18th Jan 2012
My scanner is having some emotional problems right now (it’s never quite recovered from the mammoth task of scanning all those Page 3 girls) so formal recruitment and data distribution for The PR Transparency Project will be subject to a minor delay.
In the meantime, I thought it would be appropriate for me to acid-test the waters with what I suspect will be one of the most contentious items from this 1997 book about Tim Bell and get it out of the way. Having read the book, I can assure you that there are many more items of greater relevance to any discussion about Tim Bell’s conduct as a PR/ad executive (more), so if we can all get past this and move on, that would be a very good thing indeed.
I post the following without comment or analysis. While the following passage only refers to ‘Bell’, it is definitely about Tim Bell, Chairman of Chime Communications (holding company for a portfolio of 35 companies including the Bell Pottinger group), and it is an accurate scan and verbatim* transcript of Page 45 from The Ultimate Spin Doctor: The Life and Fast Times of Tim Bell (ISBN-10: 0340696745). I did not personally witness the incident, and being only 7 years old at the time, I would expect Tim Bell to be rather glad that I didn’t.
EXTRACT FROM PAGE 45 OF ‘THE ULTIMATE SPIN DOCTOR: THE LIFE AND FAST TIMES OF TIM BELL’
This exhibitionism asserted itself somewhat differently in one of the most controversial incidents of his life. In the early hours of 21 October 1977, three days after his thirty-sixth birthday and close to the peak of his advertising career, Bell stood naked in the bathroom of his second-floor flat at 13c West Heath Road overlooking Hampstead Heath, and exposed himself to several women while masturbating. At 8.35 a.m. he was arrested and a month later, on 19 November 1977, appeared at Hampstead Magistrates Court. According to the official conviction certificate, he was charged with ‘wilfully, openly, lewdly and obscenely’ exposing himself ‘with intent to insult a female’ under Section 4 of the 1824 Vagrancy Act. He was found guilty and fined £50 with seven days to pay. Curiously, this newsworthy case was never reported in the local newspaper, the Hampstead and Highgate Express and only his close colleagues at Saatchi’s knew of it. To his credit, Bell never flinched when the incident, which later assumed an importance of some magnitude, was raised. He admitted the conviction but denied that the event took place. He confided to a colleague that his lawyers, Butcher Brooks and Co. advised him to plead guilty to avoid a scandal.
[*Hyperlinks have been added. One to a Google Street View of the property involved, and one to the relevant Act. Text has not been altered.]
16th Jan 2012
After his company was caught secretly editing Wikipedia on behalf of some very unsavoury clients toward some no-less-unsavoury ends, Tim Bell has had the audacity to project this wrongdoing back onto Wikipedia and Teh Internets as a whole:
James Thomlinson, head of digital at Bell Pottinger, apologised, admitting: “We did get some of the things wrong.” But he called for Wikipedia’s rules to be updated, blaming the wrongdoing on its “confusing” editing system and “the pressure put on us by clients to remove potentially defamatory or libellous statements very quickly, because Wikipedia is so authoritative.”
Lord Bell, who as Tim Bell advised Margaret Thatcher on the former British prime minister’s election campaigns, said he was sorry the situation occurred but was less apologetic about the content of the changes.
“As far as I am concerned, we have done absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever … We did not make any change that was wrong, it’s a means and ends discussion,” he said.
He said he believed Wikipedia’s guidelines implied that “if you are a paid adviser, you must be lying. Obviously we find that offensive.”
He bemoaned the lack of a “regulatory body” to complain to online, where reputations can be destroyed “in one minute”.
Source: Financial Times (subscription required)
That last assertion comes to you from a shameless liar who has spent decades destroying the reputations of others covertly for personal and political gain, and this behaviour continues into the 21st century. What comeback did any of these victims hope to have against Tim Bell’s anonymised attacks? This is blatant projection from a sock-puppeting liar, I won’t stand for it, and neither should you.
Tim Bell’s straw man relies on the widely-held view that there is little-to-nothing wrong with lobbying on behalf of a client (OK by me), making factual updates to Wikipedia (OK by me), or attempting to put your best face forward in the top ten searches for your name/brand (OK by me)… but what Bell Pottinger have engaged in is secret lobbying, including some wholly unacceptable commercial updates to what is supposed to be a reference library, in an attempt to covertly influence both Wikipedia and the top ten searches for a series of names/brands.
It is clearer now more than ever that if we wish to change how things are done at Bell Pottinger, the person we need to reach is Tim Bell, and we are going to reach him through the top ten search results for his name. We are, at the same time, going to attempt to bring about positive change in the PR industry as a whole.
When I say ‘we’, I mean me and you. Yes, you. If you’re up for a bit of danger and detail, that is.
Speaking of the latter…
Lord Tim Bell is Chairman of Chime Communications plc, a communications group which owns Bell Pottinger Group plc* (aka Bell Pottinger), the multinational public relations company that bears his name, and follows his principles.
The problems Bell Pottinger have run into recently stem directly from Tim Bell’s long-standing resistance to transparency. He appears to think that secretly editing a reference library in favour of commercial interests in exchange for money is OK, and this ethical blind spot has been there since long before the web and Wikipedia became an issue. Mr Bell needs to learn that the age of secret lobbying is over, and while it may be difficult to change the mind of someone as obstinate as he, I think we have a jolly good shot at changing the landscape that surrounds him in the attempt.
I invite you to join an informal lobbying group with one simple demand; that PR companies/professionals declare any profile(s) they use to edit Wikipedia, name and link to them plainly in the ‘About Us’ section of their website, and link back to that same website from their Wikipedia profile(s).
(This, in much the same way that web users would expect them to declare the names of Twitter accounts under their control, for subtly different but fundamentally similar reasons.)
Once PR companies/professionals declare these editing profiles and link to them from their sites (and link back to their own sites from these same profile pages), we enter Wikipedia territory. There is a significant debate to be had here about whether these profile pages generally should list all of the previous profiles/edits at the outset in a clear declaration of interest, but with the exception of Bell Pottinger and other bodies operating under Tim Bell**, personally I think it a matter for PR bods and Wikipedians to negotiate between themselves. It is not within my power to grant amnesty for any past indiscretions, and that is at the heart of that particular debate about any company who has not yet been caught out; should their new account be impacted by any of their past activity, and what measures can be taken to clean the slate?
Getting back to the simple demand for transparency, we are going to face some resistance here from people like Tim Bell who do not agree about the need for it.
To counter this resistance, we are going to speak softly and carry a very big stick. But first we are going to seek to bring vital perspective to the debate about transparency while initially demonstrating the effectiveness of our very big stick.
Here we reach the part about making an example of Tim Bell.
Tim Bell is all about shaping reality more to his liking by using image, lies and illusions to make others behave in ways that get him what he wants. He earns money by claiming that he is an expert in reputation management and his underlings make all sorts of claims about their capacity to ‘cleanse’ the top ten searches for names and brands by means both fair and foul.
The current top ten results for ‘Tim Bell’ are presently dominated by absurd puff pieces where Bell is simultaneously described as “the most influential man in PR” as he nobly declines the title of “founder of modern PR”. (Interviewer: “Lord Bell thanks very much for your time today.” Bell: “Please call me Tim.”)
Seeing as Tim Bell rejects the concept of transparency outright, those of us who ultimately pay the price for his profiteering are going to have to impose some; we are going to displace much of the existing top ten with factually accurate and highly relevant material that Tim Bell would much rather faded into the distance. Note use of the word ‘relevance’ here; we do not seek to G-bomb anyone, but instead feed new and entirely legitimate relevance into the system.
On my desk is a copy of The Ultimate Spin Doctor: Life and Fast Times of Tim Bell by Mark Hollingsworth. The contents are at present largely invisible to Google and other search engines. That is about to change.
