Tag Archives: paul staines

Why does the Advertising Standards Authority regulate e-petition campaigns but not referendums?

It is great to see that the Advertising Standards Authority has cracked down on Paul Staines for misleading advertising as part of his campaign in support of his death penalty e-petition. It is not immediately clear however why the ASA feels it has a regulatory role here while it doesn’t have a role in regulating referendum adverts, on the basis of “freedom of speech”.

Election advertising is at least covered by legislation and the courts, something to which Miranda Grell and Phil Woolas can testify. With referendums however, it is a total free for all. At least in the case of elections however, the ASA does issue guidelines. In the case of the referendum, it refused to do even that.

So why does the ASA feel it doesn’t have a role here? As far as I can tell there is nothing in statute which prevents it from having a role and there is certainly no principled difference between regulating referendum and e-petition ads. Both are about influencing public policy; both are affected by freedom of speech.

What’s more, there is a question of significance. While a misleading advert to promote an e-petition might lead to a few extra signatures, it won’t change government policy. Influencing a referendum result with garbage, by contrast, has a significant impact on legislation and the government of the day. One could understand if the ASA had better things to do than to waste its time with Staines; it is harder to see how a referendum isn’t worth its time.

But perhaps it is Staines’ minnow status which is telling here. Cracking down on a small front organisation is pretty elementary; standing up to the combined Conservative establishment and Labour old guard is an altogether more daunting prospect. The decision is only explicable when you look at it in terms of expediency, but that doesn’t make it any more respectable.

Either way, regardless of what the next referendum happens to be on, this loophole in the law urgently needs sorting out. Because next time, it might be a referendum on the death penalty – in which case expect Stains and company to dredge out all the misleading nonsense they’ve just had their knuckles rapped over and worse.

Credit where it’s due


The Evening Standard and Liberal Vision have been patting Guido Fawkes on the back for observing the uncanny similarity between David Cameron’s latest airbrushed photo and Lt Cmdr Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Only one slight problem with this: Guido actually got the idea from me as I tweeted this observation over a week ago.

Back in the day, Guido used to run a regular feature on diarists who regularly ripped off bloggers. These days of course, Guido is feted by the mainstream media. Fascinating how times have changed.

It is also worth observing that the substance of Angela Harbutt’s blog post is that Jo Swinson is a hypocrite for criticising adverts with airbrushed images of women whilst not criticising Cameron for this blatant act of fakery. Wrong again, I’m afraid, as any twitter search will tell you.

UPDATE: Guido has issued a carefully worded non-denial denial and accused me of “bloggers narcisim” – possibly the most self unaware statement ever uttered on the internet. Just for the record, I don’t expect or demand an acknowledgement – I’m just putting the facts out there. People can draw their own conclusions.

Crunches, Guido and Seigniorage

One of the more entertaining aspects of the current global financial meltdown is watching Guido Fawkes, aka hedge funder Paul Staines, transform from arch-cynic about all things political to dewy-eyed innocent about all things financial. It isn’t that I’m a capitalist-hating trot who fervantly believes that this current crisis is going to lead to world socialism, but reading Guido you would think that the financiers have no culpability whatsoever.

At Lib Dem conference on Tuesday I moved an amendment in the debate on the Housing and Mortgage Crisis. I think it was the poorest speech I have delivered in years (if you want to add to my humiliation you can still watch me on iPlayer – I’m about 40 mins in), mainly due to the fact that even after my crash course in all things monetary the night before, I wasn’t at all sure of my subject.

But at the same time, it is a subject very close to my heart. I heard a lot of speeches from MPs this week about how money worries are giving some of their constituencies mental health problems. As someone who went from someone who diligently filed all his bank statements every month when I was younger to someone who gets panic attacks opening letters from banks and generally keeps bank statements, unopened, in a box under the bed, I think its fair to say first hand that I know how they feel. Having gone through the process where my bank (Halifax, natch) wouldn’t give me an affordable loan and instead left me with no alternative but to try and manage a mini-financial crisis with a credit card, there’s a reason why I have a habit of talking about economic issues in moral terms – it’s the only morality that really matters in my humble opinion.

I’d agreed to do propose the amendment on behalf of ALTER, whose own speaker couldn’t attend. And I have to admit that while the idea of the credit creation charge (specifically a tax on bank’s creation of credit) has some appeal, I’d want to look into it a lot more before deciding whether to support it or not. While Neale Upstone and I could have probably done a better job at prebutting the criticisms made by Vince Cable in his summation, an out of the blue amendment is frankly not the way to win the argument, or even particularly to create debate.

We certainly need some kind of mechanism for controlling cheap credit, and the CCC has the advantage of using it to raise revenue which can be doled out to the wider public in the form of tax cuts (and possibly a citizen’s income), but there may well be other mechanisms. This week Vince Cable seemed to at least acknowledge there was a problem which needed solving.

Is Guido bonkers?

So asks Justin McKeating. Now, normally I wouldn’t indulge in such things but I was fascinated by this response to a Liberal Conspiracy article:

According to the moonbats the Is Brown Bonkers? meme is cooked up by Guido on the orders of Andy Coulson at CCHQ.

But if you read the actual article he links to, no mention of Andy Coulson or CCHQ is made in it. There are a couple of CCHQ refs in the comments, but the only person who refers to Coulson is Guido himself.

Rebutting an allegation that isn’t being made against you is a pretty cast iron example of paranoia. Maybe Paul Staines needs to get out of this gig. It isn’t doing his mental health any good at all.

Honest Tom

I often slag Guido/Paul Staines off on this blog. The truth is, I don’t like the man’s politics which veer wildly between being an apologist for the Conservative Party under the guise of neutrality and total nihilism.

But the truth is, if he didn’t exist we’d need to invent him. His latest post on Tom Watson is a case in point. Utterly shameless, if ever there was a poster child for all that is wrong with that partcular faction of New-Labour-Same-As-The-Old-Labour MPs, it is Comical Tommy.