luvvie of the nineties).

Not being known as one to miss a chance to bash the BBC you might be surprised to hear Guido thinks the Newsnight editor Peter Rippon has a point.  He can balance this panel in another show with a panel of right-of-centre panelists giving the thumbs up or thumbs down to advocates for quangos and big spending departments. 

The next panel could listen to those making the case for spending just as the previous panel listened to those making the case for expenditure control… they will do that, right?

Crowd Sourcing Opinion v Commentariat Opinion

Mindtracker
Until now we have had no way of knowing what the public really think of the party leaders performance. Instead, the members of the commentariat simply form their insider consensus, unsupported by anything other than their own shared metropolitan prejudices.

For example, the current consensus among the pundits is that it’s not a good idea for Cameron to get angry with Brown. “Too much like Flashman” think the hacks. But lots of voters are angry as hell at the PM and want to see him get a great big slap in the face (hence the popularity in Dan Hannan’s viral video in which he gave the PM the full hairdryer treatment).

Are the pundits right? What do swing voters actually think? At the moment that knowledge isn’t available to anyone unless they have pots of cash to spend. In the U.S. Frank Luntz charges corporate clients a small fortune to run dial groups (as seen on Newsnight) which capture exactly how voters feel about what politicians are saying. If you have the money, the effect of every word and weird facial expression can be measured precisely.

Now that technology is about to be democratised… it is time to cut out Sir Michael White and find out what voters actually think.  Let the crowd-sourced experiment begin – click here or on the button above and you will be able to record your responses blow-by-blow to today’s PMQs clash.  We’ll have the results back later…

+++ Lord Rennard to Get the Crick Treatment on Newsnight +++

Won’t be about his personal mores, just his financial dishonesty.  That Cowley Street moral high ground looking increasingly shaky..

Hat-tip : Liberal Vision

Political Class Starting to Fear the Public's Anger

Not often that Polly Toynbee, Tim Montgomerie and Guido agree: popular anger with the political class is rising.  Something that Polly wants Labour to adjust to by moving policy to the left as well as limiting public-sector fat-cat pay. Tim Montgomerie agrees on the latter but wants the Tories to wake up to popular anger by putting on hair-shirts and getting their own snoughts out of the trough.  Guido welcomes both pundits to the anti-politics banner.

Democracy is broken, the political media elite distant from the people with the two main parties offering no choice and no change.  Osborne is promising no change and blaming the economic crisis.  Taxation will remain penal, spending will remain prolific, there will be some reforms of a failed state bureaucracy but no rollback and no radicalism.  Hannan is at least making the case for a radical shift of power from the centralised state bureaucracy to people at local level.

The Cameroons can’t seal the deal with the people with pragmatism,  “Triangulation Now!” is not the banner that will get people marching.  Voters are angry with Brown and disenchanted with politicians offering more of the same.  Bedazzled during the Blair years, Cameron, Osborne and Hilton have yet to show that they realise the times have fundamentally changed.  Taking strategic advice from the wrong Danny* has left the Tories outflanked on their USP – the LibDems are now the only party promising to reduce the tax burden on the low paid.  Hannan told Newsnight last night that people are fed up of being, “ripped off, lied to and ignored” by politicians.  Disenchantment with politicians has never been higher, most think they are overpaid and dishonest.  Hannan gets it.  This crisis is an opportunity to radically change the plan.

*Finkelstein.  Nice guy, but wrong.  Danny has been consistently one political zeitgeist behind the times all his life.

Exclusive : Paxman : The Faked Evidence of Support

Jeremy Paxman writing in the Mail on Sunday this weekend “Wear a poppy… for the lions killed in war, not the donkeys who send them there” has fine words about the wars that have cost the lives of so many heroes:

“I shall wear a poppy because an act of remembrance once a year is the very least that those of us who have not been asked to risk our lives can offer those who did not have a choice.”

Empty words. In the picture byline above the article bearing his photo he is wearing a poppy. Hypocritically it is faked.

