“Are you kidding? NOTHING beats my wife!”

This is my response to an email I received on Thursday night. Yes, it’s real, and yes, both the instigator and the interviewer (assuming they are two different people) are for real.

I have not edited or changed any of the questions in any way, apart from one snip where the instigator seeks to sneak in a bit of libel (about someone other than myself) and a further snip of the interviewer’s phone number in the U.S.

For details about the instigator, tune in on Monday morning (and for the whistle before the kick-off, tune in to Donal MacIntyre on Radio 5 Live, 7:30pm this Sunday).

No, it’s probably not any of the names you can think of; this will be a new name to most of you. This person popped up with one hell of a sock-puppeting effort in the middle of the whole paedo-smear thing and caused all kinds of difficulty in pursuit of his own personal agenda. In fact, it’s fair to say that this stunt was the main reason for recent radio silence.

Eventually, I caught him at his little game. Led the police right to him, in fact. He is obviously NOT happy about that, and planning to reveal all sorts of perfectly rational reasons why what he did was reasonable.

Read on:

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Dear Mr Ireland,

I am writing an article about you and the British blogosphere.
Can you please answer the following questions for me?

This article is due out round about the 27th of this month so I would appreciate prompt responses, please.

Questions:

Oooh, an interview! I’m always hungry for personal publicity, me. Hungry, hungry, hungry. And this request is coming from America, so it couldn’t get any more important. And it’s definitely nothing to do with a certain British chap who’s really got it in for me lately.

Thing is, regardless of that certainty, I’ve got this silly paranoid notion that the interviewer may be planning some kind of minor ambush. Perhaps even (dare I say it?) some kind of hatchet job.

Oh well, nothing to it but to do it. Onward to the interview.

(From here on in, I’ll be speaking to this interviewing guy, and not to you, OK? That’s how the pros do it. I’ll meet you at the end for tea and biscuits.)

1.You have been called a stalker by the online community? Is there any truth to Iain Dale’s allegations that you telephoned him repeatedly and sent him endless numbers of emails this year?

A: This is a ridiculous question, if you don’t mind me saying, Mr Interviewer Person. ‘Repeatedly’ I can work with, because it covers everything from two calls and up, but ‘endless’? Obviously the emails will end (or, if you prefer, ‘cease’) at some stage, even if it’s when I drop dead from exhaustion or Iain does. And, as I made perfectly clear when I spray-painted it on his car last night, the emails will end when Iain answers the bloody question; “Why didn’t you call Patrick Mer…”

(The last word is supposed to be ‘Mercer’. And then a question mark. Iain should buy a station wagon or a transit van; there’s bugger-all writing space on a four-door sedan.)

2.What is your relationship with Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan?

A: I first became aware of Craig Murray when he was smeared by Jack Straw’s minions. It turns out Jack was a bit of a naughty boy (with the very best of intentions, obviously), and wanted to discredit the guy who could finger him for it. His mate Tony played along, and…

Sorry, I just realised that you might find it hard to relate to most if not all of this answer. I’ll try to do better on the next one.

3.What led you to blogging in the first place?

A: Christmas crackers. True story.

4.How do you feel about the victims you create by attacking your targets? Ann Milton’s husband? Nadine Dorries’ family? [libel snipped] Other collateral as well as direct damage.

A: Ann Milton? I don’t know anyone named ‘Ann Milton’. I do know an Anne Milton, and to answer your question I think her husband has suffered enough.

As for the impact on Nadine’s family, it’s not me who swings her daughters about by the legs* anytime someone approaches her from an upwind direction.

(*She used to swing them around by the hair until she started worrying that their eggs might fall out.)

5.Have you ever regretted targeting someone and now see them as a victim?

A: Yeah, but who gives a damn about other people, right?

6.Would you plead guilty for manslaughter if you pushed one of your victims to suicide?

A: No, I wouldn’t… for the very simple reason that pushing** him/her would be murder. I watch CSI.

(**Or did you not mean literally?)

7.Do you feel it is a foreigner’s place to be attacking British politicians, public figures and others in Britain?

A: Que?

8.You publicly have admitted to once being an alcoholic, correct?

A: Yes, but I could have been drunk at the time.

9.Is not your success in overcoming the addiction to alcohol a success you should celebrate publicly and share with others who might be going through the same kind of addictions?

A: You know, you’re right. And despite being happily teetotal, I should wear a t-shirt that reads “self-confessed alcoholic” and encourage as many people as possible to use that term to describe me. I shouldn’t be at all concerned that someone might present that out of context for personal/political reasons or otherwise exploit my attempt to help a fellow human being. I mean, really; who’d be so cruel and selfish as to not only do that, but then seek to somehow justify it, even after that human being had tragically passed on? There isn’t a bastard alive who’d do that. Science would have to create some kind of super-bastard before that would happen. I’m clearly fretting over nothing.

