Sunday, April 10, 2011

You Used To Speak The Truth But Now You're A Liar

There's a thoroughly fascinating piece by the greatest rock journalist of his generation, Charles Shaar Murray, in the Gruniad this week on the subject of Bob Dylan, China and censorship which really is worth checking out. As you may be aware, dear blog reader, old Bob is currently doing his first ever concerts in China but the trip has been overshadowed by official interference in his set list. Shaar Murray explains further: 'It was not just any two songs to which Beijing objected. 'Blowin' in the Wind' was the civil rights anthem that had established Dylan's reputation when it first appeared on his second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, back in 1962, and 'Desolation Row' was the marathon poetic masterpiece that had climaxed Highway 61 Revisited three years later. Unlike other far more lyrically explicit works from Dylan's brief but cataclysmically influential "protest song" period – a term that he always hated – such as 'The Times They Are A-Changin', 'Masters Of War' or 'With God On Our Side', both songs are oblique and allusive, dealing in metaphor, imagery and allegory rather than any issue-based topical specifics. Nevertheless, metaphor, imagery and allegory are the philosophical and linguistic meat and drink of the culture that gave the world Confucius, Lao Tzu and the I Ching, and the Chinese authorities understood exactly what subtexts those songs carried, even though they were written several decades ago as critiques of another society entirely. They also understood that they didn't want those songs performed in Beijing and they said so. Dylan didn't perform them. The times they have indeed a-changed, even though the songs haven't. Two questions arise and the answers may or may not be blowin' in the wind. Has the sixty nine-year-old Dylan lost the bottle displayed by his younger self? And why is post-millennial China rattled by the same songs as 1960s America?' Ah, Charlie, you've still got it.

TV moment of the week: Paddy Barcley and Ollie Holt almost coming to fisticuff-type blows on Sky Sports' Sunday Supplement over the subject of Wayne Rooney's two-match ban. There's only one way to sort it out, chaps. Fight!

