Let’s begin with a link or three:
To begin, a ‘read this first’ link for newcomers who will need some background on David Taylor and keepingthefaith.org.uk:
Bloggerheads – David Taylor is a busy man (and a new media genius)
Plus, an archive of the public’s actual response to keepingthefaith.org.uk that comes to us via El Reg…
The Register – Galaxy of saboteurs trashes ‘Save the Blair’ petition: As of Friday morning the revived keepingthefaith.org.uk listed a scant 80 named signatories, but claimed to have more than 4,000 supporters, and, weirdly, that “we have a lot of data entry left to do.”
OK, all done? On with the show…
David Taylor was in touch via email last night wanting to know why I was being so ‘personal’ and ‘hostile’. He looked at me with virtual puppy-dog eyes and made all sorts of assurances.
Now, what was said in confidence will remain in confidence, but what was not I’m happy to share with you… because it’s important, and the majority of it appears to be 100% bullshit.
It’s a long post, so I’ve broken it up into headed subjects:
Tim Ireland: So you have no professional association with Adrian McMenamin?
David Taylor: Adrian is a friend of mine. I have no professional association with him.
What, none? Is he sure? I mean, apart from him helping Adrian McMenamin build a website that is. Let’s have a look-see…
Guardian – Today Hartlepool, tomorrow…: Adrian McMenamin is the classically hostile New Labour gatekeeper. Heavy with gloom, from the outset he has guarded Labour’s candidate behind a wall of unhappy suspicion, and it would be some weeks before I was even allowed to meet Iain Wright.
So that’s Adrian McMenamin, working on the Labour campaign team, in the Hartlepool by-election of 2004.
David Taylor’s weblog disappeared a long time ago, but a record remains in the archive. On that weblog, he speaks of looking forward to going to Hartlepool on August 6, 2004 and on August 15, 2004 he states that; “I’m currently in Hartlepool for the by-election campaign.”
Further, the bio from his long-gone weblog reads as follows: Inspired by the New Labour message, that a government could be both socially progressive and economically successful, David Taylor joined the Labour Party at the age of 15 in the constituency of Clwyd West. He soon felt at home in the close knit group that made up the local party in this marginal seat in North East Wales, including local MP Gareth Thomas and Welsh Assembly Member Alun Pugh. After working on a number of campaigns, including the successful re-election of Alun Pugh AM in the knife-edge 2003 contest, David became the Secretary of his Constituency Labour Party in March 2004, shortly after his eighteenth birthday. He is to date the youngest person to have held such a position. Later in the same month David was elected to the Labour Party’s Welsh Executive Committee (WEC), as Youth Representative.
So that’s David Taylor, working on the Labour campaign team, in the Hartlepool by-election of 2004.
No professional association with Adrian McMenamin? Bite me.
Tim Ireland: So you’ve never created, instigated or contributed to a dirty tricks campaign? Ever?
David Taylor: As far as I am aware, no. At the last election, I created www.rememberredwood.com which showed the clip of John Redwood trying to sing the Welsh national anthem for Welsh Labour. That’s it.
I suspect this one was given away as a freebie because it relates to this payment from the Labour Party that I had already published. But I suspect there’s more…
My archive’s a bit skewed at the moment (.asp issues on the new server) but my memory isn’t shot to hell. I remember the Hartlepool by-election very well indeed (yes, I also remember that Tom was involved)… because I was reminded of it by every MP I talked to about blogging for well over a year afterwards (more on that in a mo).
The Hartlepool by-election was marred by Labour campaigners who took advantage of the Liberal Democrat candidate (Jody Dunn) – who had the courage to try to communicate with the electorate via a weblog. Labour’s attack squad quoted her wildly out of context and launched one of many deeply personal and extremely hostile attacks against her. Back to the Guardian…
Guardian – Today Hartlepool, tomorrow…: The third assault was a devastating surprise. On August 27, Dunn had written in her blog about a dispiriting evening out canvassing with Simon Hughes. “It didn’t just rain last night, it poured,” she wrote. “In fact the evening became one of the more farcical moments of the campaign. We’d picked what appeared at first to be a fairly standard row of houses. As time went on however, we began to realise that everyone we met was either drunk, flanked by an angry dog or undressed.” The blog had continued with a joke about how Dunn looked like Worzel Gummidge in the rain. Ed Fordham had checked the copy as usual before posting it online. Nothing he read had sounded alarm bells. The Labour printing machines turned again, and this time Hartlepool woke up to the news on its doormat that Dunn had accused them all of being “either drunk, flanked by an angry dog, or undressed”.
This same by-election involved police warnings given to Labour campaigners assaulting the local Lib Dem HQ, but what really got up my nose was the series of anonymous attacks made via comments on Jody Dunn’s weblog and on external weblogs like this one (see this entry for an especially stupid and xenophobic attack).
