Monday, July 18, 2011

Hack Attack

Just when you thought it couldn't, possibly, get any funnier, remarkably, it has.
Former News International chief executive well-known Crystal Tipps-lookalike Rebekah Brooks has been arrested in connection with an investigation into phone hacking and bribery and corruption. The forty three-year-old was arrested by appointment by officers from Operation Weeting at a London police station. Met Police said that she is currently still in custody. This is the tenth arrest made by police investigating hacking allegations by the News of the World newspaper. Brooks was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and on suspicion of corruption allegations. The Operation Weeting team is conducting the current investigation into phone hacking. Officers from Operation Elveden were also involved with the arrest. They are investigating allegations of inappropriate payments to police, an inquiry which is being supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Channel Four News also suggested that officers from the Serious Fraud Office were also involved although this was subsequently denied by the Financial Times. Whether the Frivolous Fraud Officer were involved, we don't yet know. A spokesman for Brooks says: 'She voluntarily attended a London police station to assist the investigation. This was a pre-arranged appointment. We are unable to comment further as it is an ongoing police investigation.' The BBC reported that the spokesman also said Brooks had been 'surprised' to be arrested. CNN reported that according to Brook's PR agent, Dave Wilson Brooks did not know that she was going to be arrested when she turned up to the police station. Robert Peston, the BBC's political editor, claimed that 'News International sources say they had no inkling Rebekah Brooks would be arrested when discussing her resignation last week.' He added: 'The arrest of Rebekah Brooks is a huge deal - one degree of separation from the most powerful people (several of them) in the UK.' Pestinfestation also called the arrest 'the greatest failure to date in the Murdoch-controlled group's campaign for rehabilitating itself. News International has been on an explicit mission to demonstrate that Mrs Brooks was innocent of all wrongdoing. The company's version of what happened at the News of the World and who was to blame has been implicitly challenged in a fundamental way by the decision of the Metropolitan Police to arrest her on suspicion of alleged involvement in phone hacking and corruption. The importance of today's events is that her claimed ignorance did not prevent her being arrested.' Brooks is, of course, due to appear in front of the Commons media select committee on Tuesday to answer MPs questions on the hacking scandal. Her spokesman said that her arrest would make her appearance at the committee 'pretty tricky.' Her former boss News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son James Murdoch, chairman of News International, are also due to appear. Media analyst Steve Hewlett told the BBC that the timing of these latest events may have been an attempt to limit the damage done to News International. 'To have a very senior executive of the company arrested would have been rather worse than having a very senior former executive of the company, albeit only just,' he said. 'If that's correct, then it may even be that even the latest move by News Corporation to kind of stem the tide - with the resignations of Les Hinton in America and Rebekah Brooks - may have been forced on them by events beyond their control. Which would raise yet further questions about whether News Corporation have even now really understood and accepted the gravity of the situation that they're facing.' Brooks was eventually released on bail around midnight after twelve hours of questioning.

