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Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Commons Mauling Awaits Facebook

Anyone who thought that having a Tory MP chairing the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee would mean it went a little easier on the media were disabused of that notion today when current incumbent Damian Collins informed Facebook’s top table that he and his fellow MPs would like them to pop round to Portcullis House for a chat.
Damian Collins MP

Collins has worked in the PR and communications industry himself. And although the formidable presence of Tom Watson is no longer part of the panel that the Facebook folks will face, there is still longstanding member Paul Farrelly, along with City of Chester MP Chris Mathieson, who will be more than pleased to see them.

So who would the MPs like to see? Collins has answered that one by telling “I have today written to @facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calling on him to give oral evidence to @CommonsCMS following recent reports in @guardian and @nytimes”. And the contents of his letter to Zuck should put the proverbial fear of God into him.
The Committee has repeatedly asked Facebook about how companies acquire and hold on to user data from their site, and in particular about whether data had been taken without their consent. Your officials’ answers have consistently understated this risk, and have been misleading to the Committee [he means they lied] … It is now time to hear from a senior Facebook executive with the sufficient authority to give an accurate account of this catastrophic failure of process”. And who might that senior executive be?
We are sure you will understand the need for a representative from right at the top of the organisation to address concerns. Given your commitment at the start of the New Year to ‘fixing’ Facebook, I hope that this representative will be you”. WALLOP!
And, just to ensure all concerned know that Collins means business, he has also told “I am also pleased to announce that @CommonsCMS will be taking evidence from former Facebook operations manager Sandy Parakilas tomorrow by video link, at 3pm in the Grimond Room, Portcullis House. This will be available to watch live at http://parliamentlive.tv”. The great Liberal leader might just have approved.
Looks like it wasn't just this lot benefiting

What might await Zuckerberg can be gleaned from a Guardian piece about Parakilas, tomorrow’s interviewee. “'Utterly horrifying': ex-Facebook insider says covert data harvesting was routine … Sandy Parakilas says numerous companies deployed these techniques - likely affecting hundreds of millions of users - and that Facebook looked the other way”. Plus the Commons is not the only body wanting a little chat.

We know this as Guy Verhofstadt has declared “When is Mark Zuckerberg going to explain what happened with our data? The data breach is an absolute scandal. The European Parliament must start an investigation. I will keep you updated about our progress”. So Zuck might as well add Brussels and Strasbourg to his itinerary.
And a word of warning: if Zuckerberg, or anyone else from Facebook, thinks that just rocking up and spewing corporate bullshit is going to get him through his grilling, he has another think coming. He tries that, he’ll be torn to shreds.

What was that about this being a “non-story”? And there’s lots more to come.

Cambridge Analytica - Now The Spin

After the revelations over the weekend in the Observer, and yesterday’s expos√© of data mining specialists Cambridge Analytica by Channel 4 News, has come the very deliberate, and all too predictable, pushback. This was begun last night with the disgraceful complicity of the BBC as CA’s head man Alexander Nix was allowed to spin for his supper in an interview recorded before either he or the Beeb knew what Channel 4 would be running.
Nix blustered “I think that their undercover sting was intended to embarrass us … by presenting a mischaracterisation of the facts”, whereas what Channel 4 News demonstrated was that he had proposed a dirty tricks campaign in order to discredit election opponents. There was bugger all mischaracterisation of those facts possible, and so both Nix and BBC Newsnight fell at the first hurdle.

But those who wanted to wade in with the damage limitation had not even got started, as a supremely arrogant pile of bluster by Mark Wallace at Conservative Home has demonstrated. Here, he explains why nobody really understands what it’s about, how Carole Cadwalladr got it wrong, and how everybody he wants to discredit is “bullshitting”.

Nothing, he stresses, is improper about use of data for micro-targeting. Leave EU is dismissed as “the clown car project of Arron Banks”, any connection between them and Vote Leave dismissed as they were “two campaigns that loathed each other”, any work for the Trump campaign wasn’t really important because, well, Ted Cruz, and remember, folks, that the rotten leftie Guardian is BULLSHITTING!

And I believe that like I didn’t believe any of Wallace’s crap from his days at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, another repository of deliberate spin and misinformation. Nor should anyone believe the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, who said nothing about CA - until this morning.
The Great Guido has entered the fray in classic spin mode - give a little away in order to divert attention. Under the headline “Cambridge Analytica Boss Considers Resigning”, readers are told “Cambridge Analytica’s poundshop Bond villain and bullsh*tter extraordinaire Alexander Nix says he is considering resigning after he was filmed telling an undercover reporter he could entrap politicians with Ukrainian prostitutes”.

Hey, someone else is BULLSHITTING! And there’s more. “Nix tells the Times: ‘If that is going to help the company that is the right thing to happen’. It seems he was making all this up to land a client and his comical exaggerations could see him having to quit over something he hasn’t actually done”. IT WAS ONLY A BIT OF FUN! So why is the Information Commission going in to CA right now, backed by a court order?

He didn’t do what Channel 4 News showed him actually doing. He made up something that he clearly pitched in order to land a client. Let’s not drive this one round the houses any longer - the only bullshitting being done here is by the likes of Wallace and his pals at the Fawkes blog (Wal and Staines are buddies going back several years).

Give it up, lads. This story has a long way to run, there is more coming down the track, and you’re just making yourselves look stupid. So no change there, then.

UKIP - Two Weeks And It’s Dead

As Zelo Street regulars will know, the motley convocation of saloon bar propper-uppers otherwise known as UKIP has been on shaky financial ground for some time now. The European Parliament money that so many of its MEPs creatively diverted to their own advantage has dried up, the membership is shrinking fast, and becoming embroiled in Jane Collins’ libel loss has the potential to finish the party off.
Now it is no longer a mere potential: Mr Justice Warby has ordered that UKIP must pay its share of the libel costs “accrued between March 2015 and June 2015, and costs from the assessment hearing”. These have been estimated at £175,000. And that money must be stumped up within the next fourteen days - unless the party appeals.

The problem there is that mounting an appeal will most likely end up just adding a bit more to the bill the Kippers already face. And, as the Guardian has put it with some measure of understatement, “The party’s finances are thought to be in a perilous condition”. The BBC has explainedThe interim payment order comes days after the party's leader, Gerard Batten, issued a plea for cash for the party, saying £100,000 must be raised by the end of March”. That, I understand, is in addition to the £175,000 in costs.

Who is to blame for this mess? As with most of UKIP’s misfortunes, the problem is entirely self-inflicted. The libel action could, and should, have been settled far earlier, but those in charge deliberately delayed settling for political advantage. This has been confirmed in a statement on behalf of the three Labour MPs who Ms Collins libelled.

Ukip used the unfounded allegations by Jane Collins for political advantage. At the highest level Ukip knew Jane Collins’ case was ‘hopeless’ but blocked any settlement in our favour before the 2015 general election because they believed it would win them votes”. Settlement could have been had for a fraction of the bill now faced by UKIP and Ms Collins (the total bill is now around £600,000). It’s their own fault.

The Kippers may not even be able to field candidates in upcoming local elections. The Guardian again: “Nominations to stand in local elections close on 6 April. The law is not clear whether a party facing insolvency is allowed to put forward candidates, and many former Ukip councillors have either returned to one of the main parties or have become independents. It will lose its MEPs in 2019, after the UK leaves the EU. If it fails to contest English local elections, Ukip will be reduced to a rump of six Welsh assembly members”.
Even former UKIP Oberscheissenf√ľhrer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage doesn’t hold out much hope, as Sky News has told. “The truth is UKIP is facing a real, real battle just to survive” he told his LBC audience. But as one source also told, “UKIP has no money and the idiots who got UKIP into this mess take no responsibility”. Those “idiots” include Farage, who won’t be taking any responsibility at all. Because Nige wants to be where the money is at, and that certainly isn’t UKIP. So he won’t hang around to help.

This time, it really does look like the end. Just rejoice at that news.

Monday, 19 March 2018

UKIP Endorses Far Right AGAIN

After Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, gave a speech written by Martin Sellner, an Austrian far-right activist who had been declared persona non grata by the UK authorities, at Speaker’s Corner yesterday to a gathering measured in hundreds and not thousands, few stopped to ask what that speech actually contained. Nor did some of those who had already decided to endorse its contents.
I em not a racialist, but, und zis is a big but ...

