Kevin Maguire joins the foxhunting set

Posted on September 25, 2012

Kevin Maguire – one of Westminster’s most amiable lefties, even if he is a Mackem – never normally misses a chance to take a potshot at the ranks of the Right. Over the years, the Countryside Alliance has been a regular target, with a stream of hunting puns flowing from his pen.

So it was no surprise to see him join the Andrew Mitchell fray yesterday:

But wait a second, that cardboard copper looks rather familiar. Whose stand at the Lib Dem conference could that be?

Ah yes…

Perhaps Kevin’s not such a city boy after all?

The Mirror’s bogus account of UKIP night out

Posted on March 06, 2012

The Mirror was doing its best to discredit UKIP yesterday after a weekend of pretty good publicity (even from the Guardian, which must have shocked a few out of their blazers).

The paper claims:

25 UK Independence Party members were handing out fliers when some apparently went crazy after being asked to leave a quiet boozer.

They allegedly began threatening bar staff and police had to be called.

I’m told, though, that what really happened in Skegness was rather different than the Mirror’s account.

Rather than “handing out fliers” at the Wetherspoon’s pub The Red Lion, the group had ordered drinks and food, sat down and started chatting to staff when they asked permission to put UKIP “save the pub” beermats on the bar. The manager understandably said it wasn’t his call and agreed to call his Area Manager to check.

In the meantime the group’s food was delivered – hardly something a pub would do for customers who were “going crazy” on a “night of shame”.

When the manager returned a few minutes later, he apologised and said he’d not only been told by his superior that the beermats couldn’t be handed out, but that the group couldn’t touch their food, would be given a full refund and would have to leave immediately.

All this suggests a wrong call by an overzealous manager in a regional office, a far cry from the Mirror’s portrayal of something just short of an EDL riot.

I can’t imagine Wetherspoon’s would stand by such an overreaction against UKIP members, either, for two reasons.

First, the company has a long and honourable history of euroscepticism – see here for a recent article by their Chairman Tim Martin about the “economic folly” of the Euro and the “incredibly stupid” “load of baloney” of the current Fiscal Union proposals. Wetherspoon’s isn’t a UKIP-supporting company, but it has a sensible eurosceptic head on its shoulders (unlike, it would seem, the Skegness Area Manager).

Second, Wetherspoon’s are in touch with their drinkers. They know perfectly well the fact that your average pub-goer is no great fan of the EU, and are therefore unlikely to have some kind of UKIP ban. As evidence, just look at the ale being served at the time of the incident by the Red Lion, the pub in Skegness at the heart of this non-story:

Rather says it all, doesn’t it?

The curse of the Miliband Mix-up, episode 329

Posted on February 13, 2012

This blog has long followed the Great Mili Mix-up, the tendency of even the most accomplished commentators to mix up David and Ed Miliband, almost as if the universe itself is trying to set right the error made when the wrong brother was elected Labour leader. So far it’s struck the BBC website, the Today Programme, the Telegraph, the Mirror and even Google Image Search.

The latest in this longstanding tradition is City AM, who illustrate the findings of today’s Voice of the City poll with the wrong Miliband:

The poll finding illustrated with David’s photo reads “69% Disapprove of Ed Miliband’s performance during the NHS reform debate”.

It’s hardly City AM’s fault that the Opposition Leader is apparently one of Britain’s most forgettable men – or were the picture desk just trying to imply a solution to the problem?


Posh loner who liked poetry but not sport “obviously did it”, say media

Posted on December 31, 2010

Chris Jefferies may have committed the murder of Joanna Yeates – but as one of the fundamental principles of our legal system reminds us, he is innocent until proven guilty. It’s become a tradition in these cases for the media to indulge in heavy handed, nudge-nudge wink-wink implication when reporting the arrest of someone even before any charges have been brought.

