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Monday, 31 October 2016

Toby Young - Say Sorry

Few things characterise the Pundit Establishment better than their inability to own up to their errors, far less actually show contrition and apologise. There will always be another of their number along to tell anyone bothered that they were right in the retelling. And there is no more typical member of the Pundit Establishment than the loathsome Toby Young, who last week fouled up royally, and who is clearly loath to recant.
Tobes, Zelo Street regulars will recall, had penned a poorly-researched and mean-spirited hatchet job on Ken Loach’s new film I, Daniel Blake, which he decreed was not a realistic portrayal of life for those dependent on benefits, as it did not resemble Channel 4’s Benefits Street. Thus the sum total of his expertise in the area. He also made a number of assertions in the article which were wrong, and known to be so beforehand.
Bernadette Meaden produced a rebuttal to Tobes’ appalling article soon afterwards (see HERE), but the most sustained criticism of Young’s intolerance and, indeed, rank ignorance has come from Jonathan Portes, who swiftly took to Twitter to tell “Almost every sentence @toadmeister writes here about Employment & Support Allowance is factually incorrect”. Or, as less subtle people might call it, lying.
In just one part of Tobes’ article, Portes observed “How many untruths can you count in this excerpt from @toadmeister?  I get to 5”. Five whoppers. One can only guess at how many there are in the whole piece. And it got worse: by Friday last, the Mail was walking back some of those comments. “Update. Mail has corrected some of @toadmeister multiple errors. Print correction to follow. If he has any decency/integrity he'll apologise”.
But Portes was clearly in Ron Hopeful mode: Tobes doesn’t do apologies readily, and so he did not. The print clarification arrived today, and Portes welcomed it, observing “Mail corrects @toadmeister [again - 6 errors so far].  Still waiting for him to apologise for nasty, ill-informed & misleading piece”. In the meantime, Tobes had been confirmed as director of the education charity New Schools Network, a job to which he was manifestly unsuited.
One might have thought that someone who was not only in the public eye, but also being touted as some kind of authoritative figure in the world of education (no, don’t laugh), would want to show that he was upstanding and honest, or at least attempt the pretence thereof. So where is Tobes’ apology? What’s keeping him?
It’s not as if Tobes had no information to hand on the benefits system and its attendant horrors. As writer and campaigner Jack Monroe Tweeted, “The Mail have had to correct the I Daniel Blake hatchet by @toadmeister. Perhaps they could add this in too”. That was the reference by Rebecca O’Brien to Mx Monroe in an i article. Tobes could have asked someone like them before shooting his mouth off. He chose not to.

If Toby Young wants to sponge off the taxpayer - which being director of the NSN effectively means - the least he can do is to ‘fess up and say sorry. And sooner rather than later.

Kelvin McFilth New Refugee Incitement

Not content with its campaign of incitement against refugee children, claiming that many are not really under 18, the Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun have launched another offensive in their war that is not really targeting brown people who have a religion the paper doesn’t like, honestly, and told readers that a 16 year old who has come to join family members in Britain is actually 22.
Readers are told’22-year-old’ bearded migrant ‘uni student’ insists he’s just sixteen as he starts secondary school classes”, but the supporting article can only manage “A CHILD migrant who reports claimed was 22 and a university student declared last night ‘I’m 16 and starting school soon’”. Oh, and “A LinkedIn page says he studied at an Afghani university three years ago”. But all was not lost.

The story has now been taken up by disgraced former editor Kelvin McFilth, who has decided not to bother even with the quote marks, and lie instead, a tactic in which he has significant previous. Kel states at the outset‘Children of Calais’ social media quip may be funny…but the reality of the Afghan ‘kid’ refugee aged 22 really isn’t … The sham story just makes it all the more difficult to believe genuine refugees”.

See what he did? The refugee wasn’t just alleged to be older than 16, the doubt was removed, and his story declared a sham. And it gets worse: “The ‘war refugee’ is Haris Stanikzai who three years ago enrolled at Jahan private university in Kabul to study economics and accountancy”. NOT EVEN YOUR OWN PAPER CLAIMS THAT.

It gets worse: “There’s loads of stuff that doesn’t add up and Stanikzai didn’t help himself by changing his name on Facebook to Ahmad Khan as soon as The Sunday Times began investigating”. There’s loads of stuff that doesn’t add up. Kel says it’s dodgy, so it becomes fact. And worse still: “If it’s all kosher what has he to hide?” With malicious liars like Kel in the vicinity, he has good reason to be cautious, that’s what.

There is more. “We are not an uncaring nation but we are not fools. The Stanikzais of this world make it more difficult to believe the ­genuine innocents”. No, we are not fools, but Kelvin McFilth is taking his readers for fools by indulging in evidence-free incitement, safe in the knowledge that the family he is attacking, who run a pizza takeaway, do not have the means to take the Murdoch mafiosi to the cleaners for defaming them.

By taking allegations and turning them into facts - something his own paper’s initial article could not manage - Kel has driven a coach and horses through the IPSO Editor’s Code. They ought to throw the book at him without waiting for a complaint to come in. But Kel and his Sun pals know that IPSO is a toothless sham press regulator that will not raise a finger, even if the family complain. They are the little people. And brown people, too.