This is an unauthorised biography that Tim Bell tried very hard to prevent, and it’s a fair bet that Bell doesn’t want material*** from it populating the top search results for his name, not least because he is going to look like a hopeless manager of reputations if he cannot cleanse his own top ten.
Chapters from this book will be shared out to participating bloggers who are part of our lobbying group. Each will then write a post based on any short extract they may choose to draw from the chapter assigned to them. In this way, the 10 chapters will be shared among an unknown number of bloggers, and the top fifty or so searches for ‘Tim Bell’ will begin to take on new relevance.
(Psst! Chapter One of this book talks about Tim Bell pretending to be Australian in the hopes of bypassing the class system, and I sure hope I draw that one myself, but I expect the most popular chapter will be the one detailing Tim Bell’s conviction for ‘wilfuly, openly and obscenely’ exposing himself ‘with intent to insult a female’ under Section 4 of the 1824 Vagrancy Act.)
Also, once I/we start releasing verbatim extracts from this published material, portions of it will begin to appear in Wikipedia, coalescing into legitimate points of reference on that page, which will probably remain the highest search result for his name.
(Note – One cannot legitimately participate in this lobbying group while editing Wikipedia entries relating to Tim Bell, especially not anonymously. It goes beyond hypocrisy; it amounts to a conflict of interest, it is not fair to the wider Wikipedia community, and it is wholly unnecessary; allowing what we publish from the book to filter into Wikipedia naturally will be more than enough.)
Please keep in mind here that we are talking about the online publication of material that has seen print without legal challenge. That said, Mr Bell may choose to exploit a little-known loophole in English libel law that allows him to challenge each instance as a fresh publication (see: The Bastard Duke of Brunswick) and if this does happen, then Bell can be expected to use any or all of the following methods to effect removal with the likely exception of #10 (consider yourselves warned):
I expect what is going to test if not defeat Tim Bell’s capacity for reputation management is the ability of any web user to conduct themselves according to his standards, and it is on this note that we come to the hook…
Those of us familiar with Teh Interwebs know that there’s a world of difference between your average Joe maintaining a single anonymous blog/identity and PR boffins using multiple false/anonymous identities on behalf of clients for money, and we can’t expect Tim Bell to learn that much in such a short time, but I am hoping that the prospect of dealing with an unknown number of anonymous account holders based in several different countries will help him to better appreciate his own position, if only to the extent of having him revise his policy on covert lobbying.
Admittedly, there is a danger that within the group of people who target Tim Bell anonymously but legitimately, there will be people with a hidden vested interest who use this exercise as ‘cover’ to engage in a little subterfuge for reasons of profit, politics or personal payback (i.e. to attack him illegitimately), but should Tim Bell change his mind and decide all of a sudden that he doesn’t think it appropriate to lobby covertly, then my support for anonymous briefing against him will fall away naturally, as will that of others.
Now that point is made, I hope you understand the primary reason why I do not publish the chapters immediately today, and instead provide Mr Bell with a single and short-lived opportunity to consider the scope of what I propose. It is entirely possible that the above has the potential to change his perspective even before it grows beyond the status of thought experiment. (And if he doubts my capacity to engage at this level, he should search for ‘Billy Brit’ and consider that it took less than a week to effect total pwnership of that brand in Google, at a time when Google moved a lot slower than it does today.)
Should Tim Bell fail to take advantage of this opportunity, we can go about making an example of the man with our consciences clear and our position unassailable. Should he unexpectedly take the opportunity to embrace transparency, the effectiveness of our very big stick will be clear to others, who will take note.
Either way, it will then be time to put the following repeatedly and succinctly to any and all in the PR/lobbying industry, and those operating at its fringes:
PR companies/professionals should reveal the name any profile(s) they use to edit Wikipedia, state this plainly in the ‘About Us’ section of their website, and link back to that same website from their Wikipedia profile(s).
The nature of this campaign should make it clear that these changes are in line with public expectations about what is fair and right. Those in PR who believe otherwise will, of course, be free to lobby for secret lobbying, and I wish them luck. They’re going to need it.
The landscape of PR is about to change. Clear boundaries are about to be set, and the covert lobbyists who operate outside of them are about to become far more obvious than they would prefer.
(Psst! If you’re a blogger and you want ‘in’ on the outing, recruitment begins shortly, and chapters will be distributed randomly soon after that. Please stand by.)
[*Also Good Relations, Harvard, Stuart Higgins Communications and Resonate, but I'm sure we'll get to those PR company names and Chime Communications plc too in good time if the fight looks like taking a while; we're talking consequences so natural that effort will be required merely to keep this powder dry. Then there are client names, and all the relevant client-specific ammo Bell Pottinger have yet to defuse because they refuse to name their past editing profiles or even admit to any wrongdoing.]
[**Tim Bell is prone to telling people what they want to hear in order to get what he wants. Should he ever announce a change in policy regarding tranparency, only complete disclosure of Wikipedia accounts/edits to date is likely to convince me of his sincerity in this matter. I am not inclined to take Tim Bell at his word, because it means nothing.]
[***Some people in PR, like some people in law, do not mind being portrayed as bastards. Often, bastards are needed by other bastards. But Tim Bell cannot afford to be made to look incompetent, or petty, or disloyal to clients who suddenly find themselves mired in scandal. Material covering all this and more is contained in Bell's unauthorised biography, and he won't want it out there, though he may be forced to pretend otherwise shortly.]
[It should go without saying that this principle should apply to anyone engaging in PR-like activity, including SEO companies/professionals offering any image-oriented services. I personally do not edit Wikipedia. At all. I advise clients against it generally and against covert forms of influence quite specifically. I recognise that mine is a rigid standard, but I do not seek to impose it. Rather, I seek to popularise a widely-agreed standard of transparency for those who do engage in Wikipedia editing as part of their PR efforts. Just tell us who you're paid to represent when editing what's supposed to be reference material, folks. It really is as simple as that.]
[Declaration of Interest: Due to a minor matter of libel against me that Carter-Ruck refuse to discuss, I have a vested interest in compelling Tim Bell's chosen law firm to take part in any form of communication/negotiation. That said, this is only going to happen if Tim Bell does the most stupid thing imaginable and risks unleashing the Streisand effect. That said, I have good reason to believe that Tim Bell is prone to bouts of extreme stupidity, so better safe than sorry.]
12th Jan 2012
Hi folks. I’m facing some delays on the Dorries matter (mainly waiting for evidence; the Met are 5 weeks late), but I’m sure we’ll be back on track shortly.
From: Tim Ireland
Date: Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 9:44 AM
Subject: “we do not actively target students as potential customers ”
If you do not target students, how do you explain the following Page Title and META Tags that are still live on the same page where you claim “we do not actively target students as potential customers”?
(*Please note that chevrons have been replaced with brackets to avoid any data display issues. Otherwise, code is verbatim.)
[title]Student Loan – Alternative to Education Loans | Wonga.com® Official Site[/title]
[meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" /]
[meta name="description" content="Are you a student? Need a fast loan? For loans in the UK, Wonga is the fastest! Wonga gets you cash within 15 minutes of approval." /]
[meta name="keywords" content="student loan,student loans,short term loan,cash,credit card,personal loan,loan,money" /]
[meta name="robots" content="index,follow" /]
[meta name="DC.title" content="Student Loan - Alternative to Education Loans" /]
source: http://www.wonga.com/money/wonga-student-loan/ (mirror – ‘view source’ to see the code)
You also claimed the following in that same statement on that same page:
“The previous article on this page was several years old and one of many brief pieces we have written about the broad subject of credit since we launched our online loans service. No-one was directed to this page, nor was it prominently promoted on the website.”
