When, during the select committee hearing into the News of the World, Conservative MP Louise Mench used her Parliamentary privilege to accuse Piers Morgan of phone hacking, we could only marvel at her lack of imagination (especially for a novelist) and a great missed opportunity.
Given the freedom afford her by such a privilege, why on earth did she not take the chance to accuse him of something more than the by now widely accepted practice of illegal hacking under tabloid editorships, we can only guess. Mench had obviously learned nothing from that skilled privilege abuser, Mohammed Al Fayed.
During his testimony at the 2008 High Court inquest into the death of Princess Diana, Al Fayed took fulsome advantage of the protection from the charge of slander that is given to a witness giving evidence.
With a relish that Branston could only weep in despair at the thought of concocting, Al Fayed came swinging out of his corner with a flurry of accusations that sounded co-written by Frankie Boyle and Monty Python. Opening with the rather ominous announcement that ‘This is my moment for me to say exactly what I feel’, he then made good on that threat and accused Prince Philip of being a Nazi, called him a racist, said the prince ‘was brought up by an aunt who married one of Hitler’s generals’, that ‘it’s time for him to go back to Germany where he comes from’ and, a personal favourite, ‘You want to know his original name - it ends with Frankenstein.'
So, that was the Queen’s husband smartly dealt with: a Frankestein-esque Nazi related to Dracula. If that wasn’t enough (and, actually, it was), we were luckier enough to get more.
Al Fayed then went on to call the Windsors ‘this Dracula family’ and accuse them of being ‘gangsters’ that he wanted to expose. He said the Royal Family had murdered Princess Diana, that after her death Prince Charles ‘married his crocodile wife and he is happy with that’, and that the princess’s death ‘would have been directly sanctioned by the Prime Minister’.
Let’s think of some of the imaginary crimes she could, with impunity, have levelled at Morgan:
The judge, showing admirable restraint, somehow managed to stop short of saying, ‘Oh, Mr Fayed, with these hilariously bilious accusations, you are spoiling us! And Al Fayed, in turn, refrained from saying that Piers Morgan was driving a white Fiat Uno in a Parisian tunnel in 1997. But probably only because he didn’t think of it at the time.
Which is where our feisty little minx Mench could have stepped in. Let’s think of some of the imaginary crimes she could, with impunity, have levelled at Morgan:
* Running guns to African dictators
* Having sex in custard with dwarf prostitutes in Blackpool
* Hacking into his own mobile to discover if he's still in love with himself
* Regularly giving slow blow jobs to Alan Sugar (and hinting at a tart refusal to swallow)
* Generating enough energy through public loathing to power the National Grid
* Elevating the notion of celebrity until its counterfeit currency endangers the cultural credit of the country
* Using a national newspaper to persue a personal campaign against Ian Hislop after a KO on HIGNFY
* Insider share trading using privileged information
Did I say ‘imaginary?’
Well, after the select commitee hearings, Morgan got his chubby little burnished cheeks in a quivering uproar and demanded an apology from Mench. Despite the fact that on July 23rd 2001, James Hipwell, a Daily Mirror journalist under Morgan, told The Independent that phone hacking was ‘endemic’ during Morgan’s editorship and that he would testify to that at a judicial review. Hipwell also said, ‘Piers was extremely hands-on as an editor. He was on the [newsroom] floor every day, walking up and down behind journalists, looking over their shoulders. I can't say 100 per cent that he knew about it. But it was inconceivable he didn't."
And when, in 2009, Kirsty Young asked Morgan about ‘…essentially people who rake through bins for a living, people who tap people’s phones, people who take secret photographs, who do all that nasty down-in-the-gutter stuff. How did you feel about that?"
In GQ magazine in 2007, Morgan told Naomi Campbell that hacking was "a very widespread practice"
Morgan replied: “To be honest, let’s put that in perspective as well. Not a lot of that went on. A lot of it was done by third parties rather than the staff themselves. That’s not to defend it, because obviously you were running the results of their work. I’m quite happy to be parked in the corner of tabloid beast and to have to sit here defending all these things I used to get up to, and I make no pretence about the stuff we used to do.”
In 2006, Morgan wrote in the Daily Mail about a phone message left by Sir Paul McCartney for Heather Mills: "I was played a tape of a message Paul had left for Heather on her mobile phone. It was heart-breaking. The couple had clearly had a tiff, Heather had fled to India and Paul was pleading with her to come back."
And in GQ magazine in 2007, Morgan told Naomi Campbell that hacking was "a very widespread practice" and "It was pretty well known that it if you didn't change your pin code when you were a celebrity who bought a new phone, then reporters could ring your mobile, tap in a standard factory setting number and hear your messages."
And, in 2000 - after Morgan bought shares in Wiggins Group as well as £20,000 worth of Viglen Technology shares, the day before the Daily Mirror’s City Slickers page tipped the company, thus prompting a jump in Viglen shares and boosting Morgan's paper fortune - the Press Complaints Commission found that Morgan had breached the newspaper industry's code of practice in the share dealing scandal, and that he had fallen short of the high professional standards demanded by the code.
Still, last week he accused Mensch of ‘smearing my good name’. Which is a bit like Hannibal Lecter not only complaining at being called a cannibal but complaining about it through mouthfuls of human flesh:
Q - ‘What’s that, Mr Lecter?’
Hannibal - (whilst chewing) ‘Ah chayd shtupp schmairn mayh goo nim!’
Q - ‘Sorry?’
Hannibal - ‘Ah chayd-’ (he stops, raises his eyes to the ceiling in annoyance, spits out a partially chewed human eyeball, runs his tongue around his teeth and noisily sucks tufts of flesh from between them) ‘... I said - STOP SMEARING MY GOOD NAME!’
So among whom, it would be interesting to know, does Morgan think he has a good name? The high secuirty wing of serial killers in Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital, perhaps? I’d hazard a guess that even they think he’s a c*nt.
If your name is essentially wet sh*t then I think you should accept the fact that it is terribly easy to smear.
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