Ealing Southall by-election not-in-any-way-a-scandal

The Tories appear to have been caught breaking electoral law in Ealing Southall.

That well-known Conservative propagandist political commentator Iain Dale is going to be out of action for most of the evening and perhaps even some of the morning for reasons that may amuse some people, so here’s a rare chance for Teh Little Bloggers to ‘scoop’ Dale by being the first to publish the official spin on their expert opinion on this affair.

Here’s my effort:

ULTRA-MULTI-EXCLUSIVE! Last minute stunt by Lib-Labs falls flat on its face

Tories allegedly breaching suggested electoral guidelines?

This just didn’t seem possible to me, so I went straight to the source and pressed Tory HQ for answers. I can now reveal in a statement that’s EXCLUSIVE to this weblog that Grant Shapps suspects that an unknown Labour or Liberal Democrat activist (most likely the partisan scumbag and pretend-blogger Tom Watson) has somehow posed as an unnamed Tory source thereby defrauding Telegraph reporter Jonathan Isaby…. which is AGAINST THE LAW!!!

This just didn’t seem possible to me, so I went straight to the source and pressed Jonathan Isaby for answers. I can now reveal in a statement that’s EXCLUSIVE to this weblog that Jonathan Isaby suspects that an unknown Labour or Liberal Democrat activist (most likely the partisan scumbag and pretend-blogger Tom Watson) has somehow hacked the Telegraph’s weblog via the ingenious method of guessing the username and password (‘jamesbond’ and ‘007’)…. which is AGAINST THE LAW!!!

This just didn’t seem possible to me, so I went straight to the pixies at the bottom of my garden and pressed them for answers…

Award-worthy… wouldn’t you say?

(You wouldn’t? Well, tough. I’m writing The Official One and Only Book Of Funniest People tomorrow and I’m only settling for 2nd place because I’m so damn modest.)

UPDATE – BBC – Police begin Southall vote probe: An investigation has been launched after a complaint from the Labour Party about alleged electoral offences in the Ealing Southall by-election. It relates to a Daily Telegraph website blog entry which claimed to show how many postal votes each candidate had won ahead of Thursday’s ballot. The Telegraph Media Group said this was removed as soon as it was pointed out that it could breach electoral law. The Metropolitan Police said the matter is being “thoroughly investigated”. The article on the Daily Telegraph website quoted “a source inside the Tory campaign”. However, a spokesman for the Conservative Party said: “Our agent in Ealing Southall hasn’t published any such information or spoken to the Daily Telegraph.”

Of course, only the churlish would treat that denial with contempt (by, say, scrutinising its rather specific nature)… so let’s allow it to scamper free and unfettered for a few hours.

UPDATE (19 July) – Ahahahahahaha! Again, I demand some form of prize. It turns out the BBC cut the above quote short;

Guardian – Police investigate alleged Ealing byelection leak: A Conservative spokesman said: “We haven’t seen this blog so it’s difficult to comment. The fact that the blog has now been removed speaks for itself. Our agent in Ealing Southall hasn’t published any such information or spoken to the Daily Telegraph. We suspect that this is mischief making by our opponents.”

There’s your ball… all that remains is for Dale to run with it.

Oh, and the specific nature of that denial? I’m assured by insiders that each party is allowed two representatives at the postal vote openings in a by-election, and this denial relates specifically to the party agent. It is also possible that the party agent or their fellow team member present at the openings related the data to a third party who then contacted the Telegraph. It is even possible that the data is entirely made-up (still against the law in this context). This denial means very little, and even less if it comes from Grant Shapps.

UPDATE (12pm) – Tut. Iain’s leaving town leaving no more than a sniffy comment behind. There goes my propaganda-disguised-as-comment trifecta.








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | 3 Comments

‘Happy Families’ according to the Daily Mail

I don’t have time to write much today… so I guess it’s a good thing that this renders me speechless.

UPDATE – Some excellent analysis from the ever-reliable Septicisle.








Posted in Tolerance | 4 Comments

SOCPA: The Movie

Kinda busy today… but who would like to go to the movies with me on Sunday?

UPDATE (16 July) – SOCPA: The Movie (brand-new trailer here) is awesome. I knew rikki was dedicated, but I had no idea he was this talented. Congrats on an excellent, excellent movie.

