The DPP was right not to prosecute Janner. But we need to know who made the decsion not to prosecute years ago and why

18 Apr 2015 at 16:16

As there is such a lot of misinformation about the Lord Janner case whizzing about on social media I thought it might be helpful to give a brief guide as to what has happened. The DPP, Alison Saunders, has played this one by the book.

The first test is on the available evidence is there a realistic chance of a conviction. The answer to that was yes. But before everyone starts pointing fingers and making assumptions remember that everyone who appears in a criminal court has had to have passed this test. And until conviction they are still just allegations as they have not been proved.

The second test is it in the public interest to prosecute. The DPP said no. Four highly qualified doctors, two from the CPS and two from the defence were unanimous that Janner was not fit to stand trial. Any thought of corruption collusion and cover up just borders on the bonkers. It is an important principle of law that there must be equality of arms and there must be a fair trial. If a person cannot understand what is going on, nor give instructions to his lawyers no judge would allow a trial to get off the ground. So the decision by the DPP is both sound in law and common sense.

As part of the public interest decision she would have to consider the other option, should she take this to trial and go through the fitness to plead procedures. Before trial a defendant has to be arraigned. This means that they have to plead guilty or not guilty. But before they can do that they will have to have been advised on the strength of the evidence. If they can’t understand what on earth is going on they are unable to make a valid plea. Whether a person is fit to plead is a matter for the judge based on medical evidence and legal argument. If the judge rules in favour a jury is sworn and they hear the evidence and make a decision by weighing up the evidence. If they are agreed that what the prosecution says happened did happen then the judge decides on a Mental Health Act disposal which very often means, depending on the seriousness, a spell in a secure hospital until it is safe enough for him to be released.

What the DPP had to consider is whether Janner was likely to commit further offences. Clearly not. And for serious dementia any form of Mental Health Act disposal doesn’t fly.

Fitness to plead procedure is not uncommon, I am prosecuting a couple at the moment. They are due process. They protect the public and the patient. They are fair. The DPP decision not to prosecute is not fitness to plead procedure just a decision not to prosecute. And the DPP got it right.
However, their should be an enquiry by a judge as to what made the CPS decide not to prosecute all those years ago. If there was enough evidence to give a realistic chance of prosecution now, why not then? Who took the decision and on what basis and who was consulted. And why wasn’t the then DPP Ken MacDonald shown the papers?

The Cyril Smith and Saville cover ups cast an indelible stain on British justice. They may be the tip of an iceberg. Painful as it will be, for the sake of confidence in our system and to try and right the wrongs of those whose lives have been wrecked because of abuse we really must have some answers no matter how inconvenient or damaging they might be.

As for Janner he has not been convicted of anything. Talk of stripping him of his peerage, even if we could, is the ‘no smoke without fire’ horror that has left lives in ruins. Something has gone horribly wrong here and we need the answers. There will be a paper trail.

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Lady Macbeth is alive and well. 'Fair is foul and foul is fair' should be the SNP campaign slogan

17 Apr 2015 at 06:09

I always thought that Alex Salmond was a slippery devil and a serious political operator, but compared to the malevolent force of nature that is embodied in Sturgeon he is a pussycat. At least he would slip in the stiletto with a smile. The really scary thing about her is that she is devoid of humour, utterly ruthless and quivers with hatred of Cameron and the Tories. Real hatred. Not just served up for the viewing public, but deep, genuine and poisonous. I have never seen this in a serious British politician before and I hope to never see it again. But I will. Cameron doesn’t have to scare the English electorate with the fear of the SNP, she does it very well herself. It was as if Lady Macbeth was publicly goading her husband to murder king Duncan. She didn’t quite say to Miliband ‘screw your courage to the sticking place’ but she handed him the dagger and offered him the crown if he did the bloody deed. I could almost hear the three witches chanting, ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’. It could almost be the SNP campaign slogan.

And that is the problem, her hatred and intolerance of all things English and particularly Tory, mirrors her core supporters. Look at the way the mob with mottled faces disfigured with anger, jostled and jeered the rather mild mannered and decent Jim Murphy. Remember when Nick Robinson, as fair a reporter as you can get, was vilified for just doing his job. Anyone who dares express an alternative view is abused. This is not a political campaign, this is a tartan lynch mob. It is not British and certainly not Scottish. There is no tolerance, no compromise, just ruthless determination steeped in poison and bile. If they win the war, Sturgeon and her goons would gleefully bayonet the wounded.

