My Life in Media: Guido Fawkes
The parliamentary blogger Guido Fawkes has been setting Westminster alight with his tales of plots, rumours and conspiracy for the past three years. He describes himself as "the only man to enter parliament with honest intention", and his blog, a sort of political Popbitch, runs stories that the printed and broadcast media are prevented from touching through lack of evidence or libel laws. After several years of intrigue, his cover was blown, revealing him to be Paul Staines, a 40-year-old former financier and acid-house raver. He is married with two children and lives in Ireland.
Monday 05 November 2007
What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?
Hate: the hypocrisy and bullshit of politicians and craven reporting.
When you were 15, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?
I did a paper round and was probably the slowest paper boy in the world as I read them all, from the FT to The Sun.
And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?
I liked The Bionic Man and The A-Team on television, and the Radio 1 chart show on a Sunday was my favourite radio; I would listen to the Top 40 and tape my favourites.
Describe your job?
I don't have a job, I vent. If you have lots of regular issues that drive you mad, it's easy to do.
What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?
The Today programme is on in the background as I try to stuff some breakfast down my daughters' faces.
Do you consult any media sources during the day?
I use RSS (Rich Site Summary) feeds to get the headline summaries from all the papers, and will jump on those that have anything of interest. At the moment, if anything comes up saying "Huhne" or "Clegg", I'll have a look at what it is. I get about 300 emails a day, and I read Hugo Rifkind in The Times and Oliver Duff's Pandora in The Independent – I read all the diary columns because I see them as my competitors and I'd hate to copy them accidentally.
Mike Smithson's Political Betting has some of the best analysis going, and Anthony Wells' UK Polling Report is very wonky and detailed – they're quality writers who would easily cut it on the political desks of any paper.
What is the best thing about your job?
The fact that now, when I call up a minister's office, they don't go, "Who?". You can here them go, "Oh shit, it's Guido". That might be egotistical, but nobody looks forward to a telephone call from me.
And the worst?
The stalkers I've had. Some of them take it all a bit seriously, and when I've been chasing after certain stories, people have contacted me saying, we know where you live, and we know where your wife works. We called in the police for that. It's not Lembit Opik wanting to strangle me; it's usually junior political supporters.
How do you feel you influence the media?
I think that they all read the blog in the Lobby. Sometimes, I'll just bore on about a subject repeatedly, and it becomes part of the accepted zeitgeist. And that's not just me but some of the other political bloggers, too. If you're a journalist, you can't help following up something you read online.
What's the proudest achievement in your working life?
There was breaking the Prescott story [alleging other mistresses]. But there are lots of minor stories that I just push along. I've got a bee in my bonnet about Gordon's favourite think tank, the Smith Institute, and all that goes on between them, and I'm pretty chuffed with making that a commonly known point. Also, starting up a Charities Commission investigation.
A nd what's your most embarrassing moment?
Vainly thinking that I could take on (Jeremy) Paxman and Michael White (political editor of The Guardian) on Newsnight. They gave me a spit-roasting. I had asked Paxo whether he was really worth £1m a year for a three-day week, and I'd taken the piss out of Michael White for years, and I think some of his anger came through.
What is your Sunday paper?
The Sunday Times.
Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire?
I have retired once already. I'd like to destroy a minister's career. There is one I've got something on at the moment that I need to prove, but Ed Balls is probably the one I most despise. I think his whole career has been based on being Gordon's most loyal henchman, and I don't think he's that great quality. He and his wife are completely political creatures. I doubt he had a paper round.
Who in the media do you most admire and why?
I admire some writers' style. When I was a kid, I really admired Auberon Waugh. I admire Quentin Letts and Matthew Parris, and Peter Oborne does great analysis.
Guido Fawkes's blog: www.orderorder.com
Interview by Sophie Morris
1980s Travels the world as foreign-policy analyst for Committee for a Free Britain, a right-wing pressure group, before finding his libertarian niche promoting raves, which he then tries to protect with his Freedom to Party campaign.
1990s Moves into finance, working as a broker and in hedge funds
2004 Begins his website Order-Order, kicking off the debate as to Guido Fawkes's identity
2005 Wins Political Commentary category of Backbencher Political Weblog Awards; the name Staines first linked with the blog
2006 Blogs claiming John Prescott is having an affair with an MP, and co-authors a book with Iain Dale on Labour Party sleaze.
2007 Identified on a Radio 4 documentary
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