Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Revealing Sauces: Steve Richards, Embarrassed by Iain Dale

Iain Dale has a successful blog of course and for the most part he is also a rather good media performer. Whether TV or radio. You may not agree with a word he says. But generally speaking he gets his thoughts out in a reasonably coherent way. He is more like to fluff his lines in a blog post, or get bogged down in an op-ed.

Clearly he should always be introduced as a former Tory PPC and as a Tory blogger and commentator. It's not fair when they don't. If Alex Hilton or the soon to be ex- Labour blogger Derek Draper was featured on TV without mentioning Labour then Iain would be the first to complain. Particularly if it was the BBC. But that's another issue.

There has been one recent exception to this coherence point. He got at least two and possibly three things wrong in one of his early Vibrator-gate appearances on BBC. Two are mentioned at the link. He wrongly said Damian McBride had to be completely apolitical, he wrongly said Tom Watson MP was copied in to the emails about to be published, and he claimed, if I recall correctly, that the putative pro-Labour attack blog Red Rag had not been shelved. This was a claim repeated in various MSM outlets. NOTW, Observer, Sunday Times ... without attribution or any sign they could actually stand that up.

Perhaps they all took Guido's word for it. Which is about as smart as believing Damian McBride.

It appeared that Iain had been briefed by Paul Staines aka Guido Fawkes. Sloppily perhaps, or mischieviously. And GuF had of course managed at least one significant inaccuracy and one smear in his own appearance. The BBC tried to stop Guido as he biled away, failed and later apologised with a specific correction for one of these.

This afternoon I heard some of the Simon Mayo show. The scarey bits with Alan Milburn and Rick Wakeman. But not the segment with former spin doctor Lance Price, Iain Dale, Julia Clarke of ipsos MORI, and the Indy's Steve Richards.

The latter told a little tale out of school about Damian McBride. Concerning a Minister (NB not Nick Clegg, he's not a Minister), and a secret (presumably fictional or at least irrelevant) sauce problem. It seems Iain opined that Richards was spineless for not making this probable smearage attempt known at the time.

But journalists aren't supposed to ever, ever reveal their sources - most don't - and like it or not McBride probably provided some usable and useful material as well as such nonsense as included in this anecdote.

If this guy is receiving "mutant" story tips from people who are still actors of whatever party he simply won't be dobbing them in. In fact he probably shouldn't have dobbed McBride in even now. That's why he was looking embarrassed I'd say. Not because Iain's right to suggest he should have dobbed him in before.

Not least because if this transparency caught on he'd also be dobbing in sources from all shades of the political spectrum. Probably including some dark artists of the right.

He will be embarrassed not (necessarily) because McBride will "get him" or can personally cut him off, but because other briefers of all parties and interests may hear about SR "giving someone up" and stop talking to him so much. On and off the record.

Calling it "client journalism" as Iain does seems rather grand and more appropriate to different phenomena than this. Which is just ... not biting the hand that feeds ... and just ... basic journalistic protocol. Bloggers who want to get on will need to buy into something very similar. I suspect Iain Dale is himself an instinctive protector of sources.

No comments: