Thursday, 13 November 2008

Andrew Gilligan socks it to the 'anti-Boris blogs'

Andrew Gilligan, it's fair to say, is getting annoyed:

"Several anti-Boris blogs now purport to "enhance the accountability of the mayoralty". Alas, most read more like Private Eye parodies, daily finding new evidence of sinister neo-con evil in Johnson's choice of breakfast cereal. Even the more measured ones simply copy stories from other media outlets (they all have a particular, and flattering, obsession with the Standard). Boris's enemies in Nerdistan won't do much damage until they learn the difference between investigative journalism and a Google search."

Meeeeowww! Now here's my response to his criticism submitted under my full and real name:

"While it is fair to say that blogs take some stories from other news sources, they at least have the courtesy to provide a credit and a link. This is not something which can always be said about newspapers including your own.

"Also the story about potential cuts in police numbers was first broken by a blog. My blog. London blogs are not perfect by any means but they have at least tried to hold Boris Johnson to account.

"Some journalists at the Evening Standard have also tried to do so. You, on the other hand are stuck on scrutinising the last mayor and mocking anybody who dares to criticise the new one. Isn't it time you moved on?"
For some reason the Evening Standard moderators judged this to be unpulishable. However, they have since found room for this gem:

It's nothing but fair and balanced I tell you. Nothing but fair, balanced and accountable.

-Update- Andrew Gilligan says: "I'm not the Mayor"


Anonymous said...

Looks to me like the quite justified criticisms levelled at Gilligan have riled him - Again the real issue is that he genuinely believes he can do no wrong - he genuinely believes he's always right and that any tactic is justifiable in ensuring he can print his opinion as fact.

Sockpuppetry is really only the icing on the past its sell by date sticky, smelly Gilligan cake.

Witness his overt irritation at the anonymity of some of his critics and compare and contrast that with his continued use of 'sources' to undermine those he dislikes - Ian Blair and Peter Hendy are just two of those targets.

Come on Andrew (we know you're reading this whilst probably shouting at your laptop!) if you were a real, courage of your convictions, investigative journalist (rather than a flawed bully), surely those semi-covert political sources who are apparently intent on undermining some of the Capitals most important public servants should be outed?

That's if they exist at all outside the weird and wonderful world of your own legion of alter egos of course!

Green Gordon said...


Chris Paul said...

Good to see "Nobby" in "Perth" taking an interest in London politics though, eh?

GuF has called for a lynching, again.

Some very good comments from "anonymous" above. But is that anonymity what we would call ironic?

The Troll said...

Green Gordon - Yes, I suppose that makes me a Nerdistani.

Chris Paul - You make a decent point about 'Anonymous'. However, unless they turn out to be Andrew Gilligan in disguise, their anonymity is fine with me. Readers can always post anonymously here as long as they don't come on to defend themselves in the third person a la Kennite. I think we can safely assume that isn't the case here.

angelneptunestar said...

Nerdistan is very funny, you have to say. You and Gilligan are like the two characters in HIGHLANDER, fierce adversaries who duel to the death throughout the centuries. Or maybe the two soldiers who continually spar throughout the Napoleonic wars in the Joseph Conrad story THE DUELLISTS.

Tim said...

Oi! I'm the king of f**king Nerdistan. Where's my outburst?

Helen said...

What bizarre fantasies you have, Angela, I suspect you've been reading too much Mills & Boon.

City Hall worker said...

Good points well made but the rest of Gilligan’s article is worthy of comment too.

He claims, “There are good people on all sides of the Assembly, (but) it could do so much more to hold the Mayor to account.”

A casual observer of the Assembly might well make the same claim, but coming from someone who asserts newspapers and (really!) bloggers are better scrutinisers – although I mean no criticism of MOST journalists or bloggers - then to criticise the Assembly for not doing things that a simple web search, or even attendance at the odd meeting could prove were not true, is pretty p**s poor.

Has anyone ever seen Gilligan at any public meeting in City Hall? He probably says he watches every Assembly meeting on the web ,and reads all the published documents while sitting at home, but methinks he may have more than one window open on his computer if that is what he tells his editor.

Lets take just one example. In criticising the Assembly for always looking at the past, and not pushing for more powers Gilligan says; “It (the Assembly) might even try focussing it’s attentions on issues with real political saliency…potential cuts in police numbers, perhaps?”