(Psst! I used to be a child, too, but I grew out of that.)

10.Do you feel you have an addictive personality?

A: No. Next question!

11.If so (10) then why?

A: I said NO! Now give me another question! Quick!

12.Have you ever taken Class A drugs and if so have they had any effect do you think on your mental state?

A: Oh, man, that’s some good Question. Wowwwwww. It feels like two questions at onc… hey, look at how big my hands are! Wowwwww…. they’rrre moooving to the muuuusic

13.Where do you position yourself on the political spectrum from far left to far right?

A: Dominant. (Sorry. In-joke.)

14.You hardly live in luxury. Why sacrifice (as you clearly do) so much of your time to a blog which has a relatively small audience when you could be earning money by doing paid-work with that time and better providing for your family? Could, in that respect, your behaviour be considered selfish?

A: You’re right. I’m going to start charging you £5 per question. From now.

15.Do you consider yourself a selfish man, Mr Ireland?

A: I’m keeping this £5, if that’s what you mean.

16.Have you ever had a CCJ or financial default in your lifetime either in the UK or Australia? If so, how did you feel about it?

A: Tut. You’re fishing too close to the bank. And with two questions there, that’s £15 you owe me now. Don’t make me chase you.

17.You have a team of “helpers” including Mikki the Moose and others. Do you ever break the law in searching for information on targets? Do members of your team? If you admit that members of your team do break the law then have you ever accepted illegally-obtained information from them?

A: I can go you one better than that; I’ve knowingly broken the law on multiple occasions (see #31). Can’t recall doing anything seriously c**tish on the information front, though. BTW: £20! £25! £30! It’s clocking up.

18.What is your opinion on people who plant spybots on other people’s computers?

A: There’s a word for people who do that, but you shouldn’t use it in mixed company. In fact, you can’t. £35!

19.Have you ever blagged or sock-puppeted?

A: I won’t count this as two questions, but I will answer ‘maybe’ to both so you’re forced to ask a further question and I can earn another fiver. The kids are sick of living on beans, and the scurvy is disrupting their work in the salt mines. £40!

20.You have been found to share IP addresses with extremist Muslims who run websites glorifying terror and celebrating 911. How do you feel about this? Do you wish to apologize to the victims of 911 and the families of allied victims in Iraq and Afghanistan for your actions?

A: I will not rest until the victims of 9/11 accept that they are in fact the victims of 11/9. Then they can apologise to me. £45! (I’ll only charge you for the second half, because I’ve treated the first half with the contempt it deserves.)

21.When you were a child (under 16 years old) did you ever bully anyone? If so, did you ever get in trouble for bullying at school?

A: Yes to the first question, ‘no’ to the second; to avoid detection, I cunningly disguised myself as a dozen other people using old socks, papier mache, and used ping pong balls. (This was before the World Wide Web, you understand.) £50!

22.Would you agree that behind every bully is a coward?

A: Of course not. Behind every bully is old socks, papier mache, and used ping pong balls. You’ll only waste your money if you don’t pay attention, and we’re already up to a whopping £55!

23.Do you consider yourself a coward, Mr Ireland?

A: You’re the one holding a handful of papercraft right now, sunshine. You tell me. (£60!!)

24.You are linked by association with the violent anti fascist groups who have been fighting the EDL on the streets of England. Do you condone violence?

A: I am? Do I? Hang on… damn, I owe you £10 now, don’t I? Damn, I did it again! Make that £15! Tell you what; I’ll just take it off what you owe me. We’re at £45. Moving on.

25.Would you agree that the far left in England is allied with the Islamist extreme in what is called the Black Red Alliance and that in some ways you are the personification of this?

A: Would I agree the who is where in the what now? I have no bloody idea wh..* Gah! You got me again! OK, £30 it is.

26.Have you ever been a director of a company? If so, which one(s)?

A: Does a company of actors count? Once I…* Damn, blast and buggeration! £25 – and I’m beginning to think I underestimated you.

27.What is your retort to the accusation that “you can dish it but you can’t take it”?

A: “I know you are, but what am I?” Hahahah….* Oh, for… OK, we’re down to £20, are you happy? …..* DAMN!! £15!!!!

28.Why did you attend Paul Staines drink driving hearing in May 2008? Do you not think that this makes you look like a stalker and a sad, embittered loser who enjoys any negatives affecting your more successful competitors?

A: Why did the chicken cross the road? He wanted to see a man lay a brick.

(I know that joke cost me another fiver, but I’m past caring now.)

29.Are you on any form of medication?

