Alex Hilton, secret ‘threats’ and MessageSpace

Posted by Tim Ireland at February 17, 2009

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

This entry was posted on
Tuesday, February 17th, 2009
10:38 am and is filed
under The Political Weblog Movement.

All of the anger generated over Alex Hiltons claims that he was confronted with secret threats rests on the dual assumption (a) that Derek Draper made the call, and (b) that Hilton is being 100% honest with us/himself about what was said and how it was put.

Whoever is talking to Hilton has a point (stay with me…) up to the point where Hilton’s association with Paul Staines (aka ‘Guido Fawkes’) might damage his relationship with other Labour members, or the members of any semi-responsible political group, come to think of it.

If they’re saying what Hilton is claiming and making secret threats about deliberately tagging Hilton with Staines’ popular brand of casual racism (1, 2), then that’s not on, but I’ve come to expect misrepresentation from Hilton’s quarter.

Hilton could have been issued with a warning that such association would happen naturally and without interference or effort; that’s a warning that could easily be passed off as a threat.

That, and Hilton often starts calling people ‘comrade’ when he’s laying it on thick.

I’m not saying that this is the way it’s happened, but it’s a bloody likely possibility from where I’m standing.

A lot depends on who made the call. Draper, I’d expect such threats from, especially after his over-reaching attach-a-word attacks on Dale and Staines and his finger-jabbing attack on Hencke.

But if almost anyone else made the phone call, I’d have serious doubts about Hilton’s claim. That I’m not able to hear the context of what was said forces me to make that judgement call, and Hilton is one of the people in this world that I trust the least.

Why? Well, one reason is the secret and none-too-subtle ‘I/we will ruin you’ threats sent my way from… MessageSpace.

Once, after I blogged about MessageSpace, a threat of legal action was issued from their office building by Paul Staines, who MessageSpace later claimed; “is neither a shareholder, director or employee of MessageSpace and never has been.”

All of these threats were marked PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL and I was advised that revealing any details and not caving immediately could cost me big time. I was also ordered (yes, ordered) to apologise, hire a lawyer or provide an address (more).

Meanwhile, I was receiving all sorts of nicey-nice reassurances from Jag Singh. On the condition that these remain secret, too.

Alex was dismissive and disingenuous about it, the only saving grace being that he was publicly dismissive and disingenuous about it:

“This article is the first time I have heard of Guido suing Tim. What for? I don’t know and can’t really be bothered to look into it. “

Meanwhile, I was being threatened by a man based in their office over an article I wrote about their company. I hate to be ungracious about it all, but fuck them, and fuck MessageSpace.

And you know what? It strikes me that the best way for Alex to get everyone onside is to have everyone think that poster-boy-for-tosspots Derek Draper is somehow connected to this call he bases his claims on.

To close, let me be ab-so-lute-ly clear on my central point:

I don’t entirely trust Alex Hilton’s claims about this. I don’t entirely trust Jag Singh’s claims about this.

That position is only likely to change if someone I trust less turns out to be behind these calls…. and there are very few people I trust less than the men behind MessageSpace.

That goes especially for the coward, liar and bully who “is neither a shareholder, director or employee of MessageSpace and never has been”.

For more, click here.

UPDATE (18 Feb) – It’s just past midday. The two posts that Alex started about this on LabourHome (and subsequently every comment underneath those posts) have been deleted/withdrawn without explanation. This is what we bloggers call ‘retro-moderation’. Why does Alex want to hide this all of a sudden? He seemed awfully keen to wave it about until a few minutes ago. Are the secret ‘threats’ now so secret that even Alex won’t talk about them?

URLs of deleted threads:


  1. jailhouselawyer says

    The following featured as one of Mr Dale's Daily Dozes:"And PoliticalBetting's Mike Smithson questions whether Derek Draper is trying to bring down the whole British political blogosphere".So, I popped along there and neither totally agreeing with the post nor some of the comments defending Paul Staines, I left this comment:[mod: snip – Sorry, JHL. Paul would probably love to throw a lawyer at me today, and I don't plan on giving him the opportunity. I have the text of your comment saved if you wish to edit and re-submit. Minus the bits that I don't want to publish any more than Mike does.]

  2. David Boothroyd says

    I feel your pain on this issue, I really do, but can't help feeling that sitting on the fence is your choice.The way I see it is that, after making detailed criticisms of Paul Staines and his way of operating, you would in the abstract have been delighted to learn that someone else with good resources, name recognition and prodigious campaigning experience, was also launching a very high-profile attack on practically the same thing. And guess what, the exact same Staines stooges have reacted the exact same way they did to you.Tragically, the person behind the campaign turns out to be someone you would rather disembowel yourself than ally with. Surely it is time to bite the bullet?

  3. Manic says

    I choose to stand by the principle, and not a person.Draper and Staines are both blog-cheats, and ruthless merchants of smears and spin.I am far from happy that someone dishonest is having a go at Staines, because in those circumstances, Paul's spin on his actively avoiding accountability is far more effective. Draper makes Paul look* honest, and Paul Staines is a lonnnng way from being an honest blogger.(*Note how many people are prepared to believe Hilton when they think/assume Draper is behind the 'threats'. Draper could make Ebaum look good.)

