Around 1980, plain Paul Staines began calling himself Paul Delaire-Staines, a double-barrel his father had dropped years before. Whether his need to invent an alter ego has always been with him is hard to tell. Certainly, his ‘colourful’ early life does seem to consist of swash-buckling and ‘I rode with the Contras’ – with bits of shadowy security services thrown in. But then, most of these accounts are based on Paul’s own version of events. He is however clearly a man who enjoys control and power: “When I call up a minister’s office,” he gloated in 2007, “you can hear them go, ‘Oh shit, it’s Guido.’”
I suppose in many ways, that’s only human – and one very human trait often applied to (Delaire)-Staines is self-adoration. “He’s a prickly fellow,” says journalist Michael White, “not wholly averse to legal threats….and curiously self-absorbed – a blog narcissist”. Journalist and blogger Craig Murray also refers to ‘the lazy and conceited Paul Staines’.
So he’s full of himself: big deal – aren’t we all? Well, not many of us would ever think to perform in the cringe-making Reilly Ace of Spies manner that characterised his shadowy ‘hidden identity’ appearance on Newsnight with the ever-present Guido-Finder General Michael White. Jeremy Paxman seemed bemused by Staines’ attempt to hide an identity known to tens of thousands of people – especially when within minutes White called him Paul Staines anyway. (White proceeded to tie Guido in knots and make what we could see of him seem profoundly silly…an exercise in which Paul didn’t appear to need much help.)
The other odd thing about that TV appearance (it was the first time I’d heard Paul Staines speak) was the nature of his voice. It seemed to me then more Paul Burrell than Paul Staines – which, given his already growing reputation for cojones, wasn’t at all what I’d expected. There was also a certain childlike quality to both voice and syntax: “that’s for me to know and you to find out” he said petulantly at one point, when White mischievously asked if he was ‘worth suing’. Given that some time afterwards Staines was to be found offering smoking-gun McBride emails to the highest bidder (the very press barons he claimed to despise) we might safely assume that he wasn’t yet a high-roller.
That slightly fey reality is also in stark contrast to the extremely odd text Guido Fawkes the Gunpowder plotter sent to his victim Damian McBride once it was clear he’d been nailed:
‘What is best in life? To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women’
These are apparently some words spoken by the hero Conan the Barbarian in a pretty dreadful fantasy-action movie of some years ago. And if fantasy-action is your thing, then I suppose that’s the sort of merciful text you’ll write to those whom you have ‘driven before you’.
This is in fact Guido’s favourite role: the merciless scion of the Establishment, riding forth to scatter its corruption, impropriety and spineless cowardice to the four winds.
And so we turn to a survey of whether Paul Staines is outside pissing into the elite’s tent….or merely at the trough along with the rest of the pigs.