Friday, December 30, 2011 

Best music of 2011 part 2 / 15 best albums.

Honourable mentions, in no particular order:

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Arctic Monkeys - Suck it and See
Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica
Sepalcure - Sepalcure
DJ Diamond - Flight Muzik
Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Zomby - Dedication
tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l
Africa Hitech - 93 Million Miles
Surgeon - Breaking the Frame
Machinedrum - Room(s)
Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie XX - We're New Here
Kryptic Minds - Can't Sleep

15. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

Annie Clark's third album as St. Vincent comes across not so much as a howl of anger about America both past and present as an expression of bitter disappointment. The lead single Cruel, with its incredibly effective take on the crushing realities of family life would be enough on its own, but backed with Cheerleader, Clark singing of how she's seen America naked, and Surgeon, apparently inspired by Marilyn Monroe's diaries, it forms a critique that is all the more powerful for its world-weariness, especially impressive coming from a 28-year-old. Making it all the more fierce is Clark's eye for almost other-worldly hooks and riffs: Cheerleader's final 40 seconds simply don't last long enough, while the solos on Northern Lights in their fuzzed beauty beguile in equal measure.

14. Pinch and Shackleton - Pinch and Shackleton

Coming slightly too late for inclusion on last year's list was Shackleton's Fabric 55 mix, containing only his own productions. While only drawing from yourself for a mix can be incredibly self-indulgent, when your tracks are as multi-layered and occasionally sinister as Shackleton's it almost feels obligatory. Combining with Bristol's Pinch for this album on the exceptionally curated Honest Jon's label, it feels like a riposte to where dubstep seems to have been going in 2011: nowhere.

13. Emika - Emika

The writing process of bass music is such that very few tracks are ever made with the express intention of later adding vocals, let alone having the lyrics written alongside or even before. This often results in the jarring effect successful instrumentals suffer from when it's felt, often by record companies, that a vocal has to be added to make it commercial enough to be played on radio. Not all of the productions Emika has vocalled have been expressly written for her, yet her nuanced, breathy vocals, compared to Portishead's Beth Gibbons', make it sound as if they were always made to co-exist. Count Backwards especially is a triumph on an album that is very much of the city she used to call home, Bristol, while also nodding towards her new residence in Berlin.

12. Martyn - Ghost People

Having received plaudits all round for last year's debut Great Lengths, it seems more than slightly strange that the Dutch producer hasn't received anywhere near the same accolades for his follow-up, Ghost People. Perhaps that's because it looks just as much backwards as it does forward, often wearing its early rave influences on its sleeve (it could also be something to do with being released the same week as the albums by both Rustie and Kuedo). This is a shame, as although many are pretending to have forgotten about the "new rave" trend that never was, Martyn has been around long enough to trim the excess flab off and deliver only the good parts. The album's last track, We Are You in the Future comes with the breaks, while Masks' effervescent synths and main riff rivals anything from the post-dubstep stable this year.

11. 2562 - Fever

As a concept alone, Fever by 2562 deserves applause: every single sound on the album is sampled in some way from disco records released between the mid-1970s and early 80s. Not that you'd necessarily realise it if you were given just the record without any additional information. If you were, what you'd find was an album that simply doesn't sound like anything else released this year: sure, the syncopation of dubstep/post-dubstep is there, as you'd expect, but it's the warmth that's so invigorating, as epitomised on the opener Winamp Melodrama, and which then continues throughout.

10. Rinse CD Mix Series
Rinse 14: Mixed by Youngsta
Rinse 15: Mixed by Roska
Rinse 16: Mixed by Ben UFO
Rinse 17: Mixed by Elijah and Skilliam

Rinse FM, having started off as a pirate way back in 94, continues to astound with just how far it's managed to come in those 17 years. It's not hyperbolic to describe it as the best music radio station in the world: which other station with a licence after all starts off the week with a heavily dub influenced show by Crises, and then ends it on a Sunday with the dancehall sounds of the Heatwave? Its this depth and variety which comes shining through in the compilation CDs the station has released this year: the dungeon, roots dubstep courtesy of Youngsta, the upstart UK funky played by Roska, the current post-dubstep mixed with old-school house and techno of Ben UFO, and the upfront grime showcased by Elijah and Skilliam. Its the latter mix which impresses the most and also best captures the essence of their actual show on Rinse, both in the dexterity of the mixing and the sheer number of tracks packed in, although it doesn't come close to the near 90 they managed to fit into their allotted 2 hours at the beginning of this month.

9. Fabriclive 57 - Mixed by Jackmaster

One of the problems with officially released mixes in 2011 is that with music so instantly available, it's difficult for the DJ to put together a selection that is still new when it's actually released, usually the 2 to 3 months after they recorded it. Jackmaster got around this trouble (at least almost, as it was touch and go whether they could licence the DJ Funk track) by mixing almost equal parts current tracks with classics and old school: seminal tunes like Big Fun by Inner City and Vamp by Outlander thus sit alongside the latest from Addison Groove and Hudson Mohawke. As with the Martyn album, it's evidence if it were needed that sometimes you have to go backwards to keep on going forward.

8. Silkie - City Limits Volume 2

If for nothing else, the wait for City Limits Volume 2 was worth it simply for the long-awaited release of Silkie's collaboration with Skream. Having been around on "dubplate" for at least two years, possibly longer, and with it still "Untitled" giving the game away, it melds Silkie's innate sense of melody with Skream's emphasis on rhythm, creating a monster of a track. While nothing else on here quite touches the heights reached by their pairing, the rest certainly isn't filler: Boogie Boy and Rock Da Funk are great examples of what Silkie does best, adding soul and depth to what can in certain hands be dubstep's difficult to penetrate harsh core.

7. Kromestar - Colourful Vibrations

Criminally overlooked on its release earlier in the year, Colourful Vibrations by Kromestar is one of those albums that will hopefully come to be appreciated more in time. Equally at home producing ear-shredding mid-range tunes as he is contributing to the more melodic side of the scene through his involvement in the Antisocial Entertainment grouping, Colourful Vibrations showcases the latter side of his output. The first release on the Dubstep for Deep Heads label, this is exactly that, although just as dancefloor friendly. If there is one criticism to be made, it's that it could have been better sequenced: the first five tracks are so exceptional, Disagree especially with its horn riffs, that what follows comes as a slight let down. That shouldn't distract though from what is one of the most impressive dubstep long players since the genre name was coined.

