Anyone remember Tory Stories? It was a bright shiny project from Jon Cruddas (now reinvented as a Milibandieite) which was going to catalogue the nasty things that Tories had done. You got the impression they thought it was going to make a difference at the election. Hmmm…
I pretty much lost interest in them after this fisking. Most of their articles – like, to be fair, a more creditable minority of Left Foot Forward‘s – eschewed “evidence based blogging” for spin and transparent misrepresentation.
By the end it was essentially a one man band, with Jeremy Cliffe taking a leaf from John Le Carré and writing the same blog post over and over again:
Tories, eh? They say one thing in public, and another in private. Oooo…Evil. Look at this shiny new building that got put up by Labour! (Don’t ask where the funding came from.) Look, I’ve found a typo/wry coincidence/minor politico with unpleasant views! This means all Tory poster/candidates/events are dodgy! It does, honest. Here, look at this photo of Dave and have a two minute hate.
Sadly – unlike Le Carré – he’d not quite figured out how to manage to say something contemporary and relevant.
Tory Stories is far from the only remmnant. There’s Labour’s petition to save the ban on fox hunting (blogged about here). It seemed bizarre at the time for a senior Labour politician to be launching such a petition while his party was still in government, rather smacking of resignation to defeat. In retrospect, that’s exactly what it was.
History is kinder to the remnants which were on the right side of the election result. A Future Fair For All spent the run up to the Election drawing attention to anti-Labour stories, before signing off on May 12th. At the very least, its legacy is reminding Labour’s web muppets to buy all the relevant domains next time!
Mansfield approaches the matter from the point of view of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but this is a blinkered and mistaken approach. While the attempts to arrest Tzipi Livni may be the proximate cause of these proposals, the political motivation is undeniably broader.
This is really about sparing the blushes of the government of the day by protecting representatives and former representatives of friendly governments. Similar legal issues could and would arise around Dutch (Srebenica), French (Rwanda), and Russian (Chechnya and Georgia, particularly) politicians. As the views of Philip Alston (UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions) make clear, US military and political leaders – from President Obama and former Presidents Bush and Clinton down – could be exposed to liability in connection with the use of targeted strikes, notably by drone aircraft.
(Relatedly, here’s the guest post I wrote about drone warfare for FACT’s MyWar blog, which briefly considered those issues.)
While I disagree with Rozenberg’s conclusion, I’ve much more time for his argument than that of Mansfield. That said, he relies on some questionable assumptions about guidelines which have yet to be written, and expressly allows the will of the government of the day (as embodied by the Attorney General) as a reason for an arrest warrant being denied. The latter issue is particularly worrying – he argues the DPP should, in considering whether a prosecution could be successful, be allowed to consider whether the Attorney General would give his consent to one being commenced.
Why should the AG’s possible future conduct be considered in this way at the arrest stage, rather than the existing power for the AG to refuse consent for a prosecution? One obvious, if entirely cynical, answer is that it ensures that no proper investigation of the allegations will take place. An arrest warrant is issued on a prima facie case (a point not every opponent of the Tzipi Livni arrest warrant appeared to understand), which has then to be investigated.
Investigation may well bring to light evidence which rebutts the prima facie case, but it if it doesn’t the Attorney General will have to decide to give or withhold consent. He, and his government, would be accountable for this decision, and would face justified criticism if they were to prevent a case with a real prospect of success from proceeding.
The political consequences of preventing a trial from proceeding for political reasons are not theoretical, as the last Labour Government is only too well aware. When the BAe Systems prosecution was halted, after pressure from the government of Saudi Arabia, Nick Clegg had this to say:
This ruling is a legal licence for international blackmail. The rule of law in Britain now seems to depend on the whims of foreign governments.
If the government is to restore its tarnished global reputation there must be an independent inquiry into its role in dropping the decision to prosecute.
I wonder what Mr. Clegg will have to say the first time the DPP refuses permission for an arrest warrant, based on the government’s unwillingness to see a prosecution proceed?
I’ve commented on Rozenberg’s piece here.
Here’s a scenario you get fairly regularly when you’re an inhouse lawyer: something nasty is being said about the company/brand/director and Something Must Be Done. How you deal with it is an acid test; do you scurry away and draw up a letter of claim in your best legalese, or do you calmly explain that threatening legal action is probably not a good idea?
