Most days I stop by Paul Staines’s Guido Fawkes website and smile. Yes, I admit it, I enjoy his blog even though I have almost nothing in common with the man. I’m a million miles away from him politically, in attitude and even, or maybe because of, in age.
I don’t understand how ‘libertarian’ has become a way of describing someone who is economically a neo-liberal and politically a neo-conservative. Neither seem very libertarian to me. On one hand it seems to put the working man in his place at the bottom of the economic pile while on the other it’s an encouragement to invade or operate no-fly zones in various countries.
I remember when if someone called themselves a libertarian it meant they were mild anarchists or revolutionary socialists with a bent towards personal liberties unlike the Leninists. When did it become the name for Tea Party or Fox News crazies? Still we manage to invent new words, or find new uses for old ones all the time, and I’m sure someone will tell me it’s because of Adam Smith or Ayn Rand or some other right wing hero.
So, what do I like about Guido Fawkes? It’s his ability to puncture the self-serving arrogant bubbles that politician’s build around themselves. He shows their ‘holier than thou’ attitudes alongside their lawyer-like dishonesty. As our politicians become more of a self-replicating professional caste with little in common with ordinary people, having a man there with the pin is very necessary.
Of course Staines has his own field to plow, and his dislike of anything left of centre is very obvious, as is his reluctance to attack some Tory ministers while being happy to the dirty deed on others. An example would be the lack of posts on Gove when his department was being extremely helpful to Gove’s ex-aide against, let’s say the outing of Hague and Myers.
I suspected for a long time Staines’s blog was designed to show Murdoch that he really should be the next Kelvin MacKenzie. This has probably changed now that MacKenzie has abandoned the Sun for the Mail, and that News International seems on very shaky ground. Still he seems to follow the Murdoch line, such as trying to spread the blame as far and as thin as possible. I’m not sure there are people that actually think about the danger to a free press offered by Piers Morgan, or then again think about the man at all. So to put Morgan up there with the very real danger from the Murdochs is a bit silly. Morgan is just yet one more piece of News International trained crap passing as a journalist.
Although Staines shows a hero worship of MacKenzie I doubt he will ever be a match. He hasn’t really displayed an equivalent of the bile that MacKenzie can turn on or off at will. As an aside the slap that MacKenzie got from Greg Dyke was one of my favourite TV moments. MacKenzie can play an audience so very well, whether it’s live or just newspaper readership. So far we haven’t seen that ability from Staines although his ‘dildos up the bum’ statement on TV was getting there.
So let’s get to the point of this article, and yes I know it’s been a long time coming. Over recent days I have also enjoyed watching him failing quite badly. The government’s online epetitions system was made for people playing the populist card, and Staines was quick to see it. He put a lot of effort into creating and supporting a ‘bring back hanging’ petition. Again I’m a little confused over the libertarian angle on this. Surely if you are for small government the last thing you need to do is give government the right to kill? I could understand libertarians supporting something like justifiable homicide for victims or the family of victims, but not governments doing it.
Still for whatever reason we have the Guido Fawkes blog backing this petition and as Staines often says it is the most followed political website in the country. On top of this, online petitions should appeal to a populist campaign. In fact we can see it does with the leading petition by far being one to remove benefits from those convicted of rioting or looting offences.
Yet it hasn’t worked at all. It may still get the 100,000 signatures necessary to be debated in parliament, but look at these figures. It has garnered 17,686 votes so far and is at ninth place in the votes counted table. Another campaign, I’m guessing launched at the same time in opposition to Staines, has 25,511 votes to keep the ban on capital punishment. Even more startling is one launched this month that has already passed the 100,000 signature requirement calling for disclosure of government papers on the Hillsborough disaster. This one is the only one I have voted for so far in the hope of finding out what Maggie thought of MacKenzie’s commentary about the Liverpool fans. Could be interesting.
So why has it gone so wrong for Staines? Probably the power of the Guido Fawkes blog is inside the Westminster village and the political caste. Outside, all it takes is Kenny Dalglish and Joey Barton to spread the news and get in the votes. It maybe also points to a somewhat less strong right wing constituency in the UK unlike in the US where the Tea Party could build up so much momentum. It could even be good news for British democracy.