Not that Kelvin McFilth is a racist bigot, of course. Or an Islamophobic rabble-rouser. Who has been given carte blanche to practice racial and religious incitement with no fear of comeback. No, he’s pure as the driven snow. And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

An Appeal To UKIP Members

[Updates, two so far, at end of post]

Normally, Zelo Street pays little attention to the views of those who have not only lent their support to UKIP, but have also joined the party. But we now face a very different political environment: the Kippers have secured the victory they craved for so long, the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU went the way they wanted, and now the party has to find a new reason for existing - as well as a new leader.
Vote Kassam, vote certain oblivion, UKIP people

And that is where my appeal comes in. There are three serious challengers to succeed Nigel “Thirsty” Farage: one is sensible, a second is slightly off the wall, and the third is so screamingly batshit as to guarantee the imminent destruction of UKIP as a political force, although as a comedy genre, the possibilities would be endless. Here on Zelo Street, we like a good laugh. So the more ridiculous the candidate, the better.

Whoever you UKIP members vote for, please don’t vote for Suzanne Evans. She is so sensible and mainstream that she might even retain the party’s support and build on it. She’s so sensible that she thinks it’s a good idea to be able to go for a beer and not come away from the bar reeking of stale cigarette smoke. She wants to make UKIP “friendlier, more approachable [and] broaden our appeal”. Don’t vote for her, whatever you do.

You might want to vote for Paul Nuttall, the comedy Scouser whose act blends the myriad subtleties of The Pub Landlord and Alexei Sayle with an ability to lie through his teeth effortlessly and loudly shout down anyone of dissenting view. Nuttall claims to be a unity candidate, but UKIP in his hands would be very much on the edge, if only of credibility. Vote for him if you have to. But there is a far worthier candidate.

And that candidate, backed by major donor Arron Banks, is Raheem “call me Ray” Kassam, who also has the backing of the convocation of the irredeemably batshit otherwise known as Breitbart London. Kassam claims to be of Muslim parentage, but has found going down the Rub-A-Dub and becoming Elephant’s Trunk and Mozart much more to his taste, as well as, er, bashing Muslims.

As Matthew Norman at the Independent has opined, “Ordinarily, you could dismiss this Islamophobic Muslim, Trump-worshipping friendly acquaintance of EDL stalwart Tommy Robinson as just another attention-seeking alt-right huckster hoping to parlay a piddling knack for causing offence into a media career. But since Kassam is the choice of Aaron Banks, the insurance dealer with the £100m fortune who bankrolls Ukip, there is a decent chance that he will win”. As Cloughie might have said, “he’s a clown, young man”.

Kassam is a self-promoting buffoon, an empty and unappealing nonentity, an obscenely immodest individual with much to be modest about, a deeply ignorant being whose knowledge of the world beyond his comfortable metropolitan bubble is as empty as his swollen head, a dustbin of right-wing quote generation, for whom the complications of differing points of view are a mere inconvenience to be quipped away.

Raheem Kassam is not fit to shovel crap from Heap A to Heap B. As such, he would be an ideal leader of UKIP, and would drive the party into the ground within a year. So, dear Kippers, I urge you to Vote Kassam, then stand back and see the party you love depart this earth in a blaze of self-inflicted destruction, never to return.

[UPDATE1 1000 hours: fourteen minutes after Zelo Street published this post, Kassam Tweeted that he was throwing in the towel and chickening out of the UKIP leadership race. A number of variously creative excuses have been advanced for the move.
The reality is that Raheem Kassam regarded the whole thing as a self-promotion exercise, a mere publicity stunt, and when faced with the prospect of actually doing the job for which he had been campaigning, he turned tail and ran away.

So UKIP survives - for now]

[UPDATE2 1135 hours: Michael Crick of Channel 4 News has gleaned information which confirms my view, telling "Friend of Raheem Kassam suggests he wants to get to US quickly, to help Trump campaign, with view to getting a job if Trump wins".
Which confirms what I already said, that Kassam was using the UKIP leadership contest as a self-promotion exercise. His exit and flight to the USA is yet another self-promotion exercise. There is only one point in all he does, and that is the promotion of Himself Personally Now.

That Arron Banks has been duped into backing a self-promoting con man does not augur well for the Kippers. So there is a silver lining in Kassam's departure, after all]

Sunday, 30 October 2016

FBI Email Probe - Get A Grip

Some Sunday newspapers in the UK - and Piers Morgan - have been getting terribly excited about emails. That is because Hillary Clinton is potentially (note that word) involved, and the story began running after James Comey, director of the FBI, wrote a letter to the US Congress on Friday suggesting the emails were “pertinent” to Hill’s use of a private email server. He was therefore reopening that investigation.
Supporters of The Donald were ecstatic, and Trump himself, as he has done throughout the campaign, declared Hill guilty without bothering with recourse to due process, something that may come back to bite him. But, as Yahoo! News has pointed out, there is a problem with all those people getting ahead of themselves.

When Comey wrote his letter, “agents had not been able to review any of the material, because the bureau had not yet gotten a search warrant to read them”. You read that right: the FBI had not obtained a warrant. One official confirmed “he had no idea what was in the content of the emails”. They might concern Hill, they might not. They were apparently found on a laptop belonging to disgraced former Representative Anthony Wiener.

It got worse: “As of Saturday night, the FBI was still in talks with the Justice Department about obtaining a warrant … and therefore was still in the dark about whether they include any classified material that the bureau has not already seen … a message that Comey wrote to all FBI agents Friday seeking to explain his decision to write the controversial letter strongly hinted that investigators did not not yet have legal authority establishing ‘probable cause’ to review [the emails]”. So they don’t know. Yet.

And for all those Trump fans declaring that this is an indication of criminality, even though no legal process has been entered into, let me remind them of what the Guardian reported more than two weeks ago: “A federal judge in New York has ordered counsel for Donald Trump and the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein to appear in court along with the attorney for a woman referred to only as ‘Jane Doe’ who alleges the Republican presidential nominee raped her when she was 13”.