Whether you’ve heard of Tangent Labs is a way of separating the political geek goats from the sheep, but if you’ve ever been on a Labour Party site you’ve probably come across something they’ve designed and built.
My views about their products are a matter of record. This is from March:
When I commented on the Political Scrapbook story, I referred to Labour’s favourite digital agency, Tangent Labs, who have been responsible for monstrosities such as this (which is vastly improved from its state at launch) and this. If such sites were free, that would be one thing – but Labour paid handsomely for them.
Someone else who’s apparently less than enamoured of their work is Luke Bozier, a Labour supporting communications consultant, who took the time to give a more detailed comment on the subject earlier today, explaining why he felt the Labour party’s relationship with Tangent Labs resulted in an array of very similar, and not very attractive, sites.
For his trouble, he reports, he
“…received an email from Tangent PLC’s executive director threatening potential legal action for my Tweet earlier suggesting that Gordon’s Brown website wasn’t very well designed.”
This is far from being the first time that a company most people have never heard of decided it was important to stop people saying nasty things about them online.
Someone at Tangent Labs needs to find themselves a web browser, navigate over to Google, and enter the words “Trafigura” and “Twitter”. As a filter, they might like to try “reputational disaster”.
Once that mounting sense of existential dread has nicely established itself, they might want to pop over to Twitter itself, and check out #OffTangent.
And for the record, Tangent Labs peeps, that #OffTangent stuff?
That’s the good news.
People are also using #ThatWebsiteIsSoPissPoorItCouldHaveComeFromTangentLabs.
As a general rule, when you’ve supplanting the BBC News redesign as the current gold standard for craply designed websites, you may have cocked up.
Other people are blogging it, creating more online records of the situation, and of the negative feeling it’s generating. Not a great situation for a web design company to be in: you have to think a lot of potential customers are going to check you out online.
This afternoon is rapidly turning into a masterclass in how not to protect your brand.
Legal threats: leave them to the lawyers. We’ll tell you when they’re a bad idea.
Politicians are particularly good at delivering car crash television. Michael Howard threatening to over rule, Gordon Brown trying to smile, Ed Balls. Carnage is often just a camera lens away.
But it’s not normally what you expect from Channel 4 News – unless they’re allowing random student politicos to wander in front of their cameras and set back the cause of higher education by years.
Jade Baker, VP Education of Westminster University there. If you voted for her, you must be very proud.
(In Channel 4 News’ defence, the English NUS has been electing that kind of person President for years, and their general uselessness is one small reason why the next generation of students is facing a possible graduate tax)
So you wouldn’t have expected an interview between Zac Goldsmith – scion of the infamous Sir James – and Jon Snow to be particularly exceptional.
You Wanna Watch It
Goldsmith didn’t cover himself in glory. Actually, ‘came across as an unpleasant twit’ is probably nearer the truth, and his “In which case, you wanna watch it” tagline really deserves to become an internet meme.
But it would take a certain kind of chutzpah to turn up on live television waving printouts of e-mails and lie about their content. Goldsmith specifically claimed to have corresponded with Antony Barnett, the reporter whose piece had started the whole farago, about 90 minutes before Channel 4 News aired the original package. He also flatly denied the – frankly pretty odd – assertion from Jon Snow that Goldsmith had said he would only come on the programme if he could be interviewed by Cathy Newman.
Subsequently, on Twitter and elsewhere, Channel 4 News is pushing the line that they had told Goldsmith about the story the previous week, and he had declined to participate. If, as Goldsmith claimed on live television, he was not told until the day of the original broadcast that the piece would air, this claim loses much of its moral force. Moreover, Goldsmith also claims to have provided Channel 4 News with a statement on the day of broadcast.
The whole things is a bit of a mess, and it behoves Channel 4 News to do the obvious and put its case beyond argument.
What makes matters worse is the weakness of the original piece. There is no smoking gun, just a series of innuendos about way in which Goldsmith’s campaign apportioned costs. The story relies, for most of its force, on the ignorance of most viewers as to the simultaneous complexity and non-specificity of electoral funding rules. In particular, it relies upon the ignorance of most as to the existence of the regulated period immediately prior the election, the period during which expenses are most tightly controlled.
