'Brown on course to win election' – Tory lead down to two points

So says the Sunday Times, somewhat over-egging the pudding, I think. But the Tories have had this coming for years. How many times has someone criticised the Tories for having little in the way of policies? Now people are concluding, in droves, that they do not know, or like, what the Conservatives stand for.

No surprise. I mean, just 2-3 years ago it was “Vote Blue, go green”. Many of us pointed out this was utter codswallop – and we are proved right. There are now no mentions of green issues in the given top ten “reasons to vote Conservative” or their latest ‘six themes’.

And “Broken Britain” has been mentioned erratically every now and again – except often the actual figures, as opposed to the Tories’ figures, indicate that it is not as broken as they would like to imply.

Then they alighted on the deficit and like some anally-retentive B-stream six-former, George Osborne has been obsessed with the national debt ever since (in defiance of reknowned economists – including two Nobel laureates – writing to the Financial Times)- but they keep on changing their tune on what they would do about it.

And now, the final resort of the Tories, they get the dog whistle out.

Even their latest expensive slogan is confused. “Vote for change”. Or is it? The posters at their conference say “Year for change”.

No wonder voters are turning away from them!

ConHome: Don't panic. Don't panic! DON'T PANIC! We're putting this party under martial law

As I highlighted this morning, the Tories’ basic problem is that not enough people have a clue what they stand for, and many of those that have a clue don’t like what they stand for. Indeed, a new BBC Daily Politics poll  shows that 36% of people don’t know what the Conservative party stands for. A further 36% say they know what they stand for but don’t like it. That leaves a slender 28% saying they know what the Tories stand for and like it.

Against that backdrop, Conservative Home presents its ten point plan to get the Tory campaign back on track. It really is hilarious! A superb way to get the weekend off to a joyous start and Alex Folkes on LibDem Voice has very amusingly presented his alternative version.

What I love is the way that ConHome have felt the need to have a special large Courier font to print all the points. And how I laughed at:

Yes, that will get them miles won’t it? The floating voters will come flooding over to their side. “Very sensible”! Hilarious!

And:

Yes, that would be great. Let’s have more of those strangulated, sanctimonious tones that everyone warmed to so much in 2001.

Miliband and Harman victims of lurid spam Twitter scam

I blogged earlier about a “Successful phishing expedition” whereby my Twitter account, and loads of others, were hijacked to send lurid spam messages. Well, it seems that obscure Tweeters such as myself were not the only victims. The great and the good at Westminster and amongst the meejia also feel victim to the scam. The PA reports:

Cabinet minister Ed Miliband has become the latest victim of a new “phishing” scam on Twitter.

Many of the Energy Secretary’s 6,664 followers on the micro-blogging website will have been surprised to receive an unusually personal message from him at breakfast time.

“Hhey, i’ve been having better sex and longer with this here”, said the “tweet” alongside a picture of a smiling Mr Miliband. The message was followed by a link to another website.

It was swiftly followed by a genuine “tweet” from Mr Miliband, admitting: “Oh dear it seems like I’ve fallen victim to twitter’s latest ‘phishing’ scam.”

Mr Miliband was not the only person at Westminster to find strange messages being sent out from their Twitter accounts.

Several journalists in the parliamentary lobby were contacted by friends asking why they had claimed to be “24, female and horny” in direct messages to them via Twitter.

And on Thursday, Leader of the Commons Harriet Harman told MPs that her account had without her knowledge sent a tweet to a surprised shadow prisons minister Alan Duncan.

A successful phishing expedition on Twitter

haha. This you?

…It seemed such an innocuous message from a trusted friend (appealing to my curiosity and ego) via direct message. Of course, I clicked on the short link. Then a day later, along it seems with thousands of other Twitter users, crazy direct messages were sent by direct message from my acount. Thanks to Twitter, they changed my password and I have now changed it again.

Sorry for any offence caused by these messages sent by persons unknown. I am now older and wiser.

There’s more on this whole onslaught here.

Tory MPs: torn between schadenfreude and panic

There’s an entertaining article by James Forsyth in the Spectator entitled: “The Tory situation is now verging on critical” complete with a front page cartoon and the headline “Tories go off the rails”. Most amusing:

Since the beginning of the year, when David Cameron declared the start of his long campaign, the Tory machine has spluttered, while Labour’s has revved up. The Tories have lost momentum and made unforced errors. Labour morale has not been so high for years.