No, The Donald has not been charged, far less stood trial. But that case is further down the line than the Hillary email one that Trump supporters are now braying about. Due process, the premise of innocence before guilt is proven, these concepts have gone out the window for some cheerleaders. And it gets worse still.
Trump is battling independent candidate Evan McMullin in the state of Utah. Trump is on record complaining that McMullin is “going from coffee shop to coffee shop” to secure votes in Utah. Let me take this nice and slowly.

Utah is a strongly Mormon state.
Evan McMullin is a Mormon.
Mormons do not drink coffee.

That is how out of touch Donald Trump is. So let’s not get too carried away about an investigation that hasn’t even started, talked up by a candidate whose own past isn’t exactly squeaky clean, and who is staggeringly ill-informed about those whose votes he is trying to secure on November 8. Get a grip, folks - and a sense of proportion.

Carole Malone Nissan Moan Busted

Once again, the nominally Labour-supporting Mirror titles are having a dig at the current party leadership, perhaps because they would rather have a different Labour leader. But they are not in the position to tell the party who should lead it, Jeremy Corbyn has now won two leadership elections, and they are out of this particular loop. So there is only one thing left - get their pundits to whine about Jezza instead.
Carole Malone

And today’s low moaning sound emanating from the pages of the Sunday Mirror comes to us courtesy of the paper’s resident Glenda, Carole Malone, who tells readersJeremy Corbyn should jump for joy at news Nissan will keep jobs in Sunderland”, going on to say “When I heard that Nissan was staying in the North East I did a little jig in our living room. Because it doesn’t just mean 7,000 people will keep their jobs. It means the families of those 7,000 men and women can celebrate Christmas knowing their lives are not over”.

But then she turns on Jezza: “it makes my blood boil to see Jeremy Corbyn and his sidekick John McDonnell ignoring all that and bellyaching instead about what kind of deal the ­Government has given Nissan to stay … Instead of being interested in the thousands of saved jobs, Labour’s leader seems fixated on scoring political points and demanding details of any deal he THINKS might have been done - even though Nissan is flatly denying there is one”. Nissan is flatly denying nothing. But do go on.

If those 7,000 people had been thrown on the dole, along with thousands of supply workers, then it’s public money that would have been used to support them and their families on benefits for decades … Would Corbyn have preferred that?” There is more.

And if, as he says, other car makers here will want the same ‘assurances’ Nissan has had (the rumours are the Government has agreed to pay any increased tariffs levied on Nissan as a result of Brexit ) then why the hell not? Surely it’s better for us to invest in keeping car companies here than letting them go elsewhere and condemning thousands of people to life on handouts?” We appear to have a research fail here (again).

Consider this line from the Guardian’s report on Corbyn’s response: “Corbyn said he was pleased there would be continued investment in Sunderland”. One wonders what part of that Carole Malone does not understand. One also has to wonder why she is unable to see that the “reassurances” may either go against EU and WTO rules on subsidies, or hem the Government in when it gets down to post-Article 50 negotiations.

Carole Malone may find such detail inconvenient, but it is as much an influence on the future of the workers she claims to champion as the Nissan deal itself. Unquestioningly saying “Yeah, why shouldn’t they have some kind of special treatment and just shut up asking silly questions” might sound good when there is no-one else in the room, but this kind of thing matters. The competence of the Government matters.

That is why we have a Parliamentary opposition - to ask those questions. If those questions were not asked, and the whole deal fouled up somewhere down the line, Carole Malone would be screaming blue murder about it. The least she could do now is to engage brain before opening mouth. Not that we expect such things from her.

Gove Weaponised In Mail Battle

The unstated but all too obvious divergence of views between the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and Main On Sunday editor Geordie Greig has seen the Sunday title, and the Daily Mail, taking contradictory stances on which way to vote, who is built up or demonised, and even how stories are presented. The confusion of Mail readers will be understandable. But today’s assault on Michael “Oiky” Gove is unprecedented.
Gove’s wife Sarah Vine is a Daily Mail columnist. The Daily Mail had been supportive of his tenure as Education Secretary; there would be no bad news about him in its pages. So many readers will be aghast to see two stories run by the MoS tearing into him - and Ms Vine. The first, concerning their 11-year-old son, is a copy of a piece run by the Sunday Mirror. The second, about an alleged affair, is just bizarre.

What is routine is the claimMichael Gove's 11-year-old son is said to have been found wandering the corridors of a bed and breakfast after the axed minister reportedly left him alone for six hours to party with celebrities … The former secretary of state and his wife Sarah Vine reportedly handed responsibility for their boy over to hotel workers and said they would be back from the glitzy party by 9.30pm”. They returned four hours later.

Mail Online gets suitably judgmental about this, tut-tutting “The Government's own guidelines state under-12s should not be left to fend for themselves for a long period of time due to them 'rarely being mature enough’ … Although the law does not specify an age children can be left on their own, parents can be prosecuted”.

But then comes the bizarre item, under the by-line of MoS political editor Simon Walters, telling “Leading Brexit campaigner Michael Gove is today revealed as the man falsely smeared by Theresa May’s Cabinet ‘enforcer’ as having had a gay affair … The Mail on Sunday has been informed that Williamson said in Downing Street that Gove had had a homosexual relationship with personal and political ally Dominic Cummings, chief strategist of the Leave campaign in the EU referendum”.

Er, and what does this have to do with his political career and public standing? Especially as the MoS follows that by saying “Both Gove and Cummings are happily married with children and this newspaper understands the allegation to be totally baseless”. The claim is attributed to Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson, but he has declined to play the MoS’ game, and has flatly denied another allegation concerning a comment about Theresa May.

