Last weekend, the Sunday Times published an article claiming that former Labour Shadow Cabinet member Clive Lewis had registered two websites in readiness for a leadership bid on 29 June last year, just days after being appointed to the Shadow Cabinet. Lewis had denied any involvement in the registration of the sites.
Many might think, ‘well he would say that, wouldn’t he?’ On the contrary, it is extremely credible.
Because he’s not the only senior Labour MP to have ‘leader’ websites registered against his name – some on the same date and others only a day later.
The SKWAWKBOX has heard reports of a large number of registrations at the same time and invites any readers who know of specific examples to contact the blog, but for now we’ll look at one example for which full details are available.
Not many will remember it now, but Wigan MP Lisa Nandy was forced to deny claims she was planning a leadership bid, which she did in the form of a rebuke to the unknown person responsible:
Clive Lewis’ sites were registered on 29 June 2016 and Nandy’s 30 June. It would be an odd coincidence for a string of MPs’ ‘leadership challenge’ sites all to be set up, independently, within a few hours of each other.
Timestamps and time-travel?
There are also a number of odd points about the different sites supposedly set up by Lewis. Here are the time-stamps for the creation of the two of the Lewis sites for which an exact timestamp is available:
The two separate sites were created at exactly the same time – to the 100th of a second. No single person could do that – and it would be as good as impossible for two individuals to do it.
So it seems the sites were created using an automated system – which strongly suggests it was not set up by an MP or his parliamentary team.
But that’s not the only odd thing about the timestamps. Look at the updated timestamps of each site:
Not only were the sites updated only 3 seconds apart – they were also updated seven hours before they were created.
If it were a timezone difference, even that would suggest it wasn’t done by Lewis, as it would have to be in the mid-USA or similar to be 7hrs earlier on the clock at the same moment. But it’s not, because the ‘Z’ indicator shows the timezone is ‘Zulu’ – and Zulu means GMT, or UTC as it’s now more correctly called.
So, by some odd coding, tampering or glitch, the sites were updated before they were created – and only 3 seconds apart – which again suggests some kind of specialist or automated system.
What’s in a name?
The final indicator that Lewis is not the creator of the sites is simple – his name is on them.
Anyone can have a site set up anonymously for a few pounds, so if Lewis was indeed setting up for a future leadership challenge, it would be a piece of cake not to have his name associated with it. It’s also very easy to put someone else’s name on a registration.
So the fact that Lewis’ name is there suggests someone wanted you to see it – which Lewis himself almost certainly wouldn’t.
Maybe, maybe not
So, if it wasn’t Lewis, who was it? It’s almost impossible to tell – but it’s worth noting that Lisa Nandy’s fake site was set up via a ‘registrar’ company called Identity Protect. There is an array of registrars to choose from – the ‘Lewis’ sites were done via a US one – but, a few months earlier, the anti-Corbyn organisation Labour Tomorrow set up its website in advance of its launch. And also used Identity Protect. Maybe something, maybe nothing. But worth knowing.
Means, opportunity and.. motive?
It’s clear that someone else could have set up the sites with Clive Lewis’ name – and, given the evidence above, it looks probable that they did. But why?
Lewis’ site was set up 29/6 – just two days after Angela Eagle resigned and a day before she was revealed to have set up her own leadership challenge site before she resigned amid crocodile tears. Given that she would almost certainly have known she was ‘busted’ on the 29th before the papers went to press, the series of fake sites for other leading Labour figures could well have been a form of retaliation.
It’s also notable that the claims about the site were broken by the Sunday Times – a publication owned by Rupert Murdoch – when Lewis is taking legal action against Murdoch for defamation.
It’s also likely, given the proven and reported targets of the scam, that an attempt was being made to ‘nobble’ potential future leadership candidates in the eyes of their otherwise-likely supporters – both among the membership and, just as importantly, among the fellow MPs they would need to support their nomination in order to stand.
Finally, Lewis – at least so far – appeared to feel initially that left-wingers targeted him. Which would be exactly what right-wing agents provocateur would want. Divide and conquer.
Edit 28/7: Clive Lewis contacted the SKWAWKBOX to advise that the Guardian was wrong in its assertion that he felt it was done by left-wingers and had since corrected its article. More details here.
So there is no shortage of potential motive for someone to attempt to tar Lewis and others with a ‘disloyalty brush’.
Means, motive and opportunity – and fingerprints all over it that may be too smudged to identify the culprit beyond doubt, but which certainly don’t look like Lewis’.
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