Brewing up a political blogging storm
Paul Staines, better known as political blogger Guido Fawkes, is unrepentant about his defiant and continuous exposure of the political system, both in the UK and, writes BRIAN O’CONNELL, in Ireland, the country he plans to come home to
IN APRIL, as a political and media storm was brewing over his actions, I sat on the banks of the River Slaney in Wexford waiting for Paul Staines, also known as Guido Fawkes, a noted political blogger. He was sitting in his car and getting a thorough grilling by phone from BBC Radio 4’s The Media Show. The day before we met, Staines had published confidential details of more than 1,000 contacts between some members of the British media and private investigators. The story had made front-page news and publishing the files was in defiance of both the British courts and the Information Commissioner’s Office.
There was a suggestion that Staines would be summoned once again to appear at the Leveson Inquiry to explain his actions. Several weeks earlier, he had appeared at the inquiry to explain why he published details of Alastair Campbell’s testimony in advance of his appearance, and was also probed as to why he had released commercially sensitive information in relation to Northern Rock bank.
During his testimony, Staines took the opportunity to underline his Irish nationality – his mother is from Finglas and he holds an Irish passport – by telling the judge he didn’t have to recognise the court’s authority. “What I think you’re missing,” he said, “is that I’m a citizen of a free republic and, since 1922, I don’t have to pay attention to what a British judge orders me to do.”
The testimony did the rounds on YouTube; Staines says: “It caused a ripple in the room. All these brilliant barristers are not used to hearing someone tell the judge they don’t care what they order.”
Since his website, order-order.com, was launched in 2004, Staines has become something of an establishment pariah and one of the most widely read and clicked-on sources for political news, innuendo, scandal and gossip in the UK. The site currently receives more than two million visitors per month, and he employs a number of staff, including the pundit Harry Cole, to help run the site.
He also owns a lucrative “six-figure” online marketing business called Message Space, which is registered in Ireland and sells advertising space online. Staines says he spends several months a year in Ireland, mainly in Wexford, and one day he hopes to move here with his wife and children.
If you’ve never seen his blog, you might be aware of him as the person who released the names of some of the Anglo Irish Bank, now IBRC, bondholders in October 2010. Days earlier, the Irish Government had insisted that the names of those bondholders could not be obtained or published.
“The feeling was that my contact knew me and also wasn’t convinced that the Irish media would publish the list of bondholders at the time. I knew something about the bond markets, having been a bond trader. Some of the Irish press criticised me for relying on a single source. They said they would have published, but just wanted to check it out a bit more. I felt it was sour grapes, and that the Irish public had a right to know who they were paying billions to,” he says.