6. Author - Author

"I am a teacher and I am still a teacher". So goes the sample on the release preceding Author's self-titled debut, and also featured here as a hidden track. Consisting of Jack Sparrow and Ruckspin, two distinguished dubstep producers in their own right, their coming together as Author for this release on Pinch's Tectonic label saw them giving what ought to be a lesson to many of the new breed of producers: if there's no real feeling to your track, just the ticking of boxes, then it's not going to last long in the memory. Opener Turn, with lyrics from Ed Thomas, is as lush an intro as you're likely to hear, while the sax on Green and Blue, which can so easily turn out cheesy when done wrong is perfectly judged, all adding up to form the best straight-up dubstep album of the year.

5. Kuedo - Severant

As part of dubstep duo Vex'd, Jamie Teasdale had arguably a major hand in putting the mainstream part of the genre where it is now: the difference is that where his productions alongside Roly Porter had the harshness that has become the hallmark of the mid-range sound, their productions also had the technical skill which so often fails to underpin the either insipid or aggravating wobblers that have come afterwards. In his new guise as Kuedo he's left all that behind, imbibing influences as varied as the pioneering electronic soundtracks of the early 80s right up to the Chicagoan footwork which had such an impact on UK bass music last year. The overall result is dreamlike and an often overused description, cinematic, but which in this case is all too accurate. Best of all might be Scissors, sampling Carly Simon's Why, the riff coming in off-kilter as the jukin' backdrop kicks away.


One of the most remarkable things about SBTRKT's debut is what isn't on the album: Nervous, which came out on Numbers last year either couldn't be licensed to Young Turks or was felt to be too old for inclusion. What does feature is utterly immaculate pop, albeit with all the sheen and heft of bass music in 2011. While it features a number of guest vocalists, it's Sampha's contributions which are far and away the best, album closer Living Like I Do showing off his range to its fullest extent. Rumoured to have made the Mercury shortlist, its subsequent exclusion was all the more bewildering when efforts by both Tinie Tempah and Ghostpoet were deemed to be better. SBTRKT, in a different way to Jessie J, will hopefully get the last laugh.

3. Rustie - Glass Swords

Listening to the first three tracks on Glass Swords having already read the forum hype and reviews, many of which were either lauding it or eulogising about Rustie's debut, I was just a little non-plussed. Sure, they're better than average, but they weren't worth the effusive praise the whole was receiving. Then Hover Traps dropped, and so did my jaw. Once it does, the pace simply doesn't let up: to call it a sugar rush, or even a surge of serotonin doesn't really do Glass Swords justice. Put simply, it's the most outrageously loved-up, euphoric album of the year, whether you pigeonhole it as being of the post-dubstep movement or pure rave music. Ultra Thizz on its own would be worthy of this placing; accompanied as it is by twelve other tracks in a similar vein, it makes for the most exhilarating listen of the year.

2. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

If the critics have agreed on one thing, it's that Let England Shake is either very close to being or is the album of the year. Backlash duly prompted, the main criticism seems to be that Polly Jean Harvey's eighth studio record is slightly too worthy, a little too broadsheet to truly become a classic album. To which I say: bollocks. Rather than being too worthy, Let England Shake is vital, a corrective to the happy image currently being shoved down our collective throat of the military, or at least the wives of soldiers as embodying the best of British resolve, their husbands away "protecting Queen and country". We should be shaking at the continuing pointlessness of war in Afghanistan, a war our politicians tell us the most miserable of lies about. Let England Shake might deal mainly with the first world war, a conflict even more unnecessary than the current one in Afghanistan, but the message still resonates: the opening lines of The Words That Maketh Murder, "I have seen and done things I want to forget / I've seen soldiers fall like lumps of meat" ought and must retain the power to shock and to frighten. The Glorious Land's main refrain has it completely right, still: "Our land is ploughed by tanks and feet, feet marching".

1. James Blake - James Blake

"There's a limit to your love. Your love your love your love." To make a cover version the centrepiece of your debut album would normally be suggestive of a lack of confidence in the original material. With James Blake it was the opposite: his wonderfully simple yet brilliant cover of Feist, piano, vocals, rippling sub-bass and woodblock hits was there to show he could do almost anything he put his mind to. As Pitchfork put it, no one expected him to turner singer / songwriter when his dubstep productions were of such imperious quality. That he did, with material he apparently wrote while he was at university before putting together the likes of CMYK, and that it was so ahead of everything else this year was the surprise which has kept on giving. Might as well fall in.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011 

Best music of 2011 part 1.

Best Song / Track
Julio Bashmore - Battle for Middle You

In a very strong year for albums, there hasn't really been a track that's truly crossed over in the way Wut by Girl Unit did last year. One positive is that despite Blackdown's wondering about how much mileage there was left in "dark 140bpm halfstep beats", the end of this year has shown there's still plenty of life in that formula. J:Kenzo on his own made a mockery of the notion, releasing a series of fantastic 12"s, with The Roteks / Protected followed this month by Ruffhouse / Therapy. Along with fellow Youngsta favourites such as Compa, TMSV, Benton, Commodo and Killawatt, as well as SP:MC and LX One, whose endlessly thrilling Hunted was definitely one of the tracks of the year, there's still plenty to look forward to. Joker's My Trance Girl from his otherwise disappointing album was also a highlight, as have been all of Kahn's releases, especially Way Mi Defend, praised by Boomkat as being up there with the classics from 2006. Oh, and there was also a new release from Burial.

From the post-dubstep side of things, Joy O(rbison)'s tracks for Swamp 81 have been delighting all year. Sicko Cell, with its "I'm the information" sample was one of the surprise smashes, while the still to be released "Swims" with Boddika from Instra:mental is if anything even better. Almost all of Rustie's debut album could feature on a list of the best individual tracks of the year, Ultra Thizz and All Nite especially, while Mosca's Bax / Done Me Wrong release on Numbers took us back to the good days of garage, complete with rewinds. The stand out grime track of the year was easily Cherryade by Darq E Freaker, the kind of wonky rhythm that any DJ ought to be able to find room for in their set, while Trim added layers to instrumentals by both Last Japan and TRC.

Best of all was Julio Bashmore's magisterial Battle for Middle You, combining the low-end of UK bass with all that's still good about house, without heading off in the direction Swamp 81 has taken. A great vocal sample, the stomp of the bassline and the wobbling mids made the track of the summer, and indeed the year.