Especially as the paper then adds “The Mail on Sunday first reported Williamson’s alleged gay smear last week, without identifying Gove and Cummings … Williamson’s alleged smear of Gove and Cummings was made when he was Cameron’s parliamentary private secretary”. It still doesn’t explain why the MoS is peddling a story it admits is not true.

But it does damage Sarah Vine, by association, as does the story about their son being left in a hotel while she and Gove went partying. Thus another episode in the increasingly bitter and bizarre power struggle between Dacre and Greig. And we now know that if the latter succeeds the former at the Daily Mail, Ms Vine may not be there for long.

Top Six - October 30

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 lots of food prep to do later. So there.
6 Heat Street Is Truly Bust (fortunately) former Tory MP Louise Mensch had already been caught shilling for Hillary Clinton - while apparently pandering to the Alt-Right and GamerGate crowd - and now she was discovered to have been practising censorship of her own writers. The end for Heat Street can’t come soon enough.

5 Let’s Ask Tony Gallagher It took just one Twitter hashtag for the Sun’s editor to find out just what the public really thinks of him.

4 Toby Young Fails Upwards The loathsome Tobes has been gifted a new job - one that he has already shown that he is not fit to perform.

3 IPSO Board Member Caught Lying Faithful Murdoch retainer Trevor Kavanagh appeared to have abused his position as a board member of sham press regulator IPSO as he laid into Channel 4 presenter Fatima Manji for a bit of afters.

2 Nissan Brexit Bribe Backfires Whatever Theresa May didn’t offer Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, it not only gave him the confidence to keep production at the company’s Sunderland plant, but also had everyone else in the automotive and aerospace industries wanting a bit of it too. And it looks like it has taken “Hard Brexit” off the table.

1 Toby Young Ken Loach Smear BUSTED The loathsome Tobes took a fat paycheque from the Daily Mail for a shoddily researched and badly argued hatchet job on Loach’s latest film I, Daniel Blake. The level of shamelessness is staggering - but not, it seems, for the Pundit Establishment, for whom this is mere routine.

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

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Nissan Brexit Bribe Backfires

After Nissan head man Carlos Ghosn fetched up in Downing Street - in a Qashqai, natch - and told Theresa May of his, er, concerns for the future of the company’s Sunderland plant, which makes more than one in four cars built in the UK, he received a number of what have enigmatically been termed “reassurances”, which were sufficiently enticing to have the company later decide to commit to retaining and expanding the plant.
The thought immediately entered with many commentators that some kind of deal had been done, whether through promise of subsidy, or other means. This was not sufficiently deflected by the official Downing Street spokesman telling “There was no special deal for Nissan”, especially as “He declined to comment on whether the industry had been promised lower energy costs”. There are other possibilities.

As the Guardian helpfully explained, “Industry sources said the government could provide subsidies towards training existing staff and hiring new workers”. The Government might also give relief from part of the plant’s business rates, or assist in some way with the construction work involved in expanding the site - helping with any purchase of additional land, for example. And so the guessing game continues.

But Nissan is not the only car manufacturer in the UK: indeed, although it churns out well over 450,000 vehicles annually, it is not the largest, an accolade which is now held by Indian-owned Jaguar Land Rover, with sites in the West Midlands and Merseyside. Other significant players include Toyota at Derby, Honda at Swindon, BMW near Oxford, General Motors on Merseyside, with Ford still building engines in the UK.

And those players have wasted no time in asserting that whatever the not-at-all-special-deal that Nissan didn’t really get, they want the same. The people at Reuters don’t appear to believe the “no deal” line either, hence their headlineMay's Nissan deal opens floodgates as rivals seek Brexit reassurance”.

The man from Jaguar Land Rover spelt it out: “We are talking to government at every level and asking for a tariff-free trading environment, access to talent and the same legislative framework we have now … We want a level playing field”. Moreover, “the boss of Airbus UK [said] the agreement showed the aerospace and defence sectors needed to work together”. Which means JLR and Airbus want what Nissan got.

Ford’s VP for the EMEA region, Jim Farley, also fancied a bit of what Nissan didn’t really get, telling “I don't think the government will be picking winners and losers in our industry … I would be very surprised if the UK government treats different companies differently”. But unless Britain remains part of the EU customs union at the very least, those companies asking for reassurances can’t have the trading environment they do at present.

And what the Nissan talks point to is continuing membership of the Single Market. That would be something like we have already, without the rebate, or indeed a say in how the EU develops. We may not be able to afford many more successes like that.

Fake Sheikh - Why The Silence?

After Mazher Mahmood, aka the Fake Sheikh, got guilty for lying to the judge in the Tulisa trial, and was subsequently sent down for a stretch in Belmarsh prison - a place where more than one of his victims had ended up in the past - one might have expected that there would be intense media coverage of all those damages claims, and all the convictions that those who suffered them are seeking to overturn.
Mazher Mahmood

This, after all, is meat and drink to the press, or so it might be thought: dodgy so-called investigative journalist sullies the good name of his profession, effectively entraps and/or fits up his targets, invents events that never happened (“dirty bomb” plot and Victoria Beckham kidnapping being two examples), lies in order to secure convictions, and is caught on camera laughing off the prospect of ruining careers and reputations.

The Police might be thought to want to give Maz the proverbial good kicking too, having been involved in many of Maz’ operations and now shown up to have been aiding and abetting a common criminal. What better way to rebut allegations of corruption than to hang the Fake Sheikh out to dry? Yet all that we have had since Maz got guilty was the Murdoch mafiosi sacking him. After all, he did get caught.

Why has everyone gone silent? Ah well. There are good reasons for some of those involved to keep schtum and hope it all blows over. There is, for starters, Maz’ relationship with Southern Investigations, the firm in which Daniel Morgan was a partner until he was found with an axe in his head in a south London car park. Jonathan Rees, Morgan’s business partner, had been suspected of involvement in the murder.
Daniel Morgan

Rees and his later partner Sid Fillery ran a number of bent Police officers (Fillery had been involved as a cop with the first Daniel Morgan investigation; his conduct was widely regarded as inept). The murder has recently been the subject of a Panel Investigation and an extensive podcast series, Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder, has been produced under the aegis of my good friend Peter Jukes (see it HERE).

Southern Investigations also worked with hacks from the late and not at all lamented Screws, this being exposed when the two were discovered to have collaborated in the less than subtle surveillance of Dave Cook and his then wife Jacqui Hames, after Cook was put in charge of another of the investigations into … the Daniel Morgan murder.

So now you can see why the cops and the Murdoch empire would rather not have Mazher Mahmood investigated too enthusiastically - because it might make them look even worse. As to the remainder of the Fourth Estate, although the Guardian has covered Maz’ creative reinterpretation of the term “journalism” extensively, most of the rest would rather participate in the unstated but clear imposition of Omertà by Don Rupioni and his pals.

It will be left to the lawyers pursuing those damages claims and looking to overturn convictions, and those in the media who have not yet sold out on their principles, to keep prising open the door on Maz and his dodgy dealings. Once again, most of our free and fearless press are absent elsewhere when the going becomes uncomfortable for them.

Toby Young Fails Upwards

Nothing, it seems, rewards failure as much as having connections, knowing the right kinds of people. And no-one epitomises both failure and being properly connected than the loathsome Toby Young, who very nearly made a complete hash of running the Free School he helped to set up, but who has now been - otherwise inexplicably - rewarded with the role of Director at the New Schools Network (NSN) charity.
Another less than grown up contribution from Tobes

The NSN claims to be independent, but in 2010 it was bunged, sorry, awarded, half a million notes by the DfE, at that time under the less than auspicious leadership of Michael “Oiky” Gove. And NSN was put at the heart of the Government’s decision-making process on Free Schools, as Tom Clark at the Guardian explained.

The [grant] decision embeds NSN at the heart of a policy that was inspired by Sweden's independent state-funded schools, by giving it a hand in the application process. The department's website tells parents: ‘All proposers interested in setting up a free school must contact the New Schools Network to discuss their ideas.’ The guidance goes on to say that unsatisfactory forms, which need more work, will be referred back to NSN”.
Rachel Wolf, a previous Director of NSN, had been an advisor to Gove. Even before the 2010 General Election, it was noted that “Of the organisation’s nine listed trustees and advisers, six have a direct interest in different elements of the government’s existing academies programme”. Dominic Cummings, Gove’s chief polecat at the DfE, has worked at NSN. COO Natalie Evans had been at Policy Exchange - as had Gove.

So the claim that NSN is “independent” is, shall we say, an interesting one. And why they would want someone like Tobes on board is mystifying - except for his miraculous ability to get himself on the telly, where he makes no more sense than in the papers, and of course to effortlessly fail upwards. And failure is what he has specialised in.
The West London Free School (WLFS), co-founded by Tobes, went through three Head Teachers in worryingly short order, with the second of those, Sam Naismith, being caused to move on not at year end, or even end of term, but mid-week during term time. Zelo Street covered the Naismith affair at some length (HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE), and from this there was one inescapable conclusion: Tobes was utterly and totally inept.

Yes, Toby Young was not fit to be CEO of WLFS. Had it been a local authority school, he would have been sacked on the spot. Instead, he was allowed to carry on in the post and only last year, so I’m told, was he “eased out”, and allowed to tell how he was voluntarily handing over the reins to someone else, honestly.
Toby Young is not fit to be put in charge of any significantly-sized organisation. That he has been gifted charge of an apparently right-leaning charity tells you all you need to know about how being correctly connected is preferable in Metropolitan political circles to being able to correctly distinguish arse from elbow. As Graham Linehan put it, Tobes is “Literally one of the dumbest men in the UK”. He’s called Captain Bellend - because he’s a Bellend.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Uber - End Of The Exploitation

Driver and rider matching service Uber, as I’ve told previously, has shown its head man Travis Kalanick to be not so much a valiant entrepreneur, or an outsider battling against vested interests, as a modern-day transportation robber baron, a Cornelius Vanderbilt for the 21st Century, seeking to drive his competitors from the field of battle and thereby create a monopoly which he can then exploit to the full.
And unlike the Vanderbilts of the 19th Century, Kalanick did not need the encumbrance of infrastructure, the railroads, locomotives, coaches, wagons, all that hassle over land. He would not even need employees, as Uber’s drivers were judged to be self-employed contractors, owed no paid leave, with no employee status, but kept in line by a customer review system that could see their contracts terminated at a moment’s notice.

All the time, Kalanick and his fellow bosses were creaming off a healthy commission from those contractors’ earnings, even as their drivers saddled themselves with loans for cars predicated on income that Kalanick and Co then slashed by 20% by imposing rate cuts on them. It was the kind of employer behaviour that might have been thought to have disappeared decades ago. But there it was - until today.

As the Independent has told, “Uber drivers are entitled to receive the National Minimum Wage and holiday pay because they are workers, not self-employed, an employment tribunal has ruled … In a landmark ruling that has implications for millions of workers, the tribunal rejected Uber's argument that the drivers do not work for Uber, but merely use its technology. As workers they are entitled to essential rights, such as sick pay and holiday pay. The case will directly affect 40,000 of Uber drivers”.

