Posted by Tim Ireland at August 7, 2008

Category: Anne Milton, The Political Weblog Movement, Tories! Tories! Tories!

Those of you who contribute regularly under comments will be aware of Scotch.

Scotch lives in my constituency. We first encountered each other when Scotch was looking for more information on Anne Milton. We became friends, and one of the reasons we became friends is that we share similar values.

For example, if we ever discuss a comment thread privately, Scotch will feel that he is unable to contribute to the thread from that point on unless he can reveal the relevant details of our private conversation.

Unlike members* of Iain Dale’s Flying Monkey Squadron, Scotch is not a man to be coerced, instructed, nudge-winked or otherwise manipulated into speaking on my behalf. Ever.

[*A quick ‘hello’ to Flight Lieutenant Phil Hendren, who Iain accidentally CCed on one of our private conversations when he meant to issue a BCC instead. Sometimes, when it suits him – Phil insists that it is irrelevant where information comes from if it is pertinent.]

And that’s just one reason why I found Iain’s response to a fair question from Scotch yesterday afternoon to be nothing short of appalling.

The comments appear here, under Iain Dale’s widely-publicised position on Ian Oakley’s actions in Watford.

The problem with Iain’s position is best summed up in this extract from a comment of mine that The Spectator refused to publish under this entry: “Iain Dale is a hypocrite who has in the past turned a blind eye to some appalling harassment by Tory supporters, candidates and activists (some of it on his own website).”

Scotch was equally unimpressed, and decided to bring up the most jarring example of Iain turning a blind eye when it suits him:

scotch said…

Iain, hi. Where is your disapproval of a homophobic hate site against a local government candidate, of which you are well aware? I can’t seem to find it.

August 06, 2008 1:10 PM

What Scotch is referring to is the incident in Guildford where Mike Chambers and Dennis Paul, two Conservative activists/candidates and close associates of Conservative MP Anne Milton, took it upon themselves to create, build upon and promote an anonymous website that claimed one of their political opponents was a paedophile (summary)… and put alongside this claim the man’s name, a photo and details of his whereabouts.

I produced evidence clearly linking Mike Chambers directly to authorship of that anonymous website, but both Iain Dale and Paul Staines refused to blog the item or even condemn the action.

At this stage, the entire affair could and would have been nipped in the bud had a few Tory bloggers stood up and said that this was unacceptable behaviour, but Iain Dale and Paul Staines shut the gate on that one.

Even at that early stage Dennis Paul was bragging that he was a contributor to Paul Staines’ site, and since then at least one anonymous commenter keeps popping up every time Iain Dale thinks I deserve a kicking to say how mean and awful I was to poor Anne Milton. Iain Dale has recently taken to repeating this line himself. Repeatedly.

I mention all of this to point out the hole that Iain has dug for himself; he now cannot afford to condemn the actions taken by Anne Milton’s activists without blowing a dirty great hole in his claims that I stalk and harass Tories for no good reason.

Now onto Iain’s response to this tricky question…

Iain Dale said…

Scotch, or should I more correctly address you in your usual capacity as Tim Ireland’s bitch?

I condemn homophobic attacks on anyone, whereever they occur. Funny that, isn’t it?

What I don’t do, unlike you, is jump to the tune of Tim Ireland.

August 06, 2008 3:02 PM

Appalling, isn’t it?

Also, note Iain’s claims to condemn homophobic attacks “on anyone, whereever [sic] they occur”.

This is a lie… and Iain actually goes on to provide his justification for NOT doing so over the Guildford incident.

And even the justification is a lie. If Iain truly condemns homophobic attacks “on anyone, whereever [sic] they occur”, then it’s not my tune he was asked to jump to over the Guildford matter, but his own.

Is Iain seriously telling us that he will abandon his stance against homophobia if I ask him to stand by it?

As for the insulting way that Iain dismissed Scotch’s input, this runs counter to Iain’s own rules. Will Iain be banning** himself from his own website now?

[**Which leads to yet another lie. Anyone reading this prominent page might somehow get the impression that I was banned from Iain’s website for being sweary and abusive. I was not. Iain himself says here that I was banned for insisting that he “obey [my] rules and dikats”… but even this is a lie. I actually requested and suggested that he follow his own damn rules, not mine.]

[Psst! For those who missed it; video evidence of Mike Chambers’ homophobia.]

