Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.
Showing posts with label phone hacking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label phone hacking. Show all posts

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Who do you think you are kidding, Mr...?

A LIFELONG friend of a world leader was arrested this morning by police investigating a major criminal cover-up.

Alongside that man several other people - his wife and her senior managers at a company where the crimes are alleged to have taken place - were also arrested and are being questioned about what they know.

Some of them have been arrested before, by appointment and when they felt like it, but today the police finally treated the executives to the same 'six o'clock knock' treatment which they have used on more minor players in the scandal.

It is entirely coincidental that a public inquiry currently scrutinising relations between the police and members of the trade under examination has heard in recent days of senior coppers who have not been doing their job properly.

It is also coincidental that only last week said world leader made public statements about the arrested man being a school chum of 30 years' standing.

It is a further coincidence that the arrests took place when the world leader had his first opportunity to be out of the country for a couple of days, allowing him to concentrate on photo opportunities while ensuring reports of his mate's arrest fade away before he can be asked about it.

There have been as yet no suggestions of a 'special relationship' between the police and the man in charge of running the country, as the idea is of course ridiculous.

A spokesman has yet to say: "The only special relationship the Prime Minister has is with people who make him look good in pictures, and with people who end up getting arrested."

Campaigners whose constant questioning uncovered the scandal will, if asked, deny suggestions they had any political motive for so doing although a bystander might wonder, firstly, whether we would know all this if the jackboot were on the other foot, and secondly if the government will wobble when a criminal court starts looking through its dustbins.

As news of the arrests broke, there were unconfirmed reports of ordinary journalists being seen smiling for the first time in a year.

But it might have been more of a smirk.

Don't tell 'em, Charlie!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Good news for some.

A FREELANCE friend told me last week about trying to sell a story to a national newspaper. "I rang them up," he said, "and it was like talking to someone who'd just been in a car accident."

On the one hand, journos will always complain newsdesks aren't treating their stories with the Watergate-shattering respect they deserve. And on the other he had a point. The combination of phone-hacking and corruption scandals, a public inquiry and three police investigations are having a serious effect on even those of us who are not under suspicion.

If you open a national newspaper today, you'll have to look hard to find a story that hasn't come from a press office, showbiz agent or what's known as a 'buy-up' - when someone comes to us for a full sit-down chat and a cheque.

Today The Scum splashed on a buy-up with the mum of a £45m lottery winner. The Daily Glimmer went with a story from the wires about a baby killed in an American tornado, the Wail with information from an FOI request, The Groaner's done Russia, The Tims did the opinion of a Falklands War vet and the Wellygraph led with a behind-the-scenes briefing from our beloved Chancellor Gideon.

They're are all perfectly reasonable stories, got in perfectly reasonable ways. On a Monday papers have less news in than the rest of the week because they were prepared on Sunday when there's very little going on, and without the Screws (RIP) setting the agenda there's less material for the dailies to mop up. But I've sat and read all of today's papers and I can't for the life of me see a story about crime, politics or health that hasn't been officially approved in some respect.

Critics will say this just goes to show that all such yarns were got via criminal means, and now the guilty parties are so scared of being caught they've cleaned up their act. But a more realistic person will wonder whether all newspapers would have had the budgets to pay a bung or hack a phone on every story, never mind the inclination. In my experience the vast majority of tales come from somebody telling someone else something for free, as a bit of gossip, sometimes with and sometimes without realising that information would be passed on to a journalist.

I've known celebrities who tell their friends things on the clear understanding it will end up in print, and I've known stories which came about because someone sat and gossipped to their hairdresser, who in turn repeated it to the next client who just happened to be the wife of a journo having her roots done. Coppers I've dealt with over the years generally tell you stuff for free, for exactly the same reasons that celebrities, politicians and showbiz PRs do - because it makes someone look good. A good journo takes such briefings with a pinch of salt, but listens to them all the same. Vanity works harder than money does.

The scrutiny the Press is under is fair enough. Criminals need to be investigated and held to account, whatever business they're in. But the timing of an inquiry being held before the criminal cases which sparked it, the investigations which are being dragged out over years, is leading to what can only be called a story crunch - just like an economic recession, only with a lack of public information.

Without a single criminal case being heard or conviction won, journalism has become a trade where the phone has stopped ringing. A copper on a case who thinks his superiors have screwed it up is not going to take the risk of a quiet word in a journo's ear. A soldier who has had to spend thousands of pounds buying his own kit isn't going to get his mum to ring a newspaper on his behalf. A teaching assistant, council clerk, librarian, prison officer, dustman or anyone else employed on a public wage is going to be terrified of losing their job if they flog a tip for £50 - and it's tips which are often the first step on the story ladder, which allow an investment of time and effort to build up to a really good scandal.

Do you think politicians have stopped lying? Do you believe prisoners are all being well-behaved, that celebrities have turned their backs on drugs and hookers, doctors have stopped making mistakes, or that the courts only jail the guilty and let the innocent walk free? Those stories are still happening. We just aren't hearing about it.

And if they're scared, then so are we. Hacks worry every phone call and email could be handed over to the police, that papers won't protect the sources we work hard to reassure, that so much as buying a pint for a CPS lawyer after court will see everyone involved collared by a police force under pressure to compensate for its previous mistakes. We err on the side of extreme caution rather than take a risk.

Which of course is good news for some. Particularly if you're in charge of a government overseeing controversial changes to the criminal justice and welfare systems, sacking thousands and cutting benefits. It's good news too if you are one of the top bods in the Met Police, and want to tell other people what is and is not in the public interest without letting them make up their own minds.

It's quite good if you're a publicist who can threaten cowed journalists, or a celebrity with a book or DVD to sell, and it's bloody brilliant if this time last year you were a Prime Minister facing difficult questions on how much you knew about the whole damn mess when you employed one of its central figures as your spin doctor.

And it's more marvellous still if you are a lawyer acting for one of the truly guilty individuals who not only corrupted others but became corrupt themselves, who twisted my trade and abused their position for their own gain. Because not only is there a bucketload of billable hours in this, when it finally comes to court your client will walk.

I do not want news that has been approved by a press officer, run past the police or checked against Hugh Grant's moral compass first. I want my news back - cleaned of criminality and paying off its debts but just as badly-behaved and mischievous as it ever was, kicking over the dustbins, cocking a snook and scribbling away frantically because it had a really, really good story to tell.

