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Some Notes on Keir Stamer’s “He Needs to Resign” Tweet

A now-infamous Tweet from Keir Starmer, from the end of January:

Honesty and decency matter.

After months of denials the Prime Minister is now under criminal investigations for breaking his own lockdown laws.

He needs to do the decent thing and resign.

This has been interpreted to mean that someone who is the subject of a police investigation must therefore be guilty – when asked on television yesterday whether he had “jumped the gun” with such a pronouncement now that he is himself under police investigation he did not address this criticism directly, instead pointing out that the investigation had indeed led to fixed penalty notices.

If Starmer is not prepared to explain how he can stand by this Tweet while not resigning now, it’s perhaps odd that anyone else should do so on his behalf. However, it is not credible that a former Director of Public Prosecutions would advocate a crude equivalance between the mere fact of a police investigation and guilt, or expect such a proposition to be taken seriously.

It seems to me that the difference is the phrase “after months of denials” – the government line was that there was nothing to investigate, but that had been shown to be false by a series of uncontested damaging disclosures. The announcement of “criminal investigations” was just the nadir of the hole Johnson had dug himself into, rather than the hole itself.

In contrast, we do yet know for sure what “new information” has prompted the Durham investigation, but Starmer is disputing not just the signifance of agreed details but the whole substance of the allegations against him. In particular, we already know that Richard Holden MP’s letter to Durham Police, in which he alleged that an “in person” social event had been advertised, was a false claim.

Certainly, though, Starmer’s Tweet was infelicious – the fact of a police investigation was presented as significant in itself, and this is irriating to anyone who has found themselves under investigation due to bad luck or malice. Perhaps had Starmer experienced being on the receiving end of such a concerted campaign to contrive a police investigation when he was DPP he might have been less keen on fostering the “believe the victim” culture that resulted in subsequent police fiascos (a charge made by Harvey Proctor).

One aspect of Starmer’s statement yesterday has prompted commentary. It has been suggested that by promising to resign if he is not cleared by police he is putting pressure on the force. This is humbug – the same people complaining about this now have been gleefully anticiating such an outcome as inevitable for weeks. Starmer’s promise merely makes this explicit.

It is curious, though, that Starmer has discounted the possibility of contesting a Fixed Penalty Notice if he receives one. As noted on Twitter by Dan Davies, “Many decisions made by the police over lockdown penalties have fallen apart in court”. Starmer’s enemies have suggested this is part of his “pressure” tactic, or evidence that he knows that he cannot win in court and so is making a virtue out of a necessity.

One possibility that crossed my mind is that as a former DPP he would rather resign than challenge the police – a while back I listened to an old 1950s melodrama on the radio about a judge who is falsely convicted of murder but who then signs a confession in order to protect public belief in the law’s infallibility. More likely, though, is that Starmer is just very confident that he has the goods, as discussed in the Guardian last night.

If Starmer is exonerated, then I suggest that it is Richard Holden and the cabinet ministers who amplified his false “in person” narrative with Durham Police and the public who ought to be considering their positions.

A Media Note on Politics and Police in Durham

From the website of Durham Constabulary:

Earlier this year, Durham Constabulary carried out an assessment as to whether Covid-19 regulations had been breached at a gathering in Durham City on April 30 2021. At that time, it was concluded that no offence had been established and therefore no further action would be taken.

Following the receipt of significant new information over recent days, Durham Constabulary has reviewed that position and now, following the conclusion of the pre-election period, we can confirm that an investigation into potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations relating to this gathering is now being conducted.

As has been widely reported, this refers to the night when Labour leader Keir Starmer visited Durham Miners Hall while campaigning for the Hartlepool byelection. A short video showing Starmer holding a bottle of beer was reviewed by police, whose view in February 2022 was that “we do not believe an offence has been established in relation to the legislation and guidance in place at that time”.

This was reiterated late last month, as reported in The Times:

Police will not fine Sir Keir Starmer for breaking Covid rules despite renewed pressure from Conservative MPs.

The Labour leader was photographed with a bottle of beer in the office of a Labour MP in April last year in Durham. Tories have argued that the occasion was a breach of lockdown rules similar to that committed by the prime minister.

However, Durham police did not suspect Starmer of breaking rules and did not take retrospective action on lockdown breaches, sources said.

Durham police famously said in May 2020 that it would not take retrospective action against Dominic Cummings, as this would not have been in “in line with Durham Constabulary’s general approach throughout the pandemic” and would amount to “treating Mr Cummings differently from other members of the public”. That policy now appears to have been overturned as a result of political pressure, including letters from cabinet ministers.

So what changed? The same report added:

Officers are likely to review material provided by Richard Holden, the Tory MP for North West Durham, which was not available when they came to their decision in February.

Holden highlighted an invitation for a “quiz and social in-person event” on Facebook from the City of Durham Labour Party on the same evening that Starmer was drinking beer. [Mary] Foy encouraged attendees to have a “greasy night”, which is slang for drinking.

Labour has said that Starmer did not participate in the quiz and that it was hosted in a different building. It said that the quiz was online rather than in person.

The plain meaning here is that Holden is quoting the words of the invitation, but it’s actually The Times quoting Holden, and getting into a muddle about where the quote marks should go. Here’s Holden’s letter to Deputy Chief Constable Ciaron Irvine:

An invitation posted online at the time by City of Durham Labour Party shows that a “Quiz and Social” in person event was hosted on the evening of 30 April 2021.

“In person” is purely Holden’s interpretation. However, he was mistaken (or rather, “he lied”, if we prefer the heightened accusatory rhetoric that that is characteristic of the controversy). The invitation is still online, but as noted by Dan Barker, to see it in full the viewer has to click a “See more” button. Thus

Pre – election
CLP
QUIZ and Social
Friday 30th April
7.00pm… See more

becomes

Pre – election
CLP
QUIZ and Social
Friday 30th April
7.00pm
Friends and family welcome
Members please check your emails for zoom link

This completely explodes Holden’s whole argument. It is difficult to see why the Times journalists did not check this for themselves, rather than leaving it at “Labour has said”.

The claim that “greasy night” is “slang for drinking” is also derived from Holden rather than the independent linguistic researches of Britain’s paper of record. Holden told police that the definition can be found on the Urban Dictionary; Mikey Smith of the Daily Mirror found the relevant entry on the third page of results from that website, where “greasy” is described as referring to

any activity that involves spending too much money, drinking too much, doing too many drugs, hanging out with dregs of society people, and generally any activity that involves lowering one’s standard and hindering one’s progress.

The submission dates from 2006. But this usage is obscure and bears no relation to an online Zoom quiz. It appears that Foy actually meant to write “great” but was the victim of a predictive text correction for a typo. (1)

However, according to today’s Sunday Times, the police investigation is actually based on other grounds:

It was the discovery that [Angela] Rayner had been at the event, despite Labour’s original claims, that prompted Durham police to open their investigation. A source close to the force said: “It raises the question about what else we might not have been told the entire truth about.”

Officers have set up a major incident room, and up to six detectives will spend the next four to six weeks looking at the potential lockdown breach. They are expected to use questionnaires — similar to the ones used by Scotland Yard to investigate Johnson and the Downing Street scandals — to interrogate those present at the event.

Rayner’s presence in Durham was openly advertised at the time, and a video remains available on the Labour Party website. A Labour Party staffer later told the Daily Mail that she had not been present, but this was obviously negligence rather than an attempt to deceive. Is Durham Police really opening an investigation based on speculative extrapolations regarding the significance of a staffer’s dismissive response to a Mail enquiry? It is also disturbing to see a police force apparently leaking information in addition to its formal statement.

There are also other alleged details in the media. The Sunday Times has produed an unnamed hostile witness, but he or she is described as “willing to help police” rather than as having done so already:

Crucially, the source said Starmer did not go back to work after eating his curry: “It has been claimed that Starmer worked during the curry and then after the curry. None of those two things happened. He did not go back to work to the best of my knowledge.”

They also accused some attendees, including Foy and her staff, of not working at all and only being there to socialise.

“They were just there drinking,” said the source. “This made some people feel uncomfortable because they knew there was a risk we could be accused of breaking the rules.”

“To the best of my knowledge” is a serious qualifier, and if “some people felt uncomfortable” by the presence of alleged slackers it must mean that other people were working.

The main news, however, concerns a leaked memo:

a leaked document appeared to show the gathering had been planned.

Starmer has claimed the takeaway was ordered spontaneously between meetings.

…According to an operational note drawn up for Starmer’s visit to Durham, obtained by The Mail on Sunday, an 80-minute slot was set aside for “dinner in Miners Hall with Mary Foy”. The document also includes a note asking a member of the Labour leader’s staff to “arrange takeaway from Spice Lounge”, a local curry house. The source confirmed that the decision to order a curry had been taken in advance.

The memo calls into question Starmer’s claim that he returned to work after eating dinner at 10pm. After the entry allocating time for dinner, the document says that he walked to a hotel, followed by: “End of visit.”

The memo also refers to “social distancing” and reminds attendees to “wear face coverings whilst indoors at all times” – the latter of course hardly applicable during eating. (2) This details indicates that whoever wrote the note believed in good faith that the scehdule was in compliance with the law; if Durham police now judge otherwise it will suggest that the rules were difficult to interpret. This of course would benefit Boris Johnson, who maintains that his own rule-breaking was unintentional (Jacob Rees-Mogg drew a comparison with sport, in which a player receiving a penalty does not imply having cheated).

UPDATE: Sky News has a clip of Holden with Home Secretary Priti Patel ahead of the Queen’s Speech. Patel touches Holden’s arm to get his attention and says “you are having so much luck”.

