Diary: How the treatment of Conrad Black bleeds the heart
Monday 27 June 2011
The vindictiveness of American justice never ceases to astound. Fifty-year sentences under the three-strikes rule for stealing a slice of pizza; chain gangs and weevil 'n' maggot suppers in Alabama; a new craze for charging pregnant drug addicts who miscarry with murder ... we look across the ocean and recoil at the barbarity.
Yet has anything bled the heart like the treatment of Conrad Black? For no stronger reason than not having served his time, the Reuben "Hurricane" Carter of the Gulfstream classes learned last week that his sojourn on bail must soon give way to another year or so in jug. No wonder Barbara Amiel reacted to the news with the least comical public faint since Atkinson crashed to the floor during Dixon's Merrie England lecture in Lucky Jim.
As if that weren't grief enough, his lordship will be barred from America on release, despite his lawyer's insistence that "he can recite the vice-presidents of the US in order". What merriment awaits Florida's Coleman Correctional Facility when the Napoleon of D block returns to his homies. "Now everybody, with me. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr Jnr... no, no, Ho-Killer McBride, how many times? George Clinton before Elbridge T Gerry." But all things must end, and when his time is done it seems that he and Babs will head for Canada. One appreciates the desire to go back to a homeland, where able was he ere he saw ermine. But must he turn his back on Merrie England when we need him reviving the fight for shorter sentences with the special authority of personal insight?
* If Conrad sees sense and returns to the Lords to speak for fellow-cons, might he reinvent himself as a Hollinger socialist and cross to the Labour benches? With Ed Miliband frantically repositioning his party to the Coalition right on law and order, it seems unlikely. Yet knowing Conrad's admiration for strong leaders, there must be a chance. With the plans to scrap Shadow Cabinet elections and union influence on Labour policy, Ed has become unbelievably hard. Indeed, we gather that he will begin his summer hols by racing Todd Palin across Alaska in the Iron Dog snowmobile challenge, before swimming to Florida to lobby Conrad and wrestle 'gators in the Everglades. If he hasn't robbed Vladimir Putin of the world No 1 macho politician ranking by the time his adenoids go under the knife, I'll be amazed.
* Mixed tidings for the family Huhne. The Sunday Times has handed the police a tape concerning that alleged criminal conspiracy to redirect speeding points, as recorded over the phone by Chris's ex, Vicky Pryce, to the law. Meanwhile, Vicky has been offered the post of executive editor on the News of the World.
* The vaudevillian double act between Lady editor Rachel Johnson and its owner Julia Budworth goes from strength to strength. The act involves them publicly slagging each other off – Mrs B moans about Rachel's penis fixation; Rachel dismisses Mrs B as an imperious old trout – in a mannered style the casual observer might confuse with a quest for free publicity. Thankfully, Rachel has now yielded to public demand by turning the diary of her first year at the helm into a reference work. "September 13: I've sent Mrs Budworth a copy of my book... She's sent it back with a note saying she has no intention of reading it." Shocking manners, as an Alan Partridge gag has it, but blimey what a critic.
* Sadly not everyone shares Rachel's commitment to wage a fierce internal battle against innate love of privacy. Laura Kuenssberg, such a star of the BBC's election coverage, has moved to ITV as business editor. Why Laura has opted to broadcast not only to camera but in camera as well remains unclear, but we wish her success in the post.
* Photographs of an unrecognisable Shane Warne cause concern for Liz Hurley's mental well-being. Liz , bless her, is dating Warne's waxwork. If anyone at the Tussauds' stock room strays into the "disused: to be melted" section, and hears a model cussing in fluent larrikin, call the authorities at once.
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