Well, here’s a flavour. “I’m going to tell you something nobody has told you before. It’s the biggest, most obvious secret of our media our politicians and our powerholders: People of Britain, you are being replaced … You are being replaced by massive Muslim immigration … You see it everywhere: in London, in Manchester, but also already in the little countryside towns. A big replacement is going on”. And there was more.
All across Europe, there is a shadow hanging over our heads. The French are whispering about in the Metro, the Germans murmuring about it when they feel unwatched, Italians look left and right, and if nobody is listening they tell you: ‘I don’t feel at home anymore in my street. We are becoming foreigners in our own country.’ And again and again I hear: ‘We are not allowed to talk about it.’ And that’s the bizarre drama of the ‘Strange death of Europe’. We are being replaced, conquered by radical Islam, and we are not allowed to talk about it”. This is Nazi-style bullshit. And he wasn’t finished.
In front of our very eyes this country is becoming a tyranny, shutting all debates about immigration down, until demographics solves the issue by replacement … The will and the life of the British nation is not broken … You are the livley tradition of your nation, saving its face before history … Remember your glorious past, you are sons and daughters of knights, kings, explorers, philosophers and artists”. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

The “you are being silenced” and “we are not allowed to talk about it” are straight out of the Nazi playbook; in the late 1920s, Hitler was pictured with his mouth taped up, the claim being he was being prevented from speaking. He wasn’t. It’s the same untruth now.
The “Great Replacement” theory is a far-right staple. And it’s complete crap: at the last major census in 2011, Muslims accounted for 4.4% of the UK’s population. Just 5.5% of Germans have Islam as their religion. In Sellner’s native Austria, the figure is 7%. The idea that population replacement is in progress is nonsense. So is the claim that anyone is having their freedom of speech curtailed.

The only conclusion has to be that the whole exercise is scaremongering, with Muslims as the target. They are “the other”. In the Third Reich it was Jews. Today it’s Muslims. There has to be an “other” on whom the ills of the world can be conveniently blamed.
So no responsible politicians would go near this ideology … or would they? Sadly, for the convocation of motley saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP, they would indeed go near it. Lennon was name checked by interim leader Adolf von Batten as “Mr Robinson”; he then confirmed that he had met Lauren Southern at the European Parliament.

UKIP General Secretary Paul Oakley met Lennon after his speech. And the party’s London AM David Kurten went to yesterday’s gathering at Speaker’s Corner. UKIP is fast becoming a single issue party - the issue being Muslim bashing. What a shower.

Rees Mogg Demands Annexation Of Ireland

Once more, Brexit negotiations are stalled, and over an all too predictable sticking point - the Irish border. How does the UK leave the Single Market and Customs Union, yet avoid any kind of hard border with the Republic, which will remain part of both bodies? This subject has attracted the attention of the Member for times long past Jacob Rees Mogg, who appears to have forgotten that Ireland is now a sovereign nation.
Rees Mogg has given an interview to Kevin Schofield of Politics Home, who was formerly with the Murdoch Sun. Here, we get a glimpse of how fearful Theresa May must be of the so-called European Reform Group of Tory MPs, held by many commentators, and indeed some Tory MPs opposed to their stance, as a party within a party, when Schofield notes “Rees-Mogg does not demur when I suggest that he has regular meetings with Theresa May”. He’s a back bencher, not a minister. Think about that.

But it is his attitude to the Irish border question that shows not just that Theresa May’s indulgence is misguided, but also that Rees Mogg’s grasp of realpolitik is not as he might believe. “Theresa May has already made clear that the EU’s backstop suggestion that Northern Ireland remains in the Customs Union as a way of avoiding a hard border is unacceptable to her, and Rees-Mogg unsurprisingly concurs” tells Schofield.

So far, so loyal and routine. But then the mood darkens. “He is less enamoured with her position, set out in her Mansion House speech, that Britain must work with the EU to solve the problem. ‘I think the Prime Minister was being generous to the European Union in that context,’ he says … ‘She wants to have friendly relations in the negotiations, but it’s a question of nuance and I think they’re the stick in the muds in this and have come up with a solution that is wholly impossible for the United Kingdom to accept, that we should take Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom’”. Er, they haven’t.

