Wednesday 23 December 2009

It's that dastardly Human Rights Act again!

Shocking news in the Sun - a Premier League football manager has been caught visiting a brothel! It isn't the amazingly banal story we're interested in though, but the paper's claim as to why it can't name him:

Creeping privacy laws in the UK, based on the Human Rights Act, mean we are barred from naming him.

A nice try, but no. I might end up eating my words, but my guess at what's happened here, based so far on how there seems to be no specific news from other sites, no postings of rulings on bailii or boasts about representation on the usual media law firms sites, is that the Sun has been given an injunction barring it from naming the man until a full hearing has been heard, something which has been standard for years and has nothing to do with the HRA as yet. Indeed, yours truly was given an injunction back in 2006 by the lawyers of News of the World hack Mazher Mahmood for the heinous crime of posting photographs of the man over on my main blog. Also key here is that the Sun has not received a so-called "super injunction" like that which the Guardian did in the Trafigura case which prevents the paper from even mentioning the fact that it has been gagged.

Still, always worth a go blaming the Human Rights Act. That Times Newspapers (prop. R Murdoch) were one of the first to use the newly passed HRA to try and get out of a libel payment is neither here nor there, OK?

Monday 21 December 2009

This man deserved brain damage.

Every single time there's a "controversial" case of someone attacking a burglar or a criminal, almost always when said intruder has been fleeing the scene, as now in the Munir Hussain jailing, or previously and most notoriously when it came to Tony Martin, either the government or the opposition review the law of "reasonable force" or promise they'll change it, only to later quietly drop it or decide not to because the law as it stands is perfectly adequate. Every single time the tabloids and the occasional broadsheet get on their high horses and complain bitterly, often invoking that an "Englishman's home is his castle", and that in said castle said Englishman should be allowed to rip the intruder's head off and spit down the hole and receive a medal for removing from the gene pool such a disgusting piece of human filth. Every single time said tabloid and broadsheet also quietly drop it.

I'm not sure though that any publication has gone so far in the past to say that either the deceased or injured person deserved the treatment they received. The Sun however thinks this is exactly what Walid Salem needed:

It was never better exposed than by the scandalous jailing of Munir Hussain for chasing and battering a burglar who had tied up and terrorised his family at knifepoint.

How many fathers brave enough, strong enough and angry enough would have held back?

Career criminal Walid Salem richly deserved his beating.

The Tories are proposing that only "grossly disproportionate" behaviour towards someone should result in their being prosecuted (as David Cameron suggested as long back as 2005, only for it to be quietly put at least on the back-burner). Isn't chasing a burglar who is fleeing and then adminstering a beating so severe that the person attacked suffers brain damage "grossly disproportionate"? Not according to the Sun. It was however according to a jury, who heard all the mitigating circumstances involving the case and how Salem had threatened to kill Hussain's family, yet still felt that the attack on Salem justified a conviction for grievous bodily harm with intent. This isn't just a case of a liberal namby-pamby politically correct judge deciding that Hussain's crime was serious enough to warrant a relatively light in the circumstances 30 months in prison, of which Hussain will probably only serve a third, but of a jury of members of the public, among them doubtless Sun readers, who felt that it warranted a conviction. True, they didn't decide on the sentence, but 30 months is hardly the harshest sentence which could have been passed. Salem also didn't "walk free" from court, as the Sun has it: he was given a two year suspended sentence for the very reason, as the judge pointed out, that he couldn't adequately plead as a result of his injuries. Otherwise he would received a substantial custodial sentence himself.

As Catherine Bennett asked on Sunday, what sort of society is it that praises vigilantes with cricket bats and iron bars? Ours, of course. The self-same newspaper (and indeed tabloid media as whole) that regards yobs that use violence on the slightest of whims as the scum of the earth turns to the other side when it's a beating that was, in the Sun's terms, deserved. The judge, about the only person who comes out of this with any credit, noted exactly what would happen after his verdict:

"It may be that some members of the public, or media commentators, will assert that Salem deserved what happened to him at the hands of you and the two others involved, and that you should not have been prosecuted and need not be punished."

And then, in lines which no newspaper or commentator has been able to adequately deflect, he explained exactly why they needed to be punished:

"However, if persons were permitted to … inflict their own instant and violent punishment on an apprehended offender rather than letting justice take its course, then the rule of law and our system of criminal justice, which are the hallmarks of a civilised society, would collapse."

Which is it seems what some would clearly like to happen.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Barry George wins against Sun & NOTW

Barry George has accepted "substantial" damages over claims he was stalking women and articles suggesting he murdered Jill Dando.

He accepted the undisclosed amount at the High Court against News Group Newspapers - owner of The Sun and The News of the World.
Following Wednesday's brief hearing, Mr George said: "I am pleased that the matter between myself and News Group Newspapers has been amicably settled following a successful mediation without the need for litigation."

He was at London's High Court with his sister, Michelle Diskin, who led the campaign to prove his innocence.

His counsel, Gordon Bishop, told the court he had brought the action over a number of articles in The Sun and the News of the World between August and November 2008.

He said News Group had withdrawn the "false allegations" and apologised for making them.

septicisle adds:

Once you've been fitted up by the police (sorry, I remember, the case was "fit to be put before a jury"), being fitted up by the tabloids is probably something to be expected. In the case of Barry George though, the way in which three major outlets of Murdoch media attempted to cast doubt on his innocence was quite something. After having received a "six-figure sum" in damages today at the High Court from News Group Newspapers, along with the now customary confidentiality agreement (hopefully one which the Guardian will be able to breach like it did the one that Gordon Taylor signed after his massive pay-out over the Screws' phone-hacking), it's worth reflecting on just how they did it.

A classic of the genre is making someone comfortable, thinking they're going to be given a soft soap, friendly interview and a sympathetic piece, as you might expect having it just been confirmed that you were the victim of one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice of recent times, and then either going on the attack or, as in this case, making the quotes up. The News of the Screws, which bought George's story, today admitted that George had not told the paper that "he couldn't have murdered Jill Dando, as he was stalking someone else at the time". Unlike most made-up quotes in the tabloids, which you can spot a mile off, this was an actually believable one, especially when the tabloids had painted a picture of George as a notorious oddball that spent all his spare time following and frightening women. Along with the Screws interview, George also went under the forensic gaze of the ever fragrant Kay Burley on Sky News, which was probably the biggest mistake of the lot. Burley it seems decided that George, on the basis of possibly asking for her phone number and contact details after the interview (it's unclear how much of what was reported at the time was true, now that so much has been retracted) and cycling to the Sky News studios to ask for a copy of it was either stalking her or about to start, her fears of which, as well as being reported to the police, were also published in all the nation's leading titles. Whether they began in the Murdoch titles originally or not is now difficult to ascertain, but it wouldn't exactly be surprising.

Those attempts at casting aspersions on his innocence were however nothing compared to the treatment he got in the Sun the day after he was acquitted. Mike Sullivan, the paper's crime editor (featured previously here on a number of occasions) drew up a list of 10 "facts" which the jury didn't hear, a run-down which had quite obviously been provided by the police and which was in any case just as the flimsy as the case which was presented against him, as I detailed on the day. Also published that day, and still available on the Sun's website, was a "warning" from the woman George raped in 1982, of which these three paragraphs stand out:

"I was angry that despite what happened to me, Barry George had been left alone. No one had seen the signs or done anything about it.

