Fast footwork by a cool witness
A founder member of The Independent David Lister joined the paper in 1986 as Assistant Home Editor. He became the paper's arts correspondent in 1988 and is now Arts Editor and writes a column each Saturday. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Tuesday 18 January 1994
When the Scott inquiry's counsel, Presiley Baxendale, gave one of her nervous giggles and shuffling apologies followed by the inevitable killer question, the Major left foot shuffled.
But from the waist up this was a confident performance. Indeed, John Major seemed to have been studying Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, giving vent to the alliterative and repetitive lilt of Alfred Doolittle. 'Neither at that stage, nor later, was I involved in the formulation of the guidelines, consideration of the guidelines, amendment of the guidelines or interpretation of the guidelines.'
Shut your eyes and it could have been Stanley Holloway on a bad day, or Neil Kinnock on a good one.
In good Agatha Christie style there was more than one instance of mysterious handwriting on letters and Civil Service drafts
the origin of which the Prime Minister promised yesterday to trace.
And there was a stock character of the mystery genre, the guilty- looking bit-part player, introduced to confuse the audience - Alex Allan, the Prime Minister's principal private secretary. Next to the smiling John Major, Mr Allan looked unhappy, gnawed his lip and even knocked a glass of water on to the carpet.
What a contrast was Mr Major's cool and almost moving performance. He told a tale of ministers deluged with intelligence reports, with letters, with Civil Service drafts: 'Theirs is a huge flow. The reality is that if every piece of paper that came into that office was seen by the minister concerned they would do nothing but read it, so there has to be a filtering process.'
On the face of it this was unarguable, though on the face of it, it could excuse ministers from responsibility for almost anything.
When the joint assaults from Ms Baxendale and Lord Justice Scott tried to pin the Prime Minister down on whether there had been impropriety, he had a stock and not ineffective reply, repeated on several occasions: 'This is exactly why I set up the inquiry, so that you could tell me.'
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Canadian woman suing police who locked her in van with sex offender who then raped her
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Putin opponent reveals Russian President's daughter's secret identity
Ball pool for adults opens in London
Gay couple buy JebBushForPresident.com web domain, and refuse to sell
Canadian woman suing police who locked her in van with sex offender who then raped her
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: We are currently looking for a Geog...
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...