But there is a prominent indexable link to this page from your front page and every other page. It is one of only 13 links of this type, so it is clearly a high priority and promoted very heavily in SEO terms:
Payday Loans | Short term Loans | Cash Loans | Cash Advance | Fast Cash | Quick Loans
Quick Quid | Loans Online | Loans for bad credit | Borrow Money | Student Loan | Student Overdraft | Credit Card Debt
A similar page which also carries today’s statement targets queries about student overdrafts (a link to it is included in the list referenced above). This page ranks 8th in Google for queries for ‘student overdrafts’, and this is clearly by design and not by accident. According to SearchMetrics, you also currently rank 34th in Google for ‘student loan’ and 19th for ‘loans for students’.
Do you still wish to pretend that these pages were an accidental afterthought of no current significance to you?
Be warned that I am an SEO professional with over a decade of experience, and I am unlikely to react favourably to further distortions. Also, this is an open letter that I have published on my blog, so do yourself a favour and don’t waste my time by hiding behind the sofa and pretending that you’re not home.
As usual, you can expect updates to follow. Cheers all.
UPDATE – I think it’s best if I let the resulting correspondence speak for itself at this stage:
From: John Moorwood
To: Tim Ireland
Date: Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 10:23 AM
Hi. We will be removing the pages / links completely soon, we just wanted to have a message there temporarily to make a few points.
[John Moorwood ]
Sent from my iPhone
From: Tim Ireland
To: John Moorwood
Date: Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 10:26 AM
Yes, but the ‘points’ you make are demonstrable lies and distortions, and I have published an article saying/displaying this quite clearly. Do you seriously have no response to that?
UPDATE – Greg Power has noticed that Wonga.com are still actively bidding for queries relating to students and student loans in AdWords. This is completely distinct from their SEO efforts/excuses, and it is not something that happens by accident. Wonga.com are actively pursuing students and trying to flog them loans at a typical APR of up to 4214% while claiming that they never intended to do any such thing:
UPDATE – Take a look at this page from the Wonga site (spotted by Tom Hatton). It features an expensive-looking video that tries very hard to look like a news programme. The nice lady behind the desk encourages students to use Wonga.com in order to avoid “a nasty debt hangover after graduation”. (Hey, why risk “hefty overdraft fees” when you can simply take out a Wonga loan with an APR of over 4000%?)
Wonga.com removed the page very quickly after it was spotted/highlighted on Twitter, but if they ever remove the video itself, the text on this mirror of that page contains the entire script. I have also saved a copy of the video should Wonga.com ever care to deny that at the very end – during the fade-out – there is a blink-and-you-miss-it alert in news-ticker style text (spotter: Jon W). This text announces that “unauthorised” debt with Wonga carries a 46,000,000% interest rate. No, totally not kidding:
Wonga.com’s repeated claim that they did not intend to target students is a demonstrable lie, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
[MINI-UPDATE - I previously typed '47,000,000%' when the accurate figure (as per the screen capture) is 46,000,000%. Now corrected.]
UPDATE (16 Jan) – Errol Damelin, founder and CEO of Wonga.com, has been made aware that his staff lied about targeting student loans. He took no detectable action in response, and offered no reply; he simply forwarded my email to the same people who have been lying to the public. (Just for the record, should he later wish to pretend that he knew nothing about this at the time.)
UPDATE (16 Feb) – It is now over a month since this article was first published. Yesterday, I emailed the CEO of Wonga.com for a second time, and for a second time, I watched as the recipient merely passed the email on to underlings who continue to (a) ignore this evidence and (b) stand by a demonstrable lie:
From: Tim Ireland
Date: Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 8:47 AM
Wonga.com currently invest heavily in TV ads claiming that they offer “straight talk” about money. Meanwhile, they stand by what you know to be a demonstrable lie about targeting the student loan market.
It is over a month since I last wrote to you about this matter. I should warn you that I tracked my last email, so I know it was read by the recipient and then forwarded to the same team at Wonga who continue to stand by a demonstrable lie.
What does this mean? It means that you cannot claim to be unaware of the details*; you do not enjoy the luxury of plausible deniability.
This dishonesty and inaction in the face of due criticism is entirely unacceptable. I seek a response to my article (see link) and my original email (below), plus a fitting explanation/apology for my being stonewalled by your staff, even after I contacted you directly and pointed out that they were ignoring me and the evidence I had published:
A man in your position cannot afford to turn his back on evidence that his staff are misleading the public about their practices. I urge you to take this matter seriously and respond today.
(*Unless you’d care to take a page from James Murdoch’s book, and claim that you saw the email but didn’t read it.)
From: Tim Ireland
Date: Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 10:01 AM
Since the initial (dishonest) response, your staff have seen fit to ignore me rather than admit to any of the evidence I have uncovered that reveals they lied about targeting students.
Wonga.com definitely did target students, and there is evidence that they assigned budget to do this in SEO, in PPC, and even through video production:
So I dare to email you in your mighty tower of ivory and ask just what in the hell is going on at Wonga.com, and if you approve personally of (a) the targeting of students in this way, and (b) the dishonest response to the resulting backlash.
I would even go so far as to mention that you may want to cast an eye over your customer base and determine if there are any customers you have gained through your targeting of students who are currently accruing any significant debt with you; it’s a ticking time bomb.
PS – How do you justify a penalty rate of 47,000,000%?
3rd Jan 2012
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to scoop up more home-recorded VHS stock at jumble sales in search of treasure… treasure like the following, which I happened across late last year.
I discovered this on the tail end of a home-recorded VHS tape of Dirty Harry; a 1985 BBC special titled ‘A Change in The Weather’, along with (top) an ad for Miami Vice, plus (tail) the next day’s broadcast schedule, station ID, anthem & close…. then a full minute of Neil Pye’s favourite song; ‘Ooooooooooooooooh’
This one-off special focuses on the cutting-edge technology used by the BBC in 1985 to collect, transmit, collate and interpret weather/forecast data, plus the growing use of computer technology to design and present regular forecast summaries to the public.
At 07:30, there is talk of a new computer that does “over 400 million calculations a second”. This is on par with the cutting edge of technology at the time. The Motorola 68020, a 32-bit microprocessor released in 1984, offered 4 MIPS at 20 MHz (4 MIPS = 4 million instructions per second). 10 years later, in 1994, they released the Motorola 68060 which could handle 88 MIPS at 66 MHz, but by then Intel had overtaken Motorola and were poised to dominate the commercial market for years to come (first Intel Pentium chip, also released in 1994: 188 MIPS at 100 MHz). A modern X-Box has a chip that can handle 19,200 MIPS at 3.2 GHz, the latest Intel chip can handle 177,730 MIPS at 3.33 GHz (more).
From 10:01 are added treats for anyone who works in graphic design.
Hubris Bonus: Two years after this television special aired, BBC meteorologist Michael Fish and the Met Office came under fire for failing to forecast the Great Storm of 1987 correctly (clip).
7th Dec 2011
I have just sent this email to Bell Pottinger:
From: Tim Ireland
Date: Wed, Dec 7, 2011 at 8:45 AM
Subject: Your Wikipedia edits
I think the most charming thing about the Wikipedia account of yours that I uncovered was the author’s inclination to accuse others of being biased and/or of having a hidden agenda, when all along he/she was making edits according to a hidden bias/agenda dictated by money:
I have issued a public challenge for you to declare all of your Wikipedia accounts:
This is a public challenge to #BellPottinger to declare their Wikipedia accounts. Or I can ferret them out for you (eg http://j.mp/vv29KG)
Alternatively, as I suggest in my tweet, I can ferret them out for you and name them without your permission.
Updates as and when. As you were.
UPDATE (11am) – Tracking shows that my email has been read 4 times via an IP address specific to Bell Pottinger. I won’t say which IP address specifically, but I will say that it has an interesting edit history in Wikipedia. Still waiting for a reply.
UPDATE (1pm) – 7 times. Still no reply.
UPDATE (9pm) – Financial Times (REGISTRATION REQUIRED) – Wikipedia pulls Bell Pottinger-linked pages: Wikipedia, the online user-generated encyclopedia, has suspended 10 accounts associated with Bell Pottinger, the firm at the heart of a dispute over lobbying industry ethics, on suspicion there may have been a breach of its editing rules. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, told the Financial Times that it was conducting an internal investigation into changes made to the pages of Bell Pottinger’s clients in a case which has roused controversy over the methods used by lobbying companies to influence opinion… A spokesman for Bell Pottinger, which is owned by Chime Communications, admitted that its employees had edited Wikipedia pages on behalf of clients but said that it had “never done anything illegal”. “We have never added anything that is a lie and never tried to ‘astroturf’,” Bell Pottinger said, referring to the unscrupulous practice of faking “grassroots” support online.
Putting aside the old Tory fallback of “it’s not illegal” when caught doing something unethical, I would beg to differ on the matter of astroturfing, having seen many of the relevant edits myself; it is astroturfing from the moment Bell Pottinger pretends to be a concerned member of the public and not a paid PR representative, and they have done that often.
UPDATE (11:30pm) – TBIJ – Revealed: The Wikipedia pages changed by Bell Pottinger: Wikipedia last night confirmed to the Independent newspaper, which has published the Bureau’s investigation, that the ‘Biggleswiki’ account is one of the accounts its team has blocked pending the outcome of an internal report instigated by its founder, Jimmy Wales. James Thomlinson, head of digital at Bell Pottinger said: ‘Biggleswiki is one of a number of accounts that the digital team have used to edit Wikipedia articles. This account has been in operation for over a year. I would like to point out that while we have worked for a number of clients like the Prostate Centre, we have NEVER done anything illegal!’
UPDATE (8 Dec) – The Independent – The ‘dark arts’: Bell Pottinger caught rewriting its clients’ Wikipedia entries: Evidence seen by The Independent and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) shows the company made hundreds of alterations to Wikipedia entries about its clients in the last year. Some of the changes added favourable comments while others removed negative content… In other cases, damaging allegations against clients of Bell Pottinger, which The Independent cannot publish for legal reasons, were removed from Wikipedia. The connection was first spotted by the blogger Tim Ireland, after reading the joint investigation into Bell Pottinger by the BIJ and The Independent, on Tuesday.
Well, I think I can give up on waiting for a reply from Bell Pottinger now.
UPDATE (8 Dec, 10am) – On reflection, there is still some work to be done:
From: Tim Ireland
Date: Thu, Dec 8, 2011 at 10:09 AM
Subject: Your Wikipedia edits (again)
Dear Bell Pottinger peeps,
Thank you for not bothering with the courtesy of a reply, even though my email was read by up to 7 staff members. I feel as passed-around and neglected as the girl in the song ‘Pretty In Pink’:
I write to you today to let you know that with the Wikipedia-run investigation underway, my ferreting skills may seem more or less surplus to requirements (admins can see the IP data behind the relevant accounts, bypassing any need for good old-fashioned detective work), but we are not entirely done here.
I won’t pretend there isn’t a purely recreational aspect to this; I must admit that I do enjoy a good sock-puppet hunt, and I love watching your staff castigate others for not having a NPOV (neutral point of view), while they fail to declare that they are being paid to forward the view(s) they publish. I have also enjoyed extended bouts of health-enhancing laughter in response to your shrill assertions that you have broken no law, when what you have engaged in are unethical practices for morally challenged clients, clearly in violation of Wikipedia’s clearly-stated policy:
“Editing in the interests of public relations (other than obvious corrections) is particularly frowned upon. This includes, but is not limited to, professionals paid to create or edit Wikipedia articles.”
But the main issue here is this same pretence that you have done nothing wrong.
If you continue with your current dishonest line of defence and have the audacity to disguise this behind Wikipedia’s commitment to privacy, I will have no hesitation in pointing out the specific wrongs you have done myself, as I remain capable of revealing some if not all of these wrongs without compromising that privacy.
Alternatively, if you’ve genuinely nothing to be ashamed of, and everything you have done is above board, then there should be nothing preventing you from revealing the names of the 20+ accounts you have used to edit Wikipedia on behalf of your clients and/or toward your own interests (without declaring an interest).
So, over to you. Again.
PS – I also want to know if your refusal to communicate with an insignificant blogger means that I don’t have to worry about giving notice about the content of any upcoming publications about Tim Bell, just to choose one example not-at-random.
Updates as and when, as per usual.
Wikipedia are taking a much stronger position on this than I anticipated, but that list is incomplete, and Bell Pottinger will not look as if they are acting honourably if this data has to be sniffed out or dragged out.
UPDATE (4pm) – The Wikipedia team have been made aware of my leads. Throughout this event, my emails to Bell Pottinger have been read a total of 18 times by people at offices for Bell Pottinger and Chime Communications, but no-one at either office has granted me the courtesy of a reply. Not even a brief word about what they expect to see in advance from me about an article about Tim Bell. Oh well.
Meanwhile, Mr Bell has expressed his regret… that they were caught:
London Evening Standard – ‘Of course I regret it, I need it like a hole in the head, all this s**t’: Another allegation is that the company coordinated the rewriting of Wikipedia entries on behalf of clients. Bell maintains that “on the basis of what has been reported so far, I can see no example of people behaving improperly, though perhaps behaving indiscreetly.” I ask if he and his company have been damaged this week. “Yes,” he agrees, “we’ll suffer limited damage. It won’t last for long, but that doesn’t make me complacent. Every person here is searching their souls to decide whether they did something wrong or not.”
UPDATE (4:15pm) – I just received, and replied to, a depressingly generic response from Bell Pottinger. I am about to go into a meeting, but plan to at least blog my response later.
UPDATE (09 Dec) – BBC – Wikipedia investigates PR firm Bell Pottinger’s edits: The online encyclopaedia’s founder Jimmy Wales told the BBC the lobbyists had “embarrassed their clients”. He said a team of volunteers was looking at possible breaches of conflict of interest guidelines. Bell Pottinger admitted to editing entries, but said it had “never done anything illegal”. Mr Wales said he was “highly critical of their ethics”. “I’ve never seen a case like this. In general when I speak to PR firms they have ethical guidelines that would prevent this kind of conduct.” While anyone is free to edit the encyclopaedia, the site’s guidelines urge users to steer clear of topics in which they have a personal or business interest.
Late yesterday afternoon, Bell Pottinger released a statement that elicited the following responses from Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia).
Some press are now receiving a statement from Bell Pottinger that they followed Wikipedia guidelines. That is flatly false. (1) Bell Pottinger behaved unethically and broke several Wikipedia rules in doing so. The public record can be seen by anyone. (2) Bell Pottinger continuing to insist that they did nothing wrong at Wikipedia is a total farce. (3) – Jimmy Wales
I received a copy of that same statement. The relevant email appears in full below (minus the actual attachments containing the same data repeated in the text).
To: Tim Ireland
Date: Thu, Dec 8, 2011 at 3:59 PM
Subject: FAO Tim Ireland – Bell Pottinger Wikipedia Response
We are sending you the below statement which we have sent to Jimmy Wales at Wikipedia and will send to others.
As mentioned in the statement below we are undertaking an internal review of our interaction with Wikipedia and we would also like to enter into a constructive dialogue with Wikipedia to avoid mistakes being made in the future for us and the wider industry.
London, 8 December 2011: Today’s Independent (8 December 2011) reports: “Bell Pottinger caught rewriting its clients’ Wikipedia entries”. We confirm that we have edited Wikipedia entries in the interest of accuracy of information for some of our clients.
The changes made by ‘BigglesWiki’ were made in accordance with Wikipedia’s guidelines, i.e. through the use of Talk and discussion pages, so that we sought the approval of the wider Wikipedia community before they were published. We also ensured that any additions to Wikipedia were based on facts that had already been reported in the public domain, so that these changes could be correctly referenced.
The issue of PR agencies and the wider media editing Wikipedia is something that we would welcome a further discussion on with Wikipedia. We are aware of Wikipedia’s guidelines that advise: “editing in the interests of public relations is particularly frowned upon”, but no more so than others using Wikipedia to publish inaccurate information.
We are undertaking a review of our interaction with Wikipedia to date, to ensure that we are collaborating with Wikipedia in the true spirit of the community. If we have fallen short of complying with the code and spirit of the community then we will change our practices.
We view Wikipedia as an essential and positive part of the modern media landscape and want to fully cooperate with the community in the future.
Finally we would like to bring to your attention three of the top tweets on Twitter throughout today:
@fieldproducer (Digital News Editor at Sky News): “It’s laughable that the Independent can attack Bell Pottinger for changing Wikipedia entries but not fire Johann Hari who did much worse”
@tom_watson (Labour MP): “Well done Tim @bloggerheads for catching out Bell Pottinger changing Wikipedia entries for their clients”
@justice4daniel: “Bell Pottinger’s senior executives described how they prepared Rebekah Brooks for her evidence to Parliament”
I immediately sent the following response:
From: Tim Ireland
Date: Date: Thu, Dec 8, 2011 at 4:18 PM
Subject: FAO Tim Ireland – Bell Pottinger Wikipedia Response
1. I am aware of all of these tweets, thanks. I RTed every single one of them earlier in the day.
2. The use of ‘Biggleswiki’ or any other account (for commercial purposes especially) without declaring an interest is not in keeping with Wikipedia guidelines (see pillars below in 1st link, for starters) and ethical standards in PR that almost everyone else appears to understand (see #4 on ‘transparency’ in 2nd link)
3. Some editors that appear to be Bell Pottinger staff/agents, rather than seeking approval from the wider community, actually implied that it was others with a hidden agenda at times; a hostile move that’s not in keeping with the approval-seeking picture you paint. Do you have any response to this? I can provide specifics if you would care to comply with the request referenced below:
4. So you have NO intention of revealing all of the account names you used? Please be clear on this. You say you “want to fully cooperate with the community in the future”. Would you like me to run a petition calling for you to reveal all of teh relevant account names? Would that help convince you to belatedly declare an interest?
5. So you want NO notice of any of the contents in any upcoming article I may publish about Tim Bell? Please be VERY clear on this.
So far, no reply, but it looks like Jimmy Wales got something beyond this statement, as he tweeted this about an hour after it came out:
“Just spoke with Lord Bell. He agreed to let me give his staff a speech on ethical editing of Wikipedia. Seems prepared to apologize.” – Jimmy Wales (source)
Bell Pottinger will show that they haven’t learned a damn thing if they deliver a partial response and/or a self-serving half-apology late this (Friday) afternoon, because it will show they are still trying to play the public instead of responding earnestly to these concerns. If they are having difficulty with the concept of honesty, they should have someone explain to them that, from the moment they are dishonest about their identity – especially when it’s to the point of creating false identities (more here) – then the ‘accuracy’ of their Wikipedia edits during this deception is largely an irrelevance.
This story is bigger than Bell Pottinger’s antics in Wikipedia; it is about their flat refusal to offer transparency or even understand why it is important from any lobbying force in a democracy. This arrogant dismissal of the rights of the electorate to engage in an open and fair democracy is the reason why Bell Pottinger play footsies with the IPRA, but do not abide by the code fully… because they refuse to comply with this condition (referenced above):
(In the conduct of public relations practitioners shall:) Be open and transparent in declaring their name, organisation and the interest they represent; (source)
And I do not think I overstate their commitment to resisting the transparency we should expect of anyone in their position:
SpinWatch – Bell Pottinger exposes weakness of self-regulation: Only three years ago Bell Pottinger Public Affairs’ chairman, Peter Bingle, openly told a committee of MPs that he was opposed to transparency. Committee member Paul Flynn MP addressed Bingle: “You’ve worked for mass murders, racists, people who’ve oppressed their own people…Doesn’t the public have a right to know who your clients are?” No, Bingle replied, “the public has no right to know.”
I beg to differ.
More updates to come, folks. Watch this space.
UPDATE (3:30pm) – Bell Pottinger’s response, in full:
To: Tim Ireland
Date: Fri, Dec 9, 2011 at 3:21 PM
Subject: FAO Tim Ireland – Bell Pottinger Wikipedia Response
Thanks for your reply. As you may have seen reported, we have been in touch with Jimmy Wales who has offered to come in and talk to our people about the correct way to deal with Wikipedia. We have accepted that offer and believe that is our best course of action.
I think it’s safe to say they they don’t yet grasp (or care to acknowledge) that the issue is bigger than their attitude towards Wikipedia.
UPDATE (13 Dec); I’ve submitted a comment under this post on a blog that includes a copy of a recent statement from Bell Pottinger. Like others, I’d like to have a word with them about their amendments to a reference page about skin cancer that removed instructions for self-screening and replaced it with a plug for a client who charges £40* a shot for an online screening service.
[*For the sake of accuracy, I should point out that the relevant client does offer prices as low as £19.95 ("Special Promotion. Limited period only") source: moletestuk.com/prices.htm ]
28th Nov 2011
Hi folks. I will from today be publishing short extracts from the report filed by the officer investigating the letter of complaint and ’4 page report’ by Nadine Dorries to Bedfordshire Police. As I made clear from the outset, I am only inclined to publish parts of this report, for a number of reasons mainly concerning the privacy of others besides myself. There are also further details I am keen to reveal later, but only once I have collected all of the (available) relevant data.
If Nadine Dorries would like to object to any of the extracts released this week on the basis that she thinks/contends any passage has been quoted out of context (or even minus vital context), then I will happily take on any specific challenges she might care to make (yeah, like that’ll happen)… but even if she only makes her usual vague objections, she will have to admit having seen the report, and she can’t credibly stick to the lie she has been telling about what the report includes and concludes once she admits to having seen it.
So, without further ado, here comes today’s extract:
Conclusion: The description of Dorries’ letter of complaint makes it clear that this passage is about Carter-Ruck. Nadine Dorries’ own law firm acknowledges that I have committed no crime and one of her/their lawyers said so to police, which is how it came to be in this report.
Perhaps Carter-Ruck would care to explain the disconnect between their perception of this reality and how Nadine Dorries portrays the outcome of this same investigation, especially when she is not constrained by the need for careful wording on her not-a-blog*:
Today I had a meeting with Bedfordshire Police. They informed me that under caution and recorded on tape at Guldford [sic] Police station, Tim Ireland, of bloggerheads, has been issued with a warning under section two of the harassment act.
Nadine Dorries (source)
“One particularly obsessive man recently followed me round with a camera, whipped up online hysteria against me and eventually had to accept a police caution for harassment.” – Nadine Dorries (source)
I have asked Carter-Ruck to support their contention that I was skating on thin ice at any time, and they had no comment to make, citing client confidentiality. Mind you, at the time they were really very busy dodging questions about these extraordinary claims made to police on their behalf by their client:
“I have spoken to lawyers at Carter Ruck and they tell me that Tim Ireland is well known and that Guildford Police have dealt with a number of complaints regarding similar behaviour to others. He is apparently a well known computer hacker.” – Nadine Dorries (source/more)
Over to you, Carter-Ruck. Do I really need to invest in a lawyer to rate a response?