A: Only if endorphins count; you’re making me very happy right now.

30.Have you ever been burgled? Did the police have time to investigate?

A: Ah-ha! Two questions in one. I’m back in the game and riding high at £25, assuming my maths is on the money.

Some damn fool stole my car once to hold up a petrol station. No word of a lie. Instead of getting out while the going was good (if not quite as good as it would have been if he’d bothered to look in the boot), he decided to go out for a leisurely drive in the same damn neighbourhood in the same damn car the very next day, and that’s how the police caught him. I know that’s not funny, but it’s a true story, and something you might want to reflect on.

31.How many times have you called the police on others and had the police called on you in the last five years? What is your opinion on wasting police time?

A: Ah-ha! Two questions in one again, which takes us up to… (counts)… £35! But to make it worth your while, I will tell you that I have deliberately wasted police time and have no regrets (see: SOCPA). Do your worst.

32.Why did you leave Australia?

A: We’re up to £40 now, but you’ll totally get your money’s worth:

The two deadliest spiders in Australia are the Redback and the Sydney funnel-web. Across that city, people are right now building houses and living lives that generate dry, clean hiding places that the Redbacks love, and wet, clean hiding places that the funnel-webs love. While you think about that, also consider that often we have bushfires that only the floods can put out, and when it’s not on fire or balls-deep in water, the bush (and the sandy bit beyond it) is home to the largest array of venomous snakes in the world. This rich selection includes the Taipan, which not only has the most toxic venom of any snake species known to man, but also a reputation as toey bugger, being one of the only snakes in the world that will seek you out and have a go at you just because it doesn’t like the look of you (or, rather, the smell of you).

If you somehow manage to escape the bush and reach the beach you’ve got blue-ringed octopi, stingrays, and great white sharks to contend with. Pick the wrong beach on the wrong day, and you’ll meet the humble box jellyfish, a creature with a sting so powerful that if you get done by one, the paramedics will administer a dose of morphine, but only to keep your screaming down to dull roar so they don’t get distracted while driving the ambulance to the morgue.

Take a look at the size of Australia (which is bigger than twenty Britains), then the population (which is less than half if not a third of the population of England alone), then take a look at where those people live. Population maps will show a mere 20 million people dotted around the coast, sandwiched between the bush and the beach.

Some people have unkindly likened this to scum washed up on the shore, but they’re missing the point and haven’t enjoyed nearly enough brushes with death to speak with experience.

The fact of the matter is this; Australia clearly wants us to Fuck. Off. Home.

So I did.

This is home.

OK, so our lot have been in Australia for several generations, but we’d been here in England for much longer before this; so long, in fact, that they were just beginning to hand out surnames when we wandered in from Ireland (or something like that). The name stuck, even after a whole bunch of us sailed off to Australia in the 1800s (not as convicts, promise).

Even if all of that counts for nothing; I’ve been here for over 10 years now, I’ve almost got the language down patch, and I really, really like it here.

May I stay? Oh go on… pleeeease?

33.What would you say to the accusation that Richard Bartholomew is your (quote) stooge?

A: I would say; “You’ve just wasted another five pounds!”

That’s £45 you owe me now.

34.You live in a Tory heartland. Apart from once in the last 50 years your area has returned a Conservative politician as its member of parliament. Since you attack Tory MPs on an almost permanent basis, how does it make you feel, as it were, living amongst the enemy?

A: I note it’s ‘my’ area now. I hope that means I can stay.

(ahem)

Obviously my ‘attacking’ a few Labour MPs has escaped your notice. I haven’t bagged a Lib Dem yet, but there aren’t as many of them to go around as there should be.

You also appear to struggle with the idea of optional voting and electoral roles, first-past-the-post systems and majorities, and how all of this allows for great swathes of ‘my kind of people’ (as it were) in ‘my’ area (as you describe it), possibly even living in harmony with these millions of Tory masters, of which you are one.

And you owe me £50. Sir.

35. In the choir photo in Westminster you look overweight. Do you consider yourself of a normal weight or do you think it is time to lose several pounds?Would you ever call, for example, Paul Staines “fat”?

A: I do look fat in that photo you speak of. I’ve lost a lot of weight since. It was as easy as modifying my diet by taking out one thing. I’ll leave you to guess what that is.

I would never hesitate to call Paul Staines a fat bastard, because for years he allowed similar mockery of others while hiding behind a character he didn’t even own (copyright: IPC magazines) while being more than a little hefty himself. This makes him a bastard, and to my mind allows me to call him ‘fat’ whenever I damn well please. Ditto for repeatedly describing him as a ‘drunkard’ etc. after his similar treatment of Charles Kennedy (and others) in very similar circumstances.

And another two-fer takes us to £60.