UPDATE (3pm) – Iain is being less-than-honest about this issue. Again.

“Am I supposed to blog about every single thing in British politics? …. I condemn ALL hompohobic [sic] attacks. The word ALL is important here.” – Iain Dale (source)

[Psst! If you feel so strongly about it, Iain… learn how to spell it.]

More than once the ‘Jonesy’ blog created by Tory activists/candidates in Guildford equated homosexuality with paedophilia… e.g. “Mr X admits to being gay, therefore (the claim that he is a paedophile) must be true!”

Now I ask you to cast your mind back to a different incident involving different players…

Most bloggers who were around at the time recall Paul ‘Guido Fawkes’ Staines (and to a slightly lesser extent Alex Hilton) equating homosexuality with paedophilia when claiming to have outed Mark Oaten ahead of the tabloids. It caused quite a stir at the time.

Here’s a timeline of events for those who missed the action.

And here are some bloggers from across the political spectrum, united in their position that one cannot equate homosexuality with paedophilia. I’ll stick with bloggers who are still with us, just to keep it neat:

I condemned it. Twice.

It was condemned at Blood & Treasure.

Devil’s Kitchen pulls up short of condemnation here, but only just.

Nosemonkey condemned it.

Justin condemned it.

Iain Dale did NOT condemn it.

Well, if he did, he was very, very quiet about it. He certainly didn’t mention it and blog the controversy around it on his website.

And yet he found the time to blog about Mark Oaten quite a lot during that month, and even had time for a positive link to the podcast a few days after it had been so widely criticised.

Now, why do you think that is?

And now, apropos of nothing, here’s a photo of Iain Dale and Paul Staines enjoying a friendly drink the week before the Oaten incident.

“I condemn ALL hompohobic [sic] attacks. The word ALL is important here.” – Iain Dale


Posted by Tim Ireland at August 5, 2008

Category: Tories! Tories! Tories!

BBC – Ex-Tory admits harassment charges: A former Tory candidate has pleaded guilty to a campaign of harassment against his Liberal Democrat rivals. Ian Oakley, who stood down as the Tory candidate in Watford last month, admitted five charges of criminal damage and two of harassment. Oakley, of Ryeland Close, West Drayton, Middlesex, asked for 68 other offences to be taken into account… He slashed tyres and wrecked shutters at the Liberal Democrat headquarters in the town. He made silent phone calls to Ms Brinton between August 2006 and March this year, and sent her gay and lesbian magazines, the court was told. Letters addressed to “Sal Bitchton” were also sent to her workplace. Oakley’s campaign against Mr Willson was mounted from February to May this year and included painting graffiti on his home, calling him a “perv”. He also sent letters to him and his backers wrongly accusing Mr Willson of being a “child abuser”. Donna Rayner, prosecuting, said Oakley had been driven by a “desire to change the political landscape in Watford”.

I’ve personally witnessed and experienced parallels to all of the above, minus the property damage, from a range of Tories. Most of them will show some extraordinary front when denying what they’ve been up to… and then claim that what they did was somehow right/justified when they get caught red-handed. The pattern is depressingly predictable.

Is there a Tory textbook somewhere that teaches them how to do all of this… and to constantly claim (without a shred of evidence to back it up) that Labour/Lib-Dem activists are up to the same or worse?

UPDATE – More details are available via Lib Dem Voice and The Times.

UPDATE – Iain Dale is doing a pretty convincing show of hand-wringing considering some of the behaviour he tolerates from fellow Tories *not* being slammed in the national press, his close mates, and just about anyone who wants to anonymously slag off or threaten people he doesn’t like.

UPDATE (6 Aug) – Liberal Democrats – Cameron must investigate vile campaign of criminal damage: Following the arrest of Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Watford, Ian Oakley, and his guilty plea today on five charges of criminal damage and two charges of harassment, Liberal Democrat Chair of Campaigns and Communications, Edward Davey has written to David Cameron demanding that he holds an urgent inquiry into the procedures and activities of Watford Conservative Party.

Too bloody right. Hands up anyone who seriously thinks that all of this went on without a single warning signal reaching CCHQ:

The Times – Slashed tyres and poison pen letters: how Ian Oakley bullied rivals: By the time he was arrested last month he had committed 75 offences of criminal damage, harassment and malicious communication against his Liberal Democrat opponents in Watford… Watford Lib Dems said that the anonymous vandalism and intimidation began in the months before the 2005 general election, when Oakley was the Conservatives’ campaign manager in the constituency.

