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September 02 2011

19:14

Different stories - Gordon Brown issues challenge over Sunday Times recordings

Independent (UK) :: Gordon Brown has stepped up his campaign against Rupert Murdoch’s News International media group, sending tape recordings to the Metropolitan Police earlier today which he says challenge the Sunday Times’s assurances that it broke no laws when investigating his personal financial affairs.

Continue to read James Cusick, www.independent.co.uk

September 05 2010

18:37

TONY BLAIR, A CANDID SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE INTERVIEW

Tony Blair STM

“No party can succeed in today’s world unless it’s also about wealth creation.”

“Having a valet unpack your suitcase is very odd,” he says, shaking his head as if he didn’t enjoy the cosseting. “Old Labour used to talk about the working class and upper class, but staying with the royal family made me realise I’m definitely middle class.”

“One of my views in politics is don’t make enemies deliberately because you end up making so many accidentally,” he muses.

He is clear that Brown didn’t have the psychological equipment, or the smile, for the job. “He was never going to be user-friendly in the way that modern politics demands, but he could have won the election as a big, serious person.” Blair’s great fear is that the new Labour project died with his leadership.

2010-09-05_1925

Tony Blair: Exile from main street

Three years after he quit No 10, has the dust settled for Tony Blair? He talks candidly with Lesley White about Brown, Bush, Iraq and the world he has left behind

A brilliant interview, in today Sunday Times Magazine, worth to subscribe to all the pay walls of the world.

(Pictures by Harry Borden)

May 04 2010

15:21

JOSE LUIS RODRIGUEZ ZAPATERO: A POLITICAL, FINANCIAL AND COMMUNICATION FAILURE

BÉLGICA-UE-PRESIDENCIA

The Spanish socialist leader is not just a political dead body and a financial ignorant but also an amateur on communication matters.

Unable to fix the problems of Spain, he better hires a first class “crisis management” expert because the markets can end his political carrier.

And Spain will pay a high price for such an incompetent “charlatan”.

Another “toasted” politician.

Like the Greek prime minister.

Like Gordon Brown tomorrow.

Like Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

What a trio!

09:05

Armando Iannucci: #bigotgate turned UK media into ‘pack of shrieking gibbons’

Creator of TV political satire The Thick of It, Armando Iannucci on bigotgate and what it says about the UK’s media:

The journalist from Sky News was in some kind of hysterical state of tumescence as he cackled “Gordon Brown’s done a gaffe and we wondered if you’d come on to respond. You’ve got to see it!” on my answering service, and I’m sorry I deleted it rather than release it in to the public domain. The BBC was no less sensationalist in its pokey recording of Brown sitting listening to his own surreptitiously recorded voice played back to him.

It’s at these moments that you stand back and see, not a nation debating its future, but a pack of shrieking gibbons.

Thankfully, though, Bigotgate seems to have had no impact on the polls. This has restored my faith in this election as a sober, sincere and considered affair, though it’s shed a light on what the media machine can do when it’s taken too much Red Bull.

Full article at this link…

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April 16 2010

10:35

Will the leader’s election debates engage first time voters?

Elizabeth Davies is a freelance journalist and recent graduate of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. She reviews the first of the Leaders’ Debates and asks: can the format engage young, first time voters? This post is also featured on her blog.

The BBC grandiosely declared Thursday 15 May to be “the day the skies went quiet”. It was not, unfortunately, because the entire population was glued to ITV’s broadcast of the first of the Leaders’ Debates. It was because a great plume of plane-endangering volcanic ash was infiltrating our airspace, just at a time when news organisations were doing their best to provide audiences with nothing but wall-to-wall debate ‘preview’ pieces.

I was not glued to my television, but only because I don’t have one. Like a significant fraction of the population – a fraction dominated by young first-time voters like myself – I chose to watch the debate online. Unfortunately the quality of ITV’s live stream made it difficult to remain captivated for long. It’s one thing to engage with social media to encourage meaningful online discussion, but quite another to slap so many cursory widgets on the page that no-one is able to load anything.

I’m not a great case study for a first-time voter, merely because I am such a political geek that I watched all of the US presidential primary debates live online back in those days before anyone had heard of Sarah Palin. That does, however, make me something of an expert in pre-election debates.