Maybe tomorrow?

Scrutiny stills the hand, even if it's not a guilty hand.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

A glass house can get chilly.

LET me give you a 'for instance'.

Imagine a tabloid newspaper had exposed a major bank after a number of its staff were accused of taking cash out of the safe and spending it in a casino.

Millions of pounds were made and lost at the roulette wheel, wasted on champagne and strippers, while small businesses were refused loans and mortgages were called in. Five or six bankers were named, the customers they screwed over spoke about their troubles, the police made a series of arrests and Dishface weighed in to order a public inquiry into the culture and ethics of the banking industry. The BBC and other news organisations pick the story up from the tabloid which broke it without checking, without questioning, and apply the boot rigorously.

Imagine that story sparked an outcry in the midst of the banker-hate which has been a feature of the economic crisis, a wave of revulsion so bad that thousands of people closed their accounts, companies took their cash elsewhere and the bank at the centre of the scandal went bust, along with the loss of hundreds of jobs from the chief exec all the way down to the front-desk staff, cleaners and caretakers.

Celebrities demand the bankers be held to account and complain they lost money and politicians join in because it looks like an easy win. Share prices tumble. Everyone in every bank everywhere is tainted by association. Mortgage advisers, clerks, business gurus and the like find it impossible to get work for month after month, as other banks worry and apply ever-more extreme caution to all their decisions. Court cases are launched, millions are paid out in compensation, lawyers take a share of the winnings, and the sacked bank employees spend a lot of time being disgusted at their own profession, depressed, and wondering how it all went so wrong.

And six months later it turns out the story was wrong.

The reviled people are still bankers; there was still an economic crisis which they'd played their part in, they had definitely partied with champagne and strippers while refusing other people's loans, but they had used their own money to do it rather than the customers'. They had certainly fractured a few laws, some people needed to be held to account and a clean-up was called for, but the entire profession was not due the demonisation it got.

Perhaps the bank would have gone bust anyway; but what is undeniable is that the original, false story was the pivot on which a whole scandal turned.

It turns out the story came from one or two anonymous sources who may have made a tidy sum out of it. The police may have known all along that the bankers weren't guilty of the crimes they had been accused of but said nothing, even when there was a run on the bank. The people who had suffered personal misfortune had their plight manipulated by everyone with a vested interest, and while money still went missing no-one knows who took it and no-one's been asking that question.

What do you think would happen to the tabloid newspaper responsible for this imaginary yarn?

Well, the snoresheets would be demanding a front-page apology. They would be decrying standards of journalism relying on a couple of anonymous sources, the police would be asked to explain themselves, the politicians would have to put a sock in it, the journalists who repeated the story without checking it themselves would get a rollocking and have to publish their own apologies and corrections, and the celebrities would quietly count their six-figure compensation deals while the ordinary people sucked into the scandal by being victims of horrid circumstance would, finally, be left alone to put their lives back together.

Oh, and the bankers who'd been wrongly sacked would sue everyone they could.

Tabloid journalists, generally speaking, don't sue. You rarely get more than the lawyer and it's easier just to have a quiet word in someone's ear and make sure that one of your friends, somewhere, publishes the story your enemy doesn't want to be known.

In the case of the phone-hacking scandal, that would best take the form of every journalist who dislikes hypocrisy making a formal complaint to the Press Complaints Commission citing the Code of Practice, Article 1: accuracy; 2: the right to reply; 4: harassment (I know of several reporters rung 15 times a day by so-called 'quality' hacks who won't take naff off for an answer) and 9: the reporting of crime.

And when we've done that, we'll fire up the Attorney General on the topic of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 and unfair and inaccurate reporting while a case is active and before it can be heard in front of a jury.

I'm sure the defence in all cases will be that livelihoods were destroyed in the public interest, but I am not sure how much interest is served in losing hundreds of innocent people their jobs because of a handful who broke the law in dealing with 800 people, especially while the police were sat on their fat backsides failing to investigate the crimes and leaking inaccurate information in order to make themselves look better than they are.

Journalists complaining about unfair reporting are always going to be scoffed at. But if tabloids must meet the highest possible standards, then that applies equally to the rest of our trade. Especially those who think they are above it.

And the sanctimonious little twerps who were expecting awards and backslaps for their grand expose can kiss my furry arse.

Best put the stones down now, ladies.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Good ol' Grub Street.

THERE are two stories dominating the news today - the Leveson inquiry into the behaviour of the Press, and the trial into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence 18 years ago.

The two are entirely unlinked except for the fact they both hinge on the tabloids. If it were not for the worst excesses of - so far - five employees at the Screws of the World there would be no phone-hacking scandal, no closure of that newspaper, and no inquiry into whether and how to clean up Grub Street.

And if it were not for the same tabloid Press there is every chance Stephen's family would not now be sitting in a court watching the trial of two of the five men who have long been thought to have have murdered him.

In both cases there are many other factors that brought us here - someone leaving the evidence to be found, promotion of people without a moral compass to roles that need one, police failures and forensic experts finding things they'd once overlooked.

And where one is an appalling example of people acting beyond their powers for stories that weren't worth it, and traducing the reputation of the profession I love, the other is something to be proud of.

The Daily Wail has its critics, and rightly so. But it gives us Liz Jones and pictures of kittens dressed up as David Bowie, so it's all right in my book. And on Valentine's Day 1997, four years after Stephen's death as the police inquiry foundered, as it was announced the men thought to be responsible would not be tried and as the whole country despaired along with Stephen's parents, it did this:

It was brilliant journalism, because it hit every single target the tabloid press has to. It caught, perfectly, the prevailing mood of the nation. It summed up a complicated story in one word. It sold in its millions. And there was no chance they would ever be sued for it, because to do so would have led to those men probably being found culpable of murder in a civil court.

It was a brilliant flourish, and the effect was to reignite a scandal which was fading. It led to a public inquiry and a continued police investigation which is what has led us back to court this week after a re-examination of the forensic evidence.

That's why it was brilliant. Had The Groaner done it, around 200,000-odd city-based readers would have thought 'you can't say that!', so they'd never have had the guts. The same goes for the rest of the snoresheets, because they don't have the same weight as a paper which sells. Any of the tabloids could have made that stand, but only one did.

