Thursday, November 30, 2006

I made this

And had to get up at 5.30 in the morning to do so. It's nice, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


So Clive Goodman, royal editor of the News of the Screws, has pleaded guilty. And, according to the Media Guardian, Sun editor Rebekah Wade was not the only one checking her messages either...

Here's what I wrote for Eye 1165 back in August, when he was first arrested:

The News of the World’s Royal Editor, Clive Goodman, was charged last week in with the illegal interception of phone calls made by members of the royal family. Here are some of the stories Goodman has published over the last year – all, naturally, acquired through his excellent contacts in the royal household and good old-fashioned journalism.

4 December: “Prince Harry is in secret talks with Comic Relief for a joint project to help HIV victims in an impoverished African state. The 21-year-old prince has made the Mants'ase care home for orphans in Lesotho his pet cause since a gap-year stint there before joining Sandhurst military academy.”

18 December: “Christmas comes as a welcome rest for Prince Harry’s private secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton. Because on top of normal duties, JLP has been giving Harry a guiding hand through his Sandhurst studies… ‘It’s like Who Wants To Be a Brigadier with Jamie as Harry’s phone-a-friend lifeline,” joked one colleague.”

15 January: “As Prince William pines for girlfriend Kate Middleton, he’s doing his best to make his Sandhurst quarters more homely… ‘Everything is khaki this and khaki that. It’s all completely army,’ he confided to a pal.”

12 February: “We reveal how Wills is grooming his Valentine to be a royal… and their secret nicknames… The pair have been secretly phoning and texting each other every day and even arranged to meet – strictly against Sandhurst rules. A pal said: ‘Willie would hide his phone in his kit and send her a cheeky text so she knew she wasn’t on her own’… He has a picture of her in his room. ‘I don’t know if its allowed,’ Wills joked to a cadet. ‘I might get b*******d for breaking rules or congratulated on my taste.’”

26 February: “Unlike younger brother Harry, Prince William doesn’t go in for boozy bonding binges with his platoon. Harry’s friends are used to fielding drunken calls in the early hours as he screams good natured abuse at them.”

19 March: “Chelsy Davy and Prince Harry are slipping off for a hideaway holiday in an attempt to patch up their rocky romance. The couple haven’t seen each other since welcoming the new year together and Chelsy’s only communication with the prince has been when he makes his late night drunken calls from nightclubs. ‘The phone will go at 3am or 4am and it’s him swearing how much he loves her,’ said a family friend. ‘It would be more convincing if there weren’t music, clinking glasses and girl’s voices in the background.’”

9 April: “Shame-faced Prince Harry has been given a furious dressing-down over his late-night antics in a lapdancing bar. Yesterday the repentant Prince took an ear-bashing phone call as news broke. ‘It’s Chelsy. How could you? I see you had a lovely time without me. But I miss you so much, you big ginger, and I want you to know that I love you,’ said a hysterical voice. Luckily the caller was joker brother Prince William. He thought the whole episode was hilarious and decided to take the mickey by putting on a high-pitched South African accent.”

16 April: “Boozy Prince William and his gang of braying pals outraged guests at Prince Harry’s passing-out ball with disgraceful drunken antics. Just hours afterwards Sandhurst’s commandant General Andrew Ritchie rang William’s office at Clarence House to register the complaints and ask for an explanation. The prince’s private secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton is now trying to smooth over the row.”

16 July: “A laptop containing ‘highly sensitive’ royal files has been stolen from Buckingham Palace,” reveals Goodman in yet another royal exclusive. “Police are taking the theft very seriously. An aide added: ‘They won’t stop looking until they find out who’s got this laptop.’”

Three weeks later, police are reported to be searching the offices of the News of the World in Wapping while Goodman is interrogated in Charing Cross Police Station. Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall for that conversation?


I've inspired another blog. I'm so proud.

The marvellous Vickywatch (click above), details the brilliance of the Sun's Bizzarre columnist Victoria Newton, whose scrupulous attention to detail I documented in a Hackwatch for Private Eye back in March this year.

From Eye 1155:

Congratulations to Victoria Newton, editor of the Sun’s Bizarre column, who not only managed to spend five thousand pounds of the Sun’s money in an attempt to get a picture byline she was happy with, but also picked up the Showbusiness Writer of the Year Award at the British Press Awards last week. Here are just a few of the spectacular scoops she has pulled in over the last twelve months:

March 2 2005: “Former Busted star Charlie Simpson’s single with new band Fightstar is due to chart at a pathetic number 73 on Sunday,” crows Newton. “I think Charlie, left, who split Busted when he left, will soon be begging for his job back. I've written a letter he can cut out and send to his former pals: Dear James and Matt, Hey you guys. Looks like I made a huge mistake leaving Busted.” Rather than take up her offer Simpson’s record company instead issue a press release pointing out that the record in question was a limited-edition vinyl 7-inch of which only 1000 copies were pressed, and for it to make the charts at all is an almost record-breaking achievement.

March 7: “Bad boy rapper 50 Cent has become the first artist to have three singles in the US top five,” Newton points out. Unfortunately the record – an even more impressive five out of five, in April 1964 – is actually held by a little-known outfit called The Beatles.

March 8: “Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston are secretly trying to mend their broken marriage,” Newton reveals in a front-page Bizarre “exclusive”. ‘Brad, 41, has moved back into the Beverly Hills home he shared with Jennifer, 36. A source said: ‘They really want to patch things up.’” “These are made-up stories and non-stop lies”, says the couple’s publicist. They file for divorce two weeks later.

March 9: “Billie Piper is secretly planning to relaunch her music career, I can reveal,” pants a breathless Newton, a few weeks ahead of the actress’s debut in Doctor Who. “A source said: ‘Billie would love to make a return to the music scene… She has been having talks with a number of labels, including Sony BMG, but hasn't put pen to paper yet.” Four months later, a still-unsigned Piper tells an interviewer “I care so much more about acting than I do for music. I never really wanted to be a singer in the first place. I’m having the time of my life at the moment.”

April 14: “The Westlife boys have come to blows after a massive punch-up,” Newton tuts. “I can reveal that tempers are running so high between the lads, I fear this could mean the band is close to calling it a day… the band's only commitment is for one more album, pencilled in for studio time in August. But sources close to the boy band say the rivalries developing mean they are likely to go their own way once the record is complete.” Five months on from the album’s release, the band remain together.

May 20: “Ladies, it's time to dust off your Union Flag dresses - because the Spice Girls are back,” Newton shrieks. “I can reveal the fab five are set to reform for a one-off ten-year reunion concert next summer, so get those platform shoes on and be ready for some serious zig-a-zig-ah… I can’t wait.”

May 25: “Madonna has a title for her next album - Defying Gravity,” Newton confides. “The release date for the album has been pencilled in for January. A source said: ‘There is a rockier edge and the usual electronic influence.’” The album is released in November, consists almost entirely of disco tracks and is called Confessions On a Dancefloor.

June 2: “Madonna will duet with Sting at London's Live 8 gig on July 2,” reveals “the official Live 8 columnist. “It's a collaboration which will go down in history and is perfect for the biggest gig of the decade.” And that’s not all – in another exclusive, Newton reveals that “The Spice Girls are being secretly lined up to make a comeback at Live Aid II.”

August 8: “Little Britain’s David Walliams lands Bond Role” reports our mole at Mi6. “The funnyman is being lined up for a quirky cameo part as an in-joke for British fans.” Over to Walliams for confirmation: “No, I haven’t auditioned. I don’t know where that story came from.”

September 9: “Have Kate Moss and Pete Doherty had a secret engagement?” asks the woman in the know. “The pair held a private party at London's Dorchester on Wednesday night. Some say it was a pre-engagement party to tell pals about their plans to marry. Watch this space...” Naturally, the couple split up within weeks.

