Wednesday, 28 November 2007

When did we know?

The BBC is excelling in sitting on the fence in the latest Labour funding scandal:
Property developer David Abrahams gave £657,000 under other people's names - which is now known to be unlawful.
General Secretary Peter Watt claimed not to know this was unlawful, even though it was his job, and Mr Abrahams has claimed he didn't know. So, even though it couldn't be clearer that it is a breach of the Political Parties and Referendums Act 2000, the BBC has to imply that there was a time when this wasn't "known".

Thanks for muddying the waters on that one.

Monday, 26 November 2007

NatWest 3 guily after all?

The Guardian is reporting that the Natwest Three are on the brink of a plea agreement which could involve an admission of wrongdoing in return for a lighter charges from the US government.

As the Guardian reminds us:

In the run-up to their extradition in July last year, the trio orchestrated a high-profile political campaign alleging that they were the innocent victims of an unjust treaty which allowed America to seize British citizens on the basis of scant evidence.

Among their supporters were senior Conservative politicians and business figures such as British Airways' chairman Martin Broughton, the retail tycoon Philip Green, Glaxo SmithKline's chairman Sir Christopher Gent and the London Stock Exchange chairman, Chris Gibson-Smith.

The trio staunchly maintained that they had done nothing wrong. Critics, however, pointed to correspondence seized by prosecutors in which the bankers discussed keeping their controversial dealings with Enron under wraps and, at one point, referred to their actions as "robbery" of an Enron off-balance sheet venture. Enron's disgraced former chief financial officer, Andrew Fastow, was scheduled to be the prosecution's star witness against them.

Perhaps there was some evidence after all.

Wintour spins for Brown

Patrick Wintour doesn't really care who he spins for, as long as they feed him stories. In the Guardian today he reports that:
Gordon Brown will call for an acceleration of nuclear power today in a speech to business leaders designed to show he is focused on the long term and will not buckle in the face of negative headlines.
Except that:
He was forced by the courts to hold a second, as yet incomplete, consultation on building nuclear stations so he will not make an announcement today in case he is accused again of pre-empting the outcome. But it is clear that he sees a new generation of stations as vital to Britain's energy security and emission targets.
So Brown won't actually call for an acceleration in nuclear power. But with Wintour to spin for him, he doesn't need to.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

The Inside Story

The Observer is reporting that:
A chastened Gordon Brown has told key allies that he going to 'radically alter' the composition of his inner circle which has been criticised for being too small and excluding senior members of the Cabinet from major decision-making.
So behind the scenes someone is briefed that things are going to change behind the scenes. How's that for transparent politics?

Friday, 23 November 2007

Denmark in non-story shock

Today's piece in the Times is pretty desperate. Apparently:
Britain faced further isolation within the European Union yesterday after Denmark announced that it was giving its citizens the chance to vote in a referendum on its relationship with Europe.
But the second paragraph, which at first appears merely to repeate the first, reveals that there isn't really a story at all.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the country’s recently re-elected Prime Minister, announced plans to give Danes a say in joining the euro and ending Denmark’s opt-outs from Brussels.
So Denmark might opt in to the Euro after all and, like Britain, would hold a referendum before doing so.

The hacks were so desperate to make a story that they painted a lack of interest from the government and the tories as showing that the Danish move caused them difficulties:
A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office would say only that it was “a matter for the Danes” while the Tories gave a notably defensive response.
Mark Francois, the shadow Europe minister, said: “We believe in a flexible Europe where each country can find the level of integration with which it feels comfortable. If the Danish Government wish to discard some of their opt-outs that is a matter for Danish people and Parliament to decide.”
Quite a sensible and sophisticated response but insufficiently knee-jerk, so the hack scraped the bottom of the barrel.
It was left to Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers to draw the comparison between the Danish leader’s decision and that of Gordon Brown. Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, said: “It’s good to see that at least one incoming leader has the courage to put his country’s relation with the EU to the people. It’s a shame our own Prime Minister is refusing to honour the promise he made to do the same.”

Sunday, 18 November 2007

War was always the plan

Yesterday, it was revealed that Tony Blair wanted the Iraq war all along. He claimed, as he has claimed before, that he wishes he had just published the Joint Intelligence Committee assessments on Iraq. This is one of Blair's great con tricks. He has conned a lot of people into believing that the intelligence was as certain as he said it was.

