Category Archives: Private Eye

A stirr’d turd stinks (1)

I sense this could best be presented as a three-parter.

I know I’ve used Charles II Stuart’s expression previously, and perhaps too often. It is, allegedly, the original of what school histories bowdlerise as “Let sleeping dogs lie”. Discovering that convinced me never to rely on the classroom diet provided. And so a natural dissident was born.

So, for these first two parts (and then I’ll attempt a summary-reflection) yesterday I found myself getting involved in two different disputations.

Both were Scottish in essence.

Vox pop

One was on James Kelly’s Scot goes Pop blog. For the epicene, those above the salt, this is in the same territory, but a social class and literacy just above the horrors of the “Rev.” Stuart Campbell’s Wings Over Scotland.

Both those sites (and several others in the cyber-SNP diaspora) are waxing strong, and vexed, and expectorating against J.R.Rowling and all her works.

The cause is that Rowling declined to pay her dues to the Yessers during the #IndyRef. So she is a “Britnat”, an incomer, a traitor, and a whole string of other clichéd inventions.

The precise circumstance was that Rowling had taken umbrage at a particular tweet from Natalie McGarry. Indeed, her. Allow Tom Peterkin, of The Scotsman to explain:

The Glasgow East MP Natalie McGarry got more than she bargained for when she made disparaging remarks about the world’s most famous children’s author on Twitter.

A furious row erupted that resulted in JK Rowling suggesting she might sue Ms McGarry after the former SNP representative accused the Harry Potter creator of “defending abusive misogynist trolls”.

Ms Rowling revealed she was considering taking a ­defamation case after Ms McGarry claimed the author had “tweeted support” of a Twitter user, who uses the nom de plume of Brian Spanner QC to attack Scottish Nationalism.

A series of tweets were posted by Ms McGarry, whose political career has been marred by her suspension from the SNP after financial irregularities were discovered in a pro-independence group that campaigned during the referendum.

In a tweet addressed to Ms Rowling, McGarry said: “It is quite simple flee with craws…You tweet supportive tweets of a misogynist Twitter troll.”

The MP then added: “Do you or don’t you tweet supportive tweets of a misogynist and abusive Twitter troll like Brian Spanner. Answer is Yes. Simple.”

Ms Rowling replied: “So you need some evidence for that or I’m going to need an apology.”

The author added: “You are a politician making a public accusation. Show me where I have defended abusive, misogynist trolling.”

During the online spat that spanned six hours and involved many participants, Ms McGarry also said she “regretted” queuing to buy Ms Rowling’s books.

Ms McGarry later apologised for “any misguided inference” that Ms Rowling supports misogyny or abuse.

But the row escalated when Ms McGarry subsequently tweeted an image that had been altered to wrongly suggest Ms Rowling had responded “you’re a good man” to an abusive tweet sent by Brian Spanner.

According to the author, Ms McGarry had taken the “good man” tweet out of context. Rather than a response to an abusive tweet, it had actually been posted when Brian Spanner helped to raise money for Ms Rowling’s Lumos children’s charity.

Never having had dealings with “Brian Spanner” (whom I now discover tends to similar “vagina monologues” as Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail), I naturally incline to accept the Rowling version.

Over to you, James Kelly!

Kelly’s blog, Scot goes Pop!

Mr Kelly reckoned he had identified the hidden hand behind “Brian Spanner“. To do so he identified three dozen of Spanner’s relatively modest 4,622 followers on Twitter, and listed them as a large number of the unionist establishment (especially the journalistic unionist establishment). Including said J.K.Rowling.

I took exception: this list looks remarkably like the black sentence and proscription of Julius Caesar, Act IV, scene i. I read several of the journalists listed there. I don’t have to agree with them, but I know what they write today will be the tittle-tattle of received opinion, the public-bar wisdom of the morrow.

From there it became increasingly bizarre:

  • What age are you 70???? [Would I were so young, but what’s a bit of ageism between commenters?]
  • ... as you haven’t posted here before it would be useful to know what your interest in this matter is? [There is  entry requirement to participate in Mr Kelly’s open house?]
  •  I see from your profile you’re in London, so is your main interest in Scottish politics or in Rowling? [London? wrong. And my main interest(s) are somewhat more catholic: lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice.
  • Inevitably, once names are in the frame, others are drawn in: a journalist and book-reviewer in  her own right had to be identified as the wife of a Labour politician. Remember: this whole she-bang was about casual sexism. Muriel Gray was one ripple further out. And so we arrive at (better believe it) “Joe McCarthy” and “Arsene Wenger”.

And this to cap it off

I for one will not rest until every msm Scottish journalist is unemployed. Its time to shut the papers down then we can create a free and fair media.

No irony there, then.

Anyone for a nice lie-down in a darkened room?

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Filed under blogging, Private Eye, Scotland, SNP

De minimis non curat praetor?

“The boss-man doesn’t get concerned over details”

Fair enough.

A few days ago I was wondering about the absurd inconsistency of Benedict Brogan’s lay-out. His morning briefing email showed careless pitch-size. Even the font could switch between paragraphs:

Stephen kb

Stephen K Bush, the understrapper in charge when the Great Man was off to foreign parts, did something about it and for a few days all was sweet and dandy.

Now the nominal figurehead is back, and once again:



  • Is it minimising bad news? That 4% Labour lead, for the moment, seems consistent across all the pollsters, and it isn’t going away. Surely, the Gove-Cummings sneering at Cameron and all his works cannot help. Nor can Jean-Claude Juncker being enstooled by Frau Merkel (partly in spite over the Tory MEPs falling in with Alternative für Deutschland?).


  • Can they simply not get it right?

Though, by the look of Tory voting figures, and the complexion of the Telegraph, it could be both.

Oh, and was Brogan’s absence last week deliberately coincidental with the revelations in Private Eye about his Ugandan discussions?

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Filed under Benedict Brogan, Daily Telegraph, David Cameron, polls, Private Eye

A fair shake of the sauce bottle

Jon Donnison, the BBC’s Sydney correspondent, celebrates the rise and deplores the fall of Australian slang.

And quite proper, too.

He notes why the phenomenon came about:

Barry at the Psych“Australian slang really seems to have built up a head of steam in the late 19th Century,” says Tony Thorne, linguist at Cambridge University and author of the Dictionary of Contemporary Slang.

This was partly down to the fact that the kind of people who went to Australia, tended to come from places with rich local linguistic traditions like Scotland, Ireland and the East End of London, he says.

“Those people weren’t hampered by the upper-class cultures of the UK. They were much more free to play with language, creating nicknames for local things, in a way that the buttoned-up Brits in those days weren’t able to do.”

There is also, of course, the link with convicts and the British policy of setting up penal colonies in Australia.

Hmm: “upper-class cultures of the UK” inhibited the development of “nicknames for local things”. Anyone who has experienced English public-school traditions, would doubt that.

Donnison also acknowledges:

But the glory days of Australian slang really arrived in the 1960s and 1970s.

“That was the time when Australianisms stopped being something local and started to spread outside of Australia itself,” says Thorne.

Television played a big part in that, in his view, and in particular one man – Barry Humphries.

“Hello possums!” was screeched out on TV screens around the world from the mauve-rinsed, horn-rimmed-spectacled Dame Edna Everage, Humphries’ most famous character.

It was another Humphries creation though, Bazza McKenzie, who ticked all the linguistic boxes of the Australian stereotype.

Barrington Bradman Bing McKenzie, to give him his full name, was the hard-drinking, straight-talking Aussie Abroad, first introduced in comic-strip form in the British satirical magazine, Private Eye, and later the star of films The Adventures of Barry McKenzie and Barry McKenzie Holds His Own.

Ah, yes! It feels like only yesterday!



For a full decade, starting around the time the Americans didn’t quite get the Stones version of It’s All Over Now, the fortnightly doings of Bazza in and around Kangaroo Valley were essential study.

From which we can draw three corollaries:

  • We needed the stereotype of that baggy-strided, wide-hatted Boy from the Bush (whom Peter Cook reckoned “an Australian Candide”) to reconcile us to the self-confident swarm of Antipodean dentists and bar-hands, who arrived O[ver].S[eas].
  • We recognised that this was all a construct: we’re not that many kangaroos loose in the top paddock to be within cooee of confusing myth and reality. The Barry of the cartoon-strip was an outrageous grotesque. We loved him for it.
  • We adopted, ironically — but, of course, his infinite variety of expressions: straining the potatoes, having a snakes, flogging the lizard, splashing the boots, writing yer name on the lawn, pointing Percy at the porcelain, shaking hands with the wife’s best friend, and all the others that Barry Humphries’ fertile imagination concocted.

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Filed under BBC, Private Eye, Quotations

Jams & IDS

Jams & IDS

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February 5, 2014 · 10:53 pm

A second draft of journalistic history

George_Helgesen_Fitch_circa_1915Back in 1914, George Fitch (right) defined the job of “The Reporter” for the George Matthew Adams Newspaper Service:

A reporter is a young man who blocks out the first draft of history each day on a rheumatic typewriter.

As always, re-drafting is the allied skill.

So, here comes a recent one, from the current issue of Private Eye‘s Street of Shame (page 7):

THE Sunday Times likes to boast that its foreign correspondents — figures such as Hala Jaber, Christina Lamb, the late Marie Colvin — have between them won pretty much every press award going over the past decade. Privately, however, it doesn’t seem to treasure them quite so dearly.

First the hacks were told that from now on they should travel everywhere by Easy Jet. This provoked a mutiny by Lamb, who was about to spend two days with President Shimon Peres in Israel: she flatly ignored the foreign desk’s advice that she fly overnight on the budget airline and go straight to the presidential palace.

The next edict was that war correspondents could no longer claim cabs to the airport — at which the hacks demanded how they were supposed to get there , given that they have to carry heavy flak jackets and helmets, huge boxes of medical kit, laptops , satphones and hiking boots, etc, quite apart from normal luggage. Unabashed, the beancounters have now come up with their most ingenious cost-cutting wheeze yet — issuing foreign correspondents with tents so they needn’t stay in hotels. Camping in Helmand, anyone?

Now, where did we see the first draft of that?

Scoop_coverAh, yes! Here it is! Well-thumbed, seriously foxed, “Reprinted 1961” — which quite probably makes it about the best, and most enduring half-a-crown expended that year.

Chapter 3, pages 44-45 (which amounts to an 80-times price hike on that earlier copy).

We meet William Boot, now “Boot of The Beast” collecting the kit recommended by Lord Copper, just after he has sorted the problem of the cleft sticks:

William, hesitating between polo sticks and hockey sticks, chose six of each; they were removed to the workshop. Then Miss Barton led him through the departments of the enormous store. By the time she had finished with him, William had acquired a well-, perhaps rather over-, furnished tent, three months’ rations, a collapsible canoe, a jointed flagstaff and Union Jack, a hand-pump and sterilizing plant, an astrolabe, six suits of tropical linen and a sou’wester, a camp operating table and set of surgical instruments, a portable humidor, guaranteed to preserve cigars in condition in the Red Sea, and a Christmas hamper complete with Santa Claus costume and a tripod mistletoe stand, and a cane for whacking snakes. Only anxiety about time brought an end to his marketing. At the last moment he added a coil of rope and a sheet of tin…

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Filed under Evelyn Waugh, Private Eye, Quotations, Sunday Times

Gracias, Dacre!

A bit of intropective retrospection

Malcolm’s lay-off, while he removed house, did serious damage to his small-but-perfectly formed readership here at Malcolm Redfellow’s Home Service.

So, Malcolm is particularly grateful to his few remaining and loyal recipients. That includes a certain Tory SPAD (or his dopplegänger) who regularly checks whether he’s again been the centre of attention. He hasn’t. He isn’t.

ampelmann1And, of course, there’s the constant flow of visitors revisiting Nena and her Luftballons. Now, that’s real Ostalgie.

Memo to Malcolm: surely time for another of those “Not so great and not so goods”. Number 29 on Joe “Spud” Murphy still draws in the odd passing punter.

Any-hoo (as they may say on Slugger O’Toole, and places North), the point today is a small vote of thanks to Paul Dacre and his Daily Mail.

It has fired Malcolm to new efforts, as you see.

For Malcolm was tiring of preaching to a small band of converts, with minimal response. The game was no longer worth the candle (interesting pre-electric light era metaphor, that).

Then Dacre went rogue on Miliband.

Suddenly an old post here, all the way back to mid-2009,  became flavour of the day. In large part, admittedly, because a couple of more interesting sites hot-linked to that post.

Malcolm suspects it was those telling Rothermere quotations on “patriotism” (and the Mail is all over “patriotism” this week). Statporn leaped by a factor of two or more. Thankin’ all of ye!

Meanwhile, in the Mancunian demimonde

When even the Torygraph‘s Political Editor (young Master Kirkup) is less-than-gushing about the almost-Beloved Leader, on this day of all days, one senses the Cameron speech was barely notches above the warmed-over left-over level:

Maybe he was tired: there were some uncharacteristic shadows under his eyes as he spoke. Maybe the Manchester hall isn’t the place for soaring oratory: ministers say Birmingham is a much better venue for acoustics and atmospherics. Or maybe his heart wasn’t in it: this is, after all, the “spare” year of a five-year Parliament. We’re still a fair way from the election, so it’s hardly surprising Mr Cameron privately regarded this as one of the less important Big Speeches of his career.

The audience seemed to sense it too: the response was dutiful, not ecstatic.

Kirkup wasn’t alone:

David Cameron’s speech sounded as tired as the Prime Minister looked. Apart from a hint towards depriving under-25s of benefit, there were no new policies. If the loyal audience in the hall was bored and underwhelmed, the apathetic public will be even more so. This was a wasted opportunity.

  • Ditto Gaby Hinsliff:


The Conservative party have just sent round a briefing note on the “everyone under 25 – earning or learning” proposal in David Cameron’s speech…

Normally I do not post briefing notes like this because they are long and detailed. This one is about as thin as they come.

UPDATE: A party source has stressed that there will be some exemptions. [Continued on page 94]

It takes a worried man to sing a worried song

By the by, that dental-grinding off-stage right must be the Tory ASMs. It makes one wonder what is the point.

Well, actually, the point is to trawl in those commercial and industrial sponsors who pay for the whole shebang, as , and James Kirkup explained a while back:

Lobbyists and other commercial visitors now almost outnumber grassroots Conservatives at conference.

Thirty-eight per cent of people attending the conference are party members, while 36 per cent are from commercial or charitable organisations.

The disclosure will add to fears that the party’s rank-and-file membership is collapsing, handing more power to a few wealthy financial backers and professional politicians.

That is your modern party politics.

Meanwhile, you spend all year trying to boost enthusiasm for Annual Conference; and Dacre allows the Leader of the Opposition to scrawl all over it, press-wise.

As for the Ally Campbell Death Star job on the unfortunate Jon Steafel, sit back and relish …

Death Star explodes

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Filed under advertising., BBC, blogging, Conservative Party policy., Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, films, Guardian, James Kirkup, Labour Party, politics, Private Eye, Tories.

Trusted truths

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Psalm 146, a chorister’s favourite (it has just ten verses — and that could be one of few verifiable truths in this post).

And so, by a natural progression, to Anthony Wells at

Wells had spotted an oddity in the ICM/Guardian poll:

More unexpectedly the ICM poll also found a jump in support for the BNP, up to 4%, the highest any poll has had then at for years. This is strange. The BNP have certainly not had any great publicity boost, at the local elections they seemed essentially moribund. It may just be an odd sample, or perhaps as Tom Clark suggests it is just a case of confusion amongst respondents, with some people getting the names of the BNP and UKIP mixed up.

ICM also asked about voting intention in an EU referendum, finding voting intention fairly evenly balanced – 40% would vote to stay in (22% definitely, 18% probably), 43% would vote to leave (32% definitely, 11% probably).

UPDATE: ICM tabs are up here. Topline figures without reallocation of don’t knows would have been CON 27%, LAB 35%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 19%, BNP 5%.

That strange boost of support for the BNP is almost wholly amongst women, almost wholly amongst C2s, almost wholly amongst over 65s and almost wholly in Wales. The unweighted number of 2010 BNP voters in the sample was 1, increased to 18 by weighting. What that strongly suggests to me is that there was one little old C2 BNP-voting Welsh lady who got a very high weighting factor, and probably makes up almost all of that 4%! Such things happen sometimes, but it means the BNP blip is probably just a data artifact that can be ignored.

A euphemism newly minted

Now, there’s a nice one: “just a data artifact”. Try typing that, and most spell-check utilities flag up an error. That’s because the preferred version is subtly different, another form of “truth”.

It’s also a prime example of word-drift. Once upon a  time there was:

artefact: An object made or modified by human workmanship, as opposed to one formed by natural processes.

At some point the alternative spelling seemed to be the norm for an alternative signification:

artifact: Science. A spurious result, effect, or finding in a scientific experiment or investigation, esp. one created by the experimental technique or procedure itself. Also as a mass noun: such effects collectively.

As a point of fact, Mr Chairman, the entire public opinion polling business is based on such “data artifacts”. Notice, even in what Wells says there, how an eight-point Labour lead (35-27) is manipulated down to just six points (34-28) for a headline figure.

Today there are two types of truth …

That’s the start of page 40 of the current Private Eye (#1340, 17th-30th May, so verifiable, if not a “truth”). It becomes an exposé of a criminal Yorkshire property developer who is running the usual rings around the Serious Fraud Office, but begins with a telling generalisation:

Today there are two types of truth. Electronic truth — provided via the ever expanding knowledge universes of the internet. And historic truth — provided by those facts not yet or no longer recorded on easily searchable internet databases.

An American truth

There is a poem by the American romantic, Professor John Russell Lowell, which Malcolm has always assumed to be essentially anti-slavery and pro-“freedom”. Its best-known snippet is the eighth stanza:

Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness ‘twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

A bit too theist for Malcolm, but he appreciates the sense and sensibility.

[For the record, Lowell was President Chester Arthur’s appointee as US Ambassador in London. Here he was a literary lion, running Henry James around the Bloomsbury salons, and becoming Virginia Woolf’s god-father.]

Trussed truths

Electronic “truth” contains too many “data artifacts” for comfort. Pseudo-statistics (those perpetrated by serial-offending politicians as much as by their natural allies, the opinion-pollsters) are just one source of this creeping corruption.

Psalm 146, of course, prefers the eternal (and unprovable, and frequently controvertible) truths:

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:
Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:
Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:
The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:
The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.

Therein you may find your “truth”. If so, it is where you find all you need to know about:


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