This interview was spiked by the Editor of the Chronicle becuase he has a tenuous grasp on Libel laws.
1) How did the idea for your Reading based website come about?
The original idea came about when I showed my football fanzine to a few people and one of them thought that a local politics based version would be funny. At the time, despite living in Reading for ten years, I didn’t know enough about the local characters to come up with anything interesting, but I did try writing a few stories under the working title “Reading and Writing”. However, until the rather bogus idea of the one way IDR came along, there really wasn’t enough material. All of a sudden Reading became Comedy Central.
2) What do you do when you're not spreading muck? (something about your job, fanzine and stand for the liberal seat would be good.)
I work for Fujitsu Services (formerly ICL) and I moved to Reading in 1994 when my office moved to the town. Almost as quickly they moved back out again and I now work in Staines. The day job involves writing internet based applications.
Until recently my main hobby was writing football gags for the main Arsenal fanzine: “The Gooner” which I’ve been doing since 1990 and editing my own fanzine: “Up The Arse!” (a) which started in 1992.
I run several web sites. My own personal site; one for an obscure 1980s band called ‘Girls At Our Best’; my Arsenal fanzine ‘Up the Arse!’ which has been running since 1992 and I have to ensure that my cat Matilda keeps her web site up to date.
I have stood in the council elections for the Liberal Democrats twice: in 2004 for Katesgrove and in 2007 in Abbey.
3) Martin Salter has called you a tragic individual. What's the history between the two of you?
There isn’t any history apart from him resorting to name calling. I’ve never met him and I want to know which one of my friends tipped him off by telling him I was a tragic individual who needs to get out more. He has, however, made every effort to set himself up for ridicule: campaigning against Aldermaston (1) whilst backing the replacement of Trident (2); claiming to be against the Iraq war (3) yet missing at all three crucial votes (4); voting for the ban on fox hunting (5) whilst being a keen shooter (6). It’s comedy gold.
4) You wanted to remain anonymous. Why, and how do you feel now that the Post (b) has shopped your identity? Is it harder to run the website?
I always knew that anyone determined enough could work out who wrote the site, the idea that you can remain anonymous on the internet is a fallacy, as my list of visitors to the site proves. Labour, Conservatives, Liberals, Greens and council officials are all regular readers. I was hoping to remain anonymous, not because it was supposed to be a secret, but so that I could continue to poke fun at my fellow Liberals. There’s nothing I can do about it now so in that respect it has made it a little trickier and the site is probably less even handed than I would have liked.
5) Tell us about the e-mail fiasco when you requested Martin salter's correspondence under the freedom of information act.
Martin Salter backed a motion in the House of Commons to exempt MPs from Freedom of Information requests, waving a letter as “evidence” and claiming it was to protect his constituents. Since private correspondence was already covered by the Data Protection Act and MPs have to publish their expenses anyway, it seemed a little odd that he should be quite so animated about it. A little birdie suggested that it was maybe because he didn’t want his correspondence with council officials to be made public. It was a plausible reason but, as he is litigious in such matters and successfully sued fellow MP Rob Wilson for libel, I obviously wanted to check the facts.
I asked the council for copies of emails between Mr. Salter’s office and senior council officials under the Freedom of Information Act. Mindful of Mr. Salter’s stated objections to Freedom of Information, I specifically asked for any personal data covered by the Data Protection Act to be removed. The council sent me the subject and date of twelve emails but not the contents. I also know that he has sent more than twelve emails to them. I have complained to the Information Commissioner and am awaiting their adjudication.
However, I’m not too hopeful that I will ever see these emails because the very day after they “complied” with my request, all senior council officers were warned via an email that they should delete anything they didn’t want released under Freedom of Information. My request for a copy of the email telling council officers to delete emails was met with the response that they couldn’t provide me with it because it had been deleted!
In the meantime, Martin Salter claimed in the local press that he had put in an official complaint to the Information Commissioner with regard to the letters he had waved about in the House of Commons which he claimed the council had released in breach of the Data Protection Act. I asked the Information Commissioner if they had received such a formal complaint and they told me that they hadn’t, although he had sent them a letter telling them that he was going to complain to the council about it.
(a) If the paper doesn’t want to print “Arse!” I’m happy for you to use UTA! I have that problem with the BBC!
(b) The Post didn’t actually shop me, I was anonymous in the original article. It was someone anonymously commenting on GetReading who posted my full name and address in the comments section of the story. I have my suspicions as to who it was.