For the first time in my political life I am genuinely scared of what might happen at an election. I felt rather sorry for Miliband last night. He was like a rabbit mesmerised by the headlights of a truck before he become SNP political roadkill. If she gets what she wants he too will be knifed, discarded and humiliated. If he was a true leader he would bury her. He won’t and can’t so long as there is a glimmer of hope that he might enter Downing Street by the back door. This should horrify anybody who believes in democracy. Miliband is her prisoner and he hasn’t the courage to at least try and escape. He is naive enough to think that he can cage her after being given the keys to Number 10. The poor fool. I hope and pray that people of goodwill both sides of the border will recoil in horror at the monster that has been spawned. God help anyone to has an alternative view to the SNP. And north of the border there will be some ugly scenes as the election gets nearer. I predict smashed windows, snarling, spitting mobs and intimidation at the polling stations.

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When Miliband was undermining Blair for Brown he used to be referred to as the emissary from planet fuck

7 Apr 2015 at 09:33

The trouble with the modern election is that we are all being bombarded on the social media with so much information, disinformation, scams, red herrings, dead herrings and total unbelievable bollocks that even an old cynic like me sometimes feels that my head is going to explode. However sometimes a party does something so profoundly stupid, so sphincter clenchingly disastrous, that anyone vaguely informed about modern politics takes a deep breath. I had that moment about ten minutes ago and have been hyperventilating ever since. First I checked the date. Nope, April Fools days was a week ago. So it must be true.

Tony Blair is being wheeled out to support Ed Miliband.

This is not an act of desperation, it is a catastrophic admission of sheer panic. It spits in the eye of Miliband’s core support. The unions will go into meltdown. And the lefties will consider a vote for the wit and wisdom of Natalie Bennett. Ed’s lot vilify the very name of Blair and all his works. They have done their very best to airbrush him out of Labour history. He is the Great Satan, the anti Christ. The sort of bogeyman the Woodcraft Folk warn their children will come and take them away if they are naughty. Even Lucy Powell who is laughingly in charge of Labour’s campaign strategy said that he was poison on the doorstep.

And it is a gift from the Tories. For the next few days we will be bombarded by quotes from every member of the Shadow Cabinet who condemned him as a warmonger and Tory stooge. Then will be treated to all the swipes that Blair has made about Ed. Blair has become the story. What makes it worse is that he is to argue the importance of remaining in Europe. I agree with him. So does David Cameron, so does Nick Clegg. But the argument is about giving the electorate the right to choose for themselves and not patronise them. Worse, Labour is as split on the EU as the Tories. Every old wound will now be opened, no scab will be left unpicked and that rasping noise in the background is that of stilettos being sharpened. The civil war will now be fought in the open. In the middle of an election campaign. Insanity.

But they are going to have to carefully manage Blair. He can’t be allowed to give interviews quite simply because he knows that Milband’s policies will trash the country. So the next story will be why is Blair not allowed to be interviewed. Imagine a cross examination by Andrew Neill? Milband would be destroyed.

I maybe totally wrong but I suspect that this marks the turning point in the campaign. Poor Ed thinks he has cried havoc and unleashed the dogs of war when all he has done is caused havoc. This is a terrible strategic error which could be mortal. When Ed was one of Brown’s henchmen Blair always used to refer to him as the emissary from planet fuck. It is not exactly the sort of planet that he will wish to defuck.

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Sturgeon has the aura of a charming down to earth mum in a teen scream movie who is secretly experimenting on barely living bodies in the cellar

3 Apr 2015 at 09:55

Well, at least nobody tanked. Cameron did well, Miliband was a bit flat, Sturgeon feisty, Farage repulsive and Clegg charmed the pants off of everyone. I know that some of his critics say that his performance was no more than a repeat of 2010 and maybe it was. But he swatted Milband and demolished Farage. Was it my imagination or did I see an approving twinkle in Cameron’s eye? The truth is the two boys defended coalition achievements whilst showing their differences with the minimum of playground grazes. A good joint effort.

Miliband wasn’t so much embarrassing as creepy. You really can over rehearse sincerity and passion even if it is genuine, which leaves the viewer with an impression of unworldly oddness. The trouble with Ed, whom I am reliably told is a thoroughly decent fellow, is that he can’t shake of the image as the chairman of the school chemistry club on the way to some work experience at an insurance company.