In the next few weeks and months those same tabloids - many of whose reporters had their phones hacked by Glenn Mulcaire, but none of whom have yet been found to have employed his services or his tactics - are defending themselves in front of Lord Leveson. Everyone is against us, and lots of things which are supposition are being presented as fact.

No-one speaks in praise of us, but then no-one ever does. It doesn't matter much, because a good tabloid doesn't need friends.

It has readers instead.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Poor foolish humans.

Things that have gone wrong with the world today:

1. Hugh Grant's idea of "supportive" fatherhood is a half-hour with the baby followed by a four-day golf tournament he wasn't even in after the first three rounds.

"Well, this is going to be a handicap."

2. Someone's decided to ask the Greeks if they feel like doing any work after lunch.

3. We have 72m mobile phone handsets in a nation of 60m people; if you knock out those who don't have one, like babies, the frail and the insane, around 22m of us are having affairs.

Still, on the other hand, this means:

1. Hugh Grant may launch the kind of shagging spree which will make the last days of Rome seem tame.

2. These drachma receipt books will come in handy again.

3. Two thirds of us are probably busy hacking the text messages, voicemail and emails of our other halves using the 'how to' explanations so kindly produced by snoresheet newspapers in the past year, and therefore two-thirds of juries in the upcoming phone-hacking trials will be guilty of the same offence they will be trying a handful of journalists for.

All of which makes great copy for tabloid hacks like me, and also goes to show that the only thing you can ever rely on humans for is to screw things up.

"Apparently Andy Coulson hacked my condoms, which is a bally outrage. My golf game's really suffered."

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

License to grill.

IT IS to be expected that in a year which has involved Ryan Giggs, superinjunctions and a phone-hacking scandal some politician would get up on his hindlegs and blame everything on an unfettered Press.

Journalists always get the blame when they catch someone out, not least by the person who was caught. Ho-hum and fiddle-de-dee.

Already this year there's been calls for privacy laws, largely made by people who want publicity when they feel like it and secrecy when they don't. And today Shadow Culture Secretary Ivan Lewis - himself exposed by tabloids for pestering a young female aide with inappropriate texts - will tell the Labour Party Conference he wants to see licensing for journalists, with a system of "being struck off" if they're guilty of gross misconduct so they'll never work again.

Except - who's in control? Whether it's a privacy law or licensing, someone has to administer it. Someone who can draw a line in the sand which every single person in the country would agree with.

Politicians? Ooh, no thanks. We'd never know about MPs' expenses if we did that. I haven't forgotten, although they have, how many MPs excoriated the Daily Wellygraph for paying £75,000 for stolen data, criticised the 'intrusion' and urged the then-Speaker of the House of Commons to pursue court action and injunctions to plug the leak. We also wouldn't know about a dodgy dossier which took our country to war in Iraq on a lie, a Home Secretary's attempts to prosecute an Opposition MP for publicising a damaging leak about her own department, Jeffrey Archer's perjury and a million and one other stories. If a politician decided who could write the news we'd end up with a Government press release to read over our cornflakes every morning.

Judges? They'd stick to the law, surely, and be impartial. Except in the case of celebrities, privacy, superinjunctions, and stories about other judges. Lawyers are over-cautious to the nth degree and tend to err on the side of 'never publish something that someone somewhere might not like and might, with a squint and a following wind and not looking at the evidence be a little bit ripe for an old man who doesn't watch the X Factor to understand'. If a judge censored our news today's editions would be tied up in legal fannying-about until some point after Christmas and would look something like this:

Or how about the media itself? People like me with a vested interest in sticking our noses in everywhere, willy-nilly. No, probably not a good idea for us to be in sole charge either. The police could enforce censorship I suppose, but there's a few nations trying that already and I don't much fancy newspapers like they have in Saudi Arabia.

Perhaps we could ask the public? Very democratic. Except we don't want Mrs Miggins at no74 to have a say, she's a dreadful racist. And that bloke across the way, the one with the loud music and all the girlfriends, he can't be relied on. No it will have to be the bits of the public that are well-behaved, polite, dress the right way, shop in the right places, think the same way as... oh. Not so many of them, are there? And let's not forget the public voted for Hitler, the public buy Coldplay records. They cannot always be trusted.

And how do we define gross misconduct? Having to make a payment, or an apology, or being found to break the Code of Conduct? I know of dozens of stories where newspapers have paid to settle-out-of-court because it's cheaper than fighting it and budgets are tight. I've had to write apologies to someone I know, but just cannot prove, to be guilty and most hacks have fallen foul of the code at some point by genuine mistake. Some of the reporter's tricks I think are right or wrong others disagree with; one hack's gross misconduct is another's prize-winning scoop. And heaven forfend we have to start licensing every blogger who calls themselves a journalist.

When  it comes to controlling the Press there are problems with every option, flaws so bad it makes you raise your eyebrows and whistle through your teeth once you think it through. What Mr Lewis and everyone else who bangs on about Press regulation has forgotten is that we already have it.

The courts and politicians already influence what we can report. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, Contempt of Court Act 1981, defamation laws, and a few words about privacy in the European Convention on Human Rights among other statutes constrict and confine the Press pretty well. The rules get pushed and tested and sometimes broken or changed; those that overstep the mark, quite rightly, get hauled before the beak to explain why and can be fined or jailed if they don't have a good reason.

The public already have a say. Up to 20million people read a tabloid newspaper every day, and millions more read our websites. If they don't like what we do they vote with their feet and their wallets, and we have to try harder. There are many reasons why the Screws of the World closed down but by far the most important is that it had lost the trust of its readers.

Last but not least there's self-regulation. The Press Complaints Commission could do with a few more teeth but editors take turns to sit on it and judge each other. There's not much room for favouritism. By far the strongest part of the system is that Fleet Street is a meritocracy - if you fail too many times you're out on your ear. If you get a reputation for costing your newspaper thousands in libel payouts you won't get another job easily. If you mire your newspaper in scandal The Editor will not look on you kindly, unless you're called Johann Hari and we've yet to see if his career survives long-term.

I do not want any one of those people to have a say in what I am able to report on or read. I want ALL of them to have a say.

It is far better to have a long, never-ending argument between everyone - a constant tug-of-war keeping the Press, politics and lawyers in check as the public throw their weight behind one or the other, forcing them all to compromise and find a way to muddle along.

