Not Bright's Blog III - Guido j'accuse!

Bright hands over his blog to Chicken Yoghurt who accuses fellow blogger Guido Fawkes of hypocrisy a

British political blogging saw an outburst of internecine strife in the last few weeks as two of blogging’s biggest names trained their artillery on each other.

Campaigning blogger, Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads fame, broke a fragile ceasefire by opening a front on the notorious Westminster gossip peddler Guido Fawkes. Tim’s beef with Guido is largely a charge of rank hypocrisy. For all his calling of politicians on sleaze, corruption and cover-ups, Guido isn’t prepared to practice what he preaches – refusing to give a right of reply in his blog’s comments and deleting those comments that shine a light on Fawkes’ less than straight dealing. That transparency, fair dealing and freedom of information are concepts that don't apply to him.

Guido has not been too far away from some big political headlines in the last year or so and is seen by some as one of Britain’s most powerful bloggers. He made a false start last January when he made a squalid attempt at claiming some credit in the outing of Mark Oaten. He then proceeded to pick over the bones of John Prescott’s sex life and running with unsubstantiated allegations about Gordon Brown’s connections with think tank, the Smith Institute.

You’re probably asking yourself, why is this important? Well, blogging is an emerging medium beginning to directly challenge the mainstream media, particularly in the area of expressing opinions that newspapers and television news can’t or won’t find room for. Tony Blair’s former senior policy adviser recently accused ‘hostile’ bloggers of creating a ‘shrill discourse‘. Press Complaints Commission director Tim Toulmin has called for a voluntary code of practice for bloggers. What Toulmin fails to realise is bloggers already have a code of practice. It’s called common decency and the vast majority of us abide by it. Ireland and his supporters don’t think that Guido Fawkes does and that is why we called him on it. And Guido being the most prominent blogger right now means the rest of us are painted with the same filthy brush.

Predictably maybe, the bloggers that backed either Tim or Guido were split along political lines. Ireland pursued the matter with a series of blog posts and a spoof ‘Guido 2.0’ blog which Guido has so far refused to address in any serious fashion. Indeed, Guido has been content for his side of the argument to be fought by his proxies and flacks on other blogs who decided shooting the messenger was the way to deal with the issues highlighted by Tim. He was variously described as a stalker, an obsessive, a bully and other epithets not suitable for a family magazine.

Self-styled blogging guru and Tory A-lister, Iain Dale, described Tim as a ‘nihilist’ on his 18 Doughty Street webTV show. Now, at this point it’s necessary for me to declare my interest (this is how it’s done Mr Dale). Tim Ireland is a personal friend of mine. That might make me biased, but taking a look at the various campaigns that Tim has run over the past few years in order to foster positive political engagement – building blogs for MPs, organising tactical voting campaigns and protesting against the Parliament Square protest ban – and ‘nihilist’ is the last word you would use to describe him.

He’s certainly far less nihilistic than Guido with his self-confessed urge to ‘slash and burn’ the political establishment. Tim’s driven, yes, tenacious also, but a stalker, an obsessive and a bully? Well, these words are always tossed about by those who’d rather not discuss potentially embarrassing matters. It’s easier to smear your opponent (or better still, get someone else to smear them for you) than debate with them. It’s understandable that Fawkes and Dale and their hangers-on would take the path of least resistance. It’s indicative of the mire that politics in general currently squats in.

There are many of us who are passionate about blogging, its potential and the longer term concerns about freedom of speech. We’re not happy about the medium’s growing reputation being dragged through the gutter. Why not join the battle? Blogging needs YOU!

Justin blogs at Chicken Yoghurt and is the editor of 'The Blog Digest 2007, 12 months of words from the web'.

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Daniel Hannan harks back to the days of empire - the Angevin Empire

Did the benign rule of some 12th century English kings make western France vote Macron over Le Pen?

I know a fair amount about British politics; I know a passable amount about American politics, too. But, as with so many of my fellow Britons, in the world beyond that, I’m lost.

So how are we, the monolingual Anglophone opinionators of the world, meant to interpret a presidential election in a country where everyone is rude enough to conduct all their politics in French?

Luckily, here’s Daniel Hannan to help us:

I suppose we always knew Dan still got a bit misty eyed at the notion of the empire. I just always thought it was the British Empire, not the Angevin one, that tugged his heartstrings so.

So what exactly are we to make of this po-faced, historically illiterate, geographically illiterate, quite fantastically stupid, most Hannan-y Hannan tweet of all time?

One possibility is that this was meant as a serious observation. Dan is genuinely saying that the parts of western France ruled by Henry II and sons in the 12th century – Brittany, Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, Aquitaine – remain more moderate than those to the east, which were never graced with the touch of English greatness. This, he is suggesting, is why they generally voted for Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen.

There are a number of problems with this theory. The first is that it’s bollocks. Western France was never part of England – it remained, indeed, a part of a weakened kingdom of France. In some ways it would be more accurate to say that what really happened in 1154 was that some mid-ranking French nobles happened to inherit the English Crown.

Even if you buy the idea that England is the source of all ancient liberties (no), western France is unlikely to share its political culture, because it was never a part of the same polity: the two lands just happened to share a landlord for a while.

As it happens, they didn’t even share it for very long. By 1215, Henry’s youngest son John had done a pretty good job of losing all his territories in France, so that was the end of the Angevins. The English crown reconquered  various bits of France over the next couple of centuries, but, as you may have noticed, it hasn’t been much of a force there for some time now.

At any rate: while I know very little of French politics, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the similarities between yesterday's electoral map and the Angevin Empire were a coincidence. I'm fairly confident that there have been other factors which have probably done more to shape the French political map than a personal empire that survived for the length of one not particularly long human life time 800 years ago. Some wars. Industrialisation. The odd revolution. You know the sort of thing.

If Daniel Hannan sucks at history, though, he also sucks at geography, since chunks of territory which owed fealty to the English crown actually voted Le Pen. These include western Normandy; they also include Calais, which remained English territory for much longer than any other part of France. This seems rather to knacker Hannan’s thesis.

So: that’s one possibility, that all this was an attempt to make serious point; but, Hannan being Hannan, it just happened to be a quite fantastically stupid one.

The other possibility is that he’s taking the piss. It’s genuinely difficult to know.

Either way, he instantly deleted the tweet. Because he realised we didn’t get the joke? Because he got two words the wrong way round? Because he realised he didn’t know where Calais was?

We’ll never know for sure. I’d ask him but, y’know, blocked.

UPDATE: Breaking news from the frontline of the internet: 

It. Was. A. Joke.

My god. He jokes. He makes light. He has a sense of fun.

This changes everything. I need to rethink my entire world view. What if... what if I've been wrong, all this time? What if Daniel Hannan is in fact one of the great, unappreciated comic voices of our time? What if I'm simply not in on the joke?

What if... what if Brexit is actually... good?

Daniel, if you're reading this – and let's be honest, you are definitely reading this – I am so sorry. I've been misunderstanding you all this time.

I owe you a pint (568.26 millilitres).

Serious offer, by the way.

 

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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