PS – To that girl in tears during the Q&A; I hear you, babe…








Posted in The War on Stupid | 1 Comment

And now for something completely relevant

While we’re waiting, here’s a special treat for ‘N’ of Southall, who appears to want to take this to the wire

Our mystery webmaster should be reminded at this stage that they still maintain some level of control over their credibility and that – until midday – they still have several options open to them; the primary ones being to come clean or to cut and run… BUT he/she should be warned that if they choose the latter option, there is a very good chance that someone other than me will decide to go poking around anyway.

UPDATE (11:40am) – Our mystery webmaster has included the following in very small text on the ‘contact’ page of both websites; “This website is maintained by a Labour party member resident in the borough. The site is unofficial, and the Labour supporter is not a muppet of either the local or national party.”

I don’t think it’s prominent enough, myself:

a) I think it should at least be on every page
b) but at least it’s there somewhere
c) and his/her tone is really pissing me off, so…

What kind of mood will I be in at midday? Tune in and find out!

UPDATE (12:00pm) – Ding! Well, as noted above, there’s now a teeny-tiny message on one page of both websites… but I’m not sure that’s quite enough. There is also no indication on either site that the author just happens to be equally outraged with both opposition parties in her constituency. So I’m going to start poking around while I make up my mind about how much I’m going to reveal…

UPDATE (12:11pm) – Oh, this is far too easy! I’m almost wishing our mystery webmaster didn’t get in touch last night revealing her first name, now… it’s sucked most of the fun out of it! Tell you what, just to be sporting (and perhaps milk this a bit) I’ll stop and eat lunch first.

UPDATE (12:19pm) – Oh, did I mention that I already have her first name, last name, a photo and compelling evidence showing that these two websites are her work? (Just so she knows this, I’ve dropped her a line at her work* address. Time to eat.)

UPDATE (12:39pm) – Mmmmmm… Mediterranean style vegetable quiche….

UPDATE (12:55pm) [burp] – *This should be clarified; our mystery webmaster appears to have a job and a consultancy interest; I emailed her via the latter. I’ll let TISM finish this entry.

UPDATE (1:05pm) – Our mystery webmaster can be seen somewhere in this photo. The notes from this meeting suggest that she has an interest in getting young people to participate in politics, so I’m hoping that she’ll understand the importance of transparency and trust… at least enough to put her teeny-tiny declaration on every page of both sites.

UPDATE (1:48pm) – Tut. Either she doesn’t care about being outed, or she doesn’t think I hit girls with e-sticks. I can’t see it being the former, or she would have been a little more generous with her (eventual) transparency. Hey, maybe (prepare your ‘1234’ gullibility hat) all of her email and internets are down for the day or something…

UPDATE (2:30pm) – This is a tricky situation… slim as the possibility is, it *is* possible that she’s not able to communicate or update at the moment. (Of course, if I find out it’s because she’s been handing out Labour leaflets all day, I shall be very upset indeed.) Because an outing can’t be undone, and because her first name alone can lead even an amateur right to her, she earns a few hours of grace.

UPDATE (3:33pm) – Oh dear… a development. I’m ready to stand corrected, but I’m looking at something right now that suggests that our mystery webmaster hasn’t been entirely honest with Labour supporters, either.

(reaches for stick)

UPDATE (13 July) – Declaration is now on every page on both sites. I’m content. Matter closed.








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | 11 Comments

Sock-puppeting madness *already* waaaay out of control

Well, will you look at that? We’re already at a stage where it’s out of control:

Lib Dem councillor denies tactical vote slur: So, once again, someone has decided to impersonate a Lib Dem in an attempt to belittle the party’s chances in the Ealing by-election, and big-up the Tories’… However, this one is more serious, as it was not simply a question of impersonating an anonymous activist – this was an attempt to suggest a named Lib Dem councillor was openly backing a Tory opponent, with all the potential embarrassment that could cause Cllr Chohan.

Tch. Now it looks like the law has to get involved. Even those who approve of such shenanigans (or are wearily tolerant of them) should know that this is a step too far.

I look forward to many an outraged entry at a range of Tory weblogs, starting with Iain’s.

(waits)

[Psst! There’s more to come… even if midday passes without an outing.]








