Paul Staines

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For the historical 'Guido Fawkes', see Guy Fawkes.
Paul Staines
Paul Staines.jpg
Born (1967-02-11)11 February 1967
Ealing, London, England, United Kingdom
Nationality Irish / British[1]
Other names "Guido Fawkes"
Known for Political blogger
Political party
formerly associated with:
Conservative Party
Social Democratic Party
Progressive Democrats
Website
www.order-order.com

Paul Staines (born 11 February 1967) is an English-born Irish[2] right-wing political blogger. He is the writer of the pseudonymous "Guido Fawkes" blog, described by The Daily Telegraph as "one of Britain's leading political blogsites" in 2007.[3]

Staines acquired an interest in politics as a libertarian in the 1980s and promoted acid house parties in the early 1990s. He then spent several years in finance, first as a broker then as a trader. In 2001 he sued his fund's financial backer in a commercial dispute.[4] Consequently Staines declared himself bankrupt in October 2003 after two years of litigation, and legal costs on both sides running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.[5]

In September 2004,[6] Staines began the "Guido Fawkes Blog of plots, rumours and conspiracy" with the masthead slogan "tittle tattle, gossip and rumours about Westminster's Mother of Parliaments. Written from the perspective of the only man to enter parliament with honest intentions. The intention being to blow it up with gunpowder..."

In 2006, Staines co-founded MessageSpace, a digital advertising agency which operates an advertising network representing dozens of leading political websites. MessageSpace also advises political clients on digital campaigning using social media. In 2012 it advised the successful Boris Johnson London mayoral campaign. Private Eye reported in June 2012 that MessageSpace was advising the Russian Embassy[7] in London on using social media.

St Kitts and Nevis-based Global & General Nominees Limited (GGN) publishes the Guido Fawkes Blog. Staines describes himself as an "adviser" to GGN.[8] Global & General Nominees (Hong Kong) Limited owns 75% of MessageSpace Limited, an Irish company of which Staines is managing director.[9]

Education and personal life[edit]

Picture taken circa 1981 shows Paul Staines receiving medal for winning UK Atari Asteroids Championship

Staines was raised a Catholic, attending Salvatorian College Catholic grammar school in Harrow.[10][11]

In 1981, he won the UK Atari Asteroids video games championship and went on to finish ninth in the world championships held in Washington D.C.

He lives in Ireland[12] and was a member of the now defunct Irish political party, the Progressive Democrats.[13] He holds Irish citizenship.[2] As a young man he was a member of the Social Democratic Party, sitting on the national executive of its youth wing,[14] and the Conservative Party.[15]

In 2002, Staines was banned from driving for 12 months for driving under the influence.[16]

In 2008, Staines was again convicted of driving under the influence, his fourth alcohol-related offence and second drink-driving incident since he was banned from driving in 2002.[16]

Politics[edit]

Staines is a libertarian who described in a 2000 publication[17] how he became a libertarian in 1980 after reading Karl Popper's The Open Society and its Enemies. He joined the Young Conservatives whilst at Humberside College of Higher Education, "because they were the only people around who were anti-Socialist or at least anti-Soviet". Having joined the Federation of Conservative Students, he described his politics as "Thatcher on drugs". He relates that at college he was a "right-wing pain in the butt who was more interested in student politics than essays", who went on "to work in the various right-wing pressure groups and think tanks that proliferated in the late eighties".

Staines has been active in the Libertarian Alliance. He was pictured at the 1987 Libertarian Alliance conference with a t-shirt supporting UNITA, produced by his Popular Propaganda enterprise (while at college), which produced posters and t-shirts.[18]

Staines worked as "foreign policy analyst" for the Committee for a Free Britain, a right-wing Conservative pressure group, alongside David Hart. Staines acted as editor of British Briefing, a long-standing publication by the group that was a "monthly intelligence analysis of the activities of the extreme left" that sought to "smear Labour MPs and left-leaning lawyers and writers".[11]

Staines relates of his work with the Committee:

I was lobbying at the Council of Europe and at Parliament; I was over in Washington, in Jo'burg, in South America. It was 'let's get guns for the Contras', that sort of stuff. I was enjoying it immensely, I got to go with these guys and fire off AK-47s. I always like to go where the action is, and for that period in the Reagan/Thatcher days, it was great fun, it was all expenses paid and I got to see the world. I used to think that World Briefing was a bit funny. The only scary thing about those publications was the mailing list – people like George Bush – and the fact that Hart would talk to the head of British Intelligence for an hour. I used to think it was us having a laugh, putting some loony right-wing sell in, and that somebody somewhere was taking it seriously. You've got to understand that we had a sense of humour about this.[11]

In 1989, Staines published In the Grip of the Sandinistas: Human Rights in Nicaragua 1979–1989, under the auspices of the International Society for Human Rights (of which he was UK secretary-general), analysing the Sandinistas in Nicaragua from 1979 to 1989. He was then the editor of Human Rights Briefing.