What the EU negotiators are putting forward is a solution which can be made to work, and by inference suggesting that, if the UK side has a better solution, it should put it forward. And Rees Mogg does have a solution of his own. Sort of.

Why don’t we suggest to them that the Republic of Ireland comes out of the single market and customs union and accepts our regulations? It’s an equally logical suggestion”. Ri-i-i-ight. What exactly happened on the island of Ireland between the end of the Great War and 1922? Would Sir like to hazard a guess on that one?

Telling other countries what to jolly well do is not like admonishing a recalcitrant child, and nor is it going to work. Ireland has been an independent country for almost a Century; the country is an unswervingly pro-EU member state. It has adopted the Euro and the metric system, and would have joined the Schengen area, had it not been for British intransigence. The Dublin Government will not be taking orders from Westminster.

But good to know the mindset of those inhabiting the tail which is wagging the Prime Ministerial dog right now. No wonder the Tories are in such a mess.

Julia Hartley Dooda Hearts Owen Jones

There comes a time for all former wannabe and now has-been pundits when they stretch the limits of their credibility beyond the limits of elasticity, with the resulting SNAP so deafening it can be heard across the land. Thus it was for downwardly mobile self promotion artiste Julia Hartley Brewer yesterday, as she showed the world that she is far less pleasant than even her sternest critics thought possible.
We know who you are, thanks

In her latest desperate attempt to pretend that she is still relevant to anyone other than Herself Personally Now, Ms Hartley Dooda decided to kick Owen Jones, because, well, he was there. “My timeline is full of comments about @OwenJones84. Can I let you into a little secret? Like most people who’ve had the misfortune of dealing with him at close quarters, I can assure you that the only thing Owen Jones really cares about is Owen Jones. Just ignore him”. DAHLINGS! He’s so GHASTLY! I mean, REALLY?!?
In reply, Jones was as straightforward as one might expect. “Hi Julia: there's literally not a single friend of mine who thinks I care about anything other than my beliefs. Your poundshop Katie Hopkins politics aside, you are, on a personal level, one of the most unpleasant people I've ever met in the British media, and that is something”.
One instinctively knows exactly what he means. So did Pete Heffernan, who pointed out Ms Hartley Dooda’s spectacular demonstration of Olympic-level freestyle all-in idiocy on the subject of international trade. Bethany Usher agreed: “Honestly I don’t know how @JuliaHB1 ever dared showed her face again after this video. I literally wanted to crawl into my own skin with embarrassment for her”. And that wasn’t all.
Ms Hartley Dooda seems to have forgotten the Sky News paper review incident where Jones walked off the set after presenter Mark Longhurst persistently deflected, rather than address the Orlando nightclub shooting as a homophobic hate crime. She was the other paper reviewer. Jones stressed later that she was not to blame for the incident, saying “And please lay off @JuliaHB1 - none of the abuse directed at her is in my name”.
For extending the hand of friendship, Ms Hartley Dooda used the platform inexplicably given her by the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph to launch a tirade of abuse at him, including the thinly coded suggestion that he had been drunk on set. Her rant was typified by assertions such as “This is peak Generation Snowflake … If Owen Jones wants to live in a world where people can only say what is on the officially approved list of platitudes, then perhaps he has more in common with Islamic State than he thinks”.
All of which effectively confirms what Jones said, and in spades. And just to show she is just too superior for the rest of us mere mortals, Ms Hartley Dooda has also let everyone know “I’m taking a week off from early alarm calls for the @talkRADIO breakfast show next week as I’ll be away skiing. NOTE: I’m rubbish at skiing so my tweets will mostly be moaning about the cold & ‘guess where this bruise is’ photos. Just thought I’d warn you”.

DAHLINGS! It’s just so GHASTLY and COLD! And I’m just not into it! But it’s so expletive deleteding EXCLUSIVE that I’ve just got to bore the trollies off you all! CIAO!!!