Recall the case of the Ipswich Ripper, who murdered five women in 2006. The case is still notorious, but most of us have forgotten about Tom Stephens, the innocent but extremely odd man arrested wrongly for the crime spree. As soon as his name was revealed, numerous outlets started heaping increasingly peculiar implications on him – normally using anonymous comments from neighbours an acquaintances.

The most bizarre of these, which I remember made me laugh out loud at the time, was that he had been “digging in his garden with a small trowel“.

The smear was that if he was digging, he must have been burying something (or someone). In reality, of course, if digging ones garden with a small trowel was a crime then millions would be detained every Sunday afternoon and the panellists of Gardeners’ Question Time are veritable Moriartys.

The same is happening to Chris Jefferies. I am not attempting to go on some crusade to clear his name – for all I know, he may well be guilty. The police may know more that persuades them of this. What is certain is that the media do not, but are engaging in trial-by-tittle-tattle all the same.

Here are a choice selection of some of the reports about Jefferies so far, including some recognisable classics of the genre and some really weird ones:

“Oddball” – Almost all newspapers

“He showed no interest in cars or sport” – The Mirror

“The way he pronounced words and said his sentences was also weird”…”The things he taught us were really odd, he loved old English poetry.” – Small World News Service [NB it’s not that odd to like old poetry…when you’re an English teacher]

“Campaigned for gun range and prayer books” – Daily Mail

A loner” – Almost all newspapers

very posh, a solitary figure and very cultured” – The Sun

“An only child who has never married” – Daily Mail

an active member of the local Liberal Democrats and knew the leader of Bristol city council, Barbara Janke” – The Guardian

his students remembered him for his love of the poetry of the Pre-Raphaelite poet Christina Rossetti and idiosyncratic pronunciation of place names” – The Independent

If you spot any other corkers, put them in the comments and we can build up a full innuendo collection.

Breaking: John Prescott joins the TaxPayers’ Alliance

Posted on July 29, 2010

It’s all very well for an Opposition to oppose, but doing so in direct contravention of things you yourself actually did in Government has a remarkable capacity to make you look stupid. I was going to write about this in hypothetical terms, but happily John Prescott has kindly stepped in to provide a perfect case study.

You’d have been forgiven for thinking when he was sworn in as Lord Prescott that it was the pinnacle of political hypocrisy. Well, it seems that was actually just a dry run for the things he intended to say once he was snugly in the ermine.

Yesterday, his Lordship posted a withering attack on Twitter:

“Con Dems slash housing benefit for poor but happy to pay £30,000 a year private school fees for diplomats – £15m a year”

This got up my nose a bit. After all, he seemed to have no problem paying these fees when he was in Government – and whilst they are excessive their existence doesn’t magically invalidate any other spending cuts.

Furthermore, when he was in power I vividly remember them scrapping Assisted Places, removing the only opportunity for bright kids who couldn’t afford the fees to get into private schools. Didn’t he do that, I pointed out, whilst at the same time paying the exact same fees for diplomats’ kids that he is now criticising?

Cue awkward silence. Eventually, the best Lord Prescott could muster was a complaint that the TaxPayers’ Alliance had given “no quote” on the topic.

Unfortunately for him, the Daily Telegraph, Sky News, the Metro,  and even his favourite The Mirror record in black and white that the TPA has criticised this spending for years. I should know – I wrote the quotes and gave the TV interviews!

The question for John Prescott is this: he didn’t lose a minute’s sleep about these school fees when he was in power, so why is he suddenly howling about them in Opposition? What changed?

It couldn’t be that his Party lost the election, could it? No, a man of principle like Lord P would never bend in the political wind of base tribalism. The more charitable answer is surely that he was persuaded by the arguments of the TaxPayers’ Alliance and changed his mind. Nice to see you joining the programme, John.

PS To be absolutely clear, I do understand why the children of diplomats (and members of the Forces) may need to be sent to boarding school when their parents are abroad. I just think we could save money by sending them to one of the many excellent state boarding schools, rather than Eton.