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A Note on Dominic Cummings and a 2011 Troll Account

From an editorial in the Observer in early 2013:

Today, this paper alleges that a Twitter feed emanating in part, or wholly, from within the Department of Education is using its anonymity – when not dispensing perfectly reasonable policy analysis – to defame, disparage and damage political opponents and journalists. Contributions to the Twitter feed included taunting opponents about “mental illness” and retweeting remarks suggesting that a journalist had had a breakdown.

According to the associated report:

…the account has likened one respected reporter, the Financial Times‘ education correspondent, Chris Cook, to Walter Mitty and suggested he was a “stalker”. It has also retweeted insinuations about his personal life.

…The Observer understands that two of [Education Secretary Michael] Gove’s special advisers, Dominic Cummings and Henry de Zoete, were approached in 2011 by Henry Macrory, then Tory party head of press, and were asked to tone down their input into the feed which Macrory thought was inappropriate.

The account was called @toryeducation, and this was several years before Cummings had become a household name. Recently, Cummings has begun using social media to give an account of his time when he was at the heart of the Brexit “Leave” campaign and later of Boris Johnson’s government. However, he hasn’t yet returned to the above incident, despite being asked about it on Twitter.

In addition to the articles in the Observer, his 2013 exchange with the paper’s editor John Mulholland ahead of publication was posted online by Paul Waugh on his blog The Waugh Room, which ran as part of PoliticsHome. The blog has since expired and is now consigned to the Internet Archive, which means it can’t be found by search engines. As such, I here take the liberty of pasting the material below.

The exchange is unedifying, but it provides insight into Cummings’s character. Cummings engages in mockery and evasion, and takes the stance that the matter is beneath his notice while going on at greater length than would be required for a simple denial or admission or proper explanation. He also seizes on Mulholland confusing the name of the account under discussion – @toryeducation went by the name “Tory Education News”, and Mulholland accidentally referred to @educationnews. Cummings affects to take this at face value, even though he knows damn well what Mulholland means.

It may be old news, but government advisors misusing their work time (and our money) to engage in social media trolling and composing deliberately uninformative emails in response to serious press enquiries is unfinished business. How widespread is the practice? And what does it say about Michael Gove, who may yet one day take over from Johnson as Prime Minister? The Observer editorial was headlined “Answers, Mr Gove”; we never actually got any.

From: CUMMINGS, Dominic
Sent: 01 February 2013 14:13
To: ‘Jade Amias’ [PA to John Mulholland]
Cc: PERMANENT, Secretary

Subject: RE: Urgent letter from John Mulholland

Dear Mr Mulholland

I’m not wasting time on the tantrums of Toby Helm and Chris Cook over anonymous Twitter accounts. Am I supposed to take seriously anonymous accusations about anonymous Twitter accounts ridiculing journalists with too much time on their hands?

I suggest that your advice to both of them is: take a Twitter detox because it’s melting your brains, focus on what’s important, stop behaving like 8 year olds, and Mr Helm ought to reflect on the bizarreness of twittering foul-mouthed abuse at people while complaining about being abused on Twitter. What would David Astor make of that?

Please feel free to publish this response in any forum you wish including if you intend to run any ‘story’. I will not waste another minute on such nonsense and neither should you.

Best wishes


From: John Mulholland
Sent: 01 February 2013 14:33
To: CUMMINGS, Dominic


Dear Dominic,

Many thanks for your speedy response. I note however that you are not denying contributing to @educationews. I would like to give you that opportunity now, again. On one other specific point, can you confirm, or deny, that a senior Conservative Party official – in late summer 2011 – voiced concerns directly to you about the tone of the contributions you were making to @educationews.

Many thanks,

John Mulholland

From: CUMMINGS, Dominic
Sent: 01 February 2013 15:12
To: ‘John Mulholland’

Subject: RE:

Dear Mr Mulholland

Have you lost the plot? Now you’re accusing me of being something called @educationnews. Have you even looked at that twitter account? I did just now for a laugh. It has tweeted twice and has 5 followers. What next? What else are you going to invite me to ‘deny’? Am I secretly doing Rupert Murdoch’s twittering while working for Mossad on the side? I strongly advise you to take the advice I gave before or you will embarrass a famous institution even more. This really is my last word on this puerile rubbish.


