Take time to smell the roses: Bulgarians love bomb London to counter British hate media

Bulgarians Soho square

Bulgarians after completing the planting of the damascene roses in Golden Square Soho in London Pic credits: Boyko Boev

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The Bulgarians have not had a good press -particularly in the  Sun, Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.

The Sun sent a reporter to Sofia to portray them as rushing to  hand out Britain just to claim benefits. The Daily Mail quoted a survey by a gambling company saying Bulgarians were the laziest people in Europe. The Daily Mail and The Telegraph have repeatedly highlighted that Britain is being flooded with them under EU rules.

Yet very little is known about the Bulgarians in Britain..until now. Bulgarian academics at Warwick University and the University of Florida  have carried out a detailed survey of  151 Bulgarians living and working in London for a report which has gone to Sadiq Khan, the London mayor. It is not a representative survey but it is full of insights.

And it coincided with a remarkable gesture by the Bulgarians – who have planted their national floral pride – the Rosa Damascena –  the perfumed rose grown for centuries in Bulgaria -in Golden Square, Soho – re-enacting  a gift to London  from Sofia 95 years ago-in 1923.

The report says: “After 2013, this community was caught unwittingly in the crossfire of an especially heated immigration debate around Brexit, feeding off of public discontent and strong activity of the opposition. Bulgarians and Romanians have been collectively sneered with reference to perceived combination of cultural and social traits. This form of bias is still highly discriminatory, even if not directly versed in common understandings of racism (of quasi-biological labels and insult).”

Bulgarians planting roses

Bulgarians planting the roses

What the survey did was examine groups of Bulgarians living in London from their 20s to their 50s and 60s. One fact that shows the media coverage suggesting Bulgarians are here to claim benefits is completely refuted. Just four were out of work.

The second suggestion that Bulgarians are lazy gets equal short shift – it turns out one of the favourite pastimes of Bulgarians in the capital – whether 20 or 50 – is going to the gym. Hardly couch potatoes then.

And a lot are highly educated with university degrees or high school diplomas – they are not always able to get jobs suitable to their qualifications.

Highly educated women were most affected  “Many work as housekeepers, babysitters, care providers and “personal assistants”, says the report.

But younger Bulgarians were getting jobs suitable for their qualifications. These included marketing or public relations coordinator, accountant, sales representative, teacher, programmer, as well as jobs requiring manual labour, such as a cook, car-mechanic, construction worker, barman, and stage worker in the theatre.

Living in London also changed the attitude of some Bulgarians Those in their 30s said  that their new life in London has changed them for the better, and that they have become more ‘tolerant towards diversity,’ ‘patient,’ ‘more open’, ‘exposed to more travel,’ ‘walking more often than earlier in Bulgaria’ and visiting more cultural events,

The report added: “there are also statements indicative of closing socially, due to extremely busy schedules: ‘I am becoming more productive due to the quick pace of life, but also more mindful of my private time, which is a limited resource.’

The report does pick up damage done by right wing media coverage which meant that many were reluctant to work outside London because they thought the rest of Britain would be more intolerant about them being there.

The report also says the majority were happy living London despite it being more stressful than their native country.  One recommendation  to the London  mayor is that London helps ,particularly older Bulgarians, to become more fluent in English by laying on language courses. This would help the older generation of Bulgarians here become more integrated than they are.

There is a 11 minute video from Warwick University academic Maria Koinova which gives the background to the study.

 

 

 

Government narrowly defeat plan for new Leveson inquiry after deal with DUP

Lord-Justice-Leveson

Lord Justice Leveson ; Pic courtesy Leveson Inquiry website

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UPDATE: Government defeated the Leveson2  inquiry by nine votes 304-295 . There were five Tory rebels. The nine DUP  MPs supported the government after they were offered a new press watchdog for Northern Ireland. The one independent Northern Ireland MP, Lady Hermon voted with Labour.

Five Tories voted with Labour – they were Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve ( former attorney general), Peter Bone, Philip Hollobone and Crispin Blunt.

One Labour MP John Grogan voted with the government to block Leveson 2.

Parliament will decide today whether a second Leveson inquiry  should go ahead and on new rules that would strengthen the role of press regulator Impress and force compulsory arbitration in libel cases.

