To: Steve Hilton (an open letter)

This entry was posted on
Monday, January 31st, 2011
10:20 am and is filed
under Tories! Tories! Tories!.

Dear Steve,

Being a long-standing member of the Conservative communications team (and currently a key member of the communications team for Prime Minister David Cameron) I would expect you to be well aware of the Conservative response to the half-baked plan by Damian McBride and Derek Draper to publish false rumours about the private lives of senior members of the Conservative Party and their spouses, because you probably helped to write it.

At the time (i.e. back when Gordon Brown and Labour were in power), it was the position of your office that the Conservative party would not stand for this sort of thing, and the Prime Minister’s office should not stand for this sort of thing.

Today, I am here to confront you with details of a long-standing smear campaign that you personally have known about for months (if not years) and repeatedly failed to act against, and I am going to attempt to compel you, and your boss, to finally take action.

Anne Milton
(Conservative MP for Guildford, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health)

You may not be aware that this whole thing started with a phone call from one of your party activists to my home in the opening stages of the 2005 general election. This person claimed to work for an ‘independent survey company’ and, via an extraordinarily clumsy and obvious push-polling script, pressed several key points of the campaign to elect Conservative candidate Anne Milton. We had signed up to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) long before this call arrived, but the person calling did not apologise and offer to remove us from their database when advised of this. Instead, they developed an evasive attitude when asked about the origins of the call, then hung up.

Happily, earlier in the call, they had given the name of what they claimed to be an independent corporation/charity (Geneva), so I shared this detail with Anne Milton when I contacted her to complain about their conduct and inquire about the source of the call. She claimed to be unaware of the organisation or the caller, and offered to look into it, though she would/should have been aware the whole time that Geneva was in fact a Conservative party call centre.

I discovered this myself at about the same time I heard from a chap who had a local Tory party representative turn up unannounced at his door, wanting to discuss a letter he had written to the local paper that dared to be critical of this same candidate’s campaign.

I then started to blog about Anne Milton and her campaign, and quickly discovered that many if not all of the people posing as average members of the public in her campaign literature were in fact average members of her campaign team. Anne Milton’s only public defence for this was absurd in the extreme (at one point she tried to blame it on the post office; I presume she meant they had mixed up party literature with generic campaign literature) and it was at this stage that she began to dismiss queries about my blog and its contents with mild implications and then quite specific claims that I was stalking her.

Anne Milton recently denied saying anything that may have even given people the impression that I had harassed or stalked her in any way, but I can prove this to be a lie.

Further, I can prove the involvement of two of her activists in the publication/promotion of a series of anonymous comments/weblogs that not only repeated this smear, but also smeared me as a bad father, a computer criminal, and an undesirable alien.

There was also an anonymous weblog published/promoted by these same activists that smeared one of their direct political opponents as a paedophile. I referred these matters to your party office (CCHQ) and to the Parliamentary office of David Cameron. My complaint was referred back to the local association for action. They took none. Both of the activists involved were subsequently endorsed by Anne Milton and the local association as Conservative candidates for local council.

Jonathan Lord
(Conservative MP for Woking)

At the time, Jonathan Lord was Chairman of the Guildford Conservative Association. Initially, he sought to excuse his inaction by saying that the target of the ‘paedophile’ smear had not complained, and that the action of anonymously accusing him of paedophilia and publishing personal phone numbers and details of his whereabouts was not against the law as far as he could see.

Obviously, this is poppycock, even if we are to accept a highly selective interpretation of harassment law. What Draper and McBride did wasn’t a criminal act and the Conservative party came out hard against all of what they had planned, even though only one proposed target (Nadine Dorries) came out and complained about it.

Lord also claimed at the time that he took no action because I had not written to him about the matter. Again, this is purest poppycock. I had emailed him about this, and email is a perfectly valid form of written communication, and far more efficient when providing URLs of a series of live blogs/comments that should have been the focus of his concern. It was a stupid requirement that I put this on paper, and I interpreted the request that I do so as a form of subtle intimidation; Lord’s office had so far protected the people who had published details about my private life, and offered no explanation for the earlier unannounced visit to the home of a critic, and Lord should have been well aware that I would be hesitant to offer him or anyone else in his office my home address in these circumstances, even if he was so impossibly backward as to think my sending him a hyperlink on paper would be preferable to sending an email.

The further excuse that Lord currently offers for his inaction was given on an off-the-record basis during a chance meeting at a fundraiser for the children’s charity I volunteer for. I will return to this point later in this letter, but for now let’s just say that it doesn’t do him any favours, and an off-the-record admission about this matter is about as much use to me as a chocolate teapot when certain people are contending publicly and privately that I lied about some or all of it.

Iain Dale
(Conservative Party activist. Failed as Conservative candidate for Norfolk North, rejected as Conservative candidate for Bracknell and Maidstone & The Weald.)

Iain Dale was advised of the smear campaign targeting an innocent young man as a paedophile, and yet flat-out refused to take a stand against it, despite positioning himself as a leading/principled blogger at the time. Dale later alternately implied and claimed that I had imagined if not invented the whole thing, and also began publishing anonymous comments from Conservative activists supporting Milton, repeating the claims that I had stalked her.

When confronted about these and other comments he allowed on his site (but only against his political enemies, natch), Dale began to repeat the smear himself, and soon cottoned on to how neatly self-reinforcing it was.

Please excuse me as I paraphrase to elucidate:

X: “Y is a stalker!”
Y: “How dare you! Where is your evidence?”
X: “Well, look who’s here; it’s the stalker!”

Dale also went on to claim that I had not only stalked Anne Milton, but that I had gone on to stalk another Conservative MP; Nadine Dorries. He could not then and cannot now support either allegation, but he refuses to retract or even defend what he has repeatedly published on his site and shared privately with fellow Conservatives.

He will, however, repeatedly cite phone calls made at a time when he was knowingly libelling Tom Watson as a smear merchant while exploiting a smear campaign that falsely named me as a convicted paedophile*, and via a significant lie of omission he uses this to support a claim that I stalked him, too.

As part of this effort, Iain Dale also repeatedly claimed to have reported me to police for harassment. Recently, he was forced to admit that he has never filed such a report, but he continues to maintain that I am guilty of harassment, and is often forced to cite my response to his allegation(s) as evidence that supports his initial accusation(s).

(*A popular theme among Conservatives, I’ve noticed. I’ve often wondered why.)

Patrick Mercer
(Conservative MP for Newark)

Both the man who carried out the smear campaign falsely accusing me of child rape and the man who I believe initiated it were close associates of Patrick Mercer, and worked in close association with that MP as (please, feel free to laugh) amateur anti-terrorism operatives.

Mercer was at this time Chairman of the House of Commons Sub-Committee on Counter-Terrorism. When I confronted him with evidence that his source(s) had been fabricating evidence of Islamic extremism, Mercer’s office repeatedly refused to comment or take action.

Following contact with Iain Dale (see: the paedo-smear campaign against me that Dale sought to exploit) Mercer himself then responded by answering questions from third parties by claiming that I was an “electronic stalker”.

Like Iain Dale, both of these men claim to have reported me to police for harassment, but cannot provide evidence of ever having done so; most likely the complaints they speak of amounted to nothing or they are making the whole thing up. The latter is almost certainly the case with one of these men, as he has gone on to make entirely false claims on behalf of local police about my involvement in a range of crimes (which not a crime itself, you may be surprised to learn).

Mercer currently wishes to distance himself from these men and their actions, but he refuses to retract his entirely false claim of harassment that he made in response to my concerns and the concerns of others about these men and their conduct.

Nadine Dorries
(Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire)

By the time the 2010 general election came around, Nadine Dorries had begun privately repeating the smear initiated by Iain Dale; despite endorsing similar blogs targeting Labour MPs, Dorries maintained that my blogging about her amounted to stalking/harassment, and further claimed that I had, under my own name and via a series of false identities, sent her abusive messages. None of this was true, but this allowed her to answer any questions raised on my website about her conduct in much the same way as Milton, Mercer and Dale had previously.

However, (a) you would think she would know better after the Draper/McBride incident, and (b) by this time Dorries was aware that the claim that I had stalked her and others was being published alongside my home address on a series of anonymous websites by some self-styled cyber-vigilantes associated with Mercer’s amateur anti-terrorism operatives.

As with previous attacks from this quarter, an attempt was made to distribute my home address to people likely to be hostile to me, and/or in a way likely to make them hostile towards me. This began with the claim that I was a convicted paedophile, then carried on with a claim that I was a willing ally of religious extremists, but with the increasingly specific/public outbursts of Nadine Dorries, these people were able to make claims that appeared to be substantiated by a Member of Parliament.

One key entry included my home address alongside the claim that I had stalked women and sent death threats to MPs, and both of these claims relied heavily on the increasingly irrational if not disgracefully calculated outbursts of Nadine Dorries.

Knowing this to be the case, Dorries stood up in front of a hustings meeting in May 2010, claimed that I had stalked Patrick Mercer, claimed that I had harassed Anne Milton to the point that police became involved, and further claimed that I had stalked and harassed her to such an extent that a police investigation was currently in progress.

At the same time, Dorries was under investigation for expenses claims relating to a property that she officially classified as her second home, but had difficulty explaining why she had made repeated entries on her blog that gave the impression that it was her main home. It is on record and entirely clear from the subsequent report that Dorries told the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards that she had deceived her constituents about the location of her main home for entirely political reasons (i.e. to give the impression that she lived primarily in the constituency). She thought this put her in the clear and was entirely unprepared for the backlash that followed this revelation. She responded by again claiming that I had stalked her, and further claiming that police had specifically advised her to give misleading accounts of her whereabouts for reasons of security.

I have no history of stalking Nadine Dorries in any physical sense, and she had no cause to believe this, even if she is so dim-witted as to have allowed herself to be convinced that I was stalking her electronically. Worse, Dorries used my attendance at a public meeting in May 2010 to defend her claim that I had physically stalked her in the many years/months previous to this, and used Conservative activists aligned to her to spread this claim on blogs and in the media though a series of entirely strategic claims and distortions that not only stretched the truth to breaking point, but challenged the very notion of time and space.

Months after her hustings outburst, after being challenged to provide evidence to support her claim that a police investigation was in progress, Dorries sought to initiate a police investigation after the fact, and succeeded to a small extent in that police are now investigating my presence at a public meeting that I was invited to. This alone, while it is a complete waste of police time, did not cause me alarm… but Dorries then went on the leak news of this to a supportive local newspaper, leading to an entirely biased article that has set off my attacker(s) all over again, and once again allowed them to base their ongoing revenge attack on the word of a Member of Parliament who is in turn endorsed by a mainstream party (i.e. your party).

Rachel Whetstone
(Former Political Secretary to former Conservative leader, Michael Howard, currently European Head of Communications for Google.)

The bulk of the anonymous attacks on me (i.e. those that police are extremely reluctant to investigate/prosecute because of the potentially needless expense involved) are/were enabled by services owned and controlled by Google, including, YouTube and Gmail, and their search engine’s response to the public side of this smear campaign. While I recognise that Google do not have complete control over my attackers’ choice of provider(s), I do take issue with Rachel’s attitude and conduct regarding this matter:

– Rachel refuses to acknowledge that UK police regard the repeated false claims of paedophilia as a crime (harassment) and subsequently refuses to remove them. She has since referred me to the generic help desk based in the US, and they currently advise me that I can have them removed ‘simply’ by proving a negative (i.e. that I am not a convicted paedophile) in a US court.

– Rachel also cannot or will not explain why, when staff claim to have a turnaround time of 48 hours for removal of sensitive data such as home addresses published in bad faith, why it took over 3 months to remove the data in my case, not just on, but on YouTube as well. Further, she cannot explain why their search database with continue to store and distribute this data long after it has (eventually) been removed from pages under their control.

– After she repeatedly refused to even discuss the detail of either of these matters, I dared to ask Rachel if her position had anything to do with her politics. She immediately took the position that she refused to discuss any of it because I had dared to ask this question. (She’s wasted at Google; get this woman back into politics!)

Rachel also pretends to be entirely ignorant of (and above) much of the detail of this ongoing smear campaign, but Michael Howard’s wife Sandra Howard made a key diary entry on the website that would have been cleared for publication by Rachel Whetstone (assuming she was doing her job properly). This diary entry carried the specific claim that my action of blogging about Anne Milton amounted to “stalking her with a website”, and it named Anne Milton as the source.

