Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Very Worst Kind of Gesture Politics

I've just got home from the LibDems to read of the row that has been developing of the purchase of 57% of ConservativeHome and PoliticsHome by Lord Ashcroft. Let's start with a declaration of interest. Lord Ashcroft owns 25% of my company Biteback Media, which publishes Total Politics, and is the 85% owner of Biteback Publishing. And also for the record, I haven't talked to Michael Ashcroft, Tim Montgomerie or Stephan Shakespeare before writing this.

Today Andrew Rawnsley resigned from PoliticsHome. Funny, I thought he already had. He doesn't seem to have written a word on the site for three months. Read his reasons HERE. Stephan Shakespeare responded with THIS statement. Since then various left of centre personalities have publicy resigned from the PoliticsHome panel. Their reasoning is that they think PoliticsHome will become a tool of the right.

Have they not noticed that it has been owned and run by Stephan Shakespeare, an avowed Tory, since its inception in 2008? The same Stephan Shakespeare who was behind 18 Doughty Street? He assured the panel at the time the site would be politically neutral and it has been.

I experienced these very same accusations when I started Total Politics. People on the left (understandably) treated my assurances that it would be politically neutral with some scepticism. After all, if Dale and Ashcroft were involved it stands to reason doesn't it, that it would be biased? Except, no it doesn't. No one raises those accusations now. Even Kevin Maguire has publicly said that he can detect no right wing bias in the magazine. And I would challenge anyone else to. And that's for two reasons. Firstly, we have a politically balanced editorial staff who have striven to ensure that no accusation of partisanship can be levelled. And secondly, because Michael Ashcroft has better things to do that peer over the editor's shoulder. Ask Sarah Mackinlay or Ben Duckworth if they have ever been influenced by Michael Ashcroft. In fact I don't think either of them have ever clapped eyes on him, let alone had a conversation with him. Ask Sarah or Ben if I have ever tried to influence their editorial direction.

PoliticsHome is a new service - a news aggregator. It doesn't have much of its own original content.

So to those who have resigned from the PoliticsHome Panel I ask this question: what makes you think Lord Ashcroft would want to influence the editorial direction of PoliticsHome when it is transparently clear that he has never done it with Total Politics? To Tom Harris, I say: why are you happy to write for Total Politics but then resign from the PoliticsHome panel? To Denis MacShane, I say, why are you happy to be on the Total Politics editorial board, but have resigned from the PH panel?

What you are doing is playing the very sort of politics you accuse the right of playing. That's your perogative, of course, but it makes you all look damn silly and rather like sheep who are quite happy to be herded by the likes of Sunny Hundal (who was also happy to write for Total Politics - perhaps he'd like to return the cheque...). I'd expect the likes of Tom Watson to behave in this partisan way, but I'm disappointed that Catherine Mayer, Matthew Taylor and Lynne Featherstone appear to have fallen for it too. Should I now boycott the RSA panel I am speaking at on Thursday lunchtime because Matthew Taylor has politicised his position as its director? No. Because I wouldn't be so pathetic.

But hey, you know what, it's a free country. I look forward to PoliticsHome proving that it has the integrity and self belief to continue with its stated mission. And when it does, those who have indulged in the politics of the school playing field can feel slightly ashamed.

And I say again: why is being owned 57% by the Conservative Lord Ashcroft any different to being 100% owned by the Conservative Stephan Shakespeare? Cos I am buggered if I know.

PS Cue stream of comments saying Dale's an Ashcroft lackey. Water. Duck's. Back.


Tom said...

I'd just caught up with this myself. Storm in a teacup. Seems like all involved just want to jump onto a bandwagon in order to prove some point they think they have of moral superiority.

Sunder Katwala said...


There is a simple answer about what is different, with regard to the "insider" panel to the situation previously.

Like many of the left-leaning participants, I was recruited for the panel by Martin Bright. Martin is well known for being an independent thinker, from the left, but able to blog for the Spectator. Martin was quite open about the ownership of the site. However, he said that his role, and that of Andrew Rawnsley, was intended to ensure political balance. I had every reason to trust that: this is how it has worked. So I was fine to be part of it, and for my name to be used to promote it as a cross-political effort.

Andrew Rawnsley resigned today, stating that he did not think the integrity of the site was guaranteed. I asked Martin Bright about his involvement and it turns out he is also resigning from it, and feels let down by developments. He will write about that tomorrow. If Sebastian Shakespeare had restructured the organisation in a way which kept the confidence of Andrew Rawnsley and Martin Bright, a lot of other people would retain confidence in it. Since that doesn't seem to have been possible

The insider panel absolutely depends on broad confidence in it across the spectrum to have the participation it needs.