Best Remix
Pearson Sound - Deep Inside / Working With

In what seemed to be a generally poor year for officially sanctioned remixes, the whole Radiohead TKOL project aside, the best came in the shape of bootlegs from some of the scene's brightest stars. The newly emerged Jacques Greene served up a 10" white label which included his take on Kelly Rowland's Motivation, while Blawan has received track of the year accolades for his superb mashing of Brandy's I Wanna Be Down. Unbeatable for me at least were Pearson Sound's cheeky re-edits, coming on a white label from Night Slugs. Kudos must also go to Jamie XX, both for his Adele remix mentioned yesterday, and his work on the Gil Scott-Heron album, with I'll Take Care of U since being sadly abused by Drake and Rihanna.

Best Reissue(s)
Pink Floyd - Why Pink Floyd?

The one area the record companies seem to have identified as being profitable other than dross aimed at the kids is in reissuing classic albums in ever more lavish editions. Quite why anyone would ever buy any album by U2, even Achtung Baby, in an edition costing £75 is unclear, but there must be some daft enough out there. Pink Floyd also brought out "immersion" editions for both Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, yet it's the simple album reissues which we're celebrating here. All are packaged lovingly, sound fantastic and are available at a sensible price. On similar grounds, The Smiths - Complete, while not being quite as complete as claimed was also great value, while for completists the Joy Division singles box set is also worth the price. Also worth a mention is the reissue from Beggars Banquet of the Fall's This Nation's Saving Grace, which like last year's Weird and Wonderful was both cheap and had everything you would ever need or want. Unless you're the type who really needs 40 different versions of the same song.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011 

Worst music of 2011.

After a couple of years where it's seemed as though mainstream music was hurtling towards deserved ignominy, with the record companies seemingly welcoming their own demise, it's a relief to note that 2011 has seen a slight revival in general fortunes. Not that this, it should be noted, has been driven by their choices as to what should be the next big thing; rather, what we've seen if anything has been a uprising from the bottom. Powered increasingly by YouTube and backed up by the social networks, the sound of 2011 has been fired by clicks rather than decrees from above.

It's rather churlish then to deny that the year has belonged to Skrillex. Having for so long rejected European electronic dance music, it's been amazing to seen how what is ostensibly dubstep capture American youth culture, even if it is only a flash in the pan. To do so though, the sound has been bastardised. Where the music which emerged from Croydon in the early 2000s was dependent on sub-bass first and the "step" from UK garage second, this has been turned on its head by the main US adherents to the genre. True, the emphasis on mid-range can be traced back to Vex'd and indeed even the revered Digital Mystikz, but it wasn't until this was subsequently taken to new extremes by the likes of Caspa and Rusko and the "new wave" of producers such as Flux Pavilion, Doctor P and Borgore that it seemed to be getting out of control.

Having started off in the emo band From First to Last, Skrillex continues to claim that he doesn't set out to make dubstep. His first productions, including a remix for Lady Gaga, are bog standard electro-house. Referring to it simply as working at a different tempo, his argument doesn't really stand up: even if it lacks the bass, the beat patterns are the same as those of his contemporaries. What can't be debated is that his tracks are very well made; the problem is that they're so soul-crushingly formulaic, and that his tried and tested method has now become the essential blueprint for the "brostep" sound. Listen to almost any of the tracks posted on the UKFDubstep YouTube channel, and you'll find thing eerily similar: the intro lasts for until between 0:50 to 1:10, then comes the "drop", followed by a breakdown, then the drop again, which will almost certainly be exactly the same as the first. Where dubstep that followed similar standards before often had a different drop and a changed riff (see almost any Skream track, for instance), now laziness, copy and paste and a lack of imagination seems to have taken over.

Even more terrifying has been the latest development: the mixing of nu-metal with brostep. UK producers like Distance have long been combining heavy guitar riffs with their bone-crushing productions, but this is something else entirely: they never imagined throwing screaming vocals into the mix, for very good reasons. This hasn't however stopped KoRn, apparently desperate for any chance to remain even vaguely relevant. Narcissistic Cannibal with Skrillex is one of those songs that just doesn't seem real: not only for the god-awful title, which would be too good to be true on its own, but for how Jonathan Davies of the band then promoted it, telling the world that his band were dubstep before it existed.

If Davies can at least be admired for his chutzpah, then the comments of both Jessie J and Adele instead give you something of an insight into the bubble in which pop stars in this country live. Both emerged from the horror factory known as the BRIT school, the state-funded arts college that has given us Amy Winehouse, Katie Melua and now, most terrifying of all, the lamentable Rizzle Kicks, who seem to be trying to be a more credible Goldie Lookin' Chain. In Adele's case, this pampering by the taxpayer doesn't seem to have rubbed off, as she complained about her tax bill. "Trains are always late, most state schools are shit", while a possible improvement to some of her lyrics, aren't views guaranteed to engender sympathy among those who hand over what little they have to pay for their copies of 21.

You can at least somewhat see why Adele's album has been far and away the best selling of the year. Even if Someone Like You seems more than slightly creepy if you bother to examine the lyrics from the other way round, Rolling in the Deep is a fine song, and even better when remixed by Jamie XX. Very little however can be done to improve the oeuvre of the aforementioned Jessie J, just as you can't polish a turd. If Adele seems to lack a sense of awareness, then Jessica Cornish (it's unclear where the extra J comes from) appears to be permanently living somewhere other than Earth. It's not just her widely marvelled at remarks after she broke her foot ("I have a different respect now for people who don't have legs", "You give so much as an artist, you give, you give, you give. I break my foot and I've got fans going, 'I've got a tummy ache, can I get a re-tweet?' People think you go to a special hospital, get special casts and treatment. It's like, 'No, I'm the same as everyone else,' and that was the moment when I had a proper good cry."), it's the remarkable contradictions contained in her music itself. Price Tag, with its refrain of it she doesn't want your money and just wants to make the world dance simply invites the question then of why she charges so damn much for tickets to her concerts, or why her album got repackaged in a "platinum" edition six months after release.

