Archive for the ‘The Political Weblog Movement’ Category

Posted by Tim Ireland at January 28, 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

The following is the list of questions that I would loved to have issued to CCHQ days ago, had Paul Staines not released his semi-embargoed explanation for this turn of events at 6pm on a Friday evening (in much the same manner as the spin-doctors he claims to loathe):

How long has the Daily Lobby distribution list server been in place?

Who is it designed for? (i.e. who uses it with your permission?)

Who knows about it?

Were you aware before Friday [25/01/07] that anyone who knew the distribution address [] could send emails through your system that appear to come from the Conservative Party?

When will this loophole be fixed?

Has Paul Staines (‘Guido Fawkes’) used this facility before?

Does Paul Staines have your permission to use this facility?

For how long have emails sent through this system had the signature ending “Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 30 Millbank, London, SW1P 4DP” attached prior to forwarding?

What signature, if any, was attached to emails sent through this facility before this?

How many recipients are there for your Daily Lobby distribution list server?

How does one opt in and out of the service?

Who is your most senior Data Protection Officer and are they aware of this list, the loophole and the way it has been hacked exploited?

I’ll let you know if I get any answers.

UPDATE (1pm) – Still no reply from CCHQ, and I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that Iain Dale is equally uninterested. Iain has also called me a liar without proof (again) and declared our conversation closed at that point. And people wonder how he can operate a weblog and avoid scrutiny at the same time…

(Of course, if CCHQ comes back with a series of answers, each more plausible than the next… then I’m sure Iain will become interested in the issue all over again.)

UPDATE (4:30pm) – *Still* no reply from CCHQ. Meanwhile, I learn that the rather telling past of one of the two ‘bloggers’ most fond of screaming “Personal vendetta!” when the spotlight is turned on them has not escaped everyone’s notice..

Yorkshire Ranter – How difficult can it be?: In other random poo-flinging, why the hell has nobody, Newsnight included, picked up on the fact that Paul De L’Aire Staines spent the late 1980s in various ventures supportive of the Afrikaans Nationalist government of South Africa, and therefore has personal reasons to despise Peter Hain? Ignorance is no longer excusable.

UPDATE (29 Jan) – Still no answers, but at least the nice people at CCHQ are talking to *somebody*… – Commons Lobby in Tory security fiasco: It appears that the blogger “Guido Fawkes” discovered how to route emails through the Tory Press Office gateway that is used to file press releases to political journalists. He (she or it) used the route to claim responsibility for Peter Hain’s downfall and explained how he had done it to a political reporter on the Daily Telegraph – who then went on to publish a further email containing material demonstrating what could be done, and how, to the entire world. The results has been a deluge of unsolicited emails from unclear sources, using the same method to hack into the Conservative email gateway. Some, in the spirit of inquiry, have been trying to discover if the security breach is real. Other have used the channel to explore their feelings towards Parliament’s press lobby. A CCO spokeswoman said: “Our IT department is on to it and is changing the settings so nothing more can get through. I am really, really sorry.”

Wow. A Tory used the s-word. This *is* serious.

Posted by Tim Ireland at January 25, 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

A message finds its way to the Telegraph that bigs-up Paul Staines’ role in Hain’s downfall…. and at the end of that email is a bog-standard disclaimer you would normally expect when receiving an email from a representative of the Conservative party:

This email and any attachments to it (the “Email”) are intended for a specific recipient(s) and its contents may be confidential, privileged and/or otherwise protected by law. If you are not the intended recipient or have received this Email in error, please notify the sender immediately by telephone or email, and delete it from your records. You must not disclose, distribute, copy or otherwise use this Email. Please note that email is not a secure form of communication and that the Conservative Party (“the Party”) is not responsible for loss arising from viruses contained in this Email nor any loss arising from its receipt or use. Any opinion expressed in this Email is not necessarily that of the Party and may be personal to the sender.

Join the Party and help us to win –

Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 30 Millbank, London, SW1P 4DP

But was it directly from ‘Guido’? It’s hard to tell by contents alone, as Paul Staines tends to speak of himself his carefree take-’em-all-down character in third-person.