But when I heard that sensible people like Andrew and Martin, Matthew Taylor, Charles Clarke, Nick Cohen and others had decided they could not participate, the panel which I was invited to be part of does not seem to me viable, and one can not have much confidence in it. (My initial reaction was to be sceptical of the idea of pulling out, but once that is the view of cross-party voices and independent journalists and not simply Labour people, it is inevitable). I don't think Sunny Hundal controls these people, and many of those involved acted independently earlier on.

If you have respect for their integrity, but not that of others, then you have to find out why they feel that.

A lot of people feel PoliticsHome has worked well. I can see why Michael Ashcroft wants to put money into ConservativeHome. I wonder why he wants to make it part of the same organisation as PoliticsHome in an election year. This seems puzzling - but it has made one useful part of PoliticsHome no longer viable as a result.

Jimmy said...

The Shakepeare/Ashcroft comparison is hardly apt. Lord Ashcroft is on any view a high profile and controversial figure. I can certainly see the problem in having a proprietor who inevitably will on occasion himself be the story.

Iain Dale said...

Sunder, thanks for the comment. But I continue to ask... what has changed? Nothing. The panel hasn't changed. The site hasn't changed. ConHome and PolHome were already part of the same organisation. They are now. So what has changed?

The editor is the same person. Stephan is still chairman of the company.

Ben said...

Can you honestly - honestly - not see what difference is made by the Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party owning a majority stake?

Frankly, your occasional stance on partisan politics and some of the nonsense you produce are in very stark contrast.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

"Cue stream of comments saying Dale's an Ashcroft lackey" Yes, of course, but what do your CIA paymasters think about it, and how do you explain this to the Tunbridge Wells chapter of the Illiminati?

Anonymous said...

Dale's an Ashcroft lackey.

Iain Dale said...

Jimmy, Of course Lord A is a much more controversial figure than Stephan. But I;d love to see proof of him ever involving himself in any editorial aspect of anything he owns. Did you read what I wrote about TP? Why couldn't these people wait until they could make an informed judgement. All they have done is jerk their knees. Still, I guess it made them feel better and more ideologically pure. So that's alright then.

And I tell you what, if I had to worry about Stephan S or Michael interfere editorially, I know who my money would be on. Remember, I have worked with them both. Stephan would constantly involve himself in 18DS. Michael A never has done with TP.

Iain Dale said...

Ben, seeing as you clearly cannot tell the difference between me being the publisher of an independent magazine and the writer of a politically partisan blog, it's not really worth engaging, is it?

Sunder Katwala said...


Shorter: what has changed is the site knew it could win trust for neutrality by having highly respected and authoritative voices helping to guarantee it. This was 'going the extra mile'. It has now been unable to maintain that trust with its 'guarantors' themselves. Perhaps it could replace them with some structure to do something similar, but it has lost critical mass among key independent as well as left voices as a result.

golden_balls said...

could it be that the left don't actually trust ashcroft he is the the conservatives paymaster and deputy chairman

Maybe you should ask Ashcroft why he decided to do this especially in an election year.

Did you really think the left wouldn't react like this !

SallyC said...

I assumme none of them will write for The Times or any Murdoch publication.


Mick said...


The only words that come to mind, and which might explain it, are 'epiphany' and 'awakening'...

I can understand Rawnsley, but I can't get where McShane's coming from...

My own brief thoughts are over on Slugger: http://url.ie/2hij

(Good work from Liberal Conspiracy BTW.. who seem to have picked up the valuations before anyone else...)

Richard said...

I've read it over a few times, and that opening comment by Sunder Katwala really does contain the sentence "sensible people like... Charles Clarke" - quite extraordinary!

Iain - I've no reason to doubt your experiences of working with both men. However, I'd suggest you're a little naive in not seeing a difference between SS and Lord A. That difference is to do with Lord A's high-profile involvement in financially backing Conservative candidates in marginal constituencies. We can argue about the extent to which that funding matters, but there's no doubt his money had a notable impact on the last election, and will do again in the next one. You can't say SS will have much of an impact on the outcome of the next election.

So, the involvement of an individual, who will do more than most to send the left to defeat, in a media outlet that purports to be politically neutral is inevitably going to be controversial for left-leaning contributors. And let's face it, those people who have quit aren't exactly giving much up. No doubt sticking with the website and seeing their names associated with Lord A would have caused them a lot more pain than an almost meaningless resignation.

Grump to Inspire said...


