by | Apr 17, 2009

The smeargate story rumbles on, though the reporting on it is patchy. I thought the Evening Standard, on Tuesday evening, got right to the heart of it, pointing out the key points: particularly that Brown invited Derek Draper for lunch at Chequers the week after Draper had set up the Red Rag website, so the idea this was all going on without Brown’s knowledge is not tenable.

Guido Fawkes, the Tory hero of the hour, has a hilarious diary in this week’s Spectator, recounting his week, including him sending a quote from the film Conan the Barbarian to McBride the day that the story exploded: ‘What is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women’, then his wife ticking him off, saying ‘why would you do that? You might put us in danger – These are powerful people.’

I like the sound of Guido. Anyone who ran illegal acid house raves in the late eighties is alright by me. One of the slurs put about by McBride, by the way, is that Osborne raved it up at Guido’s warehouse dos. That would win my vote.

He’s also a cunning little fella. He did a politics show debate with Derek Draper back in late March, and first of all, he wore a Berkeley Univ. t-shirt, which he now admits was a wind-up of Draper, who claimed to have studied psychology at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, which implies the institute is at Berkeley University – it’s not, it’s just in the town.

And he stitched Draper up in that show, getting him to deny he was fed stories by Damian McBride, when in fact Guido already had the emails in his possession, so knew that Draper had just lied on TV. Sly.

Martin Bright, in the Spectator’s Coffee House blog, also makes a very good point:

The Prime Minister’s belated apology suggests that he now knows how toxic this has become. He is right to be angry because McBride has put his government at the mercy of a maverick right-wing libertarian blogger. Quite why he and the people around him became quite so fixated on Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes), is completely beyond me. But they were genuinely obsessed, that much is clear.

This is another key point, that I’ve also made. Why the hell were Labour so obsessed with Guido and Iain Dale? They weren’t columnists on the Sun. They hardly had the nation’s ear. But yet Labour big-wigs were obsessed. Hazel Blears attacked them in a speech. John Prescott warned them “we’re taking over”. Draper managed to get £100,000 in union money just to take them on.This shows how out of touch, and out of ideas, Labour have become.

It really reminds me of the Kremlin’s paranoid obsession with CIA-funded ‘colour revolutions’ in Ukraine and Georgia. The KGB, sorry, FSB, was obsessed with the idea that these revolutions weren’t genuine democratic movements, but merely CIA-funded operations (and yes the CIA did put some money in, but speak to anyone in Kiev and you’ll know these were also genuine democratic protests), so the FSB then spent hundreds of millions on their own fake democratic youth movements,  like the carefully-orchestrated and amply funded youth movement, Nashi.

LabourList is the blog equivalent of Nashi – it pretends to be grass roots, but is really state-sponsored astro-turf.

This brings me to another question. If blogs become the front-line of party political battles, then will we start having proxy wars via the blogs, with leading bloggers acting, in effect, like Hezbollah, as the guerrila covers for covert party actions against each other?  That. I guess, is what Red Rag was intended to be.

Anyway, the thing that most struck me about the scandal is that it is, IMHO, the first big political scandal we have seen unfold in front of our eyes, on blogs and on Twitter, and then roll down from the hills onto TV news and the newspapers. It has been an interactive scandal, dare I say it, a fun scandal, and that is in great part thanks to Fawkes and Dale. So yes, lots of talk about how the scandal has brought down the level of politics, but I think in some ways it has raised it, from the citizen’s point of view. We are all Wooodward and Bernstein now.


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    Jules Evans is a freelance journalist and writer, who covers two main areas: philosophy and psychology (for publications including The Times, Psychologies, New Statesman and his website, Philosophy for Life), and emerging markets (for publications including The Spectator, Economist, Times, Euromoney and Financial News).

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