Tim Ireland Calls Out Accusers

Tim Ireland is a blogger who has a fairly reasonable request: that those who use the internet or the media to influence public discourse, or to promote themselves as public figures, ought to be accountable and to take responsibility for the things they publish or write. His main area of interest is British politics, but although it is obvious that he takes a progressive stance he is no mere party hack: for example, he was prophetically critical of Derek Draper’s strategy with Labour List some months prior to Draper’s exposure as a manipulating rumour-monger.

However, it is in dealing with various MPs and activists connected with the Conservative Party that Tim has discovered the most egregious abuses: unsurprisingly, given that he has been the target of them. Tim’s latest post on the subject is comprehensive rather than concise, but the guts of it can be summarised easily: as a strategy to deflect and discourage critical scrutiny, various individuals have chosen to smear Tim as a “stalker”. It’s not a conspiracy, but, as with other playground taunts, the accusation has quickly gained momentum among a group of like-minded people with overlapping interests. It’s also self-reinforcing: if Tim complains about it, this is itself evidence of stalking; if he lays out his defence, he’s an obsessive. Worse, however, is that Tim’s researches have earned him some more sinister enemies, who have been subjecting him to real harassment: personal details have been posted on-line about his home and smears about his family, there have been threats of violence, and anonymous attack blogs have been set up with slanderous accusations. Those who indulge in this self-debasing behaviour use the “stalker” accusation as cover, as self-justification, and as a means to incite others.

My interest in this dates back to early 2009, when Tim looked into a Sun newspaper story about an terror plot against Alan Sugar. Tim showed that the evidence had been concocted by a freelance “terror-tracker” who had made postings to a Muslim web-forum under an Islamic pseudonym. The “terror-tracker” had links to Patrick Mercer MP, who is often quoted in the tabloid media as an expert on terrorism; this raised the question of to what extent other tabloid stories about terrorism may have had tainted origins (for example, here). I did some follow-up work on Tim’s discovery, and we both found ourselves being contacted by former associates of the “terror-tracker”. It turned out that these persons wanted to manipulate us for their own interests (they wanted us to attack a third party), and it was when this attempt fell through that the sustained campaign of harassment began (the “terror-tracker” had himself earlier reacted to exposure by writing anonymous comments accusing Tim of being a paedophile, but that was eventually sorted out). The harassment has mostly been targeted at Tim, although I’ve also been on the receiving end of some abusive attacks and misinformation.

At the time all this began, I was aware of Tim’s disputes with some other Conservative Party figures; although I took a general interest, I regarded these as separate matters and I was not inclined to mention them on this blog. However, it eventually became evident that a full understanding of the situation required taking these other conflicts into account: it was also appalling to see just how far some people are prepared to go to smear someone they find to be inconvenient.

Tim’s post is a J’Accuse addressed to Steve Hilton, who is the Conservative Party’s director of strategy. Tim names a number of persons:

Steve Hilton: Hilton has known about the situation but has failed to act.

Anne Milton MP: Milton is Tim’s local MP, and she didn’t appreciate various criticisms of her campaign in 2005, including his claim that “many if not all of the people posing as average members of the public in her campaign literature were in fact average members of her campaign team.” Milton, says Tim, “at this stage… began to dismiss queries about my blog and its contents with mild implications and then quite specific claims that I was stalking her.” Worse, two of her activists then set about attacking Tim at a personal level through anonymous sites and blogs. These activists also allegedly smeared another political opponent of Milton as a paedophile.

Jonathan Lord MP: As Chairman of the Guildford Conservative Association, his duty was to investigate any activity that might bring the party into disrepute. However, Lord declined to act on Tim’s evidence on the grounds that the target of the “paedophile” smear had not himself complained, that no criminal law had been broken, and because Tim had contacted him by email rather than on paper.

Iain Dale: Dale is a leading Conservative-aligned blogger, pundit, and activist. He dismissed Tim’s evidence about what had occurred during Milton’s campaign, and then allowed pre-moderated comments to appear on his site accusing Tim of stalking Milton and Nadine Dorries MP. Dale also accuses Tim of stalking him, as I discussed here.

