Andy McSmith's Diary: They’ve got Leveson on the rack – but at least he’s not been locked up by the Serjeant at Arms

Our man in Westminster

If ever a man has had to be dragged kicking and screaming in front of a Commons committee, it is Lord Justice Leveson – the same Lord Justice Leveson whose report into the press recommended “six principles of openness” for journalists.

The judge has been involved in a stand-off with the Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee, who want him to practise some openness by appearing before them to answer questions. His first reaction was to refuse on the grounds that, under the separation of powers, no judge should have to go before Parliament to explain himself. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, agreed.

But Parliament’s clerks, who also know a thing or two about constitutional law, argued that the exemption does not apply to someone who has headed a government inquiry into a matter of public policy, even if he is a judge. The committee’s chairman, John Whittingdale, even dropped a dark hint about deploying Parliament’s formidable power to summon witnesses, whereupon Lord Justice Leveson, like Rupert Murdoch before him, agreed to appear.

Round two of this contest is, I hear, over the date. Lord Justice Leveson claims to be too busy to appear before the parliamentary term ends on 18 July. He wants the hearing delayed until the autumn. Mr Whittingdale is saying that the committee can meet in the recess, if necessary.

Round three will be over which questions his lordship is prepared to answer. When his report came out, he avowed that he would not add to or comment on it, but he cannot deflect every question from MPs by drawing their attention to what is in his findings. The Government is proposing a Royal Charter to regulate press ethics. There is no mention of that in the Leveson report.

A mischievous MP might also want to ask Lord Justice Leveson why at least part of his report was cut and pasted from an inaccurate Wikipedia entry, which is how a Californian student named Brett Straub came to be all too falsely cited as a founder of The Independent.

MPs are not always so bold when handling High Court judges. Press hostility to the Leveson report has helped stiffen their backbones this time. Mr Whittingdale has also been egged on by the cerebral Tory MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, an aficionado of constitutional history, who points out that back in 1689, when Parliament was held in greater respect, the Commons not only summoned two judges, Sir Francis Pemberton and Sir Thomas Jones, but had the Serjeant at Arms lock them up.

Scottish Labour disunited with union comrades

Unite, Britain’s biggest union, is getting all litigious in a dispute over how the next Labour candidate in a safe Scottish seat is to be chosen. The party’s National Executive Committee has put Falkirk Labour Party into “special measures”, because of allegations that Unite was trying to fix the selection by recruiting union members to the local party and paying their fees for them. Unite’s General Secretary Len McCluskey is furious. He has written to members vowing to challenge the NEC “by legal action if necessary”.

Unite’s Scottish regional secretary, Pat Rafferty, meanwhile, has already reached for the lawyers over a matter of resounding triviality. Every parliamentary publication refers to the disputed seat, which is being vacated at the next election by the errant former Labour MP Eric Joyce, as “Falkirk”. But in May, Mr Rafferty issued a press statement defending his union’s role in trying to get a union-friendly candidate adopted in Mr Joyce’s place, in which the seat was named as “Falkirk West”. Falkirk West is a constituency that exists for the purpose of electing the Scottish Parliament, but not for general elections. Mr Joyce suggested Mr Rafferty was “confused”.

As a result, a solicitor’s letter has winged its way to Mr Joyce, saying, “Our client has in no way ‘confused’ the details of the two relevant constituency Labour parties. They are clear that the Westminster parliamentary constituency is “Falkirk”, of which 75 per cent of Labour Party members belong to Falkirk West Constituency and 25 per cent to Falkirk East Constituency Labour Party…there is therefore no confusion.

How reassuring that, in this time of austerity,  the comrades have found something they can really argue about.

As a tennis guru Pippa’s no ace...

Pippa Middleton is not just somebody’s sister, you know. She is a writer.

To her book on party planning, and her column in Vanity Fair, she has added another appearance as the guest diarist in The Spectator.

There she turns her expert eye to Wimbledon, offering her tips on the likely winner of the men’s singles. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is “worth a small punt”, she suggested, but “I’d rather follow my heart and back Federer”.

A great future in sports journalism eludes her.

Just who is going too far, too fast?

When Ed Balls and George Osborne appeared together on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show last weekend, Balls could not resist ribbing Osborne over his long-distance running, warning him not to go “too far, too fast”.

That is the political mantra Balls recites when he is attacking the Chancellor’s strategy for bringing down the deficit.

But if anyone has been driving too far too fast, it is Balls, who was caught speeding earlier this year in Yorkshire. Now this week he has copped a £350 fine for driving through a red light.

Fat fine for Pickles’ ‘lean’ department 

George Osborne’s bad joke about the Communities Department, under the stewardship of Eric Pickles, being a “model of lean government” is a sly reference to the minister’s girth. But his department is not as “lean” as the Chancellor thought. It has been fined £20,000 for running up a £217m overdraft. The department is forever lecturing councils on how to be frugal with money.

independent.co.uk/mcsmith

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own