Uber, of course, is appealing, but only in the legal sense. But whether they can overturn such an emphatic ruling is uncertain. Meanwhile, Frances O’Grady of the TUC has pointed out that the casehas exposed the dark side of the gig economy … For many workers this is a rigged economy, where bosses can weasel out of paying the minimum wage or providing basics such as holiday pay and rest breaks”.
Many Uber drivers have effectively been working for little more than £4 an hour - and any breaks they get are by good fortune or a slackening of orders. The financial commitments they have been forced to make in order to take part in the new, vibrant sharing economy - where Uber takes a share for doing very little - prevent them stepping off the treadmill.

Interestingly, the usual Uber cheerleaders have been either silent, or like free sheet City AM have whined about the poor bosses (“Extra costs to @Uber could be as much as £17m each year”). Uber has a war chest measured in billions of dollars, and there is the right-wing press blubbering about £17 million. No mention of the drivers - all we will hear is how summoning an Uber ride will get more expensive.

That merely highlights the exploitation which today’s decision is set to bring to an end. For too long we have been sold the idea of “disruptive technology” and cheapness to the consumer. The bullying corporation and the little people who get in the way do not even qualify as collateral damage - they don’t even get to be part of the story.

Today that may have changed, and for the good. Just rejoice at that news.

Greenslade Sells The Pass

The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade is one of only a few journalists prepared to at least discuss the misbehaviour and shortcomings within his profession openly, and that is to his great credit. He does, though, have a tendency to side with the media establishment when they come under attack, as witness his judgment that the idea the press held back on John Whittingdale to bend him to their will was a mere conspiracy theory.
Roy Greenslade ((c) Guardian)

It was not, of course, and Whitto got hit with more dirt that had very obviously been held in reserve once Byline Media got the story of him and his sex worker friend out there. Now, once again, Greenslade is siding with the larger part of the press that is railing against the potential commencement of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

He takes readers back to October 11 and the House of Lords. “On that day, four peers - led by Baroness (Sheila) Hollins, a crossbencher - tabled amendments to the investigatory powers bill aimed at bringing in section 40 by a new route (pejoratively, the back door). It would have the effect of making newspapers pay costs for both parties in phone-hacking claims”. Actually, it was to get the minister to commence a previously agreed measure.

But do go on. Greenslade goes on to tell readers “here’s the disturbing implication should the amendment be passed … Imagine this scenario. A person who makes a legal complaint about a story argues that the details could only have been obtained by a journalist hacking into his/her phone … The editor, inevitably, would seek to protect the reporter’s source. In so doing, however, it would be impossible to prove whether hacking was or was not involved … In the ensuing legal action, under the section 40 provision, the newspaper’s publisher would be liable for the costs of the claimant as well as its own. It could prove commercially disastrous for some publishers”.

Stop right there. The complainant would not need the newspaper to disclose anything. Whether they were hacked can be gleaned from their phone records. If anyone other than the customer calls their voicemail, it’s an attempt to hack and is accepted by the courts as such - which is why no-one does it any more. It is a criminal, not a civil, offence.

There would be no need for a legal complaint. Moreover, if there was a legal complaint about a story, whether or not hacking had been involved would not make the story defamatory. Perhaps Greenslade means that the paper had used hacking to stand the story up - something the Screws used to do. But again, proving that hacking had been used would be a separate matter, and the subject of criminal, not civil, action.

All that is left is actions for damages as a result of phone hacking. But if it had already been demonstrated that hacking had taken place, there would be no case for contesting a claim for damages - the only time any argument could take place would be over the amount of damages awarded, as the Mirror group is now doing. If publishers wanted to put hacking victims through a trial, they could hardly play the victim convincingly.

All of which is why Roy Greenslade has sold the pass when he claims that what would be a subset of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 “surely does threaten the freedom of the press”, although it might curb potential lawbreaking.

And we hear so little of the victims of press misbehaviour. I wonder why that should be.

Sun Trial - Kavanagh Lies Again

The Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun are swaggering and crowing this morning after Anthony France, the only one of their hacks to be convicted as a result of Operation Elveden, which concerned payments by journalists to public officials, had his conviction quashed and left court without a criminal record.
It was front page lead, despite not many Sun readers being fussed about the affair. The braying, triumphant headline said it all: “Last Reporter Caught Up In £30M, 5 Yr Legal Witch-Hunt Is Cleared … CPS, you took Sun helluva beating”. A suitably crowing editorial tellsOperation Elveden must go down as one of the most shameful and ­haphazard episodes in British legal ­history … Professional and personal lives of reporters have been forever changed by a £30m politically-driven witch-hunt”.

But it is veteran Murdoch enforcer Trevor Kavanagh - you know, the one who is supposed to be a board member of press regulator IPSO - who made the significant contribution, doing what he does best when confronted with the demands of Don Rupioni but not having the facts to carry them out - lying through his teeth.

Kavanagh’s comment piece, “The CPS’ vendetta against us for exposing major scandals you NEEDED to know is costliest and most flawed investigation in history”, is in equal parts malicious, inaccurate, and downright dishonest (no surprise there, then). Kav starts with “the verdict raises alarming questions about the motives and conduct of police, prosecutors and politicians who pursued this flawed vendetta at vast public expense”.
Photo cropped so as not to reveal burning trousers

And then he veers across the dishonesty line big time. “So who is to blame for the gigantic fiasco which has permanently soured once-valuable links between press and police? It all began in October 1999 when we decided Gordon Brown was not up to the job as PM and switched to the Tories … Furious Brown vowed to destroy the Murdoch press, David Cameron set up the blundering Leveson Inquiry and police pounced on a chance to prove, after a series of scandals, they could act tough”. And there was more.