"I have seen George portrayed as some kind of harmless eccentric. But he is far from benign.

"He knows how to work the system and look like a sad case. I think he always craved notoriety."

He knows how to work the system, a rather dubious claim about someone with a personality disorder and an IQ of 75, who in the words of Paddy Hill you wouldn't trust to go to Tesco - but not one that the Sun felt like tempering. Over a month later and the paper was still at it, making an issue of George sharing a hotel with mainly women, along with quotes which look highly suspect. Around the only piece that was even sympathetic towards George was a comment from the Scottish Sun columnist Martel Maxwell, and even that emphasised that George could still be a "nasty piece of work".

Whether George will be having the last laugh, having received between £50,000 and £100,000 from the Screws and Sky for the original interviews, and with now a likely further £100,000 for what was to all intents and purposes a smear campaign is unclear. It is however beyond low, and shows that the media has learned absolutely nothing from the way it went after Colin Stagg in similar circumstances, motivated then as now by the exact same police force which had brought the ridiculously dubious prosecution in the first place. George, you get the feeling, will also not be the last to be subject to similar treatment.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Rolling back the lies.

Tabloid Watch has the lowdown on a story which I'm sorry to say we missed:

On 29 October, The Sun ran a story with the headline Asda till snub for Hope for Heroes mum. It claimed:

Mum-of-three Beth Hoyle claims an Asda till worker refused to serve her because she was wearing a wristband backing injured troops.

Beth says the checkout lad told her the band for Help for Heroes - aided by The Sun - meant she supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And when she complained to a supervisor, he BACKED the Asian youth, saying he was entitled to his view.

Beth, 40, who has two brothers in the services, said the checkout worker told her he didn't want to serve her because of "what she was wearing."

Asda responded by apologising to the mother (based on the allegations) and launched an investigation.

Two weeks later, Asda issued the following statement:

We’ve come to the end of our investigation at Asda Rochdale and can’t find any truth in the allegation that one of our colleagues refused to serve a customer for wearing a Help for Heroes wristband.

Our regional operations manager Paul Rowland said: “We’ve completed our investigation and it’s clear this exchange never happened. We’ve interviewed over 400 colleagues in the store, examined over three days worth of CCTV footage and talked to other customers and we can find absolutely no evidence that a colleague said what was alleged.”

Of course, they would say that, wouldn't they? But as the spokesman quoted in the Sun article says Asda sell the Help for Heroes wristbands and badges in store, the story never made much sense.

They continued:

“We are disappointed and angry that right-wing groups are using this mythical incident to whip up racial hatred,” said Paul. “Thankfully the people of Rochdale will see straight through that. We remain big supporters of the work our troops do serving our country.”

Some of the comments on the ASDA statement suggest the rumour started on right-wing Facebook groups. If you Google 'Beth Hoyle and Asda' the first result is the 'Exposing Islam' blog. The National Front comes up a bit later. It's very hard to find the results of the Asda investigation.

But using mythical incidents to whip up hatred? Surely the Sun wouldn't do such a thing?

Would they?

(hat-tip to Paul Bryant)

45 min from Doom

I was going to write something about the fact that the infamous Iraq/45 min from doom claim has been shown to be simply made up by a taxi driver.

At the moment, there doesn't appear to be any coverage on the Sun's website (I'm sure it's currently being written up and will be splashed over the front page tomorrow...)

However, you might as well read the coverage on A Tiny Revolution.

Friday 4 December 2009

£75,000 libel damages to Mo George.

Oops. Had to run an article on it as well:

FORMER EastEnders star Mo George has been awarded £75,000 libel damages over a Sun article which a jury ruled wrongly branded him a woman beater.

The actor's lawyer Ronald Thwaites, QC, told the High Court the article left Mr George depressed and unwilling to go out.

After the case, Mr George, 26, said: "I want to thank all my friends and family who have supported me through all of this."

Publishers News Group Newspapers had denied libel, claimed justification and maintained the article was true.

Monday 30 November 2009

Mine Fuhrer, 25 years later.

Only just been alerted (ht: John B) to a rather famous Sun front page which never was: the Mine Fuhrer Arthur Scargill front page from the height of the miners' strike in 1984, courtesy of the-sauce:

It never saw the light of day thanks to the production chapels mass-refusing to set it - something which Murdoch and MacKenzie ensured would never happen again when News International moved to Wapping two years later, smashing the print unions, something which continues to be contentious to this day.

Do have to disagree with John B's additional comments, therefore, that "printworkers shouldn't have a veto over editorial content, however vile." The old motto is "publish and be damned", but if say the printworkers could have blocked "THE TRUTH", as they perhaps could have done had the unions not been crushed, it would have certainly prevented additional pain being piled upon an already grieving city. They would have been the only ones capable of keeping MacKenzie in check - something which the hacks themselves either couldn't or were unwilling to do. More recently it has still taken union power rather than individual power to stop the Daily Star from running a "Daily Fatwa" page, which promised a page 3 lovely in a niqab, while the union reps on the same paper complained also to the Press Complaints Commission that they were under pressure to write "anti-gypsy" reports. Overruling the editorial staff when they go too far, by threatening strike action if necessary, is better than the alternative.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Thatcher, sick pics, some contempt and 40 years as the Eye sees it.

Wednesday. The easiest day of the fortnight for the Media Watch editor of this place.

This fortnight, after a bit of a drought recently, Private Eye has served up a couple of juicey bits.

First of all shocking pictures...

This being the story in question.

The next is an example of the Sun showing contempt for the Contempt of Court Act 1981...

...with a nice little dig at the Met Commissioner, too.

PE couldn't let 40 years of the sun go by without it's own little corner, either...

That last headline is a cracker, isn't it? There was an apology, in the only place it should've been for headline as wrong in every way as 'Straight sex cannot give you AIDS - Official': page 28. /sarcasm

Adam Macqueen, in 2006, writes about a similarly scarey, and dangerous, headline "Killer Plagues", about AIDS & HIV riddled Bulgarians and Hungarians invading Britian.

And to finish with, something a little lighter...

Tuesday 17 November 2009

The Sun even lies about its birthdays

As reported here (and repeated here), The Sun started life as the Daily Herald in January 1911, as "a strike sheet for the London printing unions, then involved in an industrial dispute, to support their pleas for improved pay and conditions" (see: irony) before formalising its activity as a regular, daily newspaper from April 15th 1912 (pdf/source). It then went on to relaunch as an independent broadsheet titled The Sun on 15 September 1964. It was then bought by Rupert Murdoch and relaunched (again) in 17 November 1969 (more).

If these birthday/anniversary celebrations are really about 40 years of Rupert Murdoch, then by all means, let's wheel the old bastard out so we can stick some candles in him.

A copy of the front page of The Sun from 14 November, 1969. Click to enlarge. (Note the Orwellian announcement in the sidebar, promising some impending doubleplusgood news of the uppermost importance.)

A remixed version of the '40 years' television commercial that's been running in recent days

UPDATE - Do check out this tasty bit of audio hosted over at Chicken Yoghurt.

