Wednesday, November 30, 2011 

More Clouseau than Smiley.

You can't exactly fault MI5 for having suspicions about Ekaterina Zatuliveter. Having seen the Americans flush out a whole batch of Russian "deep cover" agents (including Anna Chapman), so deep it seems that they barely did any spying at all, Zatuliveter must have seemed a no-brainer. She went to a university which according to MI5, the FSB has a "substantial" presence at. Beginning during this period, and continuing over the rest of the last decade, she had romances with a series of older men, all involved in either diplomacy, politics and lastly, in NATO. She worked for (and became the mistress of) an MP with a penchant for all things Russian, a man notorious for asking questions which could potentially be useful to them. Lastly, she met on a number of occasions someone known as "Boris", whom SIS claim was a Russian intelligence officer, although it seems she never took up invitations to meet him on a one-to-one basis.

Sadly for MI5, all this circumstantial evidence was simply unsubstantiated. In an extraordinary ruling (PDF), the Special Immigration Appeals Committee, with a former head of MI5 on the judging panel no less, has decided on the "balance of probabilities" that Zatuliveter was not and is not a Russian agent. Her decision to appeal against her removal from the UK on the grounds that her presence "was not conducive to the public good" was in itself perhaps a clue: not many spies once caught decide to fight to prove their innocence in a foreign nation when their duty is first and foremost to another state. It's also though a remarkable indictment of MI5, which it seems is still just as paranoid and stuck in the Cold War age as it ever was.

Take for instance the insistence of one witness from the security service that Zatuliveter's visit to see the Great Game, a play on Afghan culture and history was evidence of her spying, purely it seems on the basis that the name is taken from what Kipling described as the rivalry between Britain and Russia over the country. Or that Zatuliveter's diary, described so wonderfully as with a Klimt painting on the cover, was an incredibly elaborate fake. Indeed, even if it were genuine, it was their case that the entries did nothing to disprove their assessment of her as an agent. Siac agrees that it's a "very important document", in that the entries, first on the Dutch diplomat she was having a relationship with, and then later on Mike Hancock, are "of an immature, calculating, emotional and self-centred young woman – in our judgment, an
accurate characterization of the appellant then, and allowing for greater maturity, now".

According to MI5, Zatuliveter was tasked with seducing Hancock. If anything, it seems the opposite was the case. By chance, she came to be chaperoning the British delegation he was a part of when they visited St. Petersburg, whereupon it seems he broke out his old routine: inviting her for a coffee, then a meal, before finally asking whether she'd like to accompany him back to his hotel room, which she for now declined although they kept in contact. Although he offered her a traineeship at Strasbourg at this point, regardless of there not being a position available, it was only once she accepted his invitation to meet him in Moscow that she decided to "use" him to, as Siac quotes from her diary "to further her ambition to gain experience, at first hand, of Western European politics and, possibly, to get “a very good chance in life”. Regardless of her intentions, Siac are convinced both by the subsequent entries in the diary and from the witness statements of Zatuliveter's sister and her husband that the two genuinely fell in love, "however odd it might seem".

It wasn't until Zautuliveter received a place at Bradford University to do her masters that she first became Hancock's unpaid intern, although he also provided her with an allowance. The report and her diary both skirt around it, but it seems through the references to a "health problem" that he may well have made her pregnant. She later became Hancock's researcher when his previous one resigned, giving her full access, or as much as he ceded, to information which may have been of interest to the Russians. The curious case of "Boris" then commences: he met her by chance it seems at Temple tube station, where they exchanged business cards. He later emailed her to invite her to meet him. She agreed, only later to make what she described as a "lame" excuse, Hancock having told her not to go. Hancock himself confirms this, although Siac doesn't believe his explanation for why he told her not to. MI5 maintained that the fact he didn't renew this invitation is evidence she was already an agent, which seems counter-intuitive: why did he approach her in the first place, if he was who they say he is, unless he's thoroughly incompetent? Siac unsurprisingly concludes much the same.

Perhaps the entire case is explained by Zautuliveter's affair with Y, a NATO official working in Moscow, who she was introduced to at the Russian embassy. With her relationship with Hancock souring somewhat, she began swapping emails with him. Another piece of evidence MI5 relied upon was a exchange between the two while Zautuliveter was on a train, where she asked him if there was "anything interesting happening at NATO" and then whether "[Madeleine] Albright had said anything interesting". She explained this as being an attempt at showing off to him, and that she knew about Albright's meeting from Twitter, which again Siac accepts.

That, in essence, was MI5's entire miserable case. Zautuliveter repeatedly had relationships with older men in prominent positions, all of whom could provide information helpful to her home country, ergo she must have been doing it for that reason. Instead it simply seems she had a thing for older men, with whom she shared an interest in international politics, and in Hancock thought could help give her a better life, which he did. Yes, it was suspicious, but proper, rigorous investigation ought to have shown it was at best unlikely and at worst laughable. Siac for their part, perhaps prodded somewhat by Lander, rejects the similar criticisms made by Zautuliveter's lawyer. They also accept wholeheartedly that in her position as Hancock's researcher she had access to material which would have been interesting to the Russians, which seems dubious in itself, although the history of security services worldwide is full of inconsequential men and women who spied and never provided anything of real worth to their handlers.

All of which raises the obvious question: if MI5 can get something this wrong, who else has been wrongly accused, or where else are they failing? Or is this simply a consequence of the lack of resources being devoted to espionage as opposed to counter-terrorism? It's a case that is crying out for an investigation by an independent body, something which will most certainly not be provided by the hopelessly ineffective Intelligence and Security Committee.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 

The true definition of a cunt.

Take a bow, Paul McMullan. You really are quite a piece of work. At least you had the decency to admit you went too far, if only once:

McMullan says he regrets the stories he did on Jennifer Elliott, the daughter of actor Denholm Elliott.

She became a drug user and started begging following the death of her father and the News of the World exposed this.

I really regret it because I'd got to know her very well and I really quite liked her. The fact she was begging outside Chalk Farm station came from a police officer, who had been surprised when he asked her to move on.

I went too far on that story. Someone crying out for help, not crying out for a News of the World reporter.

I then took her back to her flat and took a load of pictures of her topless.

Then she went on TV and described me as her boyfriend.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Share |


The metamorphosis.