I am not a political animal, I follow it as any interested party should but (understandably in this day and age maybe) doesn't and do not have any connection or insight to the Westminster bubble. However, I find it hard to believe that any media institution can retain an impartial 'tag' for long (BBC!!!, News Corp when election time comes and CinC Sky has his speaker in to "talk"). I have never read your magazine and so can have no judgement there, nor have I had much exposure to Politics Home so will be unable to tell the difference in the future. But, as soon as a label is applied it will stick. The website may well retain its practices under the new ownership, but the mud has been thrown and will now hang around the its neck for some time to come, whatver they try to do I suspect. (Metaphortasic there....)

I have no reason to disbelieve your remonstrations regarding Lord Ashcroft and his hands off approach, but it is hard for the average joe to believe that one of the most senior men in the Conservative Party could own a 'neutral' website (and that would apply to any member of any party). It's not about characters or personalaties but how the facts portray themselves.

A bit jumbled but I think you get the gist.

Jimmy said...


I'd be more impressed by Ashcroft as a guardian of free speech if his record weren't so patchy

Osama the Nazarene said...

While all this seems somewhat esoteric to a political OUTSIDER, the question does arise as to why Lord Ashcroft would want to own a site such as PoliticsHome?

Is there money to be made there or is it a pre-emptive action in case Rupert decides to take an interest?

Tapestry said...

Iain if you had lived in the 13th century you would have been continually asking, 'why do they keep ducking witches? That last one seemed a nice lady to me.' etc.

Maybe you are a tad naive about the evil side of human nature.

That's why we love you.

no longer anonymous said...

They think Ashcroft is the Antichrist.

jailhouselawyer said...

I quite like the thought of you being buggered. If there is a vacancy, I know someone who is non-aligned and looking for a job. I don't have an axe to grind...

Politics is about power. Information is power. Inside information provides a distinct advantage. Criminal Justice will be a big election issue. It's knowing what questions to ask and knowing when answers given are not good enough.

There are voices out there which will be listened to, mark my words. They are not voices in my head, but I can hear them and they will become more assertive because they are already murmering discontent. It's a movement gathering in both numbers and pace. In brief, they are saying not in my name. Mentally, its akin to taking to the streets. When those voices which come from inside start being heard outside, it's time to listen.

Those voices outside are getting organised into groups. Some of the influence has come from the US. Some homegrown. The power of the internet cannot be ignored because it is empowering these voices to speak up and be heard.

If you pause in the hustle and bustle of politics, and listen intently you will hear the leaves rustle and the grass grow.

Sir Edward Heath said...

I'm starting to feel a bit sorry for Lord Ashcroft. Everybody has a go at him and, I know politics is a mean business, but come on - give the man a break. He has feelings too you know. I imagine he was only trying to help and was being well meaning. I know quite a few people who are wealthy and, I expect, like them he was only trying to use his money to bring great joy and happiness to others. Making the dreams of others come true. The wealthy get a kick out of it. Imagine how he feels now. It's like making a donation to a cause only to be told to get lost by the people you're helping. That is not nice, especially when the people you are trying to help are, well, let's face it, a bit banal.

Jon Lishman said...

Forgive them, Iain. They have no idea what they're doing.

All they've managed to do is marginalise themselves even more from the online discourse. Why would they do that?!

I'd love to know who's truly brilliant (politically suicidal) idea this was. Balls?


Anonymous said...

These resignations look like nothing more than moral posturing to me. If those that resigned were truly only concerned about "political independence", then they would waited to see if they lost it before resigning.

J said...

Richard, 12:45am

I was going to make exactly the same comment, but it was the "Nick Cohen" that did it for me.

So in summary some petulant lefties are taking their ball home. Oh well.

Major Plonquer said...

There can be no concept of 'political neutrality' on the Net. The Internet itself is a right-wing concept and tool. The Left can only exist if they can control political discussion (through censorship, social means or political correctness). The Net blows all that away.

So stop aplogising and trying to justify your existence. There is and can be no 'Left' on the Internet. Get used to it.

The Internet belongs to us.

Madasafish said...

If I were a left leaning member of the Panel, I would resign too.

Guilt by association.

After all, there's going to be a lovely bout of post election back biting and any taint of supporting the Conservatives - however unjustified - will hurt.

I think this is a pre-emptive strike preparing for the bloodbaths to come.

Frankly I could not give a #####

Charles said...

There's a couple of cheap plays going on here: enough to disappoint me once again (if that were possible) about the nature of the left in the UK.

1. Continued demonisation of Ashcroft: it's more about getting his name in the papers in a nagetive light than anything else, so they they can carry on trying to write specific laws to impede him

2. Momentum politics - once one or two have resigned, then the questions becomes "X has resigned, why haven't you"

3. Additionally, it's just a cheap way to make them feel morally superior. Awh bless, they need it after the last few months.

The shame is that they have chosen to resign pre-emptively rather than work with the new regime to see if it is different. I'twas ever thus.

Lady Virginia Droit de Segneur said...

Any organisation from which McShane resigns from an active role is heading in the right direction.

An odious little creep total in thrall to the EU

Anonymous said...


Having just read the recent issue of 'Total Politics', I found the section on 'The 50 Greatest Conference Moments' stooped in pro-Tory bias. It had few kind words to say about 'good' Labour Party Conference moments, and reserved plenty of triumphalism for Tory moments.

I think many other readers may have noticed too.

Anonymous said...

It is clear why Iain would be defending this move. He has said so himself. Lord Ashcroft has a huge financial stake in Iain's ventures, namely BiteBack (Publishing and Media).

Would we expect Iain to stay silent on the issue? Of course not.

Tom Harris said...

"why are you happy to write for Total Politics but then resign from the PoliticsHome panel?"

Fair point, Iain. As I've said in my own comments thread, my decision was more about Rawnsley leaving than Ashcroft arriving. I've no objection to Ashcroft or anyone else owning websites and magazines, and no problem (as you know) with contributing to them in a personal capacity. But PoliticsHome was known as an independent, politically neutral online resource. I'm not convnced, post-Rawnsley, that this will remain the case. The PH100 was a great idea, and while someone as respected and objective as Rawnsley was in charge, the results could be trusted. His departure alone casts doubt on the PH100 - the site's only comment area - and its reputation would have suffered with our without these resignations.

Bottom line: this take-over was never going to be healthy for PoliticsHome. I hope they can obtain the services of another editor-in-chief with the same status as Rawnsley. If they do, they may yet retrieve the situation. If not, I don't see how I can justify my continued involvement.

Anonymous said...

"Perogative" Iian.

New word on me, but it your prerogative if you choose to use it.

Anyway, you sum it up exactly. These the lefties are like bloody children. Would it not have been better to wait and see how thing went and then made a decision?

No....it's that nasty Tory bloke who gives them money.

Cynic said...

Oh the navel gazing!!!!!!

Look, above all this is an example of why capitalism and natural selection works and socialism doesn't.

Brown has so devalued the Labour brand that the rats are deserting the ship. It has less and less support and therefore falls vulnerable to new people and new ideas that can take it forward to a new level.

Its not as though Labour views are bereft of outlets. They always have Labourlist for example.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Indeed an infusion of new voices there might help out the students who seem to spend most of their time reposting party propaganda

Russell said...

Rawnsley et al, at least with their PoliticsHome hats on, think of themselves as objective. It is an important plank supporting their very existence. But at the same time they can't possibly accept that Ashcroft might actually not use his money, connections, influence, vast power etc, to sway the site towards the Right. Inconceivable. So they walk out, demonstrating their lack of objectivity for all to see.

I believe a psychologist would call this a cognitive dissonance; an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously...

Bob Piper said...

I've just had another copy of Total Politics through my door. I don't want the crap. I've asked you before, and taken your advice, but will you please tell the circulation people to stop sending the bloody thing. I've tried, but they don't even acknowledge the e-mail, never mind reply or do anything about it.

I'm signed with the Mail Preference Service to stop junk postings, but that tell me this sort of subscription crap isn't included. I'm all for people receiving this junk mail if they want it, but I DON'T.

It may be good for your ego to boast about circulation figures to your advertisers, but I DON'T WANT TO PLAY YOUR GAME. STOP IT!

Doug said...

This amounts to empty chairing the arrival of Ashcroft and puts him in the same league as the BNP for which the Left use the same tactics. Charming. The whole point about being in political journalism is having your voice heard. Otherwise you're just a loon shouting at the papers (like the rest of us). These childish refuseniks will just have to fall back to a tiny on-line presence, low circulation newspapers (groaning under financial burdens), the BBC (whose nuts are in the vice from all sides) and similarly low circulation magazines. If they want the Right to have a clear playing field then fine let them sulk. It's just another entry in the long list of failures by the Left - we're too pure to debate politics, we're always right, we walk with the angels.

WV: dushe (bags) the lot of them.

John Moorcraft said...

I can understand the position being put forward that suggests nothing at changed…but I think the proof will be in the pudding.

I don't think much can change at PolHome because of the nature of the website and I think discussions on that are a bit of a smokescreen to be honest...

Of more interest will be ConservativeHome. The website has established itself as a real champion of grassroots democracy. It has historically not been afraid to criticise the Conservative Party leadership and its policies. In an age of continued centralisation and at a time when the grassroots feel more distanced from “their” party then ever (plug - analysis of my 2,500 interviews to be published shortly – end of plug!), ConHome has been one, unofficial, example of the flow going the other way.

