It’s our job to expose hypocrites, liars and cheats in any way we can

First published in The Times, September 27, 2011

When I’m not writing high-minded articles, it is the tabloid-style political gossip blog that I edit that pays the bills. Just like newspaper tabloids we face editorial dilemmas almost daily.

Can we risk cracking a joke at the expense of a supposedly suicidal politician? Is it in bad taste to run a picture of the empty booze bottles overflowing from the dustbin of an alcoholic MP who claims he is on the wagon? Is it fair to use an old Facebook picture of a young girl in a bikini who is now a parliamentary researcher and said to be carnally linked to a politician? More importantly, was she over 16 in that downloaded picture? Those are much tougher dilemmas than worries about classified e-mails from Downing Street advisers, stolen ministerial documents and purloined computer-disk evidence of expenses fraud.

There is no doubt in my mind that my readers are as interested in the former type of story as the latter. If the blog were subject to the rules of the Press Complaints Commission, I wouldn’t be able to run many of those stories on privacy grounds, because despite the widespread interest of the reading public they would not pass a public interest test.

My experience tells me that the old adage that a politician who lies to his wife is more likely to lie to the voters is as true today as it has always been: it tells us something worth knowing about his trustworthiness. But does it tell us anything about a footballer? Judges seem to believe that we should not be told the embarrassing marital secrets of the football stars so admired as role models by team-strip-wearing young boys. That is a dangerous extension of judicial press censorship.

Our blog is deliberately published offshore to make it more difficult for lawyers to enforce judge-granted superinjunctions; it also protects us from any media regulator planned for the post-News of the World future. Every year our readership grows, partly because we are happy still to use entrapment and agents provocateurs, as well as trample on the undeserved privacy of wrong ’uns, grab camera-phone paparazzi pictures of MPs with their mistresses and generally play merry havoc with people in public life who misbehave, lie, cheat or act hypocritically.

I do not claim to be philosopher king. I know that my moral code is not to the taste of everyone. When the blog has overstepped the mark, our readers have let us know; in that sense they are our true regulators. When on rare occasions we face sensitive judgment calls about the most difficult ethical editorial dilemmas we call on a higher authority — a former editor of The Sun. We ask ourselves: “What would Kelvin MacKenzie do?”

Times Journalist Claims Brexit Will Put Up Price of Prostitutes

The Times has been running a series of tendentious and tenuous Brexit scaremongering stories. Now one of the paper’s journalists has gone so far as to claim that “it’s going to have a calamitous effect on the price of prostitutes”. This is just more scaremongering.

Giles Coren may famously know more about tarts than most men, however his understanding of the post-Brexit border control policy is sketchy. There is no reason why key workers from emerging markets like Brazil and Russia will not find it easier to come into the UK. In any event why does Coren think it a good thing that British working girls should have their prices under-cut by cheap Bulgarian hookers? It is just this sort contemptuous attitude towards the working classes that drove them to vote leave. Coren’s just another debauched, out of touch member of the remoaning, metropolitan media elite…

Caitlin Moran Calls 4 Out of 5 of Her Readers “C*nts”

Caitlin Moran has once again, unwisely, gone on a foul-mouthed Twitter rant this morning with: “voting for Labour = not being a c**t”.

Unfortunately for Moran, this makes 80% of her Times readers c**ts, as only 20% of Times readers voted for Labour in 2015. This figure pales in comparison to the 55% who voted for the Conservatives in that election.

Even worse for Moran, The Times today officially endorsed the Conservatives this morning. 

Can’t wait for her defeat column on Saturday…

UPDATE: Moran has now deleted the Tweet, possibly after a stern word from the boss.

Another Lying LibDem Leaflet

What is it with the LibDems and telling straight lies on their leaflets? The above was delivered in Hornsey and Wood Green over the weekend, quoting an article in The Times as saying “Only the Lib Dems can stop a hard Brexit”A quick Google reveals this piece was not written by a Times journalist, but instead by the Lib Dem candidate for Manchester Gorton Jackie Pearcey. This leaflet is carrying a straight untruth: these words are from a LibDem candidate and the LibDems are falsely attributing them to the Times. You just can’t trust those lyin’ LibDems…

H/T @philhornbyitv

Caroline Wheeler to Sunday Times

Congratulations to Sunday Express political editor Caroline Wheeler, who MediaGuido hears will be the new deputy political editor at the Sunday Times from July. A smart hire, Caroline was one of the few journalists who reported definitively that there would be an early election. She has plenty of Sunday Lobby experience and will now enjoy a deserved wider audience. From one Brexit-backing paper to another…

Stephen Hawking on Corbyn ‘Disaster’

Stephen Hawking speaking to today’s Times:

“I regard Corbyn as a disaster. His heart is in the right place and many of his policies are sound but he has allowed himself to be portrayed as a left-wing extremist. I think he should step down for the sake of the party.”