Monday 16 November 2009

Can the Sun even get the basics right? Of course not.

Having attacked Gordon Brown personally last week and came off the worst for it, this week the Sun seems to have decided to stand on surer ground, by attacking Labour on crime. Problem is, it can't seem to do so without telling some whopping great lies, as today's leader shows:

Prison policy, in particular, has become a joke.

Early on, Labour decided not to build more jails and instead focus on alternatives to prison and early release for prisoners.

In 1997 the average prison population was 61,470 (page 4). The population last Friday was 84,593 (DOC), a rise in just 12 years of more than 20,300. I can't seem to find any concrete figures on just what the total number of places available in 1997 was, but ministers themselves boast that they have created over 20,000 additional places, and the Prison Reform Trust agrees, noting in this year's Bromley report that the number of places has increased by 33% since the party came to power (page 5). By any yardstick, the creation of over 20,000 places is a massive increase. Labour's real success is that despite increasing the population so massively, there are still not enough places to go round, hence the early release scheme which the Sun and the Conservatives so decry without providing anything approaching an alternative solution. As statements of fact go, the Sun's claim that "Labour decided not to build more jails" could not be more wrong.

This coincided with ill-judged policies on late drinking, softening drug laws and over-reliance on cautions, all of which increased crime.

In actual fact, and predictably, levels of alcohol related crime have changed little. There is no evidence whatsoever that softening the drug laws, of which only the law on cannabis was briefly softened, increased crime, unless you count the massive rise in cautions given out for possession which may previously have resulted in someone going to court for having a tiny amount of resin in their position, wasting the time of everyone involved. Lastly, there is little evidence also that giving out more cautions increases the likelihood of re-offending. You can in fact probably narrow it down to two groups: those who would have re-offended regardless of the punishment they received and those for whom it was an aberration. The problem with cautions is the effect it has on the victims of the crime, and the implications for the justice in general, not that they increase crime.

The result? More criminals ought to be behind bars. But there is nowhere to send them.

Instead, jails and secure hospitals operate more as short-stay hotels.

Today The Sun reports on a murderer who hacked a mother and son to death but is on day release after just six years.

Not an exactly representative example: Gregory Davis pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, hence he is not a "murderer", as the leader claims. Psychiatrists now think that he has recovered to an extent to which he is not a danger to the public, on which I'm more inclined to trust them then I am the Sun.

Weekends out of jail for lags have trebled in the past two years.

Labour deny this has anything to do with easing prison pressure. But the facts speak for themselves.

Last year, 11,599 prisoners were let out for four-day breaks.

In 2006 the figure was only 3,813.

Is the Sun on to something here? Not to judge by the figures themselves: the latest show that there is room for around 900 more prisoners currently; back in August 2006 (DOC), to pick one set of figures at random, there were only 700 spaces available. Indeed, in October 2006, Operation Safeguard was in effect, with prisoners being held in police cells. Surely if weekends out were meant to ease prison pressure there would have been more let out back in 2006 when it was much more desperately needed. Is it not more likely that these breaks, meant to help those shortly to be released to readjust to life outside as well as for general rehabilitation are being used more widely because of the relative success of doing so?

Labour's soft approach even makes life cosy inside:

Convicts at Chelmsford jail enjoyed a talent show.

And what a talent show it was! Costing a whole £1,500, it seems the kind of thing that might actually help prisoners once they are allowed back out into the real world, but the Sun seems to think that prisoners should spend their time either locked up in their "cushy" cells or sewing mail bags.

Convicted criminals should pay the price - not just as punishment but for the protection of the public. That is the contract on law and order between voters and Parliament.

Having broken that deal, Labour have no right to criticise the Conservatives when they vow to do better.

By the same token, the Sun has no right to criticise Labour when it can't even get the very basic facts about the party's record on crime right.

Sam Cooke and your chance to discuss politics with a Page 3 girl

The lovely Sam Cooke is a bit of a clever clogs, as her MySpace page explains:

"I left school and went to college to study Physics, chemistry, Biology, Psychology. I was going to do BioChemistry at uni but realised I didn't want to end up doing a job in that field (im even yawning as Im writing this, ha). So I packed up my lab coat and moved to london to do an access course to do a degree in architecture."

She is at present a glamour model and DJ, but The Sun is shining, there's hay to be made, and as Sam points out;

"I can always go back to uni when my time in the modeling world is over"

Well, exactly.

But in the meantime, Sam not only has the opportunity to use Page 3 as a platform for money-making, she is also in a unique position to ask some serious questions about the editorial content on Page 3 and maybe even take a stand against the exploitation of women in that feature.

In short, we'd like to ensure that all Page 3 girls are permitted to speak their mind on Page 3 without undue interference from media owners and/or editorial staff, and we think that Sam is well-placed to help us as we work towards this goal.

Let's take for example Keeley Hazell and the witless lifting of Wikipedia text. Why is this kind of thing necessary when there is a Page 3 girl on hand who is educated in the field of physics (i.e. someone who might actually have had something original/thoughtful/witty to say on the activation of the Large Hadron Collider)?

There's also the potentially-delicate matter of how much independence Sam has enjoyed on Page 3 in comparison to other models, which leads us to these further examples:

It would be interesting to know about Sam's background knowledge and intent with regards to the first two items in the following sample of Page 3 editorials published in her name; especially as the first declares the Conservative origins of the editorial stance, while the second does not (more). Does Sam support the Conservatives as a party? Is she a member? Did she actually read the policy outlined in the first item or investigate the statistics referenced in the second?

Sam Cooke

Delightfully, all of these questions and more can be put to Sam Cooke quite easily (and most politely), as she's obviously keen on online interaction and can be found here on Twitter.

Of course, depending on how reasonable The Sun are willing to be (stop laughing at the back, please), if Sam did express an opinion and/or take a stand on this issue, she might be taking a position that puts her future modelling income at risk. Judging by how nasty her masters at The Sun can get with people they don't care for (or simply need to compromise for purely political reasons), she may even be putting her reputation at risk.

We will be keeping that in mind when asking about any of this, and we urge our readers to be equally sensitive and polite about it should they decide to pose a question or two themselves.

Cheers all.

Saturday 14 November 2009

Nutting the man, not the ball.

Cross-posted from my weekend links post, so excuse a proper entry this once:

The winner though in my eyes is a staggering hatchet job on Professor David Nutt in the Sun, which rather than attacking the man himself instead goes for his children via their social networking profiles. They reproduce a photo of his son Steve with a roll-up in his mouth, claiming it shows him "apparently smoking dope". I'm no expert, but it looks suspiciously to me like an ordinary roll-up rather than one containing a substance more exotic than tobacco. Not content with that, his daughter is the next target, her crime having uploaded a photograph with herself with friends carrying a bottle of spirits, possibly when she was underage! Lastly, eldest son Johnny is raked over the coals for having photographs on his profile of himself naked in the snow in Sweden. No hypocrisy there whatsoever, then.

Friday 13 November 2009

Page 3: have a proper gander

Hello, readers. Sorry I've been away for so long, only I've been distracted by repeated attacks on my good name by a series of right-wing bastards, including the current managing editor of The Sun Graham Dudman, who falsely accused me of branding someone a paedophile and has since refused to withdraw the accusation or apologise.