36. Your self-given nickname is manic. You also post notices about
yourself being a twisted genius? How apt to you feel these labels are?
What evidence is there that you are a genius? (sorry, I’ve not been
able to find any).

A: I may not be one of them official genuises what are in MENSA and all that, but I do know a last-minute question sent by email when I see one. How kind of you to wrap this text for me…. and to include so many questions! We’re at £75 already!

FYI: The nickname ‘Manic’ stems from my (now past) habit of working as a DJ all night and then directing videos the next morning, with nothing but adrenaline to hold me up (no Class A drugs use, sorry). This, combined with the creative nature of the process and the rush to complete, led to seemingly manic behaviour/situations at times, and the word was used often. It began to stick as a nickname after I pulled an all-nighter here with a dozen other people to get a website launched on time and chose ‘Manic’ as a username during that process.

It’s a long way from that (or “twisted genius”) to actual mania or psychosis, if that’s where you’re going. And now that you bring it up, the nickname also dates from a more innocent time on the web, when there were fewer people around wanting to be a cock about it.

37. Is it true that you are having a mid-life crisis? After a life of failure you
have realised that even in the Blogosphere you are a failure and are at
a big crossroads in your life now that your best years are behind you?

A: I’ve been through a few failed interviews my life, but this one’s my very favourite.

And so far it’s made me £85.

38. Finally, have you ever attended, or are you planning to attend, a lemon
party?

A: It amazes me that you had to go away and think of that question…. and then bothered to come back with it! It amuses me it cost you another fiver, giving us a grand total of £90.

[Hint for n00bs: if you don’t know what a ‘n00b’ is, you’ll probably search for ‘lemon party’ even if I tell you not to. Sorry, but it’s out of my hands. No, you’re not going to listen, you’re going to go right ahead, and we’ll wait right here while you loo…. SEE? I told you. Next time, you’ll know better, won’t you?]

I look forward to your responses. Either you can email me or telephone me. My hours of operation are from 0900 to 1800 weekday but I am several hours behind your GMT so bear this in mind if you wish to telephone me your responses.

A: I look forward to that £90… but judging by what some people have told me, I doubt I’ll ever see it.

Thanks for your time.

Have a nice day.

Dick Walker
[phone number snipped]

A: Gah! I should have read to the end of the exam paper before starting work.

Ugh! You got me! Dick.

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So there you have it, folks; my first interview in a while. I think it went as well as could be expected.

For the record, my mind is important to me, and while I’ve tried very hard not to lose it, I’ve not taken it out and measured it for a while. However, the last time it was checked by a government authority, I was technically a borderline genius, and ticking over at somewhere between 130 to 138 on your standard IQ scale.

Being a borderline genius means that I don’t get to be a genius every day, but instead only get to enjoy moments of true genius, every now and again, mostly through luck.

You will let me know when that kind of thing happens, won’t you? I’d hate to miss it.

Cheers all.








Posted in Tories! Tories! Tories! | 8 Comments

RIP Frank Branston

The unexpected death of Frank Branston has prompted a dual statement from Alistair Burt and Nadine Dorries, who today describe Branston as a “formidable politician” who “was always motivated by a desire for the best in Bedford.”

Perhaps Nadine Dorries would care to put out an individual statement where she personally sets the record straight on a few things, because earlier this year she had this to say:

“The left wing Mayor of Bedford frequently refers to me as ‘Mad Nad’. Something which I am not and is incorrect. Now if I were to describe him as overweight, sweaty, unpleasant, shrill and politically opportune, I would be entirely correct; however, I choose not to operate at his level and simply always refer to him as ‘Mayor’.” – Nadine Dorries (source)

Ho-ho. Did you see what she did there, children? She went on to ‘restrain’ herself thusly:

“I don’t want to get involved but that’s just him, isn’t it. He frequently calls me ‘Mad Nad’ and refers to a female councillor in the same way. I think he has a problem with women.” – Nadine Dorries (source)

As with so many of Nadine’s accusations and implications, the devil is in the carefully-edited detail; Branston did not originate the nickname ‘Mad Nad’ and did not apply nicknames to females exclusively as Cllrs Brian (Mr Whippy) Dillingham, Tom (Haystacks) Wootton, Richard (Tricky Dicky) Stay, and Charles Royden (aka the Ranting Rev) can readily testify.

Further, this was not an isolated or unique smear from Dorries; I clearly recall an earlier occasion where Dorries dishonestly portrayed Branston as a stalker, and over time she has repeatedly published anonymous comments questioning his integrity and mental state on her ‘blog’.

One might argue that Nadine was only fighting fire with fire and that this was a fair and measured response to Branston’s repeated use of the nickname ‘Mad Nad’ (example) and/or “rent a gob” (which is arguably inaccurate as she is not always paid to flap her lips).

