Hugh Muir’s diary

August 7th, 2011

• So it’s Stephenson, gone. Yates, gone. Gene Hunt, no doubt closeted with lawyers. Dixon of Dock Green checking the fine details of his pension. yes, everywhere Met people are facing uncomfortable questions. Why should Kit Malthouse, the deputy mayor in London with responsibility for the Met and policing, be any different? He won’t be because there is barely disguised fury that last Thursday, as it emerged that Neil Wallis had the key to the private bathroom at Scotland Yard, and consequently that there was a hurricane coming, Malthouse, the police authority chair, sat down with senior members of the Metropolitan Police Authority and told them nothing of the impending disaster. especially galling as he was updated by confidential notes during the meeting itself. Sir Paul Stephenson, who also attended the strategic operations subcommittee meeting convened to discuss the hacking crisis, also kept stumm, with the result that the first that members knew about the ruinous development was seeing it on TV. Sir Paul, as an ex-commissioner, is beyond their wrath now but Malthouse is not, and trouble looms for him. the “Resignation of the Met police commissioner solves nothing,” writes senior MPA member Jennette Arnold on her blog. not the end. not even the end of the beginning.

• Contrition aplenty here from the house of Murdoch, but a mighty roar of rage from aggrieved souls on his Wall Street Journal. it trusts “that readers can see through the commercial and ideological motives of our competitor-critics. the schadenfreude is so thick you can’t cut it with a chainsaw,” it says. “Especially redolent are lectures about journalistic standards from publications that give Julian Assange and WikiLeaks their moral imprimatur.” Do they mean us, do you think?

• Nick Clegg’s press aide Lena Pietsch is soon to be on maternity leave. Understandably, senior Liberal Democrat sources have ruled out any former News International journalists covering for her: “We certainly don’t want any of this coming our way,” they say. yet former Lib Dem advisers aren’t quite so fussy about working for News International. Edelman have been taken on by News International to spin their way out of its current troubles, and as we see, the effort is being overseen by Jamie Lundie, the former senior adviser to Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy. but then, salvaging lost causes was always his thing.

• Very clever it was of the film-maker Chris Atkins to fool lots of journalists with his invented tale of a new male genital decoration, the penazzle. the object was to expose the blight of churnalism – to see how many hacks would recycle the story unchanged and uncritically. Sorry to say, it worked very well. a little too well. For Atkins told a recent debate staged by the Media Standards Trust of a reader who had applied to his fake website for a penazzle and even paid £10 to the eBay account he had set up. When the penazzle did not appear, she rang to complain. He spoke to her and explained that the whole thing was a fake – the penazzle doesn’t exist, it was all a ruse to spoof journalists and he was sorry she had been misled. but she wasn’t impressed. she had bought the thing as a present for a friend’s 40th birthday, she insisted and she wasn’t going away until Atkins provided her with a penazzle as contracted. So he went to a sex shop, bought a vajazzle – the female equivalent, which does exist – repackaged it and couriered it across to his pursuer. Problem solved. Everybody happy. The customer is always right, you see.

• Finally, we cannot know what will happen vis-à-vis Murdoch’s plans for a Sun on Sunday. but for some there will be the comfort of knowing that the News of the World lives on online, albeit the version of the paper put together by Ian Bone, founder of Class War, and his troublesome mates. as scabrous as the original, there’s a whole of host of stories there about Rupert, Rebekah and the others. but the eye is drawn to the column of Madame Blavatsky, the paper’s agony aunt and psychic. Sympathy in short supply from her. “You think you’ve got problems,” declares her strapline. “I’m dead.”

Hugh Muir’s diary

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