Tag Archives: guido-fawkes

Does the right really value freedom? The acid test.

I’m trying to sum up how I feel having watched the video on the Guardian website of Ian Tomlinson being bit by a policeman with a baton while he had his hands in his pockets and was walking away from them. I’d say anger, but I think the honest answer is: panic.

I watched it about 20 minutes ago and my heart is still racing. More than anything, it frightens me. That could have been me, minding my own business. If I had been tripped over in that way by a mob of coppers, however angry I might have been I would have been shitting myself. I think my heart could have taken it, but I don’t know. I have absolutely no interest of putting it to the test – and absolutely no way of preventing it from happening if I ever get unlucky. This is what it feels like to be afraid of the state.

I never did believe the initial police account, but it just seems to get worse and worse. What is clear from the video is the level of contempt at least some of the police regarded the demonstrators (and in this case, even innocent bystanders). And when it blows up in their faces? They invoke the law of the playground: however much you might be in the wrong, never snitch. Even worse, they use their considerable PR machine to spread lies about the conduct of the protestors. This has happened again and again in the past; we know what they’re like. And yet, with the honourable exception of the Guardian, the silence from most of the media has been deafening.

But parts of the blogosphere has been notably silent as well. I’ve just scanned the rightwing/libertarian blogs I could think of off the top of my head: Iain Dale, Guido, Coffee House, Comment Central, Dizzy Thinks, Conservative Home, Libertarian Party UK, Is there more to life than shoes, Telegraph Blogs, the Adam Smith Institue blog, Douglas Carswell, Nadine Dorries…* The top story on the Freedom Association blog at the moment is about the police handling of the G20 protests, complaining at the ignomious treatment of… the Adam Smith Institute Director who was questioned by police (numerous other of the aforementioned blogs have singled this incident out too – this is the martyr of 1/4 as far as they are concerned).

I’m not for a second suggesting that if you don’t blog about this you don’t care, but taken as a whole this is quite striking. These blogs obsessively complain about every possible infringement of the liberties of the affluent and articulate middle classes, yet when a blameless man in a dirty t-shirt dies not a single one of them has asked a question. Four hours since the Guardian released that video, not a single one has mentioned it. Daniel Finklestein, who chose to single out the Lib Dem MPs who were acting as monitors atthe protests, has been keeping mum.

When they’ve shouted about Damien Green or David Davis, I have tended to their side, and not been afraid to argue with lefties who can be eye-wateringly tribalist. Damien Green’s treatment was unacceptable. David Davis’ stance was honourable. But it is clearer than ever now that I could never expect an ounce of solidarity in return. Over the last few days, I’ve been given a salient demonstration of quite what the right really thinks about freedom in this country.

* In the interests of fairness, it should be pointed out that LabourList has been resolutely silent on this topic as well, but it is very much not representative of the left in that respect (indeed in any respects – can it even legitimately be defined as leftwing?).

What do the Scottish Greens and Guido have in common?

Both today are calling for Land Value Taxation, or at least they seem to be.

The Scottish Greens certainly are. Municipal tax reform in Scotland remains in deadlock and dependent on at least one other party agreeing with the principle of local income tax. That seems unlikely at the moment, even if the Lib Dems capitulate over the SNP’s insistence of greater centralisation (which does not look likely; what would they gain except appalling policy?).

Meanwhile, Guido is raving about the reprinting of Fred Harrison’s Boom Bust: House Prices, Banking and the Depression of 2010 (Guido also pats himself on the back at his prescience for predicting the housing crash in September 2007; modesty prevents me from mentioning that my first blog post on the subject was July 2006 and frankly I could have told you what was going to happen a long time before then).

Fred Harrison? You might remember me linking to this video earlier in the year. Harrison, aka the renegade economist, is a keen exponent of land value taxation and regards it as a crucial tool in the armoury against boom and bust cycles (actually, as the video indicates, he goes a lot further than that).

