Diary: Sincere apologies, and thinly veiled contempt
Monday 18 October 2010
We begin with gravely distressing – though unimpeachably exclusive – news from the High Court, where the first libel-related contempt case in memory seems imminent.
Mr Justice Tugenhadt, dear old Eady J's successor as defamation top dog, has referred the News of the World to the Attorney General over its 3 October report about Jordan and Peter Andre's libel case, which was then scheduled to begin four days later. Headlined "It's all out Jor!", this seemed a touch one-sided in Team Peter's favour, with "a source" calling defendant Ms Price "a liar".
If Tugs was worried enough by its prejudicial impact to contemplate a contempt application, concern turned to fury on Thursday when Anthony Hudson, for the newspaper, dismissed such an application as meritless. "Meritless?" said Tugs (best to hear the word as "Handbag?" in the brogue of Edith Evans). When a day later the paper's lawyers apologised seven times (in the style of the defendant title, that's, SEVEN TIMES!!!) his heart remained unmelted.
Whether yesterday's NoW story – headlined "Jor A Maniac", under the same byline as the 3 October report, and featuring pictures of Jordan holding a phone at the wheel – will make Tugs reconsider the sincerity of those apologies, who can say?
But what an intriguing dilemma for the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve. Does he go to war with the judiciary and liberal media by declining to prosecute? Or does he inflame Downing Street, News International and the bridgehead between them known as Andy Coulson, by taking on the Murdoch empire? We wish him all the luck in the world solving that conundrum.
* What a glorious few weeks for Melanie Phillips and her campaign to alert us to the vicious anti-semitism plaguing Britain. Ed Miliband elected Labour leader, Howard Jacobson winning the Booker, Danny Cohen appointed controller of BBC1... How much more proof of liberal-establishment Jew-hatred do people want? All it needs is for Katie Waissel to win The X-Factor, and Mad Mel will be on the first plane, passport application in hand and relief in her stout heart, to Tel Aviv.
* Speaking of Howard, I was outraged when, in the midst of his victory speech, BBC News cut away to some minor human-interest story in the Atacama. So was Howard's mother. "All those months they've been down there," she correctly observed, "and for another few minutes they couldn't hang on?"
* The reporting laurels down there, meanwhile, go to Richard Desmond's Daily Star. "Chile Mine To Open As Theme Park" was Friday's splash on the Chilean Tourist Board's plans to cash in on the "underground hell-hole". This was such a brilliant exclusive that it feels churlish to mention it wasn't an exclusive at all. But churl is what we do, so let it be stated that the story was lifted wholesale from a website. In the Star's defence, there were no glaring clues that it was a spoof. The site's name, by the way, is thespoof.com.
* William Hague has replaced the special adviser in the twin-bed, I read, with Will Littlejohn, son of a certain homosexuality-fixated columnist. You couldn't, could you? Not even with Jeffrey Archer's imagination and a phial of mescaline at hand could you make that one up.
* Tally ho, tally ho, the Bullingdon Boys are off on a Fox hunt! At least someone has released the hounds after the Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, who so vexed Downing Street with his leaked letter to David Cameron. And we may all guess who. The Mail on Sunday reports "astonishing claims" from "senior Tory sources" that Foxy is a boozer.
Myself, I suspect the confusion stems from his natural ebullience. The good doctor is merely a tease – as he confirmed at one conference bash by hijacking a pair of blue rinses to dwell on the source of the Scissor Sisters' name, ignoring a hack's attempts to deflect him from his anatomical analysis of the lesbian love act in question.
The prospect of losing such a mischievous wit from the Cabinet is horrendous. But once such snippets start appearing in Downing Street-friendly papers, the hunted does well to waste little time finding a very deep hole.
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