I think it is understandable that questions will be asked if the independence of ConHome is under threat after one of the most controversial and senior Conservatives has invested serious money in it

I suspect the editor of The Sun does not have Murdoch on the phone every 5 minutes questioning editorial content…..yet that does not stop accusations bias being made. I fail to see how new media will be different from the dead tree press here.

However, as said previously, the proof will be in the pudding.

Anonymous said...

Lord Ashcroft created Crimestoppers. Does this mean people on the left will no longer use it to report crimes? There is such a thing as doing something for the public good.

Tony said...

But Tom, the reason for Andrew Rawnsley leaving doesn't stand up. If Rawnsley has an issue working for an organ that is part owned by Lord Ashcroft, fine. People could respect that. But to dress it up as being tantamount to editorial interference is partisan politicking, plain and simple.

Surely if the concern was editorial policy, Rawnsley would have been better to stay in his position to observe any changes in editorial approach and then raise it as an issue if there was any interference.

I wonder if Rawnsley would have still resigned if Geoffrey Robinson had bought the stake Lord Ashcroft has. Do you think we have seen editorial staff and commentators considered 'of the right' bailing out if the purchase was nothing more than a business opportunity?

It just seems incredible that a non-aligned organ has suddenly seen resignations sparked, not because of any evidence of editorial interference, but because of party political considerations.

Judging something before experiencing it is called prejudice. Prejudice is visible in spades here, being committed by the people who claim they fight prejudice wherever they find it. Ironic, no?

Any colour but brown said...

Sounds very much like a vegetarian entrepreneur buying a restaurant and half of the cooks mincing out because they fear that he's going to make it a vegetarian kitchen.

No waiting to see how things develop, no discussion with the new owner, just high dudgeon and prejudice.

Would they all have walked, if PH had been bought by a Labour supporter - I think not. Isn't that called hypocrisy?

Lord Monkington-Smythe said...

It is a matter of how things look. How will ConservativeHome, which has developed a great reputation for being Tory, but not a party machine, be able to criticise and analyse independently if it is majority owned by Michael Ashcroft? His position within the party will naturally lead him to disapprove of material that is uncomplimentary to the party or the leadership. I don't blame him for that, but it does mean that the independent nature of Con Home will be lost.

It doesn't matter that Stefan Shakespeare is a Tory, he is not part of the Conservative Party leadership. He can be independent. Surely you can see the difference?

strapworld said...

Iain, The great sin, it appears, is to be successful with a name Michael Ashcroft!

It is about time people should be given the full two barrels about Lord Ashcroft.

The man that, after the Tottenham Broadwater Farm riots and murder of a police officer, he started the charity which is now CRIMESTOPPERS. He has invested much of his money in this groundbreaking charity which has brought many criminals to book.

He has also loaned his collected of Victoria Cross medals to the Imperial War Museum. But the purchase of each one is a story of kindness to the families of the recipients.

There are so many good stories about this man but they do not get out.

It is a sin to make money by business accumen.It is a sin live outside the UK.

Unless, of course, you donate to the Labour Party! That is okay and they are good citizens of, err India?

Also it is perfectly reasonable to make your fortune by bogus claims on expenses, acquiring two, or more, houses as an MP or a member of the House of Lords.

Left wing malcontents are a stain on the good name of this Country and should be exposed.

It is time that the good works of Lord Ashcroft be published.

I have no links whatsoever with him.

strapworld said...

May I ask just what Sunder Katwala has contributed to our National life please?

Leonard Cartwright said...

Guido posed the thought that £1.3m was an awful to pay for a site that generates little revenue. That led me to think Con Home may charge for content in the future. Thankfully, Tim has confirmed this is not the case; http://wp.me/pxPxJ-2p

Anonymous said...

Sunder - lefties leaving the panel is a self fulfilling policy.

You are a dork.

wtf is jailhouse talking about? Anybody?

"The Internet itself is a right-wing concept and tool" -- what a load of bollocks. Its a tool for freedom and individuality (right wing concepts i agree - but not conceived by right wingers)

Robin B'stard MP said...

I don't know about Ashcroft, but the others have certainly shown their true intentions. Being impartial is about being able to work with anyone without allowing your own beliefs to influence how you deal with them or their views.

It appears to me Ashcrofts nicked the moral high ground here, as none of those leaving seem to have been able to have given him the benefit of doubt in this instance.

Politcally this casts them in a particularly bad light for not being able to put their supposed impartiality first.

Admittedly his timing in acquiring a stake could have been better, but is there ever a good time to upset a lefty.....they seem to take moral offence to anything and everything regardless of timing.

