Posted by Tim Ireland at September 6, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Ladies and gentle-persons, I’d like to begin by asking a question of the bloggers in the audience…

If you were presented with a press release from your party of choice, would you:

a) Ignore it

b) Regurgitate it verbatim on your blog (perhaps with a few extras), giving no sign that the bulk (or all) of your content came from a press release

c) Regurgitate it verbatim on your blog (perhaps with a few extras), with a clear indication that the source is a press release

d) Spend a small amount of time (10 minutes should do it) investigating the content and/or claims within the press release and use your judgement from there

Got your answer? OK, let’s move on to this press release from the Conservatives, the bulk of which is repeated here as a ‘news’ item.

Below is a key passage; please note that it comes direct from the press release and not the ‘news’ item:

Nine different adverts will be placed on fifteen different sites over the next five days. These sites include Facebook, Lycos, daily national newspapers plus many other web distributors. The total number of viewers should be approximately 21 million. Each of the nine adverts outline specific policy ideas and are interactive – clicking on the advert takes you through to

And here’s how that content appeared on Iain Dale’s website:

Nine different banner adverts are being placed on fifteen different sites over the next five days. These sites include Facebook, Lycos, daily national newspapers plus many other web distributors. The total number of viewers is predicted to be 21 million. Each of the nine adverts outline specific policy ideas and are interactive – clicking on the advert takes you through to

And here’s how it appeared on the weblog of Councillor Tony Sharp:

As Iain Dale reports, there will be nine different banner adverts placed on fifteen different sites over the next five days. These sites include Facebook, Lycos, daily national newspapers plus many other web distributors. The total number of viewers is predicted to be 21 million. Each of the nine adverts, similar to the one below, outline specific policy ideas and are interactive – clicking on the advert would take you through to

[Heh. For added entertainment, watch Councillor Sharp describe me as a “Gordon Brown’s sockpuppet” under this very same post.]

Oh, and Tim Montgomerie had this to say:

Nine different ads will appear over the next five days on sites including Facebook, Lycos and national newspaper websites. The nine themes will be…

1) Baa-aa-aaaaaa!

2) Bah, humbug!

This is being billed as “new type of campaigning” and “a totally different approach to campaigning”, when it’s no such thing. FFS, there was laughter in 2001 when people were describing skyscrapers (that’s a tall banner to you and me) as a “new” and “bold” approach to online communication.

There’s nothing new about this.

At the head of this post are scraps of a very similar campaign that Labour ran for their conference in 2004… three years ago.

And in terms of voter engagement, be it via print, television or banner ad, it’s about as impressive and as clever as a used-car salesman who becomes ‘famous’ because of the advertising he pays for.

The BBC, who have to deal with constant bitching from the Tories about bias, will not doubt get some stick for pointing *some* of this out in their treatment of the press release… shame on them for not regurgitating it verbatim!

The Guardian should also expect a hammering for their shameful inclusion of the words “difficult summer”.

Sky News gives it an airing here, adding a veneer of scrutiny… though only the cynical would attribute this soft peddling paddling to Andy Coulson’s ongoing connections with the Murdoch network. You may also note that the item also got an on-air airing on Sky, including vox-pops from… erm… Iain Dale and Tim Montgomerie. (Montgomerie gains extra points for viewing the initiative with a critical eye and – *gasp* – actually acknowledging past online mistakes. Dale follows with some gentler criticism, but please note his determined reinforcement of the message that this somehow proves that the Tories are finally leading the way… at something.)

And, my goodness, just look at the Torygraph daring to undermine the message with this little number (the highlight is mine); “The Tories claimed their internet campaign is the first of its kind by a political party.”

I hate to be difficult and interrupt the narrative, but we’ve been hearing a lot from Tory bloggers about how mainstream media is letting us down, and how MSM representatives are far too cosy with the powers that be. Tory bloggers will constantly assure readers that, for the hard facts without spin, you should first turn to a (Conservative) weblog… and yet, in this instance, the only parties party to parroting party propaganda are… Tory bloggers.

Pathetic, isn’t it?

They’ll be claiming to have stolen the march on Stalin next.

[Psst! I’d like to clear up something about this that may confuse you… The Tories plainly have a willing network of mindless ‘bloggers’ who will spout any old nonsense fed to them, so why spend all this money on banners? Quite simply, it’s because the Conservatives’ “new” and “totally different” approach to blogging clearly isn’t as far-reaching and is influential as they make it out to be… no matter how many of them pretend to be several different people and/or representatives of other parties.]

Posted by Tim Ireland at September 5, 2007

Category: Rupert 'The Evil One' Murdoch

I’ll repeat what I said here; I fear Rebekah Wade’s days are numbered…

Media Guardian – Sun slashes price in south-east
Media Guardian – Sun battles to stay above 3m
Brand Republic – The Sun turns to street sales to boost circulation

The Guardian: Roy Grenslade – Read all about it! Desperate Sun takes to the streets: My own feeling is that this smacks of desperation. Rupert Murdoch has sanctioned the idea, despite the huge losses involved, because he can’t face The Sun’s sale falling below 3m. The price cut, and the use of vendors, is sure to improve circulation in the short term. Likely result? Further downward pressure on the sales of the Daily Star and Daily Mirror. And long term? An upward blip for The Sun before it resumes its former decline once the price is raised yet again.

My advice to Charlie Brooks; if you want her to remain gainfully employed for a few more months, don’t do anything to aggravate her!

Posted by Tim Ireland at September 5, 2007

Category: It's War! It's Legal! It's Lovely!

Well, the summer holidays are over, which means that the majority of MPs will now crawl, blinking and endearingly needy, to the surface.

Speak of the devil, here’s that updated reply to my letter of July 24 regarding the plight of Iraqi interpreters and similar support staff:

Dear Mr Ireland*,

Further to my last letter, I have received the enclosed reply from the Home Office about the plight of the Iraqi interpreters.

The Government has commissioned a review of their policy towards the interpreters; the Home Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence are
the members of the review group. The review will present its recommendations to Ministers in late September.

The Government are not prepared to pre-empt the review group at this stage.

Best wishes

Anne Milton
(28 August)

*Mr Ireland? Whatever happened to the chummy use of my first name? To add insult to injury, Ms Milton gets firsties from Tom McNulty on behalf of Meg Hillier @ the Home Office, who had this to say:

Dear Anne,

Thank you for your letter to Liam Byrne of 24 July enclosing an e-mail from Mr Tim Ireland who asks us to grant asylum in the United Kingdom to locally engaged staff who have helped the British Forces in Iraq. I have been asked to reply.

We are extremely grateful for the service of locally employed staff in Iraq and take their security very seriously. We recognise that there are concerns about the safety of locally employed staff. We keep all such issues under review and we will now look again at the assistance we provide. The total number of Iraqis who have worked for us since 2003 with a claim to assistance could be at least 15,000. We therefore need to consider the options carefully in this genuinely complex area.

The Prime Minister has commissioned a trilateral Ministerial review to consider the options. The Home Office, Ministry of Defence and Foreign & Commonwealth Office are the members of the review group, which will present recommendations to Ministers in late September. At this stage it would not be appropriate to pre-empt the recommendations. I hope this reassures you that we are taking seriously the issues that have been raised surrounding locally employed staff working for the UK in Iraq.

pp Meg Hillier
(22 August)


I’m not sure how I feel about being lectured on how complex this issue is after years of having this shit shovelled in my face.

What’s that, you say? Matters past? Only in America?

Sorry, but as Garry points out, they’re still shovelling with gusto here in the UK.

This letter is further steaming evidence of it. Looking beyond the Big Scary Number (been there) to the crux of the letter; they feel it to be inappropriate to pre-empt recommendations that should have been made and considered long before a major military withdrawal.

I really hope I’m wrong, but I fear Basra has just enjoyed, or is about to enjoy, a Night of the Long Drill Bits.

(PS – I am genuinely disappointed that Bush hasn’t joined in with the Basra-related Brown-bashing; I had a nifty strapline ready to roll should Karl Rove’s replacement find himself struggling for something suitably banal for the surge-hungry; “You don’t back down after a crack-down!”)

If you would like to help with the Iraqi employees campaign, try the following list (nabbed and adapted from Justin):

– Watch and share the video.
Write to your MP. Ask them to refer your concerns to the Home Office, Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence.
– Blog your letter and the response(s) and let Justin know about it.
– Join the list of supporters.
– If you think your MP might be sympathetic, visit their constituency surgery, explain the matter of the Iraqi employees, and ask if your MP would be willing to co-sponsor the meeting at Portcullis House in October.
– Spread the word via one of Unity’s lovely blog banners
– Keep up with latest on the Iraqi employees’ plight with Google News Alerts.
Sign the petition.

Posted by Tim Ireland at August 30, 2007

Category: The War on Stupid


Now if all Ken wanted to do was sanitise Parliament Square ahead of Mandela’s visit, why did none of these major media names report that at the time? Only Indymedia had it. Was Ken keen to keep it low-key simply to avoid hearing the word ‘irony’ on a repeated basis for a fortnight? Or did the mainstream chappies decide that that this was irrelevant? Or a bit too feral, perhaps…?

And look at all these people trampling on Ken’s precious grass! I hope none of them pissed in the bushes, or there’ll be hell to pay.

(Here’s the first photo report from Indymedia; you may want to keep an eye out for more.)

UPDATE – Yup… here you go; it even contains some i-word goodness.

Posted by Tim Ireland at August 27, 2007

Category: The War on Stupid

– Bid farewell to Brenda, raiser of tough birds.

Septicisle on Jeremy Paxman’s comments on the media and the death of Rhy Jones. Long, but worth it. Via CuriousHamster, who also has this small concern about the impact of media on the investigation.

“Excuse me sir, could you please tell me why you’re watching these children?” (via)

– If any Daily Mail readers are thinking of leaving the country; please, don’t let me stop you… but at least have the good taste not to continue to bitch about British politics from your new bolthole.

Media Watch Watch agrees with Stephen Green shock.

Peter Gasston discovers an unfortunate product name.

Dizzy is at it again. And again. If Bob and Unity play their cards right, they may get a personal video scolding. (Psst! An interesting fact: the police have warned Dizzy about making sweeping generalisations.)

Davblog discovers the Christian religion defined on a t-shirt.

– And, finally, the Daily Show continues in its epic struggle to explain American foreign policy to the masses (via):

– Well, almost finally. You can see the Cheney/quagmire position of old in detail, right here – and the expected response to it (finally) being aired is given a little look-see here.

Posted by Tim Ireland at August 26, 2007

Category: Teh Interwebs

AP – Finnish Boy Fined for YouTube Video: HELSINKI, Finland – A 15-year-old schoolboy was fined Friday for posting a video on YouTube showing a karaoke performance of his teacher and for claiming she was a lunatic.

And by the looks of it, more for the latter than the former.

The relevant Fark thread brings us bad singing of the fun and excruciating kind and reminds me of the joys of rickrolling, the gift that just keeps on giving.

(Fresh rickrolls involving varying levels of effort are still turning up. Even the spammers haven’t killed it. Oh, and this fad has a lot in common with the whole goaste thing, so I’d just like to say congratulations to Pete Waterman for creating the PG version of a man’s gaping anus. )

Posted by Tim Ireland at August 24, 2007

Category: It's War! It's Legal! It's Lovely!

