An Open Letter to Andreas Whittam Smith

Re: Johann Hari

Dear Andreas Whittam Smith CBE,

For the past few weeks, you have been spending these days of nascent summer investigating the claims that Johann Hari is a plagiarist, a distorter, a fabricator, and a sockpuppet who vandalises Wikipedia entries.

Perhaps you're not looking at all of these claims, but no matter, I am confident that with your experience and judgement, you will be able to see what many others have seen - the 42 quotes in his 'interview' with Malalai Joya that Hari lifted from her ghosted autobiography; the 545 words plagiarised from the Daily Mail that Hari inserted into the mouth of his interviewee Ann Leslie; the lies about his Sky appearance with Richard Littlejohn; his fabrications and distortions of quotes in his prize-winning piece on Dubai; the startling familiarity of quotes in his interview with George Michael; his copy-pasting in his interview with Antonio Negri; his outrageously fabricated quotes for his piece on the Central African Republic; his quotes pinched from the New Yorker for his interview with Hugo Chavez; his alleged posting of unpleasant and defamatory comments online under the name of David Rose; his invention of names for interviewees whose quotes he had taken from Der Spiegel...I could go on, but I am sure you have already sucked these eggs dry.

I expect the remit of your enquiry is fairly narrow, and you have simply been asked to establish whether Mr Hari should keep his job, but, if you are able, it would be valuable if your enquiry could also address these vital questions:

1. Is it true that Independent staff members routinely referred to Johann Hari as 'our Jayson Blair'?
2. Is is true that when Johann Hari's piece on Dubai was filed, his encounter with the girl in hot pants was laughed at by the backbench?
3. Were doubts at any time about Mr Hari's professional conduct ever expressed to the then editor Simon Kelner?
4. If so, what was Mr Kelner's response?
5. Would it be fair to say that Mr Kelner protected Mr Hari because of Mr Hari's stellar status?
6. Why did Mr Kelner state on Twitter on 28 June 2011 that '@JohannHari101 has worked at @theIndynews for 10 years. In that time, we have not had a single complaint about his misrepresenting anyone', when at least three complaints were made about such mispresentation - by an aid worker in the Central African Republic, by Noam Chomsky, and by an interviewee in Hari's piece on Dubai?
7. What opinion does the managing editor of the Independent, Imogen Haddon, hold about Mr Hari's journalism?
8. What opinion does the business editor of the Independent, David Prosser, hold about Mr Hari's journalism?
9. What pressure has the Independent brought to bear on the Council of the Orwell Prize in its deliberations as to whether Mr Hari should retain his Orwell Prize?
10. What pressure has the Independent brought to bear on the Council of the Orwell Prize to delay its announcement concerning its decision?
11. What pressure has the Independent brought to bear on the Council of the Martha Gellhorn Award in its deliberations as to whether Mr Hari should retain his Martha Gellhorn Award?
12. Has the Independent used lawyers in its dealings with either the Council of the Orwell Prize or anybody associated with the Orwell Prize?
13. Is the present management of the Independent indulging in a facesaving exercise?

Yours sincerely,

Guy Walters

Getty
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Has Arlene Foster saved power-sharing in Northern Ireland?

The DUP leader's decision to attend Martin McGuinness' funeral was much more than symbolic. But is Gerry Adams willing to make a deal?

After some prevarication, DUP leader Arlene Foster chose to attend the funeral of Martin McGuinness in Derry today. Her decision to do so cannot have been an easy one.

A substantial part of her loyalist base has noisily resisted attempts to memorialise the late deputy first minister as anything other than an inveterate killer. Foster herself notes in today’s Belfast Telegraph that the former IRA commander was responsible for the deaths of “many neighbours and friends”. And in 1979 – aged just eight – she bore witness to the bloody aftermath of an IRA attack in her own home: her father, a reservist police officer, was shot in the head by a gunman later eulogised by McGuinness.

Her attendance at today’s funeral is thus noteworthy and has been the subject of due praise. She was twice applauded by the congregation: as she took her seat, and after Bill Clinton singled her out in his eulogy. It is, however, much more than the symbolic gesture it might appear.

Last month’s election, which saw the DUP lose 10 seats and unionist parties lose their Stormont majority for the first time in nearly a century, proved Foster to be damaged goods. She was – and remains – tarnished by the RHI scandal but also by her crass behaviour towards the nationalist community, particularly on Irish language issues.

Her carelessly won reputation as a truculent bigot will therefore not be easily lost. Her departure remains a red line for Sinn Fein. But with just four days until the deadline for a new devolution settlement, Foster’s presence at McGuinness’ funeral is the clearest indication yet of the DUP’s carefully calculated strategy. It isn’t quite a resignation, but is nonetheless indicative of the new manner in which Foster has carried herself since her party’s chastening collapse.

She has demonstrated some contrition and offered tacit acknowledgement that her election shtick was misjudged and incendiary. Her statement on McGuinness’ death was delicately pitched and made only oblique reference to his IRA past. In the absence of a willingness to allow Foster to step down, the decision instead has been taken to detoxify her brand.

The conciliatory Foster the DUP will nominate for First Minister on Monday will as such at least appear to be apart from the dogwhistling Foster who fought the election – and her attendance today is the superlative indication of that careful transition. There has been talk that this increases the chance of a deal on a new executive. This is premature – not least because the onus is now almost entirely on Sinn Fein.

Theirs is just as much a mandate to reject Stormont as we know it as it is to return and right the DUP’s wrongs. Gerry Adams, the last member of the Armalite generation standing, has made this abundantly clear – and has hardened his line just as Foster has made sure to be seen magnanimously softening hers. He said last night that he would not tolerate any extension of power-sharing talks beyond Monday’s deadline, and called on Dublin to prevent the UK government from re-instating direct rule.

Though Adams also maintained a deal was still possible in the coming days, his statement augurs badly. As the former UUP leader Lord Empey told me on the day McGuinness died, the Sinn Fein president – the ideologue to McGuinness’ Stormont pragmatist – is now entirely without equal within his party. Though he has set the transition to a new generation of female leaders in train, he remains in total control. His demand for Dublin’s involvement is also telling: as the leader of the third-biggest party in the Dail, his is an all-Ireland long game. Enda Kenny will soon depart, offering Fianna Fail – riding high in the polls – a useful pretext to renegotiate or scrap their confidence and supply arrangement with his minority government. Sinn Fein are on course to make gains, but implementing Brexit and austerity as partners in a Stormont executive would undermine their populist anti-austerity platform.

As such, Empey predicted McGuinness’ death would allow Adams to exert a disruptive influence on the talks to come. “I don’t think it’ll be positive because for all his faults, Martin was actually committed to making the institutions work,” he said. “I don’t think Gerry Adams is as committed – and it was obvious from the latter part of last year that Gerry was reinstating his significant influence in the party. For that reason I think it will make matters more difficult.  I hope I’m wrong, but that’s my sense.”

He is not alone. There was, earlier this week, growing confidence in Westminster that some fudge could be reached on the most contentious issues. It isn't impossible - but Adams’ renewed dominance and rejection of the extended timeframe such negotiations would undoubtedly require suggests a new executive is as unlikely a prospect as it has ever been. With Foster quietly reinventing herself, the DUP could be the big winners come the next election (which could come this year and reinstate a unionist majority) – and the resurgent republicans might well rue the day they squandered their big chance.

Patrick Maguire writes about politics and is the 2016 winner of the Anthony Howard Award.