[*Carter-Ruck have also yet to answer my question about their having seen this report from Bedfordshire Police, so while I'm waiting I'll put this additional question to them: Did Carter-Ruck advise Nadine Dorries in any way about the wording she used on her site in entries like the one above where she 'merely' gave people the wrong impression that I was issued with a caution (i.e. rather than lying outright, as she did in the Mail)?]
UPDATE (29 Nov) – Carter-Ruck responded with the following last night, thinking it would appropriately address any/all of my questions about this matter:
“We have no instructions to communicate with you…” – a lawyer for Carter-Ruck
Just between you, me and the rest of the world, I think they’re having themselves on just a bit.
UPDATE (07 Dec) – I have new evidence coming in, so I’m pausing the publication of evidence to hand. That said, Dorries can end this before Christmas if she wants. She knows what a retraction is and why one is called for in this instance. Otherwise, she (and you) can look forward to rolling humiliations well into the New Year.
[Psst! Over the weekend, Dorries announced that she would be closing her site that is not a blog in favour of "wider channels". I expect to archive the site if she has any plans to disappear the evidence down a memory hole.]
24th Nov 2011
Recently I’ve been blogging about the lies, distortions and delusions behind the Conservative MP Nadine Dorries’ attempts to have me prosecuted for daring to subject her expenses claims and abortion campaigns to an entirely appropriate level of scrutiny (latest).
In January 2011, during a police investigation that resulted from Dorries’ complaint/‘report’, some fabricated evidence emerged. It was quite damaging stuff. The anonymous originator claimed to have fished it out of my bin; a box of prescription medication made out to me (specifically a powerful anti-psychotic drug). Bedfordshire Police investigated its origins until they hit a dead end.
Yesterday, a right-wing blogger closely aligned to Nadine Dorries started publishing claims that I had sent him this same evidence under a false identity. His name is Harry Cole, he is widely mocked outside of his protective circle for billing himself as a ‘journalist’, and not just because of any lack of genuine experience, as you’re about to discover.
Harry Cole clearly described circumstances where he had been sent this material directly by email, and then been informed by what he described as a “reliable source” that I had fabricated the evidence against myself as part of an “attempted sting” to make him look bad.
When I asked him for a copy of the email he claims I sent him, Harry Cole refused. And not very politely, it must be said.
He later gave this reason for not wanting to discuss it any further:
“Ireland is deluded with his giant conspiratorial web, that I’m frankly bored of being slightly tangled in…” – Harry Cole (source).
So, to summarise; it is Harry Cole’s contention that I fabricated evidence against myself during a police investigation, just to involve him, because of my belief in an absurd conspiracy. And he is so bored with that conspiracy he imagines I believe in, he has no interest in cooperating with any attempt to bring the author of fabricated evidence to justice. (Even if he still believes me to be the author, what does he think is going to happen when I hand his evidence over to the police?)
I invite you to learn more about this matter by reading this post and delving into the resulting comments, where further details are shared, and events continue to unfold.
For the record, I do not name the individual I suspect of publishing the relevant material, nor do I wish to at this stage, but I certainly do not imply that Harry Cole or Nadine Dorries are the originators, just to remove any innuendo that may be read into this post by newcomers. I even made the latter crystal clear to Bedfordshire Police when they investigated the fabricated evidence earlier this year. Besides, in the context of this wholly unnecessary argument with Cole, the identity of the forger is irrelevant; whoever originated this material is dangerous, what they published was of interest to police, and it’s certainly of interest to me.
Harry Cole claims to have an email from someone offering this same material around. He claims I sent it to him. But he won’t send it back to me.
What’s his game? FFS, why is he still treating this like it is a game?
UPDATE – More detail for you: Harry Cole Withholds Evidence of Harassment against Tim Ireland Out of Spite
23rd Nov 2011
Well, I managed to keep that secret for over two years, but the jig was up this morning after one of the lads started tweeting at me last night.
[No harm done, mate. It was bound to happen sooner or later, and I should have been clearer about the need for discretion.]
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, for many, many years in my youth I was active in the Scout movement in Australia, and for the past couple of years I have been volunteering as an Assistant Scout Leader here in the UK.
Pardon any of the boring bits in the following. There are some people who will seek to exploit this information for political reasons, as you are probably aware. And we begin on that note…
1. This is why smears by certain Conservatives have been such a cause for alarm. I’m sure I do not need to explain why. It is also a major reason why I am so disappointed in my two local MPs (Anne Milton and Jeremy Hunt) who do know about this and have had it in their power this whole time to reign in their activists (if not their fellow MPs), but have instead chosen to dole out generic and unhelpful advice like “call the police if you have a problem” (Hunt). I am beginning to doubt their commitment to this Big Society concept they’ve been pushing. Or maybe they’d rather I wasn’t part of it.
2. Yes, this is what all those secret fire ceremonies were about. Now you know.
3. It’s also where I disappear to for extended periods each summer. Hey, why lie on a beach when you can dig a latrine?
4. It’s not an ultra-secret. There are even some fellow leaders in my Twitter stream. I met one at a local hustings. (No, not that one.)
5. Can I please ask that we all try to be discreet about the name/location of the troop? Mainly for the sake of other peoples’ privacy. Thanks.
(Note: I’ve greyed-out my ‘gang colours’ in the above picture for this very reason.)
6. Like most people in my position, I will be referring to myself as a ‘scout leader’ most of the time. I ask you to take this for what it is; shorthand. In any troop there can only be one Leader (kind of like Highlander, but with smaller blades and a fold-out can opener) so my official title is ‘Assistant Scout Leader’, but to most people outside the movement this sounds like I’m wearing a pair of training wheels or something, which is probably why so many people use the ‘shorthand’ version. As I plan to. I know it may seem ridiculous to most, but I need this paragraph to head off any pathetic ‘exposé’ regarding my credentials.
7. Some of you will obviously have questions about my being an agnostic. I can think of at least one woman who will want to shout that question from the rooftops as if it is of critical importance. I would like to take the time to articulate my position on this later, but for now, all you need to know is that the Scout Association in the UK acknowledges the difference between an agnostic and an atheist, and they do (quietly) recognise that a skeptic has a valid role to play in the spiritual development of our youth (more). It is a matter I’m happy to discuss, but I wish to take care about what I publish so I can further the progress that’s already been made, without rushing the issue.
8. Our movement needs leaders. (This means YOU, John Q. Skeptic.) I have been hoarding documentation of some really fun projects I’ve been working on, so now the secret is out and there’s no going back, you can expect me to start blogging some of the detail very soon, and being very noisy on the recruitment front in the process.
9. But don’t expect to see any ‘human shield’ photos on this blog. I will be blogging detail about the activities I’m been putting together, not the scouts themselves.
Cheers all. ‘ Dyb dyb dyb’ and all that.
21st Nov 2011
Dorries is all over the place in this heavily-redacted ‘report’ sent to Bedfordshire Police in November 2010, plus I am unexpectedly very busy this week, so you lucky blighters get the whole lot at once this time.
If you’re entirely new to this, your smartest path in is here, through Part 4 of the July 2010 letter than was sent before this ‘report’.
NOTE #1 – Some or all of the passages that have been redacted by police are about other people and/or may be the subject of an investigation still in progress, but I should stress that I have seen no sign of any such investigation beyond that into the Flitwick event, plus Bedfordshire Police are very clear about the fact that Nadine Dorries faces no genuine stalking threat.