Channel 4′s principal claims are that Goldsmith improperly failed to allocate costs to that period, and also allocated some of his costs to local council campaigns. This last is a can of worms of epic proportions. If the Electoral Commission were to take the line Channel 4 News is pushing, and take action against Goldsmith on that basis, we would be faced with dozens, if not hundreds of further inquiries into sitting MPs.
On the plus side, it’s a quick way of reducing the size of the Commons by that 10% Dave is so keen on.
It’s worth comparing and contrasting the reporting of Dave Mundell (Scotland’s only Tory MP) reporting himself to the Electoral Commission because a £700 bill was omitted from his return, particularly as the initial suggestion from Mundell’s team is that the omission actually reflects phasing – the bill was counted at an earlier stage in the campaign.
And of course,
the main enemy our Liberal Democrat allies have been quick to jump on the bandwagon. They’re still smarting from the fact that Goldsmith unseated Susan Kramer. Personally, I think they should be grateful someone has the ample free time to challenge Lembit for the mayoral nomination. The LibDems obviously have short memories – perhaps they’ve forgotten the way innuendos against Sarah Teather led to a Parliamentary Standards inquiry – which was never properly concluded, after it turned out the original complaint had been “faked”.
That aside, did anyone else, watching fils Goldsmith, get nostalgic for Sir Jimmy’s 1990s performances in front of the TV cameras?
Never fear: there’s an Adam Curtis documentary which can fill that tycoon sized hole:
When I was a child, there was a class of academic errors known as “silly mistakes”. It was the tag given to adding two subtotals incorrectly at the end of a page of calculations, or misreading questions in the text-book. Getting angry about them is – appropriately – childish; they’re not substantive, and at best are a distraction from the substance.
While the nature of a silly mistake doesn’t really change, as we get older it gets a different name: clerical error. Given the relative lack of clerks in business today, the one place the term has some meaning is in the Civil Service – as Michael Gove is now only too well aware.
In some respects, the clerical errors in his list of Building Schools for the Future changes is quite opportune for the education secretary: like a child getting angry about a silly mistake, people complaining about the errors miss the substance. The clerical error draws fire that might instead be focused on the underlying cuts, and hampers Labour’s attempts to criticise them – it’s difficult to coherently froth at the mouth over two things at once, even if you’re
the Conservative Party’s choice for Labour Leader Ed Balls (although he tried his best).
Still, some really went for it, notably Tom Watson MP, who was apparently moved to near apoplexy by the mistake. “You’re a miserable pip-squeak of a man, Gove!” thundered Watson, a declamation lent additional comedy value by Watson’s less than svelte stature and by a look from Gove that was less abject terror than “Take Cover! He’s gonna blow!”
The full exchange is worth reproducing:
Mr Tom Watson (West Bromwich East) (Lab): Mr Speaker, I can assure you that there is nothing synthetic about the anger felt in Sandwell. The pupils in Sandwell have seen what the new politics is; they have seen the attempt to sneak out a half-spun, half-apology on the BBC; and they have seen the Secretary of State come here humiliated for the second time this week to apologise to them. He can embarrass himself; he can disgrace his party; but what is intolerable is that he has cynically raised the hopes of hundreds and thousands of families. You’re a miserable pipsqueak of a man, Gove. You have-
Mr Speaker: Order. Before we go any further, I must ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the term that I think he used. I think I heard the term, “pipsqueak”. The hon. Gentleman must withdraw that term. It is not appropriate- [ Interruption. ] Order. I know what I am doing. Members should leave this matter to me.
Mr Watson: Out of deference to you, Mr Speaker, I withdraw it.
Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.
Michael Gove: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question; it gives me the opportunity once again to apologise to his constituents and to other parents and teachers in Sandwell for the confusion that was caused by the mistake that I made on Monday. I understand the passion that he brings to the issue, and I understand how hard he fights for his constituents. I shall be very happy to go to West Bromwich and apologise to those who have been misled by the mistake that has been made. I am more than happy to do so. As I said earlier, the mistake was mine and mine alone, and I am happy to acknowledge it.
