A couple of years ago, when talking about Guido Fawkes and his role (or lack of it) in Mark Oaten’s withdrawal from that month’s Lib Dem leadership race, I signed off by saying that “with luck our paths won’t cross again”. Well, no such luck unfortunately, and while I would love to take DonaldS’s advice and “just ignore him”, that is easier said than done if you read many of the blogs I do. It can be just as hard to escape Guido elsewhere, be it making a tit of himself on Newsnight, or being credited by Dianne Abbot on This Week with breaking the story that brought down Peter Hain (true, if by “breaking a story” you mean adding a footnote to something the media had been running with for days.)
Guido is at best a knob, someone who ruthlessly hunts down political scandal by regularly checking his in box and tossing his newfound trivia and hearsay the way of the world wide web, all the while dressing up his gossip-mongering as some sort of libertarian master plan to bring down the political class. Well, he had to do something when the serious projects where he masqueraded under his real name such as Global Growth went nowhere. Alongside his failure to break the Hain story, Guido’s successes include the aforementioned erroneous claim regarding Oaten (which only works if you equate paedophilia with homosexuality), something about a love-child triangle amongst some journalists that is of no interest to anyone other than the individuals involved, and his revelation that John Prescott shags around a bit. If that latter story were an attempt to undermine politicians and show them as a separate class of “others” then I would consider it a failure, adultery being a fairly common human fallibility. Certainly Guido’s muckraking doesn’t have the desired effect on me; reading his blog and the comments therein usually makes me sympathise with a group of people I otherwise have little time for. Far from destroying the political class he is merely an echo chamber for the already disaffected; I doubt he has changed anyone’s mind on the matter of our public servants.
So why am I wittering on about him, then? Good question. I have recently been following this story regarding Tim Ireland who made some allegation about Guido on his Bloggerheads site; I’m not bothering to repeat them here because they are the least interesting facet of the affair. Tim gets criticised by his opponents sometimes as being obsessive, and worse; I prefer dogged myself, although I admit he can take things a bit far at times. Anyway, the allegations were straight forward enough, so it would have been a simple matter for Guido to have just refuted them; so why didn’t he? Instead he reached for his lawyer, a tactic he has used before.
Fair enough you may say, and perhaps this shows that Tim’s attack was the straw that broke the camel’s back, a consequence of the running sore that is his and Guido’s relationship. But then Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy revealed that he too had had the frighteners put on him, in his case simply because his site had linked to Tim’s original post. Sounds as if someone is getting a little out of hand. All this is reminiscent of the sort of tactics employed by Schillings, with the libel laws being used not to put a stop to lies, but to silence free speech, and coming from someone who once complained that “the libel laws in Britain have long been overly restrictive and frustrated Guido’s efforts…Guido has a few things he has been itching to write about some very rich people.”
Perhaps he just meant richer people. We are all hypocrites to a greater or lesser extent, but even so it is still rare to find such a cut and dried example of the art. I have a lot of time for the more thoughtful libertarians out there who are dedicated to their high ideals of freedom and liberty, but by his actions Guido seems more the instinctive, knee-jerk sort, who dreams of ending state coercion not so it can guide us from the world of the dead hand to that of the invisible hand, but just to ensure that he can pay less tax while power resides with those with the deepest pockets. Or perhaps I am showing my ignorance of what libertarians really stand for.
All of which is a long and roundabout way of saying that, for what it’s worth, should Tim and Sunny require the support of a blog that hardly anybody reads, they’ve got it.