Slowly but ever so surely George Osborne is morphing into Gordon Brown. The man who wanted to turn the autumn statement into just that, a statement to the Commons on the public finances rather than use it as an effective second budget as Brown did was today reduced to following the man whose mess he professes to be clearing up. Just as it required supreme chutzpah to claim there would be no return to boom and bust, as though Brown could personally abolish the economic cycle, so today Osborne approached a statement that was so grim in content it could rival the average Mike Leigh film with the kind of cheerful arrogance that ought to so damage the coalition's credibility.

After all, for all the endless blaming of the crisis in the Eurozone, this is a problem of Osborne's own making. Regardless of how often Labour trumpet it, the facts were that the coalition inherited an economy which, if not healthy, was getting back on its feet. Within months of taking office confidence had plummeted so far that even adjusting for the "one-off" events over-egged by the Office for National Statistics, growth was flat. The OECD now predicts that the almost negligible growth of the past year will turn into a shallow recession in the next two quarters. Even the slightly more optimistic Office for Budget Responsibility suggests growth next year will be a shockingly low 0.7%, and that's in something approaching the best case scenario. The cuts may have only begun in earnest this year, but the message was that things would start to get better almost immediately. Instead they're getting worse. This ought to be the sort of news that makes a chancellor a liability.

Osborne by contrast showed all the signs of enjoying himself. Some politicians adore winding the other side with their deliberate enraging choice of phrases; Osborne's mere appearance is enough to make certain Labour MPs howl. When he then urged the unions to call off tomorrow's strikes, only to then later announce that public sector pay would be frozen at 1% for an additional two years you had to wonder if he was deliberately inciting them. Indeed, it's difficult to believe that the coalition isn't deliberately playing different sectors of society off against each other: while he announced that benefits would rise at the inflation level of 5.2%, as it was in September, despite rumours suggesting they might be pegged at 4.5%, he confirmed that the higher rate of tax credits would be frozen. Not only then are public sector workers being goaded into looking at the deal being given to those out of work and sick with envy, so are those in the unimpeachable "squeezed middle". Additionally, as in the past, the government is describing the overall effect of the changes as progressive as it hits the most well off the hardest, ignoring completely how the next most affected group are, naturally, the poorest. This is the same sleight of hand that so characterised Gordon Brown's budgets, and which the OBR was meant to counteract.

The additional sacrifice being asked for will be further resented should the new growth strategy, such as it is, fail. Almost all of it had been pre-announced, such was the feeling that the terrible growth figures and higher than expected borrowing would crowd out the "good" news. I suspect instead that it might have helped to mask how awful they are, although the news will quickly turn back to tomorrow's strike. Even this though was in effect an admission of how previous schemes had miserably achieved next to nothing: the government backing of lending to small businesses, named credit easing, only highlights how the much heralded "Project Merlin" has been a complete disaster, perhaps even a PR exercise from the start. The infrastructure programme, of which only £5bn is being provided from government coffers, the rest to be made up by pension funds, was described by Margaret Hodge "as PFI by another name", with all the horrors and waste of the off-balance sheet system returning to potentially haunt us.

One can only assume that Osborne and the Conservatives, and it seems the Lib Dems along with them, have decided they can do without the votes of the vast majority of public sector workers altogether. Or as it's increasingly going to be, former public sector workers: having first assumed there would be 400,000 job losses in total, the small print now admits it's more likely to be an eye watering 710,000. Another nasty surprise was that the public sector pay review bodies would be asked to look at making pay more "responsive to local labour markets". In practice this will almost certainly mean further pay cuts. While it can be argued this will be fairer overall and make private companies more competitive in certain areas, it could also have the opposite effect: reducing the amount of disposal income public sector workers have affects businesses and in turn tax revenues. We already have complaints about postcode lotteries in health and education; do we really want another one? The TUC may be exaggerating slightly in suggesting that, including the pension reforms, public sector workers will by 2015 have had a real terms pay cut of 16% but it is nonetheless an indication of just how brutal Osborne is being.

The whole point of all this pain was meant to be the elimination of the structural deficit by the end of parliament, something which now looks close to being unachievable without further cuts. Already Osborne admits he can't get rid of by 2015 as originally promised, but will still achieve the "fiscal mandate" target of doing so in 5 years. Labour's plan, or Alistair Darling's original one was to do the same but over a longer time scale, with slightly shallower cuts. The lesson it seems is clear: talk of austerity and the cuts to come is enough to strangle confidence and damp down demand. The measures announced today are nowhere near enough to put this right, and all of us are going to pay the price for much longer than Osborne said we would.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Share |

Monday, November 28, 2011 

Not much of a revolution.

Just the six weeks after OccupyLSX failed miserably to achieve the very thing their name suggests they were created to do, they've finally managed to produce their first batch of policy proposals. How then are the 99% to be won over to their way of thinking?

Through, of course, the abolition of tax havens. Despite then having been in situ outside St. Paul's for all that time, their first call for action is on the very thing that UK Uncut have campaigning on for over a year. True, they dress it up very slightly by urging alongside it an independent monitor of corporate lobbying and for personal responsibility within the boardroom, but it suggests a rather limited sense both of attention spans and how capitalism should be reformed. Doubtless the daily assemblies will eventually though provide an entire programme on what should be done: shame we'll most likely be long dead by then.

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

Saturday, November 26, 2011 


Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

Friday, November 25, 2011 

Not quite back to the future.

Only a year and six months after his government abolished it in one of their first collective acts of vandalism, Nick Clegg has announced the reintroduction of the Future Jobs Fund. Except, naturally, it isn't quite the same. Whereas the scheme introduced by the Labour government had the whole £1bn in funding going towards providing jobs for six months, not just in the public sector as the Tories have tried erroneously to portray it but also in the private sector, Clegg's "youth contract scheme" is split between the exact same placement process of the FJF and providing 250,000 further work experience places. This will be very welcome if it does provide genuine work experience for those who previously haven't been able to find any sort of job, but if the examples being provided those currently going through the Work programme are anything to go by, it's a case of those who already have plenty of experience being essentially used as free labour by the retail sector.

As is also to be expected from the coalition, the £1bn has to be filched from somewhere else. Despite Clegg's wholly unconvincing denials, it looks as though most of it will come from freezing the working tax credit, or as it will be inevitably seen, playing one set of the low-paid off against those in even more dire straits. All this said, it as at least an improvement on the government's other plan for growth: making it even easier to err, sack people, something that only 6% of businesses regard as standing in their way.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Share |

Thursday, November 24, 2011 

A lack of respect.

