BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN
There are competent and then there are incompetent smears. I enjoyed an incompetent one recently from some animal rights wingnut who had informed an acquaintance of mine that I worked for my father who was an infamous arms salesman and sold rounds to terrorists in Syria. My acquaintance was surprised to find out that my father enjoyed a successful career as a corporate financier in the City and died almost fifteen years ago.
By contrast the Boris Johnson / Jennifer Acuri smear was rather a competent, calculated one. Boris has a bit of a Lloyd-George reputation with the ladies, Acuri’s a buxom blonde model who enjoys the public eye and pole-gyrating, while the idea of her benefiting business-wise from a Mayoral relationship is not beyond the realms of even a Socialist’s imagination. Inevitably, Acuri would defend herself, as she did, and therein the risks lay. Risks could easily be exploited by the smearers. As it was, Acuri’s eloquence covered all angles and she successfully defused the smear.
With a good smear the sizzle is often more important than the sausage. Sometimes reality is so far out it’s not smearable. The idea of Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott oscillating the unmentionables is so far-fetched that it would make a terrible smear. Maybe it did. As Einstein noted, “reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
While smear campaigns have been identified as a common weapon of psychopaths, borderlines and narcissists – Tom Watson / Damian McBride’s Smeargate springs to mind – a good political smear is cheered in some circles. Take Momentum cadres and other headbangers on the Hard Left who, second only to watching pimple-popping videos, adore nothing more than a good smear. (For balance and a true reflection of British political life, the same can be said for neanderthals on the Far Right – the actual Far Right, not the mass of the British population who lie somewhere to the right of Michael Foot on the left-right linear).
Those who cannot distinguish these smears, most often emanating from anonymous blogs or 4Chan posts (smears which should be worn by the victim as badges of honour), are either green, or prejudiced against the victim in the first place.
All of which takes me down a rabbit hole. A journey you luckily don’t need to accompany me on as I’ve been down there for you – to Byline, that echo chamber of tinfoilers and moonbat Cadwalladrites – on whose pages the writer and Twitterer Otto English conjured an incompetent smear on our Prime Minister last week.
Otto is a regular for Byline these days – no idea why he’d don the foil as he’s not actually as bonkers and blaring as his Remainiac Twitter persona seems. His smear on Boris was titled, “Spooking the Spooks”.
Quick précis – Otto’s smear goes something along the lines of this:
- Russian Evgeny Lebedev bought the Evening Standard (the company) when Boris was Mayor.
- Boris and Evgeny became friends. The two men regularly lunched and dined together. “And Lebedev was more than happy to oblige his high-profile friend.”
- “No newspaper so loyally and uncritically fought Johnson’s corner. As more than one commentator has said to me, it was very much his Pravda.”
- Katie Price was invited to a party held by Lebedev at his Umbrian villa. Johnson was there (at the time he was Foreign Secretary) and she got her breasts out in front of Boris.
- “What the hell was the Foreign Secretary doing at such a sybaritic event, as a guest of a Russian billionaire, the son of a former KGB agent no less, and why had he left his protection officers at home?”
- Johnson returned to another similar bash in Umbria while still Foreign Secretary. “When he flew out to Italy, Johnson was fresh from a meeting with NATO chiefs where discussions had focused on the Skripal affair – a major diplomatic incident between Russia and the UK. Partying with the scion of a former KGB agent sympathetic to Putin does not demonstrate the highest levels of responsibility.”
- The punchline of Otto’s piece is that more than one security service source is worried about Boris Johnson. Otto has spoken to a former security services official who can “absolutely confirm that members of the intelligence services are aware and concerned” about Johnson’s behaviour. “We are really worried,” they said. The journalist John Sweeney has spoken to two more worried spooks.
There is a bit more to Otto’s reportage – some paranoid nonsense doffing a cap to Hacked Off buffers about “pro-Boris” newspapers not covering the story. (This is Byline standard fare which thinks the globe has been corrupted by Facebook, big money and foreign interference. Mainstream outlets are not hostile back in the real world, they just think the Byline crowd are nasty, and lunatics. Byline – the online magazine rather than the summer torture camp – relies on much of its funding from people burned by the mainstream press).
Lebedev with a Change UK MEP candidate
I’ve read other Otto scribblings and they are better than this. This is a veritably crap smear.
For four reasons:
- It relies on good old “security service” sources who can never be named and may as well be yucca plants.
- Katie Price always gets her breasts out (I used to live in the same country lane as her in Surrey and her puppies were forever escaping).
- There are no records of any inappropriate conversations. None.
- And, finally, Jeremy Corbyn, whose party most of the Byline crowd will (likely reluctantly) be voting for in the upcoming General Election, is an actual security risk and the likes of Dearlove and Sawyer have come out publicly as named security service sources and said so.
The question is never asked in Otto’s composition, who is the greater security risk, Corbyn or Johnson? After all, those are the only people who could be PM – Swinson only thinks she can.
Since the security services are not in the business of bumping off our political leaders – whatever said about the temperature of John Smith’s bath – who, as a spook, would you choose to have as your Prime Minister?
Boris is by far the safer bet. Life’s a trade-off (Sowell) and only a Utopian would expect a politician to be flawless. Boris having some downtime with a mate is fine. How does Otto know that Lebedev is not one of our’s?
If Otto’s smear actually named its sources and recognised that people become friends in the course of political life from across the house, and from all corners of this world, it would be more piercing. As it is, it merely provides sustenance for the echo chamber of conspiraloons and the 2+2=7 brigade that Byline tends to attract and suckle. The Russian angle is old hat – it has hardly worked well for the Democrats in the US. Since there is no recording, there is no smoking gun. Alas, like Katie Price’s assets these days, Otto’s article is way off granite. It fails the smear test. Two out of ten.