Reaction to the news of Brooks' arrest was a curious mixture of relief, schadenfreudegasm and incandescent outrage at the timing. Mark Lewis, the Dowler family lawyer, told Sky News that the timing of Brooks's arrest 'stinks.' He added: 'I think it's an incredible bit of timing and I think it gives the impression that these questions [from the parliamentary committee] can't be answered. To be arrested two days before a committee hearing in which she was giving evidence looks deliberate.' Michael White, the Gruniad's assistant editor, added that he is 'wary' of these 'grandstanding' arrests - 'when they tip off their friends in the media, including me' - suggesting that such situations are somewhat intended to show that the police are doing their jobs. 'Remember that there are a few questions to answer about the Met in this case,' he noted, adding that it's not clear the police needed to arrest Brooks, since she was attending the police station anyway. He mentioned the 'disgraceful circumstances' of the arrest of the Conservative immigration spokesman Damien Green in 2008. White subsequently moved over to the BBC News channel and, again, dismissed the arrest as 'news management. Arrest is a nice word, everyone knows what it means,' he said. 'Much easier than all the searching questions about the Met's role. And tomorrow's newspaper headlines will be about this arrest, not about the Met downplaying the seriousness of the phone-hacking that my colleagues at the Guardian have uncovered.' There was more conspiracy theorising, from Tom Watson: 'Had she made her appointment to be arrested before confirming attendance at our committee?' He wondered. 'I wouldn't be surprised.' Watson's colleague Chris Bryant told Sky News that this arrest should have happened a long time ago: 'I always though she should have been arrested in 2003, when she admitted to paying police officers to a Commons select committee.' He went on to say that he found it 'strange' that she had been arrested 'by appointment on a Sunday,' wondering whether this was a way of getting around her having to answer questions in Tuesday's committee. But, he admitted that was something of a conspiracy theory and added that he 'wouldn't want to overstress that angle.' He left that to others. That was actually all he said, though, as he was on a train speaking on his mobile and he suddenly went silent. Had MI5 finally got this troublesome politician who just wouldn't shut up? Or, alternatively, had he just gone into a tunnel? From The North sought to bring you the news as soon as we uncovered it, dear blog reader. James Anslow, the former News of the World chief production editor, also suggested that the Sunday timing of the arrest was 'very strange,' and that you can weave 'all sorts of strange conspiracy theories about it.' And, as if to prove the point, Adrian Sanders, who is on the DCMS committee, did. 'The police knew perfectly well that our hearing was not likely to hamper their investigation, but they knew that arresting Brooks would hamper our hearing.' Oh, and at that point we found out that it, apparently, it must have been a tunnel as Chris Bryant was later able to release a statement: 'It looks as if the Metropolitan Police are doing the thorough investigation that they should have done five years ago. Clearly, Rebekah Brooks has got serious questions to answer. I hope this is not just a means of avoiding answering questions at the select committee on Tuesday. The waters are very definitely lapping around the Murdochs' own ankles. And it's interesting to note that David Cameron's closest friends, Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, have both been arrested. It makes you question his character.' Bryant was then back on Sky News suggesting that 'It is unusual to arrest by appointment on a Sunday and that just makes me wonder whether this is some ruse to avoid answering questions properly on Tuesday in the Commons committee. Why couldn't that have happened tomorrow or Wednesday or whenever?'

The Sun devoted just four paragraphs to the story that was soon dominating news websites across the world. Note the emphasis on the opening word, by the way: 'Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks has been arrested in connection with allegations of corruption and phone hacking. The forty three-year-old was arrested by appointment by Operation Weeting police at a London police station. Cops say she is currently still in custody. The arrest is the latest development in the phone hacking scandal, which led to the closure of the News of the World.' No mention of the fact that for seven glorious years Rebekah Brooks was the editor of yer actual super soaraway Current Bun, one notes. And, also, it's worth pointing out the Sun's reluctance to use the word police, presumably on the assumption that most of their readers are so bone-thick that they can't handle words with two syllables in them. As the Torygraph added, rather sniffily, in relation to the length of the piece, 'We've devoted almost that much space to Mick Hucknall jokes alone.' Like, for instance, from the novelist Richard Blandford on Twitter: 'Mick Hucknall arrested by accident.'

Speaking of which, you've read the papers, you've read the blog, you've watched it all on Sky News now, get ready for Hackgate: The Movie. Some people clearly have too much time on their hands. Thankfully. 'Hugh Grant is David Cameron. Colin Firth is Hugh Grant.' Heh.

In the day's other major Hackgate-related story, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson has resigned. Britain's most senior police officer has faced sustained criticism for his hiring of the former News of the World executive Neil Wallis - who was questioned by police investigating hacking - as a media adviser. Stephenson said that his links to the journalist 'could hamper investigations.' He said that there were 'lessons to be learned' from the affair, but that he was leaving with his 'integrity intact.' He also claimed that he had no knowledge of the extent of the phone hacking. Stephenson said in a statement: 'I have taken this decision as a consequence of the ongoing speculation and accusations relating to the Met's links with News International at a senior level and in particular in relation to Mr Neil Wallis.' He added: 'Let me state clearly, I and the people who know me know that my integrity is completely intact. I may wish we had done some things differently, but I will not lose sleep over my personal integrity.' In a not-even-remotely veiled attack on the prime minister, Stephenson explained the reason he had not told David Cameron about his own relationship with Wallis sooner: 'Unlike Mr Coulson, Mr Wallis had not resigned from News of the World or, to the best of my knowledge been in any way associated with the original phone hacking investigation. Once Mr Wallis's name did become associated with Operation Weeting, I did not want to compromise the Prime Minister in any way by revealing or discussing a potential suspect who clearly had a close relationship with Mr Coulson. I am aware of the many political exchanges in relation to Mr Coulson's previous employment - I believe it would have been extraordinarily clumsy of me to have exposed the prime minister, or by association the home secretary, to any accusation, however unfair, as a consequence of them being in possession of operational information in this regard. Similarly, the Mayor. Because of the individuals involved, their positions and relationships, these were I believe unique circumstances.' Boris Johnson, said that he accepted the resignation with 'great sadness and reluctance' and added that he had no reason to doubt Stephenson's 'complete integrity. I believe him to be a fine, passionate and committed public servant who has done a huge amount of good for our city,' he said.

Rebekah Brooks is to receive a three and a half million smacker severance package, according to a story in the Scum Mail on Sunday. The paper reports that the family of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose phone was hacked by the News of the World when Brooks was editor, are 'furious' - they quote the family's lawyer Mark Lewis as saying: 'From the Dowlers' perspective it is astonishing that such large payments could be made to people who were not victims of crime hacking but associated with the perpetrators.' The Scum Mail also ponders a question that, I must admit, I'd never previously considered but, when you think about it, seems a ruddy obvious one to ask: Why was law firm Harbottle & Lewis hired by News International to defend it against hacking claims when the firm had already previously advised the Royal family on a Scotland Yard's investigation which led to the jailing of News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman. Good question.

David Mitchell in the Observer wonders how that paper can pick up a few of the News of the World's now-unclaimed readers. He has a few suggestions: 'We must give them the scintillating scandal and gossip for which that paper was famous, but still protect our current readers' sensibilities with a spurious sense of irony – basically like G2. We'll have to fall back on that old tabloid staple, from before the red tops became poisoned by their obsession with illegally gotten accuracy: making stuff up.' He provides one such example: 'One-in-a-bed romp without Ryan Giggs - we talk exclusively to unpunctual vice girl Linda, who arrived at Chinawhite too late to romp with Ryan Giggs. "He told me he'd already romped several times that night and was sort of romped-out. He said the last thing he wanted was another romp. So I checked into the same hotel as him and tried to romp on my own but it wasn't the same. In the end, I built a little fort."' I used to like Mitchell a few years ago but, I think he's started to get a bit of that Stewart Lee ego thing and begun to believe his own hype on Chortle. Stick to what you're good at, mate, because you're not a political analyst, any more than I am.

The Sunday Mirra says that a Press Association royal reporter arrested as part of the hacking investigation is set to be 'cleared of any wrongdoing.' Laura Elston is the only journalist so far with no links to the News of the World to have been arrested. Prince Charles' spokesman Paddy Harverson, the paper claims, borrowed her phone to check his own voicemails whilst on a press trip to Africa in 2006.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has attempted to redirect the criticism that has been levelled against its owner, Rupert Murdoch, against the journalists who uncovered the illegal phone hacking and bribery at the News of the World. In an angry - not to mention grossly sycophantic and craven - unsigned editorial, the paper accuses the Guardian and the BBC of driving the phone hacking story for 'commercial and ideological motives.' It implies that the Gruniad did not have the right to make 'lectures about journalistic standards' because of this newspaper's involvement in publishing the WikiLeaks embassy cables. There's been one or two sniffy comments directed towards the BBC from other corners of the media too - particularly the Torygraph and the Scum Mail. Can't imagine for the life of me why ...

