Diary: A champion of transparency learns the art of discretion

 

Two weeks ago, the Daily Mail ran an editorial praising the "impressive Tory backbencher" Dominic Raab, the MP for Esher and Walton, and in April it reported with obvious approval his views on a European Court decision to withhold the names of judges who had ruled against the British Government on the issue of prisoners' rights. "It adds insult to injury – the lack of transparency only compounds the lack of accountability," Mr Raab, pictured, complained.

Which adds piquancy to the ruling published yesterday that enables Mr Raab to sue Associated Newspapers for libel while denying the publishers access to a document or witnesses they believe would prove their case.

Four years ago, Mr Raab worked as chief of staff to the Tory MP David Davis. A woman – who was named at the time but would rather not be identified now – left her job in that office in 2007, in what seems to have been unhappy circumstances. She received a payoff and signed an agreement binding her and her parents not to talk about what took place.

In January, the Mail on Sunday published a story alleging that she was bullied by Mr Raab, which he denies. This week, the publisher applied in court to be allowed either to see the confidentiality agreement, or to interview the woman, known as E, and/or her parents, believing that their evidence will prove that what it published is true.

E has said she is prepared to speak to them, though she would rather not, because she does not want the whole matter dragged up. She has also had a letter from Mr Raab's solicitors, warning her that there will be "certain consequences" if she breaks the signed confidentiality agreement, adding: "It is likely that at the very least you will be required to repay the sum you were paid in consideration for the confidentiality obligations."

This might sound to those of us without legal training as if Mr Raab, who so readily condemned secrecy when practised by the Strasbourg judges, has been very keen to make E keep quiet, which is what Associated Newspapers' legal team claimed. But Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that "there is no evidence that she has been gagged". The confidentiality agreement holds, at least for now, and the case is expected to come to court in 2012.

A sceptic's guide to healthy living

There seemed to be three themes to the tributes paid yesterday to the writer Christopher Hitchens, who once employed Nick Clegg as a fact checker: his talent, his encyclopaedic memory, and the oceans of alcohol he put away.

Misha Glenny, who remained friends with him despite sharp disagreements over Bosnia and Iraq, was astonished one day to encounter Hitchens on his way to a gym. "I'm useless at it and I don't think it does my body any good," Hitchens explained. "But on the bright side, it means that I don't smoke or drink for 45 minutes, once a day."

Literary Eyre-head falls at first hurdle

I couldn't help but overhear this conversation on one of the last trains out of London on Thursday evening, between two young men and a young woman who seemed to be reaching a decision point.

First youth: "Seriously, mate, she's going to dump you if you don't say who wrote Jane Eyre."

Second youth: "Jane Eyre? Jane Eyre? That's not a book."

Young woman, slowly, drawing out every syllable: "Oh my god!"

I assume she dumped him.

Tzatziki terrorism: the full-fat story

Street protesters in Greece have resorted to bacterial warfare. Making opportunistic use of a local resource that Greece still has in abundance, they have been attacking police with yogurt bombs. One of their leaders told Courier International: "We are a terrorist organisation armed with only one weapon: yoghurt. Let the police come and try to arrest us. They will discover only that we have a preference for unadulterated full-fat creamy yoghurt."

Archer sizes up the Guvnor's shoes

The only person who has ever moved up from being deputy leader to leader of the Labour Party was Michael Foot, who led it to its worst disaster in post-war history. I hope this thought does not in any way discourage Owain Archer, who has been James Corden's understudy in the hit National Theatre show One Man, Two Guvnors, as he steps into the considerable shoes of Corden for the move to Broadway.

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