Nigella Lawson should count her blessings that she was prevented from boarding a flight to America because of her admitted “moral turpitude”. Had she actually set foot in the land of the free, the next time we saw her she might well have been in an orange boiler suit peering through the barbed wire of Guantanamo Bay.
Other than a publicity-seeking exercise on the part of the US Homeland Security Department, it’s very hard to work out the imperative behind Ms Lawson’s exclusion from America. She was told at Heathrow at the weekend that she was not going to be allowed on a plane to Los Angeles because of her confession in court that she had taken cocaine on seven occasions in her life, and this, seemingly, made her an enemy of the state. She has never been charged with a drugs offence, and the British police, wisely, chose not to pursue a prosecution when she made her admission in the midst of a court case in which, it must be remembered, she was not the person on trial.
But the fundamental principle of British justice does not apply to the American authorities. Innocent? You’re guilty if we say so. Apart from the bizarre and vindictive nature of this case, it doesn’t make any logical sense. What about all the rock stars who have talked openly about their drug-fuelled excesses? They are left untroubled as they stretch out in first class, champagne flute in one hand, hot towel in the other.
And, in any case, “moral turpitude” may be a legal concept, but it is there to be stretched this way and that by lawyers. Its strict definition is “conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty and good morals”. And Tony Blair is allowed to fly back and forth to the States! I know. Doesn’t make sense.
What’s more, Ms Lawson has already been permitted to travel to America to be a judge in “The Taste” (no, I haven’t either) since her confession of drug use. So why now? Has someone in Homeland Security been reading the Daily Mail, whose columns fulminate about the lax moral standards of the metropolitan middle classes, and the unwillingness of the police to go after the dinner party coke snorters? The sense that someone is making an example of our erstwhile Domestic Goddess is difficult to avoid.
Sometimes it’s tough to be a celebrity. It has its material compensations, but spare a thought for Nigella. She’s been throttled in public by her husband, and her marriage fell apart as a result. She’s been drawn into an acrimonious domestic conducted in the pages of our national papers – her ex-husband’s latest charming rejoinder about his the gig in America was sent by email: “Bravo, you have become a celebrity hostess on a global TV game show” – she’s had her private life raked over in court, and now she’s been turned away from America because some apparatchik thought it would be fun to do so.
Surely, the US authorities will reverse this position, but the damage has been done. And what kind of a world do we live in where Piers Morgan is accepted in America and Nigella Lawson isn’t?