UPDATE – Meanwhile, Ian Oakley appears to think that people like him should be kept off the streets.

UPDATE – And here’s a picture, boys and girls….

Posted by Tim Ireland at August 4, 2008

Category: The War on Stupid

Justin is quite busy at the moment doing marvellous work for Greenpeace, but I’m sure he’ll have time for a brief jump for joy over this:

Wired Blogs – ‘Get Your War On’ Gets Its Video On
Raw Story – ‘Get Your War On’ gets its cartoon on

++++ alert ++++ alert ++++ preparing for “‘get your war on‘ gets its ___ on” trifecta ++++

Comedy Central – Get Your War On: Watch List



Oh well. Enjoy the first episode anyway. It’s only better than you might dare to imagine:

1. Supporting Dave Walker:

Unity – J Mark Brewer revisited (updated): It seems that while Brewer’s up for bullying Christian cartoonists and members of the clergy, when it comes to taking on a big bad atheist blogger with a penchant for digging into the detail, like yours truly, he seems to be altogether lacking in intestinal fortitude.

Well, there’s a shock.

If you’d like to learn more and maybe blog something yourself, start here.

2. ‘Sun Watch’ Project:

Catching up with more of our editors today and tomorrow. In the meantime, here are two Sun-related items for you:

Mark Pack – A case of media bias? The Sun, MySpace and Facebook: So, that would be 14 positive stories about MySpace compared to 1 negative. A bit different from the 2 positive against 13 negative stories about Facebook…

Septicisle – Weekend links: The Scum, despite the complete lack of evidence is continuing to keep up the pretence that Barry George is guilty of the Jill Dando murder…

3. New Google gadgetry:

Google has started offering their site-specific search feature under the main search result for some newspapers. Nifty.

4. Long waits:

Still no word regarding my membership application for the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics. Can’t imagine what’s keeping them.

5. Fascinating and a bit scary:

Britain from Above looks awesome. Guess where I’ll be Sunday 10 August at 9pm. (No, don’t check the spy satellite… I said guess where I’ll be Sunday 10 August at 9pm.)

6. Optical illusions:

Best car park signage ever. (via)

Posted by Tim Ireland at August 1, 2008

Category: Teh Interwebs

Via Matt:

Sean Tevis – Running for Office: It’s Like A Flamewar with a Forum Troll, but with an Eventual Winner

A great story, well told. I wish I could give him money.

Posted by Tim Ireland at August 1, 2008

Category: Old Media

Daily Mail – Pictured: The moment a man punched a girl off her feet during a Facebook water fight: This is the moment a girl was punched off her feet during a water fight in a park in which nine people were arrested.

No it’s not. This is the moment a girl had her hair pulled by the one guy in this series of pictures who isn’t carrying a container of liquid or a water pistol.

Seriously, look at the picture. Her head is most likely going backwards because he’s wrestling with her, not because he’s punching her. She certainly isn’t shown being “lifted completely off her feet” by a punch.

Also take a look at the awkward grip she has on that heavy, un-lidded bottle full of liquid… which she managed to keep a firm hold of most of the way down (if not all the way down) to the ground. I’d like to see anyone keep a grip like that during a proper clocking, I don’t care how fond they are of their bottle of red pop.

Take a look at a taller version of this picture, and the most likely scenario that presents itself is this idiot pulling her hair/head down as he swings his left leg under her feet. Take a look at the wide shot and you may notice some remarkably calm faces watching what is supposed to be the middle of an almighty swing at their friend. (Oh, and some picnickers who appear to be unaware that a ‘riot’ is in progress.)

I am not seeing a lot to suggest that this sensitive flower landed the woman with a Popeye-style punch that knocked her clear off her feet and onto her arse, causing her to see little cartoon birdies flying around her head.

But I suppose the truth doesn’t matter if you have a tabloid to shift.

Other possible embellishments include accounts of spooked horses and griglets with bones that may or may not be broken, definitions of the event as an all-out riot, and what I suspect to be the biggest whopper of all…

The Sun – Facebook party turns violent: This shocking snap of a girl getting punched in the face shows the moment a Facebook water fight party descended into chaos. The Hyde Park event got out of hand as youths ran amok, threatening the public and flashing knives, causing the cops to steam in and make nine arrests.