Notes

1. It is difficult to envisage Holden trawling through Labour Party social media and the Urban Dictionary in search of his “gotcha”. One wonders who did the actual research.

2. A clue to how the memo reached the Mail on Sunday, and about the likely motives of the unnamed witness, is provided in a different recent Times article, which says that

Tory sources also said they had been helped on the ground by hard-left Labour activists who resent Starmer replacing Jeremy Corbyn.

Covid Conspiracy Activist Mike Yeadon Turns to Satanic Panic

From Michael Yeadon to his followers on Telegram:

Putting this long & unpleasant narrated listing of satanic abuse in UK out there, because I know & respect the narrator, a former member of the covert services.

Also, because I’ve read Dr John Coleman’s work in the field of conspiratorial planning.

Best wishes
Mike

Channel: @RobinMG

YouTube
Satanist Abusers Named — The RAINS List

The post was spotted by John Bye, who posted a screenshot to Twitter as part of a thread on how it’s been “quite a week for former Pfizer scientist turned conspiracy theorist Michael Yeadon, who has yet to find a rabbit hole he won’t dive headfirst into”. Other recent Yeadon pronouncements logged by Bye include (among others) the claim that climate change is “faked” by the “same perpetrators” as the pandemic; that fires at food processing plants are a plot to introduce rationing; and that Covid vaccines are a eugenicist depopulation conspiracy.

Yeadon, it should be recalled, was previously perhaps the most high profile Covid sceptic with scientific credentials in the UK, trading on his status as a former vice president of Pfizer (sometimes inflated by supporters into “the former vice president”). In October 2020, for instance, the Daily Mail invited him to opine on “Three Facts No. 10’s Advisers Got Wrong”. As noted by Tim Fenton at Zelo Street, Yeadon was also “lionised by self promoting TalkRADIO host Julia Hartley Brewer, and given a platform by Lockdown Sceptics, domain of the loathsome Toby Young” (more on Young here).

Tim’s post went on to note that some of Yeadon’s older Tweets, from before he came to prominence, consisted of crude anti-Muslim diatribes. When someone else brought these to Hartley-Brewer’s attention, her response was a dismissive “Those are not his tweets. But you knew that already”, even though they could be verified by a simple Twitter search. They were already a year old at that point, meaning that Yeadon’s claim that he had been hacked was unconvincing.

Yeadon withdrew from Twitter soon after; there is now a new account called @DrYeadon, but this is a parody that highlights various confident assertions by Yeadon about Covid-19 that have since been exploded.

The RAINS (Ritual Abuse Information Network and Support) list that has now caught Yeadon’s imagination is a notorious document, compiled by a therapist named Joan Coleman (no relation to the John Coleman he cites) primarily based on names given to her by an accuser called “Helen G”. The list alleges human sacrifice at stately homes involving a range of public figures and celebrities, and includes the detail that Edward Heath would abuse children while wearing fake claws. Further details at Hoaxtead here.

John Coleman, meanwhile, is the author of Conspirators’ Hierarchy: The Story of the Committee of 300, which refers to “the inheritors of the Illuminati”. The narrator mentioned by Yeadon is Alex Thomson, a former GCHQ officer who now contributes to UK Column.

Note

The Telegram channel noted by Bye is titled “Robin Monotti + Dr Mike Yeadon + Cory Morningstar”.

Andrew Bridgen MP Accused of Dishonesty by Judge

Also alleged to have pressured police to investigate brother

An extraordinary report about Andrew Bridgen MP in The Sunday Times:

A Conservative MP lied under oath, behaved in an abusive, arrogant and aggressive way, and was so dishonest that his claims about a multimillion-pound family dispute could not be taken at face value, a high court judge has ruled.

The dispute concerned the Bridgen family’s potato empire AB Produce:

… In court [Andrew Bridgen] argued he had been forced out by Paul, 55, his brother, a claim the judge described as a lie. In fact, the judge ruled, he had quit because he thought it might reduce the amount he owed his first wife, Jackie, 57, in divorce proceedings.

…During the case Peter Ellis, a director of AB Produce, claimed that in January 2017 Bridgen sent texts that were so aggressive they brought him to the brink of a “nervous breakdown”.

…In October 2017 Bridgen called Inspector Helena Bhakta, the commander of the neighbourhood policing team for his constituency, whose force he is supposed to scrutinise. He asked her to investigate an alleged seven-figure fraud against him by his brother. Bridgen claimed he had not made the call as “it would not have been proper”. He said he had contacted the fraud squad.

However, on October 16, 2017, Bhakta wrote: “As NPT commander I have regular contact with Andrew Bridgen over constituent matters. Today he asked that I call him. On doing so he informed me that he suspects his brother is committing fraud.”

This sort of thing might once have been grounds for resignation, although in today’s political culture, as Matthew Scott observes, the judge’s findings are “probably the beginning of Andrew Bridgen’s leadership bid”. It appears that the judge has in effect accused Bridgen of perjury, although that particular word is not used and any criminal investigation would have to make a case that is stronger than mere balance of probabilties; Bridgen continues to assert that his account has been truthful so far as he recollects. The Sunday Times describes Bridgen as having “pressured” Bhakta, and states that this pressue prompted “a costly inquiry lasting more than a year”.

Bridgen has issued a statement on Twitter in which he says he is “exploring all avenues with regard to legal options”, and argues that

if courts got everything correct the first time then there would be no need for appeal mechanisms nor would I have had to campaign for 12 years to get justice for the 736 innocent sub-postmasters who were wrongly convicted.

This is a rather more circumspect approach to issues of law and justice than we have seen from Bridgen in the past, when he was at the forefront of promoting Wiltshire Police’s posthumous investigation into former Prime Minister Edward Heath. Bizarrely, Wiltshire’s Chief Constable Mike Veale designated Bridgen a “stakeholder”, meaning that he got advance access to the force’s final report, and it seems reasonable to infer that Bridgen was the conduit by which details of the investigation were leaked to the Mail on Sunday‘s political correspondent Simon Walters. More recently, Bridgen arranged for Veale to become adviser to Rupert Matthews, a UFO enthusiast who is currently Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicestershire and Rutland – a controversial “well paid” appointment. Bridgen’s informal influence here post-dates his dispute with his brother, but given this earlier context it is troubling. (1)

Bridgen is known primarily due to his willingness to provide the media with a stream of quotes relating to any subject that might be considered newsworthy – a strategy that allows a politican to raise their profile while also avoiding more serious scrutiny.

Note

1. Bridgen also has links with the conspiracy milieu: in 2021 he was criticised after giving an interview to Anna Brees, and her former associate Jon Wedger previously claimed in 2018 that Bridgen had “made contact” with him. There is also a photo of Wedger and fellow Satanic Ritual Abuse conspiracy fanatic Jeanette Archer sitting at an outside café table with an unidentified man whose appearance from the rear is consistent with Bridgen.

A Late Note on Ben Wallace and “Mobile Crematoriums”

From Snopes, in February:

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in late February 2022, disturbing accounts of a crematorium on wheels circulated through various news publications and in statements by a U.K. government official.

According to U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, the Russian military may use mobile crematoriums in Ukraine to cover up any casualties from combat.

…According to The Telegraph, the U.K. Ministry of Defense released a video of the crematoriums.

We found the video with the exact same footage posted on YouTube in 2015, which provides the contact information of Tourmaline, a St. Petersburg company allegedly behind such machines… The original video appears to be from August 2013.

It bugged me at the time that the Telegraph would describe an old YouTube video as “footage released by the MoD”. My interpretation is that Wallace wanted a media talking point, and so someone in his office decided to dust off an old claim that had circulated in 2015 after the invasion of Donbas.

No firm evidence was ever produced back then, and it looks to me that confusion either arose or was contrived due to an overlap in meaning between крематоры and Инсинератор. Many people understand a “crematorium” to mean a place where an entire human body is destroyed, whereas dead animals and organic hospital waste are sent to an “incinerator”. More formally, however, a “crematorium” is a device for destroying any biological matter. It appears that the mobile crematoria are designed for use on farms, and that the idea of them being used to destroy human remains was simply a speculative extrapolation.

Snopes rated the claim as “unproven”, and it hasn’t felt the need to revise its assessment since then. However, the story is now being revived on social media in the wake of the discovery of Russian atrocities in Ukraine. This time, though, the supposed purpose of the crematoria is not to conceal Russian deaths in a way utterly inconsistent with Russian Orthodox and Muslim practice (cremation is strictly forbidden), but rather to dispose of murdered Ukrainians. However, neither speculation makes much sense: it is well known that the Russians have suffered heavy casualties, and there is no evidence that Russian soldiers have made any effort to conceal their crimes (indeed, it’s possible that civilian bodies have been left on display deliberately, as a form of psychological terrorism). Further, no mobile crematorium has so far been spotted in any of the many videos or pictures showing Russian equipment.

Wallace’s decision to recycle an old YouTube video in such a misleading way is self-promoting buffoonery that we could well do without. I’m reminded of the way that the former MP Patrick Mercer used to get himself in the newspapers on a regular basis with talking points about the Taliban using HIV needle bombs and Islamic terrorists deploying explosive breast implants.

A Note on the Ukraine “Biolab” Conspiracy Narrative

At Foreign Policy, Justin Ling discusses Glenn Greenwald’s extrapolation from evidence given by U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland to Marco Rubio concerning biolabs in Ukraine:

Writer Glenn Greenwald, increasingly aligned with far-right polemicists, spun an imaginary narrative where Rubio was “visibly stunned,” characterizing Nuland’s comments as confirmation of U.S-controlled or created biological weapons in Ukraine.