Staines says his credibility was damaged by his enthusiasm for drugs and raves. "One minute l would be on News at One saying "there's no drugs at these parties" and the next minute I'm supposed to be talking about civil war in Angola. It wasn't working."[11]

He founded the Global Growth Org website,[19] a campaigning group for free trade for the third world. Campaigns included support for microcredit, as well as a pharmaceutical campaign to "promote the tariff-free trading of drugs in the developing world, secondly defend the re-importation and parallel trading of pharmaceuticals in the rich industrialised nations. Thirdly, to lobby legislators for patient-friendly duration limit". The site's last Hot Sheet was published in March 2005, and its last blog entry in June 2006.

Acid house[edit]

Staines was PR officer for the Sunrise collective, an organiser of raves and acid house parties in the late 1980s and early 1990s.[11] Sunrise avoided legal issues by positioning its large-scale dance parties as private-member clubs, outside of police control.[20]

Faced with opposition from the Conservative government, and a Private Members Bill to clamp down on unlicensed parties, Staines, along with Tony Colston-Hayter, established the Freedom to Party Campaign at the Conservative Party conference in October 1989. Although the campaign had little impact, with a first rally in Trafalgar Square attracting 4,000, and a second 10,000,[11] Staines was still occasionally active in his role as director of the campaign, arguing in 1995 that individuals should have the right to have occasional noisy parties at home.[21]

Staines later described, in a Libertarian Alliance publication, the actions of police, using surveillance to clamp down on acid parties, as "truly a regime of which Stalin or Hitler himself would be proud, implementing socialist policies to protect the citizens from their own moral weakness", an action that "happened, not under a Communist regime, but under an increasingly authoritarian Conservative government".[citation needed]

Guido Fawkes blog[edit]

In September 2004, Staines began writing an anonymous blog about politicians of the United Kingdom parliament, under the name of Guido Fawkes, an alternative name of Guy Fawkes, one of the group that plotted to blow up the Palace of Westminster in 1605.[22] In February 2005, the online version of The Guardian reported that the Fawkes blog shared a fax number with Staines.[23] Although he subsequently refused to confirm the links, further media coverage continued to name Staines as Fawkes until the airing of a BBC Radio 4 documentary[24] about him on 10 February 2007, which gave a fairly comprehensive history and background, and prompted his blog post "So Much For Anonymity".[25]

In 2005, Staines's blog was voted the best in the Political Commentary category of The Backbencher Political Weblog Awards, run by The Guardian. This was an online poll linked to the Guido Fawkes site, and not a poll of Guardian readers specifically.[26] In May 2006, Staines (as Guido Fawkes) co-authored a book with Iain Dale, which was critical of the Labour Party's practices since taking office in 1997.[27]

In April 2006, Staines was one of numerous bloggers subject to an injunction[28] from News International for publishing a picture of undercover journalist Mazher Mahmood. Staines agreed to publish[29] the photo if 10 other bloggers would do so.[30] The picture remained on Staines's site, and subsequently, following legal action from George Galloway MP, the photo was released into the public domain.[citation needed]

Staines reported the allegation that John Prescott was having an extramarital affair with an MP, and named the woman in question, saying that such rumours had long been shared among Westminster journalists, but that he was being less hypocritical and breaking the clique by refusing to cover up such stories.[31] The coverage of the Prescott affair drew considerable extra traffic to Staines's blog.[32]

He was named at number 36 in the "Top 50 newsmakers of 2006" in The Independent,[33] for his blog, and his role in the Prescott scandal in particular. From 2009 he has appeared in the Media Guardian 100 in various rankings, taking great satisfaction when he is ranked higher than Nick Robinson. In 2011 GQ ranked him and co-author Harry Cole jointly at number 28 in the magazine's list of the 100 Most Influential Men in Britain.[34]

Staines encourages readers to forward political documents and information, which he publishes on his blog. One such leak was a strategy document for the Peter Hain for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party campaign. This leak caused embarrassment to Hain's campaign,[35] as it included information on MPs who had not gone public with their support, as well as others who were supposed to be independent.

