Paul Staines and porkie-pies: the evidence

The masthead over Paul Staines’ website proclaims ‘Guido Fawkes’ blog….of plots, rumours and conspiracy’. With that as a content promise, the main thing the reader would want some reassurance about is how much of it is likely to true.

The jury is forever out these days about the truth or otherwise of what appears on blogsites; debating the specific veracity of any given story quickly becomes a fruitless exercise in the exchange of allegations. But the track-record of the author is a reasonable factor to take into account, given that – when it comes to habitual lying -the past is very often a guide to the future.

Accused recently of a propensity to racism, Staines answered “I’ve always been anti-racist”. It’s difficult to believe Paul on this. On his own admission, he was an ardent supporter of the South African apartheid regime for a time. It could be that the colour-bar dimension of the Nationalist Government wasn’t what attracted him to Botha and friends; but then there’s the incident during his spell as a leading light in the Federation of Conservative Students, when he was (as the Guardian put it in May 1986) ‘Tory student leader in racist party link’. The Party concerned was the BNP, with whom he was ‘trying to form a pact’ in Hull.

Now we’ve all been stitched up by the Guardian in our time, so this may not mean he is a racist. But it does make the claim to be anti racist hard to swallow. The same applies to the self-assigned prolific nature when it comes to journalistic output. In a recent Guardian interview, he said “I try and have a story out for breakfast, another at 11, another after lunch, and another before people go home”. That’s 21 stories a week and not far short of a thousand a year. It doesn’t check out with many folks, either inside or outside the blogosphere. As a former Guido employee told The Slog late last year:

“Guido spends most of his time these days running rehashes and scribbling about nothing important. He hasn’t done anything notable or original for ages”. Guardian writer Michael White made this very point to his (hidden) face during an interview with Paxman on Newsnight, and the Daily Telegraph also alleged that many of their interviewees were ‘citing the many weeks when his blog consists of little more than tart one-liners, indigestible lumps of Eurosceptic or libertarian rhetoric, and endless promises, not always met, of impending revelations.’

The Paxman interview (with ‘Guido Fawkes’ offsite and in the shadows) also saw Paul’s mouth run away with him when claiming “that’s interesting, given that Nick Robinson was the source” in relation to a gossip piece treated with contempt by White. Robinson almost immediately issued a denial of this assertion, and Staines was forced into a humiliating back-peddle later, denying that he had ‘ever’ used Mr Robinson as a source.

Wikipedia too isn’t always 100% reliable, but over the years one suspects perhaps Paul Staines has helped them out with the odd ‘fact’, such as ‘after a successful career in the City, he had made enough money to devote his time to blogging’. Either that, or Guido has some space-cadet friends prepared to talk in his support, because this clearly isn’t true. On 9th October 2003, Staines declared himself bankrupt.

This followed a very nasty court case with his former partners, during which the Judge said:

‘”….the most acrimonious litigation, hard fought at every turn of a number of interlocutory skirmishes. No holds were barred; no punches were pulled…(Mr Staines is) a man who played fast and loose with the truth…”

Far from being loaded (at least, not with money) Paul Staines is alleged by another former worker to have been given something of an ultimatum by his genuinely high-flying wife Orla: get a job, or leave.

Since that time, of course, you have to hand it to this egocentric man: he has produced a money-spinning site and business out of nothing. Several sources (Wikipedia again, and one or two sloppy hacks when Guido gained some serious notoriety) have repeated several times that he ‘gets a quarter of a million visits from his devoted fans every month’. Unfortunately, be this the result of the Fawkes spin-machine or not, it simply isn’t true.

Fellow-blogger Tim Ireland (who, we must be clear, really has it in for Staines) was the first to spot the anomaly between boasts in the Westminster Arms and Google Analytics reality. Guido has never argued with Ireland’s dismissal of his bloated readership claims (and those of his chum Iain Dale) but all the same it seemed only fair to look at the data myself. They show that during February 2010, the Fawkes site got 57,000 unique visitors a month – the accepted measure of ‘real’ readership in a sector rich in exaggeration and sleight of hand. This is rather less than 250,000.

Even when supplying personal detail about the Company he formed (in Caribbean tax-haven Nevis) Staines gave a false name and a fake address. He claims to have done this to keep litigious victims off the scent; but this contradicts his other boast – that he is happy to be ‘fearless’ in his reporting because ‘injucting the site is a jurisdictional nightmare’.

Paul is fond of the cloak and dagger thing – which is fine, because the plot & rumour promise is partly about that sort of stuff. But returning to the point of this opening piece on the man behind Guido Fawkes, his apparently consistent history of mendacity doesn’t bode well for a site which – in his own words – “prides itself on getting the facts right”.

And equally, accuracy and a measured approach are helped by abstinence….but hindered by mind-altering substances.