Prison ships: Float your boat?

Prison hulks, the last of which the government sold in 2005 owing to lack of fresh air and lack of promotion of exercise, are the new in-thing for (half of the) Tories. The idea, said to be floated by that timely wonderboy Andy Coulson, or so some Conservatives are saying.

The Tories in support, seeing it as a way of to fulfill David Cameron’s statement on the shortage of prison space, want to raise dosh for the so-called nautical nicks. But appointing places for such an arrangement will be met with much antagonism, especially or those places said to be fit for the hulks. Tilbury, in Essex, is said to be one of those target places. Labour councillor Carl Morris, who is hoping to replace Andrew Mackinlay, noted that “We successfully fought these stupid ideas in both 2004 and 2006. In the first instance I think the ship was even brought to the Thames but never used.”

Frances Crook of the The Howard League  for Penal Reform, noted that Alan Duncan spoke at a seminar in Oxford last week floating (!) rather “colourful” language about what the Tories will do about overcrowding etc., but urged readers of her blog not to conflate this with support from the front bench.

The prison boat “practice was popular with the British government in the 18th and 19th centuries” and we were evidently good at sinking Nazi prisoner boats, but as for investing once again, I’m not convinced.

Another vague notice is the “target” areas that will have prisons closed in order to fund the boats. Where they? Personally, I don’t think Cam will have it, and the idea is supposed to be one of many just being thrown out there, probably just hype. I might not even write a blog post about it.

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Will blogging be the undoing of lobby journalism as we know it?

The benefits of blogging and the information with which it brings to the Internet public are extraordinary in terms of the speed news items can be circulated and accessibility (regards to cost to view blogs – free – and the written style which they normally take, chatty as opposed to formal and so on).

This has provided certain challenges to usual print media in both content and access. Lobby writers and the mainstream press such as the Guardian or the Times rely on what communications officers want them to hear, unless those newspapers want to spend enormous amounts of cash and time getting some reporter to sniff around dodgy dealers with dodgy information (as can be seen recently with the News of the World/ Andy Coulson case and his dealings with the murky underbelly of journalism).

Bloggers can overcome this. Firstly they don’t have to be obliged to pay lip service to any political party (its supposed that one of the reasons why it took so long for Andy Coulson’s implications in the News of the World scandals – now settled by a hearing – to get into the press is because Coulson is now in charge of communications – i.e. what goes to press – in the Conservative party, thought to be leading the next government. Newspapers upsetting the Tories may not favour them when they want their stories in the papers) therefore not under any blackmail from whoever is in charge of press releases in government. Bloggers also have the option of anonymity. Though this hasn’t always safeguarded bloggers.

Anonymity has its own risks. Leading blogger Guido Fawkes had his identity revealed, however this has not seemed to stop his style of political gossiping. The same cannot be said for NightJack, the resident police constable blogger who had his identity revealed and was found breaching certain privacy laws. Google were recently ordered by a judge in America to reveal the identity of a blogger who had been “talking trash” – by the blogger’s own admission – about a New York fashion model. So it is not all secure.

The Internet is a most popular and important source, proven by the view of Gordon Brown that all children should have it at home. One benefit of blogging is that it is a purely internet-based phenomenon that is readily available to those who pursue it. Search for anything online, and you’re almost certain to be led to a blog within the first few results. But lobby journalism has taken note of this, particularly Rupert Murdoch who wants to move it all on the web – and charge! The Guardian have dismissed plans to have a members-only online paper, though it won’t be long until something like this does arrive. The Independent and the New York Times have taken advantage of iphones by designing an app that allows you to download the day’s newspaper on to your phone in minutes, giving you the ability to read it offline (say on the tube, or out of wi-fi areas). The domain of the blog is in battle with the mainstream press, but will the difference between a fee and no fee in the future be its saving grace?

Osborne’s silence “speaks for itself”?

Did anybody see this in the Indy;

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, Mr Osborne refused to repeat Mr Coulson’s denial. And in remarks which could trigger speculation that the Tory leadership could pull support from Mr Coulson if his story evaporates, Mr Osborne referred to his colleague in the past tense. Asked whether Mr Coulson had denied to him at the time any knowledge of phone-tapping, Mr Osborne said: “I’m not going to go into my private conversations with Andy Coulson, but I will say this – I think he’s been an absolutely excellent communications director for the Conservative Party. I think he’s conducted himself in that job in an entirely proper and correct way.

or even Chris Barnyard’s reminder the next day;

Yesterday the Independent on Sunday reported that shadow chancellor George Osborne refused to repeat Coulson’s denial he knew of the pay-offs.

I did. But I didn’t hear diddly-squat about it on the popular Tory blogs. How curious.