An example of such a childish set of resinations i have yet to see......They should be ashamed..........

Disco Biscuit said...

I wasn't aware that Lord Ashcroft was the only person in the world who has any political views; I thought most of us did.

Whoever owns a newspaper, magazine, website, whatever, are going to have a political opinion of one sort or another. That doesn't mean they assert editorial control to direct the publication according to their own political goals.

Why Lord Ashcroft should be any different is beyond me.

Disco Biscuit said...

Incidentally, the only thing about Lord Ashcroft is Labour's campaign of hate against him. The man's done immense good in this country and elsewhere - often with very little praise.

If anything he'll be a bonus to PoliticsHome

Tom Harris said...

Tony Sharp: "I wonder if Rawnsley would have still resigned if Geoffrey Robinson had bought the stake Lord Ashcroft has."

Who knows? But Geoffrey Robinson isn't the vice-chair of the Labour Party. Now, if Peter Mandelson had bought a 57 per cent share while he was still serving in the government, I expect Andrew's reaction would have been the same. And he would have been right.

I hope this is about more than Labour huff verses Tory money; I think Ashcroft has done the blogging world a disservice by buying PoliticsHome and immersing it in controversy needlessly. This is the man, remember, whose specific job is to help the Conservatives win the next election. And he buys a prominent political webite months before that election and we're all expected to shrug our shoulders and pretend that nothing's changed? I don't think so.

Unsworth said...

This is just a complete bollox. Why should anyone care about who owns which organ? It's not ownership that matters, it's content.

And those who believe that any privately owned or publicly listed journal - or any medium, for that matter - should be neutral are completely barmy. The one body which certainly ought to be neutral is, of course, the publicly funded BBC.

I don't give a toss about Ashcroft's ownership. It's utterly irrelevant. Next, these cretins will be wanting to complain about Sainsbury's malign influences no doubt.

Unsworth said...

@ Tom Harris

So, would you care to comment on the 'ownership' (and forthcoming ownership) of any left-wing blogs and sites? And perhaps you'd like to consider the blatant use of such sites as 10 Downing Street to promote Labour Party propaganda.

Let's not be too damn silly. Ashcroft hasn't done any 'immersing'. He's spent his cash as he chooses - and the Left don't like it, so they're trying to reinterpret the rules to suit their book - a bit like the lovely Baroness Scotland.

It's the loonies making comments such as yours who have (deliberately, of course) created this entirely artificial controversy - and it will come
back to bite them in a big way.

What business is it of yours, anyway? If you really want to start discussions about ownership or funding you're going to have some difficulties, I think. Remember Draper's remarkable 'inability' to reveal his sources of funding?

Roger Dodger said...

This current crop of lefties have done very very little for the sake of 'principle'. They are clearly professional in spirit and have been since NuLab was conceived.

It is therefore far too much to ask them to believe that somebody might actually be able to maintain neutrality out of some distant alien concept like honour or propriety.

In the same way our fragile human minds cannot really grasp the concept of a multi-dimensional universe, these types have no part of their brain open to accommodate concepts of self restraint. Does not compute.

Tom Harris's post says it all. Impulse and implication are enough.
Why admit you accidentally touched the white ball when you can deny it and avoid the 4 point penalty?

Swatch said...


>>Guilt by association.

After all, there's going to be a lovely bout of post election back biting and any taint of supporting the Conservatives - however unjustified - will hurt.<<

Alex Hilton's extraordinary business relationship with Paul Staines et al being a key case in point.

Cynic said...


Forgive me but I cannot but recall a recent attempt by party members backed (we suspect) by union monies to set up a covert site to smear conservatives.

Your fundamental problem is that you have lost the battle of ideas and people are deserting you, whittling away the critical mass that makes some sites and things viable.

If as a political movement you want to fix that then I suggest you:

1 apologise for wrecking the economy and public finances
2 call an election
3 go cheerfully into opposition
4 ditch the great leader and the deadwood
5 find a new purpose in life

Gary Elsby stoke said...

Will Lord Ashcroft influence Tory websites?

Oh, heavens no. Do you take us Chinese sympathisers to be so ignorant?

Does old Rupert call the shots on SKY NEWS?


You are all insependent of mind and thought, and we all love you for it.

For those who are about to be Osborned (poor,taxed and shafted), we salute you.

Prodicus said...

Rawnsley is a brilliant journalist and widely respected across all parties but let's not kid ourselves. He is also a Leftie, albeit with the journalistic nous and skill to keep it out of his factual reporting, if not his more subtle opinion pieces.

The Fabians and their fellow travellers think he's 'sensible' and 'balanced' because he's a Leftie like themselves, like TaylorM, like ClarkeC. They are their own (and only acceptable) benchmark for 'balance', just like the BBC group-thinkers. Rawnsley's a lot cleverer than they are. Or I thought he was.

To be to the right of this lot is the only evidence they need that you are a Bad Person. (Seriously - an objectively bad, or at least deluded, person.)

To be associated in any way with anyone who works for the Conservative Party is to touch pitch. Ashcroft is the archetype, the antiChrist, their chief target, the Worst Person in the Whole World. 'Argh! Where's the garlic?! Everyone grab a stake!'

For any one of them to be seen by their peers to associate with Ashcroft means political perdition. They behave like lemmings because they have been trained to adhere to the approved group-think. It is the Socialist Way.

Pathetic. And frightening.

Pete said...

It's all just good old Labour 'chip on the shoulder' politics. They hate Ashcroft with a vengeance for the money he donates to the Tory party (and the success he generates for them).

BTW I don't think I have ever seen an article by Rawnsley which wasn't tinged with left wing bias...

Sunder Katwala said...

Nick Assinder has resigned from the Politics Home board this morning. Assinder was the founding news editor and then lobby correspondent, and his presence on the board was being invoked yesterday afternoon as a sign that independence was still guaranteed in the PolHome statement.

Assinder has had a long career with the BBC, Express and Mail. His presence alongside Rawnsley’s helped to establish its reputation for professionalism and engagement across the spectrum. And he is nobody’s patsy.

So I agree with Tom Harris that this should not be a Labour-Tory fight. And the “don’t be such stupid lefties” objection does not address a fundamental point about independence and trust, which is that it is now clear that the professional journalists and independent voices who were convinced of its political independence in the past are not confident this will remain in the future.

Clearly, the site’s reputation depends on dealing with this challenge.

PS: Red Rag, etc - of course that was wrong. As soon as it happened, Tom and others were v.clear about what we thought. I was among those to make clear that it made Derek Draper continuing at LabourList impossible and unviable - and several of us made clear we couldn't contribute to it unless and until he stepped down, and then returned to it when its new editor made clear it would be different, as I think it has been.

Unsworth said...

@ Sunder Katwala

And your definition of 'independence' is?

No one is truly independent - and that particularly applies to journalism and journalists.

I would trust a journalist only whilst I could clearly see him/her across the sights of a twelve-bore.

Frank said...

It matters to me not a jot who owns politics home. I use it several times a day, but only for its live blog feed, and the selection of newspaper articles; as a I'm reasonably certain most people do. The content provided by the panel of insiders is of no interest whatsoever.
Incidentally I have no axe to grind. I could not be further from the "Westminster bubble", since I'm disenfranchised having lived in Germany for more than 30 years.

One gripe however, why do I always end up in the American edition first?

Anonymous said...

In answer to Strapworld, earlier.

Sunder Katwala has been General Secretary of the Fabian Society since October 2003. He joined the Fabian staff from The Observer where he was a leader writer and internet editor, as well as editor of The Observer’s 2001 election guide. He was previously founding Research Director of The Foreign Policy Centre (1999 - 2001), where he wrote research reports including Reinventing the Commonwealth (1999) and Democratising Global Sport (2000) and was Commissioning Editor for Politics and Economics at Macmillan (1995-1999).

Sunder is a regular contributor to broadcast and print media on British and international politics. His research interests include citizenship and British identity, the European Union, foreign policy and globalisation, and the future of Labour and progressive politics more generally.

SO a truly independent observer HE AINT!!!!

Pete said...

One gripe however, why do I always end up in the American edition first?

'Cos your not in the UK- happens to me when I'm abroad...

Frank said...

Thanks Pete!
I thought that might be the case.

Quietzapple said...

I liked the tales of Lord Cashcroft's charity work.

I gather Lord Laidlaw, a Monaco resident, who was likewise required to live in and pay tax in the Uk has ceased donations to the Tories because he felt his foreign residency embarrassed David Cameron. It has been illegal for a fair while to take party political donations from abroad, and those ennobled are supposed to live here too I believe.

David Cameron requested assurances from Lord Ashcroft that he fulfills the terms of his ennoblement some way back I understand.

The sound rationale behind such requirements is that those who play a key role in our politics should share our interests, which those who live abroad, pay tax abroad, are a bit short on.

The biggest players on the Conservative side aren't British in the most meaningful sense. They aren't just expats, they are foreign powers with influence they should be denied.

Sir Edward Heath said...