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | Comments Off

Result!

Within a week, the Sun sees sense.

(Psst! By sheer coincidence an email came in about 30 seconds after my previous post that has me hoping that this won’t be the last quick result today.)








Posted in Photoshopping | Comments Off

1-2-3-4, I declare an ID war

Bear with me here… I’m not posing as an ideal, I just want to show you what we’re dealing with. You’ll know what I mean when we reach the Important Bit:

My name’s Tim Ireland. I also post under my first name ‘Tim’ and/or the nickname ‘Manic’. During the research phase of the recent Bit Of Necessary I initially engaged with users and abusers of multiple identities on their own terms before returning to blogging and posting under ‘Guido 2.0′ for a time. Finally, on some sites (usually large/busy ones and/or those that do not allow profile links), I go with the username ‘bloggerheads’, as this makes the source of any information/opinion I provide easier to identify or find.

But… what all of these labels have in common is a single and verifiable online identity that comes back to one location; bloggerheads.com

(It also needs to be noted that all of the above can be managed and maintained without purchasing a domain or revealing your real name. It does not require, as some habitual users of multiple identities would have you think, the introduction of compulsory ID cards, genetic profiling, or personal barcode tattoos.)

At this website, it is explained quite clearly who I am and what connections I have to other politically-oriented groups or individuals. Further, if there is any external political material that I’m in any way associated with, I put my name on it and I specify the nature of my role.

Important Bit: Sadly, this does not stop some people from screaming until they’re blue in the face that I’m hiding my identity and/or a range of political associations.

(In the past, I have been accused of being secretly associated with Labour, the Liberal Democrats and even the Conservatives. Generally, and most amusingly, the people who make these accusations are themselves hiding their own identity and/or political associations.)

But you can rest assured that things could be far, far worse…

Over the past 6 months or so I’ve expressed concern about sock-puppeting and astro-turfing…

For the n00bs:

Sock-puppet = A false (and typically fleeting/disposal) online identity

Sock-puppeting = The use of single or multiple false identities

Astro-turfing = A small number of people using many sock-puppets to create the illusion of a grass-roots movement

… and I have, throughout, issued a warning that if we don’t reign this in soon, we are going to be neck-deep in effluent by the time the next general election comes around.

The two by-elections in Ealing Southall and Sedgefield provide us with a timely warning… and a bit of a watershed moment, IMO.

Yesterday, it was revealed that Grant Shapps – the head not just of the Ealing Southall campaign but for Conservative campaigning in general – was reduced to personally sock-puppeting the opposition on YouTube.

1. That he did it was pathetic enough.

2. But he messed it up royally, which made it hilariously pathetic.

3. He then provided an excuse that was (a) predicted and (b) unbelievably pathetic.

4. Finally, he somehow convinced or compelled political commentator campaigner Iain Dale to shovel his shit to the masses with a great big heap of sugar on top. Which was… well, words fail me, to be honest.

Suffice it to say that I’m sure that there were quite a few bloggers who may not have listened at all to my concerns about certain right-wing bloggers (and an uncertain number of sock-puppeteers) in the past, but see Iain Dale in an entirely different light today.

Take a look at the related comments thread yourself. With the exception of two individuals who have a tight relationship with Iain Dale, there isn’t a single person with a semi-verifiable identity who’s even entertaining the notion of buying the ‘1234’ story.

Another Important Bit: It’s also worth noting in light of the theme of this post that one of the two individuals mentioned here – Praguetory – declares it implausible that the Tory campaign leader would do such a thing but then states – without a shred of evidence – that it is entirely likely that the Labour campaign leader would. Praguetory is also fond of repeatedly claiming – again, without a shred of evidence – that any criticism posted anonymously to a Tory blog is the sock-puppeting work of that same Labour campaign leader (Tom Watson) or myself… or perhaps both of us in unison when we’re not having rude bumsexual fun together. Of course, this is only likely to influence people in circumstances where Praguetory has the time/resources and the supporting environment necessary to repeat this claim under a number of different guises, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself…

While the Shapps matter was the main talking point amongst bloggers, I spotted a number of obvious sock-puppeteers throwing in red herrings and offering support for Shapps that ranged from “So the guy made a mistake. Big deal.” (translation; “It’s not a conspiracy!”) to “The Lib Dems hacked his account!” (translation; “It *is* a conspiracy!”) and Mark Pack even appears to have caught and named one in action under the main Shapps thread.

