Diary: Leveson's impenetrable inquisitor lets his mask slip

Plus: Hogging the Lords limelight after 50 years

Each day during the Leveson Inquiry, the inquisitor Robert Jay presented an impenetrable mask to the courtroom. People could only guess what he really thought about the British press – until the other day, when he opened his mind to an audience in Singapore. His attitude, it transpires, is part admiring, part disapproving. He thinks the British press "could well qualify as the most unruly and irreverent in the world".

That may sound like a condemnation but is actually a back-handed compliment.

He added: "To be described as 'unruly and irreverent' would be regarded by most editors and journalists as a badge of honour, not of aspersion. Many would argue that these qualities make the press in the UK the best in the world."

But the bad news for British editors is that he is also in favour of statutory regulation of the press, dismissing fears that regulation would be the top of a "slippery slope" towards censorship. "Those fears amount to scaremongering," he said. "I do not see any slope, let alone a slippery one."

Hogging the Lords limelight after 50 years

A by-election is under way for a seat in Parliament. There are 27 candidates and 48 men entitled to vote, all 75 of whom are Conservatives who inherited ancient titles. They are choosing a replacement for Earl Ferrers, a Conservative hereditary peer who died last November.

This is a product of the compromise reached under the Labour government, who cleared the Lords of all but 92 of its hereditary peers. Those that remain were elected by their fellow hereditary peers. When one dies, the hereditaries from the deceased's political party choose a successor from among the hereditary peers who have not got seats.

One candidate stands out – as a former Cabinet minister. This is Viscount Hailsham, aka the former Tory MP Douglas Hogg. Fifty years ago, his father renounced the family peerage and got himself elected as an MP in the hope of becoming prime minister. That did not work out, so he went back into the Lords as a life peer, while his son became an MP. The younger Hogg might also have aspired to a life peerage on leaving the Commons, but for the expenses scandal, during which it emerged he had submitted a £2,200 claim for clearing the moat around his house in 1970. If he wins on 6 February, there will a hereditary Lord Hailsham back in the Lords after a 50-year gap.

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