Greenwald’s theory was quickly endorsed by Fox News host and de facto voice of the American far-right Tucker Carlson. Carlson dismissed the idea that QAnon (“whatever that is,” Carlson said) was responsible for the original theory—despite the theory’s originator being a longtime QAnon follower. Carlson declared Nuland’s testimony confirmation that “the Russian disinformation they’ve been telling us for days is a lie, and a conspiracy theory, and crazy, and immoral to believe is, in fact, totally and completely true,” he said. “Woah.”

Greenwald also cited the story as evidence that “disinformation” trackers cannot be trusted, and he responded to criticisms that he was spouting Russian propaganda by denouncing “drooling McCarthyite cretins like @peterjukes”. Of course, for characters such as Greenwald the way to deal with apparently new information is to assimilate it into a pre-existing narrative, rather than to Google around for a bit and look for the actual wider context. In this instance, Russia and Greenwald also capitalised on an increasing sense among the public that biolabs are inherently sinister and nefarious, a view engendered by sensationalising articles about the origins of Covid-19.

The reality – that US funding assisted Ukraine with upgrading legacy ex-Soviet institutions involved in useful pathogen research – has now been dealt with in detail across the mainstream media, including even on Fox News itself (see also here).

One particular line of bogus intrigue that caught my eye was in a post by Natalie Winters at Raheem Kassam’s National Pulse, which referred to a “deleted” page on a site called BioPrepWatch.com. That page featured a brief news item from 2010 called “Biolab opens in Ukraine”, which included the following details:

U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar applauded the opening of the Interim Central Reference Laboratory in Odessa, Ukraine, this week, announcing that it will be instrumental in researching dangerous pathogens used by bioterrorists.

…Lugar said plans for the facility began in 2005 when he and then Senator Barack Obama entered a partnership with Ukrainian officials. Lugar and Obama also helped coordinate efforts between the U.S and Ukrainian researchers that year in an effort to study and help prevent avian flu.

This is all consistent with information that is easily available online, and the piece itself is obviously derivative of some press release (the article is attributed to one “Tina Redlup”, but this is probably a house name for a team tasked with generating all kinds of “bio”-related news content). The only reason that anyone would bother to refer to it now is because its deletion might appear suspicious – but for the fact that all of the site’s old news content was deleted in 2017, before the site was revamped in 2020.

Meanwhile, the academic Marc Owen Jones has done a cluster analysis of Twitter accounts. He found a “few tight clusters mentioning biolabs, and seemingly helping push the conspiratorial narrative including numerous Americans, such as @JackPosobiec @ChuckCallesto @bennyjohnson”. There is also further analysis by Kate Starbird.

UPDATE: Greenwald’s interpretation has also been amplified on YouTube by Russell Brand, a middle-aged former comedian turned conspiracy-peddler.

UPDATE 2: At GB News, Mark Steyn gave a monologue titled “Wuhan 2.0?”, which was afterwards re-uploaded by RT to Gab. As summarised by RT on the same post:

Steyn’s eight-minute speech targeted Dr Anthony Fauci’s involvement and apparent cover-up of US gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and slammed the “court eunuchs of the legacy media” for insisting the Ukrainian biolabs were innocent.

UPDATE 3: A useful debunking thread has appeared on Twitter by Olga V. Pettersson, a Russian geneticist living in Sweden. It is in Russian, but has been translated into English by Ilya Lozovsky, senior editor at the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

A Note on the Unherd “War Rape Videos” Claim

A sensational allegation from Julie Bindel on Unherd:

Pornhub has a new category: “Ukrainian girls and war rape videos”; it is dominated by Russian soldiers documenting disgustingly brutal crimes.

The quote also appears on Unherd‘s Twitter stream.

Unfortunately, Bindel does not provide any source for her allegation, and it is astonishing that such material could be uploaded anywhere (let alone to a commercial website in the US) without coming under immediate and intense global scrutiny. Russia’s war atrocities in Ukraine are many, but crimes against humanity of rape and sexual assault are particularly egregious and would provoke universal outrage and disgust. We would expect front-page headlines, statements from Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and extensive commentary from OSINT activists. Yet there is nothing.

The most likely explanation is that Bindel has extrapolated carelessly from the observation made by the anti-sex trafficking activist Tom Farr in late February that “trending searches” listed on Pornhub recently included “ukrainian” and “ukrainian girls”. Farr’s commentary on this was that

The absolute depths of human suffering and misery is just another “category” for the porn industry. It takes every aspect of our humanity, turns it into the most depraved and dehumanised product imaginable, and then sells it back to us. It is a truly horrific industry. 

This comment was later incorporated into an article posted by an anti-trafficking site called Exodus Cry, which added that

On Pornhub, terms such as “Ukrainian girls,” “Ukrainian porn,” and “war porn” have become trending searches in the week since Russian forces attacked Ukraine.