It's not a perfect system, doesn't always work as it should, but what we've got right now is the best anyone's managed to come up with. Like democracy, or the Royal Family - there's plenty of flaws and fruitloops but in the end it usually evens out.

No-one's needed a licence to be a journalist in the 300 years since the first paper was printed in Fleet Street. You just have to be nosy and a little bit mad, the kind of person no-one else wants in their club. That's why politicians, judges and the public don't like us, and it's the reason why our Press with all its defects is still free.

Licences for journalists? 
What next, an exam to be Prime Minister?

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

And they wonder why people don't vote.

AS a general rule of thumb, I think we can all agree that promises made should be kept.

Marriage vows, appointments with the gas man, parcel deliveries, drinks with your mates - once you say "yes, I'll do that" I reckon you're morally bound to keep your word. Illness, bereavement and the ever-changing demands of a news editor are the only acceptable excuses for bailing, in my book.

So I'd like to draw your attention to the Conservative Party manifesto 2010, a very expensive and pretty-looking brochure which, like a tour operator or John Lewis recipe card appears to promise a simple and cheap way of achieving heaven on earth - only without the same recourse to the Advertising Standards Authority if it's not up to scratch.

I quote: "We will rebuild confidence in the criminal justice system so that people know it is on the side of victims and working for law-abiding people, not criminals... Prisoners will only be able to leave jail after their minimum sentence is served by having earned their release, not simply by right."

Then I'd like to point out the Crown Prosecution Service sentencing guidelines for fraud which is "fraudulent from the outset, professionally planned and either fraud carried out over a significant period of time or multiple frauds", which for amounts of between £20,000 and £100,000 should lead to jail time of between 18 months and three years; lower amounts carry at least one year's prison time.

And I'd like to know why, exactly, Eric Illeseley, Elliot Morley, David Chaytor, Jim Devine, Lord Taylor of Warwick and Lord Hanningfield were all released after serving just one quarter of their sentences for defrauding the British taxpayer to the total tune of £99,300.

I'd also like to know why the rest of the criminals in their fraudulent conspiracy - which the last time I looked included former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith who is now paid by the BBC to talk about porn, ex-Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws who snaffled £40k for his boyfriend and is soon returning to Government, Dishface's one-time adviser Andrew McKay and Baroness Uddin who swindled £125,349 out of us - have not been hauled in front of the beak.

When and if anyone is capable of answering those questions satisfactorily, I would then like someone to tell me how this quote from the Tory manifesto - "we will change the law so that anyone acting reasonably to stop a crime or apprehend a criminal is not arrested or prosecuted" - applies to the quite annoying but entirely-correct journalists who exposed a failed Met Police investigation into phone-hacking and are being harassed to identify on their sources as a result.

Manifesto promises which don't hold water are nothing new. The release of most first-time offenders after serving only half their sentence is commonplace and journalists always get the blame when they prove someone else has made a mistake.

Those are the facts of life, and I don't mind them too much.

But the stench coming out of Westminster at the moment stinks of corruption and self-interest at the highest levels, a political elite which think the electorate are too stupid to notice, and an absolute lack of the basic standards of socially-acceptable human behaviour.

Thousands of rules for us, and not a single one for them. Boo-hoo.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Watch the mighty fall.

MORE resignations, more arrests. More unanswered questions about who knew what about whom and how.

The hacking scandal - which a year ago was just a snoresheet fretting over Sienna Miller - is now a summer storm drenching everybody in public life with a goodly dose of ordure.

There'll be more to come, inevitably. And there is one head with a pole ready and waiting for it, and whose removal I predict will be the only way this story will ever end.

As the controversy has grown those responsible have slithered, wriggled, flipped and flopped as the hunters closed in, retrenching and firewalling, denying and stalling until eventually they were trapped. And there is just one big fish yet to be caught in the nets: the Prime Minister.

It was Dishface* who sparked this scandal. He employed a man loathed by his opponents as well as his own side in the belief he would be useful. Had Andy Coulson got a job with absolutely anyone else - the Labour Party, or a City bank - phone-hacking would have faded away like a lover's regrets. It would have been recalled now and again, but cheerily swept under the carpet as people carried on with their everyday lives.

Although Coulson was tainted, Dishface gave him a job and in so doing painted a big red target in the middle of his own forehead. As a direct result of that decision journalists started going back over the story, reworking their contacts, re-asking the questions. I do not understand Dishface's reasoning, because as a former PR man himself he must have known that scandal is contagious. But it reeks of arrogance, of an overbearing sense of superiority which has been unpleasantly manifest in all of the drama's culprits.

The arrogance of bad journalists who thought they could get away with it. The arrogance of a few police officers who thought there would never be a price to pay for a free lunch. The arrogance of politicians think they can climb into bed with whoever they please, of a disgraced editor who thought he could become a puppetmaster. The arrogance of a media mogul who one day says there were "only minor mistakes" and the next expects us to believe his apology to Milly Dowler's grieving family was heartfelt.

The arrogance of closing a 168-year-old newspaper to save a TV deal 10 times its value, sacking its staff and the same day heading out for dinner with a big smile on your face, knowing those will be the pictures in the next day's papers.

The arrogance of those who reached the top of the tree and thought no-one could ever drag them down.

Well, trees can be felled. The storm that's whipping about us now won't go away when Parliament has recess, more are arrested, or charges brought. The questions won't stop.

My first chief reporter told me the most important thing any journalist can ask is "why?" Why did Dishface employ Coulson in the first place? Why didn't he sack him? Why didn't the first police inquiry go into all this? Why did the Met Police Commissioner resign for apparently doing nothing wrong? Why are some of these people being protected? Why did any of this happen in the first place?

All it needs is a single email: a note between Coulson and Dishface, something which shows the PM knew. Then he's gone, the Coalition will crumble, and the Government will fall.

And if that happens, a former footballer's almost-autistic level of note-keeping will have brought down the most powerful people in the land. Glenn Mulcaire was known as 'Trigger' before he became a private detective and started to hack phones - and never has a nickname been more apt.

Those notes are a bullet that has Dishface's name written on it. Maybe he'll scrape through, maybe he's nothing to hide, but I'll bet my brush the PM will be gone by Christmas.

* Dishface, not cos of his forehead, but cos if you twiddle his left ear you can pick up SkySports.

"Ed Miliband? Are you joking?"

