Monday, April 28, 2008


The Curse of Shapps Hits the BBC

When Harriet Harman showed she’s as brilliant at running her website as she was at following election law, who’d have thought that BBC coverage would focus not on her being an idiot but being a “victim”? And who could have imagined that the BBC would then go on to refer to well-known Conservative comic figure Grant Shapps in a way that’s more flattering to him even than his own laughably improbable claims… And that’s provably untrue?

This uncritical embellishment on Tory spin is even more irritating than John-Spray-On-Testosterone-Humphrys’ typically dumb line of questioning to Nick Clegg on Today this morning. And at least there, rather than being presented as po-faced fact, Nick got to answer back – and it’s well-worth listening to the second half of his interview in particular, as when he gets cross, by golly he’s good.

But, anyway – the Prologue.

Last year, as I’m sure you’ll all remember – but you can read my bumper compilation if you don’t – a ‘Liberal Democrat member’ confessed that he thought we had no chance of winning the Ealing Southall by-election, and talking up the Tories instead. There were two things worth noting about this post: in retrospect, that “David Cameron’s Conservatives” were left becalmed in third place while the Liberal Democrat candidate finished second with a significant increase in his vote share; and right at the time, when the ‘Liberal Democrat member’ was posting under the name “Grant Shapps”, from the YouTube account held by the Tory MP of that name. Whoops!

There were, of course, two possible explanations. One was that a Tory campaigns dirty tricks ‘expert’ had made an embarrassing cock-up and forgot to sign out of his own account and into his sock-puppeting fake ‘Liberal Democrat member’ one; the other, put forward by Mr Shapps and believed by a whole one other person on Earth, was that his account had been hacked in some intricate conspiracy where some opponent had impersonated Mr Shapps impersonating a Liberal Democrat talking up the chances of the Conservatives in a by-election Mr Shapps was assisting in the campaign for, in precisely the same terms in which the real Mr Shapps himself had been briefing the media about the parties’ chances. Hmm. Which, dear reader, do you think is the more probable?

Thanks to Will and Jonathan, then, for spotting that the BBC not only took Mr Shapps’ side of the story – unlikely enough – but then claimed entirely fictitiously that Mr Shapps had been embarrassed by a hacker claiming the Conservatives had no chance of winning. Yes, Auntie Beeb have somehow managed to make up a story so pro-Conservative that it’s factually inaccurate even by Mr Shapps’ own self-serving and highly improbable account. Perhaps they looked up alleged examples of hacking and, on seeing a note that ‘Tory MP Grant Shapps claimed that his account was hacked to post a deceitful attack on the Liberal Democrats in which the alleged hacker coincidentally used exactly the same spin Mr Shapps himself was using’, which is his actual claim, they just thought ‘No, we must have got that wrong’ and ‘corrected’ reality to something less manifestly improbable rather than thinking ‘Hmm, should we consider the faintest scintilla of a possibility that a Conservative MP wasn’t being entirely truthful rather than accepting his story so uncritically that we make up a new bit to make it more believable?’ Or perhaps Mr Shapps has always been at war with Eastasia?

Anyway, should you too wish to let the BBC know just how wrong they are to be making up further lies to make an obvious liar seem more credible, click here.

Update: Despite the header details still claiming the story was last updated on Friday at 10.15am – naughty Auntie Beeb, that’s a lie – sometime around 3pm today all mention of Grant Shapps was removed. No apology to those of us who complained, no clarification, no correction to ‘of course, some MPs have a less cut and dried record with hackers…’ No, rather than change the ‘poor MPs are all just victims of these terrible hackers!’ line of their story or admit a mistake, the BBC have stuffed their made-up story into a memory hole and pretended it never happened. For the record, from Friday until this afternoon their site fictitiously proclaimed:
“Last year, Conservative housing spokesman Grant Shapps was targeted by hackers who broke into his YouTube account to post a message under his name saying the party could not win the Ealing Southall by-election.”
This isn’t just sour grapes for the BBC not accepting ‘my’ side of the story. The problem with a respected news organisation making something up, then just removing rather than correcting it, is that people who read the original story (such as, first from a quick search, Leaders We Deserve) will still believe it’s true. And that’s just not what the BBC should be about.

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I think you'll find he actually said "someone guessed his password".( He didn't say, as you of course know/say/imply but the BBC don't, that someone hacked into his account.) This could have been his researcher who assumed the password was the same as Shapps' usual password (often people use the same password for accounts on different systems). I think that is what probably happened - the most likely explanation anyway. It was Iain Dale who inserted the "1234" assumption.
I find it quite disturbing the lengths that Auntie will go to in order to not present the truth (that Harperson is an idiot not-even-savant and Shapps is a liar).

I found the Nick Clegg thing this morning supremely dull. Have all those questions not been asked of him a thousand times? Why do they bother asking him on? Can't they just play a recording?
It was Iain Dale who inserted the "1234" assumption.

It was certainly Iain Dale who first reported that the password was "1234", but he was paraphrasing from a conversation he had just had with Shapps. I'm not aware of anyone ever deny the "1234" story, mainly because it was blatantly made up in the first place.
"John-Spray-On-Testosterone-Humphrys’ typically dumb line of questioning to Nick Clegg on Today this morning"

Absolutely, I couldn't quite believe how ridiculous it all was. Hang yo head in shame, Humphreys.
Bless you, Paul, for always giving everyone the benefit of the doubt (except Hillary Clinton ;) )! But I’m afraid James has Mr Shapps and his absurdly credulous official spokesperson bang to rights. And I have to agree with you, Jennie; from the lengths to which the BBC suddenly seems to be going in order to protect MPs from the criticism they richly deserve, you’d think the 1960s had never happened (‘Is there anything you’d be kind enough to share with the viewers at home, Mr Shapps?’). And obviously I agree with you, Julian, but I think Nick improved mightily in the second half of his interview and shut Mr Humphrys up. Which is worth my membership subscription in itself.
I think the BBC was hurt more than it likes to admit by Hutton. Despite the fact that it turned out to be pretty much exactly right it got excoriated by the enquiry. I think it errs on the side of caution now.
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