Today, Blair's former chief of staff Jonathan Powell admitted that it was about regime change all along.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Dossier film now online

My Film, "Who wrote the Iraq Dossier?", is now viewable online. It includes a cracking interview with Andrew Gilligan who has a piece in the Press Gazette today arguing that journalists are still getting the story wrong on Iraq.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Knives out for Malloch-Brown

The Sunday Times is reporting that Foreign Office officials have turned on Lord Malloch-Brown, their minister, describing him as a “liability” for the government. Malloch-Brown upset people when he said that Britain and the US should no longer be "joined at the hip". It's hard to find many people, apart from Blair, who think we should be.

Aparently, Malloch-Brown has also upset Labour friends of Israel.

This pretty well sums up the received wisdom around UK foreign policy that whatever you do, you mustn't upset the US or Israel.

But why are Foreign Office officials, with the apparent connivance of David Miliband and the help of the Sunday Times, engaging in a whispering campagn against a minister?

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Why worry?

The BBC reports that
The drinks industry has launched an attack on new campaign group, the Alcohol Health Alliance, even before it has been fully established.
It reminds me of the tobacco industry's campaign against a ban on advertising their product. If it isn't going to reduce consumption, why is the industry worried?

Are they trying to be helpful?

It's really not clear whether the unnamed police sources who "back" Sir Ian Blair in this Guardian article are trying to help him or stab him in the back.
While those who talked to the Guardian support Sir Ian, they fear his departure may be the only way for the force to get back on track. "All the really important things begin to look in jeopardy because the future is so uncertain," said the senior source. "I do question if the authority of his office has been irrevocably damaged."

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Cash for Blair

The Guardian Reports that:
Tony Blair has been panned by the Chinese media after he was allegedly paid $500,000 (£237,000) for a speech that revealed "nothing new".

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

McCanns and Mitchell manipulate

As the Telegraph relays claims in the Spanish press that two of the Mcanns' friends want to change their stories, their spin doctor is straight in with the denials.
Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns' spokesman, denied that any of the friends had officially approached the Portuguese police through their lawyers but said that they were happy to be reinterviewed by police if it resolved any apparent inconsistencies and hastened the McCanns being cleared.

"Contrary to a report in the Spanish press, and after consultation amongst Gerry and Kate McCann's friends, I can deny that any approach has been made by their lawyers asking to amend or change the witness statement of any of them," he said.

"Kate and Gerry's friends, who were with them on May 3, have consistently told the truth and remain happy, indeed they are keen, to be reinterviewed by the police if necessary to clarify any inconsistencies in the statements that the police may think they have identified.

"The friends believe that if such interviews or reinterviews take place it can only lead to Gerry and Kate being eliminated from the inquiry swiftly."

Isn't their something a bit fishy about the McCanns and Mitchell monitoring the witnesses to make sure they stick to their original stories?

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Kettle backs Blair

Martin Kettle is such a hopeless blairite that he can't help backing Sir Ian. Kettle is one of those people who almost always gets it wrong. He claims that

The conviction of the Met puts us all in greater danger

As one poster puts it:
Kettle seems to have become habituated to defending the indefensible.
Other posters just take his argument apart:
Kettle has here contributed one of the most poorly reasoned and ill-informed articles seen on CiF, and that is quite an achievement. To pick a few of the more egregious errors:

2. "The police genuinely thought De Menezes was a suicide bomber." No, they did not. They did not know who he was, or what he was doing. There was total confusion and incompetence, but they killed him anyway.
This should really be the last word on the subject.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Watchdog or lapdog?

I've got a piece in the New Statesman this week asking if the Information Commissioner is up to the job.

Strachan tells it straight

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan has hit out at the way the press misrepresent and manipulate the words of footballers and football managers.

"You people sometimes are like those serial killers you see in films who send out these horrible messages.

"The serial killer who cuts out the words 'I am going to get you' or 'your wife is next'. You are the very same."
Strachan was complaining about press stories that claimed he coveted David Weir, a player at another club.
"Last week I was told of the headline that I wished I had David Weir.

"No way at any time did I say that I wished I had David Weir.

"In the 20 minutes that I sat there I'm sure that 'David Weir' and 'wish' may have been said but at no time did it ever, ever come together."