As a prelude to ‘smeargate’, Paul Staines went on live television and claimed that there was a Downing Street briefing document titled ‘how to get [Iain] Dale’. He even promised to publish it that very afternoon.
But from that moment on Paul Staines and Iain Dale repeatedly spoke as if it existed.
Iain Dale was certain that there was a Downing St conspiracy to ‘get’ him specifically. Later, still hanging on this yet-to-be-seen document, this appeared to evolve into a claim of a Downing Street conspiracy against both of them (specifically if less exclusively).
Iain Dale was also certain that Tom Watson was involved, and said so repeatedly in a number of ways… to the extent of smearing Tom Watson, it turns out.
(Psst! Nadine Dorries was certain Gordon Brown was involved, and said so on live television. Notice how none of these ‘bloggers’ risked these claims on their own damn weblogs.)
Iain Dale’s position was (and presumably still is) that Tom Watson must have known about emails being exchanged on another person’s computer, because he was in the same office.
It would appear that Iain Dale and I have differing views on privacy, but I’ll get to that in a moment. First, you need to compare Iain Dale’s position on Tom Watson to his position on Andy Coulson:
On SKY News last night, Iain Dale insisted quite strongly that one must acknowledge the possibility that Andy Coulson while acting as editor of NOTW was unaware of the activities of one of the journalists in his office.
Iain certainly wasn’t certain that Andy Coulson must have known about this or should have known about that; he even went so far as to imply that Coulson could not even be expected to be aware of relevant payments for questionable/illegal activity because he himself did not sign the cheques.
Iain Dale said this while knowing that it was now rather a matter of Andy Coulson claiming to be unaware of the activities of not just one but as many as 20 or 30 journalists in his office, and blind to the kind of money that is certain to come to the attention of most if not all editors regardless of who actually signs the cheques.
Iain Dale said this while knowing that it is an editor’s duty to maintain the integrity, legality and profitability of any given publication.
Iain Dale said this while speaking as the
editor publisher* of Total Politics magazine.
It is not just the specific acts of ‘tapping’ that are a concern, either, but the entire practice of ‘blagging’ on stories with little-to-no merit (see: ICO PDFs). Here is where Iain and I differ on privacy, and this is the reason why I think he will have very little to say about the practice of ‘blagging':
Phil Hendren, a close ally of Iain Dale’s, once blagged my private details and published my ex-directory home phone number on his website to intimidate me into silence. Not as part of a story or toward any noble end, just to shut me up.
The way he puts it, Phil just called someone on the off chance they would have it and – gosh, what a stroke of luck – they did. So, to keep Hendren happy, let’s call it ‘casual blagging’ as opposed to creepy or downright illegal blagging. But blagging all the same. And he clearly used the data maliciously, without any hope of a ‘public interest’ defence even if he did want to play ‘Citizen Journalist’.
But Iain Dale did not publicly condemn the blagging and malicious publication; he was too busy denying being the source of the data at the time.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are few things we can be certain of, but I certainly won’t be trusting Iain Dale on this issue, even after it swallows Coulson or passes him by; when Iain’s not siding with the Tories, he’ll be siding with the tabloids. Each to their own.
[Incidentally, the reason why Phil Hendren published my number is worth a look; I pointed out that there was one person who couldn’t possibly be behind certain comments on Phil Hendren’s website, and Phil didn’t like that because… he was certain that Tom Watson was behind them (screengrab). Is it still paranoia if you think they’re out to get someone else?]
UPDATE – *Quick fix there. My bad. Iain is, of course, the publisher of Total Politics, not the editor. Which, if anything, makes it worse IMO.