Forsyth indicates that the panic centres on a lack of clarity of the Conservative message:

Why has the Tory lead halved since December? It is nothing to do with Mr Brown’s much-derided interview with Piers Morgan. The Tories conducted focus groups afterwards which suggested that the whole wretched affair had simply hardened the hostility towards the Prime Minister. It is also nothing to do with the economy, which is still weak. (Senior members of the Tory economic team are now openly speculating that the next set of growth figures will show that the recovery has ended.) Rather, it is to do with the campaign. The Labour message is clear and repeated while the Tory one is opaque. One shadow Cabinet member told me this week that he wished the Tories had a slogan as effective as Labour’s ‘a future fair for all’. Candidates report that voters can remember Labour policies but not Tory ones.

Sarah Palin = Jesse Jackson

At first it seems a surreal comparison, but pollster and journalist Peter Brown sees great similarities between Palin’s political profile now and that of Jesse Jackson in 1988:

Simply put, the two emerged as political and media celebrities backed by exceptionally strong support within the most ideological wing of their respective political parties. But both also carry substantial political baggage with the much larger numbers of American voters who decide November elections.

Farage: Giving the British a bad name

There are not many spectacles more unedifying than that of Nigel Farage being awfully gratuitous to the President of the European Council – below. In English the tirade sounds terribly coarse and ignorant. So let’s at least raise the level a bit and quote some of it in French – because I am a great fan of the elegance of French:

Vous avez le charisme d’un chiffon humide et l’aspect d’un employé de banque de qualité inférieure

There – sounds a bit better doesn’t it? Our Anglo-Saxon crudity tends to lower the tone, especially out of the mouth of Farage.

Was all of Farage’s vituperation really necessary? Oh – what’s that? There’s an election coming up and Farage is a candidate? Ah! But surely the voters of  Buckingham are not sufficiently bovine and xenophobic to fall for this sort of empty-headed and terribly undignified sort of stunt are they?

La question que je veux demander Monsieur le Président est qui sont vous ?

What a stupid question. Try Wikipedia, Farage, you numpty. And if Tony Blair was sitting there instead of Van Rompuy, you’re not going to tell us that you’d be saying:

Ce qui j’aime au sujet de vous Monsieur le Président, est que je sais exactement qui vous êtes
…Would you ‘eck as like.
By the way, it’s worth seeing Van Rompuy speaking. OK, it’s in French. But he is passionate.
What I think is a shame about Farage’s outburst is that some people in Europe might get the idea, from it, that the British are lumpen-headed, ignorant, undignified and, worst of all, just plain rude.

Now Ann Widdecombe resigns – so the NBH is patronless

It’s all happening with breathtaking speed. One could call this: “How to self-combust a charity in one press-release”. Let’s take stock of the patrons who have resigned:

Professor Cary Cooper (a man for whom I have the utmost respect)

Sarah Cawood

Mary O’Connor

Ann Widdecombe (and here)

That actually leaves only one patron: Mz Bratt. And the Twitteratti are working on her.

UPDATE: Mz Bratt’s management company have said that she (Mz Bratt) never confirmed she would be a patron of the charity and that they were surprised to see her name on the charity’s website as a patron. So that leaves NBH officially patronless! I have updated the title of this post accordingly.

Hold on a minute: Was Brown actually PM when the bullying complaints were made?

With thanks to Stephen Glenn for highlighting this.

It’s hard to imagine stronger condemnation of the National Bullying Helpline than this on the website of Bullying UK, another anti-bullying charity:

Bullying UK is horrified at a story in today’s Daily Mail in which the National Bullying Helpline CEO Christine Pratt all but identifies someone from Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s office who contacted her helpline for confidential help.

Mrs Pratt tells the Daily Mail: “At least one of the callers who we were in correspondence with was suffering from work-related stress and had time out of the office.”

Gordon Brown’s office is small and the National Bullying Helpline’s comment will almost certainly identify this person who turned to the helpline in despair.

It’s hard to imagine a more serious breach of confidentiality. And it’s extremely concerning that we’ve had emails and Tweets (Twitter messages) from people who think that this charity is responsible.

We’re not, we’re disgusted and upset and we’re writing to the Charity Commission today to complain about the National Bullying Helpline.

In the meantime, we suggest Mrs Pratt considers her position, given the damage she has caused to the anti-bullying sector where confidentiality is paramount.

That really is strong stuff.

Listening to the interviews with Mrs Pratt and Anne Snelgrove on Today this morning was rather unedifying. There was so much mess flying around that it was difficult to understand what is going on. It seems that Mrs Pratt has managed to be specific enough to break confidentiality (in general terms) but not specific enough to add anything to public knowledge of Gordon Brown. We appear to be talking about two (or more) complaints about the Prime Minister’s Office from some time ago.

She talked about two (or more) complaints from the Prime Minister’s office and two from the Deputy Prime Minister’s office. Hello? The last time we had a Deputy Prime Minister was when Tony Blair was Prime Minister. John Prescott stood down when Blair stood down. So is it even clear that Gordon Brown was Prime Minister at the time of the complaints? Indeed, acoording to Ben Goldacre’s tweet, the co-founder of the National Bullying Helpline has appeared on BBC news today saying that the bullying reports date from several years ago.