Patrick Mercer MP: Once it had become clear that Mercer’s relationship with the “terror-tracker” and his associates was problematic, he announced that he would be “looking carefully” into his “dealings”. However, the extent to which Mercer’s office had handled dubiously-source material remained unclear, and when Tim pressed the point, Mercer took the lead from Dale. Naturally, any criticism of Mercer’s judgement could be deflected by claiming that Tim is an “electronic stalker”. Incidentally, Mercer also used a “stalker” smear to discredit his ex-lover, who shares his workplace.

Nadine Dorries MP: Dorries is of course notoriously vicious when dealing with anyone who crosses her: in recent months she has outed her lover’s estranged wife as alcoholic who is disliked by her own children (perhaps true, but cruel and unnecessary to reveal) and accused a critical constituent of pretending to be disabled (a complete fabrication). She is also notorious for admitting that her blog is “70 per cent fiction”. Dorries hates Tim’s continued scrutiny of her astonishing behaviour on the public stage, and she has been the most aggressive in accusing him being a “stalker”:

Dorries stood up in front of a hustings meeting in May 2010, claimed that I had stalked Patrick Mercer, claimed that I had harassed Anne Milton to the point that police became involved, and further claimed that I had stalked and harassed her to such an extent that a police investigation was currently in progress.

At the same time, Dorries was under investigation for expenses claims relating to a property that she officially classified as her second home, but had difficulty explaining why she had made repeated entries on her blog that gave the impression that it was her main home. It is on record and entirely clear from the subsequent report that Dorries told the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards that she had deceived her constituents about the location of her main home for entirely political reasons (i.e. to give the impression that she lived primarily in the constituency). She thought this put her in the clear and was entirely unprepared for the backlash that followed this revelation. She responded by again claiming that I had stalked her, and further claiming that police had specifically advised her to give misleading accounts of her whereabouts for reasons of security.

I have no history of stalking Nadine Dorries in any physical sense, and she had no cause to believe this, even if she is so dim-witted as to have allowed herself to be convinced that I was stalking her electronically. Worse, Dorries used my attendance at a public meeting in May 2010 to defend her claim that I had physically stalked her in the many years/months previous to this, and used Conservative activists aligned to her to spread this claim on blogs and in the media though a series of entirely strategic claims and distortions that not only stretched the truth to breaking point, but challenged the very notion of time and space.

Months after her hustings outburst, after being challenged to provide evidence to support her claim that a police investigation was in progress, Dorries sought to initiate a police investigation after the fact, and succeeded to a small extent in that police are now investigating my presence at a public meeting that I was invited to. This alone, while it is a complete waste of police time, did not cause me alarm… but Dorries then went on the leak news of this to a supportive local newspaper, leading to an entirely biased article that has set off my attacker(s) all over again, and once again allowed them to base their ongoing revenge attack on the word of a Member of Parliament who is in turn endorsed by a mainstream party (i.e. your party).

Further background here. Dorries has also mocked Tim as a “nutter” – the same jibe was used by Adam Macqueen, a Private Eye journalist who didn’t like Tim calling him to account for using his research uncredited. Macqueen is a friend and former employee of Dale.

Rachel Whetstone: Whetstone is European Head of Communications for Google:

Rachel… cannot or will not explain why, when Blogger.com staff claim to have a turnaround time of 48 hours for removal of sensitive data such as home addresses published in bad faith, why it took over 3 months to remove the data in my case, not just on Blogger.com, but on YouTube as well. Further, she cannot explain why their search database with continue to store and distribute this data long after it has (eventually) been removed from Blogger.com/YouTube pages under their control.

By remarkable coincidence, Whetstone used to be Political Secretary to former Conservative leader Michael Howard, and at the time Howard’s wife wrote a diary piece for a Conservative website carrying Milton’s claim that Tim’s critical blogging amounted to “stalking her with a website”. Hilton may be able to get a quick answer to this, given that Whetstone is his wife.