And with that she was thankfully gone. The bad news is she bought a return ticket.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Tommy Robinson Free Speech Falls Flat

[Update at end of post]

After the UK authorities decided they could get on fine without the likes of Martin Sellner, Brittany Pettibone and Lauren Southern, Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, declared that he would travel today to London to give the speech Sellner would have given, and at Speaker’s Corner. By doing this, he would, he claimed, be “reclaiming free speech”, although from whom was not told.
Sadly, the whole exercise did not go according to plan: Lennon was intending that Lutz Bachmann, founder of Pegida, would be there at the event to read out the mythical speech in its original German. But the UK Border Agency, having been told very loudly and very clearly that Bachmann was intending to enter the country, stopped him at Stansted Airport and he was deported this morning back to Germany.
Lennon was not downhearted, though: he kept on advertising the event, reminding his followers that he would still give the speech at 1500 hours, and that the nearest Tube station was Marble Arch. And so it came to pass that he stepped up to give the speech, and the considerable Police presence standing between him and his pal Caolan Robertson prevented anyone tuning in to hear a word that he said.
Robertson vainly tried to connect a microphone; this, too, failed. All that could be heard was noises off from the crowd, people reminding one another which former politicians were definitely paedophiles, others calling for Lennon to speak up, and finally, after Robertson confirmed that the speech had indeed been delivered, loud but brief chanting in support of whatever it was that had been delivered.
Was that it? Well, Robertson did try and over-dramatically pretend he was being pursued by “Antifa” and “Far left demonstrators” as he left the scene. But the faithful were assured that the speech would be uploaded to YouTube. Which could have been done without going to Speaker’s Corner, or indeed without wasting the time and resources of an already overstretched Metropolitan Police to deal with the crowds - and the fighting.
And as Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate pointed out, “it's a bit rich of Tommy Robinson to present himself as a defender of free speech after he's spent last 9 yrs not affording same rights to Muslims. He's called for Muslims to be blocked from speaking, new mosques banned and Muslim immigration halted … The only rights he seems to care about are for anti-Muslim haters and German and American racists”.
He also noted that Bachmann is, among other things, a convicted drug dealer. Perhaps Lennon will be going mob-handed to have one of his “polite conversations” with him, or perhaps not. There has been no assault on free speech in barring a quartet of far-right shit stirrers from the UK, no-one prevented Sellner’s speech being delivered, it could have been just put online anyway, and all that we have seen is another publicity stunt.

Many of Stephen Yaxley Lennon’s adoring followers will carry on believing otherwise, and that the Scary Muslims (tm) and Rotten Lefties (tm) are out to get them. More fool them.

[UPDATE 1820 hours: for those who have already claimed this post is lying (yawn), I include two Tweets from someone who was not only there, but very close to where Lennon was speaking.
As can be seen, the person otherwise known as Far Right Watch (Twitter feed HERE) echoed what I posted, telling "As for his speech, his microphone was broken and with lots of chanting, no-one heard a word. But they cheered at the end of whatever it was he might have said".
They added "Apparently it'll be uploaded to YouTube but I couldn't hear him from 6 feet away, so good luck with that. The camera could barely see him".

As I said previously, a publicity stunt. Nothing more, nothing less]

Uber - The Mason Presentation

We now know that it was in late 2013, not just last year, when Transport for London knew that driver and rider matching service Uber was running an illegal show in the capital. How this came about can be traced back to events in 2012, during the Mayoralty of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, whose tenure of City Hall will go down as an eight-year disaster, as realisation dawns that he was a waste of both time and money.
At the IATR conference that year, John Mason, TfL’s director of London Taxi and Private Hire, gave a presentation, the slide show from which has been preserved for posterity. The subject of that presentation was “There’s an App for that - Supporting Taxi Booking and Hailing Applications in London”. Note the use of the term “Hailing Applications”.
Here, Mason reiterated Bozza’s Air Quality Strategy, part of which was “The Mayor will also support technologies which encourage taxi sharing and enable electronic hailing”, adding “TfL has adopted a ‘hands off’, very limited regulatory approach to the application of electronic hailing and booking” and “Many different companies now entering into the London market with varying degrees of success”.
Note that there seems to be some confusion between “electronic hailing” and “electronic hailing and booking”. Clearly, for anything classed as Private Hire, it should be “electronic booking” and not “electronic hailing”. That may cause some concern in the cab trade; what will cause alarm is the next of Mason’s slides, titled “Open market and competition”.