From: John Mulholland
Sent: 01 February 2013 15:28
To: CUMMINGS, Dominic

Subject: Re:


Many apologies, and thanks again for your reply.

My previous email should have referred to @toryeducation – as it did in my first email. I suspect you know full well the feed we are referring to – it also has the line ‘Tory education news’ as part of its Twitter account. Shall we leave aside your references to Mossad and Rupert Murdoch for now and return to the matter at hand?

I noted how your first email did not deny contributing to @educationews. I would like to give you that opportunity again.

And on the other specific point, can you confirm, or deny, that a senior Conservative Party official – in late summer 2011 – voiced concerns directly to you about the tone of the contributions you were making to @educationews.

They seem to me relatively simple questions to answer. We note that the feed in question – hardly an ‘anonymous’ Twitter feed – is listed as one of just four Twitter members by the Conservative HQ Twitter account.

Many thanks

John Mulholland

From: CUMMINGS, Dominic
Sent: 01 February 2013 16.10
To: ‘John Mulholland’

Dear Mr Mulholland.

You write:

‘Shall we leave aside your references to Mossad and Rupert Murdoch for now and return to the matter at hand? I noted how your first email did not deny contributing to @educationews. I would like to give you that opportunity again.’

You really MUST look at that account, you’ve now repeated your bizarre accusation! Then confiscate Toby’s phone, send Chris Cook a ‘How to boost your self-­esteem’ book, and stop sending such emails.

Best wishes, and over and out


Ps. Once you’ve chillaxed, I would be happy to chat some time about education policy.

Trafalgar Square Packed for Conspiracy Rally Featuring David Icke and Katie Hopkins

From the Independent:

Thousands of anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protesters gathered in central London for a “Worldwide rally for freedom” – five days after restrictions were lifted in England.

Conspiracy theorists David Icke, Gillian McKeith and Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, were among the speakers at the demonstration in Trafalgar Square.

The event also attracted far-right commentator Katie Hopkins…

…Kate Shemirani, who was struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council last month for spreading Covid misinformation, said: “Get their names. Email them to me. With a group of lawyers, we are collecting all that. At the Nuremburg Trials the doctors and nurses stood trial and they hung. If you are a doctor or a nurse, now is the time to get off that bus… and stand with us the people.”

London major Sadiq Khan described her comments as “utterly appalling”. He tweeted: “I have raised it directly with the Met Police. Our NHS staff are the heroes of this pandemic and Londoners from across this city roundly reject this hate.”

Videos of the event were shared on Twitter; in particular, there was a useful thread by the BBC’s Shayan Sardarizadeh, who also noted the involvement of fringe political candidate David Kurten and the anti-5G campaigner Mark Steele. Steele also took part in last week’s protest, during which he chanted “paedo scum” at the Houses of Parliament in support of a contingent of Satanic Ritual Abuse protestors led by Jeanette Archer. Shemirani’s speech was captured by Marc Lister, and scenes of the crowd show that Trafalgar Square was packed to capacity.

The Independent article also refers to the event as being part of a “World Wide Rally for Freedom” taking place in several locations around the world; the fact-checking site Logically has delved into this here, reporting that the rallies “were entirely astroturfed and coordinated by a small group from Kassel in Germany” called Freie Bürger Kassel (Free Citizens of Kassel).

With these kind of events it is also worth noting who was not there. In particular, the vocal anti-lockdown activist Laurence Fox (who also scoffs at the vaccine, despite denying that he is anti-vax), who was present at last week’s protest, declined to be seen sharing a stage with the likes of David Icke and Katie Hopkins; perhaps it would have embarrassed his donor/patron Jeremy Hosking or undermined the continuing free publicity he gets from sympathetic media.