Certainly, the “trending searches” are both disturbing and repellent, but they do not mean that images depicting sexual war crimes in Ukraine (whether real or staged for fetishistic purposes) are available. Responses to the Unherd Tweet include a Tweet from a journalist who said that he “tried a search and got a warning such content would be illegal”. Someone else has posted a screenshot of a notice on the site stating that “Actual or staged depictions of coerced or non-consensual sexual acts… is not permitted on our site”.

Footnote

In 2015, Bindel wrote an article for Standpoint on “Britain’s Apologists For Child Abuse”, in which she segued polemically from the effusions of Tom O’Carroll to “a two-part investigation for BBC Radio 4’s Analysis” that “sought to question how what were described as the ‘bizarre ideas’ of Satanic abuse gained traction among police and social care professionals in the 1980s and early 1990s”. I discussed the radio documentary here.

Her article was written during Operation Conifer, and she also claimed that according to child protection campaigners it was “widely known” that Edward Heath “was involved in organised child abuse rings”

In April 2018, Bindel denounced Jeremy Corbyn for his failure to accept that Russia was responsible for the Skripal poisonings in Salisbury, although a few months later she appeared on a podcast produced by the Russian media outlet Sputnik, in which she discussed “the trans Taliban”.

Turning Point UK Downplays John Mappin Link

Turning Point UK issues a stern corrective to Jessica Simor QC:

Hi Jessica, John Mappin is not “of Turning Point UK”, he does not and has not held any position in the organisation.

As for our stance on Ukraine I’m sure it is fairly obvious from our tweets.

As a QC I would’ve expected you to have done your homework before tweeting nonsense.

The millionaire hotelier Mappin has long described himself as the “co-founder” of Turning Point UK, and Simor responded with a 2019 Tweet from Channel 4 News that quoted him thus:

I’ve been helping with the Trump movement since he announced his election. I co-founded Turning Point UK and it has a duty to-to share good ideas with the Conservative party. Trump is absolutely a political phenomenon and it’s global.

TPUK’s response to this was to say that the media “just print whatever they want”, although they did not explain how the quote is misleading or false.

Of course, just because someone has co-founded a group it does not mean that they have an ongoing interest in its activities. However, it reasonable to assume some kind of continuing association unless stated overwise. At an event at in Pall Mall in late 2018, Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA reportedly told attendees that potential donors “can talk to John [Mappin] or some of our other very good friends in the room” (1), and in 2019 Mappin spoke in first-person plural of having “appointed” the head of Turning Point UK (Oliver Anisfeld).

Simor had referred to the link between Mappin and TPUK in response to a Tweet by Tom Scott that included a screenshot of Mappin writing in support of Putin on 24 February (2). Mappin had Tweeted:

What President Putin @KremlinRussia_E has done is a gift for the freedom of the world.

Those who love freedom have a duty to back him up.

It is so important that the deep state’s Nazi collaborator’s are fully confronted,

The deep state is on the ropes, the whole world sees.

Mappin subsequently deleted this, along with a Tweet from the same day stating “I stand with Russian Bear“. However, his output remains pro-Putin, and he is currently speculating about the possibility of the British government staging “a Nuclear False Flag just to cover up vax side effects”.

Mappin’s hotel is a castle in Cornwall that he calls Camelot, and he previously achieved notoriety for flying a “Q” flag in support of the QAnon conspiracy theory. He is in good standing with various activists who have expressed scepticism either of Covid-19 or of measures to protect against it: those who have enjoyed his hospitality include Piers Corbyn, James Melville and Laurence Fox, and early last month he was out on the town with Melville and with GB News’s Neil Oliver (3).

He is also a friend of Nigel Farage, who sits on the advisory board of a company in which Mappin and his wife have a 30% stake (4).

TPUK’s Tweets to Simor appear to be an attempt to distance the organisation from Mappin without being drawn into an explicit repudiation.

Notes

1. This has long been described as TPUK’s launch event, but TPUK now state that it was “a TPUSA event in the UK, as TPUK did not exist until 2020”. This is either a ret-con or a very pedantic distinction given the event’s purpose.

2. Tom Scott previously wrote about Mappin and Camelot for West Country Voices, in an article called “QAnon in Cornwall”.

3. According to Mappin, the night out was co-organised by Emma Sayle – it was through Sayle that Times journalist Kate Spicer got an introduction to Mappin for her profile of him published last year.

4. The company, Dutch Green Business, is based in the Netherlands. According to The Times:

All of the key figures behind DGB are linked to Scientology. Mappin, who is company chairman, and his wife, a board member, are followers of the cult and frequently recommend Dianetics — one of Scientology’s central texts — to followers as a “cure for depression”.

Selwyn Duijvestijn, DGB’s chief executive, is an ambassador for the Scientology-run Youth for Human Rights (YHR), as is Hilda van der Muelen, a former Miss Netherlands, who was introduced to Scientology by Mappin while both were living in Hollywood in the 1990s.

