The influence of the libel lawyers

After the report was published Field went on to make several even more critical comments on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, without the protection of parliamentary privilege afforded by the report.

Note that The Guardian mentions only very lightly the things that Field said without Parliamentary Privilege…..

I do wonder whether everyone is going to be so careful…..

Lord McAlpine sues all and sundry

And good on \’im.

The former Conservative Party treasurer said yesterday that he had been “terrified” when he became “a figure of public hatred” because of people naming him as the subject of a Newsnight report wrongly claiming a senior Tory was a paedophile.

Sally Bercow, the wife of the Speaker of the Commons, and George Monbiot, a columnist for the Guardian are among those who will be pursued by Lord McAlpine for using the microblogging site to tweet his name after the Newsnight programme was broadcast.

Lord McAlpine’s solicitor, Andrew Reid, said the “nasty” tweets would “cost people a lot of money”, warning the guilty parties: “We know who you are.”

He added: “Twitter is not just a closed coffee shop among friends. It goes out to hundreds of thousands of people and you must take responsibility for it.

“It is not a place where you can gossip and say things with impunity, and we are about to demonstrate that.”

That\’ll entirely put to bed even the thought that a McAlpine was involved.

The Sunday Telegraph\’s campaign against squatting can be relaxed when the victim is Saif Gaddafi.


Last week, The Sunday Telegraph launched a campaign to give the owners of squatted houses greater legal powers to regain the quiet enjoyment of their property, rather than stand helplessly by and see it abused and degraded.

There is a legal principle that stands higher than the law, however, and that is justice.

No, no, and thrice no.

I\’m willing to agree that a panel of senior judges, sitting in serious contemplation, is able to say that the law\’s an ass and that this just ain\’t justice.

But not that the people who write newspaper editorials (some of whom I know on this particular paper, which gives you an idea of quite how lowly the breed is) get to lay the law aside as and when it suits them.

As and when we stick you in a wig and a dress on the Supreme Court you get to do this. Not until.

Freedom of what?

Today\’s published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.


I thought we\’d already had this argument? Libel laws don\’t cover the Commons chamber and anything said in that chamber can be reported under Parliamentary privilege.


Anyone know what the question was?

\”Can the Prime Minister confirm that David Cameron is the love child of Harriet Harman and Peter Sutcliffe?\”

Tony Woodley

A massive windfall tax on the mega-profits of Shell and BP would be a vote-winner and the right thing to do – make them put something back to help with pensions.

Oh, well done. Major owners of BP and Shell shares are pension funds. So taxing the companies will reduce the returns to said pension funds which means that taxing them….well, it\’s not going to help pensions much, is it?

The utilities companies – gas, electric and water – which now have the cheek to threaten a 40% price increase, must be told that every extra penny they charge will returned to the country, again by a windfall tax.

Erm, coal is up, oil is up, gas is up, the renewables obligation adds massively to the utilities costs….and they\’re supposed not to raise prices? The water companies have ever more regulatory demands that they raise capital to invest in the systems and they\’re not to raise prices?

I\’d rather this bloke was taken out for beer and sandwiches rather than given the peace and quiet to come up with this sort of lunacy.

When He\’s Right, He\’s Right You Know

George Monbiot on the libel laws.

Perhaps you don\’t live in England or Wales, so you think this has nothing to do with you. You\’re wrong. English libel law now applies to everyone on Earth. Make any accusation, anywhere in the world, and if the subject can demonstrate that a single person in England or Wales has read it, you could be sued here for every penny, cent, rouble, rupee or renminbi you possess. The internet and the global nature of publishing ensure that these medieval laws have become the most powerful extra-territorial legislation ever drafted.

Of course, readers around here would have known this some time ago. Like three years or so.

It gets worse though. Not only is everything ever read in England subject to the English libel laws: everything ever read anywhere is subject to the libel and defamation laws of that jurisdiction. It\’s a mess, one I have no idea how it might be fixed, but someone somewhere needs to do so.

The Problem with International Organisations

This is one of the problems we have with teaming up with Johnny Foreigner in all of these international organisations:

South Africa’s police chief faces a warrant for his arrest as a bitter struggle at the top of the country’s ruling African National Congress threatens to plunge the country into chaos.