Alternet – Flush with Profits from the Iraq War, Military Contractors See a World of Business Opportunities: If you think the U.S. has only 160,000 troops in Iraq, think again. With almost no congressional oversight and even less public awareness, the Bush administration has more than doubled the size of the U.S. occupation through the use of private war companies. There are now almost 200,000 private “contractors” deployed in Iraq by Washington. This means that U.S. military forces in Iraq are now outsized by a coalition of billing corporations whose actions go largely unmonitored and whose crimes are virtually unpunished… The single largest U.S. contract for private security in Iraq was a $293 million payment to the British firm Aegis Defence Services, headed by retired British Lt. Col. Tim Spicer, who has been dogged by accusations that he is a mercenary because of his private involvement in African conflicts. The Texas-based DynCorp International has been another big winner, with more than $1 billion in contracts to provide personnel to train Iraqi police forces, while Blackwater USA has won $750 million in State Department contracts alone for “diplomatic security.” At present, an American or a British Special Forces veteran working for a private security company in Iraq can make $650 a day. At times the rate has reached $1,000 a day; the pay dwarfs many times over that of active duty troops operating in the war zone wearing a U.S. or U.K. flag on their shoulder instead of a corporate logo.

I bet they’ve got a better health plan, too.

Posted by Tim Ireland at August 24, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Finally, Holy Moly coughs up something interesting (the highlight is mine):

You may have read the article last week, Blur star’s stalker hell, in which a woman was cautioned by police for stalking Graham Coxon of Blur fame.

The paper states that Sue Ellingham became “crazed” after “failing to land him”.


We are hearing what really happened was that Graham met her through his website forum, after he had split up from his wife and kicked booze and drugs. He scuttled her several times as part of a casual relationship.

Slowly he began to realise what “casual” meant on her terms. In a bid to remain close to Graham she invented a persona on the forum to stalk and harrass Graham and herself. By sharing a “stalker”, she hoped her and Graham would be drawn together. Here’s an example her invented persona was posting on the forum, directed at herself in order to win sympathy from Coxon and other forum members:

YOU VACANT BITCH! You know very well i would be kinder if you would give me the information I want. But you are such a stupid pathetic excuse for a female. You fucked Graham Coxon and then he fucked you over. It is what he does to women. Yet you still lick his arse instead of kicking it like he deserves. So many women on this board he has fucked over and you stand by him. I shouldn’t use the word women – most of you are only girls. He lures the innocent in with kind words and flirtations. Then he fucks them over. And you all worship him. Oooh, Graham Coxon, you’re so great and i love you. He is a predator ladies. And you stupid fat cow, *** – you know this yet you do nothing to help expose him. You are a fucking idiot. It could have been so simple. But you wouldn’t co-opperate. and everyone is glad you are gone. You are too fucking stupid to even figure out who I am. The both of you. You and Graham should go fuck some more and procreate and populate the world with really fucking stupid children.

It didn’t stop there. She pretended the ‘stalker’ was following them both. She got someone to take photos of herself and Graham on the street and posted them.

Poor Graham didn’t know what had hit him.

To top it all off, she drove to Graham’s Kent farmhouse/studio and caused criminal damage with some highly graphic graffiti. Graham finally went to the police and she got a caution for criminal damage and harassment.

We ask how she got away with just a caution and how she has managed to retain her job, in which she holds a position of responsibility?

But allowing widespread sock-puppetry is just shits and giggles, yeah? A largely harmless activity from which political advantage can be gained from time to time. No harm can come from maintaining a website that allows multiple personas and wholesale abuse, right? I mean, it’s not like Iain Dale would allow the repeated publication of incitement to murder on his website or anything like that, is it?

Posted by Tim Ireland at August 24, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Quite often you’ll see some of these new(ish) Tory bloggers flapping their lips about how the right dominates the blogosphere, and that’s because they have the most interesting things to say, and Labour can’t hope to challenge them in an open and honest arena, blah blah blah.

Well, it’s bollocks; there are civilised and sensible Tory bloggers around, but there’s also a bunch of cheats that misrepresent the opposition’s position, let fly with the most outrageous (and all-too-predictable) abuse, manipulate comments and/or retro-moderate with shameless abandon… oh, and typically they also make good use of multiple personalities… presumably so they may better represent that silent majority we keep hearing about.