OK Andrew. So did you attend the Budget Monitoring Subcommittee of 5th November 2008? Take a look at this for the in depth look the committee took at police numbers, including questioning senior police officers.

Or why not look at the transcript (and remember you should have been watching this) of Assembly Member Dee Doocey’s exchange with Boris at the Mayor’s Question Time on October 15th


And finally maybe you should have had a look at page 22 of the Pre Budget Report issued by the Assembly’s Budget Committee in October after their investigations. Look it says:

"We recommend that the Mayor’s consultation draft budget should identify projected numbers of police officer numbers, as well as the amount of time expected to be spent by police officers on front line service delivery. If there is to be a halt in the growth in police officer numbers in London, this must be fully debated and discussed, and convincing and effective measures must be put in place to ensure that the capacity of the Metropolitan Police Service continues to increase even if their total numbers do not."

I have no idea what the Standard are paying Gilligan but if I were Veronica Wadley I would start asking some real questions about who exactly your star columnist is talking to and what he does all day. Even better get rid of him and up the salaries of Pippa Crerar and Katherine Barney who do know what goes on in City Hall, and report its work diligently on a daily basis for the Standard.

Anonymous said...

The story of potential cuts in police numbers was not "broken by a blog. This blog." The question was first asked, although not answered, by an Assembly press release on 8 October, which you cut and pasted later that day, presumably from your RSS feed. The story was then confirmed, with quotes from Kit Malthouse, by the BBC and the Standard on 27 October.

The Troll said...

You're wrong I'm afraid. As acknowledged by the Evening Standard in October I was the first person to cover the story on the 22 July. I did it by that well known journalistic trick of attending a meeting and writing down what was said.

Tim said...

I did it by that well known journalistic trick of attending a meeting...


...and writing down what was said.



Andrew Gilligan said...

Mr T,

My entire piece was actually about the need for effective scrutiny of the Mayor - and my criticism of this and other blogs is that you're not providing it. You just keep missing the point, with this post as a classic example. Vastly important as I appear to be in all your lives, I have to break it to you that I'm not the Mayor - Boris Johnson is. He's that bloke in the funny-shaped building. You must know it.

I admit, I do enjoy mocking Ken - as much for the unfailing, Pavlovian reaction of his groupies as anything else. But it's hardly fair to accuse me of not scrutinising Boris; I wrote a foot-long piece on the subject only the day before yesterday, which you kindly did a whole post about. Surely you can't have forgotten that already?

And I was fascinated to hear about your claim to have broken the police numbers story. I did have a look at that post of yours for July. Can you point me to the bit where anyone (except you) says anything at all about police numbers?


prj45 said...

"daily finding new evidence of sinister neo-con evil in Johnson's choice of breakfast cereal"

Has anybody ever questioned what Boris has for breakfast?

Seriously, what a supercilious t*t.

No mention of Anthony Browne then.

The Troll said...

It is true that I probably didn't transcibe the most pertinent quote from my shorthand notes at the time but I did report what was said. Paul Stephenson (you know the guy with the funny shaped hat) said: "We have no indication at this moment in time if there will be any significant effect on headcount, certainly on police officer headcount.
There might be some marginal effect but we could not give you any reliable figures this morning." Kit Malthouse also refused to rule out a reduction in numbers. Unlike yourself, I will provide a link so you can check. It's called being accountable. You can read it here.

Oh and thank you for your comment. I didn't publish your first attempt at making it last night because you sought to hide behind anonymity (again). Thank you for working up the courage to come out in the open.

Tim said...


Can you point me to the bit where you deny making comments on this site and others while pretending to be somebody else?


Tom said...

"Has anybody ever questioned what Boris has for breakfast?"

Not really, Gilly is attempting to make an 'umorous smear at Boris Watch when, as I frequently point out, it was Alex Harrowell who spotted that the kind of people who got involved in the Bendy Jihad are often linked directly into neo-conservatism - Dean Godson being the link (yet another right-wing journalist in Boris Johnson's City Hall mediocracy?).

Gilligan's problem, if he even bothered to find this out, is that Alex is not primarily an anti-Boris blogger but a well known commenter on international affairs with occasional forays into aviation, IT/telecoms and British politics.