Tottywatch[36] is an irregular feature that comprises pictures of attendees at political events. Although the pictures are of both men and women, the majority are of attractive young women. The comments section invariably discusses their merits in the crudest terms. In response, Fawkes began producing occasional "Tottywatch" pieces often using pictures taken with a phone camera.

Staines' wife is referred to as Mrs Fawkes and his daughters as Miss Fawkes and Ms Fawkes.

On Monday mornings, the blog features a Monday Morning Point of View cartoon by "Rich&Mark", cartoonist Rich Johnston, archived at the RichAndMark website.[37]

Smith Institute allegations[edit]

Staines has made a number of posts on his blog relating to the Smith Institute, a charitable thinktank set up in memory of former Labour leader John Smith, which he alleged to have engaged in party political activities (forbidden under charity law) and links to Gordon Brown. These complaints led on 1 February 2007 to a formal investigation by the Charity Commission.[38] The Commission threatened him with contempt of court proceedings if he did not release any documents, obtained from whistleblowers, relating to political activities by the Smith Institute.[39] Staines has stated on his blog[40] that he intends to protect his anonymous sources.

Peter Hain[edit]

Staines has been credited with being the first blogger to "take the scalp" of a serving British minister, following the resignation for a period of well over a year of Peter Hain from the offices of Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Secretary of State for Wales in January 2008.[41][42][43]

Smeargate affair[edit]

Over the weekend of 11–12 April 2009, Staines exposed in his blog that a series of e-mails had been prepared by Damian McBride, a political adviser working at 10 Downing Street, smearing a number of Conservative MPs which had been sent to Derek Draper for consideration for publication on the Red Rag blogsite.[44] This led to the resignation of McBride and expressions of regret to the MPs concerned from the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.[45] Staines provided copies of these emails to the News of the World and The Sunday Times and states that, contrary to the comments of his detractors, he did not receive any payments for this.[46]

His success in the McBride affair has occasioned serious criticism from him of the UK lobby correspondent system, which he believes has succumbed to the ethos of political spin.[47]

Leveson Inquiry[edit]

Main article: Leveson Inquiry

In late November 2011, Staines posted on his Guido Fawkes blog the Leveson Inquiry pre-submission of former journalist and Labour Party spin-doctor Alastair Campbell. All pre-submissions are given under strict and full confidentiality, and all core participants – including victims, the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service – are also signatories. Staines stated that he had obtained the submission legally. Lord Justice Leveson immediately called him to the inquiry to make a statement under cross-examination.[48]

Staines gave written evidence denying any fault or breach of the Inquiry Act, when at the start of his oral evidence to the Leveson Inquiry Alastair Campbell admitted sending his evidence to "two or three journalists" and some friends, the order for Staines to appear was quietly dropped.[citation needed]

In late December 2011, Staines was invited to give further evidence.[49]

Witness Statements and transcripts[50] of evidence from Paul Staines.

Criticism and controversy[edit]

Staines has been criticised for his approach to blogging. He often criticises the mainstream media, claiming that it is too close to the political establishment (undercut by the fact he was the only media man in attendance at a Conservative party lobbying ball[51]), and that it also keeps internal secrets about political scandals from the public. When allegations about John Prescott's private life appeared, Staines wrote that "You can tell it is a big story because Nick Robinson is ignoring it". Robinson responded via his own blog,[52] accusing Staines of having a political agenda to damage the government.

These criticisms were echoed by Peter Wilby, in the New Statesman, who suggested that Staines's claims to have made the news on Prescott were unfounded, as the story had previously been covered in The Times, and that Staines's contribution to the debate was persistent implications of scandal without supporting evidence.[53]

Colin Brown, in response to criticisms from Staines that the media is too cosy with politicians, said: "We would love to go into print with things that we hear and believe to be true, but cannot prove, but the libel laws are such that we cannot put things into newspapers that he [Guido Fawkes] seems to think that he can get away with on the internet. They don't seem to run by the same rules".[31]

