How Hislop hounded a 'hypocrite' until he decided to come clean

Cahal Milmo reports on the vain battle to keep an affair secret

When the BBC's respected political editor was spotted in the regular company of a female journalist in the autumn of 2002, most assumed the relationship to be platonic. Married for more than a decade and the father of three children, Andrew Marr's reputation as a cultured and incisive commentator did not include a label as one of Westminster's philanderers.

But when the woman, at the time single and a rising star in the pressured world of journalism, went on maternity leave the following year and side-stepped attempts by colleagues to ask who the father was, establishing the paternity of her child became something of a parlour game among the journalists of the Parliamentary Lobby.

It was perhaps proof of Mr Marr's lack of renown as a Lothario that no newspaper was in a position to publish a story revealing his affair with the fellow political hack, which had ended before the summer of 2003, until January 2008, when the child was approaching school age.

It is at this point that what was yet another titillating example of the ability of the Palace of Westminster to generate affairs and infidelities among its participants took on an infinitely more complex and politically significant hue.

Around the same time that Mr Marr admitted having had an affair to his wife, the Guardian columnist Jackie Ashley, lawyers acting for the broadcaster, who is a former editor of The Independent, went to the High Court in London and obtained one of the first of the new super-injunctions.

In common with the same legal directions that currently prevent information about the sexual indiscretions of Premiership footballers, minor celebrities and a Hollywood actor entering the public domain, the order obtained by Mr Marr against Associated Newspapers (publisher of the Daily Mail) went beyond the previous strictures of media injunctions. As well as keeping secret the identity and alleged activities of the people involved, the "super" bit of the order meant its very existence could not be revealed either.

While the public at large duly knew nothing of Mr Marr's adulterous relationship or his supposed love child, it was common currency in Westminster and spread rapidly across Fleet Street. For Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye and scarred veteran of many a court battle over revealing details that lay open public figures to charges of hypocrisy, the knowledge proved particularly unpalatable.

Mr Hislop told The Independent yesterday: "Here was a political reporter, and not just any political reporter but the political editor of the BBC, whose job it was to challenge politicians about their failings, their lapses in judgement, including in their private lives. And he takes out an injunction via a High Court judge preventing anyone revealing just that sort of behaviour. To boot, he had also previously written an article stating that it was Parliament and not judges who make any privacy law."

The article in question was published by Mr Marr when he was editor of The Independent in 1996 criticising what he called "intrusion for entertainment" and stating his support for privacy legislation. He wrote: "Sniffing out double-standards and hypocrisy also means, on occasion, reporting the gap between what powerful people say and what they do in bed or behind closed doors... There is no reason why MPs or journalists or anyone else in the public eye who are hypocrites shouldn't be exposed. But no one should be exposed simply because it is fun, or sells papers, or helps make an ideological point."

After the issuing of the super-injunction in January 2008, lawyers for the Eye began three years of legal trench warfare with Mr Marr's lawyers, costing the satirical magazine "tens of thousands" in fees. The counter-offensive, which Mr Hislop said was driven by Mr Marr's public standing, initially bore fruit in 2009 by obtaining an agreement that the "super" element of the injunction be removed, allowing the publication of the fact that the broadcaster had obtained a court order but prohibiting the revelation of details about why it was granted, including the identities of the woman journalist and her child.

In the meantime, bloggers and chatroom visitors exploited the frontier spirit of the internet to spread the name of Mr Marr's former lover across cyberspace. Last summer, the saga took a further turn when it emerged that a DNA test had established that the BBC journalist was not the father of the child.

It was in this context and amid the furore about the increase in super- injunctions, that the Eye recently recommenced its efforts to have the gagging order lifted in its entirety, writing to Mr Marr's lawyers pointing out that it had become untenable to prevent publication of the journalist's fathering of a child who had turned out not to be his.

With the threat of impending court action and further legal fees hanging over him, it is understood that Mr Marr decided to withdraw the injunction after consulting his wife and family, granting an interview to the Daily Mail to break the news. It is understood that his former lover learnt of the removal of the court order in the early hours of yesterday.

Mr Hislop said yesterday that Mr Marr had conceded his conduct laid him open to accusations that he is a "stinking hypocrite". The broadcaster insisted his legal manoeuvrings had achieved their purpose of keeping his marriage and family together.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test