And then this afternoon, Mrs Pratt further refined, or perhaps added to (who knows?), her allegations, according to Paul Waugh’s Tweet:

Mrs Pratt refines her (new) accusation.Just told ITN news she recvd email re Brown bullying but “it’s NOT someone who works at No.10”

It seems Mrs Pratt needs a few days reflection, then she should come back and tell us, perhaps in a document to prevent further confusion caused by talking on the fly, what precisely she is saying. At the moment, she is, to borrow a Baldrickian phrase, coming across as muddled as a muddled thing.

Having said that, I don’t for a second minimise even 1 complaint, let alone 4 (alleged). For someone to be in such a state as to have to look up and phone an anti-bullying line is awful. But it seems that Mrs Pratt has pulled off a remarkable coup here, on several fronts:

1. She has not furthered the cause of the people who complained in confidence to her helpline. Indeed she has probably caused them more anxiety and pain.

2. She has not made any clear statements about what was going on in Downing Street, just generalised and rather self-contradictory comments. So she does not appear to have advanced the truth much, if at all.

3. She has made it less likely for people to go to anti-bullying helplines in future, knowing that their confidentiality is not completely sacrosanct and that their identity could possibly be, in general terms, revealed in the middle of a media s***storm.

What was Mrs Pratt thinking about yesterday? It was a Sunday. She heard Peter Mandelson saying something on the telly and decided to go to the BBC that day. She runs a confidential helpline. A charity. Would it not have been a good idea to leave it a few days, consult others in the charity such as the trustees and patrons, and then possibly make some sort of contribution to the debate while carefully not exposing the people who complained? Or better still, have made a confidential communication to the Cabinet Secretary? Or even better, just have kept schtum?

We need to get to the bottom of all this, but I can’t see how that can be done without further exacerbating the pain of the people who phoned the helpline in the first place.

Saint Ben Goldacre makes some excellently incisive comments here:

gordon brown may well be a nasty man, but i cry massive bullshit on the “national bullying helpline” that everyone including the observer are using in their stories.

http://www.nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk/

frontpage: amateurish, quotes from cameron and widdecombe (patron, along with some random tory councillor)

they’re tiny and shortlived:

http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/ShowCharity/RegisterOfCharities/CharityWithoutPartB.aspx?RegisteredCharityNumber=1117852

a grand, this is not a serious proper charity

and theyre run by these people who flog mediation services

http://www.hrdiversity.co.uk/

just thought i’d mention.

also, i dont mean to go on, but what kind of serious bullying charitiy takes uninvestigated cases to the media like that? it’s insanely unprofessional, a breach of confidence, etc.

just annoys me because i think stuff like bullying and proper investigation / action are really important, where this looks like political dodginess.
To quote from National Bullying Helpline’s website:

“PRIVICY POLICY[sic]

“We have a clear privacy policy. We do not share your details with anyone. In a situation where you may wish us to support you in bringing a complaint against your employer we would observe conflict of interest. Where we are asked to mediate we would seek consent from both the employee and the employer to ensure that this approach suited all the parties. Click here to see our Terms and Conditions.”

UPDATE

Good to see a few places coming out on this, Nick Robinson was early doors:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/nickrobinson/2010/02/helplines_invol.html

Third Sector here:

http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/News/DailyBulletin/985472/National-Bullying-Helpline-condemned-breach-confidentiality-No-10-complaints/DA569B589FB1DF51E85F81D59A464C1B/?DCMP=EMC-DailyBulletin

And here from Channel 4, here is Christine Pratt from the National Bullying Helpline talking in a bizarre and confused fashion about confidentiality. Where previously I was inquisitive and wondering what was going on, I am now officially disgusted of Tumbridge Wells. This is vile.

meanwhile i’ve also been sent this account of one person’s dealing with Christine Pratt and the National Bullying Helpline (warning it’s a bit sad and upsetting):

http://thebullyinghelpline.blogspot.com/2009/11/payments-in-advance-money-for-nothing.html

All those donations, £10, and the half refund of £150 and the other £150 as another donation, bit odd to my young eyes.

And this court document is disturbing on Christine Pratt of the National Bullying Helpline:

http://bit.ly/bzh7iR

The thing that makes me most concerned is this: Pratt / National Bullying Helpline “says she went public because she was angered when ministers denied claims of bullying made in a new book by Observer journalist Andrew Rawnsley.” Odd motivation after all this on privacy and confidentiality, etc.

it looks like a blogger was first on this btw:

http://torytroll.blogspot.com/2010/02/who-are-national-bullying-helpline.html

and there’s this which seems sensible to me