MP 'used case as political platform'

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The Independent Online
A Conservative MP was using a court case as a "political platform" against Tony Blair's press secretary, the High Court heard yesterday.

Charles Gray QC, for the defence, said the malicious falsehood suit brought by Rupert Allason against Alastair Campbell and Mirror Group Newspapers had attracted wide- spread media publicity involving the senior Labour Party aide and his leader.

He said: "Mr Allason has used the case as a political platform ... protected by judicial proceedings to make allegations that he must have known and intended to grab the headlines."

These included headlines, such as "Blair's punch-up aide is accused of half-truths", which were "wholly obscure" in relation to the issues of the case.

Mr Allason, the MP for Torbay, is suing Mr Campbell, former Daily Mirror political editor, Mirror Group Newspapers and another former Mirror journalist over an article in the Mirror on 20 November, 1992, claiming that 50 Labour MPs had signed a Commons motion attacking the Tory MP.

The MP says the Early Day Motion, which urged him to donate some of his substantial libel damages from MGN to struggling Maxwell pensioners, had only attracted seven names and was false, malicious and had cost him a $100,000 book deal.

Mr Gray said suggestions Mr Campbell had written the motion were "conjured up out of thin air". Another Mirror political journalist, David Bradshaw, had admitted conceiving the idea of the EDM, and had written a "minor, very short item on an inside" page which Mr Campbell had not even read.

The evidence showed "overwhelmingly" there was no malice in the story, and Mr Allason had not lost financially as a result. The judge, Sir Maurice Drake, will give his verdict today.