Ed Miliband has demanded the breakup of Rupert Murdoch's UK media empire in a dramatic intervention in the row over phone hacking. In an exclusive interview with the Observer, the Labour leader called for cross-party agreement on new media ownership laws that would cut Murdoch's current market share, arguing that he has 'too much power over British public life.' Miliband added that the abandonment by News International of its bid for BSkyB, the resignation of Rebekah Brooks, and the closure of the News of the World are insufficient to restore trust and reassure the public. The Labour leader argued that current media ownership rules are outdated, describing them as 'analogue rules for a digital age' that do not take into account the advent of mass digital and satellite broadcasting. 'I think that we've got to look at the situation whereby one person can own more than twenty per cent of the newspaper market, the Sky platform and Sky News,' Miliband said. 'I think it's unhealthy because that amount of power in one person's hands has clearly led to abuses of power within his organisation. If you want to minimise the abuses of power then that kind of concentration of power is frankly quite dangerous.' The move takes Miliband's campaign against the abuse of media power to new heights after a fortnight in which he has reinvigorated his own leadership by leading the attack on the Murdoch empire. While he insisted that the recently announced inquiries should take their course, the Labour leader said that he hoped the main parties could agree on a common approach. His latest intervention comes as a poll on Saturday night showed his personal rating up seven points on a month ago. Miliband will today blame the phone hacking scandal on a culture of 'irresponsibility' which also led to the banking crisis and MPs' abuse of their expenses. The Labour leader will say that all three episodes were caused by some of the most powerful people in society thinking they were 'untouchable' and could act as they pleased. In a speech at KPMG in central London, Miliband will also continue to press for a change to the media ownership laws, saying that the size of Rupert Murdoch's empire is 'not healthy.' The speech, the contents of which were leaked to the Torygraph late on Sunday night, will include the following: 'We need to address this responsibility deficit we see in our society.' He will say that Murdoch's power in the British media is part of the problem and that Labour will submit proposals for a change to ownership rules to the forthcoming judge-led inquiry into the affair. 'Down the ages, it is large concentrations of power that lead to abuses of power and neglect of responsibility. In the banks, they were too big to fail. And the same is true in our media.' The Labour leader will also say that a reformed press complaints system should also encourage greater responsibility. 'When you make a mistake, you should have to publish an equally prominent apology. When you wrong someone, you should have to pay compensation and not force them to go to the courts. And you should be judged not by your fellow editors but independent people.'

You know a news story had captured the public psyche when it becomes the butt of a joke on Top Gear. On Sunday night's episode - just before Rowan Atkinson became the fastest ever Star in a Reasonably Priced Car - we got a Hackgate joke. Or two. 'Are you saying that Jaguar should tailor their cars for the Chipping Norton Set?' asked James May. When Jezza Clarkson noted that, yes, that's exactly what he believed, May replied: 'What's the point of that? Aren't they all going to be in prison next week?' I'll bet, when they recorded that last Wednesday Jeremy never thought for a second that, as it went out, his friend Rebekah actually would be down the nick 'helping the police with their inquiries.'

BBC1's Casualty reclaimed its Saturday night stronghold, according to overnight audience data. The medical drama, celebrating its twenty fifth year on air this September, pulled in 5.47m from 9pm for an episode titled Pascal's Wager. Head-to-head with ITV's flagship summer entertainment show, Penn & Teller: Fool Us, hosted by Jonathan Ross, was watched by just 2.96m. The magician double-act appealed to a further two hundred and forty thousand viewers on ITV+1. Despite the low figure, Penn and Teller's audience was, actually, ITV's most popular primetime offering - a staggering contrast to just a few weeks ago when Britain's Got Talent was pulling in over ten million every Saturday. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Behind The Magic was watched by 2.87m at 7.15pm, Odd One In by 2.32m at 8.15pm and The Marriage Ref slumped even lower to a risible 1.51m at the later time of 10pm. Meanwhile, the BBC's John Barrowman vehicle Tonight's The Night continued with it's impressive start to its second season with 4.53m at 7.10pm, The National Lottery: In It To Win It had 5.35m at 8.10pm, and the fifth episode of Lee Mack's All Star Cast was seen by 3.4m (17.8%) at 9.50pm. Over on BBC2, a classic Dad's Army episode drew 2.04m at 7.30pm, after which 1.17m watched The Impressionists: Painting and Revolution in the 8pm hour. Have I Got A Bit More News For You followed at 9pm with 1.65m and Secrets of the Pop Song had eight hundred and fifty four thousand viewers.