Here, apps for black cabs are presented along with those which are definitely not for black cabs - Addison Lee, a longstanding Private Hire operator, and there at the foot of the slide, Uber. Presented as part of “Open market and competition”. The one conclusion that is inescapable from this slide is that Uber is pitched as direct competition for black cabs.
And that conclusion is merely reinforced by the next slide, “TfL Approach to Apps”, where Mason starts by restating “Light touch regulatory approach”, and ends with “Let the quality of product and service provided to passengers dictate market”.

So let’s pick the bones out of all that.
Classing Uber, even if only by inference, as “electronic hailing” is totally out of order. That is not what is provided for under Private Hire rules. TfL’s representative is not actually saying they can get away with what they were found to be doing the following year, but companies like Uber don’t need much of a hint. Laws and rules do not get a mention.
Stressing “Light touch regulation” also hints at a free for all. Including Addison Lee and Uber with black cabs is another hint. Having said TfL won’t be doing much regulating, and concluding with “Let the quality of product and service … dictate market” is so close to giving Uber the green light that this appears to be the conclusion they reached.

So when TfL caught Uber operating an illegal show in late 2013, there should have been no surprise. After all, there had been enough nudges and winks the previous year. And the likes of Travis Kalanick needed nothing more, whether it was London, Paris, Toronto, or anywhere in the USA. Bozza was a useless Mayor - and London is now paying the price.

Cambridge Analytica - And The Tories

Tim Shipman of the Murdoch Sunday Times, who is for some reason looked up to by other journalists and pundits, was distinctly unimpressed by the story coming from the Observer over the weekend about Cambridge Analytica. News of the massive data breach was as nothing to The Great Man; he’d seen it all before.
Shippers wanted to know what all the fuss was about. “Every political party in the western world has been using Facebook and its data to win elections since 2008. This has been normal for years” he scoffed, going on to rub it in with “Vote Leave ran a fake football guessing game to harvest data. It’s all in my first book. Every time a political party asks you to reply to an email they are harvesting any data you reply with. This is so unremarkable it’s bananas”. Non-story! And where have we heard that before?
Tim Shipman - and another wrong call

Oh I dunno, how about 2009 when Nick Davies first told the world about the phone hacking scandal? That was a “Non-story” too, until the whole thing blew open two years later, the Screws was closed, the Murdochs’ first Sky bid foundered, then Andy Coulson and his pals got guilty and went off for a stretch in Belmarsh.
Why Shippers is once again shipping an unfeasibly large quantity of bull is not hard to figure out. One, as I noted yesterday, this story has only just got going, and there is a lot more to come. How much was hinted at by Kevin Beaumont, who revealed “This Facebook and Cambridge Analytica story is leading Channel 4 News - C4 News just disclosed they’ve been undercover at Cambridge Analytica filming, they will be releasing footage over the next few days”. And there was more.
Two, David Carroll observed “Alexander Nix summoned back to Parliament to explain misleading statements. [Mark] Zuckerberg invited. Whistleblower, Christopher Wylie invited”. Someone in Parliament thinks it’s serious. But Shipman doesn’t?
Three, although Leave EU and Cambridge Analytica are now claiming they didn’t really work with one another, that’s not what was said in the run-up to the EU referendum, as Isabel Oakeshott explained at ConHome: “[Arron Banks] has drafted in American campaigners Goddard Gunster (who boast of a 90 per cent success rate in referendum campaigns around the world) and Cambridge Analytica, which specialises in targeted voter messaging (and makes similarly impressive sounding claims about hit rates).”
And Four, something that a Conservative-supporting media organisation might want to gloss over right now, the Tories have had their own talks with Cambridge Analytica. We know this as the Mail on Sunday devoted a feature to it, telling readers “Theresa May wants to deploy an army of computerised ‘mind-readers’ to help her win the next Election, sources claim … Tory chiefs have been in talks with Cambridge Analytica, the polling data experts credited with playing a key role in Donald Trump’s presidential victory”.
Plus, guess who was cited? “The British company, run by Old Etonian Alexander Nix, 40, uses computers to ‘mine’ huge amounts of data on voters - including Facebook likes”. That’s the same Alexander Nix who’s being summoned back to Parliament to explain potentially misleading them. Talking about Facebook data mining.

Yet someone out there pretends it’s not a big deal. Hello Tim Shipman.