Her real crowning glory though is "Who's Laughing Now", a song which revels in its unpleasantness. Meant as a riposte both to bullies and those who doubted her abilities, it instead comes off as someone who's risen to the top not turning the other cheek and letting go but shitting on those whom now most likely regret their past behaviour. There is little that hurts as much as past stupidity which later comes back to bite you, and rather than having sympathy or forgiving, Jessie wants everyone to know that she is literally laughing all the way to the bank. And while it's difficult to know just how badly she really was treated at school, it certainly doesn't come across as especially vicious in the song, although that could just be her wretched lyrics: being compared to an alien and having teeth like Bugs Bunny might hurt if you're under 10; once you're 22 you really should have got over it. Likewise, if your former so-called friends' crimes only amount to tagging photos of you with them on Facebook, you might be the one with the problem rather than them.

Almost inevitably, having been around for 5 minutes and only written music which will be forgotten within 10 years, Jessie has been invited to be a coach and mentor on the BBC's latest doomed to failure attempt to outdo the X Factor. As a warning of what's to come in 2012, along it seems with the possible collapse of HMV, leaving essentially only supermarkets selling new physical music on the high street, it would be foolish to imagine that this year's up-turn will be repeated.

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Friday, December 23, 2011 

Don't walk away.

Merry time of the year to all visitors of this septic isle. I'll back at some point next week with my usual insipid ramblings on the state of music this year. Until then.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011 

The revolution betrayed.

Great piece on the takeover of Egypt by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, via Paul Sagar.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011 

As if things couldn't get any worse for Steve Kean...

Veterans of what used to be the terraces at football grounds are for the most part a tough, difficult to shock bunch. When even some of them then walk out during the first half of a game, not because of the performance of their team but because of the truly poisonous atmosphere their fellow fans have created, it's time to sit up and take notice. Regardless of how poor a manager Steve Kean, the former coach of Blackburn Rovers is, absolutely no one deserves the abuse he's been subjected to now for months. Yesterday this culminated not only in supporters engaged in running battles with stewards as they attempted to parade "KEAN OUT" banners during the match, he was also nearly confronted by a fan who got into the dug-out. At the final whistle, among the other objects thrown at Kean was a season ticket book.

In a way it's unfair to specifically pick on Blackburn and their fans, especially when it's difficult for them to properly project their rage at the incompetence of the club's owners, Venky's, who are making the Glazers look like philanthropists by comparison. It does though highlight what ought to be recognised as football's new problem after the almost eradication of hooliganism: the truly unacceptable behaviour of some fans, who seem to think that buying a ticket entitles them to subject players and managers to an endless torrent of verbal, the kind of which would result in a criminal charge should do they it on the street. As the Secret Footballer wrote earlier in the year, it isn't so much the culture among players which means there isn't a single openly gay footballer, it's the fans and the abuse they know they would receive should they decide to come out. Open racism might have been stamped out, at least among the fans, yet homophobia is still sadly all too common.

The only reason Kean is staying around in the face of such treatment is obvious. If he were to walk away, he wouldn't get anything in the way of compensation; stay until Venky's are forced to act and he'll at least have something for putting up with what would be regarded in any other walk of life as bullying. And who could possibly blame him when he's become the scapegoat?

Oh. Yes, of all the people that really ought to keep their mouths shut, up steps Jack Straw. One thing that perplexes me is how keen Newsnight seems to get Henry Kissinger on to comment on world affairs; last week, not content with one potential war criminal in the shape of the bloated frame of Kissinger, it also had on Jeremy Greenstock, our man at the UN during the failed attempts to get a second resolution authorising war in Iraq. At least there's a certain logic in getting someone responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people to comment on dictators murdering their own civilians; there is however no one less qualified than Straw to comment on when a football manager should leave his job. Having been intimately involved not only in the Iraq war, he then subsequently lied about the role of the UK in the United States' extraordinary rendition programme, back in 2005 notably claiming that anyone suggesting there was such a worldwide torture regime being run by the US was a conspiracy theorist. Perhaps that's one thing Kean should take comfort from: that at least he isn't a politician completely divorced from the concept of morality.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011 

The fading memory of Piers Morgan.

There are many unfathomable things in life. Sandwich toasters spring to mind. Robbie Savage. Mariah Carey. Jack Whitehall. How Nick Clegg keeps managing to get up in the morning. None however are quite as inscrutable as the success of Piers Morgan. Imagine for a second that a newspaper editor in the United States had published photographs purporting to show US soldiers urinating on an Iraqi, images that anyone with the slightest nous would have been deeply suspicious about; how many detainees after all were likely to have been wearing a top with the Iraqi flag on it? One suspects that they would not then have gone on to be on the panel of a number of talent shows, or to take over from Larry King as the host of CNN's flagship nightly chat show.

Such though are the benefits of the friendships and deals you make while deciding who is and isn't making the news on any given day. Nor does there seem to be any limit to the number of full of themselves Brits our pals across the Atlantic can, if not exactly take to their hearts, then at least tolerate when their homegrown smarm merchants would be quickly shown the door.

Having transplanted himself into his new role as the man no one watches, you can't exactly blame Morgan for not being too keen to dredge over his past life at the News of the Screws and the Mirror before the Leveson inquiry. After all, there was that unpleasantness involving the shares he bought in Viglen before his City Slickers team at the Mirror tipped the company in their column, as well as the time Keith himself had to rebuke his young turk for printing photographs in the Screws of the then wife of Earl Spencer at a clinic where she was receiving treatment, let alone the hoax abuse pictures.

This doesn't however explain the memory loss he seems to have suffered since he left what used to be Fleet Street behind. In the introduction to his first witness statement to the inquiry he sets out just how little he now recalls, especially of his time at the Screws, where he can barely remember his day-to-day activities. His powers of recall must have been better a mere 6 years ago when his "diaries" in the form of The Insider were published, as he admits in his statement that rather than being a "historical record" they were collected together and written up "in a manner designed to entertain the reader" at the time, as has been long suspected. This is rather different to how the book was marketed, although Private Eye at the time pointed out a large number of glaring inaccuracies, including an entry in March of 1997 recording a visit to Downing Street where Tony Blair was holding court, a couple of months before Labour won the election.

Perhaps back then his memory was jogged along by his then partner Marina Hyde, "my best friend and unpaid but razor sharp proof reader" as he described her in his introduction to the book. Either way, sitting in a hotel at 5:30 am his time giving evidence via satellite link seemed to make his grasp of past events distinctly hazy. Having been one of the first to draw attention to phone hacking, as detailed in The Insider, he now couldn't remember who it was that had informed him of how to do it. Anyway, as he insisted, everyone seemingly knew about it and how to do it: apparently members of the public used to do it to their friends as a "bit of a lark". These members of the public most certainly didn't include hacks on the Mirror, and if if it did, then they most certainly never used these "dark arts" to obtain stories. At least he "doesn't believe so", as he said twice when asked.