Michael McIntyre has said he has been 'shocked and hurt' by the abuse he gets from other comedians since hitting the big time. Appearing on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs this weekend, the comedian said that he received 'an amazing amount of hostility' for the crime of becoming famous. 'I think it comes with the territory,' he told presenter Kirsty Young. 'And I can't say, it's water off a duck's back and I'm so thick-skinned, I can't just say that. I'm getting used to it. But it did come as a shock at the beginning I can't deny that. I would never be rude about somebody else in my profession because we all do this same thing. We're just trying to make people laugh. I have my audience - other people have their audience.' McIntyre said the backlash intensified when he won a British Comedy Award in January, but also became the butt of a few jokes. 'It just made me feel awful because I'm there with my wife - and she's gone out and bought a dress - and it's my big night and I won and the overriding experience was that of nastiness,' he said.

Murder suspect Drew Peterson has begun legal action against Lifetime Entertainment over their upcoming TV biopic based on his life. Earlier this year the network cast Rob Lowe in the role of Peterson, opposite The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco. Ladykiller: The Drew Peterson Story will recount Peterson's legal troubles after he was charged with the murder of his third wife and the disappearance of his fourth wife. Peterson, who is currently in an Illinois jail awaiting trial, has filed a 'cease and desist' letter against the network, insisting they end production on the biopic immediately. 'First and foremost, we want to make sure Drew gets an unbiased jury pool,' defence attorney Joel Brodsky told the Chicago Sun-Times. 'But even after the trial, if these people are making money from the use of his name, why shouldn't Drew get some of that money? It's his story.' Peterson's argument is that the movie will be a 'character assassination' that could influence potential jury members ahead of his trial.

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer are to perform their first live show together in fifteen years. The gig is part of the duo's current sponsorship deal with Fosters lager, which has also brought a series of Internet sketches called Afternoon Delights. The live show, at the relatively intimate Camden Highlight on 13 August, will feature a series of sketches based on the web clips. Tickets are only available to win on Foster’s Facebook page. In a statement, Vic and Bob said: 'We haven't performed live for decades, in fact we've been half-dead throughout that time and very dreary. Then along came Foster’s to pull us out of our torpor and place us on stage for your assessment and evaluation. We relish the opportunity and promise not to disappoint. Any queries regarding the live show should be addressed to Doctor Shakamoto at Fugitsuma Film Corp. Leeds.' Foster’s marketing manager Gayle Harrison said the gig would be 'exciting.' Bet it's not as good as The Brown Tour, though. 'Y'can't give booze t'baby!'

Horrible Kate Garraway has reportedly quit her role as entertainment editor on Daybreak. The presenter, who was the only GMTV host to secure a role on its replacement, will leave when her contract runs out in September. Possible replacements are said to include Crimewatch's Rav Wilding. Garraway's exit is suggested to have 'come as a blow' to her colleagues and follows the resignation of her former husband and the show's editor Ian Rumsey last week. 'Kate is a very popular member of the team so this is a huge blow. Morale really is at an all-time low,' an 'insider' allegedly told the Daily Lies Sunday. ITV's flop breakfast show has suffered a number of setbacks since its launch last year, with spectacularly low ratings and truly awful AI figures leading to the broadcaster admitting that the show had underperformed. Anchors Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley's roles on the show have also been subject to speculation and BBC Breakfast's Chris Hollins has been tipped as a replacement for Chiles. An ITV spokeswoman, however, stated that the story in the newspaper is 'absolutely untrue.' Which must mean that a member of the press is lying. That's so hard to believe. Oh no, hang on, it's the Daily Lies, isn't it? Okay, forget that ...

Marks & Spencer has dropped a series of television adverts featuring model Twiggy, Dannii Minogue and singer VV Brown as it looks to revamp its appeal. So, this isn't just an ordinary sacking, this is a Marks & Spencer sacking. Twiggy is expected to continue working with the company by appearing on billboards and in-store promotions, or doing voice-over, but the company last night refused to say whether she would be seen 'in the flesh' in any new TV adverts for the retailer. She joins presenter and model Lisa Snowdon and former footballer Jamie Redknapp as the only three celebrities understood to be continuing to promote the M&S brand in future, as the company refreshes its celebrity line-up. All other famous faces, including Myleene Klass and Mick Jagger's daughter Lizzy, are understood to 'no longer be working with M&S.' The line-up of celebrities featured in the company's famous campaigns has frequently changed. The Christmas commercials are particularly star-studded and have included Take That, Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, Life on Mars actor Philip Glenister, Shirley Bassey and even Wallace and Gromit. Models Laura Bailey, Erin O'Connor and Lily Cole have also modelled for the brand.A spokesman for Marks & Spencer said: 'For competitive reasons we don't comment on our future advertising plans.'