Labour was lucky to have Keir Starmer, a lifelong supporter, as Director of Public Prosecutions. He leaned over backwards to make the conspiracy counts stick … His reward was a safe Labour seat, a job in the Shadow Cabinet and a chance to pitch for the party leadership. He was ably assisted by hatchet-faced Met chief Bernard Hogan-Howe, who has relentlessly pursued journalists”. All of that is totally untrue.

Leave aside the inconvenient fact that Pa Broon did not become PM until 2007, and that the Sun did not come out for the Tories until September 2009, neither he, nor Starmer, nor Hogan Howe had anything to do with it. Nothing at all. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Bugger all.
Operation Elveden would never have happened, had it not been for one action: the decision of Will Lewis, who, as the then General Manager of News International, decided to head off a possible corporate prosecution by handing the cops a load of emails detailing the dealings between Sun and Screws hacks and their contacts.

Lewis, who had given evidence before the Leveson Inquiry, telling that protection of sources was non-negotiable, had, er, abandoned the protection of the Murdoch press’ sources to shake off the prospect of corporate charges.

It had nothing to do with “300 years of press freedom”, or any of Kavanagh’s other attempts at deflection. The prosecutions the Sun is thundering about this morning came about because of a decision by its own management to grass up its sources.

It gets worse: when Kavanagh claims “the CPS failed to land a single enduring conviction”, he is once again lying. Perhaps no hacks were convicted. But their sources were. And just to remind Kav what he appears to have forgotten, Zelo Street will name some of them.

Jonathan Hall, of HM Revenue and Customs, leaked the 2010 budget to the Sun. He received an eight month suspended sentence.

April Casburn, a DCI in the Metropolitan Police, sold inside information on the phone hacking saga. She was jailed for 15 months.

Paul Flattley, a Police officer, who sold information on Kate Middleton’s security arrangements. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

Scott Chapman, a prison officer who sold details of Jon Venables, one of the two Bulger killers. He went down for three and a half years.

Lynn Gaffney, former partner of Scott Chapman. She was jailed for 30 weeks.

Timothy Edwards, a Police officer based at Heathrow Airport. Jailed for two years.

Simon Quinn, a former Police officer who leaked information on the Dowler murder. He went down for 15 months.

There were others. And that is why Trevor Kavanagh, who continues to sit on the board of toothless sham press regulator IPSO, once again has his pants on fire.

If the Sun wants to find the real culprits for what happened with Operation Elveden, it need look no further than its own gaff. Hell, the Murdoch clowns even gave the cops office space to help them to nick its own staff. That is what an unprincipled shower they are.

And after all of that, we close with a single verse from a well-known hymn.

All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small
All things wise and wonderful
The Murdochs shopped them all

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Blog Complaints Commission Returns

Zelo Street regulars may remember a post covering a campaign of stalking and harassment by an anonymous saddo who sent me letters which claimed to be from the mythical “Blog Complaints Commission”. There were three of these missives over time, each in response to my passing adverse comment on the outpourings of the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog.
All had been signed by hand, with the first two also addressed by hand. All had been posted in central London. Well, now the “Blog Complaints Commission” is back, sending another anonymous and malicious letter which, as with the others, has been reproduced here with an appeal for anyone who recognises the sad and inadequate individual sending these unwanted slices of idiocy to pass on any information they can.

The letter claims to object to a post where I called out the Fawkes blog for trying to pass off a Coventry Telegraph article from 2005 as if it were current. Either they were hoaxed, or they deliberately recycled an 11 year old article as part of their routine sucking up to their real bosses - the press establishment - to smear former footballer Gary Lineker by suggesting that Walkers Crisps, in whose adverts he has featured, had been the subject of a raid which discovered illegal immigrants on their site.

Quite apart from the creepy “we know where you live” approach, the grammatical content of the letter is inept in the extreme. Dates are expressed “24, October 2016”, it talks of “pedalling falsehoods” - perhaps I ought to take one of these falsehoods for a ride out to North Wales one afternoon - and asserts that whatever transgression I have made “puts this st [sic] the malicious end of the spectrum of offences”.

I am told that the “Blog Complaints Commission” has ruled, which is only moderately amusing, that “this is a regrettable though surprisingly regular lapse” (lapse singular cannot be regular - think about it), and that I am “expected to publish a full correction”. The only action that may ensue is passing this communication to the Police.

To whoever is sending these missives - they will have precisely no effect, save to have me kick Staines and his fellow cretins even harder next time. I couldn’t give a flying foxtrot whether you know where I live or not. I have not the slightest intention of publishing any kind of correction at the behest of someone who clearly needs psychiatric help.

So, whoever is calling themselves the “Blog Complaints Commission” - go fuck yourself.

NB One last point which needs making here: the only other unwanted communications aimed at this blog have been (a) a Christmas card from the Fawkes rabble, and (b) a legal threat on behalf of the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole - who was at the time working for, er, the Guido Fawkes blog. As Private Eye magazine might have added, “I wonder if the two are in any way related? I think we should be told”.

I’ll just leave that one there.

