Marr's approach to super-injunction: carry on and pretend it doesn't exist
Cahal Milmo on the presenter's first show since outing himself
Monday 02 May 2011
Anyone expecting a tearful mea culpa would have been disappointed. With a rueful smirk and a hint of contrition, Andrew Marr returned to the airwaves yesterday after he revealed himself to be the beneficiary of a media-gagging super-injunction with a carefully worded admission that he had, recently, "featured in the newspapers".
After a week in which he was pilloried as a "hypocrite" and accused of being a founding subscriber to what one of his many detractors called an "adulterer's charter", the former BBC political editor opted for understatement as the best form of defence as he squirmed under gentle probing about his private life from two fearsome inquisitors brought in for the occasion – the comedienne Maureen Lipman and the historian Simon Schama.
Preparations for Marr's trial by television on his BBC1 Sunday morning politics show were spiced by claims that he had lost all credibility as a seeker of uncomfortable truths from the country's leaders by dint of brushing his own extra-marital indiscretion under the carpet with a little help from a High Court judge.
Beeb spin doctors hit back, insisting that it would be "business as usual" with important interviewees and subjects to cover, from David Cameron and Nick Clegg to the perils of pedicures by callous-nibbling fish.
In the event, precisely 70 seconds of the 60 minutes allotted to The Andrew Marr Show yesterday was dedicated to the fallout from the host's 2002 affair with a fellow political journalist, tacked on to a discussion about the success of the Middleton family from Berkshire in engineering a reverse takeover of the House of Windsor.
Under the cover of the programme's newspaper review, naturally dominated by coverage of the royal wedding, Ms Lipman ventured that it had been a "great week to hide an injunction story". Taking a leaf from the Prime Minister's textbook on dealing with troublesome females, Mr Marr called the actress a "cheeky woman" before acknowledging: "I have to say, I have featured in the newspapers."
As an example of understating the obvious, it was on a par with his admission in the Daily Mail last week that none of the fallout from his liaison, which threatened his marriage and career and led to him paying maintenance for a child who turned out not to be his own, had been "particularly pleasant".
The broadcaster, wallowing perhaps just a little in his newly acquired notoriety, briefly perused a waspish Sunday newspaper profile of him headlined "Old Jug Ears, daddy of the super-secret" and illustrated with an unflattering caricature which he self-deprecatingly described as "both rather unpleasant and also entirely accurate".
With one senior Labour MP, Chris Bryant, stating that the journalist is now "hobbled" by his action in obtaining the injunction to prevent disclosure of his affair, Mr Marr grabbed a lifeline offered by Mr Schama's assertion that the super-injunction issue was about "more than you and [Private Eye editor] Ian Hislop".
The broadcaster, a former editor of The Independent, spotted some safe moral high ground: "It is something that clearly Parliament is going to have to look at again." When Mr Schama, winding down after a weekend's action as broadcasting history's most erudite royal wedding pundit, sought to push the issue a bit further by asking how super-injunction claims could be measured by MPs, the host decided enough was enough. "Well," he said, "that's for them." It had been, as Mr Marr pointed out, "an eventful week".
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