However, there two facts standing in the way of this argument:

1. Of the two parties, only Dorries has a clear track record of delusion (the extent of which is only under doubt because there are some occasions when Dorries may not have been delusional, but instead merely lying). There is certainly NO suggestion beyond what Nadine has said/published that Branston was a mentally-challenged hater/botherer of women.

2. Even if there were evidence beyond Dorries’ ugly publications (there isn’t) and two wrongs did make a right (they don’t), what Dorries claimed/implied was far darker than anything that could be attributed to or garnered from Branston’s comments and/or use of nicknames.

I wholly respect Nadine Dorries’ right to ‘tell it like it is’ regardless of convention, but perhaps for the sake of the family and friends that Frank Branston leaves behind Dorries will go beyond the vacuous niceties of today’s dual statement and do something far more meaningful and upstanding… by publicly recognising that some of her past comments about Branston went well beyond banter, leading to some wholly unjustified accusations/implications that had no bearing on reality.

Alternatively, Dorries can continue to publish her dark implications without correction or reflection and allow her smears to stand, safe in the knowledge that one cannot libel the dead.

Your call, Nadine.

PS – I’m not really here… I’m just visiting. Back soon.








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | Comments Off

AFK

[PLEASE NOTE – All email to my manic[AT]bloggerheads.com address will be rejected until further notice. Emails to this or any other bloggerheads.com-based address will NOT be received. If you wish to get in touch, please use the Gmail address (which appears below).]

For those who are not aware, the recent police investigation is ongoing, and everything from drawing lines to blogging details is problematic, mainly because of a still-unknown number of people who sought to take advantage of this situation.

(See this post for a timely timeline of recent events. Special thanks go to Iain Dale for a being a right royal tw*t about it.)

I’m now away from my keyboard for a bit. I hope to tell you all about it when I get back online in a few weeks.

When I do get back, I expect there to be a long line of volunteers wanting to help on a new site; Express Watch.

(If we have enough volunteers left over, we may even crack on with Coulson’s old stomping ground – and home of quality journalism – News of The World.)

As with The Sun: Tabloid Lies and Daily Mail Watch the main job will be to report clear attempts to deceive the reader, but we need people who can do other things, too:

IT/admin, coder/designer, producer and/or established blogger/writer? We need you.

Really not up for much beyond Twitter or the odd comment? Yes, we need you, too.

This is a long-overdue measure with the Express; we are going to report the worst of their excesses and shine a ruddy great spotlight on their lack of regard for the PCC… and the public. While we’re about it, we’ll help that nice Mr Desmond with some of the difficulties he appears to be having with cross-promotion. (For some strange reason, many readers of his mainstream newspapers and magazines are unaware of his fine range of quality pornography.)

To join the line of volunteers, simply get in touch via email – using [media-watch] in the subject header – and let me know which project you would prefer to work on and in what capacity you expect to be able to help.

( bloggerheads DOT com AT gmail DOT com )

If you would prefer to work on a publication/site that this growing media watch project does not yet cover, please do speak up.

In fact, if you’re working on a current project and feel like a change of pace (or would like to request some extras), now’s the time to say something.

Back soon. Then we kick some heads. Figuratively speaking.

Cheers all.








Posted in Old Media, The Political Weblog Movement, Updates | 1 Comment

Andy Coulson and a lifetime supply of chocolate

I don’t want to name names, but back in my youth we had a problem with one of my fellow Scouts stealing/sneaking food. Of course, there was no way to prove that the Snickers wrapper under his bedroll used to be wrapped around somebody’s else’s property and there was no evidence that he had actually ingested the contents, but – despite his earnest denials – he took a mild rebuke without complaint and Scouts & leaders alike considered that to be the end of the matter… until somebody heard rustling in the night and we found another dozen empty wrappers at the bottom of his sleeping bag. He was sent home the next morning.

The ‘rustling sleeping bag’ moment is, more or less, the juncture that Andy Coulson finds himself at this week, though his supporters and apologists would have you believe that this is a leftist plot and a recycled fuss over a single spent wrapper (that, to this day, little Andy swears he knows nothing about).

However, late on Friday afternoon Rebekah Brooks (nee Wade) of News International confirmed the out-of-court settlement with Gordon Taylor that effectively sealed as-yet-unseen evidence relating to the illegal interception of his phone/messages and kept it out of the public eye. The Guardian contends that a similar settlement was reached with another employee at the Professional Footballers Association, Jo Armstrong.

This unseen evidence is quite distinct from that relating to the conviction of NOTW royal editor, Clive Goodman and the resignation of then-editor, Andy Coulson.