Some of the most offensive comments on Dunn’s weblog were – obviously – removed pretty quickly, but here you can see the cleverly-named ‘Quaker Watch’ being chided by a witness to these attacks. Other sock-puppets included ‘Not from Darlo’, ‘Mingballed Campbell’. There was a Fathers4Justice tool on the loose, too… but almost every comment that launched (misleading) attacks on Lib Dem policy and/or pushed Labour policy was from one or more anonymous douche-bags using a variety of sock-puppets. These same douche-bags attacked Jody Dunn over everything from her love of poetry to her appearance, to her Not Being Local. They even accused her of being a former member of the Conservative Party!
Now, I’ve highlighted similar issues myself since then. I’ve even used a mocking tone and – when called for – I’ve gone for the throat.
1. While it may be OK to bring up a salient question anonymously on a weblog, it is far from OK to pose as an ordinary member of the public if you’re an active campaigner.
2. If you want to make a serious allegation about a local representative or candidate, you should have the courage to put your fucking name to it…. and if there’s any kind of conflict of interest that might undermine your position you should have the honesty to fucking declare it!
Now, what we’re supposed to believe is that two active campaigners from the Labour team – web ‘expert’ David Taylor and known user of sock-puppets Adrian McMenamin – were inside Hartlepool Labour HQ, involved in this campaign, but had nothing to do with the attacks on Jody Dunn’s weblog, or the disgraceful misrepresentation of what was published on it.
I say again: Bite me.
This was not only a dishonest and disgraceful way to behave, it scared off almost every MP who – at that time – was seriously considered communicating with the electorate via a weblog. This was a major setback in a project that sought to reconnect people with politics – a killing blow (and I’m still just a little bit upset about that, as you may have guessed).
David Taylor: Anyway, although I don’t like your politics (and what you write about me!). I still like your blogs and your effort to get more MPs to engage in blogging is commendable. keep up the good work.
Yeah, thanks for that. It’s appreciated.
Tim Ireland: David, you questioned a lot of items in my article, but you did not deny being Leighton Andrew’s researcher or a member of Labour’s Rapid Rebuttal Unit. Can you clarify these points for me, please?
David Taylor: I am part-time Research Assistant to Leighton Andrews AM. I am not, and never have been, a member of Labour’s Rapid Rebuttal Unit. There were rumours that circulated last year that I was behind the Nat Watch website, these allegations were fairly distressing at the time. People assumed I was behind the site becuase I was a) New Labour and b) into website.
In July 2005, a grubby (and anonymous) attack weblog launched at natwatch.co.uk, pledging to “expose the failure, mendacity and xenophobia of nationalists in Scotland and Wales.”
The website Nat Watch Watch was launched to counter it, as the Nat Watch site did not allow comments. (Obviously, the creator of the Nat Watch website knew how a comments system might be abused.)
Unfortunately, a WHOIS history on natwatch.co.uk (created 1 July 2005) only reveals ‘Nat Watch’ as the creator of this domain, but – eventually – natwatch.co.uk was knocked down, to be replaced by natwatch.org (which is still live).
Here’s your first interesting tit-bit:
The domain natwatch.org was registered 30 May 2006 via DomainsByProxy.com, who provide a service that allows you to register a .org, .com, .etc without publishing any revealing WHOIS information. David Taylor’s (current) main website is hosted at newmediacouncil.com – and this domain was registered using the same service (on 23 January 2006). But don’t get too excited yet, because this provider services roughly one million customers…
And so we head to the second interesting tit-bit:
BritNat WATCH – Natwatch & Leighton’s Blog: Leighton Andrews was one of the first people to blog about the NatWatch website back on the 8th of July, weeks before most people had even heard of its existence. We agree that the NatWatch website is a waste of time, but why is Leighton trying to distance himself from the vile website all of a sudden? Could it have anything to do with the rumours circulating on the net that a certain researcher, who works for a certain AM, actually runs the website?
(Psst! More from this blog here.)
FACT – David Taylor is “part-time Research Assistant to Leighton Andrews”
FACT – Leighton Andrews was the first person to ‘discover’ and promote natwatch.co.uk on the 8th of July 2005
FACT – The domain natwatch.co.uk was only created 7 days earlier (1 July 2005)
Now, there’s a man with his finger on the pulse!
OK, here’s your third and final tit-bit (for now):
This was posted to David Taylor’s now-defunct weblog on July 29, 2004:
I hate Liberal Democrats more and more every day.
I used to be slightly sympathetic towards them. I used to think they meant well and that the Tories where the real enemy.
But their recent campaign tactics, materminded by “wizz kid” Lord Rennard means I now hate them just as much as the Tories, which as almost as much as the Nationalists.
Hmm, it think this is what those in the business of de-tec-shun call ‘motive’… in fact, it concerns me that a campaigner could be so ‘personal’ and ‘hostile’.
You want to campaign online? Fine. Here’s the quick and easy guide:
1. Reveal your name.
2. State your agenda.
3. Reveal your interests
4. Don’t try to get around (1), (2) or (3) if you really suck at covering your tracks.
UPDATE – Bloggerheads – David Taylor Vs. Clare Short