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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine