What does the embattled loyalist do when the Dear Leader is on the ropes, bombarded by round-robins from party and former friends demanding his head before the local elections, before Christmas, now, if sooner than that isn't possible? Why, set up a supporters site and get people to sign a petition, of course.
A petition that is swiftly endorsed by the likes of, er, Osama bin Laden, Oswald Mosley and a splendidly youthful Jane Fonda/Barbarella. Oh dear...
As the demands for Tony Blair to spend more time with his mortgage crashed into the Downing Street bunker on Thursday morning, a small (and frankly, pretty obscure) band of torchbearers set our their stall at www.keepingthefaith.org.uk. The site described Anthony Charles Lynton Blair as "the greatest Labour leader of our time" and invited readers to sign a "petition" stating the belief that he "should be allowed to get on with the job of Prime Minister and should be able to pick a time of his choosing at which to stand down".
All appeared to go smoothly. Nearly a pageful of respectable-looking names appeared. Then at 9:27 am: "Stuart Bruce; Jonathan McShane; Gordon Brown; Idi Amin; Osama bin Laden; Abu Hamza..."
How do we know the time? Because that's when a message appeared on the bulletin boards at www.urban75.com* - the naughty corner of British politics - "Keepingthefaith.org.uk - Quick! While you can! - I've already added Gordon Brown..." By page four the denizens were holding an impromptu conversation - "Ming the Merciless; Ming the merciless (classic); Milliband rocks; Sir Ian Blair; Lorna, will you marry me?; Yes darling; Karen, I still love you too; You two timing cunt".
At 11:10 - after a further six pages of textual intercourse - the message went out - "It takes HTML!" And indeed the "petition" had been set up so users could enter anything at all into the "name" field. So they did, adding another seven pages of photos, particoloured curses and scrolling marquees. The site stuttered to a halt around 13:30. But for fans of digital graffiti it's all archived at http://crap.wapoc.com/blair/.
So what genius of information technology was behind all this? Well... keepingthefaith.org.uk is registered to one David Taylor. Almost incredibly, not only had he left his site open to flagrant democratic expression but he had published in the HTML code the underlying hosting address: http://backdoor.taylord.fastmail.co.uk/faith/ - and had exposed his other projects. Thanks to Bloggerheads for capturing these before that door was shut and Mr Taylor removed the MP3 file of "Things can only get better" - as far as we know this kind of stuff, used in the treatment of reforming Blairites, is now only available on prescription.
Revealed highlights of Taylor's glittering (surely "guttering?" - Ed) Web design career include a site entitled gordonbrown.org - packed with news and amazon.com book plugs relating to the Chancellor of the Exchequer - and offering the domain name for sale. And digging around led to shutthebackdoor.co.uk - which says it's a "a non-party political group campaigning to put a stop to" certain electoral rules of the Welsh Assembly. Which, as Bloggerheads kindly points out, we touched on here.
Do we smell astroturfing - the weaving of fake grass roots? We think we do.
Mr Taylor denies suggestions that it was he who ordered the notorious expulsion of Walter Wolfgang from the 2005 Labour Party Conference for doubting Mr Blair. But another of his projects is transpero.net, offering to set up mailing lists for political discussion - presumably on condition it's pro-Blair discussion - and directing readers to one Adrian McMenamin. Now there's a name you can look up using a well-known search engine. Which comes up first with that Register story, about Plaid Cymru demanding his resignation - in connection with astroturfing operations on usenet news. According to Bloggerheads Mr Taylor has other links with Mr McMenamin, described by the Guardian as: "the classically hostile New Labour gatekeeper". They'll now be wishing they knew how to keep the gates on their online operations.
Editor's note: As of Friday morning the revived keepingthefaith.org.uk listed a scant 80 named signatories, but claimed to have more than 4,000 supporters, and, weirdly, that "we have a lot of data entry left to do!" ®