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Rich Johnston
  • Indecision Internationale: It's the End of the News of the World as We Know It

    They say a week is a long time in politics. Well this feels like a century. And I've spent much of it updating my American friends on a very British story. And each time, watching their virtual jaws drop lower and lower.

    There's been a news story running around for a while that the best-selling English language newspaper, News of the World, had been a bit naughty. Published for 170 years, the last few decades of have seen it owned by Fox News' Rupert Murdoch and News International, becoming a sister Sunday paper to their daily paper The Sun. It has since moved on from exposing vicars and priests attending orgies to hacking the mobile phone voice mails of sports stars, royals, pop stars and politicians to get stories.

    This is the kind of thing that seems to drop the jaws of Americans, but although illegal in the UK, it's not a type of journalistic behavior that seems outside the norm to the public in general. It was seen as something saucy and naughty. Even if the ex-Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who was caught out having an affair with his secretary, has kept talking about it every chance he could.

    Here it is, though, in a nutshell: NOTW editor Andy Coulson resigned in 2007 over phone-hacking allegations, but NOTW maintained that there was only one dodgy private detective and one dodgy journalist who were at fault and everything else was whiter than white. No one believed them.

    No one apart from Prime Minister David Cameron, who hired Coulson as his director of communications (press secretary), and who is best friends with the previous NOTW editor, and current News International executive, Rebekah Brooks (who had at one point had been arrested for assaulting her then-husband and soap-star actor known for playing a hard man).

    Coulson had to resign again when the phone-hacking story reappeared, as celebrities found they could threaten to sue NOTW and get an instant six-or-seven figure settlement. That was the status quo until this week. And jaws started dropping over here as well.

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    Tags: David Cameron, Fox, Gordon Brown, Indecision Internationale, Rupert Murdoch, Scandalgate, United Kingdom
  • When Blago Met Batman

    So, what happens when your political career is over, you are a national laughing stock and you've just been convicted of misleading investigators with a retrial for your other charges? Why, you go to Comic Con of course.

    The Wizard World Chicago Comic Con this past weekend saw Rod Blagojevich pitch up at the show with news crews in tow. And he found a mostly appreciative local audience, people flinging themselves into his arms. With just the occasional "Go to jail!" bellowed in the back.

    He pressed the flesh with a variety of comic book dignitaries, spending the most time with one Mr. Adam West, star of sixties Batman TV show and most recently Family Guy. I'm not sure if Rod thought that Adam West actually was mayor of Quahog or not, but he got an appreciative audience.

    The former executive officer of Illinois sold signatures for $50 and photo ops for $80 — well, he's got a lot of lawyers' salaries to pay — but he still couldn't come close to The Shat. William Shatner is charging $75 for a scrawled signature and $100 for a photo. But then Blago never actually captained the USS Enterprise, so that's fair enough.

    I asked him — considering the fact that he was at Comic Con — if he wanted his future career to be as a comic or as a con. I got an appreciative chuckle — no answer, but he did find the question "comical." I was then ejected by a security guard. Lesson learned. Disgraced politicians may have a sense of humor. But personal security guards never do.

    More photos of this historic meeting of superhero and supervillain after the jump.

    Rich Johnston writes for

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    Tags: Batman, Illinois, Rod Blagojevich
  • Indecision Internationale 2010: The Morning After the Weekend Before

    Update: Brown is resigning and the British economy sinks into the Atlantic.


    The British people has spoken! And they have said "Ummm…"

    With no overall winner in the British General Election, negotiations as to which political parties will form the next British government have continued through the weekend. Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats has continued to be a pricktease to both Still-Hanging-on-as-Prime-Minister Gordon Brown of the Labour Party and Leader-of-the-Opposition-But-We-Got-More-Votes-than-Brown David Cameron of the Conservative Party.

    Those are the official titles, by the way, Oh yes.