You may use the words ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb’… me, I’d use the word ‘casual’… and that’s the aspect of this that worries me most.

But there’s more…

At the same time that the use of (and excuses for) sock-puppets cost Shapps and Dale so much credibility, someone thought it a good idea to press ahead with two anonymous websites attacking the dishonest practices (!) of the Conservatives and the Lib Dems in Ealing Southall; conwatch-ealing.com and libfibs.co.uk

They’re obviously the work of the same person; both use the same design template (which includes some very clumsy attempts to ‘play’ search engines), both provide the same contact email address – randomite@hotmail.co.uk – and, crucially, both stemmed from this Blogger profile which clearly shows the mysterious blank spot that would lead most sensible people to suspect that this *might* just be the work not of an everyday citizen, but of a Labour activist (be they authorised or otherwise).

Randomite's Blogger profile

If there’s any lingering doubt, we also have the initial link support for these two blogs, which comes to us via a known Labour supporter.

So now we have two sites claiming to be ‘watchdog’ sites that are, in fact, propaganda machines that are the work of an opposing party or an activist/supporter of that party… but there is no formal/obvious indication on either of them that they are in any way linked, and absolutely no statement on either of them regarding the identity, intentions or affiliations of the author(s).

This, in my expert opinion, is a really fucking stupid and downright selfish act.

What possible good do they expect to come of an exercise that ensures the typical web-user’s experience of the Ealing Southall by-election is reduced to a shouting match where the majority of visible contributors are (a) anonymous and (b) shouting “Sock-puppet!” at each other?

We already have known bloggers crossing swords, but because they’re known (even if only by nickname) in such cases they have clearly stated affiliations (or at the very least a track record of not being 100% honest about them) that provide us with vital context. There’s also the possibility that even sworn enemies will remain civil (to a point) because they know they have to get on with life after this by-election is over.

But – if you’ll pardon the rather confused metaphor – when everybody starts playing with sock-puppets, the gloves come off far too often.

The resulting bitchfights feature a varying number of casualties, but always damage the health, development and reputation of politics and weblogs in general.

The by-election demands a tight deadline, so I’m giving the author(s) of these particular sites until tomorrow afternoon (12 July) to either delete the sites or have the limited integrity required to belatedly declare an interest and/or stake their reputation on them.

This is not a command from the absolute ruler of the blogosphere, and neither is an attack on any ‘right to free speech’ that some people lay claim to when they are in fact compromising the rights of others to speak freely and be heard.

This is a polite warning from one blogger who has seen this go too far too often.

This is a polite warning from one blogger who will be doing everything he can to find the author(s) of these sock-puppeting efforts if the sites are still in an operational or anonymous state from midday tomorrow.

Liberal, Labour, Tory… I don’t care who’s doing it; the political blogosphere is getting busier, the stakes are getting higher and the time for tolerating sock-puppets is over.

UPDATE (12 July) – It’s midday! Rolling updates can be found here.








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | 4 Comments

Tell Alastair Campbell to go f**k himself

Don’t you think it’s amazing that Alastair Campbell can use exactly the same tricks that helped to deceive this country into a war and still have the MSM eating out of the palm of his hand? FFS, even the BBC are practically begging to give him free airtime.

If you would like to show that the blogosphere can do something that mainstream media cannot and tell Alastair Campbell to go f**k himself in the process, all you need do is:

1. Pledge not to buy the book. After all, nothing really juicy went into it, anything halfway-juicy was taken out of it, and any halfway-decent scraps that are left will be repeated in newspapers anyway.

2. Don’t blog about the book beyond your decision not to blog about it and/or not to bother buying it.

3. Place this handy button to one side of your weblog for the next fortnight so readers know why you’re not blogging about Cherie Blair’s knicker drawer.

Copy and paste the code below to use this button

Copy and paste the code below to use this button on your website or weblog:

UPDATE (25 July) –

For All Participants: It is now two weeks later. Alastair Campbell’s book has been marked down to less than £13 by Tesco and Amazon. Copies are trading on eBay for less than £7. I thank you all for your input (or, rather, the admirable restraint that led to a notable lack of it). Cheers all.








