The Sketch: Electrifying growl shows the authentic voice of the Mail

  • @SimonSketch

On the last day of the "first module", we had the recall of Mail editor Paul Dacre to the Leveson Inquiry. We were all in suspense – right until victims' counsel finished his first question and the room reacted with one big "Huh?" What an example of forensic eloquence he made Ed Miliband look; eventually Mr Dacre was able to "refuse to answer" any more questions about the "mystery woman who didn't exist".

The accusation that Hugh Grant had used the inquiry to make a "mendacious smear" against the Mail was allowed to stand. The old beast sounded a little doddery, I say that with no pleasure. He shuffled syllables around (a comical semi-Spoonerism on "phone hacking") but every now and again his voice would dip in tone and pitch, down to where the anger is. His bottom lip dropped, his eyes flared, his jaw came forward and he'd hit a syllable in "unequivocal" and there was the electrifying growl every regular reader would recognise as the authentic voice of the Mail.

Lord Leveson's, by contrast, is a voice of wonderful courtesy. He is polite in a way that makes others want to be polite. His counsel Mr Jay sounds polite but isn't. The Sketch doesn't even try but wishes it had a stronger idea of where to start.

Heather Mills? She said Max Clifford had threatened her. If she didn't appoint him as her agent, he would "destroy" her. Max Clifford appeared shortly afterwards, and being asked whether it was true, denied there was any foundation to it at all. Whom do we believe?

On the entirely superficial evidence – Mr Clifford. He'd been the first professional witness to be unembarrassed by what he did, and he had what my Southwark-born mother called a "respectable south London voice". But most important, threatening to destroy potential clients is a sub-optimal new business pitch.

How does it look from here? Everyone's relying on Lord Leveson's decency. On entirely superficial evidence it looks as though we can.