Jane Moore’s Full Britain RUMBLED

Among the Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, none is more innocuous in her appearance and demeanour than Jane Moore. She plays the role of the harmless yet genuinely sympathetic and concerned ordinary member of the public to the proverbial T. But the reality is rather different: Ms Moore is no less an obedient Murdoch enforcer than the McFilths, Kavanaghs, Liddles, and of course singular Parsons.
To this end she has pennedBritain’s schools, trains and hospitals are full… where can we put Calais Jungle migrant ‘kids’?” They’re not really kids, you see - orders from the thirteenth floor. This is followed by another whopper as she tells “'Come one, come all' is not a helpful policy when there's overcrowding in all of our public services”. There is no such policy, but orders once more - there are Sun readers to frighten.

Ms Moore tries to suggest that, as London’s Underground gets horrendously busy at peak times - tell me about it - this means the country is full, but goes wrong at the start: “IN all the years I did the daily commute on the London Underground, I would feel disgruntled if I had to stand for more than a few stops”. Must have been a bloody long time ago, says a Northern Line commuter from more than fifteen years back.

Readers also have NHS financial constraints - down to the Government - blamed on all those hordes of mythical people who don’t speak English, and are told of school rolls being over-subscribed. Ms Moore signs off with the mild exaggeration “unless we’re planning to build hundreds of skyscrapers on Exmoor, the Highlands or the Yorkshire Dales, then just where are we going to put them all?” So let me show her the reality.

Let’s wait for a relatively quiet time of day - mid-morning, for instance - and mosey over to London’s Euston station. There, we join a Virgin Trains Pendolino service for the North West. As we reserved seats, there is no problem sitting and watching the countryside speed past, and soon after passing Watford Junction, countryside is what it is. Mile after mile of predominantly open countryside. Open fields. Trees. And few people.

Berkhampstead flashes by, the ruins on the right, the town on the left. Tring is little more than a park and ride station for its immediate area, and a place for commuter trains to turn back and head to London once more. Milton Keynes is the one city among all that countryside. There are few stations, because there are few people living in those parts of the country. Rugby comes and goes. Nuneaton. Tamworth. Lichfield.

Stafford takes a little longer as the train has to slow for a sharp curve. And then, after 20 or so more miles of open countryside, we reach Crewe. Where there is recent eastern European immigration, but no crisis in school places. We have travelled 158 miles, and around 125 of those have been through parts of the country that are not built up. Most of that built up area is the first 20 or so miles out of Euston.

Jane Moore is not only out of touch with Tube commuting, she’s plain flat wrong about how full the country is, and that’s without going near “Exmoor, the Highlands or the Yorkshire Dales”. The reality outside London is that, as in Crewe, if we didn’t have the EU migrants that her paper keeps ranting about, we’d just have more empty shops.

And her shitty paper would have to find someone else to moan about.

MPs Rap IPSO On Kavanagh Attack

It was not the best time for allegedly independent press regulator IPSO - which isn’t - to show just how flexible, or even totally absent, the high principles of its board members really are: at the same time that the press establishment was turning its fire on the Press Recognition Panel and properly independent regulator IMPRESS, IPSO board member Trevor Kavanagh was going in with both feet on Channel 4 presenter Fatima Manji.
Why did Kavanagh cross the road? Because Rupert Murdoch considered it to be in his best interests to do so

As Zelo Street regulars will recall, disgraced former Sun editor Kelvin McFilth had not merely attacked Ms Manji, he had carried on a campaign of harassment against her, inciting others to complain to the broadcaster and to Ofcom, because she presented the news while having the effrontery to wear a headscarf. Ms Manji complained to IPSO. Predictably, IPSO wiped Kel’s arse for him and the complaint was dismissed.

But if she thought that the matter would rest there, she reckoned without Kavanagh. Remember, this is an IPSO board member. A board member of the press regulator which had just considered and then declined her complaint. Who then used his Sun column to administer a bit of afters, just to show Ms Manji who was boss.

Channel 4’s Fatima Manji made a fool of herself by accusing my old editor Kelvin MacKenzie of discrimination after she wore a hijab to report the Islamist truck massacre in Nice” ranted the faithful Murdoch enforcer, continuing “Nobody seeing her in full Muslim headdress [a scarf!] could doubt it was provocative of Channel 4 … she singled herself out by dressing as she did … She knew precisely what she was doing”.

That, everyone, is just how “independent” IPSO is. Many MPs and peers were sufficiently concerned that they have written to Alan Moses, head man at IPSO. The letter tells “We are writing to you with great concern upon learning that Mr Trevor Kavanagh, a board member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), has attacked Channel 4 News reporter, Fatima Manji in his column for the Sun newspaper. He wrote that Manji ‘made a fool of herself by accusing my old editor Kelvin MacKenzie of discrimination … she knew exactly what she was doing’”.

The letter also notes that “we are very concerned that Mr Trevor Kavanagh had publicly attacked a complainant, which could potentially deter future complainants, and that he continues to sit on the board of IPSO … We seek your urgent clarification on whether you believe that Mr Kavanagh’s public attack on a complainant to IPSO in in breach of the expectations of an independent press regulator, and whether his position on the board remains tenable”. The signatories demonstrate cross-party backing.

That is because, although the MPs who have backed the letter represent Labour, many peers including from the Tories and Lib Dems have also put their names to it. They are right to be concerned, but I have to tell them that nothing will be done.

At time time Kavanagh was appointed, I made clear that this was a sign of Rupert Murdoch giving the finger to all those victims of phone hacking and other less than principled behaviour indulged in by his goons. Despite Kavanagh’s disgraceful abuse of his position, he will remain in place, thus demonstrating that IPSO is a sham regulator. He has been allowed to put the boot in on Fatima Manji pour encourager les autres. He will do it again if he feels he needs to hurt someone. That is all.