Owen Paterson MP and the snowplough

September 7, 2011

Things seem to have been a bit quiet over the summer recess for Owen Paterson MP, currently Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and I have a reasonable suspicion that he (or a zealous assistant) has spent the time sprucing his Wikipedia entry up into a good old fashioned puff piece. It wouldn’t be the first time Conservative HQ have altered facts on wikipedia, but this is such a thorough job that I feel it ought to be recorded here for posterity.

Here’s Paterson’s biography as it stood until the 6th August. On the 6th, from 8am until about half 2 in the afternoon, a mysterious user called Snowplough11 made fourteen separate edits to the page, almost quadrupling it in length. Here’s how the piece stood after that great flurry of editing, and how it currently (more or less) remains. And here’s a handy display of all the edits made by our mysterious Snowplough11 (who, incidentally, has only ever edited this one article).

And what additional detail was added by the elusive Snowplough? Well, the plaudits are unending! With scant regard for Wikipedia’s (admittedly dubious) dedication to stamping out bias and maintaining a neutral point of view, Paterson is described in that thoroughly neutral phrase as being “seen as a reliable, loyal and hardworking frontbencher”. Quotes from his constituents jostle for place with the lofty honour of being Iain Dale’s “second best Conservative MP media performer”. This is just a lead-in, however, to a substantial hagiography with Paterson-puff from sources as diverse as, um, The Daily Telegraph, Simon Heffer, Tim Montgomerie and Charles Moore, all singing his praises in a lofty tory chorus. The Charles Moore quote is probably worth including in full, just for its sheer audacious absurdity: “in a better world, there would be a film about the life of Owen Paterson — his heroic struggles to export British manufacturing when he worked in the family leather firm, his mastery of the foot-and-mouth crisis, his insane courage as a horseman, not to mention his longstanding commitment to Northern Ireland. Owen would be played by Pierce Brosnan, or possibly the late Trevor Howard.”

Possibly the best piece of encyclopaedia-filling is saved until last, however, where Snowplough sees fit to add the breaking news that not only did the Daily Record vote Paterson “one of the top 10 sexiest politicians of 2008”, but that he was also “voted the 5th sexiest MP on sexymp.co.uk”.  Exactly the biographical information that the world’s most popular reference site should be displaying about cabinet MPs.

There really is a lot more on there, but it really is worth giving it a read yourself and finding your own particular gems of Paterson-puff.

So, and here’s the question, who is the mysterious Snowplough11? And why would they spend six and a half hours writing such a glowing testimony to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland? Perhaps I’m being over-suspicious. Perhaps they’re just a fan. But I can’t imagine your average passing Wikipedia editor would see a perfectly servicable biography, and think “Oh, I know what this needs! A loads of quotes from Iain Dale and friends about how great this MP is! Oh, and don’t forget the Daily Record sexiness contest! Brilliant!”. Like I said, maybe they’re just a fan.


One Response to “Owen Paterson MP and the snowplough”

  1. […] been taking place Djanogly0wise recently. Last month I wrote on here about Owen Paterson’s remarkably flattering Wikipedia biography, authored by the mysterious “Snowplough11″. It seems quite a bizarre niche to get into […]

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