Diary: Wake up, Ed, and get stuck into Lord Leveson
Monday 25 July 2011
With the pre-surgical Ed Miliband still deprived of sleep by that "life-threatening apnoea", it behoves us to help him through the befuddlement.
The advice, regarding Lord Justice Leveson's leadership of the phone-hacking inquiry, is this: stop dithering and demand that Leveson recuse himself or be removed.
Who knows what this appellate judge was thinking in attending two parties at the London home of Lis Murdoch and Matthew Freud? But it seems he forged a friendship with Mr Freud after the latter offered m'lud his PR firm's unpaid time in improving the image of the Sentencing Council he leads.
Whether the party-going alone should disqualify Lord L is a finely balanced conflict-of-interest call, what with Lis being the likeliest News Corp beneficiary should the inquiry end James' career. But the fact that a month ago The Sun viciously attacked Leveson and his chums over its drug-tariff guidelines – "The Sentencing Council has lost its reason... What planet is it on?" – removes any residual doubt. On the one hand, to recap, Lord L has Murdoch social connections, while on the other, there is the appearance of a potential score to settle with their newspapers.
In an ideal world the two would cancel each other out. In the real one, at this poignant moment in public life, he has no business leading the inquiry. The Labour leader should say so in what will, God and surgeon willing, be his last public pronouncement in the guise of Ed Anoidal.
* One area in which I brook no criticism of the scouser Leveson, however, is for failing to secure Ken Dodd's conviction for tax fraud in 1989. What a fine day, what a fine day it was, admittedly, for Doddy to run rings around the prosecution with tattifilarious one-liners.
Yet Leveson cannot be blamed for what struck many as an unlikely acquittal. As the legal commentator Bernard Manning, the Joshua Rozenberg of the North, put it then: "What a bleedin' shock, Doddy getting off in Liverpool. They were lucky to get a fucking jury together."
* It is many years now since another judge described Alastair Campbell as "an unreliable witness", and his rehabilitation gathers pace. Demanding that Mr Cameron apologise for accusing him of "falsifying documents while in government" is a masterstoke. As Ali so cunningly intuits, if he keeps insisting the dossier wasn't dodgy for another 30 or 40 years, public opinion will swing behind him. As for his typically humble strictures on Andy Coulson's incomplete vetting status, once again he excels. Ali was fully vetted to deal with highly classified intelligence himself, after all, and didn't that work out just spiffingly for all concerned?
* Hats aloft to Michael Fallon, Tory party deputy chairman, on his contribution to the debate. Michael, who plans to spend the summer recess at his grace-and-favour holiday cottage two millimetres to the north of David Cameron's colon, may expect promotion to the Cabinet. Whenever the PM invites Lady Warsi to resign the chairmanship, there will be no question of her deputy taking deed poll to become Michael Fallon-His-Sword.
* Two small linguistic points. First, which MP will ask the PM to cite an example of an "appropriate conversation" with News International executives over the BSkyB deal. And secondly, regarding Trinity Mirror's mantra "Our journalists work within the criminal law...", Sylvia "Sly" Bailey seems ill at ease with her tenses. "Work" is all well and good, you old Sly boots. Now what about "worked"?
* Mystery continues to enshroud the identity of the old rocker to whom Mail columnist Liz Jones has been cryptically referring as her new lover. Until she outs him, as the confessional form book suggests she will, the only thing we might as well face is that he – whoever the hell he might be – must be quite extraordinarily addicted to love.
* Admiration for Frankie Boyle grows by the week as the Glaswegian hard man ignores the hacking saga in his Sun column. Where it demanded raw courage for a leftie comic to taunt a seriously disabled child, teasing News International for organised crime would be bullying the defenceless.
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