And yet, strangely, no-one was arrested for a knife-related crime and, so far, the police have not reported finding weapons (other than water pistols) at the scene.

I think the BBC strays closer to the truth of the matter here..

BBC – Nine held after park water fight: Reports then came into police that some people involved had been seen with knives.

Tellingly, the Daily Mail manages to work Princess Di into the second paragraph and The Sun, a News International newspaper, leans towards its usual position of laying as much blame as possible at the feet of Facebook; the main commercial rival to Murdoch-owned MySpace.

Most of this story appears to be biased and alarmist claptrap based (very) loosely on the official police version of events and the accounts of two unnamed witnesses.

If you know anyone who was actually present at this event, please do get in touch.

Maybe now that the weather has cooled some, the truth might be encouraged to put its damn pants on.

Posted by Tim Ireland at July 31, 2008

Category: Rupert 'The Evil One' Murdoch

For regulars: Septicisle’s first post for The Sun: Tabloid Lies.

For our growing line-up of contributors: Septicisle’s intro post. Please read it, and start thinking about your own. I’ll be catching up with more of you tomorrow and on Monday.

Cheers all.

Posted by Tim Ireland at July 31, 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Independent – Pandora: Tory press office in a spin over poll fix: To coincide with Cameron’s holiday in Padstow, the Western Morning News ran an online poll this week to find out whether locals thought Cameron would make a good Prime Minister. With the poll going heavily against him, a zealous staffer decided to try and shore up some support… To spare his blushes, I shan’t reveal the press officer’s name, but his colleagues aren’t best pleased with him. “It was an over-enthusiastic response from a member of staff,” says a party spokesperson when I call. “It is not something that the party would condone at all.”

The Pandora peeps are going needlessly easy on this nitwit; he was outed by another newspaper two days ago:

The Times – Tories rig local newspaper poll?

—–Original Message—–
From: Sandes, Duncan []
Sent: 29 July 2008 13:59
To: [76 Tory constituency and councillor e-mail addresses across the South West];

Subject: WMN poll – please vote

dear all,
the Western Morning News is running an online poll to coincide with
David Cameroin’s visit to Cornwall, asking if he would make a good
the bad news is that, as it stands, 76 per cent have said “no”.
the good news is only 230-odd people have voted.
so, if you can spare 2 minutes can you please go on and register your
vote for “yes” – it shouldnt take too long to change the percentage
if you follow this link:
and look for the large blue box to the centre right of the screen.
can you also please pass this on to all helpers, campaigner,s members
you can think of so we can push the percentage the right way.

many thanks,


Duncan Sandes

Conservative regional press officer – South West

1. Pay particular attention to his desire to ‘correct’ the poll so that it goes the ‘right’ way. He’s not doing anything wrong; he’s merely ‘righting’ a wrong!

2. Take a look at the comments under that story (and perhaps over at Bob Piper’s) and look for someone called ‘Simon’ (or ‘Richard’ or ‘Jim’ or ‘Laura’ or ‘Betty’ or ‘Archie’ or ‘ Veronica’ or…) who thinks it’s very important that he/she tell as many people as possible (as often as possible) how dull this story is and that everybopdy else is at it, too.

3. Note also under comments that only Justin (here, over at Bob’s) provides an example of someone other than the Tories doing anything like this. I’ve noticed many Tory bloggers and comment contributors making similar noises and playing this same game; they claim that the opposition is up to no good or guilty of equal/greater sins than the one they’ve just been caught at, but they never seem to come up with any evidence. Here, once more, I’ll happily show them how it’s done:

Other examples of Tory diddles and fixes include the sad tale of Grant Shapps, who, as Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party “with responsibility for campaigning”, unsuccessfully posed as a disheartened Liberal Democrat during the Ealing Southall by-election. Iain Dale, the only blogger who appeared to believe Grant Shapps’ story (that ‘someone’ accessed his YouTube account after guessing his password; ‘1234’), is himself no stranger to poll-rigging, and was recently caught red-handed inflating/misrepresenting his traffic figures (to this day he refuses to admit that he got caught cheating despite clear evidence to the contrary). It’s also definitely worth mentioning this similar example in Guildford; where some of the massive diddling of an online poll about the local council’s actions was traced back to a Tory member of the local council*. That senior councillor’s position was that he merely (and quite reasonably, in his view) “registered two votes to what I thought was a flawed poll”.

Now pop back up to #1 quickly, before we move on…

[*Psst! The since-censored list of recipients of Sandes’ email includes many Tory councillors.]

4. That local newspaper has reported this matter, but the report (an afterthought chucked in at the bottom of an unrelated article) is missing one vital detail:

Western Morning News – EXCLUSIVE: Cameron pledge on water bills: The Tories were last night accused of trying to influence an opinion poll on the WMN website. For two weeks, the online vote showed just a quarter of people who had taken part thought a Cameron government would be good for the Westcountry. But yesterday, Duncan Sandes, the Tories’ South West press officer, sent an e-mail to activists telling them to vote to “push the percentage the right way”. Last night, the result had turned around with just a quarter of voters saying a Cameron government would be bad for the region. Lib-Dem MP Nick Harvey said: “The change in ratings is not a reflection of a sudden change in the South West’s political colours but another example of political spin.” A Tory Party spokesman said: “It was a very over-enthusiastic response by a junior member of staff and we would not condone it.” Mr Sandes declined to comment.

The vital detail that’s missing?

Duncan Sandes, South West Regional Press Officer for the Conservatives, used to work as a reporter at the Western Morning News until about a year ago.

I would’ve thought that this warranted a passing mention at least. Sandes is messing about with a poll conducted by his former employer and suddenly he doesn’t have time to speak to his former workmates? There is, at the very least, an element of human drama that’s going to waste here… which I think is a pity.

5. Western Morning News is a daily tabloid newspaper based in Plymouth. It’s published by Westcountry Publications Ltd, which is owned by Northcliffe Media Limited, which is a subsidiary of Daily Mail & General Trust plc. A tabloid ultimately owned by the Daily Mail group that’s currently bragging; “(we) brought David Cameron to the West Country” and running a series of exclusives about David Cameron might seem to the uninformed outsider to be listing ever so slightly to the right, but I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that I have received assurances that the newspaper does not in any way favour the Conservatives:

Seeking a copy of some of Duncan Sandes’ past articles for the Western Morning News, I was initially refused, and so I asked if they’d like to go on record with that refusal.

I was quickly put onto News Editor Steve Grant, who wanted to know who I was and why I wanted to see them.

Keeping in mind that I was talking to the man most likely to have cleared the above article the above incomplete afterthought chucked in at the bottom of an unrelated article, I found his insistence that I share my name and background to be most amusing. I was even more amused when he declared the conversation at an end and hung up on me when I gave him my name (which I had already offered) and suggested that he use a search engine for anything else that he might need (if indeed this kind of thing mattered all of a sudden).


No matter. I called back and somewhere between the two calls we got down to it:

I explained that Duncan Sandes’ willingness to diddle a poll run by his former employer on behalf of the leader of the Conservative Party might make a curious person want to scan his past work for that employer… just case it revealed a teeny hint of pro-Conservative bias. I then asked again if WMN would share some of his past articles with me.

Grant replied; “That won’t be possible,” and then stated, “And it never happened. Not once did I see a single bit of bias from (Sandes). If I did then he wouldn’t have been working for me.”

Well, OK, then.

Given that things were that straightforward and confidence was high, and these articles were available via the British Newspaper Library etc. anyway, I asked one final time if I might see some of Duncan Sandes’ articles written for the Western Morning News.

Grant’s final response was firm and simple; “No!”


Posted by Tim Ireland at July 30, 2008

Category: Consume!

Justin is now blogging about Nuclear Power for Greenpeace.

You might want to take a wee step back and seek some cover. (Over the horizon and into a lead-lined fridge should do it.)

Posted by Tim Ireland at July 30, 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Can anyone think of circumstances where it would be fair for a publisher/contributor to issue any comment likely to effect someone’s reputation without staking their own* reputation on it?

Also, should anyone expect to be taken seriously as a publisher if they allow this kind of behaviour on their site when it suits them?

When considering the latter especially, please keep in mind the increasingly extreme abuse, threats and allegations that eventually get thrown around when comment contributors aren’t expected to answer challenges or back up claims with evidence… if they’re on the publisher’s side.

I’m asking these questions for a number of reasons. Please let me know what you think.

Cheers all.

[*Applies if you normally blog/contribute under your own name or a pseudonym, but choose not to when you want to make a comment that you would rather not be associated with.]

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