As mentioned in yesterday's post, the Guardian swiftly apologised for the quite wonderful Marina Hyde's claim that the Sun had door-stepped the junior counsel to the Leveson inquiry who many on Twatter felt had taken a shine to Hugh Grant. Last night the paper, despite not really being mentioned much by the McCanns in their evidence hadn't managed to find the time to put up a piece on this rather more crucial aspect of the inquiry, but strangely imagined their readers would be far more interested in the Guardian's apology, putting it just below the top story.

Today, although it's slipped down the pecking order, the site's editors still regard it as more important than the actual hearing. As well as apologising for getting it wrong, the Guardian also says it regrets the "suggestion that there was an intention by the Sun to show a lack of respect to the inquiry or Lord Justice Leveson". Perhaps not to Leveson himself; just to those their now deceased sister paper so disgracefully treated.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Share |

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 

A national disgrace.

If journalism was once the first rough draft of history, then in this post-whatever age of ours it can often turn into the only one. Where previously a lie could travel half-way around the world before truth could put its shoes on, then now it can prove all but impossible to correct, let alone shift from the minds of hundreds of thousands of people. Moreover, initial impressions are often those that stick: this most impressed itself on me in the case of Jean Charles de Menezes, where the original, false, report from the police that he had jumped the barrier on his way into Stockwell tube station stuck and was still being repeated years later regardless of the IPCC reports and subsequent health and safety prosecution of the Met.

It is then all but impossible to put yourself in the position of the McCanns and try and even begin to comprehend what they went and are still going through. Of all the myriad mistakes made and abuses committed by the press in recent times, whether it be THE TRUTH, the smearing of Colin Stagg, the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone, or the Sun's despicable failure to properly fact check their Alfie Patten story to name just a few, the assault on the McCanns and it can only be described as such, will quite possibly never be beaten.

Getting it out of the way now, looking back through my own writing on the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, I too was guilty on occasion of utter heartlessness, and of voicing criticism of the couple that was simply too harsh. I was critical from the outset of their use of the media, both for the reason that such wall-to-wall coverage would in fact scare any potential kidnapper into keeping her hidden, perhaps forever, and also for how I feared that the media would in time extract their pound of flesh for the help they were so kindly providing. I also went slightly too far in suggesting that it was possible they could be involved, even though I still regard it as being a perfectly legitimate avenue for investigation considering the circumstances. Where I was completely and utterly wrong was in my failure to recognise that they desperately needed someone to handle the press for them, and also in criticising their Christmas message to their missing daughter.

This does rather pale into insignificance though when newspapers were publishing front page stories with headlines such as "MADDIE MUM ORGY FURY" and other inside page articles were implying, however obliquely, that the McCanns may have sold Madeleine into slavery to pay off their mortgage debt. The general level of crassness, insincerity and unconscionable cruelty that developed, away from the worst excesses, may well be best summed up by the Daily Mail's online poll which asked readers whether they thought Kate's tears were genuine. While Gerry McCann has previously given evidence to the parliamentary media committee, memorably describing how his daughter had been become nothing more than a "commodity" to the press, the McCanns' appearance today before the Leveson inquiry is the first time they've provided a full narrative of how they tried desperately to get the media to tone the sensationalism down.

First, in September 2007, the campaign manager for Madeleine's fund and their solicitor met with all the editors of the tabloid media, making clear that the most of what was being printed was not only untrue but also libellous and damaging the search for Madeleine. Coverage improved for a few days before it sank back into the gutter. Next, the chief constable of Leicestershire police wrote two letters, one a fortnight after the first, to all the papers. Nothing changed. Further meetings were set up, this time with Clarence Mitchell. Again, there was no difference in the coverage. More letters were sent, this time from their solicitors, threatening legal action against the Express and Evening Standard. It wasn't until January of 2008 that the McCanns, despairing of a return to the front pages, instructed Carter-Ruck to start legal proceedings against the Express group.

The Express being the Express under Richard Desmond (now in charge of Channel 5 it should be noted), first offered the McCanns a "platform", the implication being that they would receive favourable coverage in the future, as long as they also gave consent to be interviewed in OK! magazine. The Express group at least quickly caved in and made unprecedented front page apologies across their titles, as well as paying £550,000 to the Madeleine fund. The Daily Mail by contrast refused to make any such apology when libel proceedings were brought against them, instead making the case that any defamation had been "largely balanced" as they had also published many supportive stories. It's a novel legal idea that as long as you print some reputable material it balances out any lies and smears you might have also published about someone, but the McCanns nonetheless decided to accept the Mail's offer of printing adverts in their continental editions on finding Madeleine rather than embark on a protracted dispute with a paper they still felt they needed "good" relations with.

If there is one example which sums up the media's entire attitude to those they help and publicise, then it's the phone call from Colin Myler, the final editor of the News of the World, when the McCanns gave an interview to Hello! on their call for an improved alert system when a child is abducted. It's best to quote from Gerry McCann's witness statement directly:

How very dare the McCanns give an interview to some else? After all, those banners which had the News of the World's logo on them bigger than FIND MADDIE couldn't have come cheap. Despite caving in to this blackmail and giving the paper an interview, still the NotW's resident Glenda Slagg, better known as Carole Malone, wrote a piece on the anniversary of Madeleine going missing headlined "I wept for Kate but I still blame her" that Myler felt was perfectly appropriate to run.

It would took a lot to top the effrontery of that phone call, but still the NotW managed it. Publishing someone's private diaries without their permission on its own ought to strain even a jaded tabloid journalist's conscience, but to print a grieving mother's letters to her abducted child which were illegally obtained and which were also a bastardised English to Portuguese to English translation is just about as dishonourable as it gets, however much you dress it up as undermining previous libels. Kate McCann described it as being "mentally raped", to which there really isn't any response or counter-argument. The only person who comes out of the evidence with anything approaching credit is of all people, Rebekah Brooks, who effectively got the McCanns their formal review of the case, getting the Sun to splash on an open letter from the couple to David Cameron, partially in exchange for the serialisation of Kate's book. The same day the Home Office announced there would be a review.

How then are the tabloids responding to this litany of abuses? By doing what they've always done when called to account in any small way: ignoring the criticism as best they can. The only tabloid to mention it on their front page tomorrow is the Daily Star, and that focuses on the NotW printing Kate's diary. Far more important to the Sun currently is that Marina Hyde in the Guardian had suggested the paper had doorstepped counsel to the inquiry Carine Patry Hoskins, something they've quickly admitted they got wrong and have apologised for, a rather faster turnaround than the Sun usually manages. The Mail has the story slightly more prominently, but you still need to scroll down to see it. As for the Express and the Mirror, it's better just to forget it. As Dan Sabbagh writes, if nothing else Leveson has brought some much needed further attention to what was and still is a national disgrace. As for whether it will change anything or prick any consciences this far down the line, it remains highly doubtful.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 

Ah, Leveson.