A universal exclusive…

Montie Out, Iain Martin In at The Times

Tim Montgomerie’s column for today’s Times is his last. Montie says he’s off to set up a new project after nearly four years at the paper, good luck to him. MediaGuido understands he will be replaced by Iain Martin, another sensible Brexiteer whose Reaction website has published some of the more thoughtful Brexit-related punditry. Iain will be writing a weekly column starting next week. An important hire especially now the paper is losing Tim. Most of the Times’ other comment writers are zombie metropolitan columnists spouting increasingly irrelevant punditry…

Gove Defends Trump Interview

Michael Gove is getting some stick for his Trump interview from journalists who could never break a window. By Guido’s count the scoop had at least ten separate news lines, on Brexit, Theresa May, Nato, Russia, Syria, Iran, Merkel, travel restrictions for Europeans, his Twitter, Jared Kushner and Camp David. It was on the front page not just of The Times and Bild, but also The Sun, Telegraph, Guardian, BBC News and MailOnline. Think his editor will be happy.

“Economy to Defy Brexit Fears”

times

Britain will be the fastest growing economy in the G7 and beat Bank of England forecasts with 0.5% economic growth in the final quarter of 2016, The Times reports today under the headline “Economy to defy Brexit fears”. A survey of businesses showed the service sector had its best month since January. Of course according to the times this is #DespiteBrexit:

“The country’s dominant service sector has experienced its best month since January, the survey of businesses showed, defying fears of a slump in growth after the Brexit vote.”

New retail sales figures from British Retail Consortium report that sales rose by 1.3% in November, following better-than-expected services PMI data. Barclaycard says consumer spending rose 5.1% last month, the second highest rate since the survey began (H/T @afneil). More good news…

More Fake News from The Times

farage-usa

The Times today has another exclusive which is likely to remain exclusive. They claim Nigel Farage is planning to abandon it in favour of a new life in the United States. Nigel says it is “utter nonsense”.

This is of a pattern, in the last week alone we have had; the “Deloitte Cabinet Brexit Memo” that turned out to be nothing of the sort, the Whitehall think tank that The Times reported as warning Brexit was an “existential threat” that angrily denied making the warning. The thread that ties all this lapsing into fake news is that they are anti-Brexit and UKIP.

There is a difference between having news with views, readers can deal with a publication having a slant, most manifestly do even if they claim to be independent. In a free society The Times is entitled to be Europhile, just as it was entitled to be pro-appeasement in the 1930s. The pattern of recent fake news from the paper is of a kind that suggests journalists are under pressure from the editor to create stories that fit the agenda. If they fall apart on publication the fake news isn’t advancing the editor’s agenda, it is just damaging the paper’s reputation…

Gove Trousers £150,000 For Times Column

gove

Michael Gove is another who’s coining it now his political ambitions are on hold. The Gover is making a cool £150,000-a-year for his new column at the Times, which will no doubt delight some lowly reporters on the paper. It is a good column that’s always worth reading and is a fount of gossip and mischief. Still not earning him as much as Boris got at the Telegraph though. Gove is also writing a book, trousering a £17,500 advance from Harper Collins last month. He says it’s “impossible to calculate” how long it will take him to write. The subject is a mystery…

Institute For Government Slap Down “Wrong” Times Splash

ifg

After their front page yesterday unravelled, the Times have doubled down by reporting that the Institute for Government says Brexit is causing “chaos” and an “existential threat” to some departments in Whitehall. Well, the Institute for Government are not happy with the Times. Their head of research Dr Hannah White says:

“To be clear – this article is wrong to say Institute for Government has warned of an ‘existential threat’ – we reported this as the view of a source.”

The IFG researcher who is quoted in the article, Joe Owen, has retweeted Dr White’s statement that the Times article is “wrong“. Two Brexit doom-mongering Times splashes in two days fall apart – this ‘fake news’ problem is getting worse…

Touché Deloitte: Leak Nothing to Do With Cabinet Office

times

Oh dear: Deloitte have confirmed their ‘leaked memo’ on Brexit wasn’t commissioned by Cabinet Office and was done without access to Number 10. A complete humiliation for the front page of this morning’s Times and subsequent BBC report. A lot of ‘fake news’ going around at the moment…

BBC Changes Story as it Emerges Deloitte Authored ‘Leaked Memo’

picture-device-independent-bitmap-1

The BBC excitedly followed up this morning’s Times splash on an alleged Cabinet Office memo bemoaning Brexit chaos: “There is no plan for Brexit, leaked memo says”. Is it quite the bombshell memo gleeful Remainers are hoping? Downing Street say that in fact it wasn’t a Cabinet Office memo at all, it was an unsolicited report authored by Deloitte. In which they found the government needs 30,000 extra staff, presumably Deloitte consultants. Government sources say they told the BBC their headline and story was wrong at 7am. A Whitehall source says:

“This is about as meaty as Will Straw sending something to the letters page of the Times.”

