Tag Archives: Guido Fawkes blog

Yes, Nusrat Ghani, let’s have that debate about MPs abusing power – we can look at your fellow Tories [STRONG LANGUAGE]

How can Tories complain about anybody’s attitude to women or minorities when Boris Johnson is Foreign Secretary?

Tory MP Nusrat Ghani reckons she will demand an urgent debate in the House of Commons about the incident in which Clive Lewis used the word “bitch” during a social event connected to the Labour Party, a month ago.

Some of us may find it worth comment that she wants an “urgent” debate about an incident that is a month old and is only being discussed now in order to distract the public from the growing list of the minority Conservative government’s failures. Where’s her demand for an urgent debate on her own government’s failure to support the will of Parliament and suspend the Universal Credit rollout?

Here are her tweets:

Oh, right. Using the word “bitch” implies a lack of respect for women. This Writer can certainly get on board with that – but not with the hypocrisy of saying it after reading an article about Mr Lewis on the Guido Fawkes blog, which has a record of abusing that word:

And what about the misogynistic abuse Guido‘s followers heap on women after they’ve been targeted on that website? Here’s an example:

Here’s another:

And there’s this one as well:

The event at which Mr Lewis misspoke was run, presented and owned by women – and no objection was raised at the time. Some have tried to raise indignation because a female voice was heard saying, “This is supposed to be a safe space”. Here’s the owner of that voice:

On top of all the foregoing is the fact that Mr Lewis himself has apologised for his words, which he accepts were completely inappropriate (even though the way they were said ran counter to the misogynistic use that is correctly vilified).

So we’ve established that the fake outrage over Mr Lewis is a storm in a teacup. But a debate could still be useful – to point out the many similar outrages caused by Conservative MPs.

I mean, opponents of the government could raise the obvious policy points:

But let’s admit it – the time would be far better-used discussing the transgressions of individual Tories. Aaron Bastani, whose social media organisation Novara hosted the event at which Mr Lewis said his offending words, listed a few possibles – including, for the sake of fairness, one example concerning a Labour MP:

Boris Johnson is worth an article in his own right – and the Metro has obligingly provided one. In it, Yvette Caster comments on his claim that women go to university because “they’ve got to find men to marry”, that female graduates are responsible for rising house prices – and are making it difficult for other families to get housing, that working women should get back to the home because they are responsible for young people’s antisocial behaviour.

There’s this: “Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3.”

I strongly recommend that you visit the article to experience the full horror.

But Mr Johnson isn’t the only Tory transgressor. What about James Heappey?

I wrote an article on Vox Political about this – ahem – “gentleman”, along with Tory Nick Harrington who said Ireland could “keep its f’king gypsies”. What charming men!

Moving back to the Cabinet, what about Michael Fallon, who called a journalist a “slut”, although it seems he would be more accurate if he applied the term to himself:

Fallon’s people have denied that he used the word but they would, wouldn’t they (to paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies’s words about another Tory defence minister, in another scandal)?

And then there’s the deputy chairman of Bermondsey and Southwark Conservative Association, Rupert Myers QC. Journalist Kate Leaver has alleged that he “forced himself” on her – and I hope everybody reading this knows what that means. If it is true, then not only should he be imprisoned but he should be stripped of his Tory membership and dismissed from the bar (of the court – although it seems he should also be banned from reputable drinking establishments):

Finally, let’s all remember that the inappropriate misuse of language is not restricted to men speaking about women. Let us consider Anna Soubry:

This incident happened in the House of Commons itself, during a Parliamentary debate. Ms Soubry’s words were not picked up by any of the many microphones in the chamber, but she certainly appears to be using those words.

These are just a few examples of incidents in which, mainly, Conservatives have used their “position of power and establishment” abominably and it could easily be argued that they have undermined Parliament by doing so.

So, yes, Nusrat Ghani – let’s have that debate – and let us use it to expose your Tory colleagues as sexist, misogynist, and criminal vermin.


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First Mail/Miliband, now Mail/Mehdi – don’t they know two wrongs won’t make them right?

131004mailmehdiIt was a virtuoso performance, and one that earned Mehdi Hasan congratulations from Vox Political, just as soon as I could get to a keyboard.

