How the man of Straw revisited his finest hour

What the former Home Secretary might have done about policing; the silliness of Melanie Phillips (cont'd); and a bit else besides


He may not deserve a monopoly of our sympathy over Hillsborough, but find a crumb of pity for the heroic Jack Straw. The cause of the 23-year cover-up, Jack explains, was the culture of impunity instilled in the police by Mrs Thatcher. A very fair point, and you could weep from regret that Jack never had a chance to address this himself. When Labour came to power in 1997, he was sidelined far, far from any influence over policing, in the impotent sinecure of Home Secretary.

Yet, even then, his passion for justice led him to ask Lord Justice Stuart-Smith to review the case. In February 1998 Jack, left, wrote to the Attorney General, John Morris, accepting his lordship’s finding that there was no need for another inquiry, and no evidence of police wrongdoing. “It is important that… this report should draw a line under speculation about further investigations… I think the outcome would be a foregone conclusion, and I do not consider that such an investigation should be instigated.” This wasn’t Jack’s greatest triumph (that came as Foreign Secretary in 2000, when he rejected a Saddam refugee’s asylum application with a jaunty: “We have faith in the integrity of the Iraqi judicial process...”). But it does reaffirm that modern politics has known no fiercer foe of nauseating, self-serving hypocrisy than dear old Jack Straw.


Quest for justice Brooks no argument

Disturbing signs of lily-livered liberalism among the Oxfordshire magistrates. A friend reports dining with a beak whose faith in the presumption of innocence was trumped only by her disdain for those who disregard it. It’s frightfully unfair how the beastly newspapers are treating poor Rebekah, rued one Caroline Brooks, mother of Charlie and a colleague of Ma Cameron’s as an Oxon JP, when surely it’s innocent until proven guilty? We hear ya, girlfriend, but try telling that to those rush-to-judgment red-top scumbags.


A pressing question at the Notting Hill deli

As for the Chancellor’s mater, Felicity Osborne eschewed the bench to open a fabulously chi-chi Notting Hill delicatessen. Another friend recalls ringing her about a serving job at the drolly named Felicitous. Mrs O confined the interview to one question: what qualifies olive oil to be called “virgin”? When he failed to identify the cold-pressing process of extracting the oil, Mrs O bade him a brusque good-day. She closed the deli in 2006, a gleeful Daily Mirror reported at the time, after infelicitously blowing £364,000 over six years.


Mad Mel, Gaddafi’s new No 1 fan

Violence in the Middle East coaxes a thoughtful analysis from Melanie Phillips. Refreshed by a break from her riveting blog, Mad Mel returns to blame the leaders of the US, Britain and France for indulging the curious desire of innocents to avoid being slaughtered. “The Arab Winter unleashed anarchy and religious fanaticism,” writes Her Serene Dementedness, “with Islamic mobs hitherto kept under control by Gaddafi and Mubarak now empowered, strengthened and rampaging out of control...” Penetrating any meaning, beyond “Obama lives only to help Iran nuke Israel off the map”, is a challenge. But the best guess is that the Western powers, which she strongly supported as liberators in Iraq, had no business interfering when that noble Gaddafi pledged to “cleanse Libya house by house”. By God, we didn’t half miss her.


Message to Dacre is from the heart

An occasional pleasure in this line of work is watching the Daily Mail for red-letter days when the staff show their fondness for editor Paul Dacre, the industry’s Eve Ensler, by giving a story more prominence than perhaps it strictly demands. “Being bossed around at work ‘raises risk of heart attack by 28 per cent’,” ran a page 3 headline about the finding that “workers who feel over-pressured yet powerless” are at heightened risk. Crash team to Associated Newspapers...


Losing sleep over Blair’s benefit gig

Distressing news for those prone to insomnia from fretting about the financial security of Mr Tony Blair, pictured below. He has taken a £4.2m mortgage on his house in Bayswater – No. 197 (c)  in the portfolio – from JP Morgan, the bank which rents his contacts book for a reported annual £2.5m. Perhaps Mr T would clarify whether he needs the extra dosh to feed the family, or for reinvestment at the sort of preferential rate known to income tax people as a benefit in kind? The last thing we want is for Geldof to organise a concert under false pretences.

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