"Sunder Katwala has been General Secretary of the Fabian Society since October 2003. He joined the Fabian staff from The Observer where he was a leader writer and internet editor, as well as editor of The Observer’s 2001 election guide. He was previously founding Research Director of The Foreign Policy Centre (1999 - 2001), where he wrote research reports including Reinventing the Commonwealth (1999) and Democratising Global Sport (2000) and was Commissioning Editor for Politics and Economics at Macmillan (1995-1999). Sunder is a regular contributor to broadcast and print media on British and international politics. His research interests include citizenship and British identity, the European Union, foreign policy and globalisation, and the future of Labour and progressive politics more generally."

So, when he is getting a proper job? I mean, he left university years ago. Surely his parents will be getting worried by now - or did they help him get all these "jobs"?

Hee! Hee! Hee!

matthew taylor said...

My position is similar to Sunder's. I only joined the panel because friends asked me. Those friends - who I assume know a lot more than I do about what is going on have now withdrawn. I have no problem about writing for Conservatives (I have just written a long piece for Crossbow). I also recently appeared at a commercial event organised by Conservative Home (it seemed interesting and I respect Tim M). But I don't really have the inclination to spend a few minutes every day indirectly helping Michael Ashcroft make money which he can then spend trying to influence British politics. And in as much as the panel does contribute to political insight I don't feel particularly keen to provide this to a business which now seems so closely aligned with one Party.

It's a matter of where I want to put my energies. The panel no longer feels like a useful commitment.

NoOffenceAlan said...

Well, I guess there are now some vacancies on the "panel".
I wouldn't mind getting involved.
How does one apply?

Sunder Katwala said...

Thanks for the responses. But I have never claimed to be an independent voice. I was invited to be a left-liberal voice on a balanced panel by people who I trusted to help maintain that balance, who now say they would advise others that they don't have that confidence.

I remain interested in genuine cross-party debate -- and do often try to encourage that. I went to Bournemouth to debate with LibDems. Iain Dale will speak on a Fabian/Observer Question Time debate on Sunday to kick off the confeence. Gaby Hinsliff is chairing it, and it will be clear where everyone is coming from. Later in the week, we will have Tim Montgomerie, Phillip Blond and Fraser Nelson debating "who are the real Conservatives" with Polly Toynbee and my Fabian colleague Tim Horton. Both Tim and Phillip have written for our conference magazine, to help inform our members on which Tory arguments are shaping their internal debates.

That is different to whether I want to remain involved in (even in a small way), and to help to promote something when the good guarantees of its independence and integrity, that were in place, have gone.

When Nick Assinder writes that it seems a v.different case to working for the Mail and Express for many years, the problem of journalistic integrity is enough for me to get out.

On the whole, there is too much focus on how is the left responding, and too little on that ? of journalistic integrity. (If Peter Mandelson had a 57% stake, I hope Assinder and Rawnsley would have thought similarly).

The more important political question is what this new online strategy on the right is about, and what the new Ashcroft movement will be trying to achieve. There is an informative, intelligent and non-whingey Jag Singh piece on LabourList about that.

The Grim Reaper said...

Ashcroft's got his fingers in an awful lot of pies these days, hasn't he?

Perhaps Iain, you can ask your friend to finally answer the question of whether he pays tax in this country. Publish the answer exclusively on your blog or over on Total Politics - it would be quite a scoop, wouldn't it?

Rose said...

As a user of PH, can I say the PH panel was useless and invariably got it wrong. Perhaps the new editor could put together a panel who represent the people of GB. One whose members have the passion and forsight to help find a way out of this land of dishonesty, social injustice, and bigotry created by the left.

Look at them all on here turning up their nose at 'lack of independence', 'people making profits', 'political bias'. My God, a panel of hypocrits.

After the way the Labour Party has spent the last 12 years turning the media into a propoganda tool, to puff up their own evil deeds and slander their opponents - helped by those who now cry for independence!!

Accept it guys, you are losers, you've had your chance and you've failed miserably -you are a warning to generations to come. You'll be held up as an example in the same way as the Nazi's. We, the general public, have got your measure. Flounce off and good riddance - may your charity work reap you the rewards you so richly deserve!!!

Quietzapple said...

The Grim Reaper has a point re Ashcroft's tax.

Laidlaw, in deciding not to donate any more, reputedly was concerned that he would have been liable for £50m and he is not quite a billionaire I gather, unlike Ashcroft, who is.

As Ashcroft has been bankrolling the Tories in marginals for a fair few years now, David Cameron deciding, unlike Michael Howard, that Ashcroft knows best, this funding may become the object of some inquiry at some point anyway.

Might be best sorted in advance . . .

In Belize demonstrators take his name in vain already I gather.

Sir Edward Heath said...

At least Matthew Taylor his put forward a coherent argument for his reasoning which makes sense. Surely a first in Liberal Democrat Conference week. Hee! Hee! Hee!