But, of course, if anyone from Labour or the Lib Dems tries anything like this (or appears to) this same crowd will jump up and down and stamp their little feet and demand that action be taken.

Because they’re cheats *and* hypocrites.

The best example of this is Iain Dale trying to feed the public the line that Grant Shapps was hacked and then having the audacity to complain about suspected sock-puppetry from Ken Livingstone, but there are many, many others; Dale in particular has a very bad habit of condemning sock-puppetry and/or abuse consistently only when he suspects that it’s being used against him and it’s a pattern that many newbies who learn at his feet follow.

Now, currently (but probably not for much longer) we have a very good chance of sorting a little issue for ourselves; identifying the dipshit who saw fit to impersonate the MP Norman Lamb on Facebook.

But so far, all we’ve heard from Iain Dale is “I didn’t do it!” (Not that I expected any better; The Shapps affair showed that when it comes to sock-puppetry, Dale will choose party ahead of principle.)

Hell, there are several clear indications that whoever did this is a strong supporter of Trevor Ivory, but there’s no mention of this affair at all on Trevor’s website; I’d be expecting a “Sock-puppeting is bad kids, m’kay?” message at least… perhaps even a dose of “Whoever is doing this… you’re not helping!”

Why aren’t Tory bloggers like Iain Dale helping to look for the person responsible? They stand to do the most good, as they’re the ones most likely to have received an email or comment from the culprit under their own name or main ID, but still using the IP address

Sock-puppeting is wrong, right? Or is it only wrong when ‘Nu Labour’ do it?

If you’re not going to take a stand against sock-puppets, you lose the right to bitch about them when they turn up on your website and/or start impersonating you.

Posted by Tim Ireland at August 24, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Marketing Week – Tory rebels under fire over ‘happy slapping’ viral ads: The campaign, created by viral production house Asa Bailey, uses real mobile footage to “demonstrate the darker sides of life in modern Britain” under Labour. Asa Bailey, founder of his eponymous firm, says: “Conservative backbench MPs commissioned the campaign, but I cannot identify them.”… The two virals are the first in a series of films that will be seeded over the Net in coming months and will be supported by a television ad campaign in the north of England once a prospective General Election has been called.

1. Real mobile footage? Perhaps, but it’s borrowed. The first video bears a bloody website watermark, and thanks to Rachel, I can do this with the second:

Footage of the girl pole-dancing from this ‘campaign’ video can also be seen here, here and here.

2. Conservative backbench MPs commissioned the campaign? As much as I’d like to believe that, I seriously doubt it. For one thing…

3. A television ad campaign? There’s a ban on paid political television advertising in this country. Is he suggesting that the Conservatives are going to waste their party-political broadcast recycling Teh Interwebs Funniest Home Videos, or are we dealing with someone who knows their patter better than their politics?

I call ‘shenanigans’. Again.

(Though I’m happy to be proved wrong. What harm can it do to let the world know that there are people in the Conservative party who are dumber than this?)

Regardless of its official status, this is merely existing material with political slogans slapped onto the end. Even if the 125,657 views in 4 days were an authentic reflection of interest (I suspect some YouTube gaming and/or whoring is going on) it’s interest in someone else’s material, and it’s as likely a pathway to sensible debate as Numa Numa.

Speaking of ‘debate’, you’ll love this; here, YouTube user gratex makes an observation about the recycled nature of the clip and hangs an anti-Tory rant on that same hook.

The response from Asa Bailey under comments (via SexyBritain, one of many YouTube profiles created for this exercise) reads as follows:

Respect! Good points intelligent response, thank you, this starts the video debate. Again big respect.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pull up to a stop right there before I stab something. Repeatedly. In the eyes.

Related bloggage:
Liberal Democrat Voice – How not to campaign on YouTube
Chris K – SexyBritain: Tory viral marketing… or nothing of the sort?

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