Last month, following BBC Three’s First Time Voters’ Question Time, I suggested that the Leaders’ Debates were the kind of media spectacle needed to engage young voters in the political process. On that front, ITV failed spectacularly.

Alastair Stewart was a poor choice of moderator, too little known among the country’s young voters to really fire them up. The studio, along with David Cameron, looked like it would drag us back to the 1980s, and the directing suggested one of the cameramen was frequently having a kind of spasm.

Those visual things matter, superficial as they are, because they make the difference in the split second that someone decides to check out what’s happening rather than flicking over to a Friends re-run. That difference is particularly pronounced when you’re trying to engage those who’ve never had the opportunity to vote before; those who are registered in record low numbers and who might proudly attest to not being interested in politics because it’s boring.

Aside from the lack of glamour, the format was a failure. The questions selected for the debate were insipid, formulaic and, frankly, boring. David Cameron told ITN that he worried the debates would be “slow and sluggish”. Never one to fail to deliver on a promise, Cameron himself ensured the debate was both slow and sluggish by displaying almost no personality whatsoever. Gordon Brown performed much better than I expected, but Ipsos Mori’s ‘worm’ showed dial groups just don’t warm to what he’s saying.

It was Nick Clegg’s debate, and the snap polls seem to back that up. He came across largely as a normal human being – impassioned, but not in a fake politician-type way, and as someone whose own frustrations with the current political situation reflected those of the electorate. It is plausible that a significant number of voters who claimed previously to be “undecided” will now be telling the pollsters they’re climbing into the Lib Dem camp. But if the remaining debates are similar to the first, how many of those will be 18 to 25 year olds?

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April 01 2010

12:40

April Fools’ Day: a round-up of media mischief

The venerable old day of leg-pulling and pranking is upon us again, and British news institutions are doing their bit for the fun. Some better than others, it must be said. Here is a short round-up of some headline hilarity from the web.

The Guardian went big and bold with a mock-election campaign designed to show the rough and ready side of our beloved PM:

Brown aides had worried that his reputation for volatility might torpedo Labour’s hopes of re-election, but recent internal polls suggest that, on the contrary, stories of Brown’s testosterone-fuelled eruptions have been almost entirely responsible for a recent recovery in the party’s popularity.

While the traditionally rowdy readers of the Guardian were treated to this new bar-room-brawling Brown, the refined readers of the National Union of Journalist’s site woke up to the news that the bruiser and the posh boy, along with that other one Clegg, were all joining the NUJ executive council as part of a new “affinity programme”.

Through our new affinity scheme NUJ members will now be able to join the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties at a reduced rate. In fact, from now on they can also get membership of all three parties for the price of one, which we believe will appeal particularly to our members at the Guardian and elsewhere.

Harmony was prevailing elsewhere too on The Register’s site, with the equally unlikely news that highly improbable bedfellows Associated Newspapers and the Guardian Media Group would join forces to share a common editorial facility.

Using the latest technology, a single team will produce stories for both groups flagship titles, the Daily Mail and the Guardian, in a process that will be largely automated.

The Independent went with some highly unlikely technical advances to the Circle Line, claiming that London Underground was in talks with the boffins at CERN about using the 23km tunnel to house a new particle accelarator, similar to CERN’s Large Hardon Hadron Collider. Provided, of course, they can iron out the “geo-magnetic ‘kink’ in the circuitry at Edgware Road”.

It would mean that two beams of protons would be travelling in clockwise and counterclockwise directions at 99.999999 per cent of the speed of light, within feet of Circle line passengers stuck in perpetual immobility.

(The boffins were up to some riotous Brass Eye-esque hilarity of their own over in Switzerland, declaring on their site this morning that high-energy collisions within the newly restarted LHC had unearthed a “paleoparticle”. In other words, “a hideous particle from the prehistory of the Universe”.)

Also on the science side, the Daily Mail, with news (and video) about, the AA’s new rocketmen, able to fly out to the hard-shoulder in your time of need. Unfortunately this corker has come down off the site already.

Rather than muck in with its own side-splitting falsity, BBC News ran with a bit of an also-ran in the form of a collection of true stories that really should be April Fools. Although, tucked away on the Radio 4 site is this deadpan gem about the possibility of William Shakespeare being half French, based on some pretty dubious analysis of his mother’s family tree:

It’s a lock of hair, it’s quite faded, which would mean it’s potentially a lock of hair from Mary Queen of Scots.

