Posted by Tim Ireland at July 25, 2008

Category: The War on Stupid

SOCPA isn’t officially dead (yet), but – according to rikki, at least – it is effectively dead:

Indymedia – SOCPA Is Dead And Buried: towards the end of the proceedings, the judge closed the case without allowing barbara to sum up, and the case was adjourned for the judge to consider his verdict. what came out however, was a bombshell for socpa. barbara has been requesting the prosecution case summary for four months prior to this hearing, and only finally received it in court yesterday. hidden amongst pages and pages of print about the incident was the following remarkable statement: “OWING TO CHANGES IN SOCPA LEGISLATION THE UNAUTHORISED DEMONSTRATION OFFENCES CANNOT BE PROCEEDED WITH”

I may have to pop by Parliament and test this for myself…

Posted by Tim Ireland at July 25, 2008

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

The first incarnation of the Sun-Watch project is coming along nicely and will rumble into action shortly. Right now, I’m quietly going from invite to invite and making sure that each of our editors is happy in their work.

While you wait, here are a few items that a certain gang of right-wing thugs really hope will pass without too much scrutiny:

Guido Fawkes Paul Staines – New Statesman Owner Buys LabourHome: Guido has been hearing rumours that LabourHome was “in play” and that two bidders were after the site….

Gosh, I wonder where he heard that rumour… from his mate Alex Hilton or Jag Singh, the guy he shares an office with. Way to hype the sale, Paul.

[Note: I’d love to describe Jag Singh as Paul Staines’ business partner, but Staines likes to issue spurious legal threats based on barely-related technicalities, and we have been reminded that – on the books at least – the (hopefully former) bankrupt Paul Staines “is neither a shareholder, director or employee of MessageSpace and never has been.” Apparently he only takes and makes calls for them out of the goodness of his heart and all of his money seems to magically appear out of an unrelated magical portal labelled ‘advertising’. More on this later in the post.]

Adding to this hype is another member of their little gang, Iain Dale, who proves that he doesn’t always play down the left by… erm… playing down the left:

Iain Dale – LabourHome Gets Cash Boost: Contrary to what some left of centre bloggers have been saying (HERE and HERE), I actually welcome this as I think it is healthy for each political viewpoint to have a powerful online presence. Most sensible people on the left recognise that their blogging efforts have not received the same attention as those of us on the right. The advent of blogs like Liberal Conspiracy have liften the profile of the left of centre blogosphere, and despite their unbalanced antipathy towards me personally, I think that can only be a good thing for blogging in general.

[Note: Recent criticism of Iain’s habit of not linking to what he is talking about has obviously stung; this time there are VERY GRACIOUS and NOT AT ALL GRATUITOUS links to the content he is misrepresenting.]

Being happy for your mates receiving an unknown amount of cash for their leftish portal is not the same as welcoming input from the left. Especially when this hype for mates is framed by “the left are weak, the left are unpopular, any criticism of my is unfounded leftist whining and the product of a sick mind…” (pardon my paraphrasing).

What Iain Dale also glosses over here is that there are people who will not be taking part in his blog ranking scam because they know he is a liar and a cheat who’s not above fiddling the numbers in order to make himself look good.

[Note – The latest spin from Dale’s camp is that those who are unwilling to legitimise a rigged popularity contest are afraid of losing… in a rigged popularity contest.]

On the subject of outlandish claims based on meaningless/misrepresented figures, let’s have a word or two from Nadine Dorries, close friend to Iain Dale and regular recipient of helpful plugs, spin and positive angles from Dale’s hype machine:

Nadine Dorries – Heartbeats: It’s time to pack in blogging for the summer. At a recent meeting with my staff, I put forward the idea that maybe, now that we were receiving 700,000 hits per month, that just maybe I should carry on. They all, in unison, shouted NO! They are of course absolutely right, for reasons detailed below. I apologise to those who may have read the following blog which I wrote whilst on holiday last year; but as we were only getting 100,000 hits a month at the time, there are a lot of readers who haven’t read it…. When the hot sun has gone to bed and the underwater lights in the aquamarine pool twinkle and beckon; the jug of Sangria on the table next to me screams, “More ice”; the heady scent of Bougainvillaea fills the air; and Jose Gonzales plays seductively in the background, wooing me, egging me on. There is a beautiful Batik print on the balcony wall of the Madonna and child, it’s looking down on me; the warm sea breeze is causing the candles on the table to flicker, playing tricks with my eyes. Every time I look up, the Madonna tut tut’s at me and shakes her head in mild reproval. Unfortunately, I don’t think even the Holy Mother can help me once I have blogged on. It’s between me, the circling shoal of out to get me Piranhas; a loaded gun; an Exocet missile; a suicide wish; the Chief Whip; and the save button. I wonder why more MPs don’t blog?