However, Fox took to Twitter to convey a general impression of support without committing himself to specific claims: he RTed a Tweet from a third party expressing “solidarity” with the protestors, and then shared a video via Paul Joseph Watson of a protestor being arrested, which he described as “tyranny” despite the lack of any context, and the man’s ludicrous theatrics of shouting “I’m going to die” as he was pinned to the ground and then screaming as he was handcuffed. He also denounced Dan Hodges for referring to “incitement to murder” – this was an obvious reference to Shemirani’s “Nuremburg Trials” comment, but Fox claimed that it was an unfair mischaracterisation of lockdown sceptics and opponents of “medical apartheid”.

Anti-Vax Protest in London Includes “VIP Paedophile” Conspiracy Rhetoric

From the London Evening Standard:

Police have made a string of arrests as anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination protesters caused mayhem outside the Houses of Parliament on Monday.

…Anti-vaccination protesters chanted “shame on police” and “arrest Boris Johnson” as the demonstration moved from Parliament Square to spread onto the road and up to the gates of the Palace of Westminster.

…Nigel Farage was forced to cut short a segment on the protests during his first flagship show on GB News.

A woman shouted “Nazi paedo protector w****rs” at the camera as reporter Tom Harwood was trying to describe the violent scenes to Mr Farage back in the studio.

The clip can be viewed here; the woman also called him a “Nazi cunt”, and there was also some similar abuse from a man off camera who can be seen here. Watching the segment, I was put in mind both of a June 2019 London protest, where James Goddard denounced “Satanic paedophiles” in No. 10 at a “Free Tommy Rally”, and an incident opposite Downing Street in June 2015 where an activist named Bill Maloney told a crowd that “your Prime Minister is protecting 76 MPs that are being investigated”. The abuse aimed at Harwood in part reflects the importation of American Pizzagate and QAnon conspiracy rhetoric, although it has also been fostered by the lasting impact of a slew of credulous newspaper articles accusing British public figures that only ran dry when Carl Beech was exposed as a hoaxer.

In fact, there was an entire “Satanic Ritual Abuse” contingent at the protest – this was same group that had also protested last month, led by Jeanette Archer. Hoaxtead has the details; they met at the London Eye south of the river before progressing over Westminster Bridge to Parliament Square, where they were greeted by the anti-5G activists Mark Steele and Graham Steele (both men shown acting aggressively towards police in a video clip here). Archer’s banner has been amended; when it was debuted last month it proclaimed opposition to “Satnic Ritual Abuse”. According to Sardarizadeh, Archer claimed that there are “160 MPs on the padeophile sex offenders register” who drink children’s blood, which is an advance on Maloney’s 76.

The main crowd was addressed by various speakers – on Twitter, the BBC’s Shayan Sardarizadeh noted “retired police officer Mark Sexton”, who advised the mob that “if all Covid restrictions are not lifted and vaccinations are not ceased, citizens have a right to arrest ministers and MPs by force and set up common law courts”, as well as “former nurse and anti-vaccine activist Kate Shemirani”, who claimed “Covid vaccines are ‘bioweapons’ and ‘surveilance systems’ with an ‘electrical charge’ that can transmit and receive signals from 5G towers. She adds people who have been vaccinated will likely die ‘within two years’.” The Times notes the presence of Piers Corbyn and of “actor turned aspiring politician and anti-lockdown campaigner” Laurence Fox.

Meanwhile, some lesser-known figures have been logged on Twitter by Mark Lister: he observed “Tommy Robinson Flying Monkey’s Gavin Malone, Mark and Tyrant Finder”, and “Ginger Toni with TR security Mark”, which he says “shows the definite Tommy Robinson influence on this movement”. Disgraced former town councillor William Coleshill was apparently among those arrested. Lister also draws attention to the presence of a white pendragon flag at the protest (perhaps generic or maybe indicating a group of that name), as well as at least one protestor wearing a yellow star in appropriation of Holocaust iconography. Two yellow stars were also included on a large banner that appears on a video taken by journalists with JOE.

Ahead of the protest, Archer promised that “we’re going to fight back in a way that will be different than we’ve ever done before” and that the day “will go down in history, what we’re gonna do”, although despite the hype it seems to have been more of the same as last month. Archer (like Maloney, who has disappeared from view since 2015) has been heavily promoted by self-described “police whistleblower” Jon Wedger, who  given his ubiquity was conspicuous by his absence.