Richard Ingrams: 'For the sake of the family' doesn't always wash

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The Independent Online

It has long been customary for those issuing writs for libel to insist that they are not doing it for their own personal benefit, but to protect members of their family from distressing publicity.

We have heard the litigant complaining that his children are being bullied at school as a result of what is being written and that only a writ or an injunction will put a stop to it.

One should be wary of such claims, just as I am wary of suggestions made by the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, who confirmed this week that there will be no inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly. In doing so, he claimed that the continuing speculation was causing the Kelly family great distress. He offered the family his profound sympathy and hoped that, if only for its sake, "a line can now be drawn under this matter".

It would be interesting to know what evidence Grieve has about the Kelly family's feelings, considering that it has been resolutely silent for several years. It may be that Grieve is right about them. But it is equally possible that the family might think, like many of us, that his pious hope of drawing a line will not end the speculation, simply intensify it.

Back on the golf club's waiting list

A few years ago Sir Fred Goodwin, the disgraced former CEO of Royal Bank of Scotland, sued The Sunday Times over a number of stories about him. They included the suggestion that he had once tried to bulldoze his way into a posh Scottish golf club, the Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society.

Goodwin had claimed in an affidavit that he had "never applied to be a member". The allegation had "seriously damaged him", he said.

Subsequently, however, the club secretary came forward to say that Goodwin's PA had rung up to request membership for his boss. When told there was a 10-year waiting list, he had said, "Do you realise who he is?" The secretary said he did, and it didn't make any difference.

Goodwin's rackety legal record has not damaged him in the eyes of the law, now that he is once again involved with litigation, this time to prevent details of his affair with a "senior colleague" at RBS from being made public.

In his latest statement, Goodwin says that disclosure "would have a very substantial impact on the way in which friends, colleagues and business contacts relate to me and therefore a serious negative impact on my personal life and career".

It might even be the case, assuming that he ever got into that posh golf club, that members would give him the cold shoulder at the bar. They could possibly overlook the fact that he had helped to bring the whole of our banking system to its knees, but hanky panky with a senior colleague – that might even get him thrown out of the club.

The Archbishop wasn't far off the mark

Parts of it are excellent, the Church of England curate in the famous Punch cartoon might well have remarked apropos the Archbishop of Canterbury's attack on the Coalition in this week's New Statesman.

The Big Society – "even the term has become painfully stale". Who could possibly disagree with that?

"We are being committed to radical long-term policies for which nobody voted." He could well have added that many people who voted for Cameron voted for the exact opposite of the policies now being implemented.

If they remember anything of the Conservative manifesto it is probably David Cameron's pledge about the National Health Service. "I'll cut the deficit, not the NHS," his posters proclaimed. There would be "no more pointless and disruptive reorganisations". And more than once Cameron backed up his promises by referring to his personal experiences of the NHS with his brain-damaged son.

Cameron was going out of his way to tell voters that the NHS was ring-fenced, that it would be safe with him. Yet all the time he was aware that Andrew Lansley was working on a massive reorganisation of the NHS which is now in the process of being implemented against the wishes of large numbers of doctors and nurses.

So while some people may criticise the Archbishop for putting the boot in, there is a strong case for saying that he didn't put it in nearly hard enough.