OK, so Rachel isn’t currently a Conservative activist or operative in any formal sense, and she stands the best chance of anybody in convincing people that she’s not corrupt, and is instead merely incompetent (a holding position much like that of your former colleague Andy Coulson, as it happens), but she is your wife so I would hope that you might be able to sway her opinion somehow, perhaps with a casual conversation over breakfast, not least because these ongoing smears threaten my safety, the safety of my family and my work with a well-known children’s charity. (Not very ‘Big Society’, now is it?)

If it is not about politics for Rachel and she claims that she is only doing her job, then perhaps you can convince her to get on with that job; she has yet to clarify Google’s position on what they do and do not regard to be legal with respect to their Terms & Conditions of use, and she has yet to explain why it took months in my case to remove content that they claim is normally removed in a couple of days. On the latter point, if it’s a universal problem and not specific to me, then she may need to do a little follow-up work to make sure Google doesn’t become the provider of choice for those engaging in harassment and other forms of bullying.

(10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3….)

As you did previously with ‘Smeargate’, I would expect that you still maintain the position that the Conservative party would not stand for this sort of thing, and the Prime Minister’s office should not stand for this sort of thing.

Further, because I can provide plenty of evidence to support everything I assert in this open letter, I invite you to challenge me on it, or insist that you (finally) take a stand against it.

That, or you can instead take the position that the Conservative party WILL stand for this sort of thing, and the Prime Minister’s office SHOULD stand for this sort of thing. If you do so, I’d appreciate a cogent argument explain why you’re above the conditions of civility you impose on others.

How silly of me; I almost forgot the ‘third way’. Obviously, you may also choose the path taken by so many other Tories before you and insist that you do not have to take a position either way because I am stalking you.

I am wary that you are likely to try this, which is why this public letter is going to be my only letter to you if you choose to be a cloaca about this; after I have made reasonable efforts to ensure that it has reached you, I am going to give you 48 hours to respond, and then we’re done; we will have nothing further to say to each other, because I will know exactly where you stand if you don’t even have the balls to challenge me to produce evidence.

If you fail to respond, then I will know that you intend to stand by the actions of your activists, your MPs, one of your boss’s cabinet members, and your wife, and I shall act accordingly.

Now, now… don’t be judging me by the standards of your fellow Conservatives; I have no intention of embarking on a new career in the dark arts. I will instead be bringing extended periods of light to the party.

This process will begin with the fundraising required to launch one civil action after another against people who cannot possibly hope to substantiate what they have claimed in court. I’ll need to generate publicity for this, which is why I’m so glad that I’ve held some of the chunkiest nuggets in reserve.

If I do not get a satisfactory response from you in 48 hours, I will start going public with everything I am legally entitled to reveal, starting with everything shared with me off the record by Jonathan Lord (oh, and also a damning conversation with Jeremy Hunt, who needs to be especially wary of digital recording equipment given his portfolio).

To be clear; every courtesy I’ve ever extended to Conservatives will go out the fucking window, including confidentiality. I will pause only long enough to side-step those rare Tories who have already taken a public stance against this and I will release every scrap of text, audio and video that I have captured or collected (often secretly) since it became clear to me that Tories would be standing by their own on this for as long as they could keep the details from the media.

With the safety of my family at stake, how can I do less? I’ve played nice for long enough. I even tried backing off once, and that’s when your dirtbag activists took it up a notch.

I cannot stress enough that this would only be the start of a mere fundraising process; not only would I need to make these revelations as entertaining and as engaging as possible in order to raise as much money as possible, but once I raise the funds required to do so, it is my intention to take civil action against one target after another in as public a fashion as possible. And I’ve got letters and email and audio and video that some of these people can’t even begin to guess at.

If I am to be forced to dedicate myself to this shit sandwich your fellow Tories have made for me, I am going to make sure that you and everyone associated with your party is forced to take a big, juicy bite. Nom nom nom nom.

Alternatively, you can simply maintain the position you and your boss David Cameron claim to have held all along; that politicians should invite scrutiny from bloggers like myself, and that there is no place for smears like this in politics.

I sincerely hope to hear from you well within 48 hours so we can settle this matter as cordially as possible soon after that. If this cannot be done, I hope you recognise why I will be pulling out all the stops and dedicating myself to the task of clearing my name while exposing the rot at the core of your party, and I wish you luck in the inevitable attempt to smear me in response, because you are going to need it with the paper trail I’ve got and the fair warning you’ve received.


Tim Ireland

About Tim Ireland

Tim is the sole author of Bloggerheads.
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