The columnist: Liddle the 'liberal fundamentalist' with a scandalous cuttings file

 

Rod Liddle defines himself as a "liberal fundamentalist" and he is never far from controversy. Sacked from a prestige job as editor of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, he was also the first blogger ever to be censured by the Press Complaints Commission.

He has variously enraged women for writing about his ex-wife as a "total slut and a slattern", African-Caribbeans for wrongly claiming that the "overwhelming majority" of London crime was caused by young black men, and Muslims for inflammatory articles such as one entitled "Islamophobia: Count Me In."

Liddle, 51, is one of Britain's most prolific polemicists with columns in The Sunday Times, The Spectator and Country Life. He is popular with his readers partly because he can be one of the most amusing writers in the media. Proud of his allegiance to Millwall Football Club, he makes frequent references to his south-east London birthplace and loves to champion a white working-class urban constituency that he regards as threatened by an immigration-loving liberal elite that lives in what he describes as a "golden crescent" north of the River Thames.

Yet Liddle gives vent to his anger from the comfort of his study in a period property in glorious countryside, where he cooks on an Aga and goes out birdwatching. He lives with his beautiful young second wife Alicia, mother of the youngest of his three children. Liddle's first wife, Rachel, has written of how he cut short their honeymoon to resume his affair with Alicia, then 22.

He grew up not in London but Middlesbrough, where he was a teenage punk rocker with a band called Dangerbird before heading for the London School of Economics and from there to the BBC. He rose to become editor of Today, famously hiring Andrew Gilligan (who would be at the centre of the story that prompted the Hutton Inquiry) in an effort to improve the programme's investigative journalism.

Liddle lost his job after he was accused of bias for writing a piece in The Guardian in 2002 in which, despite his love of the outdoor life, he ridiculed the "rather angry, ruddy-faced" marchers of the Countryside Alliance. The controversy was the first of many.

Since establishing himself as a columnist, his favourite themes have been the dangers supposedly posed by religion and immigration. Two years ago, soon after referring to "Muslim savages" on his Spectator blog he used the same platform to make inaccurate claims about the criminal activities of young black men. "Of course, in return, we have rap music, goat curry and a far more vibrant and diverse understanding of cultures which were once alien to us. For which, many thanks," he wrote. In a groundbreaking judgement, the PCC upheld a complaint against the blog and said the Spectator should have corrected it. But Liddle did not accept the finding and said as much in a further post.

His inability to avoid controversy may have damaged his career prospects; he was at one point rumoured to be a possible new editor for The Independent. On a Millwall website, where he logged in as "monkeymfc", his comments appeared sympathetic to the far right. He protested that some of the remarks had been made by someone who had hacked his password and he still argues that his role at The Sunday Times and Spectator is as "an in-house lefty". That description becomes more implausible with every carefully aimed Liddle grenade.

Trials and errors: Rules in court

Any action interfering with trial proceedings – from taking a photograph in court to causing a disturbance in the public gallery – can lead to a charge of contempt of court.

Other serious forms can involve, for example, breaching injunctions, identifying the victims of sexual crimes, naming children in court proceedings or potentially influencing a jury.

A person accused of this must be found guilty of creating a "substantial risk of serious prejudice" – meaning that in practice it affects only trials by juries, as senior judges are considered able to ignore outside influence.

This most often affects journalists, though the rise of social networking websites means the general public are also at increased risk these days.

The maximum jail sentence that can be imposed is two years, but there is no limit to the size of fine that can be imposed.

Rob Hastings

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003