So yes Guido, Gordon Brown was very very wrong. But somehow I doubt your mate Gideon Osborne is going to be interested in Harrison’s prescription. The son of a baronet and Shadow Chancellor for the Conservative Party, it is his job to protect vested interests, not challenge them.

Derek Conway and the passions of Iain Dale

A few points…

Roger Gale describes the Conway incident as a “witch hunt“. One has to wonder why the Standards and Privileges Committee would do such a thing if that were the case, since if Gale is to believed surely all MPs would be liable for the same treatment. Surely mutual interest would prevent such a witch hunt from ever happening? MPs don’t look like they are in the mood to make something out of nothing at the moment, particularly given the daily grind of “sleaze” churning out of the tabloid press on a daily basis. Plus, if Conway is being persecuted, why the apology? Why doesn’t he stand his ground?

Guido is somewhat more on the money by implying that Cameron is dithering here. We’ve had the admission of guilt from Conway; why does he still have the Tory whip?

Over at Iain Dale’s Diary, Iain makes the perfectly valid point that he is not about to rat on a friend. I sympathise – really I do. But given that Iain has always been very quick to point the finger on funding scandals himself – he not only wrote the book on Labour sleaze, he’s published two editions of it – I hope he will accept some responsibility for his friend’s downfall. The reason the outcry has been so great is that unlike most of the current crop of Labour sleaze stories (but like the Abrahams and cash for peerages incidents), this is a genuine scandal. By over emphasising these, Conway’s fate to some extent has been sealed. You can’t brag about your growing influence with one hand (which I don’t question), while denying you helped create the political weather for this with the other, Iain.

Notwithstanding the fact that I’ve no doubt occasionally crossed the line, I try my best on this blog not to get carried away by ‘sleaze’ – not least of all because I happen to think the general Lib Dem attitude to our own recent funding scandal is a mite complacent. We should be wary of enjoying these too much because we end up creating impossible standards that no-one can live by. People like Wendy Alexander, Alan Johnson and yes, possibly even Peter Hain (haven’t made my mind up fully on that one – as cock ups go, this was a pretty extreme case), ought to be able to pay a fine and move on. The idea that ministerial careers should be destroyed for the misreporting of a few hundred quid is absurd.

Homeopaths resort to legal action to cure all headaches

A few weeks ago, the political blogosphere united to condemn the actions of Alisher Usmanov and his lawyers for attempting to shut down Craig Murray’s blog. We were right to do so; what made Usmanov’s actions particularly reprehensible was the way he used the law to intimidate Murray’s hosting company while cowardly avoiding a fight with Murray’s publisher who had already printed the allegations two years previously.

Now, Ben Goldacre draws our attention to another attempt to shut down a blogger. This time the fight is between a scientist and the Society of Homeopathy.

Andy Lewisallegations seem quite straightforward. The Society has clear guidelines and Andy has what appears to be relatively clear evidence that one of its members is in breach of these guidelines. This isn’t about homeopaths making exaggerated claims about curing head colds to middle class Brits either, but involves potentially dangerous attempts to market homeopathy as a cure for malaria in Kenya.

Andy Lewis demanded answers: the response was a writ issued to his hosting company who subsequently took down the offending article. Sound familiar?

Sound familiar? It should do. There’s a growing list of bloggers who are protesting about this. So come on then Tom, Iain, Guido, Tim and others, how about it?

Joseph Goebbels: “honestly, it’s like living in a police state!”

Reading Sarah Helm‘s article in yesterday’s Observer severely pissed me off, on at least two levels.

  • The complete lack of contrition from Blair’s inner-circle that they had done anything wrong. Lest we forget that if anyone tried raising funds via undeclared loans now, they would be committing a criminal offence. They might not have committed any laws, but they were going around bending them like it was going out of fashion. If Sarah Helm was capable of self-introspection, she might be a little less quick to bemoan how her family has been treated these past few months.
  • If anyone, say the makers of Taking Liberties say, were to go around claiming that the police under the Blair regime have become equivalent to the Gestapo, the Blairistas in the press would tear them several new arseholes. Yet here we have a member of Blair’s inner circle bemoaning that fact that the police, under Blair, have become like the Gestapo. If the police are mob-handed these days, which Prime Minister spent 10 years indulging such behaviour?

