Diary: How Anne Diamond drew a new boundary on privacy

 

Anne Diamond, scourge of the tabloids, was in fighting form on the Today programme yesterday as she spoke of "35 to 40 years of misbehaviour" by an industry that – unlike the broadcast media – knows no rules or self-restraint, and which thinks that anyone who enters public life has "sold their private life".

The issues on which Ms Diamond spoke so eloquently are never straightforward, because the boundary between what is public and what is private in a prominent person's life is a matter of judgement. An interesting case study is a spat that occurred live on television during the heat of a general election, in 1987.

Denis Healey, then Labour's shadow foreign secretary, was invited to the studio of TV-am, the predecessor of GMTV, to be interviewed – he assumed – about his party's defence and foreign policies. But he was up before an ambitious young interviewer who had spotted a story in The Sun that Healey's wife, Edna, had gone into a private clinic for a hip operation when Margaret Thatcher was taking flak from the Labour Party for using private health insurance.

Healey considered this to be an invasion of his wife's privacy since she was not a candidate for office. His TV-am interviewer did not agree. A lively confrontation gathered heat, making such good television that Healey was prevailed upon to stay on after a commercial break so that the same relentless interviewer could carry on prodding the same sensitive spot, until Healey stormed out of the studio, live on air. In his fury, he collided at the studio exit with TV-am's Political Editor, Adam Boulton.

Right-wing tabloids feasted on the story for days, leaving no room for any news about the Labour Party as they went down to election defeat. A new boundary had been drawn. Henceforth, no wife or husband of a politician could claim an ordinary citizen's right to privacy.

The young interviewer who accomplished all this was Anne Diamond.

Santa truth hurts before babes head to bed

There were calls for Wales's First Minister, Carwyn Jones, to be sacked yesterday after he had said on television, before the 9pm watershed, that Santa Claus does not exist. He's not the first politician to get into trouble by blurting out the truth instead of telling people the lies they want to hear.

Right man for the Miliband job

Ed Miliband is showing signs of being better at running an organisation than he is at communicating with the public. Yesterday, he announced the shrewd choice of 52-year-old Tim Livesey as his chief of staff.

Livesey is an experienced diplomat who has also worked as a Downing Street press officer, and for the head of the Catholic Church in Britain and the Archbishop of Canterbury. When you have dealt with clerics of both coats, journalists, diplomats and prime ministers, running a politician's private office should be a doddle. The Labour Party machine is to be overhauled in the new year.

Best choice for Lady Thatcher

An e-petition mischievously posted on the Downing Street website has attracted hundreds of signatures already. It says: "In keeping with the great lady's legacy, Margaret Thatcher's state funeral should be funded and managed by the private sector to offer the best value and choice for end users and other stakeholders.

"The former PM deserves nothing less and offering this unique opportunity is an ideal way to cut government expense and further prove the merits of liberalised economics Baroness Thatcher spearheaded."

Who could argue with that?

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