For those who missed it, the panel on BBC Question Time was discussing the Daily Mail‘s veiled attack on Ed Miliband, which cast suspicion on the Labour leader’s motives by questioning those of his late father. It’s about the lowest kind of attack a newspaper could possibly launch – the kind that one might have expected from the News of the World in its latter days.

The piece in question was headlined The man who hated Britain and referred to Ralph Miliband’s “evil legacy”.

Mehdi Hasan, political editor of the Huffington Post‘s UK edition, tussled with Quentin Letts, a political sketch-writer for the Mail – winning the argument (and thunderous applause) with the following:

“Let me ask you a question,” he said. “When you talk about ‘Who hates Britain’ or ‘Who has an evil legacy’, who do you think has an evil legacy? A man who sucked up to the Nazis, who made friends with Joseph Goebbels and praised Hitler in the run-up to World War II – the owner and founder of the Daily Mail, Lord Rothermere – or a man who served in the Royal Navy, risked his life for his adopted homeland – Ralph Miliband. Who do you think hated Britain more?

“And this isn’t just about Ralph Miliband actually, because this has actually opened up a whole debate about the Daily Mail – if you want to talk about who hates Britain.

“This is a paper that, in recent years, said that there was nothing natural about the death of the gay pop star Stephen Gately, who said that the French people should vote for Marine Le Pen and the National Front, who attacked Danny Boyle for having a mixed race couple in his Olympics opening ceremony, who called Mo Farah “a plastic Brit”.

“So let’s have the debate about ‘Who hates Britain more’, because it isn’t a dead Jewish refugee from Belgium who served in the Royal Navy, it’s the immigrant-bashing, woman-hating, Muslim-smearing, NHS-undermining, gay-baiting Daily Mail.”

It did my heart a lot of good, typing that up – not just because of the Mail-bashing at its centre but because it was a speech that brings a few other groups together. Here was a Muslim praising the character of a Jew (for all those out there who think that adherents of Islam have nothing but hate to offer the rest of the world). He was also speaking up for homosexuals, mixed race couples, immigrants, women, the health service and anyone who opposes political extremism – especially of the right-wing variety.

Apart from the very last group, none of these include yr obdt srvt in their number, but I don’t think I’m alone in believing that anyone who agrees it is right to fight prejudice would support Mehdi’s opinion.

It seems the powers-that-be at the newspaper in question were listening carefully, and were keen to enter the next stage of the debate about the Daily Mail – by demonstrating just how much further they were prepared to debase themselves, just to smear the reputation of anybody who dared to stand up to them.

It seems clear that somebody in a high-ranking position at the Daily Mail went to their files and dug out a letter Mehdi had written in 2010, applying to become a writer for the newspaper. That letter then mysteriously made its way to those in charge of the Guido Fawkes blog, where it was published in full. It seems the intention was to prove that Mehdi was a hypocrite – how could this man apply for work at the Mail at one point, and then attack it so viciously only a few short years later?

Silly, silly mistake.

It seems that they didn’t read the letter very well at all.

“I am on the left of the political spectrum, and disagree with the Mail’s editorial line on a range of issues,” Mehdi2010 wrote.

“I could be a fresh and passionate, not to mention polemical and contrarian, voice on the comment and feature pages.”

In case the editors and proprietors of the Daily Mail are reading this: You seem to have mislaid your lexicons. A polemic is a passionate argument, against an established viewpoint (such as, perhaps, that put forward by yourselves) – and a contrarian is a person who always takes an opposing side.

Mehdi’s application letter was saying that he did not agree with the Daily Mail‘s opinions but he admired the forthright way it stood behind them and believed the paper would be strengthened by contributions from a writer with a different point of view to put forward.

This practice is not alien to the Daily Mail. One of the very earliest Vox Political articles praised the Mail for printing a piece by a columnist called Sonia Poulton, attacking the Coalition government’s treatment of the disabled in direct opposition to the paper’s established skivers/scroungers/shirkers rhetoric.

So it seems that, by ensuring that all journalists working in the UK now know that their confidential correspondence is likely to become public property the instant they upset the Mail‘s proprietors, by overreacting to fair, balanced and reasonable criticism of an extremely unreasonable article published in that newspaper, and by doing all this in defence of a piece intended to undermine support for one of Britain’s largest political parties – in line with its support for the most right-wing government in recent UK history, the Daily Mail has managed to destroy its own credibility (such as it was), render itself a no-go area for reputable journalists, and tarnish its readership by guilt-through-association.