And so, inevitably, to the Leveson inquiry. It would be nice to report that my fear of last week, that the whole thing would turn into a circus dominated by celebrities rather than the "ordinary" victims of a press that doesn't know when to stop was unfounded, and that in fact, the first two days of this week's hearings had been a wonderful opportunity for those who have never had a right to reply to get their say on their treatment at the hands of the media.

Nice, but it would be almost completely at odds with the reality of the last 48 hours. The overall picture isn't helped when the Guardian, of all papers, led not with the terribly, heartbreakingly sad testimony of the Dowlers or even the methodical, dispassionate evidence from the lawyer Graham Shear which so effortlessly nails the tabloid modus operandi, but rather with a piece by Michael White on Hugh Grant. Grant is undoubtedly going to be the star, unless JK Rowling or Charlotte Church come out with something both revelatory and extraordinary when they appear on Thursday and next Monday respectively, and that is exactly what's wrong with the entire way the inquiry has been set-up.

Grant is after all not in any real sense a victim of the press. He has had, as his witness statements to the inquiry set out (his are incidentally the lengthiest so far) a few battles with the media, winning each time, the worst of which involved the publishing of strictly confidential and private medical details. Instead, as he freely admits, he's put himself up as one of those prepared to speak out and risk the backlash, this well-known face pushing for much-needed reform. Very laudatory, it's true; or at least it would have been had he also not known that a girlfriend was having his baby. As hopefully this blog has demonstrated, I'm as liberal on sexual matters as someone who doesn't get very much generally is: even I though think it's slightly odd the way in which Grant regarded his relationship with Tinglan Hong. Despite describing it as "fleeting", it's clear that it wasn't. Having lied to the press about it, or told them as little as possible, it's not very surprising the way in which they've responded, even if you can't condone it: it's always the original lie that sets the pack running. 51-year-old world-famous actor makes a woman 20 years his junior pregnant and then seems thoroughly nonplussed, even detached about it is a story in any country, regardless of its privacy laws.

Why Grant then put himself into the position where he in effect represented the Hacked Off campaign when all this was going to come out is a question only he can answer. What it certainly has done is damaged both him, his cause and even potentially the inquiry as a whole. All the more reason to be even more careful in both his statement and evidence. Instead he pointed the finger at the Mail on Sunday, implying that an article linking him with an non-existent woman to the detriment of his current relationship was obtained via phone hacking. While I find it inconceivable that the News of the World was the only tabloid involved in phone hacking when the others would have been pulling out all the stops to one-up and follow the exclusives of their rivals regardless of the means involved, it seems unlikely in this case for the reason that it happened so close in proximity to Goodman and Mulcaire going to prison. Following their conviction there was an definite chilling effect, even if it didn't last for long. This isn't to say it isn't possibly the fruit of phone-hacking, or a journalist ignoring orders from the editor but there are always other sources of such information.

Another part of today was then dedicated to the Grant show, with the Mail's representative strenuously denying the claim, demanding the right of reply denied to so many of those slighted or worse by the paper, and Leveson himself wondering aloud exactly what the paper meant by "mendacious". By comparison with Grant, Steve Coogan's subsequent appearance was how you would have hoped those "willing to speak out" had gone about doing it. While he has and continues to occasionally enter into slight hyperbole, such as describing some of the actions of those who targeted him "sociopathic", his general account of just how they operate, through blackmail and making it clear that if you try to do anything about it then they'll just come for you with even more vigour next time is invaluable. He also, unlike Grant, has a real grievance: the Mail's (false) claim that he was in some way responsible for Owen Wilson's suicide attempt is just about as despicable as it gets, and naturally, despite winning damages as a result, it's still up on the Mail's website.

Thankfully, Leveson's true role in finally giving those truly wronged a voice was also demonstrated today. I doubt that many before the hearing knew or could remember the case of the murdered 16-year-old Scottish schoolgirl Diane Watson, killed during morning recess by fellow pupil Barbara Glover in 1991. The following year the Watsons' son Alan killed himself, found clutching copies of articles which the family felt had traduced their daughter's name. The witness statements do not contain the two articles in the Glasgow Herald (they are summarised somewhat here) or the one in Marie Clare that the couple more than understandably believed contributed to their son's death, so it's difficult to judge just how far Jack McLean went in portraying "Diane as the aggressor and Barbara Glover as the victim", but it's more than apparent that he did get key facts wrong about the case, and that these were never adequately addressed. Less clear cut is the role of Marie Clare, where the journalist responsible Meg Henderson had changed the names of those she was writing about, obviously not enough for those intimately involved to see through them, but certainly enough for most members of the public to not recognise the actual case. They did at least eventually apologise, although not to the satisfaction of the Watsons. Nothing similar was forthcoming from the Herald.

Equally affecting, if not wholly because of the role of the media, was the evidence from Mary-Ellen Field. As well as being the victim of Glenn Mulcaire, she also endured the incredible cruelty dealt out by Elle Macpherson. Believing Field was the one leaking information to the media on her, Macpherson laid down an ultimatum accepted by Field's employers Chiltern: either she attend the Meadows clinic in Arizona (one of those wonderful rehab centres that double as unbelievably expensive psychiatric hospitals) for the "alcoholism" which had led to her talking to the press, or Macpherson and Chiltern would both fire her. Having managed to convince the experts there that she was not an alcoholic, something which took a month, she nonetheless was still dumped by Macpherson (partially for being "ungrateful" for the "help" she'd provided) and then sacked from her job. Her efforts to clear her name once Mulcaire was convicted of hacking Macpherson's phone came to nothing, despite contacting the police.

All of this has been somewhat swept down the reports by Grant's histronics and the understandable allure of Coogan today. Also gone relatively unnoticed is the further information from the Dowlers of what happened when they met Rupert Murdoch, who just held his in his hands and apologised, or the letter they received from Rebekah Brooks, who not only didn't take responsibility for the hacking which took place under her editorship, something that Coulson has at least done repeatedly, but also didn't fully accept it had happened, which seems bizarre considering the police are certain it did, even if Mulcaire is now denying that he personally deleted the messages from Milly's voicemail account.

Some of this could have been avoided had the witnesses had been called in something resembling a better order. Whether it was down to the intervention of the press themselves or simply not fully thought through, each day so far scheduled combines well-known celebrities alongside those who came into contact with the press for very different reasons, with the possible exception of tomorrow where the most well-known other than Gerry McCann is Sheryl Gascoigne. JK Rowling, Sienna Miller and Max Mosley are all up on Thursday, while Charlotte Church and Anne Diamond seem bound to command attention over Chris Jeffries on Monday. Why there could not be two, or even three groups, with celebs, lawyers and journalists, and everyone else going through over one or two days is difficult to fathom.

If we shouldn't judge a long inquiry by how it starts, then it still remains the fact that the most attention to it will be paid at the beginning. Celebrities are always going to be a draw, but they shouldn't be allowed to overwhelm the evidence of the others. That has been exactly what has happened so far, and it's the fault of all those involved with the exception of those who've truly suffered at the hands of the tabloids.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Share |

Monday, November 21, 2011 

Those all important questions from the BBC News features and analysis section answered...

Why are so many stretching their ear-lobes?

Because they're fucking morons.

Should swearing be against the law?


Labels: , , ,

Share |

Saturday, November 19, 2011 

Misty winter.

Labels: , , , ,

Share |

Friday, November 18, 2011 

Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka...

The former army chief who blew the whistle on the war crimes committed in the final stage of the country's civil war has just been sentenced to another 3 years in prison. Seeing as the evidence that atrocities were committed is overwhelming, we should remind ourselves that it wasn't so long back that our former defence secretary (with Adam Werritty in tow, naturally) was visiting the country to deliver a speech on the behalf of our government, with nary a word of criticism contained within it. Not content with that, he also met up with the Sri Lankan president in a London hotel in what was described as a "private meeting". As always, it's nice to see just which brutal foreign rulers our politicians deem to be acceptable company, if only so we can hold it against them later when we start bombing their countries.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Share |

Thursday, November 17, 2011 

A further dalliance in the wonderful world of Nadine Dorries.

For those like me who have become a little tired of the way Nadine Dorries has been turned into a bogeywoman by the internet left in this septic isle of ours (and my own very small role in that is not beyond criticism) then it's worth giving Tim Ireland's on-going dissection of the letter sent by the MP for mid-Bedfordshire to the then chief constable of her patch a read. Not only does she accuse Tim of being a stalker on the basis of his turning up to a hustings he was formally invited to, one which she brought to a close once she realised he would be filming it, she similarly fingers two other internet critics as also showing signs of obsession.

As astonishing is this is, Dorries then went one step further up the paranoia-o-meter. She writes that even though she's more circumspect, Linda Jack, her Liberal Democrat opponent at the last election, was also in on this crowded market of stalking her. Smearing your opponents in public is one thing; making totally vexatious complaints about their behaviour to the police is quite another. Also strange is that despite repeatedly claiming that she's had death threats made against her, mainly connected to her campaigning against abortion, it doesn't appear as though she's ever reported these to the police. She also, equally strangely, didn't report a highly disturbing apparent burglary in which her front door was removed from its hinges and her filing cabinets gone through, with nothing else being taken. Yet, as Tim writes, she not only reported him and two others to the chief constable of her local force for daring to hold her to task, she also did the same for her main political opponent. Something, as so often in the past with Nadine, simply doesn't add up.

Bedfordshire police, unsurprisingly, only saw fit to give Tim a "verbal warning" at his voluntary interview with them, one which essentially consisted only of advice to not give Dorries something to complain about and therefore in turn waste their time. As for her other allegations, it seems that no action whatsoever was taken, for the reason that there was nothing to investigate.

Regardless of your political allegiance, generally only those at the outside fringes tend to think that whole groups of politicians are completely incapable of taking part in the process through which our laws are written. There are one or two individual exceptions, John Hemming being one, due to his continuing failure to grasp the rules around family courts, having deliberately broken one injunction having believed the pack of lies he had been told about the case. The other is Dorries: it is no exaggeration to say I find it genuinely terrifying that someone so dishonest in their dealings with their critics, someone so petty that they make complaints about their main opponent at a general election to the police, and someone so opaque in their relationships with outside lobbyists is able to have a role in writing the very legislation the rest of us must abide by. With her constituency due to be abolished as part of the 2013 boundary review, we can but hope that Conservative central office fails to find her a replacement.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Share |

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 

"This country really is fucked, isn't it?"

Earlier in the year I had the pleasure of seeing Simon Munnery's latest show, which he performed to about 25 of us in the salubrious location of a cafe masquerading as a comedy venue. Feeling obliged to say something to him after what must have been a discouraging turnout, I mentioned his appearance on Newsnight a few weeks before (which sadly it seems has not made it onto YouTube), appearing on the no panel for the programme's AV debate. Presumably Munnery had been invited to appear to add some levity to the proceedings, but the invited audience had been so flummoxed by this non-politician's idiosyncratic, surreal approach that they seemingly just turned off when he said anything, which for a stand-up comedian is never a good thing. After he had jokingly apologised for his dying, he related what had happened afterwards: Greg Dyke had also been on, and with Jeremy Paxman got onto discussing the economic situation. Paxman's succinct distillation as a rhetorical question was, and I apologise to all concerned if my memory has paraphrased his remark slightly, "this country really is fucked, isn't it?"

If it wasn't then, it certainly looks that way now. We might not be quite in the same state as either Italy or Greece, with technocrats installed in government, or forced into the austerity Ireland is having to bear, but the latest unemployment figures and the corresponding Bank of England forecast of 1% growth next year are bad enough.

This ought, on the surface, to be scaring the Conservatives silly. Their plan, buffeted somewhat on not winning an overall majority, was predicated around bringing the deficit down swiftly enough by the next election to begin cutting taxes overall, the "sharing the proceeds of growth" so dutifully promised by George Osborne before the neo-liberal bubble well and truly burst. While there was enough leeway left in Osborne plans for him to still claim to have eliminated the structural deficit by the election, even if he didn't quite hit his 2014/15 target, if we continue to have low growth beyond next year then that looks increasingly unlikely. This leaves him either in the quandary of rowing back on his supposedly unalterable plans, or cutting even further in order to reach them. The hope was that by cutting early the pain would be got through by 2015, leaving it just a memory and the Tories unaffected at the ballot box, or even, in their wildest dreams, boosted and thanked for securing a recovery with a rebalanced economy.

