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Thursday, March 29, 2007

'Guido Fawkes' (Paul Staines) on Newsnight: Video and Transcript

Paul 'Guido Fawkes' Staines on Newsnight (via Justin):

If you haven't seen it yet, the report filed by 'Guido' that preceded this interview is also now on YouTube (courtesy of Unity).

The following needs to be said before Manic provides a notated transcript:

1. Perhaps now 'Guido' knows how Sion Simon felt after his less-than-flattering appearance on Sky News.

2. 'Guido' is busy publishing (mostly anonymous) comments from an unknown number of acolytes, who are banging on about how aggressive/mean-spirited/unprofessional Michael White was... when the simple fact is that Paul Staines is an attack dog and all White did was hit him over the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.

3. 'Guido' is a twat, came across as a twat, and in doing so made all political bloggers look like twats. The twat.

Now, onto the transcript... all notation is in [brackets]:


Jeremy Paxman: Well, Mr Fawkes joins us now from Westminster, where he's insisted on being in darkness, and we're joined here in the studio by the Guardian journalist Michael White. Michael White, the accusation is that political journalists are too close to the people they report upon to act dispassionately in the interests of the citizen.

Michael White: It's an alright question to ask. It's true of course in all forms of journalism that you have a problem of how you deal with your sources. And some people are very aggressive, and some people are very friendly, and some people are complicit, but all the rules which our... friend Guido Fawkes has just asked [about] apply to sports journalism, to financial journalism, and notoriously so in entertainment journalism, so the issues...

Jeremy Paxman: It doesn't mean the accusation is not true.

Michael White: So the issues are there... but sometimes it's true. We all know people who are very cosy with their sources. You said in the programme that you can get frozen out. Well, you get frozen out, so life goes on. You seem to manage well enough, Jeremy. I'm not altogether convinced... the idea that you, Paxo, is... either a lackey of the establishment or so naive that you're manipulated by...

Jeremy Paxman: Well, this is going to get ludicrously self-regarding, so... but this isn't about... it's not only about the so-called 'Empty Chair'. It's also about the whole perspective from which political reporting comes.

Michael White: Yep, that's right.

Jeremy Paxman: Do you think that he has a point? Do you accept that he may?

Michael White: Sometimes, that happens. But I might say equally, with equal vigour of him... I've never appeared on television with anyone who has appeared anonymously before. I thought I was meant to be the hole-in-the-corner operator, hiding in the shadows, but... of course, sometimes you see it that way, but equally, you see a naive conspiratorial view of the political process and the politicians, which says - in effect - "they're all crooks, and they all ought to be in gaol"... and we will fearlessly expose them on the blogosphere. It isn't like that.

Jeremy Paxman: Mr Fawkes.. for so we must call you, I gather... why do you insist on this preposterous disguise?

'Guido Fawkes': Well, so I can go undercover. I can remember a year ago having a discussion with a senior Guardian journalist who didn't know who I was, having a drink with him a couple of months later, and probably if I bump into Michael next week in a pub, he won't know who I am then.

Michael White: Well, no, I saw you at a lunch once. Everyone else was wearing a tie, and you were wearing a rugby shirt, and somebody said "That's Paul Staines, he's Guido Fawkes"...

'Guido Fawkes': (laughter)

Michael White: ... and I said "Get away! Is it? He looks a bit of a prat" and I know you're not a prat...

Jeremy Paxman: (laughter)

Michael White: ... but you looked a bit of a prat on this occasion. So, next time I see you, unless you've really disguised yourself with a blonde wig, I will recognise you. (waves) Hi!

'Guido Fawkes': Hi, Michael. You're fantastic, but look how you reacted over John Prescott when he was in trouble. You were never off the screen defending him. You were out in the studios...

Michael White: He was being stitched up!

'Guido Fawkes': ... putting his case, making his [inaudible] for him all the time.

Michael White: He was being stitched up by people like you, and if he was such a villain, how come we've [the House of Lords] just voted...

'Guido Fawkes': I didn't stitch him up!

Michael White: ... against a casino being in Manchester. I thought the Prescott conspirators had this casino done and dusted down in Greenwich. Oh, Brown put the tax up on casino gambling again last week. Bit of a failure, your conspiracy theory there, wasn't it?

'Guido Fawkes': Well, I how come it was a showbiz reporter who exposed him for shagging his secretary, not you? You're his friend, you're off having, uh...

Michael White: I'm not...

'Guido Fawkes': ...going to his birthday party, 68th birthday party...

Michael White: I'm not his friend, look...

'Guido Fawkes': ...saying how he looks young for his age.