Meanwhile, it has already boosted public support for Labour and the leader it hoped to harm and, if there is any justice, the current attack on Mehdi Hasan should bolster his career considerably as well.

That’s what happens when people who think a little too much of themselves overreact to criticism.

Daily Mail? It might as well be called the Daily Flail.

The land of do-as-you-please (if you’re a Tory minister)

The Tory Faraway Tree: By the power of very bad image editing, David Cameron, Iain (RTU) Smith and Grant Shapps have replaced the protagonists. Careful, Mr Shapps - your panties are showing! How unusual that they aren't on fire!

The Tory Faraway Tree: By the power of very bad image editing, David Cameron, Iain (RTU) Smith and Grant Shapps have replaced the protagonists. Careful, Mr Shapps – your panties are showing! How unusual that they aren’t on fire!

Do any British readers remember what it was like to live in a country where the government respected the law, and accepted facts without making up silly little stories about them?

What an amazing place that must have been.

Sadly, we’re all trapped in Tory-Coalition purgatory for the next 19 months at least, and have to endure the relentless procession of nonsense associated with it.

Yesterday (Friday) we were provided with two glowing examples.

Firstly, the visit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, was treated with extreme prejudice by the Tories and their poodles in the right-wing press, after she announced she would be filing an unfavourable report after investigating the effect of the bedroom tax on the British people.

Vox Political covered these events in some detail, so there’s no need to rehash them here.

Tory chairman and ‘Michael Green’ impersonator Grant Shapps then wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to complain about the Special Rapporteur’s behaviour. A reply has now arrived and, rather than give it the due consideration it deserves, Shapps seems to have handed it straight to The Sun.

That newspaper reported that the UN had “slapped down” Ms Rolnik for her behaviour. Shapps himself told the paper: “People expect the UN to be neutral, yet on this occasion a former Workers Party politician came with a clear agenda” – a bizarre claim, when the letter itself creates a completely different view.

Guido Fawkes’ blog provides the text of the UN letter – along with a bit more right-wing spin which we’ll ignore as it is irrelevant.

It states: “Ms Raquel Rolnik is one of 72 independent experts appointed by the United nations Human Rights Council – the lead UN body responsible for human rights – on the basis of their expertise and independence, and following a competitive selection process. As in the case of all mandate holders, Ms Rolnik serves in an independent capacity and in accordance with a Code of Conduct adopted by the Council. She is not a staff member of the United Nations, is neither accountable to nor appointed by the Secretary-General, and does not receive any compensation beyond a daily allowance when engaged in mandated activities.

“Among other activities, Special Rapporteurs are mandated to undertake country visits to assess human rights enjoyment on the ground. The United Kingdom is one of 94 Member States which has extended a standing invitation to mandate holders thus indicating that it is open to the visit of any Special Rapporteur. Country visits are governed by rules and procedures set out in the Code of Conduct referred to above and the Manual of Operations adopted by Special Procedures. Ms Rolnik’s visit was planned and organised over many months in consultation with the Government in compliance with these rules and procedures.

“As in the case of all country visits, Ms Rolnik’s visit concluded with a press conference and a press statement, provided to the Government in advance, which indicate preliminary findings and recommendations. The final report on the visit will be submitted to the Council’s twenty-fifth session which will take place in March 2014 in Geneva.”

Reading between the lines, we can piece together the gist of Shapps’ correspondence – and it’s clear that he made a lot of mistaken assumptions. Firstly, it seems likely he wrote to Ban Ki-moon demanding that Ms Rolnik be fired from her position, in the belief that she is a hired hand and that the Secretary-General can hire and fire her as he pleases, the way Tories would like to run the UK. She’s just ‘the help’ in Shapps’s eyes. He must also have made a claim about her remuneration – possibly that she receives too much money from the UN or that, as a Socialist, she must be pulling pennies out of the public purse like there’s no tomorrow. Both claims get short shrift.

It seems Shapps then asserted that Ms Rolnik had not been invited to the UK and had no reason to be there. Wrong again, as the UN letter clarifies. A claim that she went beyond her remit is similarly batted away by reference to the governing rules which, we may conclude, were available to Mr Shapps before he wrote his letter. Oh yes, look, they’re available from the introduction page to the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) website, here!