This was a free shot for Watson, who in any other context would have been summarily gunned down on the basis of his close relationship with
Macavity the Mystery Cat Gordon Brown, and his exhibition was no doubt for local consumption – Sandwell, one of the areas worst “affected” by the mistakes, is in his West Bromwich East constituency.
At the same time, the whole display stank of the impotent rage at the ConDemNation that many in the Labour party seem to feel, the same impotent rage they initially turned on the Liberal Democrats when the LibDems unaccountably chose going into government and implementing their agenda over…er…not.
It does seem to have begun to sink in that Labour may not be coming back from this one. Between revised constituency boundaries gutting their inner city strongholds, and an AV electoral system, the Labour party could be looking at 1979 all over again.
All we need to seal the deal is Balls…
Personally I put CND in the same camp as ideological socialists and PETA members, so I’d be loath to agree with Kate Hudson under normal circumstances.
But there’s little I can disagree with in her piece for the Guardian today; holding a strategic defence and security review in which the nuclear deterrent – never mind the Trident system specifically – isn’t “on the table” is just plain silly.
Quite why like for like Trident replacement (not, please note, the retention of a nuclear deterrent per se) should become an article of faith for the Conservative party is beyond me. It’s to be hoped that the value for money review the LibDems obtained over Trident replacement at least engenders a serious examination of alternative delivery systems, or the abandonment of continuous at sea deterrence patrols.
Although entirely expected, there was still something surreal about watching Alistair Darling’s attempts to prebut the Office of Budget Responsibility‘s findings on the state of the economy.
Labour’s best Chancellor since 1997 (small sample size) may be desperate to avoid the double whammy of being blamed for the dire state of public finances AND criticised for misleading the public over them, but it’s still cringeworthy to watch him tell the Guardian “We could have beaten the recession“, ahead of the OBR announcement.
In other news, England could have beaten the United States at football last week. But they didn’t.
For Darling come out at this point and say he’d have ditched ID cards, and to acknowledge the failing of previous Labour policies, sounds as self-serving and false as the statements by the four ex-minister candidates for Labour leader. In some ways, it’s worse – Darling isn’t seeking office, and it’s difficult to see any motive other than defence of his own reputation and record.
It was interesting to hear the ebb and flow of headlines yesterday on BBC radio; some bulletins gave Darling’s defence a mention, other merely highlighted the fact that the forecast for overall borrowing has fallen. And none really pointed up the two issues which should have shamed Darling into silence – the OBR’s forecast is deliberately less cautious than previous Treasury ones, and the structural deficit is larger than previously estimated (increased by more than the decrease in overall borrowing).
How much worse would it have been if the OBR had produced a forecast in the cautious mode of previous Treasury ones? Only the OBR committee and secretariat could answer that, but it’s worth remembering that the OBR’s (less cautious) forecast for GDP growth was 20% lower than the last one produced by the Treasury.
Meanwhile, Labour’s own personal Balls-up followed up his attack on Brown with an attack on Darling. No doubt Ed Balls is aware that if he’d managed to say these things before the election – and acted on them! – he might not now be seeking election as Leader of the Opposition, or sitting on a significantly reduced majority in his constituency.
On a side note, how long will it be before we first hear a Labour frontbencher criticising the ConDemNation for mentioning Labour’s track record on the economy? I hope it’s long enough for the whips to drill the backbenchers in the response: “Would you prefer to mention 18 years of Conservative Government?”
It’s been a little while…
The day after the General Election count, I drove to the other side of the country to look at flats. A few days later, I did the journey again to move in. Starting a new job a long way from home is not conducive to regular blogging, especially when it leaves you at the end of a GPRS connection.
To quickly fill in the blanks:
- Coalition: Good
- Raising Capital Gains on small investors: Bad
- Raising income tax personal allowance: Very Good
- David Laws resigning: Unnecessary
- Telegraph: Hacking at its own nose to spite its face
- Labour leadership frontrunners: Muppets
- Diane Abbott running for Labour leader: Wonderful
On that last, I am firmly a #ToryWantingALabourBallsUp. The best possible result of the leadership election – from the position of Conservative or LibDem supporters – is the election of that unpleasant Brownite as Labour leader. It would ensure that Labour cannot recover, let alone win, at the next election – and offers the added bonus of watching Labour’s leader lose his seat at GE2015.