That this situation doesn't seem to be yet unduly worrying many Tories is perhaps explained by the solutions some of them are proposing. A couple of weeks back the Beecroft report recommended abolishing unfair dismissal legislation altogether, something quickly stamped on by the Lib Dems. Now there's Dominic Raab arguing for much the same in a Centre for Policy Studies document (PDF) subtitled ten regulatory reforms to create jobs, one of which predictably involves making it easier to err, sack people.

Much along the same lines is the latest innovation under the government's work experience programme, where jobseekers who express only an interest in the scheme find that they then can't back out without at the least having their benefits docked. This seems to be providing the nation's major retailing corporations with free labour, with the only onus on them to at least provide the offer of an interview at the end of the placement. Chris Grayling deserves an award for his double-speak as quoted by the Graun:

It is not mandatory but, once someone agrees to take part, we expect them to turn up or they will have their benefits stopped.

Seeing as many politicians make use of interns in a similar fashion, it's perhaps not surprising they consider this to be a perfectly acceptable state of affairs.

You might be forgiven then for thinking that the absence of any plan for growth or any sign of a Plan B should things get even worse, as they conceivably could should the Eurozone fracture completely, is in fact part of a wider political scheme. Just as some of the loonier out there felt that the Tories should go cap in hand to the IMF as soon as they won power, it's not completely fantastical to think that by doing next to nothing they can then administer the true shock medication as suggested above. Far more likely to pass the Occam's razor test though is that just as in the early 80s, the Tories seem to regard unemployment, especially among the young, as being an acceptable price for others to pay for their policies. Their gamble, always an extremely long shot, that the private sector would be able to create more jobs than those shed in the public sector has come up short. The utterly fatuous blaming of the crisis in the Eurozone for jobs that were being lost up to September when unemployment is a lagging indicator is yet another indication that the government seems to think the public are cretinous imbeciles.

The lack of Tory discontent doesn't however explain the failure of the Liberal Democrats to speak up. True, Lord Oakeshott as usual made clear his unhappiness, and Vince Cable refused to follow the execrable Chris Grayling in blaming the unemployment figures on the Eurozone, but the forming of the coalition has deprived us of a third political party offering different policies to those of the big two. Labour's plans, which are to cut only slightly less harshly, are the kind offered by opposition parties that know they'll never be enacted: the bonus tax would be unlikely to work a second time round as bankers have had the time to set-up the usual avoidance schemes should it be repeated, while they don't even suggest a reinstatement of the guarantee of a job for every young person out of work for over 12 months, as they previously did. An alternative is desperately needed, and as yet no one is offering one.

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 

It never ends (or some pun involving the prime of Mr Brodie (Clark)).

One of the main reasons why politics attracts the most anally retentive of obsessives, such as people who write interminable blogs for years on the subject, is simple: it never fucking ends. Well, it sort of doesn't: most sports at least have a close season, although in football this has since been replaced by endless transfer rumours, interrupted only by the World Cup or Euro Championships every other year; politics has the times when parliament is in recess, although in principle this barely affects things. Interspersed as it has become with contemporary history, an issue is never truly settled: if declaring the End of History is about as stupid as it gets (and I do mean in the real sense that Fukuyama decided that liberal democracy had triumphed, when if there's one thing that history should teach us, all empires eventually fall), then it's equally foolish to imagine that we can't for the umpteenth time go through the case for and against in Iraq (and sadly it's now those who were against who can't shut the fuck up about how right they were, which is sad when we were right).

This is most obvious in the debate about the European Union and especially now the Euro. The new orthodoxy is that the Eurozone was always doomed to fail, and perhaps it was. The problem is that outside of those with monomania about the organisation, who for the most part are the most crushing bores in the most crushing of subjects, few consistently said so. It also ignores how even if the PIGS do eventually have to leave the Eurozone, it could eventually make it stronger, and indeed, one of the solutions being proposed is for an even more integrated fiscal union, which is not by any means a good thing in the long term.

At least the potential collapse of the entire European economic system is a pressing issue that will genuinely affect us all. Far less important is the Leveson inquiry, which it seems will now last for potentially years to come. This could be the ultimate example of being careful in what you wish for: those of us who've banged on about phone hacking and press standards for years would have always loved a judge led inquiry into the former and a royal commission into the latter; what we've got is a hodge podge in which celebrities seem determined to grab the stage for themselves. It's not perhaps surprising that Hugh Grant would like something close to French-style privacy laws when he's knocking up 31-year-olds (named Ting Ting, no less), an affair first described as "fleeting". That those who want privacy often have a lot to be private about is usually a classic misnomer, but sometimes it's also painfully close to the truth.

And so it also is on the even less life threatening issue of who authorised what when at the Home Office and UK Border Agency. Over a week on, and despite the appearances of both Theresa May and now the wonderfully named Brodie Clark before the home affairs select committee no one is any the wiser over what happened, or indeed why this should be seen as such a horrific scandal, especially when we still don't know the whole story behind Dr Fox and Mr Werritty, an issue with far greater impact on national security. May authorised a more focused scheme that according to the Tories improved detection rates (Mandy Rice-Davies etc), but didn't supposedly give Clark the go ahead to go slightly further and relax measures more widely. Some of this relaxation, it should be noted, does seem to be asking for it: not checking the passports of those on private jets for instance, always notable for being completely in line with all domestic law.

Far less ignoble is making life a little less demanding on the staff and passengers who go through our airports, especially when we're still insisting they can't take liquids on the plane over a certain size, regardless of the chances of a plane dropping out of the sky due to Islamists with exploding Fanta bottles being around 0.01%. Equally risible is the notion that going through airports is one of the main transit points for illegal migrants or potential terrorists: the former tend to come in through stowing away on trucks rather than planes, while the latter tend to be homegrown rather than foreign. We won't ever know the number of criminals or terrorists who managed to evade detection due to the relaxation, but one suspects it numbers somewhere between 0 and 0.

Rather then than putting this whole tedious affair to bed as soon as possible, it looks as though it's going to drag on till January when the official inquiry reports. As Simon Hoggart at the end of his sketch suggests, the likely explanation for the whole thing is that the UKBA has recently received a new chief executive eager to please, who swiftly discoverd something that terrified the home secretary enough to sack the old broom civil servant out of fear for her job, not caring what it meant for him. Add in the continuing hysterical attitude towards immigration, so out of kilter with reality that even David "swamping" Blunkett fears the debate is turning xenophobic, and we've got another subject to chew the fat over for weeks at a time.