Staines responded, claiming that he is more vulnerable to libel suits than the print media is; as an individual, he does not have a large company backing him, although he says the fact that his blog is published through a Nevis-registered firm offers some protection, as plaintiffs are required to deposit $25,000 in court before commencing any action in Nevis.[54] (The same firm is majority shareholder in MessageSpace, a blog advertising network that sells advertising space on many British political blogs, including PoliticalBetting.com, Iain Dale, ConservativeHome, Labourhome, and Recess Monkey.[55])

In a Newsnight debate with Staines, Michael White said: “You see a naive conspiratorial view of the political process and of politicians which says in effect they’re all crooks, and they all ought to be in jail, and we will fearlessly expose them on the blogsphere. And it isn’t like that... You can be pretty cavalier with the facts sometimes. Much of the blog, for people who don’t know it, this week is devoted to whether or not Gordon Brown picked his nose in, was it the budget or some other recent event? That’s been your top item.”

Staines was criticised by Iain Dale and Michael White in September 2010 for publishing rumours about William Hague, alleging that he shared a hotel room with his newly appointed special advisor. Hague confirmed he had shared a hotel room, but denied any "improper relationship".[56][57]

Later in February 2011, at the Leveson Inquiry, Staines revealed he had been paid £20,000 by the News of the World for a picture of Hague's special adviser, Christopher Myers, in a gay bar. The picture was not published by the News of the World.[58]