Throughout it seemed as though Morgan had been exceptionally well schooled in deflecting the most uncomfortable questions concerning his knowledge of wrongdoing. This didn't seem as though it was the interviewer using his personal knowledge of the tactics of a interrogator to his advantage, rather that of a man deeply nervous of incriminating either himself or others. In the past he used bluster when confronted with such criticism, complaining of having to turn up to the parliamentary media committee's "ritual bollocking" back in 2003. His tactic of knowing nothing, having served the rest of News International so well when called before parliament, did for the most part pay off: his only really nervous moment came when quizzed on another time he put his foot in it, writing in the Daily Mail of how he listened to a voicemail left on Heather Mills's phone by Paul McCartney. Falling back on protecting a source, the implication seemed to be that Mills herself had played it to him; not inconceivable considering Mills' thirst for publicity, but doubtful when it's alleged he played it back at a party at the Mirror. Leveson suggested he might well call Mills to ask whether she did play it to him, which should be interesting if it happens.

And it's as an interviewer, even if hardly one on the Paxman level, that Morgan should be judged. He might only go as far as the celebrities he guides through their past on Life Stories allow him to, but if they started resorting to the evasions he displayed today then he would soon pick them up on it and inquire about the inconsistencies. He was joking when he said to Kate Winslet that you don't become the editor of the Daily Mirror without "being a fairly despicable human being", but you also don't become the editor of a tabloid selling millions of copies without being prepared to really scrape the ethical barrel. He might well have held his ground, with the inquiry team failing to land a killer blow, yet it'll be difficult for Lord Leveson to reach a conclusion other than that he was an "unreliable witness". CNN might yet have something to say should that happen.

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Monday, December 19, 2011 

Lazy links.

'Tis the season for roasting turkeys, and Unity today ably carves up Nadine Dorries. Hopefully there won't be a fight over the parson's nose.

Also worth a gander (groan), via the comments at B&T, is this piece from 2001 by Christopher Hitchens on North Korea. His politics may have become corpulent, but boy, could he write when he felt like it. Not sure he would have been pleased to have been been outlasted by 24 hours by Kim Jong-il, though.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011 


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Friday, December 16, 2011 

Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011.

I often grandly say that writing is not just my living and my livelihood but my very life, and it’s true. Almost like the threatened loss of my voice, which is currently being alleviated by some temporary injections into my vocal folds, I feel my personality and identity dissolving as I contemplate dead hands and the loss of the transmission belts that connect me to writing and thinking.

These are progressive weaknesses that in a more “normal” life might have taken decades to catch up with me. But, as with the normal life, one finds that every passing day represents more and more relentlessly subtracted from less and less. In other words, the process both etiolates you and moves you nearer toward death. How could it be otherwise?

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Thursday, December 15, 2011 

Show us the money.

As readers of this blog (now down to 3 people, 2 dogs and 1 gerbil) will know, it takes a lot to flabbergast me. The News of the World hacking the phone of a murdered schoolgirl and then when one detail turns out to possibly be wrong attacking those who exposed the cover-up doesn't surprise me in the least. The incredible cynicism of the Liberal Democrats over Europe, with Nick Clegg first welcoming last Friday's veto and then once he realised what had happened having to play up his actual opposition is to be expected when power over principle trumps everything else. Even the bi-monthly media attacks on Ed Miliband, despite his flaying of David Cameron in the Commons on Monday, just wash over me.

David Cameron's speech today on troubled families though is truly staggering in the amount of chutzpah it must have taken to deliver with a straight face. Strip it of the spinning in the press and all the verbiage in the speech which just repeats so much of what we've heard before, and all it amounts to is an expansion of Labour's family intervention projects scheme, except with one hugely important difference: despite the headlines about the £440m being provided, it's now become apparent that until councils have produced evidence that the schemes they've set up with their own funds are working, they won't be receiving a penny. There is then no new money being put into the scheme at all.

This is due to how councils can't raise any additional funds to pay for the £600m they're being asked to put in, as the Treasury expects council tax to be frozen again next year. Without making cuts elsewhere to fund this new demand from Whitehall, it's difficult to see where the cash is going to come from, as Labour have pointed out. Indeed, some of the family intervention projects which were already up and running have been closed down due to the cuts.

Dip further into Cameron's speech and it's obvious who he expects to pick up the slack: the voluntary and private sector. He almost inevitably name-checks Emma Harrison, the boss of A4E, whom he tasked to put "rocket-boosters" under this very scheme. A4E's effectiveness at placing people in jobs has already been called into question, with the National Audit Office criticising the way they missed targets set for them under the Pathways to Work scheme. Cameron's proposal then appears to be for councils to task charities and businesses to provide the resources, who will pay them by results, with the councils then being reimbursed by the government in turn. To say this hardly inspires confidence would be putting it very mildly.

The dishonesty even extends to not admitting the family intervention projects were the invention of Labour, and expanded widely under Gordon Brown. They did "try to make a difference" he says, but troubled families were "swamped with bureaucracy, smothered in welfare". Cameron's solution it seems is to do down everyone and then not provide the funding the spin promised: social workers approach families in much the same way as the key workers under FIPs do yet receive little to no credit.

From the very opening sentence Cameron seems to be asking for it, saying that we need a social recovery as well as an economic one. Is it too much to suggest that an economic one will help enormously on its own with the former? Just before he concludes, he comes out with these lines:

I know these are difficult challenges for any government.

They won’t be fixed just by a bit more money or a new scheme…

…or – dare I say it – another Prime Ministerial speech.

This immense task will take new ways of thinking, committed local action, flexibility and perseverance.

Quite right. They also won't be fixed when there is in fact no new money being provided, even if the existing scheme works. An even more immense task it seems is a prime ministerial speech which doesn't set out to mislead the public.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011 

Pots and kettles.

Ah, how quickly things change. Yesterday it looked as though the other papers weren't going to make much of the slight unravelling of the Milly Dowler "false hope" part of the phone hacking story, apparently feeling they had little to gain from picking on the Graun for getting the story right at the time, but wrong once the full timeline of what happened when had been re-examined. Then up popped the Sun's managing editor at the Lords' Joint Committee on Privacy Injunction, full of indignation at the apparent injustice of it all, as reported by both the Sun and the Mail.

It almost goes without saying that Richard Caseby's critique of the Graun's journalism was about as ridiculous and hypocritical as it gets. The idea that the original story was "sexed up" is facile, as the Sun's republishing of the paper's front page from the following day shows. The main headline concerns the hacking of Milly's phone by the News of the World, something which no one denies did happen. Only underneath is the false hope part; if the Graun had really wanted to sex it up it would have been part of the main headline. Moreover, Caseby's claim that the "false hope" part was only allegations rather than fact is undermined by how it seems the Dowlers were told by officers from Surrey police that the messages were likely to have been deleted by the hackers. It was what they believed at the time; subsequently it has turned out to be potentially not to be the case.

If there is one criticism to be made of Nick Davies and Amelia Hill, it's that rather than couching the "false hope" part in terms of "believed to have been deleted by" they instead presented it as undisputed. Again though, this is also what News of the World thought had happened, including Glenn Mulcaire: they didn't deny it at the time, and only later, after what seems to have been further investigation, did he start to say that he had not deleted the messages.

Further criticism could well be merited if it turns out that the only source for the "false hope" part was Mark Lewis, the man acting for many of the victims of phone hacking and also lawyer for the Dowlers. The Mail in its article squarely points the finger at Lewis, but leaves the door open for Surrey police to have been consulted also. The Met have denied knowing anything about the deletion of messages, but how far their word can be relied on is debatable. There certainly is potential for a conflict of interest if Lewis has been the principal source throughout, as many have long suspected, yet up until this week the information he's alleged to have provided has been wholly accurate. Something else that casts doubt on Lewis being a principal source is that the Dowlers had barely got over the strain of Levi Bellfield's conviction before the story was published: according to the Dowlers' witness statement to the Leveson inquiry, they had only just got back from a week's holiday when Lewis rang to inform them the story was about to break; would Lewis have used them at such a time? More likely is that the Graun got wind of the story from somewhere else, then consulted Lewis on its accuracy.

If any of the above does turn out to be true, then it obviously reflects badly on Nick Davies, not least because of his ferocious critique of modern journalistic practice in Flat Earth News. In the book he advocated checking, checking and then checking stories again, as well as being certain of your sources, all of which were being made impossible by the new time constraints being imposed on hacks. Could it be possible for instance that his story was rushed along because of the Guardian's campaign against News International swallowing BSkyB whole, something which was swiftly reversed following the Dowler revelations?

All this said, the rest of Caseby's argument was laughable. The idea that the Guardian has been leading a campaign against the Sun simply isn't stood up by the facts; yes, they wrongly accused the Sun of obtaining the medical records of Gordon Brown's son Fraser directly from the hospital where he was treated, which they apologised for, but as Private Eye has reported (1293), it seems the reality is they were handed over by the husband of a health professional there, and yes, they wrongly accused the Sun of sending round a hack to doorstep a barrister from the Leveson inquiry, but again as the latest Private Eye (1303) set out, it seems it was Marina Hyde's informing of the inquiry's press officer who then had harsh words with the Sun that stopped it from happening. Two (slight) mistakes do not a pattern make.

Likewise, it's simply fantastical to claim that it was a direct result of the Guardian's deletion reports that the News of the World was closed and 200 reporters lost their jobs. As Nick Davies has himself said, the mistake (if it turns out to be one) should not be allowed to distract attention from how the Screws for years tried to cover their reliance on phone hacking up. They could, and should have come clean when Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire were jailed and Andy Coulson resigned about what had gone on. Instead they insisted on the "one rogue reporter" defence until it crumbled in the face of Davies' repeated revelations. Even when the Guardian story came out the paper could have been saved; everyone was shocked when James Murdoch shut it down. The finger should be pointing at him, as it was again today: either he failed in his duty to fully investigate the scandal when Myler and Crone brought the Gordon Taylor case before him to be settled, or he signed it off and continued to cover it up. The responsibility alone remains at the feet of News International, and always will do, regardless of how many ex-hacks there try to obfuscate the facts away.

(And Davies just wiped the floor with Jules Stenson on Newsnight in a debate that we'll be seeing for some time to come.)

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011 

The knave or fool conundrum continues.

Back when both Murdochs appeared before the media committee, one of the few telling interventions was when Adrian Sanders asked whether James had heard of the term "willful blindness". Having feigned indignant ignorance, Daddy stepped in and said he had and that they most certainly weren't guilty of any such thing.

Closely related to willful blindness is the concept of plausible deniability, something James Murdoch has very quickly become an expert in. Accused by both Tom Crone and Colin Myler of knowing full well that the "one rogue reporter" defense had been well and truly punctured as a result of the disclosure of the "for Neville" email, Murdoch has maintained he never came into contact with it. First he denied he had any knowledge of it all, then that he had only recently became aware of it. The latest explanation is that although he did indeed receive the email, he didn't read the vital part of it, replying within a couple of minutes only to the request for a meeting the following Tuesday. While the fact that he responded so swiftly gives credence to his claim that he didn't read the full email at the time, it seems bizarre that he wouldn't have then returned to it later, or indeed have been informed about it during the meeting if he wasn't already aware. Murdoch is still asking us to believe that he sanctioned the massive payout to Gordon Taylor without knowing exactly why it was so vital that the case be settled. He remains either a knave, or a fool with his father's money. The former is more likely.

P.S. It's good to see that for the most part the rest of the media has not made a huge song and dance over the slight unravelling of the Milly Dowler hacking story. As Nick Davies has been at pains to point out, the News of the World has never denied that they hacked her phone, nor did they object at the time to the deletion part of the story. Glenn Mulcaire even believed that he had, perhaps inadvertently, deleted the voicemails, only recently discovering that he had not. Much seems to have rested on the Dowler's understandable loss of the awareness of time after their daughter went missing, and that it was only three days after her disappearance that her voicemail box reopened.

Still unclear is whether or not the voicemails were automatically deleted, as the police seem to think is the likeliest explanation for now, or whether someone else at the News of the World was hacking her phone prior to Mulcaire being authorised to doing so. Also possible is that it could have been the police themselves, although if it was they have yet to own up. The "false hope" part of the story was important, but even without it the hacking of her phone by the Screws was a shocking intrusion into privacy and grief, and with all the other revelations that have followed, it's difficult to believe that any other conclusion than the one we've come to would have been reached.