We know what Paxman thinks of faked evidence (watch him grill Policy Exchange’s Dean Godson here). He told Godson with his trademark sneer: “Authenticity is all, as you well know.”

Paxman, who is paid by the BBC £1 million for a three day week on Newsnight, was not available to answer Guido’s questions.

Newsnight Mess Up the Market Report Yet Again

Kirsty correctly informed us that the pound had “tumbled almost one and three quarter cents” yet the graphic had it up +1.74 cents. Viewers have to guess the truth, one wonders does anyone at Newsnight actually care?

Guido watched Randall Live on Sky earlier this evening interviewing Martin Sorrell. An adult conversation about business and the markets with some interesting insights. Sorrell explained what he was up to re-domiciling WPP in Ireland. It wasn’t at all the hectoring quasi-Marxist business bashing that so often characterises the BBC’s reporting – which might be fine for Guardian readers but is pretty tiresome for people interested in business news. Randall is recommended.

Newsnight is a Shambles, Come Back Peter Barron

Guido has given up on bothering to report the number of times they get the market report wrong, suffice to say that it might as well be a random number. If you can’t rely on a simple thing like that what does it say about the more nuanced reporting? On the day last week that U.S. markets had the huge downward move, Newsnight had a graph showing that it had plunged from roughly 10,100 to, errm, 10,400. Pathetically bad.

Grossman managed to pick up one decent story at Labour Party conference which led to the 3.15 a.m. drink fuelled McBride briefing. Two-ways from the conferences were persistently plagued by technical problems. One night Paxman said on air what all the viewers were thinking “it is a bit of a shambles here tonight.” They spent the conference season playing “Place the Face”, demonstrating that Michael Crick may have a more promising career as a game show host than an investigative reporter. Just a bit of fun? The Guidoisation of politics? Maybe, however is that dumbing down really a good use of the expensive resources of the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme? When Crick finished his Place the Face finale piece on Wednesday, Paxman sneered and Crick exited the stage a minute or two later walking across screen in front of the camera, a dark Crick shaped shadow obscuring the Newsnight discussion with Finkelstein and the pair of cliche merchants he spars with. It was emblemic of the state of the show. Amateurish isn’t the word for it.

They have a Trotskyite reporting from Wall Street on the travails of capitalism – comical. Iain Martin in the Telegraph has also lost patience with the only show the entire Westminster Village watches. They have yet to finalise a replacement for Peter Barron. They need someone to get a grip on it because it is becoming a joke.

Newsnight Messed Up the Market Report Yet Again

Are they just doing this to wind Guido up? The Dow closed up some 1700% yesterday according to Newsnight. Do they use a monkey or a random number generator for their market reports? Every other night they screw up this simple report. They should just give up because wrong information is worse than no information. The Dow actually closed at 10,609.66 according to Sky News – a credible, reliable news source.

Comrade Mason Replies

After the kerfuffle about the mixed up market report last night this (presumably genuine) communication from Newsnight’s business reporter and trade union leader has come in:

Guido – I should probably have said the value of its shares fell 48% in after market pricing, or some similar gobbledygook. As your other commenters point out the issue of whether there is a futures “market” is philosophically moot. Unfortunately the words “futures market” were in a piece of paper printed off into my hands literally as the 5-strong team of makeup women and masseurs was prepping me for my live appearance and seconds before we went on air. The words “futures market” entered my brain while I was puzzling whether the 48% fall really mattered in such an illiquid market. But hey, guys: if you think I sound like a hysterical Trot, you should listen to McCain!

Fair enough. Guido is in no position to criticise someone for screwing up live on Newsnight…

Incidentally, that last sentence is an interesting point, Guido will only note that the lead piece on the show tonight is scheduled to be “Does capitalism still work?” Producers with a sense of humour…

Newsnight Reports on a Market That Doesn’t Exist

Well this is a first, they have in the past reported up markets down, down markets up and once even reported dramatic moves in a market that was closed. Paul Mason has just breathlessly reported from New York that a late breaking after market story on the Bloomberg newswire has “halved AIG’s share price on the futures markets”.[…] Read the rest

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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.”

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