The Media Column: 'Does it matter if the Daily Mirror's undercover footman went too far?'

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Even if the coverage of the heroic Daily Mirror reporter Ryan Parry's adventures in Buckingham Palace crossed the line into intrusiveness, does it matter?

The Mirror's decision yesterday to cave in to Buckingham Palace and agree to a permanent injunction banning it from publishing extra details about Prince Andrew's deodorant makes sense.

The editor, Piers Morgan, would have been left in little doubt by his lawyers that he was not in a position to win the case. Parry signed a confidentiality agreement when he took the Queen's job, and broke it when he started blabbing about her Tupperware. It specifically stated that employees must not pass on "information relating to the security, including routine security, or protection of any member of the Royal Family". A High Court judge would need some convincing that the public interest extended beyond the first day's story, which amply demonstrated the fact that palace security was weak.

I also wonder what nuggets the Mirror had kept up its sleeve. Doubtless, it has already run the best material - we have had 22 pages of revelations over two days, and Mirror lawyers will have been mindful before publication that the palace might seek to step in to put an end to the stories at some point early on. There is no reason to hold back your best ammunition for day 17.

But still, the Mirror has done brilliantly.

We all know Morgan's motive for printing the story - this has to be scoop of the year when the awards ceremonies come round - and it wasn't to remind Her Majesty to invest in a new Yale lock and an up-to-date edition of Who's Who in Terrorism. Even if his hyperbole - "This has been the Mirror's best ever year" - is a little unconvincing (sales are down 7 per cent on last year), he has had a brilliant run lately.

Suggestions that he went too far this time are mean-spirited. The palace got a bargain when its shortcomings were exposed by a man with a secret camera rather than one with a sack of Semtex. And, hey, it was fun while it lasted.

* A curious news item appeared at the weekend in a furious Mail on Sunday. News is what is must have been, for there it was, on one of the MoS news pages, next to the compulsory asylum-seeker story.

"The Guardian newspaper has apologised to The Mail on Sunday for inaccurate reporting," the MoS reported, adding that the broadsheet claimed "that this newspaper published two pages of 'drivel' and 'fictitious nonsense' that 'outed' the popular BBC racing commentator Clare Balding as a lesbian... In fact, we published a warm and light-hearted single-page article which reported Miss Balding's happiness at attending a public event in the company of her partner, actress Alice Arnold, the former lover of comedienne Sandi Toksvig."

The paper went on to quote a spokesman for itself - always an amusing sight - expressing surprise that "a supposedly liberal newspaper like The Guardian should publish comment based on the homophobic view that same-sex relationships are something to be ashamed of and should be hidden from the public".

Reassuring as it is that we now have on record that The Mail on Sunday disapproves of homophobia, the paper's story may have baffled its readers, who may recall that the paper did indeed run a piece three weeks ago headlined - wait for the pun - "A stable relationship", which did first "out" Balding's gay relationship with the exciting revelation that the sports presenter was "displaying a filly all of her own".

It was, I suppose, "warm and light-hearted" in a Mail on Sunday kind of way. It also left no cliché unturned. The film premiere that the couple had attended was "star-studded"; the party was "exclusive"; the streets of Chiswick, where they live, were "leafy". My only disappointment was that Balding and Arnold merely "sipped" their champagne. Don't the fools at the paper realise that champagne is there to be quaffed?

Anyway, back to The Guardian's supposed cock-up. Yes, it did make a mistake -the two-page drivel was a follow-up piece in the Daily Mail, not The Mail on Sunday. The Daily Mail article - "BBC presenter Clare Balding this week revealed she is a lesbian. But she didn't say that she and her lover belong to a coterie of famous gay women who glory in their secret sexuality" - was neither warm nor light-hearted. It claimed that Balding had "grown tired of hiding her sexuality in a dark corner" and was part of a "secret sect" of lesbians plotting to destabilise married society. It was, in fact, rather vile.

But at least the clichés were different. This time, the exclusive party was "glittering" and the London locations were "swish". Much better.

* Just room to mention the best headline for months, from the News of the World at the weekend. The story detailed the affliction of a 51-year-old office manager whose medical condition, permanent sexual arousal syndrome, means she experiences sexual climax as a result of even the slightest vibration. The heading: "This woman has 288 orgasms a day... and all she can do is moan".

v.graff@independent.co.uk

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