Posted in Tony 'King Blair | 3 Comments

Grant Shapps is a sock-puppeting loser

[RELATED POST – EXCLUSIVE: Grant Shapps claims he met the alleged ‘1234’ hacker]

Grant Shapps and friendAhahahahahahahahaha!

Mark Pack – EXCLUSIVE: Grant Shapps says “realistically we’re not going to win” in Ealing: I’m a generous soul, so I’m willing to listen to an innocent explanation for all this. Can anyone reasonably explain away why Grant Shapps appears to be trying to pass himself off as a Liberal Democrat?

Let me make it absolutely clear what you’re looking at here;

Grant Shapps is not just a Conservative MP and Shadow Housing Minister… he’s Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party “with responsibility for campaigning” (source).

So we’re not talking about some overzealous activist or flunky… we are talking about the guy in charge of the Ealing Southall campaign for the Conservatives and in charge of campaigning for the Conservatives overall (oh, plus he’s also Chairman of a company that claims some web expertise).

And he’s just been caught in a very clumsy sock-puppeting attempt… because he forgot that he was still logged in to his personal YouTube account at the time of the attempt.

Here’s my take on what happened (I’ve obviously filled in some blanks here, but if I’m wrong about any of it, Grant is more that welcome to get in touch and correct me… as is the being known only as ‘aristoteliananselm’):

1. Grant Shapps created a new profile on YouTube with the intention of posing as a Lib Dem supporter/activist during the Ealing Southall by-election. I’m guessing that this is the (or a) profile created specifically for that purpose (see below for more).

2. To give his sock-puppet account more credibility, he arranged for a video to be made that would be cheap/easy to produce and typical of YouTube output; in this case he has gone for ‘loser lip-synching poorly to fave pop tune on his/her webcam‘.

3. The ‘aristoteliananselm’ account was created on 2 July 2007 and the video was uploaded on 2 July 2007. (Note – for some strange reason, in the video ‘aristoteliananselm’ appears to be in his mid-twenties, but the profile gives his age as 71.)

4. The account was allowed to mature for a few days while Grant waited for just the right moment to strike. On 9 July 2007, following the successful recruitment of 5 Labour councillors, he judged that the moment had come… Grant readied himself, got into character, and prepared to pose as a Lib Dem supporter/activist admitting defeat over the defections (that he himself engineered).

Basically, he planned to deceive the electorate, undermine his opponents and blow his own horn at the same time.

5. Grant identified his target – this video of Ming Campbell opening the Lib Dem by-election HQ – and posted the following comment, the intent of which should be crystal-clear:

Okay, realistically we’re not going to win though. Especially since the Tories have just received 5 defecting Councillors from Labour. Don’t quite know how they’ve done it, but the Tories have stolen a march on us this time.

6. But then… oh fuck, oh bugger, oh Christ… oh fucking buggering Christ… he realised that he was still logged into his own personal account!

Oops!

7. Meaning that the comment was headed with his name, and that his name linked back to his personal YouTube profile! Oh fuck, oh bugger, oh Christ! Does YouTube allow you to delete comments you have made on other people’s videos? No, it doesn’t! Oh fucking buggering Christ!!!

8. Perhaps Grant spent a few minutes considering his options (about the only option left to him was to login to his fake account and mark that comment as ‘spam’ in the dim hope that it would be deleted) and perhaps he spent an entire day flitting between hoping that no-one would notice and comforting himself with the notion that “It’s only the internet!” just in case someone did. Perhaps we will never know.

9. Either way, it was roughly 36 hours later when the aristoteliananselm account was used to post a comment that positively stinks of ‘activist posing as man in the street':

To be honest, I don’t think Nigel can cut it as an MP. He doesn’t stand out from any of the other candidates, and the Lib Dem record on policy makes me wonder why I should bother even considering voting for them. I have my sights elsewhere – the Tories seem to have the best candidate for Ealing Southall.

And this time around, bless ‘em, they appear to have got it right:

Second time lucky

Now, I’ve witnessed and conducted some sock-puppeting busts in my time, but this one’s a whopper!

The best defence that Grant Shapps could put forward? Well, here’s a small selection of what you might expect based on my years of experience in dealing with political dickwits who use sock-puppets to ‘debate’, congratulate, or fellate themselves:

- The account (or perhaps even YouTube itself) was compromised in some way.