NOTE #2 – This November 2010 ‘report’ from Dorries, alongside some unseen correspondence (possibly a phone call), immediately preceded the decision by Bedfordshire Police to investigate my presence at Flitwick some 5 months previous to this. Dorries continues to pretend that this investigation starting in November 2010 vindicates her when she was claiming police investigations were in progress as early as May 2010, but she cannot verify making any complaint prior to July 2010. Dorries also pretends that the investigation that did happen resulted in my receiving a caution and/or a warning that my conduct toward her was inappropriate. This, like most of the following ‘report’, is a lie, as the next round of data will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt. Until then I invite you to delve once again into the delusional world of Nadine Dorries:
1. Nadine Dorries most certainly did claim that a baby had punched its way out of the womb. If she contends that’s not what she really meant when she described a 21-week-old foetus tearing human flesh as it knowingly thrust its arm out of the uterus, then I invite her to (finally) revisit her comments and put them into context.
2. According to Nadine Dorries, I am a fanatic. This judgement comes from the woman who berates the Church of England establishment as ‘cowardly’ for not interpreting her favoured Bible passages literally and says “I am not an MP for any reason other than because God wants me to be” (source). Dorries could not begin to understand or articulate my position on abortion (hint: the primary objective is honesty in the debate, as it always has been from me since back in the day), so instead she projects her own fanaticism outward. More psychological projection shortly, kids.
3. Nadine Dorries pretends here that she instigated ‘dialogue’. This is one-hundred-percent horse-hockey. Dorries was literally begged to engage in dialogue when one of the people using her accusations to harass me started having a go at my wife and kids on Twitter. That was in September 2010. Dorries still pretended a police investigation was in progress (there wasn’t) while refusing to discuss any detail (no prizes for guessing why) while her dirtbag mates tried to get me to admit that maybe I had harassed her just a little bit (no prizes etc.). Soon after this, I finally received word from Andy Rayment, Chairman of the Mid-Bedfordshire Conservative Association, after months of association staff refusing to confirm or deny if my email had even been seen by him (below). This is the Dorries version of ‘dialogue’. She is right that it made things worse, but not in the way that she pretends.
“I do not waste my time communicating with nutters so do not expect me to respond to any of your communications, electronic or otherwise.” – Andy Rayment (detail)
4. During the decidedly one-sided exchange of information that Dorries laughingly describes as ‘dialogue’, it was made crystal clear to her how a particular person was exploiting her accusations as part of an all-too-personal vendetta; the kind of thing she pretended to be a victim of. This man was publicising my home address alongside the accusations that I stalked women and sent death threats to MPs (two accusations based on the bullshit outburst of a single MP; guess which one). Dorries responded by linking approvingly to this same person from her website, and she did it on the same day that she wrote this ‘report’ to police; November 5, 2010. I suspect I was being deliberately provoked* in the hopes that I would lash out at her or otherwise lose my cool while police were browsing my website.
[*QUICK NOTE TO DORRIES: If this was the intention, Nads, I am sorry, but I learned my lesson after your charming friend Iain Dale used a similar ploy with the 'paedophile' smear originating from the same scumbag who later went on to have a go at my wife and kids at a time when we were extremely vulnerable. Dale still trades off the lie that he was harassed, and I am painfully aware that you attempted to make capital out of it in this 'report'. The only problem is that none of this will stand up in court, should it ever reach one. Dale still refuses to account for his conduct on the relevant weekend, claiming it is 'old news' while bringing up his highly-edited story every chance he gets. He even lied about making a complaint to police and knowingly gave people the false impression that I had threatened him with violence. These and other actions he cannot explain indicate that Dale was doing everything he could to aid and abet a smear campaign that had by that stage already extended well into harassment; i.e. the same thing he claimed I was guilty of. This conduct continues to this very day. For as long as Dale refuses to clarify his remarks in a post that he has since deleted without notation or explanation, it remains a problem, and he knows this. So do you. The same sod you linked to on your website repeats Iain Dale's already-false claims alongside yours, and is allowed to expand on them without fear of contradiction. Meanwhile, you and Dale pretend that his efforts are nothing to do with you. These denials of yours are mere words, and after all your lies, your word means nothing to me; instead, I judge you by your actions.]
5. In good faith, I sought to alert Dorries to the dangers resulting from the public accusations of stalking she had made even before Flitwick. Yes, I now realise this was a mistake. I thought that as an MP even Dorries would think twice before sticking by a lie about a police investigation and endangering my family in the process, but I was wrong. In response to my complaints, Dorries not only portrayed my attempts to contact her about her unsubstantiated accusations of stalking as evidence of my stalking her (!), she went on to knowingly make the kind of public accusations she knew would wind up the same vigilante element that I had been complaining about from the outset. Further, Bedfordshire Police were made aware of every scrap of relevant correspondence, and agreed that it did not amount to stalking, or even harassment. That may seem difficult to understand if you read what Dorries writes here and take any of it at face value, but Dorries has been using repeated lies and distortions about the frequency and content of attempts to communicate. None of it stands up to any scrutiny, but she’s hiding behind the lie that she’s been advised not to discuss the stalking threat because of that same stalking threat; it’s a teeny-tiny circle of pure weapons-grade wank.
6. Dorries really needs to learn the difference between a subject access request under the Data Protection Act, an information request under the Freedom of Information Act, and the act of sharing the task(s) of data entry and analysis of information already in the public domain. Oh, and for the record, the (sadly toothless) ICO has informed me that Dorries was advised of the following: even a convicted stalker would have the right to access their data with a subject access request under the Data Protection Act. Meanwhile, Dorries claims that I sent her and her staff “numerous offensive emails” and other “vile” and “abusive” and “explicit” messages, but she refuses to reveal them, even when legally compelled.
7. The content about ‘Forsaken’ can’t be anything but an outright lie. No calls were made to the Forsaken organisation at all, even Forsaken themselves were very clear about that, and the fact of the matter was made clear to Nadine Dorries on the morning this ‘report’ to police was written. This is important because unlike some tales that begin with a kernel of truth*, Dorries is basing this claim on evidence she cannot have seen and won’t have been told about. More detail on that little event here and here. (Psst! In this letter, Dorries speaks of a ‘newly formed’ charity, but in the House she gave the impression they had been active for at least 2 years.)
(**I actually did send her emails, for example; just nothing like what she describes, or with the frequency she claims. But no phone calls were made to Forsaken. Ever. This detail is entirely invented, and a demonstrable lie.)
8. The ‘Sky news blog’ article she speaks of was fact-checked. Dorries’ objection was that it wasn’t checked against things that she merely pretended were facts. The author stands by the piece and is very clear that he certainly didn’t apologise to Dorries about any of it. I suspect here that Dorries has blurred the line between this journalist and another Sky journalist, or possibly even a mate of hers who pretends to be a journalist and appears on Sky from time to time. Perhaps she would care to clear this up (don’t hold your breath); who does she claim apologised for this article? She doesn’t need to explain why she didn’t tell police that this ‘negative and untrue’ story was about her fabricating a “compelling story about stalkers”; that part is painfully obvious.
9. On 12 July 2010, Dorries wrote to the local Chief Constable to ask if “section 5 of the Public Order Act might apply” to dastardly acts like my calling her a liar (more). On 27 October 2010 Dorries pretended that “the Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police explored the option of triggering section 5 of the Public Disorder Act” of her own volition, which is doubtful, because there is no such thing as the Public Disorder Act and is the Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police is not an idiot. Dorries was corrected on this point-of-law-that-does-not-exist (and more) by a lawyer, but after reading the relevant post, all she came away with (eventually) was the correct name of an actual Act.
10. The closing sentence should be used to illustrate ‘chutzpa’ in the dictionary. After knowingly exploiting an anti-social and potentially unstable element against me, Dorries projected the same negative qualities onto my audience. That includes you, Mr/Mrs Unstable Element.
