What political and media elites have to fear from blogs….

My mischievous blogging buddy, Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes, finally did what he has been working for for most of the last the four years: bust the political lobby system wide open… With the fingering of Damian McBride, out came a flood of embarrassing stories of how political spin doctors had pistol whipped, cajoled and boycotted their way to civil stories about the government… As our scooped letter from the First and Deputy First Minister and their clumsy attempt to put the clamp on what they saw as excessive negativism in the Belfast Telegraph… and, no doubt, there are innumerable stories of individual journalists being cut off from press conferences, and party press lists for writing stories that went too hard on one of their representatives… Now, if they are reading the tailspin Labour’s communication strategy correctly, it must be obvious to the local political incumbents that those darker, bullying tactics can turn into some very nasty blog blow back… Those closed doors you think you are operating behind are no longer quite as closed as you once thought they were…That’s not a threat by the way, it’s just a fact. Guido has blown away the Victorian, Industrial Age conceit that media and political elites can confide with confidence and between them manage the best compromise deal for either and both…

Of course, though there are many who suspect otherwise, Guido is an avowed partisan. He has made no secret of the fact he supports the Tory party. Much of his animosity towards the Daily Telegraph is because of its reluctance to wholeheartedly back the Cameron project. He can’t be stung for dirty tricks or cooking shitty personal stories about Labour, because, unlike McBride, he is an independent (and independently wealthy) player.

He’s also a former hedge fund specialist. It was these guys’ jobs to exploit weaknesses in the operation of the markets to destruction, and in the process make the system work better and stronger (unless it is already too scuzzed up, in which case the whole thing keels over anyway). They also made good money out of it.

Paul’s approach to blogging and mine are profoundly different (see this CIF piece from three years ago). He thinks personalities (and their utter destruction) is critical, and makes and breaks government(s). I think policy and the conduct of government is (or should be) paramount. The cross hairs graphic he uses to mark his ‘targets’ also gives away something important. Guido is a Tory sniper…

According to an old Scots soldier friend who fought at Monte Casino, during the last war those who volunteered for that job got a whole 6d extra a day…. For that they would have to spend days in no man’s land beyond the trenches slowly getting into place… Each move imperceptable to the enemy scouring the landscape… Then firing just twice (a third shot allows the enemy to triangulate and find where you are firing from) before spending days moving back…

But generally snipers were distrusted amongst the ranks, since it was one form of combat in which the ordinary soldier had no way of saving himself (except deserting the line)… Guido will be fated for each of his hits, but feared and loathed even by many on his own side for the way it exposes the political class as a whole to similarly unpredictable incoming fire…

So is this only a quick fizz in the pan? Well, no. Although what Guido (and we in our own more modest and certainly more civil way) has done is political, it would not have happened without the technological means for people to ‘tunnel’ information out of big institutions, be they political, media, public or private.

And the personal rather than the political is apparently to be the method of choice. In Brown’s camp of office juniors is McBride, Charlie Whelan and the hapless Derek Draper. Cameron has bought in as his chosen Head of PR, Andy Coulson, is the guy who resigned just over two years ago from the News of the World after one of his journalists, Clive Goodman, made more than 600 calls hacking into messages of members of the royal household. As John Lloyd notes in yesterday’s FT:

Mr Coulson was hired not for his political but for his media nous. He had, self-confessedly, little interest in politics, having reported on show business and celebrities before being elevated to the editorship – although, in an interview with Tony Blair before the 2001 election, he asked the then prime minister whether he and his wife Cherie had joined the “mile-high club” (had sex in an aircraft toilet). In appointing him to such a key post, Mr Cameron was signalling, both to the media and to his party, that he would mould the Conservatives’ presentation around tropes that a tabloid professional would judge had most impact.

This is trench warfare within representative democracy the like of which we rarely see in Northern Ireland. It ain’t pretty, but neither is it an illusion of t’Internet-land… Even if as my Telegraph colleague Janet Daley notes that:

It may have been the blogger Paul Staines who obtained the fatal information but bizarrely, he did not then put it on his website, as Matt Drudge did when he had the similarly dangerous Monica Lewinsky story. To have done that might have established beyond doubt the influence of the Web in the political game here just as Drudge did in the US. Instead Mr Staines chose to tout his story to the newspapers in the sweet old fashioned way. Must we assume that even he does not believe that a blog post would have as much influence as a newspaper splash?

She is right up to a point. But what we have witnessed is a blogger using an asymmetrical relationship with big media to get the story out there, and then riding the Augean wave it creates to pistol whip certain sections of that media into making a series of mea culpas… Not to mention comprehensively stealing the news agenda from the Government…

It may not be a trick Guido Fawkes can pull off too many times… But then again, having proved the point he no longer has to…

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  • kensei

    Mick

    It was these guys’ jobs to exploit weaknesses in the operation of the markets to destruction,

    Okay….

    and in the process make the system work better and stronger (unless it is already too scuzzed up, in which case the whole thing keels over anyway). They also made good money out of it.