Finally, a note of caution about Guido’s attempts to bring a private prosecution on this case. Firstly, I wouldn’t bet your shirt on this getting anywhere. Proving anything over this in a court of law will be difficult even with the CPS behind it. Secondly, is Guido going after all the individuals implicated, or just the Labour ones? After all, the Conservatives are up to their necks in cash-for-honours as well; Michael Howard was even interviewed by the police. I wouldn’t want naive people to think they are giving money to clean up politics when what they are actually doing is funding a partisan exercise in mudflinging. Thirdly, Guido is a cautious soul when it comes to the law and his pledge seems to be deliberately vaguely worded. This isn’t a tenner you’re being asked to cough up for, it is a “donation” of no fixed amount. Sign it and you may find yourself jointly and severably liable for the legal costs incurred, with no say over what is spent and how.

Me? I wouldn’t touch it with your’s, mate.

Oliver Kamm: wrong then, wrong now

Oliver Kamm is predicting doom and gloom about political blogs again:

The blogosphere, in short, is a reliable vehicle for the coagulation of opinion and the poisoning of debate. It is a fact of civic life that is changing how politics is conducted – overwhelmingly for the worse, and with no one accountable for the decline.

I’ve written before about why I feel that both sides of this particular debate have got it hopelessly wrong. The dirt-flinging that has become associated with blogs is neither particularly representative nor new. Guido Fawkes is just the 21st century equivalent of 19th century Punch, only with poorer penetration and fewer readers. Every national newspaper has its own diary column. The newspapers of the 90s were full of stories about sleaze and scandal.

Neither does it appear to be particularly blogs that Kamm has a problem with: his real beef is with comments. This isn’t new either: newspapers have always had letters pages filled with ill-informed nonsense, and they’ve always been one of the most popular sections. Most newspapers now allow you to add comments to their news stories, and the BBC has had its own forums and ‘have your say’ for years. The fact that these things quickly become shouting matches is not particularly revelatory or interesting: only a vanishingly small number of people read that 245th comment saying exactly the same thing.

Poor political weblogs are characterised by one thing: no-one reads them. It is thus hard to see how they are can be having a particularly pernicious effect on society. Popular blogs like Guido’s are a mixed blessing, to be sure, but it is giving Paul Staines far too much credit to suggest he is doing anything particularly innovative other than getting stories a few hours before newspaper diarists get their hands on them. Worse, his Newsnight appearance has made him look a fool and I suspect that even his most fervent supporter will take his ‘exclusives’ with a pinch more salt from now on.

In short, freedom of speech has won out once again in, as the saying goes, letting us know who the arseholes are. In the short term it can give us cause for concern and thus people tend to go off in a panic from time to time about it, but the alternative would be far worse.

Personally I’ve noticed a slight improvement in the nature of the political debate on the blogosphere compared to, say, four years ago when I first started to blog. Put simply, there are now a lot more bloggers out there and it is easier to ignore people and them ignore you. I’m sure I can’t be the only person who primarily reads blogs as a useful means of filtering the news – I’m under no illusions about the newsworthiness of what most of us write.

The real reason for Kamm writing this piece (other than the fact he got paid for it of course) is simply to lob dirt at people with whom he was having shouting matches with three-four years ago. As a member of the pro-war left, he took it upon himself to explain to us why the Iraq war was an excellent idea and a means for spreading democracy across the Middle East. The fact is he has lost that argument, but rather than admit defeat he has chosen to attack the medium rather than the message.

More comment: Tim Worstall, Matthew Turner, Iain Dale, Reactionary Snob

New Conservatives, Same Old Tories

It would emerge that the aforementioned Cllr Brian Gordon has got into trouble before for comparing immigrants to garbage.

Meanwhile, Davey Cameron himself is in hot water for breaching Parliamentary Standards. Presumably heads will roll in his office? Don’t hold your breath.

That non-partisan Guido Fawkes, who fearlessly attacks all political sleaze and flummery, has more on the Cameron story. Oh no, hang on, he doesn’t.

UPDATE: Guido has now grudgingly acknowledged Cameron’s misconduct, but only in the contest of having another (yawn!) go at Lord Levy. To be fair though, he’s been busy finding out scoops like ex-Progress Director Robert Philpot becoming Peter Hain’s SpAd, a mere four months after the event. The New Media is so damned cutting edge, isn’t it?

Guido takes on the establishment

Guido Fawkes has been given a spot on Newsnight. He asks some perfectly legitimate questions, and gets some perfectly legitimate answers, but both sides appear to be missing the point.

Ultimately, it is healthy in a democracy to have people like Guido sticking their fingers in the air at the establishment. They often go off down a cul de sac, they often find themselves doing the establishment’s job for them (cf. his work with Ed Balls to screw over Colin Challen), but they allow us a valuable corrective.

Equally, we need political correspondents like Nick Robinson, who take it upon themselves to explain rather than expose. They often pull their punches when they shouldn’t, and in the interests of ‘balance’ often go too far in terms of presenting nonsense as legitimate points of view, but they nonetheless perform a valuable service. To be fair, I get the impression that Robinson understands this, but I don’t think Guido does.

Thirdly, and a point that neither side seems interested in, we need parties and politicians an unedited platform from which to communicate directly with the people. That probably does not mean £10,000 incumbancy allowances of the sort MPs voted for themselves today (makes Hayden Phillips’ money-per-vote look fantastic in comparison, despite its deep flaws), but if we don’t have it, we’re left with Guido’s bile and Robinson’s sang-froid.

Guido’s not a Tory? Fawkes off!

This whole Blog Wars thing is all rather silly, but possibly the silliest aspect of it is hearing people from all parts of the political spectrum defend Guido as being non-partisan. This argument appears to rest on the basis that, from time to time, he slags off Tories as well as people from other parties.

Well, on that basis, Tharg knows what that makes me – I slag off Lib Dems all the time. And for that matter, I don’t attend half as many Lib Dem social events as Guido attends Tory ones. Yet strangely I don’t hear anyone claiming that I’m anything other than partisan.

And while he seems to be very keen to nail the Smith Institute, he doesn’t seem to have the same passion for exposing, say, the Policy Exchange for publishing research on Muslim social attitudes despite a relatively explicitly political agenda, or for that matter any of the other thinktanks currently “helping” the Tories with their current policy reviews (I’m not having a go at thinktanks here per se, lest I be accused of hypocrisy, merely suggesting that the Smith Institute “scandal” requires a bit of contextualising).

Ah, you say, but Guido occasionally writes posts slagging off thinktanks. He has an amusing picture of a chimp in a hat that goes alongside them and everything. But bemoaning an organisation and going after it are two different things.

I don’t have a problem with Guido having a partisan agenda – why shouldn’t he? But I do think people are foolish to buy into his “I hate everyone equally myth.” He may not love the modern Conservative Party, but it’s clear he’d rather have them in power and is working on that basis. Let’s at least be clear about that.

Balls to Morley and Rothwell

An interesting twist on the recent announcement by Colin Challen that he won’t be restanding in Morley and Rothwell, in order to spend more time with his vegetables. I understand from a reliable source that he is incredibly bitter about what he perceives to be a dirty tricks campaign waged by Balls’ team over the past few weeks, which hit fever pitch when rumours began circulating (helpfully boosted by secret Balls admirer Guido Fawkes) that he had made up stories about him falling off his bike.

My bid to raise funds for Ed Balls’ sex change operation failed late last year. Fortunately for him, all women shortlists are at the discretion of the Labour NEC which judiciously (ab)uses them to help the “right” sort of candidate such as Balls, and exclude the “wrong” candidates such as Peter Law. Is it any wonder why people are so cynical about them?