(These attacks all relate to the Glen Jenvey story and subsequent fallout, with most of the trouble originating from a man by the name of Dominic Wightman. I have not yet published the letter from The Sun to the PCC in which Dudman made this false accusation, but only because of constraints on my time due to these ongoing attacks. Hang in there.)

The good news is that I've been quietly beavering away in the background and today I'm finally ready to share the fruits of my labours. Details and background can be found here, but this video is designed to speak for itself, so enjoy:

[MINI-UPDATE: Video now re-hosted at Vimeo. Google/YouTube refuse to remove false claims I'm a paedo from their servers but won't allow a glimpse of boob. Wankers.]

Page 3 :: Girls + Words from Tim Ireland on Vimeo.

Once you're done with lifting your jaw from the floor, please consider printing out a copy of our special A4-sized insert and leaving it inside a copy of The Sun.

I for one think it's about time The Sun stopped shamelessly exploiting these women, and allowed them to speak their own mind for a change.

I hope you agree.

Cheers all.

NOTE - Even if we reach a million people with this message, The Sun will reach more people on a single day (with a single pair of tits) so please share a link to the video with as many people as possible.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Well meaning, not bloody shameful.

For those who were perhaps expecting the Sun to allude to the heavy criticism their stories involving Jacqui Janes have received, not just in other quarters but on their own comment facilities, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed with today's follow-up. The closest their report comes to acknowledging that maybe Gordon Brown's letter wasn't more evidence of his "underlying disregard for the military" is in this sentence:

Mr Brown's apology ended 48 hours of uproar since The Sun first revealed the mistakes in his well-meaning but badly handwritten note.

Funny, the paper didn't think it was well-meaning yesterday or on Monday. Then it was "bloody shameful".

Mrs Janes incidentally has been persuaded, doubtless by the Sun itself, to make clear that her intentions were the very best:

Jacqui also set the record straight on her contact with The Sun and her recording of the PM's phone call, in which she berated him over troop and helicopter shortages.

Mum-of-six Jacqui, 47, said: "I released the tape because I wanted people to know what he really said to me, not what Downing Street put out.

"I also want to make clear that I didn't take a penny in payment for interviews with The Sun."

Jacqui said she contacted The Sun because the paper backs Britain's Forces, adding: "It had nothing to do with politics."

Except the paper turned it into politics, whether Janes wanted them to or not. On any grounds, that's exploitation of a grieving person.

As for an editorial comment, the only thing which it offers today is a typically lachrymose, jingoistic and unfeeling demand that everyone remembers. Gordon Brown will presumably unfairly cop it again once this whole incident slips down the memory hole.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

How to lose friends and alienate people.

How do you then follow up one of the most petty, vindictive and downright counter-productive attacks on a politician in recent times? The obvious answer, it seems, is to be both even more cynical and underhand than you've already been: wait for the politician, alerted to your news story, to phone the slighted mother to apologise and then get her to record it so you can reproduce the thing in full on your website.

To be fair when the Sun clearly doesn't deserve it, Mrs Janes' claim that she recorded it on the spur of the moment with a friend's BlackBerry could be true. In any case, whether they were personally involved in the recording of the conversation between Gordon Brown and Mrs Janes or not, they must have realised that this was taking the story to a whole other level. It's one thing after all to complain about what you consider to be an insensitive and insulting letter, or indeed to do the equivalent of a Sharron Storer, confronting a politician on the spur of the moment in front of watching television cameras; it's quite another to effectively ambush someone who is quite clearly mortified at the damage he thinks he has done and then to use it against him as part of a campaign.

The transcript of the conversation between Brown and Janes does not make for easy reading. Janes is convinced that her son's life could have been saved if there were more helicopters available, a view she is fully entitled to, but not one that she can actually prove, or be proved without a full coroner's report, which will probably take years considering the current backlog (indeed, we now know that a helicopter was sent after the explosion which ultimately killed Janes). Brown goes out of his way to not argue with her without agreeing with her, and as before, is clearly desperately wishing he wasn't having the conversation. This isn't because he can't face up to the consequences of what he is asking the army to do for him, which clearly affects him hugely, but almost certainly because he knows there is almost nothing he can say that will placate a grieving mother, nor can he think of it while actually in conversation with her. Time, while a healer, also allows for far greater consideration and with it, eloquence, which the prime minister displayed at today's press conference. If he had said during the phone call what he did today to the media, it might just have satisfied Mrs Janes that little bit more. As it was, Brown was right to disagree when she claimed there were 25 spelling mistakes (there were 4 or 5 at most) and that he had spelt both her name and her son's name wrong (unclear on the family name, while he did get his name right, if scruffily). Probably the most instructive lines of all though come towards the end:

GB: Whatever information you've been given, that is not correct. But I don't want to interact in a political debate about this...

JJ: No that's fine. Nor do I.

Whether Mrs Janes did or not at the time, or still does, as a result of handing the Sun the conversation this has become a political debate. As the Heresiarch correctly points out, this isn't about the letter. This is about the fact she has lost her son, with the letter simply being used as a vehicle for her anguish. It just so happens that her belief that the military are being underfunded and betrayed by the politicians is exactly the same one which the Sun holds, or at least pretends to hold. Grief is the motivator, and while money might well have changed hands between the paper and the Mrs Janes, the real issue here is both the exploitation of Mrs Janes for political and personal gain and the low and dirty methods used. Did the prime minister after all imagine that what he must have thought was a confidential and private phone call would be recorded and reproduced in a newspaper, to be used, as yesterday's Sun editorial put it, as evidence of his "underlying disregard for the military"?

If that was the Sun's intention, then it seems to have backfired spectacularly. Yesterday the consensus, across the political spectrum, seemed to be that this was an unpleasant non-story, with some feeling sympathy for Brown. Today that appears to have turned to overwhelming distaste at the reproduction of the conversation, and with even more defending the prime minister even while disliking the man and his policies. Most dangerously for the Sun itself, its own readers at least on the website also seem to be in the majority taking Brown's side, with some even taking pot shots at Mrs Janes herself. This is especially intriguing, as this is hardly the first time the Sun has used grieving parents to demand political change, without them being attacked in the fashion to which Mrs Janes has been by some. Partially this is because of the view of some that those who choose to join the army know the risks of the "job", but it's also because while Sun readers often favour the draconian policies on crime which the paper espouses, they are far more sceptical on Afghanistan, despite the paper's complete support for the war.

Furthermore, the paper's own journalists seem unsure of the attack on Brown which they've launched. The Graun claims that Tom Newton Dunn, the new political editor, having previously been the paper's defence correspondent, wanted the story to put more emphasis on Brown's eyesight with its impact on his handwriting, despite him supposedly being the man who wrote the original report. Even more significant is that Murdoch himself, while obviously supporting the change of support from Labour to the Conservatives, apparently "regrets" it. If he objects to the highly personal turn the criticism has taken, new editor Dominic Mohan will swiftly know about it. It's also curious that despite the high profile the story has taken, that there was no editorial comment today on the interview.

The biggest indictment of the Sun's story though is not just that it has undermined the claim that Brown has "underlying disregard" for the military, that it has so misread the mood of its own readers that they have came out in sympathy with him, but that it has actually deflected the debate away from government strategy on Afghanistan onto the personal and, ultimately, the newspaper itself. This is, as Labour themselves have argued, been a campaign to damage the prime minister, and an unfair one at that. David Cameron might well be concerned with just what kind of partner he has jumped into bed with.

Monday 9 November 2009

It's called the Scum for a reason.

On Saturday, the Sun ran a leader attacking Gordon Brown for having the temerity to answer a question about The X Factor given to him during an interview on a Manchester radio station. According to a newspaper which that day led on, err, The X Factor, he should be dedicating his "every waking moment" to the fate of our forces out in Afghanistan. He ought to be, according to the leader writer, be "leading the way". This is without mentioning the completely fatuous argument the paper made by comparing the number of hits on Google when searching for "Gordon Brown and Afghanistan" and "Gordon Brown and Michael Jackson". Not that it'll be doing so again, considering Mr Murdoch is pondering "banning" Google.

Two days later, and the paper attacks Gordon Brown for err, dedicating his "every waking moment" to the fate of our forces out in Afghanistan. Not only did Brown "fail to bow" at the Cenotaph, quite clearly a concious snub to Our Boys, but he also sent a "bloody shameful" letter to Jacqui Janes, mother of Jamie Janes, killed on October the 5th in Afghanistan. Brown's crime was to write it in his almost illegible handwriting, as well as possibly mistaking their surname for James instead of Janes (it isn't clear whether Brown has written James instead of Janes; his n and m look very similar) and to make a number of spelling mistakes. According to Mrs Janes, who has naturally given the Sun an exclusive video interview, she was so angered by the letter she threw it across the room and burst into tears:

"I re-read it later. He said, 'I know words can offer little comfort'. When the words are written in such a hurry the letter is littered with more than 20 mistakes, they offer NO comfort.

"It was an insult to Jamie and all the good men and women who have died out there. How low a priority was my son that he could send me that disgraceful, hastily-scrawled insult of a letter?

"He finished by asking if there was any way he could help.

"One thing he can do is never, ever, send a letter out like that to another dead soldier's family. Type it or get someone to check it. And get the name right."

Of course, once she had finished chucking it across the room, she got on the phone to the Sun. In fact, there's nothing to suggest that the letter was hastily-scrawled: Brown's handwriting is simply that bad. As someone whose handwriting is also close to being illegible unless I write out every letter individually, which makes you look even more like a child, and who also has a surname which is very easily misspelled, which while annoying is hardly the end of the world, it's difficult not to have some sympathy for Brown. Clearly he wants the letter to have the personal touch, something that a word processed expression of condolences wouldn't have, and just what do you say to the parent of someone who's just lost their son in a war you sent him to fight without slipping into the obvious, the clichéd and the torturous? Yes, he should have perhaps been more careful with the spelling and especially with the names, but has it really come to the point where we think that personal letters written with the very best of intentions are acceptable material to attack the prime minister with?

The Sun it seems, having up until very recently having supported the prime minister, even if it didn't blow smoke up his backside like it did his predecessor, has decided to attack Brown over the very trivial things it was alarmed he was involving himself in. Not being able to disagree with him over policy on Afghanistan, on which he only fails to be as gung-ho as they are, they've decided that such perceived slights are "more evidence of Mr Brown's underlying disregard for the military". After all, nothing quite says you disregard the military like not acting like a hunchback in front of the Cenotaph, or err, writing a personal letter to the bereaved. This also ties in with, according to the Sun, his "half-hearted attitude to the war in Afghanistan". This half-hearted attitude involves his increasing the number of troops by 500, and yet another speech last Friday on just why we're in the country. His speech did have a contradiction at its heart, but the reason for this is that Brown is trying to please everyone: he has no intention of getting us out, but knows as public opinion turns against the war and against the corrupt Karzai government, he has to put down some "conditions" for their continued presence, even if they're false ones. If Brown is being half-hearted, then so too is President Obama, still undecided on whether to increase the US troop numbers by 40,000, as requested by the army. Seeing as we rely on the Americans, we're waiting on them as much as everyone else is.

Even by the Sun's complete lack of any standards, this must rank as one of the lowest attacks to be launched on a politician in recent times. Not only is it without any foundation whatsoever, but the newspaper seems to think it's perfectly acceptable to use an individual, in this instance a grieving mother, to attack someone for their own ends, someone as pointed above which up until a month ago they were giving their nominal support to. As Mr Eugenides also suggests, it says more about that person that her first instinct on getting the letter was to phone the Sun to complain about the handwriting than it does about the person who took the time to write it. Clearly, we've now gone beyond the point where Brown will be attacked by the Sun on the virtue of his actual policies, it's now "bucket of shit" time, where anything and everything that he does which they decide is wrong will be pointed out and complained about. Going by the Sun's past record when it comes to smearing Labour politicians, the election campaign coming up could be quite something.

Friday 6 November 2009

Even when they're being nice...

The Sun today carried a story about the five British soldiers. There's nothing controversial about it. It just an article about the soldiers and some of the relatives that have to pick up the pieces after losing a loved one.

But even when The Sun is being nice and sensitive it still can't help but have a little dig.

One of the soldiers, Warrant Officer Darren Chant, was expecting to become a father again with his wife Nausheen.

As you could guess, Nausheen is not a typical British name. Nausheen, according the article, is a non-practising Muslim. I do not know her and non-practising means different things to different people, but looking at the pictures published in the paper of her marriage, a white Christian wedding, it looks like she is not a Muslim at all. Nausheen's parents may be, but that doesn't mean she is.

And here's the bit that's got me. In the article there is only one reference to Nausheen being a Muslim. It is referred to in a casual way. In a way that newspapers refer to people's jobs, "John, a carpenter from Wilsdon...". That isn't a problem, especially in this type of story. It adds a bit of background, helps you to know the people in it, to empathise with them (although it doesn't mention anyone else's religion, practising or otherwise).

The point is Nausheen's religion is such a small part of the story, it's inconsequential.

So why the headline on the front page of the print edition and the trail on the website of...

Why add the word 'Muslim'? The fact that Nausheen is a Muslim, however dedicated, is not central to the article, it is irrelevant. The Sun doesn't add other peoples religion to headlines or stories when it has no bearing on it, so why in this case? Isn't this type of thing normally reserved for derogatory use?

I am not saying the Sun can't mention peoples ethnicity or religion, as I said earlier, it's bit of background, a bit of colour in the picture. To stick it in the headline when it has no relevance at all, especially with the Suns' previous with Muslims, it's well, maybe they just stuck it in with out thinking, eh?

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Ignoring other parts of the paper

Would it be a bit rich for the columnist of a newspaper that has had a topless girl on it's third page for nih-on thirty years, many of them only just 18 and even 16 before the law was changed in 2003, to be wailing about early sexualisation of children? Apparently not.

Nadia Knows...
“Why are girls having sex so young?” Jane Moore demands in today’s print edition of the Sun. Her article is inspired by the number of 14-year-old girls having abortions – which has increased from 135 to 166 over two years. (On a side note, that’s an increase of 31 girls and may have something to do with rising population.)

