Richard Ingrams' Week: More than enough humbug to go around

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The Independent Online

My humbug prize, however, goes to the former Daily Mirror editor, now co-proprietor of the Press Gazette, Mr Piers Morgan, who, when asked to express an opinion of the Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes - who had owned up to being gay - said: "I couldn't give a monkey's if Simon Hughes is gay but I do care that he has lied about it."

On the question of lying or "telling porky pies" as he puts it, Morgan is something of an authority, if only because it is a charge that has been frequently made against himself.

When it was revealed that as editor of the Mirror, Morgan had profited by investing £20,000 in a company called Viglen the day before the paper tipped it on its City Page, he insisted that it had just been a coincidence. It later emerged that the sum invested by Morgan was even larger than he had originally claimed and amounted to more than £60,000.

When last month the two City reporters James Hipwell and Anil Bhoyrul went on trial for fraud, it was expected that Morgan would give evidence - something he later claimed that he would have been very happy to do, if only he had been called. It transpired that he had twice been asked by one of the co-defendants to appear as a witness but had refused.

One of the two journalists, Hipwell, is now facing what could be a long prison sentence. Morgan should count himself lucky not to have faced prosecution. But if he wants to draw a line under the affair and move on, he would be advised to refrain from attacking wayward MPs for being dishonest.

When the cat's away, papers have a field day

There was some disparity between this newspaper's coverage of George Galloway's return to the real world and that of our rival paper The Daily Telegraph.

According to The Independent, Galloway's Bethnal Green constituents had not been particularly outraged or disillusioned by his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother. "Most residents of Whitechapel," we reported, "were not offended by Mr Galloway's antics."

The Daily Telegraph, on the other hand, called the MP "beleaguered", a man with "his carapace close to cracking". There was even a picture of some Labour Party members in cat masks delivering tins of Whiskas to his house.

It is fair to assume that the Telegraph's continued hounding of Galloway is not unconnected with the fact that last year he won damages of £150,000 after the paper accused him of taking large sums of money from Saddam Hussein and betraying his country for gold. They even went so far as to suggest that the death penalty might be in order.

There was never any evidence to support the allegations and the paper's only defence appeared to be that they believed them at the time of publication. The judge's eventual pro-Galloway summing-up was one of the most damming judgments ever given in the libel courts.

But the paper refused to accept it and went to the Appeal Court. But last week the judges once again backed Galloway. Even that wasn't enough for the paper which announced that it would be taking the case to the House of Lords. Goodness knows what the final bill is likely to be.

By continuing to attack Galloway's antics on Big Brother the Telegraph is perhaps hoping to prejudice public opinion against him.

My own view is that it is not so much Galloway but all those people who watch this degrading programme who ought to be ashamed of themselves.

* From the view of an outsider with no special interest in or knowledge of football, the Sven Goran Eriksson affair is puzzling.

Here we are in the year of the World Cup with hopes once again pinned on our England team, and the best-selling Sunday paper, the News of the World, goes to enormous and elaborate lengths to discredit the England coach.

More puzzling still, instead of rallying to Sven's defence, the Football Association announces that he is to give up his job after the World Cup. Again, I write as an amateur in this field but in any other walk of life we would expect that a person in Sven's current position would not be inclined to put his full energies into his job and that furthermore his authority would be undermined.

Would we be surprised if he were to harbour some resentment to (a) the Football Association, (b) the News of the World and (c) the nation that buys this rubbish paper in great numbers and attaches great importance to its disclosures?

It is the motives of the newspaper and its editor that are the most puzzling of all. We could perhaps understand if Sven were no good at his job.

But this does not appear to be the case at all. Compared to his predecessors, he has been a successful England coach. So why go after him?

Until some explanation is forthcoming, if England fail to shine in the World Cup, my inclination will be to blame not Sven but those overpaid hacks who seem determined to bring him down.

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