Tim concludes:

I sincerely hope to hear from you well within 48 hours so we can settle this matter as cordially as possible soon after that. If this cannot be done, I hope you recognise why I will be pulling out all the stops and dedicating myself to the task of clearing my name while exposing the rot at the core of your party, and I wish you luck in the inevitable attempt to smear me in response, because you are going to need it with the paper trail I’ve got and the fair warning you’ve received.

This is surely not too much to ask for. It’s no secret that this blog takes a progressive perspective on the various things I discuss, but I’m well aware that it is possible to be a Conservative and to argue aggressively in good faith. I’m sure that many Conservative-mined people, if they can penetrate the fog of misinformation and self-serving spin, will be appalled that this kind of repellent carrying-on is able to pass for political activism. Any short-term advantage that may be gained by dismissing the above as part of the “Tim is a stalker” meme will, in the long-term, lead to payback of one kind of another. This may take the form of exposure and opprobrium, or the result may be a completely debased political culture. I’m taking a stand against it, and I hope others will too.

11 Responses

  1. Another excellent summation of Tim’s struggles and the harassment he is being subjected to.

  2. Sorry, Tim is an obsessive who takes umbrage if people like Iain Dale fail to do as he tells them; any sensible person would tell someone to bugger off if they instruct them how to conduct their blog.

    He’s nakedly partisan – the electoral hi-jinks he began complaining of are indulged in by all parties, in fact the Lib Dems’ campaign tactics have been a standing disgrace for at least a decade. This renders empty any claim to principle on his behalf.

    It takes a certain lack of self-awareness to complain of harassment when he has, for example, bombarded someone’s home telephone with calls. I’d have called the police.

    And, by now, after dozens of lengthy, obsessive posts, this is also very very boring.

    • I was wondering if an apologist for the abuse and harassment Tim has suffered would show up here and try and justify the way Tim and his wife and family, have been targeted.

      Seriously though, how on earth can you condone such treatment of another person with a clear conscience?

      Your ignorance of the situation and eagerness to push that ignorant agenda is disturbing.

      Your assessment of obsessive is flawed, as is your take on what Tim’s interactions with Iain amounted to.

      Your labelling of Tim as partizan is more reflective of your own beliefs than his, as is your error in labelling him as Liberal Democrat.

      As for lack of self-awareness, I’m more concerned for your utter lack of humanity in attacking someone based on poor information.

      Shame on you.

    • What exactly does “obsessive” mean here? Presumably: “This person discusses a subject in more detail than I would have bothered with. Therefore there must be something mentally wrong with them”.

      Incidentally, when someone takes the trouble to point out that something is boring or a waste of time, I tend to wonder why they make the effort to pass any comment at all.

      As for the “bombardment”, I discussed that in December. Tim was being smeared on-line as a paedophile by the “terror-tracker”, and Tim asked Dale to intervene with Mercer, which Dale agreed to do, but it transpired that what Dale did fell short of what Tim felt had been promised. Different people will have different opinions about who was at fault here, but it’s clear that the “40 phonecalls” refer to one man’s desperate attempts to get through to another on a matter of some urgency, rather than a campaign of harassment.

      • Dale was also holding a thread open (everybody knows he nearly always has moderation engaged) and placing me in considerable danger by doing so. At the same time he was smearing Tom Watson with a claim he had made and knew not to be true, and using this open thread to do it.

        He refused to engage moderation or moderate comments aimed at me (while he was deleting mine, natch). This thread that Dale was holding open was subsequently a top result for blog searches for my name at a time when I had good reason to believe the person who was smearing me as a paedophile and threatening to reveal my home address was deliberately seeking out posts with my name in them so he might use them to host his smears. I knew this because I had just finished compiling his publishing pattern for police in an Excel sheet (how obsessive of me!).

