NORMAN GILLER has been laughing out loud at the latest session of the Leveson Inquiry, and in tears at the funeral of an Olympic boxing champion
To date, I have written seven Carry On novels. The Leveson Inquiry is tempting me to write another: Carry On Rupert. The proceedings descended close to farce today when Rebekah Brooks revealed that Prime Minister David Cameron signed off his text messages to her with “LOL”, thinking he was saying “lots of love”.
Brooks had to tell the PM what all we txtrs, Tweeters and Facebookers know, that it means Laugh Out Loud.
Within moments of the revelation the interweb was alive with alternative Cameron txt talk:
OMG: Oh My Gideon
IMHO: Is My Horse Outside
ROTFL: Rupert’s On The Fone Listening
PMSL: Prime Minister Sends Love
BTW: Bash Tom Watson
MILF: Murdoch I’d Like to Flog (I’ve cleaned that up)
LMAO: Let’s Meet At Oxford
But it was no laughing matter for Brooks, the one-time editor of the News of the World, The Sun and then the CEO of News International, as the inquiry barrister Robert Jay grilled her for almost five hours today, turning the heat up in the second half of what developed into more of an inquisition.
I thought she stood up to it well considering the pressure she has been under since her world fell apart following the Hackgate scandal that still threatens to engulf her.
The previous day, Jay hardly laid a glove on Brooks’ old sidekick Andy Coulson, as all parties had to skirt around any issues that might mention the on-going investigations into the conduct of Coulson.
But football writer Matt Driscoll came back to haunt him. Coulson painted a careful middle-of-the-road picture of his experiences with News International, while he was editor of the News of the World and then as the Prime Minister’s media adviser at No10.
The only time he hit rocky ground was when the forensic Jay brought up the Driscoll case, with the employment tribunal’s finding in favour of the football writer to the sweet tune of £800,000.
Jay and Coulson locked horns as to whether the then News of the World editor said “I want shot of him”. Coulson vehemently denied bullying Driscoll out of his job, after he had failed to stand up his tip-off that Arsenal were going to spend a season playing in purple shirts.
The employment tribunal found that Driscoll was the victim of “a consistent pattern of bullying behaviour”.
Those of us who had followed the case before it got to the tribunal knew that Driscoll – son of former sports desk powerhouse Bob Driscoll – suffered a nervous breakdown because of his treatment in what for him had become the Wapping house of torture.
I have an older head than Lord Leveson and am so relieved not to have his head when I hit the pillow each night. As a Leveson Inquiry junkie, I just cannot see how he can possibly piece together all that he is hearing and come up with a please-all conclusion.
It seems to be lasting longer than The Archers, and is producing lots of farmyard smells. And we are still only in Part 1 of the Inquiry.
If I were his Lordship, I would ditch Part 2 and say: “I’ve heard enough, thank you” and then base my report on the hours of evidence to date. There is plenty to prove that the press needs more disciplined self-regulation, backed up by a neutral ombudsman with powers to close erring newspapers if necessary.
The Inquiry has gone off on all sorts of tangents and is now in danger of becoming mired in a political mudheap. Lord Leveson should look to get it closed as soon as possible and concentrate on writing a report that threatens to be longer than War and Peace.
For the rest of Fleet Street, the clear message for tomorrow’s papers is LOL – Lead On Leveson.
THIS OLD HACK WAS reduced to tears this week when giving the eulogy for Terry Spinks, the Golden Boy who was a friend going back, gulp, 60 years. We were schoolboys in the days when we used to meet on the doorstep of our mutual hero Sammy “Smiler” McCarthy, the British featherweight champion, who later became Terry’s manager and best mate.
Nearly every old champion you can think of was there, and we all walked the mile from the church to the cemetery behind the cortege pulled by two horses, and following a phalanx of young tracksuited boxing hopefuls from the West Ham club with which Terry won his Olympic title in 1956.
It was bucketing down, which somehow made the journey to Terry’s final resting place all the more poignant. He was buried wearing his 1956 Olympic blazer, and with a 2012 badge in his lapel. He was worth this old git’s tears.
The talk among the flat-nose cognoscenti was head-shaking disbelief over the planned Haye-Chisora heavyweight showdown. The old Blond Bomber Billy Walker said: “What would Henry Cooper make of it all? He always treated boxing with respect.”
I have a tribute memoir coming out on Henry next month, A Hero for All Time, and there is a chapter on how even he turned on the British Boxing Board of Control when, on political grounds, they blocked his planned world title fight with disputed champion Jimmy Ellis.
Henry surrendered his British and Empire titles in protest, and promoter Jack Solomons was all set to go outside the Board’s jurisdiction and stage the fight in Dublin. Then Henry damaged his cartilage and the contest was cancelled. The difference was that even in these low moments. ‘Aitch behaved with dignity, and never in his life trashed an opponent or insulted anybody.
Terry Spinks was also always well-mannered and respectful of his opponents. I wore a multi-coloured tie to his funeral that Terry gave me years ago when I said how much I liked it. He took it off and insisted I have it. That was typical of his generosity. He would have given a tramp his last shilling.
It took me two hours to drive across London, and the roads leading to Stratford, where the school athletes were testing the Olympic facilities, were blocked solid. I forecast gridlock in July.
To think the Games are being staged right at the heart of what was Terry’s manor. If anybody deserved to be part of the ceremony it was the East End idol. Rest easy, Golden Boy.
DAVID EMERY IS AN exceptional sports journalist who as a publisher goes where others fear to tread. He is expert at spotting openings missed by those steered purely by profit motives, and I hope his latest baby – The Cricket Paper – has Bradmanesque success.
I just wish he was running Express Newspapers, where he was once a powerful and productive force. He could certainly show Desmond a thing or three about selecting front page leads, and he would not try to run the show with a skeleton staff. Emery paper can be used for sanding down hard and rough surfaces. He might smooth out some of the rough things happening at the Express group.
- Read Norman Giller’s previous columns for the SJA website by clicking here