    …. but leave the ideological prejudices out. Their job was just to make money. reading through Krugman’s “The Return of Depression Economics” at the moment, and he dedicates a whole chapter to the ability of hedge funds to take down economies. Sometiems it works out for the best, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes they provoke it on otherwise healthy economies to get a quick buck.

  • Supports the Tory party? Or dislikes them less?

    “Exploit weakness” or sense price anomalies? Arb’ing price aberrations and then selling them till they bleed down to zero is a bit like spotting a liar and then exposing them to media animated self-destruction.

    You can stretch analogies too far Mick.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Difficult to know where to begin with this. I was struck by the suggestion that he is independently wealthy, as I was unaware that his bankruptcy had been discharged. The relevance of this of course that an undischarged bankrupt is not an attractive target for defamation proceedings. I’m quite unable to share your generous view of him. Although I agree with your characterisation of him as a tory partisan, it is a label which he himself (unconvincingly in my view) vehemently rejects. His animus towards the torygraph may be a result of his (now grudgingly admitted) failure to get any money out of them

    His recent media canonisation is all the more hard to swallow given that it is based on the premise that the sort of scurrilous material contained in McBride’s e-mail should have no place in public discourse, and yet this sleaze is the sock in trade of Staines’ operation. The bitter irony is that McBride and Draper are being castigated for a misguided (and desultory) attempt to ape Staines himself. The attempt to suggest that this is anything other than a bloggers’ handbag fight is unconvincing in my view.

  • Jimmy, you are an idiot. Bankruptcy (voluntary by my election) in 2003. Long since discharged. Believe what you want. I have explained the sequence of events openly.

    Frankly you are not worth of even baskingin the glow of my newly acquired halo. 😉

  • Mick Fealty

    Guido,

    I’ll bow to your qualification on that… It certainly works for me… As for the Tory thing, I was convinced by that argument (as in that CIF post above) a few years back… Much less now…

  • Jimmy Sands

    Guido,

    I stand corrected and am happy to apologise. I was genuinely unaware of the discharge.

    I’m not sure what “sequence of events” you’re talking about. When it was suggested that you had sought payment you indignantly denied receiving any money, a denial of an allegation that to the best of my knowledge had never been made. I found that response somewhat evasive. You have I accept now clarified the position.

    Now about that “Get Iain Dale” e-mail you promised on tv some weeks ago you were going to publish that day, how’s that coming along?

  • Mick Fealty

    Right rem… play the ball, etc, etc, ad infinitum…

  • Jimmy Sands

    Mick,

    Is that directed at me? I do try to behave myself here.

  • picador

    Guido,

    You exposed the whole Machiavellian lot of them for the corrupt feudal shambles that they collectively are.

    We are not worthy 🙂

  • willis

    Picador

    Machiavellian? I wish! Corrupt feudal shambles is a lot closer.

    Mick

    Excellent analogy with snipers and the fear they induce.

    Did Dolly and Damien ever look like the sort of operatives to achieve a clean hit?

    A clever sniper on the left will not be going after Guido. He is doing their work.

  • Brian Walker

    Well now Mick whoa, howl on owl heart!!. Guido is naturally milking this for all it’s worth which, as a story – is quite a lot. But “busting the lobby system open”? That begs a few questions and needs some unpicking.. What’s there to “bust” in a door well ajar? As an ex-and country member for most of my time and therefore not at the rough end of the playground but with normal contacts as a non-lobby former BBC editor), may I say that if you’re not a member of a “club” you may overdo its supposed mystique. The lobby has long since shed its exclusivity. Its formal sessions have been on the record for years and are open to other specialist journalists and foreign reps. It keeps expanding. True, much of the real business gets done bilaterally. But “bust open”? Come off it. This is already becalmed PhD territory. Special advisers have long been exploited and exploiting, worked over, complained about as sources. Even the slowest learners must know about Campbell, Charlie Whelan, the testimony of Martin Sixmith, biogs of Mandelson etc., In the Thick of It, etc.etc. The lobby is about as secret as the Crown bar on a Saturday night. All information-gathering is partly a trade-off. Some who are overfed grow fat and complacent, those who are not fed get mean and angry. Fierce competition makes most stay hungry. Most – the more interesting ones to me, are midfield players. Yes, I’m quite sure some spinners return calls to kings of the blogosphere less than than to the accredited lobby. Why? Because the likes of Guido are as relentlessly partisan as MacBride on the other side. They like it that way. They exult in being the enemy.That’s their niche. Most daily information-gathering on the business of government is partly a trade-off. Gross contamination is usually averted by eagle-eyed peer scrutiny and mockery. Next moves? If the Tories get in, look out for the new establishment. What are Iain Dale and Tim Montgomerie already? And maybe one day even Guido? Either that, or he’ll run the risk of being neutered by Tories in government. What goes around comes around in politics, new media notwithstanding…

  • Guido,

    “Supports the Tory party? Or dislikes them less?”

    Come, come! Take the credit where it’s due. There are two problems with this claim. The first is that you don’t regard yourself as a Tory – you’ve told me and others that you do, and it’s on the record that you’ve got a history of association with the Party.

