Gosh, crikey – Hugh Grant breaks Leveson’s ethics proposals

Posted on March 14, 2013

As the self-appointed arbiter of media standards in the UK, Hugh Grant has a lot of opinions about what is and isn’t ethical journalism. Apparently the Guardian is perfectly ethical, while papers which report on, I don’t know, sex scandals involving English celebrity romcom actors are beyond the pale. Who knows how he settled on that view?

However he came by his moral code carved in stone doesn’t matter, he’s marched down the mountain and has spent several months using the tablets to lay about any who stand in his way.

Except perhaps he should read what they say before using them to clobber others. Take today’s tweet from the Media Moses:

That’s quite a big claim – that Rupert Murdoch personally ordered the Times Editor to order the Prime Minister to follow a specific policy and set of actions, which the PM immediately obeyed. What starts as a “rumour” has become, by the end of the tweet, supposedly solid fact that “Murdoch rules.”

Surely an ethical reporter would have given some evidence, quoted a source or even given any reason at all to believe it?

In fact, I seem to recall that the Leveson report had something to say about exactly that:

“45. A new regulatory body should consider encouraging the press to be as transparent as possible in relation to the sources used for stories, including providing any information that would help readers to assess the reliability of information from a source”

In short, Hugh Grant is promoting adopting the Leveson proposals by, err, going dead against Leveson’s proposals on evidence and sourcing. His “rumour” could have come from Tom Watson. It could have come from one of Murdoch’s own competitors. For that matter, Hugh Grant could just have made it up – but he has merrily injected it into the public debate, with no evidence or source in sight.

It’s hardly “ethical reporting”, is it, Hugh?

CrashBangWallace on Question Time

Posted on February 28, 2013

I’m pleased to report that this evening I will be joining the panel of the BBC’s Question Time as their @BBCExtraGuest. This means I’ll be responding to the questions, commenting on the show and debating/arguing/falling out with the Question Time audience on Twitter.

The show is being broadcast from Eastleigh, for obvious reasons, and the panel includes Jeremy Browne MP,  Angela Eagle MP, Claire Perry MP, Neil Hamilton and Ken Loach so it should be a fairly provocative discussion.

If you’d like to follow my tweets and join in live, I’ll be tweeting from @BBCExtraGuest from about 10 minutes before the show starts. I hope you’ll join me there!

The Sun’s rebuke for Prezza

Posted on February 18, 2013

Lord Prescott loves to play the political grandee – using Twitter to imply he is setting the running for his colleagues in the Commons. Unfortunately, just like the meat in a cut-price cottage pie, the reality doesn’t necessarily match the hype.

On Saturday night, the Sun’s Dave Wooding retweeted Prezza’s message urging “every member of the Shadow Cabinet” to “think twice before writing for the Sun”, followed by two telling updates on the contents of the latest Sun on Sunday:

PrezzaWooding

Ouch…

Exclusive: that new Kate portrait put right

Posted on January 11, 2013

The National Portrait Gallery have just unveiled the first official Royal portrait of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. As a portrayal of  famously beautiful woman, it’s received what could politely be called a mixed reaction:

Kate portrait

Personally, I think the most amazing thing is that way that only one of her eyes follows you round the room. How on earth have the NPG managed to commission a painting so iffy that it has already been nicknamed #CrosseyedKate?

As a public service, courtesy of @MrAndyBoy, CrashBangWallace.com can present an exclusive reworking of the portrait, putting it right with a tender combination of sensitivity and expertise.

At last we have the image in the full glory that it deserves:

Kate Portrait corrected

That’s better.

UKIP’s Ollyshambles has serious consequences

Posted on January 09, 2013

UKIP’s internal tensions have been obvious for some time. As the main party has gathered points in the opinion polls by picking up kneejerk reactionary positions on gay marriage and the burkha, the youth wing – Young Independence (YI) – has seen its own surge on the back of libertarian activism.

As I tweeted a month ago, after witnessing a debate on gay marriage between an old guard member and Olly Neville (a leading member of YI):

All parties – and the country at large – have that growing generational difference, particularly when it comes to the understanding of individual liberty. The test of their character is how they deal with them. And that’s where UKIP are now in big trouble.

In what some have inevitably dubbed the #Ollyshambles, Neville – who recently became the popular Chairman of Young Independence – was last night sacked from his post by the party’s leadership. His crime? He dared to disagree with them over gay marriage and on the idea that European Elections were more important than Westminster – both perfectly sensible positions for a libertarian eurosceptic to take.

So why should anyone care? After all, I hear you say, he was just the youth leader of a political party which has no Parliamentary representation. That’s true, of course, but the Neville affair does have some important ramifications for UKIP and for our wider politics.

Consider the context: UKIP are at 16% in the polls, widely touted as headed for first place in the 2014 European Elections and according to the Mail on Sunday set to deny David Cameron any chance of a General Election victory, all at a time when the EU is an increasingly important issue. Whether they convert their current polling into votes, and how they campaign matters a great deal.

The implications are numerous.

First, there’s the impact on UKIP’s effectiveness. The party’s youth wing had been signing up activist after activist from Conservative Future, based on its message of good humour and libertarian politics. That is now shattered, as the leading proponent of both is roundly duffed up. UKIP have already had resignations over the scandal, meaning they are losing energetic young activists as well as the gloss which an active youth organisation gives to a brand.

Then there’s the damage this does to UKIP’s message that it is a different kind of party, one that rejects top-down control and the enforcement of toeing the line. They have made great hay with this – look, for example, at the comments given by former CF Deputy Chair Alexandra Swann on her much-publicised defection to UKIP:

“As a member of Conservative Future, with no real power, I was monitored and forced to stick rigidly to the party line. The Tories stifle debate, and no one gets along, whereas UKIP encourage debate and they all get along fine.”

That sounded great for them at the time, but now rings extremely hollow. Small wonder Alexandra was looking rather uncomfortable on Twitter last night in the face of the news.

Given that the Conservatives allow MPs to break ranks on leaving the EU or opposing green taxes, while Labour keep Frank Field, Lord Adonis and plenty other outspoken rebels in their ranks, UKIP risk their anti-politics reputation by sacking people for simple disagreement.

Perhaps most serious for Nigel Farage is the impact this has on his own core messages about what UKIP believes. Time and again we’re told it is a libertarian party, and yet it seems that speaking your mind in favour of libertarian positions is a sackable offence.

The same goes for the question of who their leader backs or sacks. When Winston Mackenzie, the UKIP candidate in the Croydon North by-election, became the latest official representative of the party to say something horrendously bonkers by announcing that gay adoption was a form of “child abuse”, we were told that UKIP is a party that lets its people hold their own opinions.

As recently as Monday, Farage was on the Today Programme defending his troops from the Prime Minister’s allegations of oddness on the grounds that:

“…we’re eccentrics, and we tolerate eccentricity.”

So either it’s acceptable “eccentricity” to insult gay people, but unacceptable to suggest they should be allowed to marry, or this is an overnight change of position. If it’s the former, then that’s pretty horrendous. If it’s a change of position,  presumably UKIP will now sack anyone who breaks from any policy at all. That would be awkward for them, given a) the tendency of their candidates and MEPs to do so and b) the fact that Nigel Farage himself has publicly gone on record as opposing their policy on drugs.

Next time (and there will be a next time) a UKIPper says something genuinely awful, how will Farage fight off the demands to sack him or her?

All in all, this is a pretty mess: young activists alienated, a libertarian and anti-politics reputation fundamentally undermined, and a total inconsistence with their own leader’s attitude to sacking and policy cohesion. Anyone acquainted with the history of UKIP will know that they are no strangers to arbitrary purges – indeed, they are probably the only political party with far more ex-members than members. It’s fair to say a return to that bloody heritage is not the road to political success.

2012 may have been UKIP’s year to party, but the Ollyshambles suggests 2013 may be the year of the hangover.

Some things change – but Prezza stays the same

Posted on January 07, 2013

A new year heralds change – 2013 will see new heights of human achievement, new lows of tragedy, new inventions and discoveries, new works of art and new ways to move the spirit.

What it will not see, it seems, is a new commitment to accuracy from John Prescott. In the history of scientific endeavour, few leopards have been discovered with less changeable spots.

This morning the good Lord – turned Sunday Mirror columnist – tweeted:

Unfortunately for Prezza, that photo – much used by the lefty twitterati in recent months – is from September 2004, as reported here.

That means the bubbly was being delivered not to George Osborne or his Coalition colleagues but to Gordon Brown, at a time when John Prescott was Deputy Prime Minister. Either Prezza knows the photo is from the wrong administration and is deliberately misleading his 167,000 Twitter followers, or he has mistakenly picked it up from somewhere else.

Let’s be charitable and assume it’s the latter. The only recent, mainstream use of the picture was in the Daily Mail last year, accompanying a story that the Chancellor intends to introduce a green tax on chilled champagne. The tax will supposedly be called the “Thermal Reduction Initiative (Champagne)”, or “TRIC”. Published under the byline “Pru Cremier”, the story was published on…April the 1st.

