Bunhill: Goldenballs revisited

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JUST when it seemed Sir James Goldsmith had shrugged off his colourful past, Philip Jenks comes back to haunt him. Jenks, a barrister turned solicitor turned author turned publisher (and still only 29), has republished Goldenballs], the book which catalogued Goldsmith's extraordinary battle with Private Eye in 1976.

Goldsmith these days comes across as an elder statesmen of business, solemnly denouncing Gatt one moment, proudly displaying his green credentials the next, but still occasionally clinching a deal or two to top up his pounds 700m fortune - a pile begun as an Eton schoolboy when he was betting on the horses. Most recently, he has dabbled in the gold market.

But re-reading Goldenballs] reminds you that 15 years ago he had the unenviable reputation of an asset stripper and was the object of much ridicule: one week, Auberon Waugh managed to fill a good chunk of his Spectator column simply speculating about the size of the Goldsmith penis.

Those days have gone. But Jenks, who paid the author Richard Ingrams a princely pounds 400 for the rights and has printed 2,000 copies, believes the story of the criminal libel action deserves another hearing.

In January 1976, Goldsmith issued 60 writs against Private Eye and its distributors after it suggested that he and others conspired to obstruct police investigations into the disappearance of Lord Lucan.

After a complex legal battle, the Eye ended up apologising and withdrawing the allegation.

But meanwhile the magazine drummed up massive public support for its fight, recruiting a curious army of supporters - from Tiny Rowland and Lord Lichfield to Hugh Trevor-Roper and 'All the staff at WH Smith, Kingsway (except the manager)'.

'I think there's a certain amount of interest still. It sheds light on one element of the past that otherwise remains dark,' says Jenks, who worked with City law firm Ashurst Morris Crisp before quitting to poke fun at his old profession by writing The Official Lawyer's Handbook.

He's now publishing a similar satirical guide to the world of public relations. 'And I'm dying to do one on accountants, but I can't find an accountant to write it.'

(Photograph omitted)