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Monday, December 12, 2011 

A very small carrot.

The Leveson inquiry today gave in to the age old Mazher Mahmood myth. Even though he has never presented an ounce of evidence that his life is in danger, an argument which was swiftly rejected when he sought an injunction to stop George Galloway from spreading the ancient photographs of himself, only his voice rather than his holy visage was today broadcast over the stream.

This is doubly helpful as it means we can't additionally judge his testimony through his body language, such as when he comes out with old time favourites like how his work has resulted in "261 convictions". The farrago of bullshit then duly commenced: he had never engaged in entrapment, even when a number of judges have come to the exact opposite conclusion, he had never worked with private investigators, he had never heard of phone hacking, and he had never "dangled huge carrots" in the form of rewards for breaking the law. Something else that dangles, in Mahmood's case alongside a very small carrot, is what his evidence can be summarised as: bollocks.

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Saturday, December 10, 2011 


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Friday, December 09, 2011 

In Europe, without influence.

The deal reached in Brussels this morning is on nearly every conceivable level a disaster. It locks the Eurozone countries already struggling into a market imposed strait-jacket of austerity and cuts, without ensuring that the European Central Bank will even now step in to provide the money the stability fund needs to be able to back up Italian debts. There's a close to unbelievable irony in the European Commission having to sign off the national budgets of Eurozone members when, regardless of the lack of auditors or complications, the EU's own books haven't been deemed acceptable for the last 16 years. Rather than recognising that it's been the very differences in the economies of the Eurozone members that have brought it to this point, this new deal draws them in even tighter, with even more burdensome rules. National sovereignty has been even further sacrificed for what now looks increasingly like an utterly doomed project, with everyone required to line up behind the deeply underwhelming Merkozy partnership, itself liable to break-up next year when France goes to the polls.

Implausible as it might seem, David Cameron's involvement has been an even bigger catastrophe. Here was a wonderful opportunity for a British prime minister to lead those other countries deeply uncertain about the Merkozy plans, giving them a voice at the table. If there's going to be a "two-speed" Europe, made up primarily of those outside the Eurozone, then Britain ought to be the one that speaks up for them. Cameron instead did exactly what his Eurosceptic bankbenchers wanted him to do: he talked big. And what did he get in return? Absolutely nothing. Rather than winning over the likes of the Swedes, Czechs and Hungarians, all of whom will now be consulting their parliaments over the treaty changes, he turned them off by continuing to insist on the sanctity of the City over everything else. By using his veto he hasn't stopped the Tobin tax, as the French and Germans refused outright to reconsider their position on introducing it. Nor has he stopped the Eurozone members from going through with the changes, which was never his intention anyway. All it adds up to is he doesn't have to try and get an overall treaty change through the Commons, something he was unlikely to manage.

This is a very short-term victory, it's true. In the longer term it leaves Cameron in an unenviable position. Already the Eurosceptics in the party are agitating for more, and who could possibly blame them? By leaving Britain possibly in a gang of one, should the other three countries all sign up to the new pact however unlikely it may seem now, all our influence on future changes has disappeared in a flash. What then, beyond the advantages of the single market, remains the point of staying in the EU? The Conservatives already loathe the social chapter, the working time directive, the common fisheries policy and all the other "regulatory" burdens they imagine are holding British business back, so why stay in when the negatives in their view so overwhelmingly outweigh the positives? The slightly more pragmatic, as Bagehot notes, want a re-negotiation to remove these impediments, while the hardline Europhobes seem to imagine us as Switzerland with nuclear weapons, or Norway without the oil. Both positions especially now seem to be utter fantasy. Having just so thoroughly pissed off the French and annoyed everyone else with his high-handedness, any such attempts at changing our relationship would be the equivalent of pulling teeth; ours.

All of which is to completely ignore the Tories' real paymasters, British business. They too might loathe the regulations the EU sets down, but the vast majority see no point whatsoever in a renegotiation doomed to failure, let alone the myriad of problems that would arise as a result of us pulling out altogether. They'll be looking at what's gone on today, both the apparent suicidal tendencies of the main Eurozone countries as well as the grandstanding of Cameron and be in despair. The CBI has notably so far said "wait and see", which is hardly an endorsement of either position. Should they look back in a few months/years time and see that Cameron has essentially led the country down the path of isolation, it would certainly be enough for them to think about trusting Labour again.

William Hague's old slogan while leader was that his party's position was to be "in Europe, not run by Europe". Cameron's achievement is to be in Europe while having no influence over it. Romano Prodi has described it as "gained freedom, but lost power". Even more apposite is Nosemonkey's observation that at least Chamberlain came back with a piece of paper. It was worthless, but it was something. Cameron has brought back nothing but more problems for himself.

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Thursday, December 08, 2011 

And what's the deal with airline peanuts?

It's far too easy to mock those not so poor souls fighting to be the Republican presidential candidate, so that's exactly what we'll do. For those who thought the "smoking" ad for Herman Cain couldn't be topped, here's the latest effort from Rick Perry:

As non sequiturs go, it's close to unbeatable.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011 

Where do we find these lunatics?

Even as someone with an, ahem, slight interest in the media and a loathing of the tabloids, I do on occasion get slightly tired of the knee-jerk bashing of the so-called popular press that gets featured in the "unpopular" Graun. Equally, on occasion, it's well worth reminding yourself of just how utterly vile the likes of the Sun can be: an editorial in today's paper comments, presumably in reference to the Graun's Reading the Riots research, that "[F]our months on, the Left has regrouped to concoct its perverse excuses for evil".

It's a sentence that sums up so much about the Sun's editorial mindset. That the "Left" would not have had to do any sort of "regrouping" had the government ordered a proper independent inquiry into the worst outbreak of disorder on our streets for a generation goes completely unmentioned. After all, why would they when both the Sun and the prime minister knew the causes the second the rioting began? It was what they've been spent the last umpteen years banging on about, not just the broken society, but a sick one, sick due to the collapse of responsibility, an underclass created through welfare dependency and worklessness, with the streets controlled by gangs. An inquiry might suggest that this wasn't a full or even partial picture, or worse still, have provided as the Sun so wonderfully puts it, "perverse excuses for evil".

