It's not true about my torpid affair

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The Independent Online
BEING libelled is a bit like a having a heart attack. You never expect it to happen to you, so you haven't the faintest idea what to do when it happens. That's why today I have asked our top libel 'doctor', Wilkie M Sangster, to take you through the ordeal, step by step, in the hope that when you are traduced by the press, as we all surely must be some day, you will know what to do.

Is it awful to be libelled?

For you, yes. For me, it is my lifeblood. For a starving peasant in Bangladesh, it is of no great concern. All things are relative.

I see. How will I know if I have been libelled?

You will know immediately because a friend will ring you up and say: 'Oh, my God, I am so, so sorry. You must be devastated. But you know I will stand by you. All your friends will stand by you. If there is anything I can do, anything at all . . .'

What on earth is he talking about?

That is exactly what you will ask him. And he'll say: 'Haven't you seen the front of the tabloids this morning?'

You will say, 'No,' and he will say, 'Aaaaaaah,' rather meaningfully.

Will I then rush out and buy the tabloids?

If you are human.

What will they say?

They will say: 'SEX IN THE HOUSE] Minister's girl says: I made love on Woolsack]'

Oh, my God] That could ruin my career]

It certainly could. Is it true?

Is what true?

That you and this girl made love on the Woolsack?

No, I don't even know her. It's a complete fabrication.

Good. So what happens next is that you ring up a top libel lawyer. Me, for instance. You say, 'I need your help.'

And I say, 'I know, I was expecting a call from you.'

And you say, 'You've got to help me] I don't even know the girl] It's all lies]'

Right]

Then we talk for a long time, and it turns out you do know her. We talk a lot more, and it turns out you know her very well. Finally it turns out that you have been having a torrential affair with her.

Don't you mean torrid?

I never use the word torrid. It tends to get misprinted as torpid, which means the opposite.

Gosh, that's what I call attention to detail. You're some libel lawyer]

Thank you. Yes, I am. Now, all that long talk with the libel lawyer costs money, because it took so long to drag the truth out of you. So it makes sense to tell me the truth straight away. It's cheaper, and it makes you feel better. Right?

Right.

Ah ha] So you did make love to her on the Woolsack?

Yes, I did. But how on earth did the tabloids get hold of that? I mean, there was nobody there.

Did it never occur to you that the cameras which broadcast the Commons might be kept on night and day? And that they filmed the whole thing?

Oh, my God] I don't believe it] But I only took her in there to have a look around. We were just walking round hand in hand - and one thing led to another. It was just a bit of fun; no harm was done, I swear it]

Harm to the Woolsack, you mean? Or to your reputation?

To my reputation, of course.

What about your wife? Have you no thought of her?

My thoughts are first and foremost at this time with my wife. She intends to stand by me, and she, and my family, will always come first with me.

That's good.

No, hang on - what am I talking about? I'm not married. I'm not even heterosexual. I'm gay]

So no wife?

No.

That makes it easier. Hold on, though - were you with a girl on the Woolsack?

Well, not a girl, exactly . . .

You mean - a man?

Yes . . .

Thank you, minister. That's all we need to know.

We? Hold on, aren't you Wilkie Sangster?

No, I'm afraid not. We are only pretending to be Wilkie Sangster, the country's top libel doctor. We are actually a certain tabloid newspaper pulling an old trick over the phone. Thanks for all the info, minister] It'll look good in tomorrow's papers.

Remember, never trust anyone. Never talk to anyone. Never admit to anything. And if possible, never do anything. This article has been paid for by the Politicians' Libel Defence League. Thank you.

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