Lastly, as this is only just a taste of the press’ Herculean April Fools’ effort, the Telegraph, who claimed this morning that ferrets were to be used in the government’s plans to begin broadband to all:

The animals have been used by Virgin Media for over a year to help lay cables for its broadband service, the company has disclosed. The ferrets wear jackets fitted with a microchip which is able to analyse any breaks or damage in the underground network.

What the Telegraph’s story lacks ever so slightly in humour, it more than makes up for with this deftly mocked-up picture of a ferret on the job. Of laying cables, I mean.

Back to frowning at your desks until next year then folks.

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February 22 2010

09:35

BBC taken to task by bloggers for treatment of National Bullying Helpline

The BBC is facing criticism online for its treatment of the National Bullying Headline (NBH) as a source in reports on allegations of staff bullying by Gordon Brown.

The story broke over the weekend in an excerpt of journalist Andrew Rawnsley’s new book published in the Observer and reports by the BBC and other news organisations have featured a spokeswoman, Christine Pratt, from the NBH, saying the charity helpline had received calls from staff in the PM’s office in recent years.

Questions over confidentiality breaches aside, several bloggers are challenging a lack of clarity in the BBC’s reports over the bullying charity’s credentials and potential political links to the Conservative party.

On Tory Troll, Adam Bienkov says that basic checks of the NBH website suggest links to the Conservatives – an endorsement from David Cameron and patronage by Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe amongst other potential ties. On Twitter @malcolmcoles and @jackofkent have also been detailing the story and looking into NBH.

[Pratt seems to be back-pedalling now in comments made in a Sky News interview, saying while she did receive an email referring to the PM's behaviour, she did not know if phonecalls to the helpline received from Gordon Brown's staff were complaints about Brown himself.]

BBC reports did contain a statement from NBH’s Pratt that the organisation was non-political and BBC political correspondent Nick Robinson has since blogged on the questions about the NBH’s claims, stating:

Colleagues checked the status of the charity and questioned Ms Pratt’s claims.

We can’t, of course, verify the truth of her allegations – merely report them and Downing Street’s response to them.

But is this enough when Pratt’s statements seem to have eclipsed Rawnsley’s original reports as a central source for the BBC’s story?

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November 13 2009

12:41

November 11 2009

14:13

Sun misjudges readers’ mood over Gordon Brown letter

The Sun is running a despicable campaign against Gordon Brown. But I’ve analysed the comments on its website – and readers disagree with its stance by a ratio of more than 3 to 2 (on top of which, there are now accusations that the Sun is censoring pro-Brown comments).

The paper has exploited the grief of Jacqui Janes over her son Jamie’s death in Afghanistan to attack the PM – because his handwritten letter of condolence was supposedly disrespectful due to sloppy writing and (disputed) spelling errors.

It’s loathsome journalism that ignores the effect of his disability (the PM is blind in one eye).

And it seems Sun readers are mostly on the Prime Minister’s side.

Of the 100+ comments on the story (don’t worry, I’ve nofollowed those links) when I checked, 111 expressed a view for or against Jacqui Janes or Gordon Brown (the rest commented on other issues or corrected people’s spelling errors). Of these:

  • 42 were anti Gordon or pro the Sun’s stance.
  • 69 were pro Gordon or anti the Sun’s stance.

So that’s more than 60% who don’t agree with the Sun, and less than 40% who do.

Sample comments from those who agree with the Sun’s stanceanti-gordon-brown

Some comments from those opposing itpro-gordon-brown

Conclusion

The Sun is channeling this woman’s grief into a personal attack on the Prime Minister.

It’s refusing to make allowances for his disability (maybe we could next attack the war wounded for being workshy benefit scroungers?).

And it’s facilitating her breaking data protection laws by releasing a recording of a private phone call.

The whole thing is sickening – let’s hope that observing its readers’ reactions will lead to an end to this (not that this happened in the Jan Moir case) – and preferably prosecution of the Sun over the data protection offence. What’s more, Daily Mail readers are pro Brown, too. The Sun has got this badly wrong.

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