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Letters to Lillys.

THAT was the week that brought down the most powerful woman in Fleet Street and had Rupert Murdoch crawling on his hands and knees to apologise to Milly Dowler's family.

A few people were arrested, some policemen looked pretty bad and lots of other stories continued to not get quite as much attention as the phone-hacking scandal.

This post on the imagined voicemails being exchanged between Rebekah Brooks, Rupert Murdoch, Dishface et al was the most popular of the week.

Jerry said: "You need to be writing comedy." Nicola added: "Oh another classic post from Foxy.... very very funny."

Jed said:
"That was bloody brilliant. Wish my mum would leave me voicemails about hats and stuff. That's the only thing I envy about Rebekah Brooks (as portrayed in that post) that I envy. She can keep the rest of the stuff going on in her life. I'm good."
The week's next post on Kate Middleton's appearance - I still can't call her Duchess of Cambridge, it sounds weird - during the Royal visit stateside drew more criticism.

The Itch said: "Possibly. But I'm not sure comparing her to the dead mother of her new husband is the way to break it to her." Lucy added: "Ffs Foxy - so what?!? Jeez." Joanne chipped in: "Protruding bones just ain't healthy or attractive." And Lisa wrote: "Oh yay! Another 'Ben & Jerry' blog."

Lucinda said: 
"Stress and excitement plus nervous anticipation makes weight fall off me, unintentionally. I guess that's what is happening to Kate, she has been thrown into the A list spotlight and appears to be having a great time!"
Howard added:
"I think you've picked the wrong target. You're doing a great job but stop banging on about the 'Duchess' and her weight - she's doing her best in a very difficult job. Slag her off at your peril! As my Dad used to say, 'If you can't say anything nice about someone, keep your mouth shut'."
Ed: Jeez, then where would newspapers be? In all seriousness I wasn't picking on her size so much - she's a naturally skinny girl, fair enough - as the fact that she's now plainly unwell. Whatever the cause, metabolic or psychological, the girl needs to have some of the pressure taken off her and tuck into a nice healthy pasty. Of course such comment adds to the pressure - but the alternative is keeping your mouth shut about something that doesn't seem right. Not what I do.

As the phone-hacking scandal continued this post pointed out that responsibility is being dodged while the bandwagon rumbles ever on.

Robbie said: "Spot on." Kev said: "Eloquently put, as ever." Caroline added: "Smashing stuff, foxy." But Colin pointed out: "Vengeful fantasy? Not buying that."

Then a judge said divorce was easier than getting a driving licence and this post explained why it perhaps marriage ought to involve sitting some exams first.

A rather cynical Richard said: "No-one has ever convinced me that marriage is anything better than a moment of smugness, followed by a lifetime of regret." Moungder said: "I couldn't agree more - and I'm just about to his 15 years of marriage next month!" Ruth added: "I've ALWAYS thought exactly the same thing. Having done both, it always hacks me off when people say how divorce is so easy when the sanctimonious feckers have never done it."

Bryan disagreed:
"My 1st wife left on a Sunday, came back Tuesday to say it was 'too hard to talk about' and did the unreasonable behaviour option, she never told me why, would never discuss it. Moved in with her boyfriend and 16yrs later I've still not had any explanation as to what built up to it. So, for her, it was easy, too damn easy. Like telling some kid in a schoolyard that you are no longer 'going out'. So from my experience IT IS EASY, too easy. All she had to do was sign a letter full of lies."
Ed: QED - If getting the marriage licence was harder work, perhaps that wouldn't have happened.

At the end of the week lots of things happened, but one of them was the blog hit its three-month birthday and 300,344 readers, all on the same day.

Lime said: "It's all my doing, of course. Without me, it would only have had 300,343 different visitors. You're welcome." Jones said: "Three months? Is that all?! You seem to have been around forever!"

Ed: No, I just look that way.

Looks like the weekend will be a bit of a washout - enjoy it best you can, anyway.

Foxy out.

Monday, 11 July 2011

You have one new voicemail.

"Hi, Beks, Andy here. Can you give us a bell when you've got a mo? Cheers."

You have one new voicemail.

"Rebekah, hi, it's Dave. Think we've got a spot of bother. Could we have a chat? This one can't wait til Sunday lunch. Sam says love to Charlie."

You have one new voicemail.

"It's mum. Do you know you're on the news? You need a haircut. I'm posting you a nice hat I found."

You have one new voicemail.

"Beks, Andy here. I know you're busy but things are going a bit tits-up here. Call me mate, yeah?"

You have one new voicemail.

"This is a message for Rebekah. Mr Murdoch would like a word. Can you call him on his personal line? Thank you."

You have one new voicemail.

"Rupert! Hi, Rebekah. Looks like we're playing telephone tennis. Everything here completely under control, we're going to throw Coulson under the bus and sack 500 people. That should get the Press off our backs. Journalists, eh? Ha ha! Byeeeee."

You have one new voicemail.

"It's mum. You're on the news again, can't you stop wearing black? Makes you look old. I've got to go to the hairdressers' but I wondered if you'd got the hat yet. Lots of love."

You have one new voicemail.

"Hello Rebekah, this is Martin. It was a pleasure to meet you earlier and I hope my advice was of some use to you. Like I said, if you want to go ahead my fees are £600 an hour but I am fairly sure that we can settle these matters with your employers out of court. If they do terminate employment we can make a strong unfair dismissal suit especially as you've not been convicted of anything. It's called the Sharon Shoesmith defence. Speak soon."

You have one new voicemail.

"One has to leave a message? Now? Oh. Hellehhh? ONE WOULD LIKE TO TALK TO REBEKAH. One understands she has my number. Which button now? Ehhh."

You have one new voicemail.

"It's Andy. This is getting serious. I've just had the Old Bill round. What the fuck is this about emails being handed over? I thought they'd been lost in Delhi! Christ Rebekah, this is getting hairy. CALL ME."

You have one new voicemail.

"Philip here. Just wanted to say don't let the buggers get yer down, yer still a very fine filly in my book even though Her Maj says I shouldn't tell people I've got a book. There's a whole section on redheads, but I've had to bump Fergie down the "mad and dirty" list this week. You're at the top! Heh, heh. Now, any time you fancy a gin and tonic, or an old codger to whip those Titian tresses at, yer know where I am. Oh, and er, anything you've got off Fergie's phones... well, I'm sure we can come to an arrangement! Tally ho."