However, because the neocon line doesn't come from an anti-Boris blogger it wouldn't help Gilligan to smear us as obsessed nutters and conspiracy theorists, so he just fixes the evidence around the story again. Thus operates the Great Journalist of today.

Alex said...

I mean, take this post as an example. (Or any of the administration-politics or transport posts at the Watch.) That's a damn sight better than anything the Standard prints about the mayoralty - and there's not even one mention of Andrew Gilligan. The problem, Andrew, is that your argument involves making stuff up.

Timmymc said...

If the issue for discussion is that the mayor was given too much power, that is a worthy discussion. It is also one that should transcend personality and the office holder. There are too few accountability lines for the mayor.

The Assembly has very little power other than that of blocking the budget. With a two thirds majority needed and the Assembly elected at the same time as the mayor (so therefore usually supportive) this power is itself very weak.

Scrutiny of the mayor should be greater, the assembly should have more power. Media scrutiny should also be greater. Previous GLA members have complained that their best means of scrutiny was often via the media. So Boris Johnson's move to cut the amount of questioning he permits the media is at best disappointing and at worst an example of him making the most of his overwhelming powers to the detriment of proper scrutiny.

Bloggers have an important role to play in providing commentary on pertinent issues. I don't force anyone to read my blog. I'm not a professional journalist and don't purport to be. Therefore I don't have the time outside of my 'proper' job to break news stories myself that often. I think Gilligan's comments on blogging was dismissive and slightly arrogant. As a journalist he should be able to see them for what they are. The best can provide additional scrutiny and report news. Others provide a barometer of opinion and forum for debate.

The Troll said...

To be fair to the man he's got no problem with bloggers at all (as long as they're himself.)

Jonathan said...

Hm. I wish Mr Gilligan would stick to using an alias. He is pretty patronising and humourless when he is being himself.

sarah hart said...

My only comment is that blogging is harmless. Gilligan's investigative journalism cannot claim the same record.
What annoys me most about the man is his total arrogance - as if he's got even half the vision that Ken had as Mayor.
But being the sort of person he is, he thinks anyone who has a good word to say about Ken (myself included at times) must be a 'groupie'.
Maybe Gilligan's envious as nobody's his groupie?

Tom said...

"there's not even one mention of Andrew Gilligan"

Is it possible that Andy baby is just reading articles with his name in rather than the whole site? If you bias your sample it does rather invalidate your conclusions, I'm afraid, and he has form for searching the net for his own handle.

As far as the Oyster/SWT post goes, it also invalidates Gilligan's rather weak thesis because it's not lifted from mainstream media sources - it comes from bloggers reading publicly available DfT documents (although whether the document in question is *supposed* to be publicly available is an interesting question, since it's now behind authentication). In fact it traces back to Roger Ford of Modern Railways who wrote several articles on the subject between 2005 and 2007, correctly predicting that the SWT franchise agreement would cause conflict between TfL and the DfT, as would the latter's desire to use the franchising process to roll out the ITSO smartcard standard. Mind you, he's a proper technical journalist who knows his subject inside out.

Anyway, to demonstrate there's no ill feeling, here's a tip to illustrate how Boris Watch operates - if Mr. Gilligan wants to follow this up, he's quite welcome to as long as he gives us a polite hat-tip).

Bendy bus drivers, who are the best and most experienced ones, are paid a premium for driving the things (which is probably why they're not *hugely* cheaper to operate on similar routes, although the cost per passenger-capacity-mile is a bit better than most double deck routes). When routes debendify, do the best drivers get forced to take a pay cut, at which point they go on strike, or do you continue to pay them the bendy premium for driving non-bendy buses, which presumably gets factored into the operator's tender price?

Next, what do you pay the 40-50% extra drivers you have to hire to operate the extra buses on the route? Bendy premium, despite never being trained to drive a bendy, or normal wages for driving on a busy double decker route, at which point they may go on strike to demand parity with the ex-bendy men. How does this affect the economics of the operation or the validity of comparisons with existing double deck operation costs?

Now that's a job for an investigative journalist.

The Troll said...

"Maybe Gilligan's envious as nobody's his groupie?"

Nah. He just invents his own.