– An over-enthusiastic but well-meaning underling borrowed Grant’s laptop.

– Grant did this on purpose as a joke and has therefore proved that the Lib Dems have no sense of humour

– Grant Shapps has been hacked! No doubt by a Lib-Dem sympathising computer hacker, proving what nasty people the Lib Dems really are and… (etc.)

– But… but… but.. EVERYBODY does it!

– Oh, get a life… it’s only a comment on YouTube!

– What are you? A conspiracy theorist?

– Why do you hate America?*

[*Does not apply in the UK unless torture, terror or napalm is involved.]

There are a lot of options there, but I think Grant will have to accept that this is a slam-dunk… and while we’re waiting for him to come to that conclusion…

One thing I would love to confirm is Grant’s alleged status as the Conservatives’ leading expert in e-campaigning (matters are unclear following recent departures and appointments). Can anyone shed light on his claimed, perceived or official e-expert status?

The other thing I would like to do is find out more about the person in the single video hosted under the aristoteliananselm account. My gut tells me that he’s a Tory activist who was somehow convinced to don reflective* Top Gun sunglasses and flap his lips for the good of the party. Can anyone identify this individual?

[*While the shot is set up in a way that avoids showing any room detail in the background, the reflective glasses give us tantalising glimpses of his surroundings.]

The new campaign poster for the Conservative Volunteer Task Force

UPDATE (2:49pm) – I’ve just received a reply from Grant Shapps. I’m currently waiting for permission to quote from it, but what I can tell you right now is that the excuse he gives is on my list… and takes us into very familiar “I’m an internet expert, me!” territory.

UPDATE: (2:59pm) – Grant Shapps claims that his account was accessed by person or persons unknown because his password was set to “a rather too guessable ‘1234’” (since changed). Other claims are being made, and I’m seeking proof regarding same. For now, I would have it known for the record that Shapps’ excuse topped the list of options I provided.

UPDATE: (4:40pm) – Ha-ha! I demand some form of prize. Earlier today, I made this prediction over at Unity’s; What *will* Iain do? I’ve got odds on him providing ‘balance’ with an exclusive statement from Shapps.

Sure enough… the political ‘commentator’ came through…

Iain Dale – Shapps Denies Astroturfing Allegations: This all seemd a bit odd to me so I went to the horse’s mouth and have got a categoric denial that Grant did anything of the sort. It appears that he had a very easily guessable password on his Youtube account (it was 1234 !!!) and someone hacked into it… I can totally see why Mark Pack and others might have thought the worst and can’t blame them for highlighting it. Sometimes the story is not quite as good as one first thinks.

Matters are made even more amusing by the early anonymous (!) comment under this post from someone wondering when I would be issuing a public apology. Way to piss on your clean slate, Iain.

PS – Go on, have a free movie quote:

“So the combination is one, two, three, four, five? That’s the stupidest combination I’ve ever heard in my life! The kind of thing an idiot would have on his luggage!” – Dark Helmet (SpaceBalls)

UPDATE (11 June) – The Times: Not a good day for Grant Shapps, MP (Welwyn Hatfield, C). Shapps, presently helping the Tory effort in the Ealing Southall by-election, appeared to have logged on to the Liberal Democrats’ local YouTube page and pretended to be one of them, commiserating on their impending defeat, and seemingly forgetting that he was logged in under his own usual YouTube account, under the login name “GrantShapps”. Following much ridicule, Conservative Central Office now insists that Shapps was innocent and his account was hacked. By whom? Why?

UPDATE (2 September 2012) – Grant Shapps is STILL a sock-puppeting loser. Years have passed. Nothing has changed.

UPDATE (22 April 2015) – EXCLUSIVE: Grant Shapps claims he met the alleged ‘1234’ hacker

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Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | 19 Comments

Iain Dale wants it both ways

Iain Dale needs to decide during this by-election nonsense if he’s a commentator or a campaigner.

Either he’s genuinely morally outraged by any attempt to deceive the electorate, or he’s merely highlighting/interpreting the antics of the opposition in a manner designed to further the cause of his party/preferred candidate.

What’s it to be, Iain?








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | Comments Off