Osborne also noted how with police having no new evidence, Coulson’s innocence spoke for itself. But one thing is for sure, Osborne’s refusal to repeat Coulson’s denial speaks for itself also; he’s covering his own back just in case (is he not convinced that Coulson’s innocence speaks for itself?)

Dale and Guido (though on holiday at Chateau Fawkes) both revisited stories on McBride rather than speculate on Osborne or the Tories’ own McBride moment, while Dizzy took to talking about a strange friend he has.

Will be interesting to see whats written about Osborne during and after the committee’s hearing today with Coulson – will he be vindicated or will the shadow chancellor be accused of cowardice?

Final scores at the Commons

As can be seen from this article its the Guardian 1 – 0 News of the World. Andy Coulson is probably looking positive after a no score draw – but some speculation is that his game was not as honest as evidence will have to stop short of, in other words he covered his back (in the context of the football simile, he covered his back to hide his shirt number).

Other speculation – closer to what the authorities, with limited proof, will have to make do with – is that the reason he stood down is because he did not know that bugging had been going on, took responsibility by resigning.

But come on now, as Nick Davies of the Guardian showed today as evidence, there were other senior editorial executives on his list who have used the Pi. Why was Coulson really absent?

Turning Guido Fawkes onto himself

There was recently something raised by Guido Fawkes (Paul Staines) that I couldn’t help but agree with entirely (a very rare thing indeed); that being the inability of the journalist to really dig deep on certain politicians due to a strange debt that journo’s have towards those who may well soon get into power.

Guido highlighted this in a debate he had with the Guardian‘s Michael White, and the BBC‘s Nick Robinson, also not happy with the short amount of time was given to deliver his main points at the event, he addressed them on CiF.

The quote that I agreed with the most was his attack on White;

” … why do you think the influence of blogs has grown? It is because the likes of Michael White have failed to keep sufficient checks on politicians and to hold MPs to account.”

Now I wouldn’t have picked out White myself, but given the context I understand the plea. But more generally, there is a strong element of truth concerning what the press can feel unthreatened about releasing, and this sentiment couldn’t have worried me any more than it did when reading Andrew Rawnsley’s bit in the Observer today, when he noted;

“There has been a reluctance among some of the press to really go for the Tories over the phone-hacking scandal, partly because many other newspapers are implicated in the practice as well, and partly for fear of crossing Mr Coulson, who will be a powerful figure at Number 10, with a lot of control over access to stories.”

Now of course such reluctance should not be applied to bloggers, who are free of the constraints that newspaper journalists may have, and what with the very many inside tell-tales that Guido knows well, the control over access to stories should not be a concern at all.

However, those avid readers of Bob Piper’s blog might see the twist in this tale: that Guido fell foul of his own view that the blogosphere can conquer the newspaper hack taken party political hostage. He was one of the bloggers that pretended not to have anything to do with Andy Coulson and was quick here and here to spin weak claims that Coulson was not implicated in the NotW crimes, before the even weaker attempt to seem non-partisan.

Later on in Guido’s article on CiF he mentions;

“The years of Labour lies and spin, personified in the power that Damian McBride wielded over a compliant press lobby – now that was corrupting our democracy, the off-the-record smearing, and it was smearing, not briefing, that went on – was out of hand.”

In light of Coulsongate – and now separate from Guido and his hypocrisy – bloggers should once again assume some of the freedom from the shortfalls of lobby journalism in criticising the Tories, which may well slope as a consequence to their dominance in the opinion polls. Such unwritten – but yet wholly acknowledged – blackmail should not deter the power of the internet.

Andy Coulson in the shit

The shit really hit the fan for Andy Coulson today, Labour bloggers calling it their McBride moment, Tory bloggers den(l)ying about ever knowing him. Guido asking whether he will survive the “Labour dominated DCMS Select Committee”. So it won’t be as easy as being in the (Mur)dock!

Alistair Campbell expects little from the Press Complaints Committee, but then this might be realistic since we’ve all come to expect this from most of the press. I feel sorry for the good press(cott).

Cameron was relaxed, but clearly too relaxed, and too early on for his party’s Director of Communications & Planning.

Bob Piper expected the sound of silence from the Tories, how wrong he was, for now silence is drowned out by the sound of s(p)in and dry repentance.

And as for Dale, he, after accusing the Guardian of targeting Coulson, is unable to eat his words tonight, leaving his readers with a free space to poke fun.

Coulson’s hands are up, and his flag is white, and all us folk who knew that it was only a matter of time before the Mur(ky)doch leeches and the filth-laden Tories proved to us once and for all that they were unclean. Not cool ol’ son, Coulson.

(This entry was made with attempted NotW-esque puns)