November 30: Scoop! George Michael has decided to “speak exclusively to the Sun” about the new civil partnership law. “Although George supports the new legal rights, he has no plans to marry long-term lover Kenny,” Newton reveals. Which comes as something of a surprise to readers of the same day’s Times, Mirror, Express, Daily Record and Evening Standard, all of which carry quotes from an interview with Michael in which he reveals that the couple are planning a “small private ceremony relatively soon after it comes in, probably early next year.”

January 30 2006: “McFly frontman Danny Jones has asked to leave the band to go solo - casting doubts over their future,” an ashen-faced Newton reports. “Sources from McFly HQ tell me they are panicking Danny may leave and never return. Is it all over?” Er, not according to Danny Jones, who issues a statement via his record company: “I’m really upset by this rumour. No way am I giving up my dream job.”

February 2: Hold the front page – “SPICE GIRLS WILL REFORM” shrieks Newton. “Forget the half-truths that keep surfacing - I can tell you for DEFINITE that Geri, Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton and Mel B have agreed to a tour in November with at least ten, and possibly 12, dates. The live dates will be followed by a greatest hits album and DVD, which will be released in time for Christmas.”

February 16: “Coldplay ‘split’” claims the headline on Newton’s coverage of the Brit Awards. Her column the following day clarifies this slightly. “Coldplay ‘no split’.”

February 23: “A bitter Big Brother battle is on the brink of blowing up,” Newton warns. “BB3 contestant Jade Goody is terrified that her crown as Queen Of Reality Telly is under serious threat from Essex Celebrity Big Brother winner Chantelle Houghton.” One month later, the pair do a joint interview. “I don’t see you as a rival, I see you as a big success and I hope you carry on doing well,” Goody tells Houghton in, er, the Sun.

March 16: “At last some good news on the Spice Girls reunion tour - it's not going to happen,” writes Newton, proving that consistency is just as important to her as accuracy. “I can reveal that Mel C and Victoria Beckham have seen sense and realised it is a bad idea. So we can breathe a sigh of relief. It would be cringeworthy.” Nothing like the Sun’s showbusiness coverage, then.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Oh yes they did, part II

Here's the piece "Hutton Dressed as Sham", which I wrote for the current issue of Private Eye. All the evidence and hearing transcripts are still up on line - - and well worth a read (his final report less so).

“There was no reasonable basis on which my conclusion that the government did not know that the 45 minutes claim was wrong and had not ordered the dossier to be sexed up could be described as a whitewash of the government,” announced Lord Hutton last week his 26-page huff, “The Media Reaction to the Hutton Report”, published in academic journal Public Law. This ignores the fact that everyone in the country except Tony Blair, Alistair Campbell and John Scarlett has long since concluded that that was what exactly it was. But then the good Lord is extremely good at ignoring things…

“My terms of reference were ‘urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly… An inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of one man was not an appropriate forum for investigating the reliability of the intelligence provided to the government by the JIC [Joint Intelligence Committee] or the Prime Minister’s use of the machinery of government”.
• Hutton devotes 73 words of his 26-page article to the topic of “How Dr Kelly came to die”, before getting on to such juicy topics as, er, the reliability of the intelligence provided to the government by the JIC and the prime minister’s use of the machinery of government.

“The evidence at the inquiry established that the allegations reported in the Today programme that the government probably knew that the 45 minutes claim was wrong…were unfounded”.
• It certainly did. It was one of the first things to be established, on day 3, when Andrew Gilligan admitted in his evidence that “that was not an allegation I would necessarily support…My phraseology in that first two-way was not perfect …it was not my intention to give anyone the impression that the Government had lied or that it had made up this intelligence. It was real intelligence. I always wanted to make that clear.”