    So as we are a government-less country, chimney sweeps have taken to the streets in a battle with boisterous soccer fans, rising around on red double decker buses, and brandishing their unset, un-whitened teeth, while Lily Allen, Sir Michael Cain, Paul McCartney, David Beckham and any other Brits you may have vaguely heard of try to keep order. Or something like that. Look, I can fight against stereotypes, but sometimes you’ve just got to go with them.

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    Tags: Conservative Party (UK), David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Indecision Internationale, Labour Party (UK), Liberal Democrat Party (UK), Nick Clegg, United Kingdom
  • Indecision Internationale 2010: What If You Had an Election and Nothing Happened?

    So we had an election yesterday. The mother of all Parliaments asked its people to grace it with our votes. And we complied, in record numbers, some crowding stations so much so that they were left unable to vote. The count went on well into the early hours and we awoke this morning keen to discover at which lucky individual fate had pointed its fickle finger, intoning, "You! Ugly White Man! Rule the Country."

    But its finger hadn't pointed at anyone, just played its part in a dismissive wave. We have a hung parliament. And not in a "Why, Mr Parliament, aren't you impressively hung!" kind of way. Instead, Britain is feeling rather flaccid. No one is in control. And no one is sure who will be. Our demonstration to the world of open, reliable, trustworthy democracy has resulted in shady backroom deals between politicians and their familiars — literally anything could happen. They could emerge saying that we will now be a revolutionary monarchy with the clone of Winston Churchill catapulted (literally) onto the throne wearing a chicken hat. We just don't know.

    Gordon Brown, as incumbent Prime Minister, is meant to get first crack at forming a government by reaching out to other parties. But any deal with the Liberal Democrats would likely involve a introducing a fairer system of electoral representation, giving their party a better shake of the stick — and ensuring that this kind of thing happens every election. And even with them onside he wouldn't quite have enough seats to form a government.

    David Cameron — leader of the now-largest party, the Conservatives — is making as many deals with parties as he can but looks determined to govern as a minority government, unable to pass much legislation or do much else besides trying to cut costs, hoping to keep his party together and praying that not too many of them die in office.

    While Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats got many less seats and votes than expected, he seems likely casting the deciding vote on every piece of legislation that comes through the door. Yes, the future of the country is in the hands of the man that the least people voted for.

    Can't we have a good old fashioned dictatorship again? It was so much easier to work out what was going on….

    Of course, my Member of Parliament is now no longer an anti-airport Liberal Democrat but a millionaire, overseas domicled, Jewish pig farming Conservative who doesn't like science. So that should be fun.

    You know, It's weird. We currently have no government. And yet nothing has collapsed. The libertarians were right!!!


    Rich Johnston lives in London, works in advertising, writes about comics and draws cartoons for the UK's leading political blog, Guido Fawkes. He'll vote for the first party that promises to legalise the smoking of squirrels for medicinal purposes.

    Tags: Conservative Party (UK), David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Indecision Internationale, Labour Party (UK), Liberal Democrat Party (UK), Nick Clegg, United Kingdom
  • Indecision Internationale 2010: The "Doctor Who" General Election

    If you've never heard of Doctor Who — the forty-seven year running TV series on the BBC — stop now, find another article, there's probably one with Glenn Beck looking silly on it.

    Okay? Well, if you're still here, I'm assuming that you are familiar with the show about time-traveling alien The Doctor in a blue box obsessed with Earth and sticking his oar in around the universe, often pursuing or pursued by the metal-cased Dalek race. In Britain, it's pretty much the top rated show going and in the US the new season just broke audience records over at BBC America.

    It's so popular in Britain that it seems to have merged with the General Election campaign. The Radio Times, the UK equivalent of the TV times, ran three separate covers the other week, each with a different coloured Dalek matching the three main parties on the front with Westminster in the background, with the headline "Vote Dalek."

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    Tags: Conservative Party (UK), David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Indecision Internationale, Labour Party (UK), Television, United Kingdom