Top Six - March 18

So what’s hot, and what’s not, in the past week’s blogging? Here are the six most popular posts on Zelo Street for the past seven days, counting down in reverse order, because, well, I have places to go and people to see later. So there.
6 Stephen Hawking - And Politics The physicist, who has died at the age of 76, was not merely a groundbreaking figure in his chosen profession, he was a great campaigner, and indeed an unswerving supporter of Labour and Jeremy Corbyn.

5 Corbyn Migrant Attack WASN’T The SNP went into mischief making mode after Jezza delivered a speech to the Scottish Labour conference. But he wasn’t scapegoating migrants, merely restating opposition to gangmasterism.

4 Britain First Leaders SUED FOR LIBEL Second week on the Top Six for this post - after Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen were jailed, and with another court appearance in prospect, they now face a libel action that could ruin them.

3 Far Right Bigot Barred From Britain The authorities decided that we could get along fine without the presence of Lauren Southern. Cue Alt-Right whinging and wailing.

2 Uber - TfL KNEW It Was Illegal Second week on the Top Six for this post too - information from another FoI trawl shows TfL knew Uber was breaking the rules, and therefore the law, at the end of 2013. Not last year.

1 Corbyn, Tories, Russia AND REALITY Once again, our free and fearless press laid into the Labour leader for being insufficiently bellicose, somehow not noticing that if anyone had a connection to Russia, it was all those Tories benefiting from their money. 

And that’s the end of another blogtastic week, blog pickers. Not ‘arf!

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Tom Tugendhat - Pants On Fire

Perhaps encouraged by BBC Newsnight’s singularly unfortunate Photoshop exercise earlier this week, with its Corbyn-Russia backdrop, some Tory MPs have been getting a little ahead of themselves in their efforts to play yah-boo at the Labour leadership. One of the most eager has been Tom Tugendhat, who was elected to represent the people of Tonbridge and Malling, but has better things to do today than bothering about them.
Tom Tugendhat. Claims to be an MP

Tugendhat, who has inexplicably been given the chairmanship of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, has been an MP since 2015, and has today told the world that he does not merit being one any longer. His method of demonstrating his unsuitability has been to not just smear Corbyn, but do so in a way which is flagrantly defamatory. So perhaps he will be joining Ben Bradley in getting one of those solicitors’ letters.
After his fellow Tory James Cleverly, who isn’t, had a pop at Jezza, saying “Seems that @OwenJones84 is unhappy because the BBC used this photo of Corbyn against a backdrop of the Kremlin. He felt it distorted the public’s perception of Corbyn in light of his very weak response to the attempted assassination in Salisbury” (key Tory attack term “weak” deployed successfully, if ineffectually), he decided to up the ante.
He backed IRA murderers when people who cared about human rights and wanted a united Ireland joined he SDLP. He even went to an IRA funeral. Not really quite the image he wants to portray now”. The “IRA funeral” claim is fake, and the photo used to back up this false claim is probably that of former MP Owen Carron. Tugendhat had blundered. This was pointed out to him. He then failed to withdraw the offending Tweet.
Instead, he blustered “I accept the correction of Corbyn attending an IRA funeral and withdraw that as a mistake. I did not know the photograph had been identified as someone else. I stand by his failure to support the real peacemakers in Northern Ireland”. If he didn’t know the photo was of someone else, then why pretend it was Corbyn? Heck, the photo was taken around six years before Jezza became an MP.
Could it get any worse for The Blue Team? As if you need to ask. Remember James “not very” Cleverly? Just to show how not very Cleverly he was, he Retweeted the offending Tweet, thus compounding the potential libel. Someone in the Tory Party has not been reading up on McAlpine v Bercow, or even Monroe v Hopkins. So that’s another of those solicitors’ letters on its way to the MP for Braintree, hopefully.
Tugendhat has now deleted the offending Tweet, but in the meantime it had been viewed, liked and Retweeted thousands of times in total. The totally untrue claim that Jeremy Corbyn attended an IRA funeral has been spread far and wide - including among at least one suitably credulous fellow Tory MP. Tom Tugendhat is supposed to be a Parliamentarian - not a cheap and dishonest propagandist.

But his party chairman Brandon “barrow boy” Lewis is equally devoid of either spine or principle, so don’t expect their behaviour to improve any time soon. What a shower.