Sunday Times and Daily Mail hatchet job on my career. Assassination journalism, convenient for whom…?
February 7th, 2013
All colleagues with mind freeze please line up please.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, whilst I was going through one of the most traumatic set of circumstances a person could go through, a hand-delivered letter was posted through my ex-wife’s door. In it, a Sunday Times journalist explained that the following Sunday (it was a Friday, the letter delivered at 6pm) the Times would run an article outlining how I had built a career and a reputation on lies. The crux of the argument is a familiar one – Political Scrapbook, the online bully-boys of the left have been using it ever since I defected to the Tories.
Now, I know that newspapers are desperate to keep up with blogs and remain competitive in a world of ever-shrinking newspaper readership, and ever expanding use of the web for news consumption. I get that. I love newspapers and it would be a shame if the Sunday Times ever went bust. But I don’t think emulating the tactics of scrappy blogs is the right approach for News International. I thought James Murdoch had better business sense than that…
The Political Scrapbook/Sunday Times argument about my career, which is now well-worn, is that I ‘exaggerated links to Tony Blair’ in order to a) seek investment for a company in Silicon Valley, and b) build a profile in the London politico-media world in order to win columns and TV appearances. Now, back in 2006/2007, I worked at Labour HQ for a time. I was hired based on some high-profile work I did for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the British Council. Labour realised they had a window of time before Blair disappeared into the sunset to radically change the way they used the web. Their old approach would no longer work and they wanted to hire somebody who knew what they were doing, to bring innovation to the fore for the party.
Unlike most people who work at Labour, who are usually hired mostly for their political allegience, I was not a member of the party before being employed there. I was an industry expert with a reputation for being innovative with digital communications. I started in December 2006 and left in July 2007, shortly after Tony Blair left office. It was made clear that my innovative approach would be unwelcome under the Brown regime. So I left to do something more interesting, which resulted in some quite interesting projects in Afghanistan and later Malaysia (as well as a number of European countries).
When I left the job, I continued on as a member of the Labour Party until my so-called, much talked-about ‘defection’ in January 2012. Between July 2007 and January 2012 I was very much an active member, writing articles, policy documents and even authoring a high-profile pro-enterprise pamphlet with Alex Smith in 2011. I built a profile in the party, and more widely in Westminster, as a pro-enterprise, Blairite reformist. It was this profile that led to newspaper columns and guest TV appearances, and which later got Louise Mensch’s attention. It wasn’t my 8-month role at HQ in 2006/2007, as journalists and bloggers constantly suggest.
I defected in 2012 after becoming exasperated with the anti-aspiration, anti-business attitude of Ed Miliband and his clique (and a very large part of the rest of the party). David Cameron quoted me at Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament as a former leader of a pro-business Labour movement, NOT as a former employee of the party, and NOT as a former aide to Tony Blair. This high-profile defection humiliated and embarrassed Labour on all levels, not to mention some people I used to work with who are closer to Blair than I am. It also angered the left-wing blogosphere. So how did these folks take out their political rage? By distancing themselves from me publicly. By writing blog posts, and by later on whispering in the ear of journalists like Robin Henry.
However, inconveniently for them, I am very good at keeping old emails (if only I were better at securing my email accounts). Emails from people like Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, Blair’s Downing St. Director of Communications in 2007, and Paul Simpson, Labour’s former Head of Corporate Communications. Benjie (as he’s affectionately known in Labour circles, because he was about 16 when he first became a Special Advisor to Peter Mandelson) extolls my virtues in the job and even offers to provide a reference for me in support of an application to a very senior role at the Cabinet Office. Paul asks what I’ll do about my consulting gigs upon my hiring at Labour, ‘as in the eyes of the party you’ll effectively be a senior Blair aide and can’t be seen to profit from that’.
I did work at a senior level for Labour, even though my job title was ‘e-Campaigns Manager’, and even though I only directly managed one other person. I also wrote high-level strategy documents, managed a web development and hosting budget over £100k per year. I inherited an absolute mess in terms of a digital approach and turned it around, saving the party a fortune and bringing it up-to-date with things like WebCameron. For example, I devised and launched – along with American contacts of mine at YouTube – the first YouTube video channel featuring a head of government (Blair). I co-led, alongside Tangent Labs, the large team of people re-designing and re-developing Labour’s corporate website. I represented Labour at inter-party socialist meetings at Brussels. I achieved what I set out to achieve when I was hired.
Isn’t it transparent why Labour would close ranks on me after I defected? I embarrassed and humiliated them publicly when I changed party. Their motives couldn’t be clearer.
The Sunday Times’ Robin Henry was hoodwinked by these ‘sources close to Blair’, it would appear. He jumped on the bandwagon, ran his piece, and then other newspapers – as well as snappy little Political Scrapbook – re-ran it. Success in destroying any chance I might have at rehabilitating my career as a digital politics/digital government expert. I’ll add the article to the large – and ever-expanding – folder on my desk titled ‘Defamation’. At this rate there’ll be nobody left to sue.
As for the Daily Mail, this quote from Niamh O’Doherty’s piece is just specious: “He claimed he was a senior aide to the former prime minister when trying to persuade Ms Mensch, who resigned as an MP in August, to team up with him to launch their social networking business.” Well no I didn’t make such claims, Ms O’Doherty. It was ‘Ms Mensch’ who came to me with the idea which later led to menshn. I didn’t try to ‘persuade’ anyone, I didn’t have to, it wasn’t my idea.
O’Doherty also trotted out the ‘Bozier’s deception also helped make him a sought-after pundit’ line. No, Ms O’Doherty, again, my reputation as a reformist in the Labour Party was what made me ‘sought-after’. The ‘deception’ is merely alleged by a group of people who have an interest in discrediting me.
As for Silicon Valley, I am impressed that the Sunday Times spoke to everybody in Silicon Valley. Robin, can you be certain beyond any doubt that neither myself, nor one or more of my former partners received any sort of financial injection from people or funds based in Silicon Valley, in order to get my start-up going? Because that’s what your hatchet job of an article suggests. And when I went to California to seek funding, the company wasn’t ‘failing’, it hadn’t even been launched. People sometimes – I know this is wild (!!) – seek funding for companies based on an idea and a prototype. I guess the inability to understand this stems from the British anti-ambition attitude that hates when people put their head above the parapet and try to achieve something.
I wonder what the Sunday Times’ motives would be for closing ranks on me in this way? Why would they want to destroy any remaining credibility I might have had, after the other damaging claims against me? Why go to lengths to make me look like a liar and a narcissist?
Or, just putting this out there, way out of left field of course. Could it be that News International – the Murdoch media machine – wanted to do a favour for a woman who has not been shy in publicly supporting her Murdoch friends?
There is a point to this post, beyond attempting to set the record straight. It falls on me to point out the effects of this type of journalism and bandwagoneering. Regardless of what happens with my current legal challenges, I am now always going to have a difficult time finding work in the field I built a career in. I worked hard for a decade in digital communications, in politics and for government agencies. But in the future, I have to explain that a group of bloggers and ‘journalists’ took it upon themselves to assassinate my character in order to further their own careers. If I ever wanted to work in digital communications again, or go to Silicon Valley again, I have to face the reality that national newspapers – not just bloggers, as hard as that was already – have put material on the web and in print calling my career record into doubt. Material based on at best sloppy, at worst malicious, journalism and political ‘sources’.
My right to live my life the way I wish and pursue the career I wish, is severely curtailed by this.
‘Lamestream press’ indeed.