“In relation to the allegation that the dossier had been sexed up, it was important to bear in mind that this allegation was made in the Today broadcast immediately after the allegation that the 45 minutes figure was wrong. Accordingly, the allegation of sexing up would have been understood to mean that in response to the government’s order to sex up the dossier, to make it more exciting and discover more facts, intelligence was included which the government probably knew was wrong.”
• Would it? Surely it would have been understood to mean that they, er, sexed it up? In his 2004 report Hutton seemed to think the term was ambiguous – “It is capable of two different meanings. It could mean that the dossier was embellished with items of intelligence known or believed to be false…or it could mean that whilst the intelligence contained in the dossier was believed to be reliable, the dossier was drafted in such a way as to make the case against Saddam Hussein as strong as the intelligence contained in it permitted.” He even admitted that “If the term is used in this latter sense, then because of the drafting suggestions made by 10 Downing Street for the purpose of making a strong case against Saddam Hussein, it could be said that the Government ‘sexed-up’ the dossier.” That’s certainly what Dr Kelly appeared to be suggesting to journalist Susan Watts, in a transcript presented to the inquiry – “the word-smithing is actually quite important and the intelligence community are a pretty cautious lot on the whole but once you get people putting it/presenting it for public consumption then of course they use different words. I don't think they're being wilfully dishonest, I think they just think that that's the way the public will appreciate it best” – and it’s what Hutton admitted had been implied by “the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons section of the Defence Intelligence Staff” whose head “did suggest that the wording relating to the 45 minutes claim was too strong”. But all such ambiguity now appears to have been forgotten. If you’ve accused the government of lying once (even inadvertently), it stands to reason that you’re always accusing them of lying – even when you’re accusing them of doing something else.

“Some of the commentators who criticised my conclusion that the government did not have a dishonourable strategy in relation to the naming of Dr Kelly suggested that I was too ready to accept the evidence of the Prime Minister and senior officials on this matter... A judge conducting a public enquiry must always be alert to the possibility that witnesses may not give truthful evidence in relation to particular matters… The evidence of the Prime Minister and the senior officials was strong and was consistent with the surrounding circumstances.”
• Oh yeah? Hutton quotes great chunks of Tony Blair’s evidence in which he claimed he was only keen to disclose Dr Kelly’s admission that he had spoken to Gilligan so that “no-one could say afterwards: look, this is something that you people were trying to cover up or conceal from a House of Commons Committee… It did look as if we were withholding information of great public interest.” This comes from a prime minister who for six years refused to allow Lord Birt or any of his other “special advisers” to be questioned by Commons Committees, and for two years refused to show the Attorney General’s advice on the war’s legality to the cabinet, let alone parliament. Blair’s unwillingness to share information with anyone beyond an intimate group of informal advisers was even criticised by Lord Butler in his inquiry – but Hutton appears to have been happy to take his word on this one (despite the fact that the prime minister’s evidence contradicted a number of statements he made following Dr Kelly’s death, as documented in Eye 1190).

“Some commentators focused on Mr Campbell’s diary entry that ‘GH [Geoff Hoon] and I agreed it would f*** Gilligan if that [Dr Kelly] was his source… But this focusing on Mr Campbell’s diary entry ignored the weight of the evidence given by the Prime Minister and some very senior officials.”
• Instead, Hutton chose to ignore the existence of Alistair Campbell – which might at least help explain his conclusion that “there was no dishonourable, or underhand, or duplicitous strategy by the government”.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Lead story on the news page of Private Eye, lead in Street of Shame... and this morning, lead story in this week's Popbitch.

Which cheers me up as I'm painting the kitchen...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Scoop Macqueen strikes again

Walking into the office on Wednesday, I passed Paul McCartney in Soho square.

This isn't that unusual, given that he does, er, have an office in Soho square. The main thing I noticed was that he was wearing a nice smart suit, and looked considerably better than the last time I saw him, pre-break up, when Heather had him wearing an outfit that would only have looked good on someone forty years younger, blacker, and a resident of south central LA.

So apart from mentioning it to a couple of people in the office, I thought nothing more of it. until this morning, when my colleague Francis Wheen pointed out this double page spread in the Mail on Sunday...