It may be that clever Mr Jay, with all his forensic experience, is getting a little grand for the show passing in front of him: vulgarians, tarts, two-headed criminals and freak show ringmasters.
He told Viscount Rothermere that the Mail online was a collection of "celebrity tittle-tattle and pap". He dismissed an editor of The Sun – one who had given evidence to the Inquiry – as a moral pygmy who'd do what he was told.
With bravely concealed weariness he asked Andy Coulson, the former Downing Street communications director: "Do you see that?" And, "Do you know what it means?" And "Try not to look at this too literally, we're talking about something a little more subtle..."
And yet he didn't get anything remarkable out of his witness. The news desks wanted to splash on Sobbing Murdoch Slave Confesses to Vile Bottom-Centred Rituals as BSkyB Sacrificed on Tory Election Altar. Instead it was "I Did Not Keep Diary, says Andy Coulson". It's only just news, isn't it?
Counsel Jay is so delicately offensive he may not even be aware of it. Asking about George Osborne's plan to get Coulson into Downing Street, he said: "What qualities, if any, did he say you might bring to the table?" If any? What qualities, if any? He went on to enquire: "Didn't it pass through your mind, 'Why are they are asking me?'" Implicit: "You nonentity without any qualities?" In the absence of detailed questions on his vetting, Coulson probably won on points.
He pointed out that his paper invented the "hug-a-hoodie" phrase that still makes David Cameron look a little silly. And the reason why Dennis Skinner rubs his nose when Osborne talks in the Commons is because of Coulson's "Top Tory, Coke and the Hooker" headline. "If you're looking for an example of the News of the World being helpful to the Conservatives this is a pretty poor one," he said, to finish off one of Jay's more fruitless lines of enquiry.
Leveson is trying to establish something we all feel we know: that Downing Street has for years hired News International people to do their news management in the hope of getting better coverage from News International (I wonder how Tom Baldwin's developed vetting is going, by the way). The proposition is unprovable, and being unpreventable it's not worth proving.
PS: It is worth putting into the balance that Coulson did resign on a point of principle, and has had to sell his house to pay his legal fees. It's not nothing.
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