Conrad Black's barrage of facts in a bloodless victory

The US justice system has a conviction rate of 99.5 per cent - but that doesn't prove Black innocent


Was it a reality show or a comedy quiz programme? Conrad Black was invited into the Have I Got News For You house at the weekend, a pantomime villain among those who knew how to play the game and desperate not to be evicted from polite society. Dramatised documentary or satirical fiction?

The Thick Of It concluded its run on Saturday night with the downfall of communications chief Malcolm Tucker in a hail of expletives, representing the dissolution of the long-established nexus between politics and the media.

Television viewers can be forgiven for feeling a little confused these days, as the lines between what's real and what's not become increasingly blurred. And, especially, what are we meant to think when we see the ghastly clips of Jimmy Savile with young girls on his knee, and what we once viewed as light entertainment on a Saturday night is now presented as prima facie evidence of evil?

The appearance of the ennobled former convict Conrad Black on HIGNFY was treated as a bona fide news story, and at the end of a week of media appearances in which he bristled and blustered, there was an understandable amount of interest in how Lord Black would deal with the high-voltage satire of Messrs Hislop and Merton.

Both sides could claim a bloodless victory, but Lord Black had his new book to plug, so he would doubtless see the free advertising a very equitable trade-off for a few snarky barbs from some Metropolitan smartarses. With each appearance Lord Black made, his fusilade of statistics about the American justice system rose in pitch and ferocity. North Korea had a fairer legislature. America locked up more people than any civilised country. He'd rather have been tried in Paraguay.

The heart of his assertion of innocence was that America has a conviction rate of 99.5 per cent, almost twice that of the UK, and that the odds are heavily stacked in favour of successful prosecution. No interviewer challenged his barrage of facts about the iniquities of the US justice system, so we have to assume it's true. But how does that make him innocent? Isn't a high conviction rate a sign that the police and prosecutors are doing their job properly? And just because some people are unfairly incarcerated, why should we presume he is one of them?

 Meanwhile, the internal organs of politics, and its relationship with the media, were exposed to public scrutiny by Armando Iannucci in his peerless series, The Thick Of It. The penultimate programme, set in a public inquiry established to investigate the relationship between politics and the media, was a masterly piece of work, and the denouement, which saw the foul-mouthed Tucker defenestrated and left to rue the crumbling of the old certainties of political life, made for gripping television. And was so very different from real life.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth