Matthew Norman: Don't take off that nightie, your Honour


Monday 08 March 2010 01:00 GMT

Best have the tranquillizers close at hand for this one, but a deeply disturbing rumour reaches us from the mystical land of the horsehair wig.

Could it be that our chum Mr Justice Eady is poised to hang up his gavel? Times have been trying lately for this jurisprudential goliath, what with the Court of Appeal lashing him over (among other reversals) his curious handling of Richard Desmond's failed libel action against Tom Bower. In December, meanwhile, unnamed "friends" revealed that this delicate judicial flower was "profoundly hurt" by attacks in less slavishly admiring media outlets than this. And no wonder. From the way some would spin it, you'd think that the current backlash against our libel laws, the creep of privacy by case law, the explosion of superinjunctions and growth in libel tourism has been inspired by his lordship. There is talk in legal circles that Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge (if a chap in a red nightie can't have a Martin Amis character name, who can?) and Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger seem addicted to hearing appeals against Eady J themselves. Both were on the panel that recently heard the medical journalist Simon Singh's bid to overturn Eady's judgment in favour of the outraged chiropractors of Britain, which Mr Singh is widely expected to win. All of which would be no more than the usual aimless wittering were it not for the announcement of a vacancy. The Judicial Appointments Commission website reveals a defamation judge is sought for the Queens Bench Division, the oddity here being that there are already five of those in England and Wales, three of them on the QB. They're hardly rushed off their feet as it is, so it is safe to assume that one of the trio is retiring. Pray with me it's one of the others.

Ask the question

On reflection there is an obvious way to speed the discovery process. A bottle of own-brand cooking sherry is offered to anyone going to Wednesday's launch of the City University's Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism, and bold enough to ask the old darling if he's a quitter, not a fighter. The subject of his keynote address is how best to protect freedom of speech. I wish to make it clear that, despite this, there is no truth to the Inner Temple gossip that, if Eady J, left, is to deprive the defamation bench of its most lustrous pair of buttocks, he means to try his luck as a stand-up comic.

On the scrapheap

A leaked memo from top White City sources suggests the dramatic cutbacks announced last week are barely the tip of the iceberg. You will recall that, along with 6 Music and the Asian Network, the BBC revealed it means to scrap such "live" features as the satirical website futures market Celebdaq (already defunct) and BBC3 reality show The Last Millionaire (last broadcast in early 2009). We'll miss them, of course, as we will such other national treasures as Nature's Top 40 (hard as it to conceive any future for that one after it reached Nature's number one). Other cuts include the cancellation of Harry Worth's contract, the halving of the budget for Katie Boyle's new series, and the transfer to News 24, on a third of his current pay, of Peter Woods. Live coverage of the 1992 US Masters from Augusta is not in peril. Nor, thankfully, is Dr Magnus Pyke. Worryingly, however, Hector's House will be converted into a bungalow.

Arc de triumph

Tremendous news that David Cameron is placing his counter-strike against Gordon's not-quite-crying in the masterly hands of Trevor McDonald. The cleverly entitled Trevor McDonald Meets David Cameron goes out on ITV1 in six days, and we may guess the headline-grabbing segment from the fact that this will be Mothering Sunday. Mr Cameron turned down Piers Morgan on the grounds that he wanted something "a bit more substantial". This explains why he went for Trevor, whose rigorously forensic mind was never better displayed than in welcoming John McCarthy's return with the words: "And here comes the plane turning in an arc ... a lovely, lovely arc."

A touch of the Kelvins

As for one of the headlines deployed by The Sun last week, hats off to the sub inspired by Daniel Radcliffe, right, and his placid statement that he is not in fact gay to produce the deliciously nostalgic "Dan: I'm no Harry Botter". Purest Kelvin MacKenzie, 1991.

Ups and downs

Someone wants to have a word about opinion polling in the shell-like of cerebral Sun editor Dominic Mohan, whose YouGov daily tracker is causing him alarming mood swings. Dopey Dim-Doms gets dangerously overexcited when the Tory lead is up, and comes over all morose and reticent when it contracts. You could almost believe he's unaware of the concepts of "statistical noise" (inexplicable and meaningless sampling variations), the "outlier" (plain wrong) and, most recherché of all, the margin of error. If the Tories are up only two one day and a lavish seven the next, and nothing dramatic has happened in the intervening 24 hours, it's best to assume the real lead is 4-5 per cent. If Dominic wants tuition before he has a seizure, the relevant genius is Nate Silver of the US web site, who so elegantly calmed the nerves of neurotic Obamaniacs in the weeks before the US election.

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