Those who, like Malcolm, are Leveson junkies are severely taken by Robert Jay, QC, Counsel to the Inquiry, and his word-power.
Today’s trending word seems to be nugatory:
Trifling, negligible; of no intrinsic value or importance; worthless.
A Malcolmiam aside
Before we pass on from such interesting phraseology, Malcolm would wish to celebrate Fox TV’s usage. There is a fine court-room how d’ya do going on about a tv recorder which automatically skips the adverts. hence this:
Fox spokesman Scott Goggin said the ad hopping feature could end up “destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television ecosystem”.
Back to Leveson
In the Good Old Days, before philosophers and lawyers became classically illiterate, one might have come across nugae difficiles:
difficult but trivial matters over which a disproportionate amount of time may be taken.
Today has been one extended example of just that.
A roasting of Adam Smith, Jeremy Hunt’s defenestrated SPAD, has been going on much of the day, followed by Jonathan Stephens, permanent secretary at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. In short, it has been an orgy of self-vindication.
Let’s cut to Oscar Wilde, and A Woman of No Importance, where we might find a parallel for Mr Stephens:
Mrs Allonby: Oh, Ernest isn’t silent. He talks the whole time. But he has got no conversation. What he talks about I don’t know. I haven’t listened to him for years.
Lady Stutfield: Have you never forgiven him then? How sad that seems! But all life is very, very sad, is it not?
Mrs Allonby: Life, Lady Stutfield, is simply a mauvais quart d’heure made up of exquisite moments.
Lady Stutfield: Yes, there are moments, certainly. But was it something very, very wrong that Mr. Allonby did? Did he become angry with you, and say anything that was unkind or true?
Mrs Allonby: Oh dear, no. Ernest is invariably calm. That is one of the reasons he always gets on my nerves. Nothing is so aggravating as calmness. There is something positively brutal about the good temper of most modern men. I wonder we women stand it as well as we do.
Malcolm recalls that Ernest Allonby never appears on stage, which, presumably is where Mr Stephens would prefer to have remained. Another impression of Malcolm’s is that the original mauvais quart d’heure was Marie Antoinette’s final trip in the tumbril. The process now takes a lot longer now that we’ve become all legalistic.
Even so, Jeremy Hunt’s appearance before les tricoteuses cannot be postponed indefinitely. He has outlived any political usefulness (except as Cameron’s flak-catcher) or any shred of decency.
Carrying the can
Dennis Skinner, now quite famously, skewered Hunt with the observation: “When posh boys are in trouble they sack their servants.”
Or, as Hansard has the full version of the exchange:
Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): The Culture Secretary’s adviser has now lost his job. Does that not prove the theory that when posh boys are in trouble, they sack the servants? Why doesn’t the Secretary of State do the decent thing: tell dodgy Dave and Gideon, and get out and resign?
Mr Hunt: Adam Smith’s resignation is a matter of huge regret to me. I believe him to be a person of integrity and decency, but my responsibility to this House is to the integrity of this process—the objectivity and impartiality with which this process was conducted—and I believe I have presented evidence to the House that demonstrates that I behaved in a judiciously impartial way throughout.
Let’s play that one again, as it was today at Leveson:
12.39pm:Hunt accepted Smith’s explanation at that point, he says. Smith had a drink with Hunt and the other special advisers in the office that evening.
“Was the mood upbeat?” asks Jay.
“It wasn’t in a relaxed manner,” says Smith.
12.40pm:The next morning Hunt had various meetings at which Smith wasn’t present.
Then Hunt told Smith in a meeting: “Everyone here thinks you need to go.”
12.42pm:Smith says he thought by this stage that “the perception had been created that something untoward had gone on”, therefore he offered his resignation.
12.43pm:Discussions then took place about what Smith would say in his resignation statement.
12.44pm:The Cabinet Office drafted part of Smith’s resignation statement, including Smith taking blame for “believing” his role was to be close to News Corp. Smith asked for the word to be taken out.