[Note – Please don’t rush to send copies to Private Eye for Pseuds Corner; Beau Bo D’Or has already done so and earmarked the spotter’s fee for charity.]

Even if ‘hits’ weren’t a meaningless figure, Nadine assumes here (and not for the first time) that every download is a vote in her favour. Bless.

I love how she sees herself as a freedom fighter and champion of democracy when she is in fact, a lying scoundrel, a willing pawn of religious fundamentalists and, like Iain Dale, not above a little fiddling of the numbers.

Paul Staines has gently teased Dorries from time to time, but he certainly didn’t take the time to reveal that – via Dorries – an attempt was made to have legislation written by religious fundamentalists passed into law.

Now watch Paul Staines as he finally issues a statement regarding his relationship with the ‘Sunlight COPs’

Guido Fawkes said…

The Centre for Open Politics is in “beta”, pre-launch.

When they launch properly they will reveal who is backing them to the last penny.

For now, just so there is no doubt, suffice to say Guido has given them seed money funding to get them started. For the last four years this blog has been digging into political sleaze and campaigning against corruption. There is no existing vehicle for doing it – in particular to take legal action to enforce the existing laws.

The various quangos are passive and not aggressive enough in pursuing wrong doing. The Sunlight Centre for Open Politics aims to shine a light on the dodgy goings on in a way that an individual blogger – even with a large audience can not.

July 24, 2008 3:23 PM

Ah, so it’s a natural extension of his heroic and impartial mission to clean up politics. Glad we cleared that up.

Note how the statement is issued almost casually, near to a full week after the matter came up. A textbook tactic beloved of spin doctors. Never mind that the character he uses to sell his bullshit is supposed to be an enemy of spin.

More on this as soon as is possible. Staines isn’t the only one who’s stalling and my membership to Sunlight Centre for Open Politics is (still) “pending approval from the administrators”.

[Note – You may recall that we got the ‘it was only a beta test’ excuse (and many others) back when Paul Staines and his chum Alex Hilton equated homosexuality with paedophilia (1, 2, 3).]

And now we finally get back Paul Staines and the money that magically appears in his pockets.

The other day I was barred from Staines’ website (again), this time for being the recipient of abuse. (What?!)

Check out Paul Staines inferring that I use pornography to drive traffic to my site when he knows the opposite is true.

Then skip forward to about 1:03:30 on this video to hear Paul Staines admit that – in response to traffic patterns – he knowingly peddles the more crude/salacious material (and targets hate figures) on his blog in order to boost his audience.

What follows this revealing exchange is his answer to an audience member wanting to know the source of the profits he as been bragging about. I’ll leave you to chew on it:

“Advertising. Purely advertising. [pause] And selling stories to the… er… papers.”

Posted by Tim Ireland at July 24, 2008

Category: George W. Bush

Not that anyone will actually go to prison, of course. That would be silly. But it’s nice to dream and informative diagrams are fun to play with:

Slate – Crimes and Misdemeanors

Posted by Tim Ireland at July 23, 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

As usual, I won’t be taking part in this charade (or anything else this old fraud is behind).

But this year, it looks like I’ll have some company:

Bob Piper – Why I won’t be voting in Iain Dale’s poll of top bloggers
Sunny Hundal – Not supporting Iain Dale’s top blogs competition
Unity – Iain’s Annual Blog Guide

My own personal opinion, just in case it’s not clear, is that Iain’s ‘guides to blogging’ have always been a scam in the past, nothing looks like being any different this year (he only realised at the last minute that he shouldn’t accept anonymous votes as readily as he accepts anonymous comments), and taking part in any way only really helps one person… Iain Dale.