You can but hope that Keith Vaz, no stranger to scandal himself, gets his way and the papers which might just clear this mess up will be released sooner than later. Until then, and this may come across as slightly hypocritical from someone who himself has proved he can't stop yabbering about inanities, we ought to shut up about it. This must cease.

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

Monday, November 14, 2011 

Stupid question, stupid answer.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley is to announce that he is prepared to sack NHS bosses who attempt to save money by rationing treatment or making patients wait longer for operations.

So when exactly is Lansley going to sack himself?

Labels: , , ,

Share |

Saturday, November 12, 2011 

The mind of a killer.

Labels: , , , ,

Share |

Friday, November 11, 2011 

Quote of the week.

This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a cliche.

(I'm giving this week up as a bad job. "Normal" service will hopefully be resumed on Monday.)

Labels: ,

Share |

Thursday, November 10, 2011 

Deceitful and incompetent.

New router has arrived, but now it looks like something's gone wrong with the line as well as it's failing to sync up. Definitely not the router, as it connected straight away when I tried it here. This incredibly happy turn of events means you'll most likely miss my own analysis of James Murdoch's performance before the select committee, which I'm sure you were all desperately looking forward to. Here instead then is Roy Greenslade, summing it up rather well:

Let's imagine that James Murdoch spoke the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to the Commons select committee. I know it's a stretch, but stay with me.


One day in 2008, 10 June to be exact, Myler and Crone arrived in Murdoch's office to obtain authorisation for a large payment - a very large, six figure payment - to settle the Taylor action.

Murdoch was not shown any documents. He was not told about the contents of a damning legal opinion by Silverleaf. He was not informed about Myler's and Crone's contacts with Pike.

Not only that. He didn't ask. It didn't occur to him question why the settlement was necessary, nor to ask why Taylor's phone had been hacked. It also never struck him to wonder why his senior executives were still maintaining the public stance that hacking had been confined to a "rogue reporter".

He was shown a heavily redacted email - the famous "For Neville" email - but nothing more.

The only discussion was about the level of damages and costs that the company should pay. The meeting then concluded after 15 minutes. Job done.


That was, of course, an illegal act (ie, a crime). That admission may well come back to haunt him.

Finally, though the headlines may well be devoted to Tom Watson's jibe about Murdoch acting like a Mafia boss (early examples here and here and here) it paled beside the Asda moment raised by Philip Davies.

After explaining that he used to work for the supermarket chain (owned by the giant US company, Walmart) Davies registered his incredulity that Murdoch could have authorised the payment of more than £500,000 (to Taylor) without inquiring deeply into the reasons.

"It all seems so cavalier to me," said Davies. "You agree to settle cases with no real cap but a ballpark figure. You agree that a company should have a legal opinion, but you don't even ask to see the opinion when it is written."

And there, in a couple of sentences, is surely the puncturing of the Murdoch defence. What kind of company boss is that fails to show any curiosity about a massive payment in controversial circumstances? A deceitful one or an incompetent one?

I see no reason why it can't be both.

Update: To tempt fate, it looks as though I'm back online (at gone midnight). To add one point, it seems churlish to begrudge Tom Watson making his mafia comparison. While it's never wise to believe everything the inestimable Louise Mensch says, if it is indeed true that every single member of the media select committee was at one point under surveillance authorised by News International, then that's exactly the sort of behaviour you would expect from an organisation which felt it was accountable to no one, let alone to a bunch of jumped up parliamentarians. Like many organised crime groups, it had also seemingly bought off the police, with certain individuals even going from one to the other. Being compared to an Asda manager might be more demeaning, but few Asda managers end up getting arrested over their business practices.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Wednesday, November 09, 2011 


New router here tomorrow, hopefully.

Labels: , ,

Share |

Tuesday, November 08, 2011 


In today's shocking, staggering, unbelievable news:

Have I missed anything?

(Slightly closer to home, my router decided to stop working last night. Hopefully it's just the power supply that's gone to silicon heaven, but if not I'm almost certainly going to be without the internet for a couple of days. With posts of this calibre a daily occurrence I'm sure you'll miss me.)

Labels: , , ,

Share |

Monday, November 07, 2011 

Damning with faint praise.

The verdict from the man in the street on Imran Khan:

"He's a bit of an idiot," said an architect from Lahore. "But he's better than the rest. I would vote for him.

One suspects the same thought process was behind a hell of a lot of the votes for the Conservatives last year.

Labels: , , ,

Share |

Saturday, November 05, 2011 

Mind control.

Labels: , , , ,

Share |

Friday, November 04, 2011 

Primark Cleopatra.

Major kudos must go to Ian Gittens for tearing into Jessie J's awfulness in his review of her performance at the Apollo. It's slightly undermined by giving her three stars, but it's still rather sad that the triumph of mediocrity in popular music has become so complete that it's surprising when someone in the mainstream press doesn't sugar the pill:

Her success is surprising, as Who You Are is a wretched record, a farrago of gratingly banal dance-pop and overwrought sub-X Factor balladry. Yet Jessie J comes into her own live. Strapped into a skimpy purple bondage costume like a Primark Cleopatra, she turns in an exuberant, personality-plus performance that succeeds in temporarily distracting you from the awfulness of her material.


The new material previewed is deeply unprepossessing: My Shadow is a vocal gymnastic exercise that Celine Dion would reject as overly mawkish, while Technology poses the deathless question "Was it real, or just a re-tweet?" She's on safer ground with the encore of her two stuttering electro-pop hits, Do It Like a Dude and Price Tag, which encapsulate Jessie J perfectly: a hyper-modern triumph of chutzpah, and of spirited mediocrity.

Labels: , , ,

Share |

Thursday, November 03, 2011 


The one thing that stands out above everything else in the Eurozone crisis is just how terrified the politicians involved are, even if they're hiding it beneath the anger currently being directed at Greek prime minister George Papandreou. If it's difficult to take everything in or come close to understanding just what's at stake, and politics nerds are themselves struggling, then this piece by the continually excellent Larry Elliot more or less explains it. The fear is that should Greece default, we'll be in a similar situation to that of September 2008 when Lehman Brothers was allowed to go bankrupt. Should Greece go under, then the fear is that the contagion will then spread to Italy, although it may already have done, as bond yields are approaching unsustainable levels. The main European banks are far more exposed to Italian debt than they are to Greece, as this chart scarily demonstrates.

We all know what happened then. The banks were bailed out, interest rates were cut to almost nothing and a stimulus package then followed. The recession that could follow the collapse of the Eurozone and the default of Greece and Italy (with Spain, Portugal and Ireland possibly reneging on their debts too) would probably put paid to the early 1930s as the era known as the great depression. The room for manoeuvre is almost non-existent.