Oh dear, John.

More BBC Bolsheviks

Posted on December 06, 2012

Steve Baker MP, one of the libertarians on the green benches, has an interesting report over at the Commentator about the BBC. He has complained to the Corporation that a recent BBC News piece about the ways in which China’s murderous totalitarianism is supposedly superior to democracy neglected to mention that the author, Martin Jacques, was formerly a senior figure in the Communist Party.

Needless to say, Auntie replied to say that she sees no reason why it might be misleading to portray Jacques simply as an “economist”, with no mention of his political affiliations.

Steve’s article is worth a read – and I suspect this won’t be the last we’ll hear of the case.

Furthermore, it seems Martin Jacques isn’t the only fan of communist revolutionaries who walks the BBC’s corridors.

Newsnight’s famously lefty Economics Editor, Paul Mason, was tweeting away earlier this week celebrating the fact that moving the Beeb’s HQ to the West End meant the arrival of “6000 unionised media workers…in Soho” would push the media world to the Left.

His comparison of choice was to call New Broadcasting House the “Putilov Factory of [the] media economy” – after the St Petersburg factory widely credited as the hub from which communist ideas spread in the run-up to the Russian Revolution.

It’s a slightly odd choice of heroes to worship – we’d best hope that the impact he hopes the NUJ will have on London’s media won’t be as negative as the impact the Putilovites had on long-suffering Russians.

For that matter, let’s hope the Beeboids don’t suffer the same fate as their Putilov predecessors. Having sparked the revolution, the factory’s workers soon became disillusioned and denounced the Soviet state as a “dictatorship”.

Their reward for criticising the masters they put into power was for 200 of them to be executed by Lenin’s secret police. Perhaps the BBC’s Bolsheviks should be careful what they wish for.

George Monbiot’s imaginary banker

Posted on October 16, 2012

It is easy, as they say, to start believing your own spin. Perhaps in time such a disease creeps over everyone in the public eye, as they increasingly come to live up (or down) to the shorthand summary of themselves which they once invented for marketing purposes.

Whether it comes for us all or not, it has certainly come for the Guardian’s George Monbiot. Two weeks ago, George tweeted this:

The immediate reaction was to point out that if you can’t remember who did it, it obviously wasn’t that “famous”.

However, weeks have now passed, and the name of this wicked “head of a bank” still hasn’t emerged. Not one of Monbiot’s 52,281 twitter followers could name him, and the article which he presumably intended to use the anecdote has yet to appear.

For that matter, fish-keeping friends tell me that the size of a tank you’d need in order to keep a pike would be umanageably huge.

Could it be that this “famous”, Bond-villain, “head of a bank” didn’t in fact exist? Could it be – whisper it – that George Monbiot’s memory has started matching up to his view of the world, even when it didn’t actually happen?

Perhaps I’m wrong – and if anyone can find me proof of the “head of a bank [who] famously kept a pike in a tank in his office and would feed it live goldfish” then I will donate £50 to Greenpeace. I get a feeling my £50 is quite safe.

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?

Gorgeous George’s Twitter Twaddle

Posted on August 10, 2012

George Galloway has never been far away from the top of the Talkers of Nonsense League, but yesterday he managed to excel himself. “Gorgeous” George, renowned for fulminating against “imperialists” for their violent and oppressive ways, has turned his fire on that notorious running dog of capitalism, water-boarding enthusiast and plutocrat, the, err, Dalai Lama.

That sound you can hear is the snapping of the last thread even vaguely connecting Galloway to reality.

Never one to stop digging if he finds himself holding a shovel and standing in a hole, the Mustachioed Maoist didn’t exactly cover himself in glory when pulled up on it, either:

@wallaceme he is neither vicious nor an imperialist. But he does think he’s God and he does want to take Tibetans into the obscurantist mist

— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) August 9, 2012

So that’ll be the Dalai Lama, a follower of Buddhism – a religion with no God whatsoever, still less a belief that leading priests are themselves God on earth – who in Galloway Land “thinks he’s God”. It seems George needs to do a resit on his religious studies GCSE.

It wasn’t a good day on Twitter for Bradford’s answer to Rasputin. Having rejected the Tibetans’ right to live freely, and then fundamentally misunderstood one of the world’s major religions, he merrily tweeted agreement that he is a “tankie” - ie a hardline Stalinist who supported the crushing of the Hungarian Uprising by Soviet tanks.

Perhaps Galloway may want to reconsider whether Twitter is for him…