It is here I will remind you that evidence revealed by a single case during ICO’s Operation Motorman revealed widespread blagging (of a legal, borderline and criminal nature) involving dozens of newspapers and magazines; is it any wonder that News International aren’t the only media group keen to draw a line under this (again)? No-one really knows what will fall out of this sleeping bag and/or who the trail of discarded wrappers will lead to… though I expect the guilty have their suspicions.

Sure, there are people who are out to ‘get’ Coulson (and even Murdoch), but this is not the entirety of the matter… and the single Snickers wrapper Coulson’s supporters are waving about is far from the end of it.

Watch out for anyone who claims otherwise; they’re having you on, and they’ve probably got their eyes on your chocolate stash if they haven’t eaten it already.

Psst! #1 – Iain Dale in 2006 describing the Goodman case as; “just the tip of a very sleazy iceberg”. Not so much now, obviously – but then the the task was to praise Ashcroft, when now, the task is to protect Coulson/Conservatives. Iain also seemed far less bothered about privacy when he was secretly BCCing his mate Phil Hendren on our private email conversations (something he initially denied)… and when Hendren blagged my ex-directory number just so he could publish it as a way of intimidating me. This ‘leading’ blogger has yet to outline his current stance on blagging and/or if it swings from ‘for’ to ‘against’ and back again depending on personal/political self-interest.

[MINI-UPDATE (14 Jun) – Iain Dale finally blogs about blagging but – typically – says nothing about his mate Phil Hendren doing it. Meanwhile, Hendren denies blagging but refuses to be drawn on whether the source of my private data knew how he was going to use it (which is the guts of it). He also, absurdly, maintains that his publishing the number in two parts (in the same thread) equates to his not publishing the number in full.]

Psst! #2 – Paul Staines earns most of his money/reputation/audience slagging off the establishment and ‘old media’ as a whole, but he seems awfully quiet of late. He did, however, find time this weekend to link to the NOTW rebuttal and this Wikileaks article saying they didn’t go far enough in invading the privacy of the “social and political elite”. If Paul Staines sincerely believes in the merits of blagging, perhaps he’ll also have the courage/conviction to put his case to his readers.

[MINI-UPDATE – Paul ‘C-man’ Staines in a fresh post seems (ahem) very relaxed about blagging, but short of implying that those concerned about it have some kind of mental problem, hasn’t really defended the practice. So does he think it is a good thing or a bad thing when people go poking around private data without so much as a public interest defence?]

UPDATE – Related articles/ bloggage:
Guardian – The biggest media story in years – so why the silence?
Sarah Ditum – Stephen Glover on NOTW phone hacking: lay off, we’re dying








Posted in Old Media, Rupert 'The Evil One' Murdoch, The Political Weblog Movement | 2 Comments

Where do leading bloggers stand on blagging?

The ICO reports that re-emerged this week – What Price Privacy? and What Price Privacy Now? (source) – make for fascinating reading; they outline the widespread use of blagging and/or blaggers by many newspapers and magazines.

Influential, independent online media channels (and alliances of same) have started to form recently, so I think the question is worth asking of leading bloggers; where do we each stand on the matter of blagging?

To blag is to obtain something by trick or deception; in the ICO reports (and in this post) it is mainly used to describe the practice of obtaining personal data (current address, details of car ownership, an ex-directory telephone number, records of calls made, bank account details, etc.) by deceiving the source(s) of that data about your identity and/or your intentions for that data.

There are circumstances in which it is possible to blag some data within the law (just), but this does not mean that all blagging is legal (and/or just a little bit of cheeky PI work). We have as yet seen no ‘public interest’ defence for any examples of blaggers breaking the law, and even their bending it for personal gain (rather than for anything that might be in the public interest) raises major questions about ethics, especially for the following newspapers/magazines, presented here in order of their indicated fondness for blagging services (according to the ICO’s findings during Operation Motorman):

Daily Mail [952, 58] – Sunday People [802, 50]] – Daily Mirror [681, 45] – Mail on Sunday [266, 33] – News of the World [228, 23] – Sunday Mirror [143, 25] – Best Magazine [134, 20] – Evening Standard [130, 1] – The Observer [103, 4] – Daily Sport [62, 4] – The People [37, 19] – Daily Express [36, 7] – Weekend Magazine (Daily Mail) [30, 4] – Sunday Express [29, 8] – The Sun [24, 4] – Closer Magazine [22, 5] – Sunday Sport [15, 1] – Night and Day (Mail on Sunday) [9, 2] – Sunday Business News [8, 1] – Daily Record [7, 2] – Saturday (Express) [7, 1] – Sunday Mirror Magazine [6, 1] – Real Magazine [4, 1] – Woman’s Own [4, 2] – The Sunday Times [4, 1] – Daily Mirror Magazine [3, 2] – Mail in Ireland [3, 1] – Daily Star [2, 4] – The Times [2, 1] – Marie Claire [2, 1] – Personal Magazine [1, 1] – Sunday World [1, 1]

