The mere mention of his name chills politicians and his journalism has blown an icy wind through Westminster. Paul Staines is Guido Fawkes and Fawkes is the pen name of Britain’s most notorious political blogger, inhabiting the website order-order.com
This baby has form. We can call it a baby because the platform for journalism is young enough (set-up in 2004) and bold enough. When Staines had to present to the Leveson inquiry he shrugged his shoulders and answered back.
When he receives solicitor’s letters he often rolls his shoulders and laughs – the latest, for supposedly offending the wife of the Sultan of Brunai!
But this is a thinker more than ready to cause offence in the best interests of the best endeavour of journalism – getting to the truth and holding authority to account.
Holding that position is an empowering place for any journalist to be he says and order-order.com is free to do its thing because Staines can’t be sacked for saying the wrong thing, he’s the boss.
The son of a Dublin mother, Staines is an Irish citizen with a determined attitude. Order-order.com has taken a hammer to a few atoms but Staines admits there’s no great science behind their splitting.
The secret formula to attracting two million readers a month to his website is old school ethics:
“I’m with Kelvin McKenzie,” he says, referring to one of Fleet Street’s most notorious editors. “Keep the format simple, then amaze, amuse and entertain. It’s the ‘Gotcha’ attitude; make them angry, tell them something they didn’t know, or make them laugh and you got them. But you have to do it every day. Hopefully we do all three.”
Often dogged persistence is enough. Like in 2009, when Staines, writing under his non de plume of Fawkes, exposed a Labour party smear scandal, which went right to the door of Number 10. He rates that story as his most rewarding.
Then, Staines obtained emails written by the Prime Minister’s spokesman Damien McBride, where-in he proposed publishing a series of online slurs related to the lives of leading Conservatives.
His expose hit the Labour Party like a puncher’s right cross and brought an apology from Gordon Brown… in journalism, it’s where you want to be.
With every breaking political scandal, the popularity of his product has grown and his journey has roots in a “cantankerous and argumentative nature”. Qualities he celebrates as being typically Irish.
But there is arrogance and courage too. In the past Staines has defied super-injunctions because he never felt threatened by telling his unique brand of truth. And he says that if there’s a lesson in all of this, it’s been his accessibility.
Guido Fawkes answers his emails and picks up the phone. His contact details which appear on his website are available to everybody. And if there is a political aide with information of public interest, he’s there, ready to take the call.
It’s the reason he believes order-order.com can compete with the Spectator and New Statesman aka the old establishment.
Then there’s his desire to answer back, through his website and the social media platform of Twitter.
“I originally thought Twitter was shit,” he says. “But I got my account in 2008 and every now and again when we did a big story, I’d get a few thousands followers more. It’s now a really important broadcast mechanism – it’s killed the newswire because news is out there first on Twitter. In a very specific way we try to use it as a hook to tease people in.”
Staines says that scandal and gossip provide the best bait, he says “because it’s what readers love.” But when the peddler of same is obstinate and non-conformist, well, that draws its own attention.
“I told Lord Leveson when he had me in front of his inquiry that since 1922 me and my countrymen don’t have to pay attention to what a British judge says. It caused quite a ripple. I think the room’s response was to half choke and Leveson just raised an eyebrow. At home people laughed that some Irish lad said f*** you to the judge. I did enjoy that.”
Below is a news story of a Radio Documentary on Guido Fawkes made by journalist Brian O’Connell (pictured top, right) for RTE’s Doc on One. The article appeared in the same August 11th edition of The Irish Post.
He’s the blogger who revealed the identity of the Anglo Irish bond holders but who has famously made his name striking fear into the hearts of British politicians.
Now Paul Staines aka Guido Fawkes is the subject of an RTE Radio documentary which charts the rise of right-wing maverick who has broken new ground exposing political scandal.
His website order-order.com has been shining a light into Westminster’s dark corners since 2004 and his findings have been so illuminating that the medium is attracting almost two million visitors a month.
It has been said that any British politician who hasn’t felt the heat of his blog, probably isn’t of consequence and documentary maker Brian O’Connell has threaded a story challenging old school journalism and that which is peddled by Staines under the assumed name of Fawkes.
The documentary was recorded in the halls of Westminster and Slaneyside in Wexford, where Paul Staines’s parents now live.
“I’m not sure whether many people in Ireland are aware he is Irish,” said O’Connell. “But this is the guy who told us in Ireland who some of the Anglo bond holders were, literally days after we were told these names wouldn’t be released. It’s interesting for me that a couple of years ago people might have sniggered at bloggers, now they take them seriously.”
O’Connell said the ripples Staines has created through order-order.com adheres to journalism’s number one objective – to get to truth. But his methods have occasionally been branded unorthodox and his right-wing allegiances have the potential to compromise impartiality.
Yet the documentary maker believes Staines has created a watchdog capable of exposing the worst elements of political life.
“In Ireland we have sites like Politics.ie but none with same clout as what Guido has in the UK,” he said. “I’m not sure whether it’s to do with the fact we are a smaller country and it is harder to be anonymous or if it is to do with the fact that there is too cosy a relationship in Ireland with the media.”
He added: “We have had so many political scandals and it has cost so much to try and get to the truth, so I wonder what would have happened had we a Guido Fawkes type character in Ireland, publishing articles on the blog, would we have learned more about what is going on in our politics and would we have learned quicker, and saved more money.”
The documentary, recorded for RTE’s Doc on One series is currently available online, to listen follow the link below