But Farage took the most hits which will please young Crosby. Decent, old fashioned Tory voters who are bewildered at the modern Tory Party would have recoiled in horror at his assertion that those with HIV shouldn’t be allowed into the UK. And why single out HIV as opposed to any venereal disease? And how do you screen people? How do you enforce it? Is this policy borne out of public health policy or stopping sick foreigners receiving treatment in our hospitals? It just looked mean, vindictive and discriminatory. Which it was designed to be. It will no doubt raise a cheer amongst the master race who infest Canvey Island pubs, whom with expressions of glee etched into their robber’s dogs faces, will be downing pints of Stella in honour of Nige. He speaks their language. Well, don’t pass me the Rosetta Stone chum. I am not at all surprised that the KIPPERS latest polling is down to 12%. I suspect that this is the beginning of a steady descent.

Although Sturgeon is poised and impressive there is something scary about her. Salmond may be a grade A greaser and as trustworthy as a nine bob note. But Sturgeon has the aura of the sort of charming down to earth mum seen in a teen scream movie whom you finally discover is experimenting on barely living bodies in the cellar. Again, Crosby will be pleased that she polled well as she is now a Tory deadly weapon of mass distraction.

The latest YOUGOV poll with the Tories on 37% against Labour’s 35% will put a spring in Cameron’s step. But there is still one hell of a long way to go.

Now for an interesting conundrum raised by Carl Gardner, who is a serious lawyer. What happens if Clegg loses his seat? Who negotiates if there is going to be power sharing? It is not as simple as it seems. Section 10:2 of the Federal Constitution clearly triggers a leadership election if the leader is no longer in the Commons. And the Deputy Leader is Sir Malcolm Bruce who is not in the Commons.

Personally, I don’t believe that Clegg will lose his seat, but if he does and there is a hung Parliament, who on earth would the parties negotiate with? And if a deal is struck, is the newly elected leader a few weeks down the line bound by it?

This has the potential of a serious constitutional crisis.

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Who Scares Wins

1 Apr 2015 at 09:26

God, this is a depressing, awful, nasty and brutish election. And we have only just started. If 2010 was about compassion (well, a bit), this should be sub headlined, Who Scares Wins.

Every party is determined to frighten the bejeebers out of the electorate. So far the sub text of ‘go to bed with Farage and you’ll wake up with Miliband, Sturgeon and Salmond’ seems to be gaining some traction. In London the big parties are squeezing out the KIPPERS. I would be amazed if this doesn’t become a national trend. The thought of the SNP introducing real socialism, abandoning sensible deficit reduction, ending our nuclear deterrent and breaking up the UK through the back door horrifies business leaders and those who want to better themselves and their families. But it does give hope to the old fashioned lefties who regard Blair as a right wing war monger, Cameron as something much lower than vermin and wouldn’t even spit out the name Clegg. It is all horrifyingly 1970s and is beginning to squeeze those deranged enough to vote for the Greens.

Farage is going to find it hard to find a voice in the campaign. His party is still populated with candidates whom one would be uncomfortable to have as next door neighbours. Not because of where they have come from but because of where they want this country to travel. A nasty, intolerant claque of those who want to blame others for their own misfortunes in life. Who are zealots for rooting out a communist EU who would prefer to give English jobs to foreigners who are poncing off of our benefits, health and education system. The majority of our citizens are decent and fair minded souls and are starting to recoil at the UKIP message of intolerance. It is not at all British.

And Labour is not a great deal better. It is determined to portray the Tories as those who want to give the spoils of economic success to their rich banker friends and carve up the NHS to profiteers at the expense of the weak and the vulnerable. It is a wicked lie which has yet to be buried. And if it can’t be buried it must be neutralised.

Much of this divisive rhetoric is because of the jockeying for power by those who want a party less frightening to the electorate after the Miliband experiment has failed. Prescott will be wheeled out to stoke a class war which died years ago. Burnham wants to shore up his working class credentials and show a bit of calf to the unions. Umunna and Hunt will be more cautious and watchful. Feigning loyalty but sniffing for the main chance. When the ship goes down they won’t want to be seen on the bridge.

So which party will have its wobbly Thursday first? Difficult to call. So far Tory discipline is holding very well. But all you need is a blip in the opinion polls for the usual suspects to panic. Luckily, Cameron is great in a crisis. And at his best when everyone else is running for cover rather than office. The economic fundamentals are amazingly good. Where the Tories are potentially vulnerable is not clearly explaining where the welfare cuts will fall. The present holding position won’t hold forever. I am hoping that there will be clear manifesto commitments that entrenches the belief that it must pay for people to work. More carrot and less stick.

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At least Ed didn't stab himself in the eye with a biro and kept his trousers from falling to his ankles. For party managers a success.

27 Mar 2015 at 08:44

The highlight of last night’s Roman Circus was watching the grade A bitch fight between Caroline Flint and Liz Truss on Newsnight. The personal loathing between the two of them oozed like a slow acting poison through our screens. The sad thing is that they were both equally awful. I had to Google Ms Truss this morning. The name is familiar. Did she write that wonderful book Eats, Shoots and Leaves? Er, no. That was Lynn. Lordy, lord, she is in the cabinet! She replaced dear old O’Patz. I always thought that he was a bit of an old duffer, but he looked like a Demi God compared to her performance which was so pedestrian that I am surprised that the BBC didn’t provide her with a Belisha Beacon. Liz, my love, this was your great chance to prove your television skills. All you had to do what say how wonderful DC was, how embarrassingly crap Ed was and answer one or two soft ball questions from an interviewer most of us have never heard of. The most obvious was about Cameron being chicken not doing a head to head with Miliband. There are a multitude of one liners to deal with this one. To witter on about the media being responsible was just daft. Didn’t you have a chat with Lynton Crosby beforehand? Well, we won’t see much of her on our screens during the election. And also, when you are in a hole on live telly, fiddling with your earpiece pretending you can’t hear the question doesn’t work and looks rather desperate.

And then Newsnight served up the Indy editor, who seems quite a sensible fellow and some woman who is political correspondent for Buzzfeed who was all over the shop. Buzzfeed having a political correspondent is like the STAR having a fine arts editor. Quite bizarre.

And the debate? Well, as a Cameroon I am biased. He survived Paxo after a clunky start about food banks and dodgy friends. But where he came into his own was with the audience. I thought they were going to be hostile. But he charmed them off the trees. It became a bit of a love in. They laughed with him rather than at him. He stayed middle of the stage and just radiated. It was a master class in how to handle a television audience.

Ed was better than most of us thought he would be, but was holed below the waterline on immigration and public expenditure. To give expenditure on the Dome as the only example of Labour waste was bordering on the insane. How the audience laughed. I felt desperately sorry for him. There was much more audience laughter in his session than Cameron’s. But they were laughing at him. Also I noticed he kept moving back to the podium after each question to consult notes. This was probably a reaction for forgetting the deficit at his famous non scripted conference speech. But it gave an unnatural feel to his performance. But party managers can heave a sigh of relief. He didn’t stab himself in the eye with his biro and his trousers didn’t fall to his ankles. And for Ed that counts as a success.

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My day with the Freedom Association and the excommunication of Tim Montgomerie

9 Mar 2015 at 09:19

Travelling on the train to speak the the annual Freedom Festival in Bournemouth this weekend I had this creeping feeling that I had made a terrible mistake. After all I am a dripping wet Cameroon moderniser who thoroughly approves of the direction of the Conservative party has been driving. The trouble is that road has been mined, booby trapped and strafed by the the very sort of people I was going to spend a day and night with. And as I am not exactly a shrinking violet about my views I assumed I was going to be met with a wall of hostility and laser beams of hate. But as it was a favour to my old friend Grant Tucker of the IEA, I gritted my teeth, put on my protector and walked the green mile to my first session ‘in Conversation with Jerry Hayes’. In the Thatcher room. There was only one person there, an enormous and menacing fellow who I later discovered was a UKIP Parliamentary candidate. He looked at me in the way feral beasts with large paws and sharp teeth regard their first human snack of the day.

And then the room began to fill. Elderly gentleman in Blazers, elderly ladies in country attire, intense young men and a woman dressed in lace, pound signs and a enormous UKIP hat. It was the splendid Gloria who had appeared on the front pages of the TIMES in another striking outfit at the UKIP conference. It suddenly felt peculiarly familiar as I recognised many of the faces as attendees of Conservative Party conferences in the eighties. Their views hadn’t changed at all. Get out of Europe and worship the principles of Thatcherism. It was as if I was sitting in another dimension, in a time bubble where the clock had stopped in 1983. But although I thoroughly disagreed with most of their views, they were people of good heart, of gentle spirit, of common decency, who loved their country and were terrified of the havoc that a Labour government would wreak. They were just bemused that the party they had supported most of their lives had changed out of all recognition. Not unlike farming communities in the thirties who had to come to terms with the tractor replacing the shire horse. But with the certain exception of the UKIP candidate (who was not as menacing as he looked) a goodly number realised that a vote for Farage would be a dangerous vanity.

But if you think the Tory Right hate Socialism it is as nothing compared to how they despise the traitors in their own midst. When at the dinner, Donal Blaney embarked upon a blistering attack on ‘compassionate Conservatism’, I thought that it was time to make my excuses and leave. But when Donal started to fume about the ‘stench of appeasement…..and those doing the work of enemies like Heath, Heseltine and Neville Chamberlain’,it was not me or the family Cameroon he was going on about , it was Tim Montgomerie, who he mentioned with all the affection of something unwelcome that you have found on the bottom of your newly acquired Church’s brogues. Evidently Monty had written a piece about The Good Right, which had split the right. That it was a pale pastiche of Conservatism, and that this nonsense must be buried for once and for all. Blaney then went on to quote Thatcher when she said that when she left politics she would start a business called Rent a Spine. I have never heard such a devastating attack on anyone at a public event.

Maybe I will have to read this Monty stuff. Sounds like something I might agree with. And to his credit Blaney probably regards me as a political deviant who with a little re education and a spot of waterboarding might be turned. But for Monty? Don’t stand next to any lampposts for a very long time old chap. The Right are sharpening their pitchforks and castrating irons as we speak. And they think that you did it in return for a gong.

But……….I did enjoy my couple days with the Freedom Association. We may be on different political planets but nobody should doubt their sincerity and basic decency. All in all a delightful crowd.

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Forget the television debates, shove them all in the big brother house for six weeks.

5 Mar 2015 at 11:48

So, the big story of the moment is the debate about the debate about the debate. The usual suspects, Prescott and Campbell, predictably are accusing Cameron of being cowardly for not agreeing to a head to head with Miliband and just offering one debate with seven party leaders with the possibility of the DUP joining the throng. Although quite what that lot will bring to the table, apart from a fire and brimstone God is a welcome mystery.

The trouble is that this is all about tactics. Every Parliamentary candidate gets a few cheap headlines once a year demanding a debate with the sitting MP. The incumbent always refuses simply because they don’t want to give their opponents free publicity. I am guilty of both practices. But whatever Cameron decides he will be criticised. Obviously as Leader of the opposition he wanted a debate with Brown because Gordon is an appalling television performer. But where things went awry was when Clegg did unexpectedly well and the country became gripped with Cleggomania. This unnerved certain sections of the Conservative party who thought Cameron had made a terrible error of judgement and have been doing their best to persuade him to abandon any television debate at this election. This is not an option. The genie has been let out of the bottle.

In 2010 the options were clear cut. A swing to one party or another would pretty much decide the election. This is not the case now. There will be tactical voting. The Blair haters have moved back to Labour from the Lib Dems, the real left wingers have moved over to the Greens, and the rump of the Rampton wing of the Tories are toying with the KIPPERS. Couple this with a real possibility of Labour being wiped off the map by the SNP and the DUP cleaning up in Ulster and you have two terrifying prospects. A Labour government propped up by the SNP and the Greens (more likely just a Green) or a Conservative government propped up by the DUP and a couple of KIPPERS. The SNP would demand another referendum which they would get and a commitment to abandon nuclear weapons to which they would be promised a review. And the DUP would probably want some form of moral code based on Leviticus. I don’t see why either of those parties should have a platform in a national debate as they look at issues though the prism of parochialism. So that would leave Cameron, Miliband, Clegg, Farage and Natalie Bennett which is a bit more manageable.

There are a number of other difficulties. Party managers like to control the news media. The unexpected, unexpected, which is often thrown up in television debates, completely messes up carefully controlled messages and mood music. Also, prepping leaders for them is time consuming. Precious hours which could be more usefully spent traipsing round the regions and bribing the locals with jobs and investment.

So what is going to happen? Firstly, some hapless reporter from the MIRROR will be forced to follow Cameron round in a chicken suit to be countered by some ambitious Tory researcher dressed as a fox. There will be no empty chair debate. It’s far too risky for the broadcasters not to have the Prime Minister and if they did they the BBC would probably be in breach of its charter and the others would fall foul of OFCOM.

If I was running communications for Cameron I would compromise with a cynical political twist. I would want two debates on consecutive days well before the main election starts so that any potential mispeak would fade before polling day. The first would be the five leaders. The second Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. That would be fair to Clegg and would outgun Miliband as the collective successes of both coalition partners could be paraded. Miliband could hardly refuse and Cameron would not have the smell of being afraid to debate with Ed, which, of course, is a view which is utterly bonkers.