This isn't to suggest that the Guardian and LSE's work has been a success, nor that its provisional findings can't be used to provide excuses. As others have pointed out, it's not wholly surprising that so many of those who took part hate the police, or are now pointing to their antipathy towards them as to why London and other parts of the country burned for four nights if they've been convicted previously. Far more interesting would have been a comparison between those convicted before they took part and those who hadn't as to their attitudes towards the police, as well as to how many times they'd been stopped and searched, if any. Indeed, even better would have been a quantitative rather than a qualitative study, or at least one running alongside the other: finding out why some from the same area and background rioted and others didn't would have added much to the debate. Instead, we're having to sift through those who not only enjoyed themselves but are now essentially boasting about what they did, such as the young man who supposedly came off a foreign holiday to take it part, and those who now deeply regret their getting caught up in the moment. Self-aggrandisment, rationalisation and honesty have all become mixed up.

To paint this though as "concocting perverse excuses for evil" is a wonderful reflection of the complete lack of curiosity on the part not of the Sun's readers, but on those who write for them, imagining they're speaking their language. At its heart it is not only obtuse and ignorant, it's also deeply anti-intellectual. You don't have to be even slightly sympathetic towards those who rioted to want to prevent it from happening again, and to even have a chance of that you have to at least attempt to understand why.

So much though when filtered through the tabloid impurity process becomes lost in translation. As they could have expected, the Homicide Review Advisory Group's call for a change to the law on murder has been ridiculed in the most disparaging terms when anyone can see that reform is long overdue. On a number of levels, the current mandatory sentence of at least 15 years and then a lifetime spent on licence is not working: not for those who commit a "mercy killing" who then take up the time of probation officers unnecessarily, nor for those who expect a "life" sentence to mean life, when in practice only a tiny number who receive them will never be released. In essence, what was originally passed as sop to those who opposed the abolition of capital punishment has become a monument to the lack of trust government has in judges. The very people who are best placed to rule on how dangerous someone is and how long they should serve before their case is reviewed are not fully trusted to do so.

In the Sun, all these nuances and reasoned arguments are reduced to liberal do-gooders wanting to downgrade murder. Whether or not either Linda Bowman or Richard Taylor were given a proper summary of what the report calls for or rather just told it argues for the abolition of mandatory life sentences, both ripped into any change, which was exactly what the paper wanted them to. Over in the same editorial as we began, the leader writer asks:

Where do we find these lunatics?

Where indeed.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011 

It's arrived.

You'll have probably read the following quote a dozen times already today. Lobbying, so said David Cameron, was the "next big scandal waiting to happen". To his credit, he has done absolutely nothing since he's been in government to ensure he'll be proved wrong. This is especially praiseworthy considering how his dear friend, Dr Liam Fox, was brought low in part by his former flatmate Adam Werritty's links to Harvey Boulter, who lobbied both on their unexpected sojourn to Dubai. Anyone else might have thought there was the prospect of his statement turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy; not Cameron.

The investigation by the
Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Independent into public relations firm Bell Pottinger could not then have come at a better time. Nor could they have selected a more utterly rotten and thoroughly vile organisation than the one set-up by Margaret Thatcher's former advisor to expose. Even this though was their own fault: posing as investors in the cotton textiles trade, they said they had been tasked by Uzbekistan's government with improving the country's image. The bureau's team contacted 10 separate firms asking whether they'd be prepared to represent them, with 2 declining, 3 not replying and 5, including Bell Pottinger, deciding they could work with a regime that sends children out to work in the cotton fields and boils dissidents to death.

It isn't however much of a leap, such are the companies and governments Bell Pottinger have taken the filthy lucre from. Back in 2006 Sir Tim Bell was instrumental in the lobbying that convinced Tony Blair to demand the Serious Fraud Office drop their investigation into the Saudi al-Yamamah deal, working on behalf of BAE Systems to the great benefit of the kleptocrats and murderers in the royal family. More recently the firm has acted for the Sri Lankan government, well known for its adherence to the laws of war, as so wonderfully demonstrated during the end game of the conflict with the Tamil Tigers. Closer to home they also advised Belarus, often referred to as the last remaining dictatorship in Europe.

Clearly still proud of the work they did for the office of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, one of the most prominent boasts to the team posing as the "Azimov group" was that they had written his speech last year to the UN. Some might be a little queasy about ghost-writing a speech for a man alleged to have personally ordered the execution of senior Tamil Tiger leaders after they had already been captured, but not so Bell Pottinger. Equally, they were not fussed as to where the money to pay them was coming from: there were worries about an audit trail should the media become interested, but they had no idea who had paid them on the behalf of Belarus.

Apart from the ethics of working with governments who have a tendency to "disappear" their adversaries, it was equally unsurprising to note just how a PR firm closely associated with the Conservative party (and which donates to it) was apparently able to influence policy on a moment's notice. A day after a complaint from Dyson, and David Cameron was talking to the Chinese prime minister on how their products were being copied. This has since been defended aggressively by none other than Tim Bell himself, as being "in the national interest". This is doubly amusing, not only because Dyson long ago moved its manufacturing to Malaysia, but also because it shows his firm in a good light, even if it doesn't the government. Also easily achievable would be the setting up of third-party blogs, which would look independent but use search engine optimisation to try and appear ahead of the criticism in Google searches. Wikipedia entries could also be edited, as they had all sorts of "dark arts" they could use, although they don't seem to have managed this on their own.

One thing the phone hacking scandal and the subsequent Leveson inquiry has somewhat distracted attention from is that there has been for some time a nexus between certain PR companies, the more aggressive reputation managing legal firms and celebrities/politicians. Bell Pottinger, having been informed of how they'd been stung instantly had a threatening letter from Carter-Ruck sent across (whom they also collaborated with on the Trafigura case), along with an utterly frivolous complaint to the PCC that the rules on subterfuge had been broken. Newspapers for the most part are outside of this loop, although they occasionally enter into it for the access it provides to individuals they would otherwise be denied any access to. Those with long memories might recall how Craig Murray was threatened by representatives of Alisher Usmanov for suggesting his reputation was far from unblemished; a thoroughly softball interview with the corpulent Uzbeki swiftly appeared in the Sunday Times. If the tabloid media is to be cleaned up, as it must, then Cameron has to follow through on his word and do something next about those so eager to boast about their access to him.

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