Michael White: I haven't been to his 68th birthday party, I didn't even know he was 68*. Carrying on like that at 68, eh? Pretty shocking. I don't know what you're talking about, Paul.

[*This claim is contradicted by this article by Michael White dated June 1, 2006, but casual observers should be wary of any claim or suggestion that this incorrect statement - or the article - equates to proof of White attending Prescott's 68th birthday party.]

'Guido Fawkes': Well, you were on [BBC] News24. You said you thought he looked good for his age and you'd been celebrating his 68th birthday party with him. That's when.

Michael White: Did I? I don't...

'Guido Fawkes': Yes.

Michael White: I don't think I did, Paul.

Jeremy Paxman: Do you understand, Mr Staines or Mr Fawkes... that it is slightly more difficult when newspapers, broadcasters have to operate within the constraints of the law... not a problem that applies as far as you're concerned.

'Guido Fawkes': Well that's... I don't know why you say that. I mean, I'm very careful.

Michael White: Well, because you're not worth suing, unlike Private Eye. You haven't got any money, I take it?

'Guido Fawkes': Er, that's for you to know... me to know, and you to wonder. And I am very careful, I mean, as we get close to Lord Levy's trial, I'm very careful of the contempt of court laws, you know... that's the problem that the BBC had.

Michael White: Lord Levy's trial? Who says?

'Guido Fawkes': Well, we'll see.

Michael White: Well, we will see, but you've just said as a statement of fact; "Lord Levy's trial"

'Guido Fawkes': Oh... it's a probability.

Michael White: Oh, you're backing off quite fast here...

Jeremy Paxman: That is the difficulty, isn't it? That... that facts are treated very, very loosely in the blogosphere, aren't they?

'Guido Fawkes': Well, you know, people make mistakes, but if I do make a mistake, my reputation's at risk, and my reputation's pretty good for not making mistakes.


Jeremy Paxman: Well...

Michael White: What...

Jeremy Paxman: Sorry, go on, Michael White.

Michael White: Well...

'Guido Fawkes': I mean the Guardian made me Political Commentator of the Year...

Michael White: Well, the...

'Guido Fawkes': ... 30,000** of their readers thought I was the best political commentator....

[**This is (dare one say it?) a mistake. As can be seen here, over 30,000 users of the Guardian website (not all of whom could be classified as Guardian readers) appear to have voted in this category, but only 33% of them appear to have voted for Staines (i.e. regarded him to be "the best political commentator" out of those nominated). Also, the word 'appear' appears because many nominees, including 'Guido' himself, expressed doubts about the reliability of the voting process. 'Guido' actually asked to be withdrawn from the competition, but didn't appear to have any complaints after winning. (Well, maybe he struggled a bit.) Regardless, 'Guido' has presented an inflated version of figures that he regards to be meaningless to support a somewhat tangential case.]

Michael White: Well, that's terrific...

'Guido Fawkes': Maybe Michael White has a difference of opinion.

Michael White: Well, I do. It's a free country. I'm delighted you got an award. Everybody likes to get an award... but you can be pretty cavalier with the facts sometime. Much of the blog, for people who don't know it, this week is devoted to whether or not Gordon Brown picked his nose during... was it the Budget or some other recent event? That's... should it have been the top item...

Jeremy Paxman: The point about the blogosphere is that it is comment unmediated by people like you [White] and me and Nick Robinson and Adam Boulton and the rest of it... and there's some merit in that, isn't there?

Michael White: Of course there is. The technology allows it. If I make a mistake in the blogosphere, I don't get a letter on green ink from a vicar in Norfolk four days later; somebody comes on and says "You idiot! You're wrong!"... usually in much more abusive terms than that. It's really interesting...

Jeremy Paxman: And very often they're right.

Michael White: Yes, of course they are. That's why I mention it. That's interesting... and the debate can be interesting. It can be violent and sterile and abusive, depends what the issue is. I don't know whether Paul agrees with me. It depends what the issue is under discussion. Sometimes, the blogosphere is a waste of space... just abuse. But sometimes it's brilliant.

Jeremy Paxman: But the distinct... the key thing here is the distinction between comment and reporting has been removed.

Michael White: Oh, it's all comment.

Jeremy Paxman: Yeah.

Michael White: Isn't it? can we agree on that?

Jeremy Paxman: You'd accept that, wouldn't you, Mr Fawkes?

'Guido Fawkes': Well, I break stories quite often... I mean, it's not more than once...

Michael White: Give us a couple.

'Guido Fawkes': ... that I've...

Michael White: Give us a couple.

'Guido Fawkes': Well, the... the whole question of the second email system. I had the lobby... was following me on that for two days.

Michael White: But that... it isn't true.


'Guido Fawkes': Well, it turned out there was... it wasn't an email system, there was a second system for doing documents called Lotus Notes. It was established, that.

Michael White: Well, no, I don't think we have, actually. But that illustrates the difficulty... I think you got that wrong.

'Guido Fawkes': Well, my source for that was Nick Robinson***, so maybe.

Jeremy Paxman: (laughter)

[***This claim has since been retracted by Staines. Robinson's response to the claim and retraction can be read here.]

Michael White: Well, maybe... I mean, Nick Robinson... we all make mistakes, we're agreed on that. Maybe Nick made one. I wonder where he got it from?


Jeremy Paxman: OK, chaps... we'll leave it there. Thank you both very much indeed. (laughter)


Please respond under comments or via email if you find any errors.

Manic has transcribed. End communication.

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Unity said...

White may well have been referring to the vote on the Casino licences in the House of Lords, yesterday, which did go against Manchester (and against casinos in general).

5:17 PM, March 29, 2007  
Guido 2.0 said...

Manic would dare to say that this is definitely what White was talking about.

(Manic was unaware of the vote, because he was neck-deep in bullying scum yesterday.)

Thanks, Unity. Casino notation removed.

5:25 PM, March 29, 2007  
Yog Brother said...

Via Justin?

Yog Brother, man. Yog Brother. Christ, you've outed me.

5:45 PM, March 29, 2007  
Guido 2.0 said...

Gah! Sorry, Yog Brother.

Gordon warned Manic that this would happen if he wasn't caref...*


6:08 PM, March 29, 2007  
Carl Eve said...

I still think Jeremy's line at Paul "Seaman" Staines of "you're living in a pathetic conspiracy world" was absolutely priceless.

I never knew he was so insightful.

As for the discussion afterwards, it showed how piss-poor Paul is as a journalist, chucking out unproven, unsubstantiated, concocted twaddle as fact, and then backtracking when he's called on it.

Frankly, the man had his arse handed to him on a plate - and it was done with such ease by White. Something to be saved on hard drive and savoured...

8:45 PM, March 29, 2007  
Devil's Kitchen said...

Leaving aside Staines, the whole Prescott Casino thing was a bit of an embarrassment for us, no?

Unity did some stirling work on the whole Anschuntz (sp?) thing and I, too, was convinced that it would be Greenwich.



10:31 PM, March 29, 2007  
Guido 2.0 said...

Manic will look up from his work long enough to point out that public knowledge of Prescott's cowboy adventure may have ensured that Greenwich would never happen.

11:03 PM, March 29, 2007  
Gracchi said...

Personally I find Guido a bit boring. The Newsnight performance seemed to symbolise this- he hasn't really got a critique of new Labour as an idea or an ideology- just of the people. His attitude basically is that no matter waht he'll criticise but he isn't willing to discuss any of the systemic issues which might cause the scandals that he purports to find. It always strikes me that the worthwhile sites are ones where I learn something new- on Guido's site everyone just sits in a circle and laughs at somebody else or feels good about themselves because they are all outraged in the same cause. The Newsnight episode just confirmed my feeling about him: given the ammount our media doesn't cover (anyone seen an MSM definition of the theological differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims) focusing on the fact that our negative press isn't negative enough seems a little bizarre.

12:11 AM, March 30, 2007  
Devil's Kitchen said...

DK acknowledges Manic's point, but expresses some surprise that this bunch of bastards gave two shits...


You've put your finger on what it is; I look at Guido's place, but I don't do so on a regular basis. The bloggers that I really enjoy are the ones that write well and link wrongdoing, process and philosophy (political or otherwise), which is why I can appreciate and enjoy such Lefties as Unity and ChickenYoghurt (in addition to my normal libertarian fare).


12:49 AM, March 30, 2007  
Guido 2.0 said...

Oh, come now Gracchi... one doesn't need to know the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims when we can simply trust our elected representatives to... oh.

DK: Manic struggles to believe it sometimes, too... but scrapping a potential Dome rescue is a small sacrifice to make; especially when people have pretty much accepted the Great White Elephant as part of their lives.

1:05 AM, March 30, 2007  
any substance? said...

a lot of puff. and not much substance.
this is the impression i was left with. having observed the rather dark Mr staines....on newsnight.

4:54 PM, March 30, 2007  
leon said...

Dear oh dear Guido got trounced in that exchange. I actually thought the guy could think faster on his feet than that...

6:56 PM, March 30, 2007  

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