In 2012 RTÉ broadcast a documentary about Staines, "Our Man in Westminster".[59]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Stains v Walsh [2003] EWHC 458 (Ch) at paragraph 85
  2. ^ a b "So there was an Englishman, an Irishman and an I.D. card". Guido Fawkes' blog. 
  3. ^ Graeme Wilson and Brendan Carlin. Focus on Labour website in peerage row. Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 31 January 2007.
  4. ^ "Sprecher Grier Halberstam Llp & Anor v Walsh [2008] EWCA Civ 1324 (3 December 2008)". Bailii.org. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 57079. p. 12536. 9 October 2003. Retrieved 16 September 2008.
  6. ^ Fawkes, Guido. "Blair Heart Flutters". http://order-order.com. GGN. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  7. ^ "Russian Embassy Using Social Media to Explain Foreign Policy". MessageSpace. 8 June 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  8. ^ Rayner, Gordon (17 April 2009). "Guido Fawkes: the colourful life of the man who brought down Damian McBride". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  9. ^ "MessageSpace Limited". Duedil Limited. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  10. ^ So London
  11. ^ a b c d e f Collin, Matthew; Godfrey, John (1998). Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House (2nd ed.). London: Serpent's Tail. ISBN 978-1-85242-604-0. —Staines features in this book written by Collin, the ex-editor of UK trend bible i-D magazine.
  12. ^ "My Life in Media:Guido Fawkes". The Independent (London). 5 November 2007. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  13. ^ "Hung Parliament : LDs Should Learn from the PDs". Guido Fawkes' blog. 
  14. ^ "Outed". Guido Fawkes' blog. 
  15. ^ "Hughes : It's a Straight Serious Choice". Order-order.com. 8 February 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  16. ^ a b Duff, Oliver (30 April 2008). "Blogger 'Guido Fawkes' is led off to the Tower". The Independent (London). Retrieved 16 September 2008. 
  17. ^ Paul D. Staines (September 2000). "A Kinder, Gentler, Kind of Libertarianism: Reflections on Two Decades of Libertarianism". Free Life (Libertarian Alliance) (37): 8. ISSN 0260-5112. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  18. ^ Libertarian Alliance[dead link]
  19. ^ "Welcome to Global Growth Org | Campaigning for Peace and Prosperity". Web.archive.org. 2 July 2007. Archived from the original on 2 July 2007. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  20. ^ Reynolds, S. Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture, Routledge, New York 1999 (ISBN 978-0-415-92373-6)
  21. ^ Letter: Spare us the party police | Independent, The (London) | Find Articles at BNET.com[dead link]
  22. ^ "Guido Fawkes". Blogger. Retrieved 1 June 2006. 
  23. ^ "Who you gonna call?". Guardian Unlimited (London). 2 February 2005. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  24. ^ - 09:00. "BBC – Radio 4 – Profile – 10 February 2007". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  25. ^ "So Much For Anonymity". Guido Fawkes' blog. 
  26. ^ "The Backbencher Political Weblog Awards: Help choose the winning blogs". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 1 June 2006. 
  27. ^ Dale, Iain; Fawkes, Guido (2006). The Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze. Politico's Media. ISBN 978-1-904734-16-1. 
  28. ^ Murdoch on warpath | Independent on Sunday, The | Find Articles at BNET.com[dead link]
  29. ^ "Sheikh It Up Baby". Guido Fawkes' blog. 
  30. ^ "'I will publish a picture of Mazher Mahmood a.k.a. the Fake Sheikh'". PledgeBank. 7 April 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  31. ^ a b "Press Gazette – Fawkes plots to blow up 'cosy' political reporting". Pressgazette.co.uk. 14 July 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  32. ^ "Hitwise Intelligence – Heather Hopkins – UK: Guido Fawkes – Fair and Balanced". Weblogs.hitwise.com. 11 July 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  33. ^ "The top 50 newsmakers of 2006". The Independent (London). 18 December 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  34. ^ GQ Give Guido Oxygen of Publicity - Guy Fawkes' blog
  35. ^ "Leaked paper threatens to derail Hain's ambitions – icWales". Icwales.icnetwork.co.uk. 31 January 2007. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  36. ^ "totty watch". Guido Fawkes' blog. 
  37. ^ "RichAndMark.Com". RichAndMark.Com. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  38. ^ Statement on the Charity Commission and the Smith Institute, Charity Commission website, 1 February 2007
  39. ^ Political blogger warned he could be jailed, Christopher Hope, The Daily Telegraph 16 February 2007
  40. ^ "Sith's Allies Fightback". Guido Fawkes' blog. Retrieved 16 February 2007. 
  41. ^ Daniel Hannan. MPs can't distinguish right from legal. Daily Telegraph. 25 January 2008.
  42. ^ Mick Fealty. Blogging's first UK scalp. 24 January 2008.
  43. ^ Roy Greenslade. Has Guido got UK blogging's first scalp?. Guardian Unlimited. 24 January 2008.
  44. ^ Smeargate timeline in The Guardian, 14 April 2009.
  45. ^ "UK | UK Politics | E-mail smears handling defended". BBC News. 14 April 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  46. ^ "The Backlash Begins - Guy Fawkes' blog". Order-order.com. 14 April 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  47. ^ Article by Staines in The Times, 17 April 2009.
  48. ^ "Blogger 'Guido Fawkes' summoned by Leveson Inquiry". BBC News. 27 November 2011. 
  49. ^ Halliday, Josh; Baird, Dugald (8 February 2012). "Leveson inquiry: Paul Staines AKA Guido Fawkes, Keir Starmer appear". The Guardian (London). 
  50. ^ "Paul Staines witness statement transcripts". Leveson Inquiry. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  51. ^ "The Guardian – Tory ball where ministers and City's richest mingled but bubbly was banned". The Guardian. 1 July 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  52. ^ Nick Robinson (5 July 2006). "BBC NEWS | Nick Robinson's Newslog". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  53. ^ "New Statesman – The internet or something". Newstatesman.com. 17 July 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  54. ^ "So Rosie, Where is Guido's Writ?". Guido Fawkes' blog. 
  55. ^ By: Oliver Luft. "Political bloggers launch ad initiative". Journalism.co.uk. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  56. ^ Iain Dale (1 September 2010). "A Bleak Day for Political Blogging". Iain Dale's Diary. Retrieved 2 September 2010. 
  57. ^ Michael White (2 September 2010). "Coverage of William Hague story is a shaming day for Fleet Street". London: guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2 September 2010. 
  58. ^ Ball, James (9 February 2012). "News of the World sources back up Guido Fawkes claims about photographs". Guardian. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  59. ^ O'Connell, Brian. "Our Man in Westminster". RTÉ. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Collin, Matthew; Godfrey, John (1998). Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House (2nd ed.). London: Serpent's Tail. ISBN 978-1-85242-604-0. —Staines features in this book written by Collin, the ex-editor of UK trend bible i-D magazine.
  • Staines, Paul (1991). Staines, Paul, ed. ACID HOUSE PARTIES AGAINST THE LIFESTYLE POLICE AND THE SAFETY NAZIS (PDF) (55 ed.). Libertarian Alliance, 25 Chapter Chambers, Esterbrooke Street, London SW1P 4NN: Libertarian Alliance. p. 4. ISSN 0267-7059. Retrieved 19 February 2007.  Article on acid parties by Paul Staines
  • RTÉ Radio 1 – Guido Fawkes – World Report with Brian O'Connell (Audio, RealPlayer format)