Simon Carr: Tough talk, but has he lost his marbles?

Sketch: The re-declaration of hostilities was made so many times I lost count
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The Independent Online

What on earth's the matter with Richard Desmond? The Privacy and Injunctions committee had him in to talk about privacy and injunctions. He sat mute, he rambled, he rolled his eyes, he broke into speech, he fell into strange silences, he repeatedly referred to his campaign against Marshall amplifiers over 30 years ago, and most enjoyably for media watchers, he tore up the non-aggression pact he has held with the Daily Mail.

Either he is so rich that he doesn't have to tolerate people telling him to belt up, or stick to the point, or behave with a minimum level of civility. Or he has a touch of premature senility. It's one or the other. And the symptoms may mask each other so he'd want to watch out. He was asked whether he was in favour of a privacy law. "I'm not a lawyer," he said, turning away from the treasured Gisela Stuart with what looked like lordly condescension. But he must have a proprietrial opinion, surely? With a "You still here?" look, he shrugged the question off on to his editorial director.

This was one Paul Ashford, a tall, wide-eyed, unblinking man with a little voice like an abused wife. He was his master's voice when his master went into reverie. In the Madeleine McCann case, did they make a financial calculation about the cost of legal action and increased revenue? "Absolutely not," Ashford piped. And a low rumble from a hurt proprietor: "Quite an insulting question, actually."

And do we believe legal costs aren't considered at all when running risky Express stories? Only if we believe that Desmond has a Cinderella doll on his pillow at night. The re-declaration of hostilities was made so many times I lost count. "Paul Dacre is so hypocrille," he murmured, and when asked to speak up by a noble Lord, went: "Hippo-crritty-cull!" They called him that a dozen times. The counter-attack might already be underway.

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