James Melville Moving Closer to Icke Milieu

From an online audio discussion co-hosted by Leilani Dowding and James Melville, on the subject of “Russia Ukraine questions” (28 February):

Dowding:
Lots of people, if you look at what’s happened to Russian currency, it has dropped at least like 30% in the past week… so if they’ve sold it then all these people who have got millions – the globalists, the bankers, the currency traders, they’ve got millions to play with. There’s a lot of people that have made a lot of money knowing that sanctions would cause havoc with Russian currency.

Participant:
You’re talking about trillions here, though. I mean, Look at people, families like the Rothschilds, the Black Rock Vanguard, all the rest of them, you know, there’s actually trillions of dollars, not just millions. These guys, I mean, they don’t have our best interests at heart at all.

Melville:
But that’s the other thing with sanctions as well, I mean it’s quid pro quo, it does work the other way as well. Sanctions massively hurt other economies but fundamentally they’ll hurt all of us if we go down the hardballing sanctions.

Melville then moved on to another participant. The exchange has been preserved on Twitter by @CovidRadicals, which describes itself as “Highlighting the radicalisation of people by covid 19 pandemic conspiracists”.

It’s not clear why Melville doesn’t push back against the notorious “Rothschild” trope; however, the following day he posted a list of “those who gain from pandemics and military conflicts”, at the head of which he placed “financiers”. In fairness, it may be that he didn’t want to turn an open forum where “we can all discuss” into a debate (i.e. the discussion was a “safe space”), but what might have been going through his head is of less interest than the objective fact that his acquiescence here means that he is helping to normalise “Rothschild” conspiracy mongering.

Also of note is Melville’s co-host. Leilani Dowding is a former model and television celebrity, apparently best known for appearing in an ITV reality show called Real Housewives of Cheshire. However, she is also a long-time associate of David Icke – back in 2013 the Sun reported on her beliefs under the headline “Leilani: Royals are a bunch of shape-shifting lizards”, claiming:

At a private dinner party during LA fashion week, the bonkers babe told pals she believed the human race comes from a planet called Zeta Reticuli, and a mothership will land on earth to take us all back home.

Dowding is now displayed as a presenter alongside David Icke himself on a conspiracy streaming site called Icktonic. Icke, of course, is himself heavily invested in anti-Rothschild rhetoric, which he denies is anti-Semitic despite illustrating his point via explicitly anti-Jewish imagery (such as this David Dees cartoon).

The point here is not “guilt by association”, although some alliances are discreditable and quite properly bring reputational damage. Rather, the point is to show how online influencers and pundits facilitate the spread of harmful ideas through networks of mutually reinforcing endorsements and associations that serve to make them appear less disreputable or outlandish.

Melville makes regular appearances on GB News (1) and he recently posted a photograph of himself posing with Nigel Farage. He wrote “My journey is now complete”, having previously been a supporter of the Remain cause, but from the above it looks more like he’s still on a trajectory (2).

Notes

1. GB News gives Melville authority by billing him as “James Melville, MD of East Points West Communication” – “MD” here meaning “Managing Director”. However, this company, officially called “Eastpointswest”, appears to be dormant.

2. Melville has also enjoyed the hospitality of John Mappin, the millionaire Cornwall hotelier who flies a “Q” flag from above his property to signify his support of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Mappin has also had tête-à-têtes with Piers Corbyn and Laurence Fox (see here).

A Note on “Savile Smears”

From Ayesha Hazarika in the Independent:

At the start of the week, we witnessed a new low for British politics. When the Prime Minister was meant to be making a sombre apology for Downing Street parties and the failure of leadership at No 10 identified in Sue Gray’s report, he suddenly launched an audacious, deranged, and wicked attack on [Keir] Starmer by saying he was responsible for the failure to prosecute Jimmy Savile.

We know this is untrue. It’s all on the record in a report. We know how low it is to weaponise sexual abuse especially for the victims of Savile. We all know this is the man who accused a child sex abuse inquiry of spaffing money up the wall. We know all that. But let’s be clear – at the heart of this was a tactic no more sophisticated than yelling “you nonce” at Starmer and hoping some of it would stick because in an era of unhinged conspiracy theories and social media, by the time the truth has got its boots on, the paedo meme is halfway round the world.

Johnson’s strategy is rumoured to have been suggested to him by Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was shown smirking and pointing during the jibe and whose subsequent defence of it in Parliament was amplified online by Paul Staines. Johnson’s line of attack was also endorsed by Nadine Dorries MP in a Channel 4 interview, in which she asserted that “the Prime Minister tells the truth” while denying having any knowledge of the specifics (in contrast to when in May 2020 she promoted a deceptively edited clip uploaded by a far-right Twitter account in which Starmer appeared to justify failing to prosecute grooming gang cases).