  4. James Thompson says

    This is the first time I have commented on this site so bear with me if I don't do it right.What I don't understand is what you ultimately want from Staines, or Hilton for that matter. As far as I can work out you think they have contravened some sort of blogging honesty 'standard'……but I am left thinking, ultimately, so what?I don't expect my journalists to live particularly moral lives, or even be that nice people in the flesh. What I expect is for them to supply me with stories, for which I pay for. I think most (sensible) people then apply a filter to decide for themselves the likely truth of the story being told, based on their own views of the journo in question. For me it's the same for bloggers. Staines even says his stories are gossip, rumours and tittle-tattle on the page header. Within the blogosphere, most people have a pretty good idea of the allegations against Stains, and that he edits his comments, or even comments himself etc etc… what's the problem? It's like the Sun – most people know it's mildly entertaining crap, but they still read it.This is not to defend Staines, Hilton or anyone else, but I'm genuinely confused – what do you, or the world at large, gain by 'exposing' Staines? Ultimately he's not a political figure and not beholden to abide by the Code of Conduct for Ministers and to my mind therefore no less or no more worthy of this 'exposure' than any other blogger, political or not? Or can only those with whiter-than-white pasts now blog with a clean conscience?That's slightly ranty. Sorry.

  5. mikkimoose says

    You don't like Staines much do you, David?…Draper is a dreadful man and such men are a stain on politics. The 'Draper to be removed from the internet' story ( posted on Wikipedia (by someone who then realised that using their real name as their username wasn't so smart), is good news for EVERYONE, not least Labourlist contributors such as yourself, who don't want the site to be a total laughing stock.Staines on the other hand is clearly not going anywhere.

  6. Manic says

    Not at all, James. Welcome to Bloggerheads.On who does and does not believe The Sun, I have this to offer:…There's stuff that starts its life on Staines' website (or from his pocket). The people who are eventually exposed to it won't always know where it has come from.I run my website at my pace, and I call Staines on his outright hypocrisy from time to time. Especially now that the cheeky beggar funds a group that campaigns for transparency, directs their movements, and acts like it's a spontaneous discovery when they produce something.Useful information, and pretty funny. To me, anyway.The bulk of this activity in the past involved documenting technique as much as fact, and without these efforts, I'd argue that there wouldn't be growing awareness of Staines ' widespread comment-cheating. Without it being exposed, Staines would simply not mention it instead of downplaying/misrepresenting it. (Progress!)To standards:We as bloggers are often judged by the highest-profile blogger(s) with the lowest standards.As a community we grow along lines set by expectations, the lower those expectations, the more people will try to blog without actually being accountable via comments. To the point where even Jeffrey Archer and Alastair Campbell feel comfortable trying it (or something that looks like it). The more people who follow the comment 'moderation' example set by Staines now and Iain Dale until very recently, the more meaningless our collective efforts become. Take a look at what almost every newspaper is getting away with by offering comments but refusing criticism.And one day soon – right or wrong – there's going to be an attempt to regulate the blogosphere. Will we be lucky/powerful enough to escape this or negotiate something akin to the PCC? Or will some arseholes go so OTT that a bunch of clueless MPs will get away with a knee-jerk measure that stifles free speech?That's not the whole manifesto, but hoepfully it's enough to stem confusion.

  7. James Thompson says

    Thanks. That's genuinely helpful in terms of understanding better where you are coming from.On the Super Soaraway Sun……you raise a fair point about the mainstream media taking their crap stories at face value. But looking to the future I can't see this changing, and it's all basically down to whatever line that the mainstream media want to run with. So even if/when the Sun finally sets and disappears from print, the crap stories will just be sourced from, or 'attributed' to, new media sources like Staines instead. Which is your point I suppose for exposing Staines now… But it's like slaying a hydra – you kill Staines (which you can't – well apart from literally I guess) and up pop 10 more copycats. If the mainstream media decide they want a story or a season on sleaze, they can trawl the gossip-mongering sites until they catch a few they think they can string together into their latest 'campaign'. And with (presumably) more and more bloggers the supply is potentially limitless.I guess I am questioning (hopefully politely) if you are going after the right guys. You can't choke off, or even clean up, the supply, and maybe there is more mileage in exposing the big media names who don't check their sources properly, or the barons who set the agendas. Perhaps you do both, I dunno….it's your blog and your time so I'll tell you what… what you want!Blog regulation: how could this work? I just can't see it. Is Twitter a blog? Facebook status updates? I cannot see how you could technologically define a blog in tight enough terms to make it workable. Are libel laws not sufficient? I speak from a particular position of ignorance here though so happy to be put right.

  8. Manic says

    What?! How dare you insult/question/interrogate me? Who do you think you are? Etc.Re: But it's like slaying a hydraAgreed. Which is why I catalogue technique so often. Turns out there a number of ways to skina cat, and just as many ways to cheat at it.Anyway, most of that job's done for now. Staines only came up this week because he looked so absurd to me using an equally corrupt blog-cheat to present himself as an honest alternative and a bit of a hero. Dale's been at it a bit, too, but Staines is worse; watch his little underlings breathlessly updating Wikipedia with tales of his epic struggles against Draper like it's a bloody society column or something. Staines claims it's not his doing, but he does nothing to discourage it, and his actions stink of fostering to me.(Not sure if you've been around long enough to notice that using Wikipedia as a propaganda tool is regularly discouraged here.)Please, please, please stick around as I want to talk more about Old Media this week, and I think you might enjoy it. I meant to blog about it today, but I wanted to get an image done first, and I suspect I'm going to give up fussing with what I have and start over. I'll prob. press ahead with a very basic prototype tomorrow, as there's a project to get on with.On web/blog regulation, I advocate better standards as a community in order to avoid any attempt at outside regulation/interference (or simply being 'bred' out by infiltrators such as newspapers as standards get lower). I can't possibly imagine how the powers that be might approach regulation… the only certainties are (a) they don't need a working model to try it if there's 'urgency' (see: T.W.A.T.) and (b) any decision on this front will be rushed, as someone with an agenda takes advantage of fear, panic and ignorance. Take a look at the recent abortion 'debate' if you fancy worrying yourself:

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