An Australian woman was questioned by police after trying to sell her children on eBay. The mother, from Geelong, posted an advert for buyers to bid on her two young offspring, but was shocked when her practical joke resulted in the authorities being called to investigate. The eBay listing included photographs of the woman's two children, both of whom are under ten years old. Officials were quickly notified, following which child protection officers and the police began a full investigation. 'Police tracked down the woman who said it was a joke,' police officials said in a statement, before confirming that no charges will be brought against her. 'However, police discourage this type of behaviour.' Yes. Because saying you're going to sell something on eBay when you've actually no intention of doing so is one of the worst crimes imaginable.

The presenters of Loose Women are said to be 'threatening a mutiny' after Kate Thornton and Zoe Tyler were axed from the show. The remaining panel members - including Lynda Bellingham, Carol McGiffin, Andrea McLean and Lisa Maxwell - are said to be 'furious' that producers didn't consult them about the pair's replacements and have threatened to reduce the number of days they work unless they're given more say, the Sunday Mirra reports. As though anybody in the world is bastard well interested in crass tripe like that. Carol Vorderman and former Coronation Street actress Sally Lindsay will apparently replace the axed duo and are expected to sign contracts for the ITV show next week. 'All the girls were pretty peeved about the way in which Kate and Zoe were handed their notice,' a studio 'source' allegedly said. 'The women are, and were, a tight-knit bunch. They didn't feel change needed to be made in such a dramatic fashion. To rub salt into the wound, they actually read about it in the Mirra before being told by execs. There is some concern that, because they didn't all screen-test together, the chemistry will not be completely right. Things are tense at the moment as no-one feels their job is safe.' An 'ITV source' allegedly added that the changes were made to keep the lunchtime panel show 'fresh and exciting.' Something it's never been in the past so why Carol Vorderman should make that much difference, dear blog reader, I have no idea.

And from that heap of garbage so to today's 'completely bloody pointless Kerry Katona story.' The reality TV regular and good-for-nothing wastrel is reportedly being lined up to appear in this year's Celebrity Big Brother alongside her mother. Sue, who has taken control of her daughter's career since her split from Can Associates, is currently considering the offer to take part in the show according to tabloid reports. Obtained, dear blog reader, we know not how. Nor, indeed, do we much care. 'Bosses' are also said to be lining up Kerry's ex husband Mark Croft in case Sue declines the offer. 'Kerry is very outspoken and so is Sue so there is bound to be a lot of friction between them in the house,' a 'source' allegedly told the People. 'Theirs is not a typical mother and daughter relationship - it is very volatile and will make great TV. Sue is currently thinking it over but it's fair to say she's tempted, especially as she needs the money - just like Kerry. When Kerry first heard they had asked her mum she thought it would be a nightmare but now she thinks it could work out well for both of them.' Producers, the newspaper claims, are hoping that Kerry will 'open up' about her failed marriages and battle with drugs and depression during her time in the house. She has apparently told them: 'Just clear my debts and I'm in,' leading to a two hundred and eighty thousand smackers offer being made. The 'source' allegedly added; 'Kerry is worried because she can't cook or clean and so won't be able to pull her weight, which won't go down well with her housemates. She is also nervous because the public will see what a scruff she really is.' And, again, sometimes, there's just no punchline necessary. Except to say that this, dear blog reader, is apparently what constitutes news since the papers stopped hacking voicemail. Don't you sometimes long for the good old days?

Oh, and Tom won The Apprentice, apparently. No, I'm not interested in that bollocks either.

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day Sigue Sigue Sputnik give a state of the nation address.

1 comment:

fatoldtart said...

Rupert Grint in drag for RB?