However the statistics are interpreted, no one would argue that 14-year-olds having abortions isn’t worrying. But the way Moore discusses the issue shows a disregard for the context in which she writes:

“A spokesman for the Department of Health said extra funds had been invested in contraceptive services… It’s not the bloody point.

The issue here is self esteem… the early sexualisation of young girls.”

This of course is the paper where 18-year-old Rosie from Middlesex can happily strip off on Page 3. I’m not familiar with Rosie’s work, but one might guess this high-profile shoot isn’t her first. But she’s 18 now. So that’s OK.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Reward for a puppy, Facebook and immigration plots.

Via the inestimable Tabloid Watch, I note that the puppy meant to have stamped to death by yobs has been found to have, err, in fact died of a virus. The Express wasn't the only paper to declare this a huge story: the Sun also felt sufficiently angered by it to offer a reward of £2,500 to anyone who helped catch those responsible. The first person to call the news desk with the good news and then ask for the reward will be, err, suitably rewarded.


Facebook has, predictably, fallen over and played dead. It's signed up with the IWF, probably because it knows full well that the organisation doesn't "drive out perverts" as the Sun seems to imagine it does.


The Sun's editorial team have arrived rather late to the nonsense surrounding Andrew Neather and the claim that somehow the immigration of the last few years was all a plot to create a multiracial hell-hole, but that doesn't make up for just how wrong it is:

That's because Downing Street whistleblower Andrew Neather has revealed that uncontrolled, mass immigration was a deliberate, covert policy cooked up by Mr Brown and Tony Blair to transform Britain into a multicultural melting-pot.

Err, except as Neather himself said:

"There was no plot," said Neather. He pinpointed a shift in immigration policy in 2001, when he wrote a speech for Roche outlining changes to make it easier for skilled workers to come to the UK. The speech followed a sensitive report on migration from the Downing Street performance and innovation unit.

"Multiculturalism was not the primary point of the report or the speech. The main goal was to allow in more migrant workers at a point when – hard as it is to imagine now – the booming economy was running up against skills shortages," Neather wrote in the Standard.

He admitted he had a sense from several discussions at the time that there was a subsidiary purpose of boosting diversity and undermining the right's opposition to multiculturalism, but Neather insisted it was not the main point at issue.

"Somehow this has become distorted by excitable rightwing newspaper columnists into being a 'plot' to make Britain multicultural. There was no plot. I've worked closely with Ms Roche and Jack Straw and they are both decent, honourable people who I respect … What's more both were robust on immigration when they needed to be. Straw had driven through a tough Immigration and Asylum Act in 1999 and Roche had braved particularly cruel flak from the left over asylum seekers."

The Sun has even further distorted Neather's original point into it somehow being Brown and Blair as the scheming geniuses behind this sinister plot. Obviously they can't imagine the average Sun reader will be able to recall Jack Straw, let alone Barbara Roche, which says a lot more about them that it does about their actual customers.

So when Mr Johnson admits it has caused a "strain" on jobs and public services, remember this:

It did NOT happen because Labour took its eye off the ball. It was done on purpose and in secret. The result was a catastrophe.

We used to have rely on Margaret Hodge to help the BNP. Now it seems the Sun is willing to take up the reins. And of course:

We have repeatedly voiced those views. But, like all opponents of Labour's lunatic open-door policy, we were branded "racist" and ignored.

The Sun, ignored? Chance would be a fine thing!

Sunday 1 November 2009

I saw the sign...

Today's Sun has an article about a "Spooky sign" that appeared over a church on Hallowe'en.


Anyone will instantly recognise it as trails left by aeroplanes.

By the way, is it a good sign that no-one was actually willing to be credited with this article and instead it was allegedly written by "Staff Reporter"? Is this the Sun's version of the Daily Mail's infamous "Daily Mail Reporter"?

Saturday 31 October 2009


I thought that with the undeniable triumph of Facebook as social networking site of choice for almost everyone, with the exception perhaps of bands who favour MurdochSpace and various media luvvies and others who like Twitter that the Sun had put a lid on its Facebook-bashing. They couldn't apparently resist the temptation to splash today though with "DISGRACEBOOK", because Facebook isn't vetting every single profile on the site:

Andrea, 39, said: "It is time somebody introduced controls which stop people putting up false information. The people who run Facebook have a responsibility."

Well no, they don't. They provide a service. If you somehow think you can stop people putting up "false information" without infringing the privacy of everyone, you haven't thought it through clearly. The Sun for its part, without mentioning MySpace (prop. R Murdoch), drops hardly the most subtle of hints with the bringing up of the Internet Watch Foundation:

Facebook and Twitter are the only major social networking sites which are not members of the Internet Watch Foundation.

Friday 30 October 2009

Protecting the kids

It's all about the kids, isn't it. Drugs, booze, paedos, gangs. Got to protect the kids.

Well football is no different. Never mind on the pitch, off it tempers can flare and if you dare to just say the words "it's only a game", well, you only have yourself to blame.

So when a sixteen year old lad threw his beachball on to the pitch (eh?) and deflected the official ball into the goal, which the ref let stand, and so lost Liverpool the game, the Sun in its report did the decent thing...

Liverpool fans accused him of wrecking their Premier League title dreams.

The Sun knows the lad's identity - but is keeping it concealed to protect him.

A Liverpool badge is in the upstairs window of his family's smart semi-detached home.

Good old Sun, looking after the kids. OK, so they said about the Liverpool badge in his upstairs window but Liverpool's hardly a small place and Liverpool has a dedicated following so it's fair to presume there are loads of bedroom windows with the same badge on.

After doing the decent thing, the Sun then go and shoot themselves in the foot after only five days...

Today, Callum Campbell, 16, who lives streets away from the Anfield home of his heroes, claimed he had received death threats from other fans.

In one neat sentence they give his name and the fact that he lives close to Anfield and the very reason why they should still not reveal his identity.

Also makes you wonder if they new his name all along.

Via HallucigeniaUK

Mackenzie is sensitive no longer.

Kelvin Mackenzie makes an appearance in Private Eye 1248 too.

It seems that some words, in Kelvin's mind, are now perfectly acceptable on the BBC that weren't not so long ago...

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Goodbye George

After nothing in Private Eye's Street of Shame for a couple of issues, the latest issue, 1248 has four entries for the Sun, although being strict, only one is suitable for this blog.

And how suitable that it is the out-going political editor, George Pascoe-Watson, who should get one last mention on these pages...

An apology to Tom Watson

The Sun has apologised to Labour MP Tom Watson in the high court today and agreed to pay substantial damages after it ran articles earlier this year claiming he was involved in a plot to smear the Conservatives.

Lawyers for Sun publisher News Group Newspapers, a subsidiary of News International, said today that the paper accepted the stories were untrue. The Sun has agreed to pay Watson's legal costs and "a substantial sum" in damages.

Watson, a former minister who serves on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, was not in court today, but his solicitors, Carter-Ruck, confirmed the settlement.

Those words come from the Guardian because you won't find anything about it in the Sun as...
It is understood that the paper has not agreed to print an apology, however. News International, the Sun's parent company, was not immediately available for comment.

Not available for immediate comment? Maybe we'll hear something in a day or two then...

via TabloidWatch

Monday 26 October 2009

Yet more lies about "evil terrorists".

Last week the Sun had to apologise to Abdul Muneem Patel for calling him an "evil terrorist" and claiming that he had been involved in the liquid explosives plot. He had in fact been found guilty of having a document which could be useful to terrorists, which the judge accepted he had unknowingly kept for a friend of his father's. The judge also stated specifically that Patel was not a radicalised or politicised Islamist, but this didn't stop the Sun from telling Patel's neighbours a pack of lies about his supposed secret terrorist past.

As could have been expected, the Sun has learnt absolutely nothing from having to print such a humiliating apology. You might have thought they might have waited a little longer though to repeat almost exactly the same exercise, but obviously not. This time the paper is outraged that

THREE convicted terrorists who plotted to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier have been freed early from jail.

Hamid Elasmar, 46, Zahoor Iqbal, 32, and Mohammed Irfan, 33, were all caged less than two years ago.

Except these three weren't convicted of plotting to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier, as a few minutes of fact checking would have made clear. All three were in fact involved with the plot's ringleader, Parviz Khan, but in smuggling equipment to fighters in Pakistan. The prosecutors accepted that Iqbal and Irfan had nothing to do with the beheading plot, while Elasmar's house was used for discussing the plot, although whether Elasmar was there at the time or not is unclear; considering he received the most lenient sentence of the three one would suspect he wasn't. The Sun also has it completely wrong on Khan supposedly telling Elasmar that "we'll cut it off like you cut a pig"; Khan was in fact talking to Basiru Gassama, already released and presumably deported.

The Sun being the Sun, it couldn't just leave it at that. No, it had to include a leader comment on its completely wrong article:

HOW is it possible that three terrorists who planned to behead a squaddie have been freed within two years?

Err, because they didn't plan to behead a squaddie?

Simple: They all behaved themselves in prison.

Oh, right, that must be it.

The breathtaking evil of the crime they plotted counted for nothing.

Or it counted for nothing because they weren't involved in the "breathtaking evil" of the crime?

Good behaviour sprung them early from already derisory sentences. One was released in only five months, to a life on housing benefits.

Our justice system is a laughing stock.

Only the Sun could call a sentence of seven years "derisory", which is what Iqbal received. It might be derisory if Iqbal had been convicted of plotting to beheading a soldier, but he wasn't. The real laughing stock here should be a so called newspaper that either can't or won't do the very basics of actual journalism, checking facts. Anyone up for complaining to the Press Complaints Commission?

Thursday 22 October 2009

Cat Girl

Today's Sun has an article about a Chinese girl* who they say has baffled doctors by becoming covered with body hair.

I think that the likely explanation is that she's suffering from Hirsutism, although it is a symptom of something else, including the following:
In any event, there's a good chance of her condition being explained.

* I don't think that the picture that is used of one of her...

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Touched by the hand of Allah

Monday's Sun had an article which claims that some kiddie in southern Russia has had verses of the Qur`an appear on his skin.

At first glance you could mistake it for an Islamic version of Stigmata, but the people over on the Bad Science Forum suggest that it could be dermographia: scratching writing on the skin which leads to rashes.

They also suggest that the marks would disappear if the child was taken into care and the doctors should look into who's taking care of the child during the times that the lesions appear, so possibly implying Münchausen syndrome by proxy.

Monday 19 October 2009

Jesus lives! (in IKEA furniture)

I was going to go through this article in the Sun about "'face of Jesus'" - yes, even the Sun is disbelieving for once, so hopefully they've read my previous posts on pareidolia - but Orac from Respectful Insolence has done the job for me.

Saturday 3 October 2009

She's Hearing Voices

Earlier this week the Sun had an article in which some woman claims to hear voices in a piece of video footage she's taken.

The video can be played about half-way down the article. I won't mention what she says she thinks it is because I don't want to give suggestions.

My view is that it's just static - and so would be simply another example of pareidolia: seeing/hearing things in random patterns - but I'd be interested in what other people think it is and what they hear...

Friday 2 October 2009

The misleading has begun already.

Splashed across yesterday's Sun front page were those ordinary voters who like the paper had decided that Labour's lost it. Alongside those who would blame the government if it rains was one Ros Altmann, a former adviser to Tony Blair and now a governor at the LSE. The Sun's report of her comments was thus:

I thought we had a chance to make a difference. But Brown wanted people to spend, spend, spend and thought that will generate growth.

That is not the way economics work. We needed radical change. But we got radical complications. We have the world's lowest state pension, but also the most complex. I am hopeful for David Cameron. I don't think he can make a worse mess of pensions. I can see why The Sun supports him.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Tories, but Hugh Muir in the Grauniad Diary has more:

For sure, the economist has strong criticism of the pensions and economics polices pursued by Gordon. But there it ends. "What I said to them in answer to the specific question: 'Do I now support the Tories?' was 'No'," she tells us. "I said I don't know what their policies are so I can't support them. I said I can understand that some people no longer support Labour. There has been a bit of poetic licence here." Such is war.

And as could have been predicted, David Cameron today gives the paper an interview, unveiling 10 pledges, all naturally Sun-pleasing and many also naturally counter-productive or just wrong-headed. Reassessing every person on incapacity benefit? Stupidly wasteful in both time and cost terms. Replacing the Human Rights Act with a piss-poor "British" bill of rights substitute when the Tories almost certainly won't withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights will just delay justice. And as for reforming inheritance tax to "encourage saving", words fail me. One new one, although not included on the 10 pledges itself, is that Cameron will institute a "war cabinet" on Afghanistan should the Tories come to power, something demanded by the Sun only a few weeks back. It doesn't seem to matter that such a cabinet would be pointless when it's the military and not the politicians who are helming the fighting, but then the Sun has always loved symbolism far more than well thought out and implementable strategy.

Wednesday 30 September 2009

Don't know what you've got till it's gone.

They must have known it was coming, but the defection of the Sun back to the Tories after 12 years of "supporting" Labour has still quite clearly shook Labour. While the paper's representatives claim that it was yesterday's speech that finally confirmed they could no longer support the party, it's been obvious that the switch has been coming ever since last year's Conservative conference, when it gave David Cameron the sort of positive coverage he must have dreamed of. Since then the paper has been overwhelmingly anti-Labour without necessarily being anti-Brown. Some of the signs have been slight: calling Cameron "prime minister" when he was invited onto the paper's recently launched piss-poor online radio show was one, but the demand for an immediate general election earlier in the year was far less guarded.

The final nail in Brown's coffin was more than likely David Cameron's decision during his speech on quangos to focus almost solely on Ofcom, the regulator which is currently investigating whether Sky has an unfair stranglehold on the pay-TV market. With Cameron's culture secretary making menacing noises towards the BBC, which the Murdochs have all but declared war on due to the fact that their news websites simply can't compete with the far superior corporation offerings, it's clear that the Murdochs can now trust Cameron not to hurt their businesses just as they once trusted Tony Blair not to. That's the first condition of Murdochian support filled; the second is that you're going to win, and few are willing to bet anything other than a Conservative victory come next year.

It's still curious then that the paper has come out so decisively for the Tories when there is still plenty of time for anything to happen. The paper, after all, didn't swap sides until March in 97, when the Labour victory was already in the bag. As unlikely as it currently seems that there could yet be a fourth Labour term, it's not the first time that Murdoch's papers have got it wrong recently: the New York Post endorsed McCain last year. As a comfort, it's unlikely to warm the hearts of the Labour leadership.

More likely to do so is that the Sun is no longer the behemoth that it once was. While gaining the support of the Sun has always been second to gaining the support of Rupert Murdoch, the other major reason why Blair and Alastair Campbell entered into the original pact with the devil was, as Campbell said himself, he was never going to allow the Labour leader's head to be in a light-bulb on the front page on voting day again. While actual support for a political party from a newspaper on voting day has little to no impact whatsoever on the votes cast, it was the constant demonisation, undermining and ridicule which Kinnock was subject to, especially in the tabloid press, that helped to ensure he never became prime minister. The key difference today is that the Sun is no longer the attack dog it once was; while the paper ostensibly supported the Tories up until March 97, Kelvin MacKenzie famously told John Major after Black Wednesday that he had a bucket of shit and that the next morning he was going to pour it all over his head. MacKenzie might still be a columnist, and the likes of Bob Ainsworth might now be the person having a bucket of shit thrown over him repeatedly, but unlike back in 97, the media has now diversified to such an extent that the paper doesn't have the hold it once did. If anything, the paper has overplayed both its hand and its influence: it is still feared and respected mainly because of its former reputation rather than because of what it currently is.

One of the many repeated myths spouted today by those who deal in clichés is that the Sun follows its readers rather than getting its readers to follow it. Perhaps at times they get surprised by the strength of reaction, but this is a newspaper that wraps itself in what it thinks its readers want as defence against criticism, as a reassurance that it's what they want, and finally to tell them that because they're saying they want it, then it must be true. If anything the Sun is probably one of those newspapers which has the least loyal readership: the circulation of the broads, while falling, has not changed hugely since the advent of the internet; the tabloids, with the exception of the Mail and the Daily Star, have seen theirs fall massively. At one point the Sun dropped below the 3 million sales mark, triggering an almost panic-stricken price cut. Even with its lower circulation, the Daily Mail now almost certainly sets the agenda far more often than the Sun does.

This didn't of course stop the love affair between Blair and the paper, which remained to the advantage of both. For Blair, always determined to annoy the left of his party while reaching out to the cherished middle Britain, it served a double purpose. For the paper, it meant exclusives of even the most banal significance: Piers Morgan in his diaries was furious on a number of occasions about the access which the Sun got while the Mirror was shut out, most famously when someone (probably Cherie herself) told Rebekah Wade that the Blairs were having another baby, a story which Morgan believed was to be a Mirror exclusive. It meant obscene cooperation between the two, including policy stitch-ups involving asylum seekers. While New Labour and the Sun's politics may not look close at first examination, both shared, indeed share a contempt for civil liberties and an unaccountable lust for social authoritarianism, even if Blair could never come close to putting the paper's demands into action. On foreign policy, the two were inseparable: the Sun has always believed that might is right, and the fact that Blair dressed up his wars in the language of "liberal interventionism" only made them even more attractive.

Arguably, there have only been two occasions when Labour genuinely needed the support of the Murdoch press. Without the unstinting loyalty of all Murdoch's organs between the Iraq war and up to the end of the Hutton inquiry, there was still a possibility that Blair could have been forced out. In 2005 the paper all but abandoned the party except over Blair's wars. The real reason why remains Murdoch's certainty that the war was going to lead to oil at $20 a barrel, something that has not even come close to reality. The other occasion, is, well, now. Just when the party needs support, it loses it. This was the especially brutal part of the Sun's sudden but long in coming decision, knowing full well that it was not just kicking someone while they were down, it was the equivalent of a desecration of a corpse. Any hope that there might be the slightest boost from Brown's speech has been neutralised. David Cameron really must be delighted with the outcome, and again, this only highlights exactly why he's installed Andy Coulson as his very own Alastair Campbell.

As for the Sun's actual supposed reasons and dossier of "Labour failure", they're mostly so flimsy as to be not even worth bothering with. The dossier puts together often completely irrelevant data, and when it doesn't, it naturally cherry picks the information it relies on. On justice the paper absurdly highlights the cost of legal aid, as if the giving those who can't afford it access to briefs was a bad thing. It highlights the rise in alcohol tax receipts since 97 without pointing out this might be something to do with err, the rise in tax on it and not just increased sales. It compares the spending on police with the rise in deaths by stabbings, without mentioning that last year saw the lowest number of murders since the 80s. It also uses the 2007 figures rather than the 2008 ones, which saw a fall from 270 fatal stabbings to 252. Their data even directly contradicts some of the claims made in the leader, such as here:

But they FAILED on law and order, their mantra "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" becoming a national joke. Knife murders are soaring.

Their dossier shows that knife murders between 2006 and 2007 soared by, err, 1. In 2005 they were down to 219, then leapt in 2006 to 269, only two more than there were in 2002. As pointed out above, fatal stabbings were down to 252 in 2008, hence proving the editorial completely wrong. The weapon used should be irrelevant: it's that there are murders, not that one particular weapon is used. The idiocy continues:

Smirking criminals routinely walk free in the name of political correctness, while decent people live in a virtual police state of snooping cameras and petty officials empowered to spy and to punish.

The idea that criminals walk free in the name of political correctness is so ludicrous as to be not worth dealing with, while if there is a virtual police state, it was the Sun that helped create it. When has it ever opposed more CCTV cameras or more state powers? Answer: never.

Most disgracefully of all, Labour FAILED our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving them to die through chronic under-funding and the shambolic leadership of dismal Defence Secretaries like Bob Ainsworth.

Again, their dossier shows that spending on defence has risen year on year. The real people who failed our troops in Iraq were those who demanded they be sent in in the first place, but the Sun has never pointed its finger at itself. It wasn't those fighting them that left them to die, but then it also clearly wasn't Baby P's parents that killed him. It was instead the system:

Billions blown employing a useless layer of public service middle-managers like those who condemned Baby P to die.

Everything about this leader is backward looking, trying to turn the country back to halcyon days which never existed. Murdoch, despite his Australian-American citizenship, is a nationalist wherever his newspapers are. Loyal in China, neo-conservative in America and anti-Europe here, he somehow imagines that if only we were to spend more on defence and give the troops what they "need", they'd instantly "win". This doesn't of course apply to anyone else, but this is the kind of outlook we're dealing with. The leader concludes with:

If elected, Cameron must use the same energy and determination with which he reinvigorated the Tory Party to breathe new life into Britain.

That means genuine, radical change to encourage self-improvers, not wasting time on internal party wrangling or pandering to the forces of political correctness. It also means an honesty and transparency of Government that we have not seen for years.

We are still a great people and, put to the test, will respond to the challenges we face.

The Sun believes - and prays - that the Conservative leadership can put the great back into Great Britain.

Sub-Churchillian jingoism which turns the stomach. This is the relationship which Labour is crying and angry about losing today, to such an extent that it seems to have almost made Gordon Brown walk out on an interview. Labour never needed the Sun, but now it doesn't know what it had.