Should there be an inquiry into the Leveson inquiry? The phone-hacking which prompted the setting-up of the inquiry faded almost immediately as a procession of celebrities complained about what they disliked most in the press.
Now everybody has settled in, his lordship most of all. A nadir was reached when three editors of those infinitely depressing celebrity magazines gave insights into their trade. Counsel to the inquiry was a nice young woman. The matter arose of a picture of Heston Blumenthal dressed up as an egg. Counsel giggled with the three witnesses as his lordship tried to locate the page in the relevant magazine. Much hair was flicked. “Not my normal journal,” Lord Leveson joked in that way older men do when they are not yet beyond flirting and engage in it with studied senility. Everyone laughed. Some of the lawyers stretched back while laughing so they could be more in camera-shot. Oh how jolly. And oh how much money evaporating every second.
The inquiry needs to discover only one thing: how did the law come to be broken, repeatedly and publicly, with impunity?
* * *
Amid the gloomy prospect of the United Kingdom splitting up, a single radical prospect appears possible.
Alex Salmond is not the only sectarian demagogue to have come to power by telling parochial fibs about a future state where the money never runs out. Nor is he the first to suggest that this experiment can be helped by the cessation of any spending on defence. Given that a number of European countries are heading the same way, Scottish independence could provide a fine opportunity to explode this worldview.
If Scotland determines that it should leave the Union then perhaps we should accept the fact. We then wait and watch the SNP’s policies being carried out. The nuclear submarines will sail south. The assumption that an umbrella of defence exists as if by natural law will be all-encompassing. Everything will proceed smoothly, and Salmond’s utopia may appear to have come.
Then we invade. Ruthless suppression and enslavement will follow. Once Mr Salmond is found emerging from an old sewage pipe the public will be called together. In front of much of the world’s press the head of the southern forces will state, very clearly: “This is what happens.” The whole thing could have a very reviving effect and remind people that if you are not willing to defend what you have, you will soon have nothing at all.
* * *
One Deborah Scroggins has written a book, Wanted Women, contrasting Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the al-Qaeda terrorist Aafia Siddiqui. By all accounts, the terrorist is the one who is intended to come out better. Scroggins has portrayed her work as a journey of discovery, but in fact she arrived at her conclusions a long time ago.
For years Scroggins has pursued a sinister vendetta against Hirsi Ali. Some years back she used the anonymity of the Economist to abuse Hirsi Ali’s memoir Infidel. I have even heard word of private campaigning to prevent people who might be sympathetic to Hirsi Ali’s situation from financially or otherwise supporting her need for security protection.
All this is strange. But strangest of all is why a house like HarperCollins would publish this stalker-like biographer.
* * *
The argument — quite popular outside the House of Lords — that people should be better paid if they work than if they do not has received a terrific boost from the BBC. In a piece apparently intended to arouse sympathy for a family which would lose £4,000 of benefits under the government’s reforms, exactly the opposite effect was produced.
The BBC spoke with a man in North Wales whose family income would be reduced to £26,000 a year. The pseudonymous “Raymond” said: “I see eight people here having to choose between eating or heating.” Except that Raymond’s weekly shop included a large pack of tobacco and 200 cigarettes. So perhaps a choice between eating and smoking. Or drinking. For the taxpayer also funds the man of the house to go down to the pub on Fridays, as well as 24 cans of lager a week and Sky television so the family never feel bored.
Public sympathy for this sort of thing is clearly drying up, if the responses on the BBC’s website are anything to go by. Most people felt, as I do, that the cost of buying our own drinks in the pub was high enough, and there was no reason why we should keep standing rounds for someone we don’t know who hasn’t retrained to find work in ten years. Recessions are awful, but they can also prove strangely clarifying.