Next, Shapps is likely to have reasserted his claim that “It is completely wrong and an abuse of the process for somebody to come over, to fail to meet with government ministers, to fail to meet with the department responsible.” The UN response is the same as Ms Rolnik’s own statement in her preliminary report.

And the final paragraph seems to be a response to his further claim that it was out of line “to produce a press release two weeks after coming, even though the report is not due out until next spring.”

Taken at face value, then, this is a letter that entirely supports Ms Rolnik, both in her position within the United Nations and the way she carried out her role in the UK.

But that wasn’t enough for the United Nations, whose higher echelons clearly wanted to ensure there can be no doubt about the way this – let’s face it – international  incident is being viewed.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Huffington Post: “The Sun‘s take on it – that ‘The United Nations has slapped down’ Ms Rolnik – is pure spin. There was no such intention whatsoever.

In the face of a blizzard of misinformation and personal abuse of Ms Rolnik, published in one or two other UK tabloids during and immediately after her visit, the letter to Mr Shapps simply corrects the factual errors that have been asserted about her status and her role as an independent UN expert, or ‘Special Rapporteur.’

“Ms Rolnik’s visit was planned and organized over many months in consultation with the UK Government in compliance with these rules and procedures.

“As in the case of all country visits, Ms Rolnik’s visit concluded with a press conference and a press statement, provided to the Government in advance, which indicate preliminary findings and recommendations.

“The final report on the visit will be submitted to the Human Rights Council’s session next March in Geneva.

“In short, there was nothing unusual or untoward about Ms Rolnik’s visit – apart from some of the reactions to it.”

No doubt Mr Colville will have drawn his own conclusions about the current UK administration from that Sun article – conclusions that, one hopes, will be included in that final report next March.

The New Statesman reckons the Tories have an “antipathy for evidence” and presents a theory regarding why this should be so: “If all the facts are against you, your best tactic is to make stuff up and hope you can shout the other person down (changing your mind obviously not being an option).”

Alternatively, we return to V for Vendetta territory. The graphic novel’s writer, Alan Moore, referenced Enid Blyton’s novel The Magic Faraway Tree several times. For an anarchist like the story’s protagonist, the Land of Do-as-you-please would be very attractive – but here in reality, it seems the Tories think they’ve taken the ladder to that land and can do and say whatever they want – and facts don’t matter.

For more evidence of this, let’s turn to our second example: The Department for Work and Pensions and its reaction to a benefit tribunal in Scotland, who ruled against Fife Council, saying that a room of less than 70 square feet should not be considered a bedroom for the purpose of the bedroom tax. This led the council to call the tax “unworkable” and demand its reversal. Since then, a disabled gentleman has won a ruling against Westminster Council, after he claimed that a room used to store equipment that helps him manage his disability was not, and never has been, a bedroom.

In his decision notice, the judge wrote: “The term ‘bedroom’ is nowhere defined [in the relevant regulations]. I apply the ordinary English meaning. The room in question cannot be so defined.”

In response to the first ruling, the DWP has issued an ‘Urgent Bulletin’ in which an attempt is made to retroactively define a bedroom, for the purposes of administering the tax.

Perhaps we are to assume Iain Returned-To-Unit Smith believes that, having achieved one retrospective law via the normal legislative route, he can now ordain such rulings willy-nilly. He’s wrong.

His Department’s demand that “when applying the size criteria and determining whether or not a property is under-occupied, the only consideration should be the composition of the household and the number of bedrooms as designated by the landlord, but not by measuring rooms” is worthless.

If he wanted that to be the case, he should have written it into his silly little Bedroom Tax Bill (or whatever it was called).

For the moment, Shapps and RTU can get away with their bizarre pronouncements – although they can’t expect to be believed – because the Conservatives are in office.

But they won’t be in office forever.

In the meantime, let’s all keep supporting the opposers, wherever they turn up. If you are being subjected to the Bedroom Tax – appeal. And write to the UN, supporting Ms Rolnik and her findings against the tax.

You have a chance to prove that the Land of Do-as-you-please is a very small place.

And, as in the book, the return to normality involves a very, very long descent.