Posted by Tim Ireland at July 22, 2008

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

Chicken Yoghurt – Check on delivery: There’s a small but significant difference between the transcript of the speech Gordon Brown made to the Knesset today and what he actually said…

Is this how he plans to later get away with claiming that he never said this or that about Iran and what nukes (Iran + nukes!) they may or may not have to hand? What else have we missed?

Posted by Tim Ireland at July 22, 2008

Category: Tories! Tories! Tories!

As I have a keen interest in greater political transparency and openness (some have even criticised me for being ‘obsessed’ about it), I have applied to become a member of the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics.

They were allowing anyone to sign up and have they way with their little corner or Ning! last Friday/Saturday (which led to my being spammed courtesy of a ‘helpful’ sock-puppeteer who will be dealt with in due course). Now, new members need to be approved by administrators.

And here is where it (already) gets interesting…

I have applied for membership under my real name and and not a pseudonym, even though I know that they operate out of the same office as Paul Staines and my name alone is likely to count against me if there is an undeclared political alliance at work.

Which way will they jump and why?

I’ll let you know when a decision is made…

Posted by Tim Ireland at July 22, 2008

Category: Geekage

If you thought Life on Mars was awesome, prepare to be outcooled.

Unparalleled excitement and drama awaits you after the fold, with the (partial) adventures of Sgt Streetwise!


Posted by Tim Ireland at July 18, 2008

Category: Tories! Tories! Tories!

Unity – Say goodbye to the Sith…: As I expected all along, Guido’s ‘crusade’ against the Smith Institute has turned out, on publication of the Charity Commission’s Inquiry Report, to be pretty much a busted flush. Overall, the Smith Institute has been criticised for failing to take sufficent steps to ensure that it maintained a clear public image of political neutrality and balance in the face of what has been, on Guido’s part, a quite blatant and sustained campaign of smears and innuendos, many of which have proved to lack any substance or foundation. So far as Guido’s role in instigating the investigation is concerned, the most telling piece of commentary in the report is the Commission’s account of his response to the Commission’s section 8 direction, which required him to deliver additional evidence that he claimed, at the time, to have in his possession… In short, when pushed to back-up his claim to have additional evidence to support his complaint, Guido produced nothing of substance that wasn’t already in the public domain.

Typical of Paul ‘Guido’ Staines. When asked to put up or shut up, he fails to put up… and then fails to shut up.

I’ve more to add on this, but if I’m to add it, it’ll have to wait until Monday. I’m off for two days as of 10 minutes from … (checks watch)… *now*… and it’s not polite to open fire on another blogger if you don’t plan on being there when they might wish to respond.

UPDATE (2pm, 21 July) – As it turns out, Unity blogged plenty more about this of his own accord, and Staines popped up late on Friday to assure us that everything was above board and all would be explained or become clear ‘on Monday’. We’re still waiting…

UPDATE (22 July) – Still waiting for Staines. Meanwhile Phil Hendren wishes to bring a similar report to your attention start a fight (because this kind of thing really impresses the chicks).

Posted by Tim Ireland at July 18, 2008

Category: Tories! Tories! Tories!

I’m a busy guy (I’m currently trying to explain SEO in a way that a child can understand… long story), but happily this one’s a slam dunk, and little-to-no-effort is required to explain it:

1. Right to Know: 1st April – 30th June 2008 (A-E) (PDF)

Member of Parliament: Nadine Dorries
Constituency: Mid Bedfordshire

OFFICE COSTS (Incidental Expenses Provision)
Media Intelligence Partners = £2938

2. List of services provided by Media Intelligence Partners:

‘Media strategy’, ‘Media relations’, ‘Crisis management’, ‘Media Training’, ‘Public relations and political consultancy’, ‘Identity management’ and ‘Analysis and research’.

3. The Green Book (rules for) Parliamentary Salaries, Allowances and Pensions (PDF)

Incidental Expenses Provision (IEP)
5.13.2. Work commissioned and bought in services

Expenditure not allowable:
# Advice for individual Members on self promotion, or PR for individuals or political parties.

Dorries’ only possible escape route is very similar to Anne Milton’s intended escape route as it turns out, but it’s a narrow gap in a very big fence… and if this expenditure is linked back to the abortion ‘debate’ (which included many notable media appearances and exchanges involving Dorries, if you recall), then David Cameron will have to dive to avoid the shrapnel.

Posted by Tim Ireland at July 18, 2008

Category: Tories! Tories! Tories!