It’s also likely that someone representing the Conservative Party saw it as a victory for their side and forwarded the contents of this post (which is – apart from the signature – the contents of that email word-for-word) and/or a press release.

The Telegraph simply telling us who was in the ‘From’ field would be of enormous help. How about it, fellas?

(As for Paul, he’ll probably want to come up with a better response to the issue than “You nicked my picture!” pretty sharpish or people might think he has something to hide. And yes, in case you’re wondering, I caught the footage of Paul’s bold gun-shy return to Newsnight last night.)

UPDATE – Kevin Maguire @ the Mirror (who also makes a promise of what I think could be the first MSM blogroll-drop) says; “I bet the fat lad’s face is as crimson as those out-sized red trousers he sometimes knocks about in, his laughable eagerness to modestly claim Peter Hain’s scalp backfiring wonderfully. A mutual acquaintance says the boy’s “livid”, complaining the Cons stitched him up. Tee-hee.”

UPDATE (3:20pm) – Also needs to be noted via the Telegraph comments; “What is surprising is that Guido hasn’t referred to this at all on his blog, and no comments have appeared in any of the relevant threads. Guido does have comment moderation on at the moment, mind you. Apart from his monosyllabic non-denial above, he’s been remarkably silent, and he’s normally fairly swift in rebuttals. One wonders whether he is considering his position or genuinely trying to work out how this situation has arisen.”

UPDATE (3:30pm) – The good folks at the Telegraph have answered my question in response to an email I sent them. The header shows the email coming from an address that Guido has used as a ‘contact me’ address on his website, but the label on this address is ‘On Behalf Of Guy Fawkes’. OK, that’s their side of the story filled out to sensible requirements… where’s Paul’s?

UPDATE – OK, here’s Justin… where’s Paul? Still no word of this on his blog… even under comments.

UPDATE (6:15pm) – Paul Staines has, finally (and rather oddly) released a press release to the general public, but ‘hidden’ the text in a graphic and placed an embargo on it. You can read it here.

UPDATE (6:45pm) – Turns out that Paul has called the Telegraph, who have posted the following update (ignoring his odd call for a pseudo-embargo); His story: he “hacked” the Conservative Party press office’s email distribution list in order to email lobby journalists. Nothing more sinister than that, Paul says, sending the email below to demonstrate how the trick works. Paul insists that he’s enjoyed the recent and widespread comment on his antics tremendously (see Kevin, Sam, Bloggerheads et al) , but then asks ever so sweetly if we would please “close the story down for now.” Well Paul, just to prove that the vast, moribund mainstream media conspiracy can be magnanimous sometimes, we’ll leave it there, “for now.” And don’t worry, that comment about your BNP membership card is strictly between you, me and the tape recorder.

UPDATE (7:00pm) – I’ve checked the method for myself, and it works. The (failed) embargo is probably designed to allow the Tories a chance to plug the hole before everybody else starts playing with it.

Posted by Tim Ireland at January 15, 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Here’s a hint for all developers of weblogs; turn off your pings during the dev process if you don’t want to start turning up in Technorati:

Iain's new 'top secret' design

(Actually, checking Technorati for responses to the dev address itself, I notice that this isn’t quite an exclusive… but, hey, that never stopped Iain before.)

As you can see from this screenshot (the original can be seen for a limited time here), Iain plans to introduce and/or display a prominent set of rules (that Iain may or may not follow himself).

Also, last night Iain said the following regarding his status as an ‘expert’:

“I do not portray myself as an expert on blogging. If others think I know a lot about it and invite me to speak to them, it’s hardly a crime is it.”

And yet the new design clearly shows that a primary page is planned to tout his services as a speaker. Presumably so punters may be aided in their accidental arrival at the conclusion that he knows what he’s talking about.

Finally, just before I get back to my SOCPA submission, I’d like to suggest that if Iain Dale is going to continue to enforce a ‘no links to Bloggerheads’ rule, then this rule should be listed along with all the others. Perhaps under the heading ‘Double Secret Probation’…

Posted by Tim Ireland at December 5, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Bloggerheads: The Alisher Usmanov Affair was my temporary online presence during the recent outage at, and later evolved into a dedicated space for criticism of Alisher Usmanov, Schillings and Fasthosts. has just been in touch to say that “has been identified as a potential spam blog”:

It shouldn’t take too long to clear the matter up, as it obviously isn’t a spam blog… but this denial-of-service attack (triggered by a false complaint) is worth mentioning purely because it’s so damn pathetic.

UPDATE – Yes, I know that Fasthosts will be particularly sensitive to criticism this week, and it’s quite possible that they’ve hired one of those pretend-PR companies that specialise mainly in drowning/driving out negative material, but it’s also worth noting that this false complaint was acted upon the day after Bloggerheads: The Alisher Usmanov Affair turned up in Google’s top ten search results for ‘alisher usmanov’ for the first time.

UPDATE (06 Dec) – Matter sorted. Perpetrators mocked.

Posted by Tim Ireland at December 3, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

The Register – Fasthosts customers blindsided by emergency password reset: Fasthosts has announced that “a number” of its customers’* FTP spaces were raided as a result of the major hack that triggered a police investigation last month. It has applied a system-wide reset of thousands of passwords as a result… The firm is sending replacement passwords out via Royal Mail, it says. A Fasthosts statement described the move as a “precautionary measure”. All email passwords that were not changed will also be reset on 9/10 December. We’ve been bombarded by emails from angry webmasters who say no warning was given ahead of the reset, shutting down hundreds of websites.

Say NO to Fasthosts – Merry Christmas from Fasthosts: Fasthosts initiated this on Thursday night, and by all reports have not been able to send out new passwords by post yesterday (Friday). This means many people will not receive their new passwords until at least Tuesday/Wednesday next week. This amounts to a full week of lost business for any online shop or order-taking business hosting on Fasthosts servers. The Customer Service telephone number is permanently engaged, and the technical support lines are offering queuing times of over two hours. (“You are at queue position 54a”)

This latest debacle even rates a mention at the BBC website, and if you check out the Reg article, you will see (so far) a whopping 149 comments!

I’m looking at a copy of the email they sent to their customers right now. How did I get my hands on it? Well, they sent a copy to Clive, who certainly shouldn’t be on their customer database, given that Fasthosts themselves deactivated his account.

The words ‘arse’ and ‘elbow’ spring to mind.

Previously on Bloggerheads:
Fasthosts: a timeline of excellent service
Fasthosts and UKreg: why you should look elsewhere
Yet another reason to avoid Fasthosts like the plague
Fasthosts: I think I may be onto something here…

UPDATE (5 Dec) – The Register – Fasthosts customers still frozen out of websites: Fasthosts has promised it will bring in more support staff to deal with the volume of calls it is still receiving following its poorly-handled password reset on Friday… The system-wide reset was triggered by a hack attack in October. Fasthosts asked customers to change passwords at the time, and said last week that those who did would not be affected by the reset. Many Reg readers say they complied in October, but have been locked out now nevertheless… Customers who haven’t changed all their email passwords will face similar problems when they’re also reset on Sunday.

Posted by Tim Ireland at December 3, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement has now taken action to remove the dirty great loophole in their system that allowed comment contributors on many weblogs to pose as other bloggers – including other users of their own damn system:

Blogger in Draft – New feature: OpenID commenting

It seems a bit of a nuclear option at first, especially as they’ve disabled the link/name facility for *all* users of, but only made the new OpenID system available to those who use (or are vaguely aware of) Blogger in Draft.

But users of who are aware of Blogger in Draft can quickly update their settings to allow OpenID-enabled comments, thereby immediately opening the door to any registered user of OpenID, AOL, LiveJournal, WordPress or TypeKey; these users will then be able to leave a comment using their name/nickname and a link to their main site or profile.

(Using a Technorati profile is somewhat problematic, but it’s early days yet.)

Easy-to-follow instructions can be found here.

UPDATE – Top marks to MatGB, who said nearly a year ago that “Blogger should start supporting OpenID…” (Erm… and that I should as well. A good point, but I’m not feeling terribly confident about MT plug-ins lately. Since the server move forced by Usmanov, the back-end of Bloggerheads has been decidely shaky… and I’m one of the luckier ones.)

Posted by Tim Ireland at November 22, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Ellee Seymour – My PR Diploma: I heard today that I passed my third paper for my CIPR Diploma in Public Relations. I distinguished myself with a Merit on my personal project which focused on MPs who write blogs, and how it relates to two-way communication and PR theory.

UPDATE – For those who came in late.

Posted by Tim Ireland at November 20, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

[Please note that there has been a sudden change in schedule due to circumstances beyond my control. I had my eye on a pretty little redhead today, but instead I’m compelled to write on the further antics of Nadine Dorries… and others.]

Nadine Dorries’ difficulty with blogging began with a personal attack.

Nadine was not at all impressed with the outcome of the Science and Technology Committee’s report on abortion and so, with Bob Spink MP, released her own report.

That report contained a false claim about a Guardian journalist that Nadine refused to withdraw or even discuss… she quickly closed down the comments on her ‘weblog’.

Initially, she claimed that it was merely a time issue. Then a narrative developed where she was claiming that she was refusing all comments because of repeated comments, then abusive comments, then repeated abusive comments and “very weird posts late at night, which frankly scared me.”

It was only a matter of time before someone helpfully filled in the blanks and screamed ‘cyber-stalker’ for her.

(Note – It is not wise to cry ‘wolf’ at the expense of potential victims of genuine cyber-stalking.)

This narrative was further developed when Ellee Seymour sought to use it to her advantage, by suggesting that I was a cyber-stalker.

This narrative was quickly picked up and developed yet further by Dizzy a sock-puppet that just happened to be around while Dizzy was, and then Praguetory. An unknown party fighting this same corner actually went so far as to create an anonymous weblog containing some appalling and deeply personal attacks, basically bringing Nadine’s claims to life in order to ‘support’ her (reported here). [UPDATE – This helpful effort was in fact created by John Hirst as a ‘joke’.]

Now, at some stage during this narrative’s development (right after Ellee’s adventure, to be exact) Alex Hilton went live with a post featuring a screen capture of a mystery Facebook profile and within about half an hour, it was revealed under comments to be the Facebook profile of one of Nadine Dorries’ daughters (with the full name revealed within a day).

[Note – I myself did not see this item until Nadine blogged about it yesterday.]

In an attack on Dorries that would have been well out of order regardless of this, Alex Hilton played the race card by falsely attributing a quote to Dorries’ daughter.

And, even if one disregards the above (and/or wishes to debate the merit of publishing details about Dorries daughters when she’s been doing it herself this past week), let’s face it; if someone is already claiming victim status and you pass them this kind of ammo… you’re not helping.


For pretty much the same reason why a woman should never yell ‘rape’ (and, yes, ‘stalker’) without good cause, a mother should never yell ‘paedophile’ without good cause. It has to do with resonance and responsibility.

Further, one would expect an MP to at least be cautious enough to not stray recklessly into this potentially life-destroying area.

But Nadine Dorries goes off the rails right after addressing the falsely attributed comment when she says this (the highlight is mine):

…the issue is now on it’s way to Simon Smith at Schillings , to ask his advise as to whether or not this matter is libel and actionable.

I suppose one wouldn’t expect anything else from the researcher of a Labour MP. It makes you wonder what kind of MP employs a person who spends his day going through Facebook accounts. Is this done on a Parliamentary computer I wonder? One paid for by the tax payer, in the time he should be working, again, paid by the tax payer?

It is not lost on me that he chose to highlight the Facebook account of my 22 year old daughter. However, has he been through the Facebook accounts of all of my girls? One of them is only 15 – and if he has – there’s a word for people like you Alex.

OK, so she’s justifiably upset.

That, for me, gets her off the hook for that totally unfair partisan generalisation and the assault on Hilton over his alleged/suggested use of taxpayer-funded resources for party political purposes (without a scrap of bloody evidence).

I’m even willing to let her threat to use the firm Schillings go by with nothing but a knowing smirk.

But to imply that someone is a paedophile?!

Even though, technically, that final passage is open to interpretation (the word might be ‘bully’ or ‘arsehole’, for example), the juxtaposition of ages that leads up to the closing statement gives it a pretty damn clear direction.

And even if this is *not* what was intended, I would expect an MP to be wary enough not to publish anything that might be misinterpreted in this way.

And even if that MP were so blind to the bleeding obvious that the above didn’t even occur to them, I would bloody well expect them to be wary of publishing personal outbursts if they were still stinging from a recent one.

And even if they were so blinkered that they’d miss all of *that*, I would *still* expect them to later correct their error by at *least* clarifying a statement like this one when it’s pretty bloody clear how it’s been interpreted.

Admittedly, the Age of Accountability appears to have passed us by, but MPs have been forced to resign over less.

Further class acts include…

Iain seeming less fussed by it and just letting his (mostly anonymous) readers get on with it under comments.

New corporate political gossip blog on the block Westmonster declaring Dale to be the ‘referee’, and basically chanting “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Alex Hilton publishing and not deleting or challenging anonymous comments that air groundless suggestions about the sexual orientation of Dorries’ eldest daughter and this charming comment about her youngest; “I’m gonna wait till the younger daughter is 16…”

David Reeves drops by, followed by (ahem) an anonymous supporter of David Reeves carrying the ‘Mad Nad’ stick.

… which is all very helpful.

Now, did I or did I not make it absolutely clear to readers on numerous occasions (most recently here) that this whole game of comment diddling, sock-puppeting and engaging in personal attacks while claiming to be the victim of personal attacks and/or screaming ‘cyber-stalker’ will eventually lead to someone screaming ‘paedophile’…?

I want a subsection under Godwin’s Law named after me, I do.

And while someone is sorting that out…

Alex Hilton: You need to delete a few of the more insidious or insensitive items from your blog and apologise to Nadine Dorries.

Nadine Dorries: You need to either clarify what you meant by that closing statement in your latest post or withdraw it. Then you can bury any resulting apology to Alex Hilton under your long-overdue apology to Ben Goldacre.

[Note – Those wishing to comment on Nadine’s original article can do so here. Comment moderation has been enabled at the mirror blog for reasons that should be obvious.]

UPDATE (21 Nov) – Iain finally spoke up in his own comment thread late yesterday. Here’s the bulk of what he had to say (timestamps link to individual comments):

Iain Dale said…

Trixy, Sam Farage is an adult. He joined a rival political party. That was a legitimate thing to comment on.

Nadine’s 15 year old daughter is not an adult.

I don’t recall any attack on Leo Blair.

November 20, 2007 3:51 PM

Oluseun said…

Don’t lie…..

Phillipa Storm Dorries is 22 and an adult.

Insinuating that this Blogger is a paedophile……lame!

November 20, 2007 5:40 PM

Iain Dale said…

First of all, nadine did no such thing. Second of all, her youngest daughter is 15, not 22.

November 20, 2007 5:43 PM

Well, there you have it… straight from the horse’s ass.

Iain Dale appears to basing his case on what Nadine says could or might have happened, and not what actually did happen.

It would also appear (and this is *not* a threat or an incitement) that Iain will remain totally selectively blind to the threat of paedo-smears until it happens to him personally.

Posted by Tim Ireland at November 19, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

You’ll want to read this.

Recess Monkey is an idiot for thinking that this was in any way relevant or helpful, but Nadine pretty much calls him a paedophile in her response.

A teeny bit nuclear, isn’t it?

Posted by Tim Ireland at November 19, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Craig Murray – Usmanov Admits Relationship with Gafur Rakhimov: There is another profile of Alisher Usmanov in the Guardian today which gives him an easy ride. But the Guardian also publish on the web the full text of their email interview, which is much more revealing.

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