Bonjour, tout le monde. So, Keith Telly Topping, what happened in Spiral this week, I hear you ask dear blog reader? Or, you know, ce qui s'est produit dans Engrenages cette semaine. Cher lecteur de blog. Voici. Well, CID were absolutely beastly to a suspect, with Laure and Gilou doing the sort of things to the chap that would've made even Vic Mackey think twice; Roban stuck his nose in where it wasn't wanted - as usual - and almost euthanized his hospitalised mommy; Karlsson and Clément joined forces in a display of sexual tension not seen in these parts for some time; Laure and Gilou made up; Roban and an old flame, Isabelle, made out and an amorous father and daughter made us all feel more than a little violated. The arrested suspect was, as it happens, a Mexican which will, presumably, caused a huge pan-continental controversy with claims of xenophobia and racism and threats to sue Canal + because we all know how touchy the Mexicans can be about this sort of thing. C'est la vie. 'Strong-arm tactics could provoke another fit,' a doctor warns Berthaud after she's slapped the suspect, Ronaldo, about a bit. 'Thanks for the advice,' she tells him, bluntly, and then proceeds to slap Ronaldo around the head a bit more, only this time with his Mike Nesmith-style woolly hat. In the best scene in the episode, Gilou and Berthaud turn up pissed (literally, and metaphorically) to Ronaldo's hospital bed, and get all Richard Hammond on his case by waking him up with a culturally insensitive Mexican song Then they slap him around the face some more, kick him out of bed and humiliate him about the size of his penis. So, just a usual day for the Paris CID, it would seem. Speaking of Laure and Gilou, after she has a violent argument in the street with a pissy cab driver, and gets herself arrested, Gilou extracts her from a tight corner and she tells him that 'I'm falling apart.' Yes, we had noticed, love. .Her friend takes her back to his gaff for a night of beer and no sex, consoles her whilst using his pistol to remove a bottle top (classy!) and they reach an understanding of sorts. Gilou recognises the relationship as, essentially, codependent enabling – each covering up for the others catalogue of massive screw-ups. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, if you will. Meanwhile, Roban and his maman truly is the sort of mother-son relationship with all of the healthy warmth and maternal affection we saw in The Manchurian Candidate. After exhorting François to end her life, his bitter and spitefully tongued mom appears to take matters into her own hands, only to end up comatose. 'You're a vegetable now and I'm not going to do anything about it,' poor old Roban bellows at her. He's only stopped from smothering his favourite legume with a pillow by the timely entrance of his brother. With Zoe Richet videotaping her father taking her best friend's virginity and Karlsson and Clément's first client, Madame Leliévre, hooking up with her own father there's an unsettlingly incestuous feel to these episodes. Also, scumbag sex traffickers are a recurring theme in much European cop drama, notably in the first series of Spiral itself, and also in the acclaimed Belgian detective show Matrioshki. We're introduced to Tani and Nico, a pair of pimps, and, obliquely, to Vlad, the - as-yet-unseen - big bad boss in the background. Tatiana, who claims to have hatched a foolproof plan to escape this dreadful life, ends up abducted by (we assume) the Butcher and may soon be his third victim. But it's just as plausible that her pimps have found out about her escape plan and decided to, ahem, smack their bitch up, and that her assailant at the episode's climax is not la boucher at all. We'll probably find out next Saturday. Roban, meanwhile, may look like Arsène Wenger, but he's got more than a touch of Sven-Göran Eriksson about him when it comes to relationships to the ladies. Carrying on with his old flame, Madame Ledoré, as he mentors her annoying petit merde of a garcon, Arnaud. Who among us knew that le renard argenté had it in him? It's not a side of him that we see very often but the way he acts all giggly around Isabelle suggest he's just an old romantic at heart. The big reveal of the episode is that the vile and odious Courcelles is proper in cahoots with Roban's shady travel agent brother, Martin. 'I'll take care of him,' says Martin ominously with regard to François. But the judge is no fool and, having noticed his brother's ex-wife is the mayor's mistress, how long will it be before he starts to connects those dots in a conspiracy which could lead all the way to the president's office? Between a touch of attempted matricide, the blank fax and his blossoming romance, Roban is pretty damn dangerous in these episodes. Which, thanks to Philippe Duclos brilliantly underplayed performance helps to give the episodes a touch of very welcome realipolitik. As odd-couple sitcom-flatshare-couplings go, saucy minx Joséphine Karlsson and upstanding straight-man Pierre Clément is about combustible as they come. Both have points to prove, to each other as much as to the world at large. Both are super-talented, smoking hot sexy and out for blood. It's like a Parisian Moonlighting. And, to be honest, like the man said, this works for me. Or, if you prefer, Ça plane pour moi! What kind of carnage are they going to wreak on the courts? And possibly each other? And just how much sexual tension was loaded into Clément's line 'teach me how to bite'? Zut alors! Six days to the next two episodes. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping can't wait, cher lecteur de blog.

And now, the bit you've all been waiting for, another ten thousand words on the News of the World phone-hacking enquiry. If you want to fall asleep at this point, dear blog reader, I wouldn't blame you. Instead, scroll down to the bottom of the page were From The North presents some proper bangin' tunes.

Anyway, lawyers representing two of the News of the World's - now, no longer alleged - phone-hacking victims have said that the paper's apology and offer of compensation are not nearly enough and that they want blood. And, who in all honesty, can blame them? The shitty tabloid newspaper is believed to be offering settlements to 'at least' eight people whose voicemail members of their staff, seemingly, illegally listened to. But a lawyer for the actress Sienna Miller, said that she intended to continue her legal action against the paper. And Mark Lewis, representing the publicist Nicola Phillips, said that his client had turned down an offer from the paper. The News of the World printed its grovelling apology in its latest edition over the long-running phone-hacking scandal. The paper said of the victims: 'Here today, we publicly and unreservedly apologise to all such individuals.' It added in a page two article that the hacking 'should not have happened' and 'was, and remains, unacceptable.' The News of the World's owner, News International, has admitted there were 'at least' eight victims and has reportedly put aside twenty million pounds for compensation. The paper said a number of individuals had brought breach of privacy claims against it over wrongful 'voicemail interceptions' between 2004 and 2006, and others were threatening to do so. It continued: 'Evidence has recently come to light which supports some of these claims. We have written to relevant individuals to admit liability in these civil cases and to apologise unreservedly, and will do the same to any other individuals where evidence shows their claims to be justifiable. We hope to be able to pay appropriate compensation to all these individuals, and have asked our lawyers to set up a compensation scheme to deal with genuine claims fairly and efficiently.' Miller's lawyer, Mark Thomson, said that she had not accepted any offer of settlement from the News of the World. He added: 'Sienna's claims are based on outrageous violations of her privacy. Her primary concern is to discover the whole truth and for all those responsible to be held to account.' There are currently twenty four active claims against the paper being heard by High Court judge Mr Justice Vos. Lewis, a solicitor involved in several of the current cases, told the BBC that News International's apology was 'a step in the right direction.' In 2007, the first police investigation led to the convictions and imprisonment of then News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was employed by the paper. The News of the World insisted for the next three years that these were two lone individuals who had engaged in activities without the knowledge of any colleagues, a story they stuck to until the overwhelming weight of evidence suggesting that was, and I'll use a legal phrase here, 'a load of old toot.' On Tuesday, the News of the World's chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and former news editor Ian Edmondson were both arrested on suspicion of having unlawfully intercepted voicemail messages. They were subsequently released on bail until September. News International - which is owned by Rupert Murdoch and also owns The Times and the Sun newspapers - said that it would 'continue to co-operate' with the Metropolitan Police inquiry.

The Labour leader, Ed Milimollymandy, has called for 'a thorough investigation' of alleged 'criminal behaviour' at the News of the World. During a campaign visit to Swindon, Milimollymandy said: 'What we have seen is a serious admission of wrongdoing by News International. We have now got to get to the bottom of any criminal behaviour, which is a matter for the police and should be thoroughly investigated. We need to know who knew about these actions and when.' Lawyer Charlotte Harris, involved in several of the current cases, said there would now be 'a massive flood of people contacting lawyers.' She told the BBC that some of her clients - who include the football agent Sky Andrew and the actress Leslie Ash and her husband, the former footballer Lee Chapman - had already been contacted by News International and were 'considering their options.' For years News International insisted there had been just one 'rogue' reporter involved in the hacking of phones, Clive Goodman. The former MP - and total fruitcake - George Galloway said that he had recently been shown by the Met Police 'incontrovertible proof' that his phone had been hacked, including five times in one day in April 2003. He said News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, formerly a News of the World editor, should be questioned 'urgently' by the police. 'When my case comes to court I will be citing her and my counsel will be demanding answers about her part in this.' News International said that the apology related to voicemail interception between 2004 and 2006. The former lack of culture secretary Tessa Jowell, designer Kelly Hoppen, sports broadcaster Andy Gray, Jowell's estranged husband David Mills, Joan Hammell, a former aide to Lord Prescott, Nicola Phillips, the assistant to publicist Max Clifford, and former Olympian and talent agent Sky Andrew are believed to have been offered compensation. Sienna Miller's solicitor Mark Thomson, of law firm Atkins Thomson, told the Observer: 'Sienna's claims are based on outrageous violations of her privacy; her voicemails were persistently hacked and the information obtained was used to publish numerous intrusive articles over a period of a year. Her primary concern is to discover the whole truth and for all those responsible to be held to account.' Clifford, who has already received a reported one million pounds in an out-of-court settlement with the News of the World, said on Friday that he would be 'very surprised' if more criminal charges did not now follow. He told the BBC: 'You can only imagine that as more comes to light, the more the police find out, and the more information and facts emerge, then the more likelihood there is of criminal charges for other people.' Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes, who believes that his phone messages were also hacked, said there was more at stake than simply paying out money to draw a line and silence people. 'If people have committed serious criminal offences, either those who have already been arrested or others, they need to be pursued through the courts and sent to prison because this is a completely unacceptable practice.' Paul Cunnew, a former deputy editor of the News of the World, said the affair raised 'worrying' questions which threatened to undermine the freedom of the press. 'There are many people who are in jail because of the News of the World's genuine, serious investigations. You've got to be very careful here that this isn't seized upon by people who resent a free press.' The admission also ramps up pressure on the Metropolitan Police, which has been heavily criticised for its seemingly 'see no evil' handling of the original investigation into hacking and for its relationship with the press. Brian Paddick, the Met's former deputy assistant commissioner who says that his phone messages were intercepted, said the relationship between the police and press had been at times 'unhealthy.'

According to the Hollywood rumour mill, Hugh Grant was the original front-runner for the role of George VI in The King's Speech, the film that recently won Colin Firth an Oscar. While Grant may rue that missed opportunity for the rest of his life, perhaps he should now think of putting his name forward for a different award – Fleet Street's Scoop Of The Year. In this week's New Statesman, Grant revealed how he had bugged Paul McMullan, a former News of the World journalist who lifted the lid on 'near epidemic' levels of phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch's newspaper while it was under the editorship of Andy Coulson, David Cameron's former spin-doctor. But it was McMullan's asides about Rebekah Brooks, one of the most powerful people in the UK media landscape, which provided Grant's article with its juiciest vignettes. The surprisingly guileless McMullan, unaware that he was being recorded by the Four Weddings & A Funeral actor, painted a picture of Brooks, the chief executive of News International, as a kingmaker to whom David Cameron owed much of his success. Cameron and Brooks have homes near to each other in the Cotswolds and, according to McMullan, go horse riding together. 'They're all mates together,' McMullan explained. 'Cameron is very much in debt to Rebekah for helping him not quite win the election.' But the relationship between the prime minister and Murdoch's most loyal lieutenant will be sorely tested now. News International's humiliating mea culpa on phone hacking has once again placed Brooks firmly in her many enemies' cross hairs. The company announced it was preparing to pay compensation, predicted to run into tens of millions of pounds, after admitting liability for intercepting the telephone messages of a number of public figures. It also confirmed that it was offering compensation to the Labour MP Tessa Jowell, the former lack of culture secretary who took crucial, and potentially market-sensitive, decisions which could have had an impact on Murdoch's business interests. The tone of News International's apology was, however, in marked contrast to the haughty bombast displayed by Brooks in the past. Declining to appear before parliament's culture select committee when it was examining phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World, Brooks, the paper's editor between 2000 and 2003, was almost contemptuous of suggestions that the practice was widespread. Brooks and several fellow senior executives at News International pointed out that they had brought in two outside law firms to 'investigate' the allegations and both had found nothing untoward. But this line was demolished as a string of celebrities sued, alleging reporters had repeatedly hacked their phone messages. As information held by the Metropolitan police was disclosed to their legal teams it quickly became clear that the practice of phone hacking extended beyond 'one rogue reporter,' as the News of the World had maintained. The arrests of the paper's chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck and its former head of news, Ian Edmondson in connection with the affair appeared to reinforce these suspicions. Legal sources told the Observer that they expected two more journalists who had worked for the paper 'would be arrested soon.' This would be a further headache for James Murdoch, Rupert's son, recently promoted to third in command at News International's parent company, News Corporation, who felt confident enough to declare this week: 'What we were able to do is really put this problem into a box. If you get everybody sucked into something like that, then the whole business will sputter, which you don't want.' But how 'sucked-in' is Ms Brooks? Significantly, News International said that the compensation would apply to allegations of voicemail hacking only between 2004 and 2006 – during the time the paper was edited by Andy Coulson. But the Labour MP Chris Bryant, who has issued proceedings against the News of the World, said that not only did he believe his phone had been hacked in 2003, but he knew of others who claimed their phones had been hacked in 2002. 'News International are trying to limit their liability in as many ways as possible and they are trying to protect senior people,' he said. As noted above, George Galloway also said that he believed phone hacking had taken place at the newspaper prior to Coulson's editorship. Significantly the News of the World's apology acknowledged: 'It is now apparent that our previous inquiries failed to uncover important evidence and we acknowledge our actions then were not sufficiently robust.' In July 2009, Colin Myler, the paper's editor, appeared before the culture select committee to declare there was 'no evidence' that phone hacking on the paper went beyond that practised by its royal editor, Clive Goodman, who was jailed in 2007. Brooks's enemies – many of them politically motivated, given the huge influence her newspapers wield come elections – contend that, as chief executive of News International since September 2009, she should have been far more proactive in investigating persistent allegations that phone hacking at the paper was widespread. Crucially, however, she has the support of Murdoch senior and there has been no actual evidence to show she was aware phone hacking was taking place. A more immediate problem is the deadline given to her by Keith Vaz, who chairs the home affairs select committee, to elaborate on a seemingly off-the-cuff admission which she made to parliament that the Sun, which she edited between 2003 and 2009, had paid police officers for information. Which is not only illegal, but this admission has helped fuel claims that Scotland Yard failed to thoroughly investigate the scandal during its initial inquiry because of the close relationship between some senior officers and the newspaper. Attention is now switching from the activities of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator jailed along with Goodman, to one of his rivals, Jonathan Rees. Rees, who had a one hundred and fifty thousand pound-a-year contract with the News of the World stretching back to a time when it was edited by Brooks, was acquitted at the Old Bailey of conspiring to murder his former business partner, Daniel Morgan, in one of London's most notorious unsolved murders. Sid Fillery, a former Met detective who worked with Rees and had a close relationship with the News of the World, was also cleared in connection with the case, having been charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice. Fillery led the original investigation into the Morgan murder. In a dramatic twist, lawyers suing the News of the World now want to know whether, as part of their investigation into Rees, the Met obtained information which may help their clients. Gerald Shamash, a solicitor who is acting for Alastair Campbell, said that he had asked the Met to examine its files. 'I have been pointed in the direction by others who suggest we need to find out from the material taken from Jonathan Rees whether Alastair's phone, or other material belonging to him, was intercepted or taken during the time he was at No 10,' Shamash said. Paul Farrelly, Labour MP and member of the culture select committee which investigated the phone-hacking claims, said it would be issuing a new report after Easter, given its unresolved concerns about the scandal. 'It's inevitable we will want to delve into the inadequacies of the initial police inquiry, the contradictory stances between the Met and the Crown Prosecution Service, and the fact that all those people from the News of the World who came to talk to us appear to have been mistaken in their understanding of events,' said Farrelly who suggested that Myler's position as editor of the paper was 'untenable.' News International's ability to contain the story is also hampered by the fact that it does not know what else is coming down the tracks.

Rupert Murdoch used his political influence and contacts at the highest levels to try to get Labour MPs and peers to back away from investigations into phone hacking at the News of the World, a former minister in Gordon Brown's government has told the Observer. The ex-minister, 'who does not want to be named,' according to the paper, says that he is aware of evidence that Murdoch relayed messages to Brown last year via a third party, urging him to help take the political heat out of the row, which he felt was in danger of damaging his company. Brown, who stepped down as prime minister after last May's general election defeat for Labour, has refused to comment on the claim, but - significantly - has not denied it. It is believed that contacts were made before he left No 10. The minister said: 'What I know is that Murdoch got in touch with a good friend who then got in touch with Brown. The intention was to get him to cool things down. That is what I was told.' Brown, who became increasingly concerned at allegations of phone hacking and asked the police to investigate claims that he had been a victim of hacking himself when he was chancellor, made Murdoch's views known to a select few in the Labour party. In January, it was revealed that Brown had written at least one letter to the Metropolitan police over concerns that his phone was targeted when still at the Treasury. Suggestions that Murdoch involved Tony Blair in a chain of phone calls that led to Brown have been denied by the former prime minister. A spokesman for Blair said the claim was 'categorically untrue,' adding 'no such calls ever took place.' But then, he said said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction which could be launched in forty five minutes so, you know, we'll have to take that one with an equal pinch of salt. The news will, however, add to concerns about the level of influence that Murdoch wields over key political figures at Westminster and in Downing Street. It will also raise further questions over the decision by David Cameron to appoint Andy Coulson, a former News of the World editor who resigned over phone hacking, as his director of communications. A spokesman for News International, the paper's owner, said that the allegation over Murdoch's role was a matter for News Corp, its US-based parent company. Labour leader Ed Milimollymandy, as noted above, raised the ante, saying it was important to establish who knew what about 'criminal behaviour' – and when. 'What we have seen is a serious admission of wrongdoing by News International,' he said during a visit to Swindon. 'We have now got to get to the bottom of any criminal behaviour, which is a matter for the police and should be thoroughly investigated. We need to know who knew about these actions and when. We also need to know how far across the organisation knowledge of these actions went.'

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day. And, for a lazy Sunday morning, what better soundtrack than a bunch of Happy Mondays. Rave On. And think about the future. (Or, if you prefer, the long version.)That have, after all, been courteous. Which, when you're in one, on one, dig one, do one, is good. One louder! Call the cops, there's a bunch of scallys on Top of the Pops having hits. Yippee, yippie aye-aye-ay. And, here's another one. Small big, take yer pick/doesn't have to be legit! And, what about the time they tried to press-gang Johnny Marr? (Excellent Shaun Ryder impression by the way, John!)