Feuding Millibandies would be good too, albeit you have to think brothers are less likely to foster the kind of top quality internecine bitterness Labour has been riven with in the past decade, while Andy Burnham is a blank slate – and not in a good way. John McDonnell…well, anyway.
For Labour the best possible result has to be electing Diane Abbott. Leave aside the cynical political aspects – how could you better answer a coalition government you deride as dominated by white, upper class men than by electing a black single mother as your leader? – and it becomes clear that Labour has a once in a generation chance to rediscover what it stands for.
Unfortunately, Labour has a history of standing for unsuitable white males who are professional Labour insiders.
Reading the Guardian’s hustings articles today, it’s interesting to see every candidate focusing so much on engagement and reaching out to voters. You have to ask why Balls and the Millibandies took so long to realise this might be a good idea.
Abbott’s not exactly setting the world on fire from a policy point of view, but there’s no stink of hypocrisy around her. The declarations by Balls, 2 x Millibandie, and 1x Burnham that *now* they’ll listen – and while they’re at it, maybe they’ll try increasing the minimum wage – positively reak of it.
I’m realistic: Labour will end up with a leader called Ed, or who’s a Millibandie. Or both. But it might be nice to think that Labour supporters – who whinged so loudly about progressive qualities, commitments to civil liberties, and concern for people the last government abused and failed, when watching the formation of a coalition that actually does have the last two, and knows the first to be a lie – might actual choose a leader who can claim to have demonstrate any of those.
Meanwhile, if – like me – you are proud to be a member of the ConDemNation, take a peak at Polly Toynbee’s latest witterings.
I’d say she was bat shit insane, but we’d need a bigger bat.
Fancy a jump to the right, courtesy of Charon QC?
The blame for what follows is entirely Charon QC’s, for his Rocky Horror Show themed tweets.
Jonathan Dimbleby was ill
The Day that Brum Stood Still
David told them where to stand
And Flash Gordon was there
In Sarah’s underwear
Nick Clegg was The Invisible Man
Then something went wrong
For Balls it was all Pete Tong
Labour got caught in a bigot-gate jam
For from a Rochdale place
We saw Gordon’s other face
And this is how the message ran…
Bigot woman (ooh ooh ooh) all Sue’s fault
Sky News Mic (ooh ooh ooh) I’m such a dolt
Like defaming (ooh ooh ooh) Richard Dannat
Mandelson tries to (ooh ooh ooh) get them to can it
Wo oh oh oh oh oh
Before the late night, Leaders Debate, picture show
I knew Gordon Brown
Would muster a frown
If the Guardian went to the Libs
And he really got hot
When he saw an old trot
Voting for Scargill and pals
James Purnell read the runes
So he left soon
But Labour just stuck to their man
But When People Vote
And Government’s smote
They’ll wish they had reached for the gun.
Leaders Debate (ooh ooh ooh) competent leader
Baron M (ooh ooh ooh) will build a future
See faction fighting (ooh ooh ooh) Balls and Johnson
Millibands stars in (ooh ooh ooh) Back to the Future
Wo oh oh oh oh oh
At the late night, Leaders Debate, picture show
I wanna be – Oh oh oh oh
At the late night, Leaders Debate, picture show
By B.B.C – Wo oh oh oh
To the late night, Leaders Debate, picture show
Who will we see – Oh oh oh oh
At the late night, Leaders Debate, picture show
What’s the only thing worse than an election?
A popularity contest between politicos.
Blofeld-like, House of Twits has decided to subvert the Twitsphere in the run up to the General Election by launching a popularity contest between political tweeters.
Aside from presenting some utterly random rankings – as I write this, I’m three places below Sunny Hundal, and thirteen ahead of Kevin Maguire – it strips all that superfluous policy from the politicking.
Some people are voting party line; Lib Dems certainly seem to be reacting as you’d expect. There’s no way Evan Harris one of the top five political tweeters, and what on earth is Nick Clegg’s broadcast account doing in the list?
Whatever the final 100 list looks like, it’ll be an interesting glimpse into the mindset of Twitter’s political class.