[Publication name is followed by the number of blagging transactions positively identified during Operation Motorman, and the number of journalists/clients from that publication using those blagging services. I must stress that this chart is based on limited evidence, and if the full picture came to light, it could change some if not all rankings considerably. To be as fair as possible to all concerned, it is probably best to consider this a list rather than a chart, which is why I’ve presented it in this way. Yes, this list includes the Observer, a sister title to the Guardian, as News International were keen to point out.]

This list – resulting from some tip-of-the-iceberg evidence – is your first hint why the McBride/Draper scheme was all over the papers but this News of The World matter involving widespread blagging is/was not.

There are also some bloggers who are paid for their contributions to one or more of these publications and, regardless of any political alignment to Andy Coulson, they just may not want to chomp down too hard on the hands that feed them.

But bloggers need to take a clear stand against blagging, or one day there’ll be a list just like this one made up of weblogs.

Especially in absence of a public interest defence, if you have no right to private data, you’ve got no business poking around for it by deceiving those who hold it.

We can all agree on that, yes?

Or, for all that talk, are we no better than the worst of ‘dead tree’ press?

(I’d be particularly interested in the current position of Phil Hendren, who once blagged my ex-directory number before publishing it on his site, and/or any blogger currently aligned with MessageSpace, who were today asked how they obtained my personal data and responded with a firm “no comment”)








Posted in Old Media, Rupert 'The Evil One' Murdoch, The Political Weblog Movement | Comments Off

Andy Coulson: certain people

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.

He didn’t.

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.








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Boycott the Total Politics poll of weblogs

Iain Dale has been running a self-serving ‘poll’ of weblogs since 2006. When faced with any charge that his polls are heavily biased on a personal or political basis, Dale will typically claim that the poll is ‘just a bit of fun’ (with a major sponsor) and/or expect you to be pathetically grateful that it’s slightly less rigged each year.

Last year, the poll carried the ‘Total Politics’ name, suggesting that the poll was as balanced as TP’s political coverage claims to be, when the truth is voting was primarily conducted at/via a website where 70% of readers vote Tory. It even had to be pointed out to Iain at one stage last year that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to accept votes via anonymous comments (that he now admits he had no way of tracking).

After failing to honour or even acknowledge boycotts of his poll last year, this year Iain Dale offers a chance for blogs to ‘opt out’ while not admitting for one second that (a) this might amount to a boycott and/or (b) he might have been wrong not to honour/acknowledge boycotts previous to this:

If you are a blogger and do not wish your blog to be included in the polling, please email katy DOT scholes AT totalpolitics DOT com by the end of next week. All blogs will, however, be included in the directory at the back of the book. – Iain ‘liar’ Dale

(Note: Last year, Dale claimed to have acknowledged all boycotts of his poll online and in print, which was not true. This post makes no mention of any commitment to do better this year.)

Now, I realise that publicity is an issue for many bloggers, but it’s my position that this is publicity you can do without.

In fact, this year I am going to ask you to join me in boycotting this poll.

Why should you do this?

Well, let me put it this way:

1. Iain Dale is a lying, self-publicising blog-cheat who knowingly uses smears against his political enemies. Why should you reward him with the status this poll affords him?

2. The poll is (and always has been) sponsored by APCO Worldwide, a pro-tobacco PR company with a history of astro-turfing. Why should you lend credibility to a sponsor that engages in activities most bloggers regard to be abhorrent?

To boycott Iain Dale’s latest rigged poll of weblogs, please email katy DOT scholes AT totalpolitics DOT com by July 17, and make sure you request that your boycott be acknowledged (i.e. you do not wish to be included in the poll, but you do want to be listed/marked as a blogger who chose not to take part in the poll).

If Iain Dale has any integrity to speak of, he will honour your boycott and inform the readers of his magazine why certain weblogs may not appear in the charts.

Cheers all.

(Psst! In order to dodge questions from me about the likely bias of last year’s poll, Iain Dale launched a dishonest attack on my professional reputation that he later dismissed as ‘banter’. If you are going to be public about your boycott and explain your reasons why, you might want to be prepared for some backlash, most likely in the form of anonymous/personal attacks.)








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | 4 Comments

Will Martin Townsend sack Derek Lambie?

Earlier this year, the Scottish edition of the Sunday Express newspaper published a front page article, “Anniversary Shame of Dunblane Survivors” (detail). It was penned by Paul Murray working under Scottish title editor, Derek Lambie. Lambie himself works under Sunday Express editor Martin Townsend (detail).