    Secondly, it’s good that you pretend that there’s a difference between your ‘anti-politics’ stance and that of your party, but it’s basically misleading. The Conservative Party has a very significant Poujadist element and is appealing to it right now with some vigour.

    As a Labour supporter, I’m the first to take my hat off to you – you’ve pulled of a fantastic trick. All Damian McBride tried to do is to offer a pale shadow of your work coming from the other direction. Labour are having a hard time because they *thought* about behaving as nastily as the Tories have always done.

    This is not a week for modesty on your part 😉

  • The attempt to suggest that this is anything other than a bloggers’ handbag fight is unconvincing in my view.

    Jimmy, is this a joke? I thought even Labour spokesbods gave up trying to push this line last weekend, where have you been?

  • Mick Fealty

    Brian,

    I’ll come back to that later… That was slightly misleading, since I meant lobby in a wider more encompassing sense…

    Just now I’m needing some down time with the family… I also want to blog your Tele piece on Orde too, if I can find it online…

  • Glenn

    The government, police, courts, Whitehall and BBC are all corrupt.

    They would not know the truth if it came up and gave them a kick up the ass.

    Until the eejets understand that the internet is the people’s forum where the Truth will Be Out. They will never learn!

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Glenn: “The government, police, courts, Whitehall and BBC are all corrupt.”

    Sadly, they are not uniformly corrupt. Therein lies part of the problem.

    Glenn: “Until the eejets understand that the internet is the people’s forum where the Truth will Be Out. They will never learn! ”

    At present, the amount of fluff n’ stuff a body has to wade through to find the Truth will give them plenty of cover.

  • Lord Monteagle

    >Bankruptcy (voluntary by my election) in 2003. Long since discharged.

    It wasn’t job loss or health issues that lead to his bankruptcy. Paul Staines, the able-bodied man chose financial suicide over paying his creditors.

  • Jimmy Sands

    The torygraph sees him and raises him

  • Paulie,

    I’m going to give the last word to you Paulie, though you are now peddling this “He told me he was a Tory” line, your contemporaneous recollection on your blog was very different. Maybe all us capitalists look the same to you.

    You said after meeting me that I had told you I was an anti-politics, minarchist – which I am. Perhaps your memory is confused?

    http://nevertrustahippy.blogspot.com/2009/01/minarchists.html

  • I must admit, at the time the idea that you were entirely opposed to the idea of representative democracy was one that no-one else was making – you were generally described as a ‘tory blogger’ back then.

    I think that – a couple of years ago – if someone were to say that you *weren’t* a Tory, they’d have drawn a few raised eyebrows (and if you remember, we were talking about Nick Robinson, you said that he was definitely part of ‘project Cameron’ and I followed it by asking if you were as well (you did say yes if you remember?)

    It’s not as if the Tories are actually as far from your position as they pretend anyway, is it?

    False flag operations are a very difficult trick to pull off. Bask in the glory – don’t worry – no-one’s interested in what I’ve got to say on the matter.

  • If I recall correctly we were talking (and this is genuinely a vague memory) specifically about the David Davis speech to Tory party conference, and that the media had already written their lines before he got up to speak.

    I meant in that sense Nick Robinson and I were part of the project to propel Cameron forward at that moment. It was a subconscious collective act. It was a sense that this was the story we all wanted. It wasn’t like every body in the media had a memo or met up to decide the line.

    You have read far too much significance into a boozy discussion.

  • OK – it may be a bit uncivil of me to repeat a conversation that wasn’t intended for public conversation. 😉

    You’re making my point for me though: The fact that I’m conditionally supportive of the Labour Party – as it happens I have party membership, (but plenty of bloggers that I’m politically close to don’t).

    But fundamentally, you are (subconsciously perhaps?) part of a Tory false-flag operation. The worst thing you can say about McBride is that he wanted Labour to have someone doing for them what you do for the Tories. It says a lot about the way the wind is blowing that what you *do* doesn’t reflect poorly on the Tories in the way that Labour’s *intention* reflects upon them.

    And I doubt that – if I were to offer you some dirt on a senior Tory – that you’d run with it with anything like as much gusto.

  • Sorry – I hit ‘submit’ before completing my point about the party card: The fact (?) that you don’t carry a Tory party card is hardly conclusive evidence that you don’t act (subconciously or otherwise) as an arm of the Conservative Party’s attack. You’re perfect for them in this respect. They can just go “not me guv – dead when I found it” etc when you say what they’d love to be able to say.

    In 1995, Labour would have been able to get away with the same trick, though we’ve never had as many people in the press that would turn a blind eye as the Tories have today.

  • My flag is the Jolly Jack Roger. It is my own version with Guido instead of a skull.

    Paulie, do you have any new dirt on the Tories for me? One way to find out if I am “sub-consciously part of a false-flag operation” that errm, I don’t even know about.

  • i fully agree with you that he is a tory partisan, also you are correct in saying “He’s also a former hedge fund specialist. It was these guys’ jobs to exploit weaknesses in the operation of the markets to destruction, and in the process make the system work better and stronger”
    and that is how he has been minting money!

  • Jimmy Sands

    Is it my imagination or did I get spiked here?