You have one new voicemail.

"It's Rupert. I'm coming over, angelface. Dinner? We'll make a show of it."

You have one new voicemail.

"Look, we've been mates for years. I thought you had my back. I thought this had gone away. I've resigned twice, for fuck's sake! I can't believe you've dumped me. Call me, let's sort it out!"

You have one new voicemail.

"It's Rupert. Great to see you, don't forget you're my number one girl! This will all blow over. If any of those 500 journalists we sacked start mouthing off we'll refuse to pay them redundancy. And Dave's an idiot, I'll handle him. Keep your pretty chin up!"

You have one new voicemail.

"Dave, it's Barack. What the hell's going on over there? Your dinner party pals ringing up private tecs to pull mobile phone records of people crushed and burned to death in the Twin Towers? Seriously? That's not what the special relationship's all about. I am so pissed at you. Oh, and thanks for the tip about buying NewsInt stock - that was the retirement fund, Michelle's furious! She says you're not invited to The Hamptons this year. Sort your shit out."

You have one new voicemail.

"Hi! It's Dave! Great to hear from you! Listen, I am as SHOCKED and APPALLED as you are. I hardly know what to think. Andy told me he was a good guy! Obviously we're going to have to stamp all over this story. I've ordered some inquiries which will take months but make me look good. We're going to find a way to blame the previous administration, that's worked with everything else up til now. Anyway, great chatting and really hope to see you soon! Sam says love to Michelle! We ought to chat about Afghanistan too, but, you know, when you're not so busy. Byeeeee!"

You have one new voicemail.

"Rupert, it's Joe Ratzinger. What the fuck? Call me."

You have one new voicemail.

"Well, long time no talk! It's Tony. How are you doing? Dreadful times, of course. I just wanted to let you know you've my full support, and Cherie's too of course. She says do you need a lawyer? Ha ha, only joking. Well, a bit. Look, it's clear. Mistakes. Have been. Made. Thefactremains. You. Were the. PEOPLE'S. Editor. And therefore not responsible for whatever may have happened at the News of the World! Ha ha, Alistair told me to say that. He thought it was funny. Did you like it? Ought to look like I'm doing something in the Middle East this week, but tea soon, yeah? Ciao."

You have one new voicemail.

"This is Andy's lawyer. We'd like to take a statement from you. Please ring us back."

You have one new voicemail.

"Hi Rebekah. You're going to need to come down the Yard and answer some questions. Can we arrange some time this week? Obviously you'll need a lawyer. Oh, and by the way, don't worry too much - I paid it all into my wife's account."

You have one new voicemail.

"It's mum. You never ring me. I saw you on the news having dinner with someone. Is he your new boyfriend? He looks a bit old for you. Seeing as you obviously don't like the hat I've posted you something I found in Oxfam the other day. I don't know if it's a cape or a burqa, but it's got a big hood, looks very chic I thought. Do you know what you're doing for Christmas yet? Love mum."

You have one new voicemail.

"Beks, it's Dave. Look, sorry about this but I don't think we can do Sunday lunch. Sam's got one of her migraines coming on and Steve keeps talking about you being 'toxic'. I think he's singing a Britney Spears song but it doesn't sound good. Let's put it in the diary for another time, yeah? Maybe, I don't know, after the Olympics. I'm kind of busy til then. Er. Bye."

You have one new voicemail.

"Zis vill serve you reich! I mean right! You naughty, naughty girly. I sink you need ze spanking, yes? I sink all zat hair needs checking for ze lice. Dirty birdy. You do not deserve ze job! You vill come to vork for Uncle Max in his dungeon! Zere are lovely stripy uniforms and all is gut. Sehr gut. Ve vill correct you! You need ze punishment! Whoops, wife's home, bye..."

You have one new voicemail.

"Rupert, it's Alan. Magna cadunt, inflata crepant, tumefacta premuntur. Or pride comes before a fall, if you're Aussie. I'd just like to point out that we brought down the most popular English-language paper in the world, despite being one of the least popular. But don't worry, there's always bar work."

You have one new voicemail.

"Hey, gorgeous, Hugh here. I wish you'd been on Question Time with me. You're much prettier than that Harriet sort! Look, why don't we have a little dinner, talk about things, you can wear a nurse's uniform, maybe bring along a friend. Be fun. Talk soon. PS love you in that skirt."

You have one new voicemail.

"I was only the deputy editor, you cow."

You have one new voicemail.

"I am the Metatron, the voice of God. Yes, I know I sound like Alan Rickman, very funny. This is to let you know your service has been disconnected. It will take about six months. Not because it needs to, but because the Almighty enjoys dragging the pain out for as long as possible. In the meantime a variety of people will be charged, probably with corruption and perjury. Oh, and the Almighty can't come to this year's Christmas party, as She's going to be painting her nails. I would say 'see you around', but I don't think you'll be coming up here..."

You have one new voicemail.

"Eesh, I invented these things and I still can't get to grips with them... this is Beelzebub. I'll catch you later."

You have no more voicemails.

(With apologies to any semblance of reality.)

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Letters to Lillys.

WELL, where the hell to start?

What a week in news it's been. Let's take it chronologically. Our mailbag begins with a totally gratuitous picture of male totty of the kind that really ought to be in newspapers more often.

Whoopsy, done it again. (This may be the moment to remind you all of the international rules of bagsy, and that I've already called it.)

Lucy said: "That's what I'm talking about..." Lesley added: "Oh my *swoons*" and Silver said: "Rawr!" Colin wisely decided to capitalise by saying: "I bet he smells of spitfire fuel and punching. I'm going to email that picture to the missus an hour before I go home."

Brian said:
"I don't see why a chap would be upset by your blog post. Blokes know that women want ...a man that smells like a James Hetfield chord progression, while giving them a fantastic, never ending seeing too, having just stomped the snot out of an aggressor, before making breakfast while discussing Camus' experience prior to writing The Rebel. Shortly before fixing any broken machinery in the house and then sorting out another vigorous seeing to. It is, after all, 2011, and I'd like to think that with that model of behaviour I was somehow getting something right."
Ed: Sorry, still thinking about the soldier. Spitfire fuel, you say? Mmm.