The Conservative Party owes taxpayers 2 million pounds and change, and I mean to collect.

Please note that the above is a preliminary figure. How soon I get to an exact figure depends on the PRU’s willingness to be transparent. For now, this is a (*cough*) conservative estimate based on the following:

According to the Daily Mail, the Parliamentary Resources Unit was set up in 1997 by Tory ‘loverat’, proud Quad Bike owner and devout opponent of Parliamentary transparency David Maclean.

(Incidentally, David Maclean’s website comes to us via Palace Computing, courtesy of the Incidental Expenses Provision.)

As the Evening Standard reports; “78 Tory MPs (are currently) claiming Commons expenses to pay for the party’s ‘Parliamentary Resources Unit’.” (Details can be found here, if you’re willing to wade through them. I missed a fair few subscribers in my previous post, as some have claimed a whole year this quarter, while others have only claimed a quarter this quarter. It is also likely that there are current subscribers who have claimed nothing this quarter.) The PRU itself claims to provide; “briefing, research, correspondence and related support to 150 Conservative MPs and front bench peers.”

Applying an estimated average of 75 subscribers per year who claim this cost back from the taxpayer seems more than reasonable.

Currently a PRU subscription costs just a shade under four thousand pounds a year (£3877.50 p/a to be precise), but a subscription probably cost less in 1997. I’m going to be very generous and assume it went as low as two thousand pounds or under and apply an average of £2500 p/a.

11 years x 75 subscribers x £2500 = just a shade over 2 million pounds.

OK, that’s the (preliminary) figure. Now let’s get to the part where the Conservative Party needs to pay it back to the taxpayer…

As the Evening Standard reports; Labour MPs pay about £2000 a year out of their own pockets towards their party’s Resource Centre (i.e. their equivalent of the PRU), which provides research and advice for backbenchers.

This money is not claimed back from expenses, but from the MPs’ pay packets. In short, the Tories lift this expense from the pocket of the taxpayer and Labour do not.

Now, can we be grown-ups about this, and acknowledge that this isn’t purely about how ‘legal’ or ‘compliant’ an arrangement is? If it appears inequitable to the average voter, then Cameron has a problem to the tune of at least 2 million and change (and he certainly can’t expect the MPs and former MPs involved to cough up the cash… it’s just not going to happen).

But let’s take a look at compliance anyway, because (again, one needs to be a grown-up about it) David Cameron isn’t going to do a damn thing about this unless he feels he has to. Showing a poor level of compliance (or a mere veneer of same) turns the screws and increases the possibility of taxpayers retrieving this cash.

So let’s start screwing and squeezing. I’ll start, shall I?

The PRU makes a lot of noise about ‘compliance’, but take a quick peek at the job description they provide for their ongoing call for interns:

The successful candidate must have:
# a proven interest in UK domestic politics, ideally in one or two specific areas of policy;
# strong organisational, writing and research skills;
# good interpersonal skills and the ability to perform in a team;
# willingness to write enthusiastically on behalf of Conservative MPs and Peers.

[Psst! This job ad also featured on the Conservative Party website until yesterday. This ad on carries a large ‘Conservatives’ logo and a prominent link to the Conservative Party website. The nature of the job and who you’ll really be working for is made very clear to applicants, if not the public at large.]

Now in which direction do you think that enthusiasm “on behalf of Conservative MPs and Peers” will be most appreciated from an unpaid and highly disposable intern?

One might get the impression from this ongoing advertisement for interns that an inherent bias toward Conservative policy/thinking is not only a desirable attribute, but a goddamn job requirement.

A zoo that only keeps ferrets is not a zoo, it is a home for ferrets. The natural behaviour of most animals will be distinctly ferret-like, no matter how many of them you shave (it’s a lizard!) dress in wetsuits (it’s a seal!) or nail to perches (it’s a parrot!) to give the illusion of balance and diversity.

[Old Joke: I went to an animal park once, and it only had one lousy dog in a cage. It was a Shih Tzu.]

For now, I’ll hand over to the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard and Labour MP John Mann for more… but don’t think for a second that we as should leave this to the old-schoolers or even certain ‘leading’ bloggers who have blogged the data release (1, 2) but shown an alarming lack of curiosity about the data itself. Bloggers from Westminster village might find sport in the PRU’s who’s who.

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