NEXT: I’ve got some more data on the way and a lot of work to do this week (and probably next), but sooner or later we are going to get to the actual police report and what it said about my conduct, and even then, I am only getting started. Nadine Dorries is not the only Conservative who has been conspiring to discredit and intimidate me with false reports to police and false claims about the outcome of those reports; she is merely the loudest. On that note, Carter-Ruck were in touch today. Strangely, they still have no comment to make about this extraordinary claim made in their name by Nadine Dorries:
“I have spoken to lawyers at Carter Ruck and they tell me that Tim Ireland is well known and that Guildford Police have dealt with a number of complaints regarding similar behaviour to others. He is apparently a well known computer hacker.” – Nadine Dorries (read more)
17th Nov 2011
Hi. New here? These are Parts 1, 2 and 3, if you’d like to read the rest of the letter and/or read more of the detail, but the way Part 4 is written you can tuck into these later if you feel like it:
#Dorries: The MP Who Cried Wolf (The Letter, Part One)
#Dorries: The MP Who Cried Wolf (The Letter, Part Two: Flitwick & humphreycushion)
#Dorries: The MP Who Cried Wolf (The Letter, Part Three: Chris Paul and a special surprise… or two)
Nadine Dorries is the Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, and the short version of what’s been happening is that she has been claiming to be the victim of multiple stalkers as part of a rushed and reckless cover-up involving secret lobbying groups and some as-yet-unanswered questions regarding monetary fraud.
From 2009 to 2010, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards was conducting an inquiry into evidence that Dorries’ ‘second home’ was in fact her first/main residence (put simply; the place she spent most of her time, usually understood as the place where one sleeps most nights). This was an issue because of multiple expenses claims Dorries had made on the basis that her constituency property in Woburn qualified for an allowance that only applied to second homes.
This investigation was, in my view superficial at best, and only took as long as it did because Dorries was being Dorries about it. I also feel the Commissioner was far too trusting of an MP who literally throws the rule book out the window, taking her word on some matters most of us would be expected to support with paperwork. The Commissioner did ask questions about a couple of very recent entries on her site, but I saw no evidence of her public diary being properly investigated. This may have had something to do with Dorries’ site being withdrawn from service for a very long time during the inquiry, but there were before then and still are today dozens and dozens of blog entries going back years where Dorries writes repeatedly of and about Woburn and her time there as if it were her primary residence.
Dorries sought to explain what little she was challenged on with the claim that she had deliberately given a false account of her whereabouts for purely political reasons; specifically, in order to give constituents and her local association a false impression that she was spending the majority of her time in the constituency. The Commissioner bought her story, but Dorries did not expect to have to publicly defend much of what she had told him, and suddenly faced an unexpected backlash about her casual declaration that her blog was “70% fiction and 30% fact”.
So she quickly expanded on an existing lie she had already told to discourage people like Chris Paul from investigating her property, to avoid questions about the relevant expenses inquiry at a local hustings, and to make local critics too shit-scared to even tweet about her; she publicly claimed that she had only published little white lies about where she was and when on the specific advice of police in response to what they recognised as a credible stalking threat.
And on this note we turn to the final segment of the letter Nadine Dorries wrote to the Chief Constable of Bedfordshire in July 2010, accusing myself, two other critics and a political opponent of stalking her:
Let’s skip right past Dorries trying to portray me as the source of violence aimed at her; it is too insulting given the care I have taken with my conduct toward others and the dangers she has knowingly exposed me to. I fear I may lose my temper and use the kind of rude words that will allow for further feigned hysteria.
Instead, I’d like us to focus on three simple items:
1. THE PUBLIC DISORDER THINGIE
Dorries claimed on 27 October 2010 that “the Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police explored the option of triggering section 5 of the Public Disorder Act” against me. Yes, the Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police explored the option of triggering section 5 of the Public Disorder Act because an MP who didn’t know her act from her elbow asked her to. There is no such thing as the Public Disorder Act.
By the way, this item gets even funnier later. (A new document starting next Monday, folks. You know where to find me.)
This is not the first I have heard of this alleged burglary that was never reported to police. When trying to convince me that poor Nadine was simply a single and misunderstood mother living alone and genuinely frightened by the attention of some awful people, a supporter of Dorries told me the following story. In confidence. I tell it to you now in the spirit of they can go **** themselves.
Nadine Dories claims that in early 2010, shortly before the election, she’d returned to her constituency home to discover that the front door had been removed from its hinges. She further claimed that nothing was actually missing from the house and the only thing the intruder(s) appeared to be interested in were her office filing cabinets, which had all been opened and rifled through.
Chris Paul blogged about Nadine Dorries. Dorries reported him to police as a stalker.
Ms Humphreycushion tweeted about Nadine Dorries. Dorries reported her to police as a stalker.
I blogged and tweeted about Nadine Dorries. I also attended a public meeting I was invited to. Dorries reported me to police as a stalker.
Linda Jack ran against Nadine Dorries in an election. Dorries reported her to police as a stalker.
But when Nadine Dorries comes home to find the front door off the hinges and her filing cabinets disturbed… she does not report this to police. Even if she only reports stalkers to the police, this sounds like just the sort of thing a real stalker might do.
I’m not buying it. You?
Dorries also claimed to have received multiple death threats, then said here that until August 2011 it was her policy NOT to seek to prosecution. But her critics get the ‘stalker’ treatment. Now, why is that, do you think?
More than two months before she wrote this letter, Dorries claimed that I had sent her and her staff “numerous offensive emails” and other “vile” and “abusive” and “explicit” messages, but she didn’t present any of these to police. For some reason. Even when I submitted a subject access request to her office legally compelling her to reveal what she claims are my emails, she refused to cooperate (!) in defiance of the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Data Protection Act. What possible reason could she have to behave like this?
(Psst! I also find myself wondering why Nadine Dorries keeps her filing cabinets inside her ‘second home’ when any busy person/MP would want them in their main home, but the big question surrounds the potential purpose of this very-neat-burglar story, if it is an invention. It would not be a lie told lightly; it would have a purpose.)
“I have spoken to lawyers at Carter Ruck and they tell me that Tim Ireland is well known and that Guildford Police have dealt with a number of complaints regarding similar behaviour to others. He is apparently a well known computer hacker.” – Nadine Dorries
I contacted Carter-Ruck about the extraordinary accusations Nadine Dorries made in their name. I was curious to know what evidence they could produce to back the assertion that I was a notorious computer hacker with multiple complaints against me, but I didn’t get very far. Here’s their response:
” I can confirm that Nadine Dorries is a client of this firm. It follows that, as I am sure you will appreciate, all communications between Ms Dorries and ourselves are confidential in nature.” – Cameron Doley, Managing Partner, Carter-Ruck
Carter-Ruck were asked about the mysterious circumstances in which I found myself accused of harassment without so much as a letter from their office, but they had no comment to make about that, either. I do not recall ever being warned by Carter-Ruck about the appropriateness of my behaviour toward any of their clients, and seemingly neither do they.
:: If Dorries is telling the truth about her source, where is Carter-Ruck getting this information from?
:: If Dorries is lying about the source, where is she getting this information from?
This one gets even funnier later, too. If you thought this week was something, wait until next week when I start unleashing material from a 4-page ‘report’ that Nadine Dorries sent to Bedfordshire Police in November 2010. Dorries was at the time under pressure to produce evidence of an investigation she claimed had been in progress since before her only known complaint. Behind the scenes, she was desperately trying to initiate one.
It is like they say; it’s the cover-up that costs you… and I’m just getting started, folks.
UPDATE – The full July 2010 letter from Nadine Dorries to Bedfordshire Police (including some notes about what gets released starting Monday).