        There is NO way Dale could have undone a comment like this if Jenvey turned up (and it was only through sheer luck that he didn’t), but Dale refused to engage moderation, most likely because he needed the thread open in order to better use his temporary ‘open door’ comment policy to smear Tom Watson. (When it came time for Dale to make false allegations against me, claiming I harassed him and launched a DoS attack on his site, THEN he engaged moderation, and moderations stayed in place for many months after that.

        It was in these circumstances that I called Iain on a number he had given me (not at his home number as he implies), and I was not making threats of violence as Fale has repeatedly implied.

        At the time, bloggers from left and right were offering their assistance against this smear campaign. Even that dirtbag Staines played ball. But Dale wouldn’t even confirm or deny if one of these comments had been submitted to his site.

        These are only two factors that Iain Dale refuses to discuss. Dale was also refusing to cooperate in the police investigation relevant to the smears/harassment aimed at me at the time.

        As for “I’d have called the police”, of course we found out recently that Iain Dale didn’t, despite his claim to have “reported me to police for harassment”. Instead he went to the front desk of the local police station (he claims; he has no way of proving this) to “ask for advice”. We only got this detail very recently, over a year after he claimed to have reported me for harassment. He also only gave a partial account of his conduct regarding that Mercer call he didn’t make more than a year after the event. This is a man with a LOT to hide, and he hides it behind an enormous lie of omission, making it look like I was the person doing the harassing instead of the target of harassment that Dale appeared to be deliberately exploiting.

        (Thanks for taking the time on this post, Richard. Greatly appreciated.)

  3. Daniel, if you think I suggested Tim is a LibDem, I suggest you re-read my comment.

    Richard: “… what Dale did fell short of what Tim felt had been promised” As I said, Tim’s insistence that people do as he tells them is ridiculous.

    40 calls in one evening?

    I commented, as I have in the past – including at least one private offer of help to Tim when he seemed most up against it – because although I disagree with his politics almost completely, he’s a good blogger and has turned up some important stuff. As I commented on his blog, he reminds me increasingly of the late Lenny Bruce, reading legal transcripts from stage to a bored audience. It’s sad and obsessive, in my view. Certainly, beyond a small group, few take notice any more, and that wasn’t the case a few years ago.

    • Is that it? Is that all you’ve got?

      I mentioned Lib Dems because you mentioned them for seemingly no point, unless it was an effort to make out Tim supports them. As you well know, Tim is not attached to any UK party, so your claims of partizan fall flat and lack evidence, as do many of your assertions.

    • Of course one likes to be entertaining and pithy, but sometimes a subject cannot be properly conveyed without making some demands on the reader. I think that the situation that Tim outlines is important, whether or not only an “obsessive” would seek to get his or her head around it.

      Perhaps Tim should not have persisted in trying to get through to Dale when it was clear that Dale didn’t want to engage with him (although I can’t say that I blame Tim), but I don’t think any observer would accept the implication that this should absolve those who have failed to do the right thing from being held to account.

  4. […] contrite on the subject. I also noted that he previously used the label of “stalker” to smear Tim Ireland; Tim’s blogposts on Mercer’s association with self-styled […]

  5. […] Since then, bogus accusations of “harassment” have become a convenient strategy for various persons who don’t like Tim finding and highlighting information that might interfere with their attempts to manipulate public perceptions about themselves or particular subjects. The list of those who have jumped on the bandwagon ranges from a couple of MPs (here and here), through to certain on-line commentators, and on to some particularly vicious cyber-bullies. The full background (including why this subject is of interest to me) is provided here. […]

  6. […] I blogged on the background to this last month: the smear had been made on an anonymous blog, but Tim Ireland worked out where it had come from and attempted to alert Milton and the Conservative Party to the evidence. However, his efforts were not appreciated: Jonathan Lord, MP for Woking and at that time Chairman of the Guildford Conservative Association, declined to act on the grounds that the target of the “paedophile” smear had not himself complained, that no criminal law had been broken, and because Tim had contacted him by email rather than on paper. Anne Milton, meanwhile, began to put it around that Tim’s critical interest in her campaign was a form of stalking – an accusation which has since been used by others as a convenient way to deflect attention (see here). […]

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