At one stage Townsend asked me to get in touch if I was in any way dissatisfied with Lambie’s attempts to resolve the matter. I have cause to doubt Martin Townsend’s sincerity, as I did just as he suggested after Lambie initially resisted widespread demands for an apology before publishing this self-serving tosh… and Townsend ignored my email!

Now, the PCC has ruled on this matter and stated quite plainly that; “the breach of the Code was so serious that no apology could remedy it” (source).

Express owner Richard Desmond (also in the news today) already has a reputation as a rogue publisher with scant regard for the PCC, so will Martin Townsend be shrugging this off as well… or will he be sacking Derek Lambie with immediate effect?








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Paul Staines and the Guido Fawkes ‘logo’

News reaches me via this comment in this thread that copyright for the ‘logo’ that Paul Staines has been using for well over 4 years on the ‘Guido Fawkes’ site most likely rests with IPC Magazines, and not Paul Staines (or any of the names/entities that he or his many relatives trade under).

guido fawkes mask

I recall clearly the day I accused Staines of helping himself to other peoples’ copyright-protected material and hosting it on MessageSpace servers and he drunkenly threw Donal Blaney in my face, so I’ll choose my words carefully this time (not least because I also hear that some people in this country are sensitive to a mix of expletives and pejorative terms… e.g. like ‘two-bit thieving twunt’):

So, Paul, have you always had a formal arrangement with IPC magazines for ongoing commercial use of this image that we’re/they’re somehow unaware of?

If not, then exactly how many t-shirts (and other tat/objects) have you sold with this face on it? How often have you printed or otherwise broadcast/distributed this image for publicity, gain or profit? Because I think that might be a bit of an issue if that image doesn’t belong to you.

(PS – Overheads must be a doddle if you’re as likely to just take stuff as pay for it. Is this part of the reason why you find profit-generation so effortless?)








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | 6 Comments

Iain Dale is knowingly complicating my harassment case

There are many things that I would love to blog about right now. I would love to tell you all about [censored] and their threat to [censored] but there are significant legal and moral obstacles.

Iain Dale knows of these obstacles. He also knows that I am effectively (and quite unjustly) silenced on this matter while suffering the continued fallout from a multi-faceted smear campaign involving an increasing number of players. (I can’t even address the Private Eye writer casually smearing me as a “nutter on a bus” in the current precarious conditions.)

However, for reasons he is keeping to himself, Iain Dale is knowingly continuing to publish and broadcast claims about me that he knows not to be true.

He does this knowing that the person smearing me is building their smears/fantasies on these false claims, and that his claims have also sparked several ‘copycat’ attacks that are no less damaging/alarming.

On top of this, the man claiming to act as Dale’s lawyer refused the offer of the relevant contact details and case number that would allow him to quickly establish why I had at least one good reason to persist in my attempts to contact Iain Dale on the weekend he was smearing Tom Watson. Instead, the man claiming to act as Dale’s lawyer has ignored my every email, for weeks now.

Further, Iain Dale has taken it upon himself to independently call people directly/tangentially involved in my case and accuse me of harassment (just as the man harassing me has been doing).

I went to call Iain Dale about this man and his recent publication(s) this morning… Iain answered the phone apparently under the impression that he was speaking not about that man, but to that man. He even greeted me by that man’s first name.

1. If Iain Dale has been in touch with the man who is harassing me, then perhaps he could admit it. Or deny it.

2. Either way, he also needs to explain why he appears to have ‘accidentally’ done so much to help that person over the past three months

3. And perhaps he could ****ing bring an end to it; I’m sure he’s quite enjoying my silence but the treatment I’ve been subjected to is entirely undeserved.

When other bloggers (from the left and right) recognised this attack on me as beyond the pale and went out of their way to help, Iain Dale took multiple steps to complicate rather than alleviate the situation. For a while there I thought that perhaps he was merely initially careless about the smears aimed at me and feared losing momentum and/or moral authority during ‘smeargate’, but his recent actions raise many doubts.

(NOTE – Iain was aware of a similar event in Guildford, but decided not to speak out about the actions of fellow Tories, and instead went on to smear me as a stalker… just as he is doing now, as it happens.)

UPDATE – No names in comments, please. It should be obvious what to avoid. Cheers all.

UPDATE – Iain Dale denies using that man’s first name in greeting on this morning’s call. He aso denies speaking to him or emailing him, but that is all Iain is prepared to say (or do) about this. He didn’t say a word about the increasingly problematic claims about me on his website that he knows to be false/untrue, be he did take a few seconds to accuse me of lying.








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement, Updates | 2 Comments