The other alternative is to shove them all in the Big Brother House for six weeks with Perez Hilton and an assortment of dead beat actors just out of rehab. I suspect that this is not on the cards. But it would be great telly.

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Just as I thought the Telegraph could sink no lower they splash a dodgy sting story.

23 Feb 2015 at 12:58

Just as I thought that the Daily Telegraph could sink no lower they splash a dodgy sting about cash for access. Now put out of your minds whether you think that MPs should have no outside interests and ignore what you might think of the policies of Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind when they were Foreign Secretary. There is only one simple question. ‘What have they done which is in breach of the Parliamentary rules’. The simple answer is nothing. If the allegation was that for a few bob a cup of camomile with Miliband could be provided, an Aga supper with the Camerons or a raucous night of lager and lighting farts with Philip Hammond, then they could clearly in breach of the rules. And the purple prose of former standards watchdog, Sir Alastair Graham, are bordering on the the comical. ‘Shocking’ and that it was against the rules to negotiate a business deal in a Commons office. Would the Strangers bar or the Pugin room be all right then? Or what about a slap up lunch at the Savoy. Completely daft.

And how are former cabinet ministers meant to earn a crust? Again, provided they are not offering access to Ministers for cash, there is absolutely nothing wrong with advising businesses with their areas of expertise. Some may say that an MP should have no outside interests at all. But that is a separate argument.

So now there will be a spring in the steps of the KIPPERS. MPs are out of touch, the Westminster elite and part of the bubble. Wrong and quite an appalling accusation.

If there was a Tea Room discussion about which MPs were greedy and dodgy, Straw and Rifkind would not have even been contemplated lest of all mentioned. They are both conscientious representatives and thoroughly decent public servants. To be pilloried as they have been to sell a few papers and boost some television ratings is beneath contempt. I don’t think Jack should have voluntarily resigned from the Parliamentary Labour Party and I hope that the Intelligence Committee will give Malcolm a resounding vote of confidence. One wonders after the events of the last few days whether Boris should consider taking his excellent column elsewhere. The Mail would snap him up. And the money……….

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The Telegraph front page is a ruthless and cynical attempt to close the Oborne story down. They will succeed

21 Feb 2015 at 12:00

What on earth did senior management of the Telegraph think that they were doing running that appalling story on their front page this morning? You know the one about suicides at the TIMES because of the pressures put on them by Murdoch management to cosy up to advertisers. And the suggestion that most of Fleet Street is up to the same sort of naughties as Peter Oborne accused the Telegraph of when he had his Geoffrey Howe moment. In a nutshell the Oborne argument is that as HSBC had a massive advertising budget with them and that the bank had loaned a subsidiary company £240 million, the editorial policy was to bury the HSBC dodgy Swiss tax avoidance scheme allegations. The Telegraph deny this.

But the very fact that the Telegraph is pointing the finger at everyone else down the Street of shame may be a ruthless but clever device of closing this story down. I would imagine that management consulted Andrew Neil the Chairman of Press Holdings who own the Telegraph and the Spectator. I have know Andrew for years. A brilliant journalist and a legendary editor of the Sunday Times. And a serious bruiser. Enter a revolving door in front of Andrew and I can guarantee that he will come out first.

If Andrew was consulted I suspect that he would have drawn on his experience at the hands of Murdoch in 1994. The Sunday Times was running a corruption piece on then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohamed. He was not amused and directly contacted Murdoch who feared that the story would damage his fledgling extra terrestrial television interests in Asia. Neill got the heave ho and a whacking great cheque. After all, he was right to run the story.

So my theory is that this is a warning to the rest of Fleet Street to take their tanks of the Telegraph’s beautifully manicured lawn or else. It will be interesting to see what the reaction of the Sundays will be on this. A bit of a headache for columnists who (although they will never admit) want to know what the line is. My guess that this story will be closed down mid week if not before.

My advice to politicians? Apart from the usual platitudes, leave it alone it will only come back to bite you on the bum.

So what do we learn from all of this? That newspapers are as cynical and venal as politicians. There is a satisfying whiff of hypocrisy in the air. The papers attack politicians for being too cosy with the money men. Whoops. Oh, and the Guardian, that great scourge of tax avoidance, has got half a billion quid in a tax haven in the Cayman’s.

Thank heavens we have a free, fearless and independent press who will leave no stone unturned to root out corruption.

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