The Beeb have now changed their headline, offering no explanation of the clarification to readers…

Gove Tipped as Next Sunday Times Editor

gover

Since Michael Gove got his new gig as a columnist for the Times there has been some scuttlebutt going round that it might be an audition for the editorship. Writing in The Oldie, the Mail’s Stephen Glover suggests the Gover is being lined up for the top job at the Sunday:

“[Fleet Street] is awash with a story (which by the time you read this may have already broken its banks) that Gove is about to be made editor of Murdoch’s Sunday Times.”

He goes on:

“According to ‘friends of Gove’, whom I have consulted, no offer of any editorship has been made by Murdoch, from which it follows that none could have been accepted. Of course, it may be that these friends are not being wholly honest…”

Incumbent editor Martin Ivens, who’s been at the paper for two decades, might have something to say about that. Be your stubborn best…

Gove Gets to Work

gover

Times hacks are used to their editorial conferences being a very Tory affair – true blue attendees have included Tory peer Danny Finkelstein, former Tory MP Matthew Parris and former Tory Tim Montgomerie to name but a few. It was nonetheless noted in the newsroom that having a sitting MP present crossed the line rather than blurred it. New book reviewer Michael Gove has been in the room at political conference this week. The Gover was told by the Commons Appointments committee that he must wait three months before he starts writing – that period has not yet elapsed – and he must not “draw on any privileged information available to you as a minister”. Good thing he’s not a gossip…

Corbynistas Attempting to Preempt Co-op Plan

co-operative party inflitrate

In yesterday’s Sunday Times, Tim Shipman revealed that some nameless Labour moderates might use their sister Co-operative Party to form a new opposition. While plans for the immediate future include establishing a factional grouping, Shippers has uncovered a scheme to get Labour moderates to sign up MPs to the Co-operative Party itself, which has a pact to work with Labour in Parliament and elections. “Double-hatted” MPs can then apply to Bercow to have themselves recognised as the official opposition in the event of mass deselections from Labour, which will grant them a healthy chunk of short money. Guido is too modest to point out where the idea was previously mooted

The advantage of Labour MPs flagging themselves as Co-op MPs is that it is a non-split, split. 24 MPs are already Labour/Co-op MPs. The parties do not stand against each other under the terms of an agreement going back to 1927. The Co-operative Party is a legally separate entity from the Labour Party, and is already registered as a political party with the Electoral Commission, thus Bercow will be able to designate them as the official opposition with very little legal difficulties. This Guido understands is only one plan being considered – Tom Watson would be reluctant to go along with it – however he will under no circumstances allow the SNP to become the official opposition.

Ideologically the ideas of the cooperative movement; egalitarianism and mutualism with co-operative commercial enterprises will be agreeable to most of the Progress-faction MPs. It has always struck Guido that Labour taking the state socialist route rather than the non-state co-operative route was, in retrospect, a fundamental mistake that put the Labour Party on the wrong side of history at the end of the twentieth century. A less statist, redistributive party that favoured social market and non-state solutions might be the future…

Corbynista’s have of course mobilised quickly, with Momentum groups on Facebook awash with calls to join the Co-op and “avoid its infiltration by the coup plotters!” Carry on comrades..

Times Runs Full Page Ad for “China Heroes”

China Xinhua Times

On Page 22 of today’s Times sits a series of articles in contrast with the rest of the paper’s coverage of Team GB’s record Olympics haul. A bold headline emblazoned with the Chinese flag praises “China Heroes” such as weightlifter Long Qingquan and table tennis champion Ding Ning. A far cry from the front page headline of “Demand for new honours as Team GB beat China”…

Upon closer inspection, the gushingly patriotic articles are the efforts of a full page advertisement from the Chinese state’s official Xinhua News Agency. Xinhua today declared China “second in the overall standings”, despite Team GB coming second via the traditional tally of gold medals. Odd choice of paper for the bragging propaganda, since the proprietor has really gone off Chinese…

No Cap on SpAd Salaries

SPADS

This morning’s Times reported that special advisers’ salaries are to be capped at £72,000, a very low bar that would not only rule out talented candidates, it would mean current SpAds getting a pay cut. Guido is told that no such cap will be enforced. A Downing Street source says:

“It is not true that there is a new cap on special adviser salaries. All special advisers will be appointed on merit and paid according to their experience and responsibilities. The rules have not changed.”

Guido also understands that reports each Secretary of State will be limited to two SpAds each are wide of the mark. Some ministers will be allowed larger teams. Someone has been giving some naughty negative briefings about the new regime… 

Now Rachel Sylvester Contradicts Her Own Story

Last night Twitter was lively and claiming that Andrea Leadsom had brought up the subject of family and motherhood, this was briefed to the Sunday Times’ political editor Tim Shipman:

[…] Read the rest

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