Then journalism had an embolism and we found out the News of the World's freelance private investigator Glenn Mulcaire had hacked into, and deleted messages from, missing schoolgirl Missy Dowler's voicemail. This defence of a reporter's rights - and responsibilities - in using the dark arts was fiercely debated.

Andrew said: "It's very complex maybe to complex for me. I can see it both ways, I want it to be done in some circumstances but not in others so who watches the watchers???" Liz said: "Just for once I don't agree with Foxy's blog." Nosk added: "Don't really have a problem with hacks and techniques, do have a problem with editors with no judgement or moral compass." Louise said: "I think the public concern is in trusting journos to make moral judgements on their behalf." And John added: "A news sub here. You're doing a good job; doing the right thing. I feel certain that many people feel this way."

But Ian said: "Journalists are not a state-sponsored federal agency, you bloody reporters are not above the law. Would you break into their house to get their answering machine?" Lucy said: "Your moral compass is very skewed, I would not hack the phone, I would try to get the evidence another way, a legal way." Emma added: "I usually agree with you...this time I'm afraid I don't...well you can't get on all the time!" And Louise pointed out: "No other profession is allowed to make moral judgements outside of law."

John said:
"Your stance on the NOTW story has massively disappointed me and in many ways angered me... Tobacco companies kill people and include a non-essential addictive ingredient. I would therefore never work for a tobacco company. If they tried to clean up their act I still could not work for a company that is effectively a mass murderer in the same way I could never join a newer, cuddlier version of the Nazi party. Some things are beyond contempt... The tabloids are so powerful that politicians were afraid to stop the illegal practices because of the threat of retribution - against them, their wives, their kids, or anyone close... Your one-eyed, self-serving, well-written articulate defence of people working in this field lessen you."
Sharon differed:
"What is really sad about all this is how it's very fast become an excuse for politicians (many of them still wearing red-faces from their last press/PR disaster) to spout hysterical outrage and call for the tabloid press to burned at the stake. A fuck up is a fuck up and, yes, it's a bad one. But the gutter press has its place - and it's down in the gutters looking for the things people have tried to flush away."
Ed: As the story moves more things will come to light which will, I'm sure, help us all to form views which at the moment can only be reactive. But I would say that, no matter how appalling the actions of a few may prove to be, they've not yet been linked to any deaths.

A few noticed an important date passed this week, marking the sixth anniversary of the 7/7 bomb attacks on London.

Tallulah said: "This is why I follow you. Don't always agree with you but every now & then you produce a GEM! Thnks."

Nerina said: "Damn, you've made me cry again." Josh added: "Anything with the tags 'fuck you, terror' is worth a read. Amazing article." Grumpy Old Woman said: "Neither is it cool to cry while at work but anyone I show your piece to will do the same if they've an ounce of that spirit."

Kyle had a bone to pick:
"Not even a mention of inaccuracies in the official report, or the families and victims' pleas for an independent inquest."
Ed: Can't please everyone, but I was gratified to see as many people read the 7/7 post as they did the one on the phone-hacking scandal. The world's not always shit.

And so we come to Saturday July 9, 2011, and today a 168-year-old newspaper is publishing its last-ever edition.

I think we can all agree that its final chapter has been one which tarnishes Fleet Street and its reputation. Whatever your opinion of the News of the World, the tabloids or Press in general, it was the English-speaking world's most successful newspaper and was read by millions who had a healthy human appetite for the stories it produced.

Had it not been so successful at entertaining us it could not have afforded the resources to throw into investigations and campaigns, from John Profumo in the 1960s to the Pakistan cricket scandal this summer, all of which have in some way been undeniably for the public good.

Maybe it could never have recovered; and then again, perhaps its owners should have tried.

Legendary newspaper editor Harold Evans used to tell his staff: "Don’t do anything to get a story you would be ashamed to tell your readers about afterwards."

In the midst of all the argument about who and how to regulate the Press, that rule seems to me to be the best we could possibly follow.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Foxy out.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Making phone-hackers look good.

HOW to lose a public relations battle in one easy step:

1. Use as your champions Sienna Miller (courted the Press, slept with someone else's husband, sues the Press), Andy Gray (ex-Sky Sports misogynist and serial cheat), Jude Law (swinger), Wayne Rooney (where to start?) and Mark Oaten (MP who blamed his baldness for the extra-marital affair he had with a rent boy he paid to pee on him).

Honestly. It's no wonder they were too stupid to change their PIN codes.

"Anyone there?"

Friday, 13 May 2011

A Laws unto themselves.

POLITICIANS are a wonderful bunch. For a mere £43million in salaries we are provided with endless scandals, ineptitude, and screw-ups. It's about the same annual cost as the Royal Family, with the added bonus there are 648 members of this dysfunctional bunch of humanity and no reasons to feel sorry for them.

If their £65,738 salaries were the only price of all this entertainment, I'd be happy to pay. But on top of that comes £93million they claim in 'expenses'.

Most goes towards paying staff, who are often relatives. Huge chunks go on constituency offices, generally rented from their party's local branch and so the taxpayer's cash goes into political coffers. Then there's the second homes they all get, allowing these highly-paid windbags to speculate on the property market while we pay for their mortgages, home repairs, furniture, and even food.

We all know the inglorious facts of the 2009 expenses scandal, in which leaked documents revealed how we paid for Prime Minister Dishface's wisteria to be trimmed, for former minister Elliot Morley's phantom mortgage, for Margaret Moran's £22,000 of repairs to her partner's home 100 miles from her constituency; for moats to be cleaned, tennis courts to be repaired, duckhouses to be installed.

MPs of every party and creed had their snouts in the trough, and when finally exposed mid-grunt by the Press they squealed in outrage at the intrusion while the rest of the nation looked on in disgust.

(Since then the committee of MPs investigating the scandal has decided it would far rather look into phone-hacking by the Press. How odd).

There were 26 resignations or well-timed retirements, and five convictions on fraud charges.

Yesterday one of the resignees, former Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws - who lied to the authorities, claimed more rent than his tenancy agreement was for, claimed rent higher than the market rate, rented from his lover, gave that lover £99,000 to buy the house in the first place, and wrongly claimed for building work, telephone calls and the wrong property, all to the tune of £56,592 - said sorry and as punishment was banned from Parliament for seven days.

They banned him from a subsidised bar, a river terrace, his mates and an historic palace for a week. Aside from putting a dent in his social life, what was the damn point?

Had you or I diddled £56,592 out of the public purse by claiming over the odds for housing benefit and paying it to a lover we'd be up before the beak before you could say "oink". There'd be no "sorry about that", no "shall I pay it back and we'll just forget about it?", and no prospect of a judge saying "tell you what, take a week off work and we'll call it quits".

Mr Laws apologised to Parliament and that was that. He hasn't apologised to us - we are not as important as politicians, after all. He said he'd had a terrible year, his motivation was privacy rather than financial gain because he didn't want to admit his landlord was his boyfriend, and that besides he could have claimed a lot more and didn't, so actually we should be grateful to him.

As a result the ever-entertaining Cleggy moralised: "The expenses scandals in the past were about individuals who were fleecing the system for financial benefit and I don't believe that was ever David's motive."

OK. Tell me, why else would anyone fleece an expenses system?

I don't care if Mr Laws is gay, straight or wobbly. If he felt like staying in the closet that's up to him but the best way of doing that was a) not to live with his boyfriend, b) not commit fraud for the benefit of his boyfriend, and c) not steal from the public purse, the use of which is often inclined to bring public scrutiny.

His homosexuality has been offered up like a speccy kid waving his glasses and saying "don't hit me!", making it appear unreasonable to criticise him. Had he offered such a defence in court a judge would have laughed in his face, and rightly so. Sexuality is not an excuse for criminality.

When there's too much talk about their expenses MPs are inclined to be snide about journalists and our ability to claim for all sorts of things. But we are like every other business in Britain - to make a claim I have to prove I spent the money in the course of my work. I have to produce a computerised receipt and a story from every dinner or drinks. It gets scrutinised by a scary man with a red pen who can demand I explain myself and if I've done anything wrong I can be sacked. The laptop and the phone don't belong to me and I certainly don't get my bloody furniture paid for.

MPs don't have to produce receipts. They don't have to prove they worked hard in return for their expenses. No-one is able to question or sack them except other MPs. And they get to keep the houses.

I'm quite keen on the idea of a dormitory for MPs. It would be a lot cheaper and they're bound to get up to even more shenanigans with which to entertain us.

Anyway in a week's time Mr Laws can skip back into work where his future's looking rosy. Dishface said the fiddling fraudster "is a very talented figure" who "has a lot to offer public life and I hope stays in public life". Vince Cable said: "I'm sure we'll see him back"; Michael Gove hoped "that we will all be able once more to make use of his talents before too long".

They want him back for his creative accountancy skills and because he is "the best brain we have", according to Cleggy; and also because he was replaced by talking squirrel Danny Alexander, a man so dumb yet on-message he gives every impression of being a humanoid Speak-and-Spell.

Yet seeing as Mr Laws was stupid enough to be caught with all ten of his fingers as well as his winky in the till, I quake for the intelligence of the other 647 - all of whom seem to think we're stupid.

This man is not behind bars.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Bin Laden's not dead, he's just resting.

SO the Americans found Osama Bin Laden by way of rendition, torture, and satellite spying, and they have celebrated his death with glee.

But if a reporter had tracked him down by posing as a fake sheikh or hacking his voicemails, would there be the same universal acclaim? No. We'd be criticising the methods used, which however morally dubious are hardly on the same scale as Guantanamo Bay.

He also wouldn't be dead, that's for sure. Maybe that psyched-up, pumped-up Navy Seal had no choice except to shoot, but it was not the brightest move. Alive, Bin Laden could have been many things - a rallying point for his followers, a bogeyman for the West, a legal headache (Do you put him on trial in New York? How do you select an unbiased jury? Execution or life imprisonment?) but dead he can only ever become a martyr for the thoughtless followers of his twisted cause.

Alive, mired in a long judicial process and with pictures released Saddam-style of his stay in jail, there was a chance Bin Laden would have been shorn of the charisma of a man on the run.

Instead he will now be a hero to some and the scenes of jubilation which greeted the news of his death carry a whiff of repugnance. People were shot, including an unarmed woman who married him in her teens, to get to Bin Laden. Was it worth it?

Not to say the mastermind of Al Qaeda was anything but a bad man, who deserved to endure the hell of airport security checks for the rest of his life. But it's like killing a cockroach - you stamp on them, and they just shed their eggs to make a million more.

Our leaders secretly hurt and kill, execute foreign heads of state, topple governments and all for oil, influence or some other pointless short-term cause. They spy on us in a million ways, and if you so much as say the word 'Obama' in a mobile phone call the spooks at GCHQ in Cheltenham will snatch your call out of the air and listen to it later. This post will be seen by someone there, simply for the number of keywords which it includes (I'll add 'semtex' just to shake them up). Some of this sneaking about has foiled terror attacks and saved lives, and some just led to people making phone calls to their mates saying "Do you know what happens if you say 'Obama'..."

Is that going to stop now Bin Laden's dead? Will it end when all his followers surrender? When do we get back the liberties we gave up to find and stop this bad man and others like him?

Long-term the only way freedom ever prevails over totalitarianism is that it is better. Force and might win wars but it's democracy, rights, and decency which win the peace. 'We' have to be better than 'Them', whatever the cost. That means we put criminals on trial, not send Navy Seals in to slot them and their teenaged wives. It means we welcome other faiths, not burn their holy books or ban clothing we disapprove of. Tolerance of others is the price we pay in return for being tolerated ourselves.

If you give people freedom, they never let go of it. But if you behave like tyrants, even when your cause is just, then you've lost. You've lost yourself, you've lost the argument, and you've lost the plot.

EDIT: The story of the raid has changed several times since this post was written. First his wife was a human shield, then not; first dead, then just shot in the calf. First Bin Laden was spraying gunfire, and now we hear he was unarmed. A fiver says that by the end of the week we'll find out it wasn't Bin Laden at all, but an innocent Brazilian just trying to catch a train.

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, letter to H.L. Pierce, Apr. 6, 1859

Thursday, 14 April 2011

News has to be new, Hugh.

DEAR Hugh Grant: Very funny, but getting someone to say something they've already said to The Groaner doesn't move the phone hacking scandal on very much. Sorry.

Good start though, excellent duplicity levels for a celebrity who usually just chucks tubs of baked beans at photographers and tells them he hopes their "kids die of cancer". Six out of ten.