This goes some way then to explain the reaction of France and Germany to Papandreou's initial decision to hold a referendum on the bail out. First, it should be pointed out that Papandreou himself went out on a limb amongst his party in giving the impression of asking the people: he didn't tell them what he was going to do. Secondly, it may well have been a ploy: it looks tonight as though the Greek opposition, who were opposing the further austerity the bail out was going to impose may well join a coalition, with Papandreou stepping aside. This doesn't mean that they're going to carry the people with them, obviously, but it should make it ever so slightly more representative.

Even so, the behaviour of Sarkozy and Merkel (and others too) has been shocking. Last week the non-Berlusconi owned Italian press that has long despaired of the prime minister protested at the insulting manner taken by the pair towards the country and the ability of its current government to impose reforms. This was nothing to the treatment meted out to Papandreou in Cannes yesterday evening, and in turn to the Greeks themselves. It may well be the taxpayers of France and Germany that are having to stump up to bail out the country, but this is nothing to the next few years the Greeks themselves are going to have to go through. Unemployment is already 20% and the state is no longer offering some services. There is every sign Greece is being asked to put itself into a death spiral to save a failing political project, and that sacrifice is not even being slightly acknowledged.

It's this unthinking arrogance bordering on blackmail that will end up being remembered. On the surface it appears to prove the democratic deficit at the heart of the European Union, with the big nations bullying those they now admit should never have been admitted it to the Eurozone in the first place. For those of us who support the EU's intentions, if not its methods, it only seems to confirm the long-held arguments of our opponents, who have been crowing all week about how they were insulted and slandered and have ultimately been proved right, willfully confusing the Eurozone with the EU. Their case has always been that the European project has been constructed over the heads of the people themselves, and now in the ultimate expression of that the Greeks are being given no choice about their own destiny. There will always be those whom, often quite rightly, argue that through electing parties in favour of the EU we've given our consent yet this is something quite different. It's not being too alarmist to suggest there could be a people's revolution against a democratically elected government over this, if the military doesn't step in first.

An orderly (if there can be such a thing) default ought to have been engineered months ago. Instead there's been almost a year of uncertainty, with the Greeks forced to swallow a medicine that has only made things worse. We seem to have acquired a whole generation of politicians, of both the nominal left and right, who believe in institutions rather than people themselves. At the end of this there simply has to be a reckoning for all of those involved, and in truth it's been a very long time in coming.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Share |

Wednesday, November 02, 2011 

Anyone for The Murdochs?

If at times it's seemed as though the News of the World was going through the Kubler-Ross model of dealing with grief when responding to the allegations of phone-hacking, it's perhaps not surprising that we now learn the Murdoch clan last year discussed the "succession" at News Corporation with a family therapist. It's more than a little fitting that those whom pay the bills for the Simpsons (albeit grudgingly) are themselves such a dysfunctional family. There's Daddy himself, the crotchety patriarch with the trophy wife on his arm, the former heir apparent James, with the tattoos and inculcated swaggering arrogance, and Liz, furious at James for having "fucked" her father's company by not getting a grip on a little local difficulty. Should News Corp disintegrate into the dust once Keith does pop his clogs, they could do worse than invite the cameras in to film a reality TV show that would make the Osbournes seem like the Brady Bunch.

Unfortunately for junior it looks at though things are going to get worse. Next week he has to appear again before the parliamentary culture, media and sport committee, where he'll be asked to account for the discrepancy between the account he gave alongside his father and that of Colin Myler and Tom Crone, former editor and legal affairs manager on the Screws respectively. Murdoch maintains he hadn't seen the crucial "for Neville" email, the key piece of evidence which proved knowledge of phone hacking went beyond Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire at the paper, while Myler and Crone both say that he did.

Their version of events seems to be backed up by the latest cache of documents released to the committee, this time from those fine people at Farrer & Co, the same band of lawyers who back in the ethers of time injuncted my good self for daring to republish some in the public domain photographs of Mazher Mahmood. Julian Pike at the firm was called in to advise on the unpleasant matter of the voicemail hacking of Gordon Taylor, head of the PFA. Taylor had through court order obtained the documentation seized by the police from Glenn Mulcaire, documentation that showed journalists other than Clive Goodman had been involved in his case. As Crone outlines in a memo to Myler, this evidence was fatal to any chance of fighting the claim for compensation from Taylor. It also would explode the lie that phone hacking was the work of one rogue reporter and his gopher. Crone was immediately offering, through Farrers, a £150,000 settlement to Taylor.

The documents then, as well as dealing simply with Taylor, also show how the cover up was put in place. The next email from Crone to Pike shows that contrary to the evidence subsequently given by Crone to the committee back in 2009, Neville Thurlbeck did remember seeing the transcripts written up for him by Ross Hindley (also known as Ross Hall), although he was only going "to do the showdown and write up". Next is an illegible page of notes by Pike, which thankfully someone managed to decipher, of his conversation with Myler about his meeting with Murdoch. He apparently recommended waiting for the QC's view before deciding on a settlement. It therefore seems extraordinary that Myler or someone else hadn't informed Murdoch of the "for Neville" email, seeing as it was the clichéd smoking gun than meant they were going to have to pay out at the very least £150,000 of Pa's money to some nobody.

Also wholly lacking is any back-up for Crone's other claim in 2009 that it was Taylor who first asked for a confidentiality clause. Indeed, it seems it was the NotW that originally brought one up, at the same time as offering £300,000 in damages. If Taylor signed up to an agreement, then some more could possibly be found. Mark Lewis, Taylor's solicitor, intimated that his client would definitely button it for a million, plus his own costs, at a cool £200,000. Taylor either wanted to "be vindicated or made rich".

As it's turned out, he's been both. Whoever Nick Davies' source for his 2009 report was, it started in motion the next series of investigations and follow-ups, along with News International's increasingly hysterical denials, followed eventually by acceptance. Michael Silverleaf, "the silk" asked for his advice on how to proceed summed up the position NI faced as only a brief can:

In the light of these facts there is a powerful case that there is (or was) a culture of illegal information access used at NGN in order to produce stories for publication. Not only does this mean that NGN is virtually certain to be held liable to Mr Taylor, to have this paraded at public trial would, I imagine, be extremely damaging to NGN's public reputation.

Not as damaging however as the cover up turned out to be.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Share |


  • This is septicisle


Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates