Monday 11 October 2010

The open sewer at Guido Fawkes

Next Left's gentle observation that Mr 'Tory Bear' Harry Cole increasingly does the spadework when it comes to writing the famous 'Guido Fawkes' blog founded by Mr Paul Staines appears to have touched a nerve with its subject, who tweeted at the weekend:

Nice to see @nextleft declaring a financial interest while spinning for their extremist boss. Khan is the chair of the Fabians. Funny that.

Hmm. "Extremist". I am sure most members of Mr Cole's own Conservative party will find it pretty reprehensible too, but it seems that we may now enjoy the spectacle of Mr Cole and Mr Staines further damaging their faltering reputations for political judgement as they seem keen to now devote the Guido Fawkes website to attempting to substantiate the slander.

Chucking around smears and slurs like "extremist" is best dismissed as a rather feeble "student McCarthyism". ("He is a bit silly. I wouldn’t hold it against him. I’m sure he’ll grow out of it", as the wise chair of the Federation of Conservative Students once said, on the occasion that Mr Cole's Guido Fawkes colleague Paul Staines first came to national media attention, back in 1986, doing something pretty stupid that he would now much rather forget).

After all, this is long-established as Mr Cole's modus operandi, though he may increasingly come to be regarded as the Wile E Coyote of attack dog blogging, so unfailingly often do his brilliant wheezes seem to end in self-harm, from being unmasked running false flag attack sites in student politics or the embarrassment of his 'Kerry Out' campaign targetting Labour MP and 'twitter tsar' Kerry McCarthy this year.

Certainly, the unfortunate Mr Cole would now appear to have developed something of an unhealthy cyber-stalking obsession with Sadiq Khan, the new shadow Justice Secretary who is indeed also Chair of the Fabians. As soon as the reshuffle was announced, he was excitedly if erroneously tweeting that the Sunday papers would have a field day. (One connection is that Mr Khan very much disappointed Mr Cole and the other stalwarts of the Tory youth gang by keeping former Conservative Futures head honcho Mr Mark Clarke out of Parliament in May, despite Mr Cole's own hard work pounding the streets of Tooting during the campaign).

The one benefit of this blog's spat with Observer columnist Nick Cohen (long closed) was that we were able to offer chapter and verse of how much the Fabian Society had done to challenge extremism, whether from anti-democratic Islamism or from the far right.

It was Sadiq Khan back in 2006 who offered the Fabians the most detailed account of why the "mirrors of extremism" of the BNP and Hizb-ut-Tahrir closely resembled each other, and that both groups of extremists need each other as they seek to thrive politically.

Let me be quite clear. Hizb-ut-Tahrir quite deliberately have the same effect on race relations as their mirror image the BNP. They encourage hatred and their preaching is used by the BNP to foster fear of Islam.

Beyond that "extremist" argument, the attack on Sadiq Khan appears to be an attempt to make something suspicious of his work as a human rights lawyer. The Independent's political editor Andrew Grice wrote a good column about this in 2008. I also wrote about at Comment is FreeKhan's involvement as the Chair of the Liberty pressure group.

Khan certainly seems to have plenty of "previous", as a champion of due process and human rights. Enemies of those causes might particularly resent the little-known fact that, as chair of Liberty in 2003, Khan played the crucial role in appointing Shami Chakrabarti to head the organisation. That appointment appeared something of a gamble to some inside Liberty at the time, but nobody could doubt that it has been gloriously vindicated ever since. But perhaps Liberty's crucial role in articulating the public case that liberties matter most when under pressure is not quite so well appreciated by those who would prefer a period of silence from the awkward squad.

That might be enough to win a "subversive" tag among the hardest-hats of old New Labour, but one might expect at least some supporters of the current Coalition to take a different view.


The Guido Fawkes website has attracted some very undesirable elements with its coverage of Sadiq Khan. The Spectator CoffeeHouse, ConservativeHome, Iain Dale and other right-wing blogs are all capable of running robust right-wing discussions - very strongly against letting political correctness go too far, and all that - but none of them would dream of carrying the type of content which the Fawkes website permits from its readers.

My understanding is that some comments are moderated out on the Guido Fawkes website too. Here are some of those which have not been edited or removed in response to its postings on Friday about Sadiq Khan. [The *** are my own].

He is a Muzzie, Labours favoured voter pool, if re-elected no doubt the flow of s*** into the UK will be turned back on.

Very Soon the black flag of Jihad will fly over Downing street, or Labour HQ at least.

I want to burn him already, on a cross, lots of petrol, pointy hats, arr you get the picture!

In the UK Moslems are a protected specie. You can dish all you like Guido – you are wasting your time. We even have left gay left wingers defending Islam – and they will be the first under to be stoned….

Khan - the Al Queda Manchurian Candidate says Looks like Khan as Shadow Justice minister is classic “Taqiyyah” or a deception of the Infidel, according to the Koran…just think if he was elected he would have power over all those banged up Islamic terrorists…

Khan is a lying muzzy toe rag and wouldn’t even be in Parliament if not for all the thickos who know no better. Hope he gets his come uppance soon.

Clearly, hosting the comments is not the same as making them. I am absolutely certain that the site's authors would not use such language themselves. It may also be that they deplore those who do so on their own site, but they can speak for themselves about that if they wish to do so. (The site has been publishing homophobic comments about William Hague for weeks, encouraging and celebrating these in caption competitions and the like; however, those who know Mr Staines much better than we do - like Mr Iain Dale - have been keen to ensure we all know this material does not entail any homophobic motive whatsoever).

Those who under the banner of "free speech" run an open sewer containing such racist filth can hardly expect ("free speech" again) to be immune from criticism for choosing to do so.

And Mr Cole, despite his many youthful faults, appears to be a very ambitious young man keen to make his way in a democratic centre-right Conservative Party.

Perhaps somebody on his own side might quietly suggest it would be advisable for him to make clear that even his own ludicrous claims that Mr Khan is an "extremist" do not in any way involve condoning this type of filth, even if he and Mr Staines think that it is important (for whatever, evidently non-condoning reasons of their own) to continue to give such expression house-room online on their "leading political blog".


13eastie said...

Ali Dizaei, the disgraced former Met Comander and President of the National Black Police Association, is currently serving a long stretch in prison (the sentence was on a par with those of convicted rapists).

Sadiq Khan is his most noteworthy proponent, though his defence was dismissed by the jury in Dizaei's prosecution.

The former was convicted of misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice.

The latter pretends to further public office and is Red Ed's shadow secretary of state for justice.

The irony and inappropriateness of the appointment beggar belief.

(And how can it be that Red Ed's "new generation" brings with it so much baggage?)

Sunder Katwala said...

13eastie ... but surely this simply amounts to attacking lawyers on the basis of those whom they represent.

13eastie said...

No it isn't.

It's calling into question Labour's choice of Justice spokesman, using one example from Khan's history of dubious associations (including others with people who were not his clients), and seemingly inconsistent accounts relating to them.

When someone is being monitored by MI5, it's safe to say it's not just right-of-centre bloggers whose suspicions have been aroused.

As a solicitor, he would be welcome to chase all the ambulances he and his colleagues could find.

As a Labour MP and potential Justice secretary, voters might prefer someone who has fewer friends in prison (despite the obvious difficulty this might pose).