Martin Hannan: PM should pay for his contempt

Andy Coulson. Picture: PA

Andy Coulson. Picture: PA

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For some time now, I have been writing about the misconduct of the high and mighty who are part of the Westminster State.

The cosy Tory-New Labour cartel messing up the country, and the disgraceful personal conduct of so many politicians – need I mention expenses? – is proof that our lawmakers are far out of touch with the ordinary people of Britain.

The real reason why Britain is a divided country and why this SNP member says we Scots should get out of the Union is not just because the rich are getting richer and the poor are becoming poorer, but because the politicians and their hangers-on at Westminster have created their own State mechanism which allows them – so they think – to treat the rest of us with disdain.

A classic example of the Westminster State considering itself above even the rule of law occurred last week, and I am still stunned at the sheer arrogance of those involved.

While a massive trial was still going on, indeed while the jury was considering its verdicts, Prime Minister David Cameron took to the airwaves to apologise for the conduct of his former spin doctor Andy Coulson, the only man to be found guilty in the hacking trial.

Coulson had been found guilty of one charge, but the jury was still deliberating about others that he faced, and Cameron went very public to apologise for employing Coulson and, crucially, he all but accused the man who was still on trial of being a liar.

Even the most basic trainee reporter knows that commenting on a person’s guilt or innocence or their personal character while that person is still on trial is contempt of court. The proceedings were still, as former Lord Chancellor Ken Clarke said, “sub judice” which means that strictly no comment must be made by anyone in the broadcast media or newspapers.

Presiding judge Justice Saunders was livid, and we will never know what that intervention meant to the jury. Did they think “Well, the PM’s admitted Coulson’s a liar, so that’s all right then” Or did they think “Nice one, David, you’ve given us an excuse to all go home?”

Either way, the comments of Cameron and his political opponents compromised one of the most expensive and high-profile trials in Old Bailey history. It was just so wrong, so basically inept and stupid, yet typical of the conduct of those who dwell in the Westminster State bubble.

I am amazed that no one has yet reported the Prime Minister to the police for what appears on the face of it to be a clear breach of the Contempt of Court Act.

I have no doubt that Cameron did not intend to interfere with the proceedings, but the fact is that he did do so, and like every journalist, his conduct falls under the rule of “strict liability” – even if you don’t mean to interfere, you should never comment on an accused person while proceedings are active.

For the record here’s what the Contempt of Court Act says: “The strict liability rule applies only in relation to publications, and for this purpose “publication” includes any speech, writing, or other communication in whatever form, which is addressed to the public at large or any section of the public.”

Looks like a fair cop to me.

Time for all to support new school at Porty

The news that the Portobello High School bill had passed through the Scottish Parliament is a very good development for this city and for democracy in Scotland.

In the face of overwhelming public support for the school plan, a minority were able to dictate to the majority, stopping the building of a much needed new school.

I respected the right of the campaigners against the school to make their protests and I admired their indefatigability, but they must now accept the democratic decision of the Scottish Parliament. Better still, work with the council to ensure a new resource for all the community.

Monarchy better than politicians

I GOT involved in a good Radio Scotland debate on the worth of the Royal Family after it was claimed they only cost 56p per person. I have always been a huge admirer of the Queen and Princess Anne, and if you are going to have a Royal Family then the Windsors do a pretty decent job.

The debate raised the issue of the need for monarchy itself. Obviously no modern citizenry would choose unelected individuals as their head of state, but in a Britain that has no written constitution, making a politician head of state is a frightening concept.

Just think what Presidents Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair would have done with absolute power.

God Save the Queen.