The warrant against Jackie Selebi, who is also head of Interpol, was issued last week, according to SABC, the state broadcaster. Mr Selebi has been accused of links to figures from South Africa’s underworld. Last night he told a local radio station that he had no knowledge of the warrant.

The reported move comes amid a fierce political battle that this week propelled the country’s chief prosecutor into murky circumstances. “There is a full-scale war going on now between the prosecutors and the Justice Ministry,” one political commentator said. President Mbeki has pledged to root out corruption but has been accused of soft-pedalling on allegations made against his own supporters. Mr Selebi would not have got his job without being one of the early Mbeki backers. In 2004 he was elected to the rotating post of Interpol President.

Mr Selebi, who has been criticised harshly for failing to reduce crime, himself became a target for investigation by the country’s FBI-style Scorpions unit after a business associate was arrested on suspicion of the murder in September 2005 of Bret Kebble, a flamboyant mining magnate who had close links to the ANC. It emerged that Mr Selebi had frequently played golf with the suspect, Glenn Agliotti, a well-known drug lord.

The problem being that we\’ve teamed up in an international organisation with Johnny Foreigner, who might have a rather different understanding of the words probity and legality than we do. For example, aren\’t you glad that Interpol, the people who deal with international police matters, warrants and so on, has as its President someone who is a regular golfing partner of a drug dealer?

Or that the European transport system is run by a convicted fraudster?

Alisher Usmanov Speech

Here is a preliminary transcript of a speech given by Tom Wise last night at about 11 pm. Said speech was given under Parliamentary Privilege and thus may be repeated, without fear of the libel or defamation laws, by any media outlet:


When the EU talks of a \’Common Foreign Policy\’ on energy, you need to be aware of exactly who you propose to do business with.


President Putin is on record as saying "The Commission should be under no illusions, if it wants to buy Russian gas; it has to deal with the Russian state".


Gazprom is not a private company; it is a state controlled tool of Russian foreign policy.


It is, moreover, in the hands of Putin\’s political henchmen, and allegedly organised crime.


Take for example Alisher Usmanov. This gentleman, the son of a Communist apparatchik, is chairman of Gazprom Invest Holdings, the group that handles Gazprom\’s business activities outside Russia. He is the man you will be dealing with. He is the man who cuts off gas supplies if client states dare to question Gazprom\’s demands.


Allegedly a gangster and racketeer, he served a 6 year jail sentence in the Soviet Union in the 1980s, his eventual pardon coming at the behest of Uzbek mafia chief and heroin overlord Gafur Rakimov, described as Usmanov\’s "mentor".


Usmanov bought the newspaper \’Kommersant\’. 3 months later, the journalist Ivan Safronov, a critic of the Putin regime who just weeks earlier had been "vigorously interrogated" by the FSB, as the KGB is now called, mysteriously fell to his death from his apartment window still clutching a bag of shopping.
According to Craig Murray, former \\nBritish Ambassador to Uzbekistan, it was Usmanov who ordered the \\ncutting off of supplies to Georgia earlier this year.\\u003cspan\\> \\u003c/span\\>Please take note, Mr President, that the \\nKremlin has now refused to sanction the construction of a pipeline to the EU \\nover Georgian territory.\\u003c/p\\>\\n\\u003cp style\\u003d\”margin:0cm 0cm 0pt\”\\> \\u003c/p\\>\\n\\u003cp style\\u003d\”margin:0cm 0cm 0pt\”\\>These are the people you want to \\ndo business with. These are the people you are moulding your 'foreign policy on \\nenergy' around.\\u003c/p\\>\\n\\u003cp style\\u003d\”margin:0cm 0cm 0pt\”\\> \\u003c/p\\>\\n\\u003cp style\\u003d\”margin:0cm 0cm 0pt\”\\>Mr Commissioner, good luck: \\nYou'll need it.

According to Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, it was Usmanov who ordered the cutting off of supplies to Georgia earlier this year. Please take note, Mr President, that the Kremlin has now refused to sanction the construction of a pipeline to the EU over Georgian territory.


These are the people you want to do business with. These are the people you are moulding your \’foreign policy on energy\’ around.


Mr Commissioner, good luck: You\’ll need it.



I\’ll link to the official transcript when it\’s up. Link.