Starmer was the Director of Public Prosecutions in 2009, which was when Jimmy Savile was interviewed by police under caution in relation to allegations relating to the Duncroft Approved School in Surrey. A file was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service, which judged that there was insufficient evidence to proceed. In 2013 a review by Alison Levitt QC found that more could have been done by police and prosecutors to build a case and to pursue other allegations – Starmer accepted this finding and made an apology on behalf of the CPS.

Rees-Mogg correctly regards this as analogous to ministerial responsibility, in which a minster may apologise for mistakes that occur within their department even though they may have had nothing to do with them personally. Where he is mendacious is in the suggestion that this in turn is comparable to Boris Johnson’s responsibility for events that took place inside his own home, in at least some of which Johnson is personally implicated. Further, it is reasonable to suppose that Rees-Mogg is rationalising after Johnson’s comments were taken to mean that Starmer was indeed personally responsible, and that that this was both more serious and more currently relevant than Johnson’s own conduct. (1)

It is certainly appropriate to be revolted by Johnson’s deployment of Jimmy Savile in such a self-serving way, and to be irritated by the implied insult to our intelligence. Coming from the prime minister, it is also indeed a “new low”. However, if journalists are suddenly concerned about a “Savile smear” it seems to me that  a more thorough audit of Savile claims would be welcome. Stories alleging that Savile was involved in Satanic Ritual Abuse or a paedophile ring that also included Edward Heath find their origins not with “social media” but in sensationalising newspaper reports. More generally, the journalist David Rose wrote in 2016:

Some of the discrepancies I was able to expose in articles about the Savile case in the autumn of 2014 had been canvassed in the blogosphere for months, by Susanne Cameron-Blackie [Anna Raccoon] and others. But although one other national newspaper journalist did become interested, he backed off, having told at least two of his sources that to publish material casting doubt on the prevailing narrative would be ‘career suicide’.

Meanwhile, the High Court had established a compensation scheme, a means of paying damages to ‘victims’ from what was left of Savile’s estate, administered by his executors, the NatWest bank. It allowed for only the most cursory scrutiny of allegations’ veracity. The assumption underlying it was, self-evidently, that most of them must be true.

This lack of due diligence was most evident in the case of Carl Beech, whose first foray into hoaxing the media and police involved a false claim about Savile. There is also reason to be concerned about the subsequent trajectories of some of those involved in the 2012 Exposure documentary on Savile, which focused in particular on the Duncroft claims. Mark Williams-Thomas was later involved in promoting false allegations against Cliff Richard, and I am sure that if the singer were not still alive and able to push back we would have seen a similar documentary about him. Meirion Jones, who produced a follow-up BBC documentary called Jimmy Savile – What the BBC Knew, later went on to make the extraordinary claim that the BBC’s critical investigation into Operation Midland had been announced with the purpose of distracting attention from the sentencing of Bishop Peter Ball. There’s a direct line from that kind of thing to mobs chanting “paedo-protectors” outside Broadcasting House (a line that may be overlooked with greater interest in QAnon imports).

UPDATE: A report in the Sunday Times states that

The origin of the claim against Starmer is believed to be a 2018 article on the right-wing political website, Guido Fawkes, concerning his time as DPP (2008-13). According to research by the campaign group Hope Not Hate, searches for “Starmer” and “Savile” peaked in April 2020 when the far-right fake news site Politicalite published a piece with the headline, “New leader new danger: Keir Starmer ‘helped paedophile Jimmy Saville [sic] evade justice’”.

Lia Nici, the Conservative MP for Great Grimsby, claimed on BBC5 Live last week that when Starmer visited her seat last month, constituents asked on social media why he was coming in light of Savile. “This was absolutely, utterly the number one issue for local people,” she said. “[They said]: ‘He did this with the CPS. He should be ashamed.’”

…At an anti-lockdown rally near Buckingham Palace in the summer of 2020, [BBC reporter Marianna] Spring spoke to a group of women who were discussing fake “case studies” of child abuse victims. “One of the women specifically mentioned Starmer to me and how he had protected Savile,” Spring says. “I asked where she’d seen that, and she said: ‘It’s all over my Facebook group; it’s everywhere.’”

The article links the Starmer/Savile smear with with QAnon, anti-vaccine misinformation and political falsehoods – but fails to engage with the Savile conspiricism and “VIP abuse” sensationalism of the mainstream media since 2012.

Footnote

1. Ironically, Starmer has also been accused of over-zealousness as head of the DPP, and criticised for introducing the “believe the accuser” principle that led to the Operation Midland fiasco in 2014 (after he had moved on) and other excesses. In 2020 Paul Gambaccini stated that he might “stand against Sir Keir Starmer at the next general election in protest at the Labour leadership hopeful’s handling of Operation Yewtree”, and Harvey Proctor’s experiences as an Operation Midland suspect form the basis for a chapter in Michael Ashcroft’s recent biography of Starmer, Red Knight.