Voting in the Commons on both motions is on a knife edge with  literally the decision being made on who turns up and whether very active campaigns by  mainstream media moguls or Hacked Off can convince wavering MPs.

Theresa May has staked her reputation on protecting Murdoch and Dacre from a second Leveson inquiry into malpractices by the media and scrapping the section which would have forced compulsory arbitration. At the Westminster  Correspondents Dinner she promised lobby journalists that ” very good news” was coming to help the media moguls avoid further scrutiny into their practices.

But her failure to control Parliament has put both promises at risk- hence the frenzied campaign  in the media to protect press freedom by media bosses who do not want some of the dark practices subject to forensic examination by Lord Leveson.

There are two motions today – one by former Labour leader Ed Miliband and Tory rebel Kenneth Clarke – aims to reinstate Leveson 2 after a Commons committee overturned a Lords resolution to hold the inquiry.

The second by Tom Watson, Labour deputy’s leader and long time campaigner against the Murdoch press, would implement the changes promised to force compulsory arbitration in libel cases – making court cases very expensive for the media even if they won.

The first motion stands the best chance of passing with guaranteed support from a number of Tory rebels, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the sole Green MP, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalists. Nobody seems sure how the DUP will vote.

This alliance is however dependent on everybody turning up and solid support among all the groups.

There was signs at the weekend  that media moguls had changed  tactics and were trying to persuade some Labour MPs not to back Ed Miliband’s motion and the one strengthening Impress-and suggesting this would go down very well in the mainstream media who might look favourably on covering some of the issues  these Labour MPs might want to take up. A senior Labour source told me : ” They (the Labour MPs) are trying to curry favour with the mass media”.

Labour whips have been alerted to this but some Labour MPs are playing their cards very close to their chests and trying to hide their proposed support. You can be sure there will be very active work done by Labour this morning to try and root them out.

The other problem  that could scupper a  defeat for the government will be if not all MPs turn up. Here the SNP with 35 MPs are a key group – but not all of them turn up if they have pressing business in Scotland. A  ” no show” by just a few in this group would have a big effect on the vote.

So today’s decision will depend on the capricious nature of MPs in Parliament – and how much priority they put into defeating the government over this issue.

 

 

 

 

Local Elections 2018: Reality triumphs over expectation

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Local elections 2018 Pic credit:BBC

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The local elections have been portrayed  in the mass media as a disappointment for Labour ,a shot in the arm for Theresa May and a revival for the Liberal Democrats

In the pre election scenario Labour were expected  to  sweep all before them winning Tory councils in London and elsewhere, Theresa May was going to face a dire night and the Lib Dems were not going to do so well because of their poll ratings.

Yes  Labour are partly to blame for creating this scenario  with the promise of a Momentum style surge knocking  the Tories out of Barnet, Westminster, Wandsworth and Hillingdon in London and winning Swindon, Plymouth and Trafford outside the capital. They had high expectations after the surprise  rebirth under Jeremy Corbyn in the last general election and thought another heave would do it.

But it would be very foolish to write up these elections as the end of Labour’s progress or  ruling out a slow revival of the Liberal Democrats.

For a start the final analysis of voting by the BBC shows that if there was a  general election was based on these voting figures Labour would have got another 21 seats, andbecome the largest party in Parliament . The Tories would have lost 38 seats and the Lib Dems gained another 10. If that had  happened last year Theresa May would not have been able to form a government and it would be Labour plus a coalition that would be negotiating with Brussels.  And if you compare it with last year’s council elections it was the Tories making nearly all the gains. not Labour.

A more detailed analysis shows why this is true. Although Labour did not gain the breakthrough to take another four London boroughs from the Tories, their vote share was much nearer than their seat share. In Westminster where the Lab vote share jumped by 7.6 per cent – the difference in percentage support between Labour and the Tories is not much more than point. In Wandsworth there is only a 150 votes difference between the Tories and Labour running the council.

Even in Barnet where Labour’s self inflicted wound over antisemitism  led to a 13 seat Tory majority- the Tories biggest gains – the Labour share of the vote went up 2.8 pc but was trumped by a 6.6 per cent rise for the Tories.

Also not noticed in London is that Labour increased the number of seats on councils they already run, notably in Ealing, Enfield, Harrow, Hammersmith and Fulham and Waltham Forest – which will make it difficult for the Tories to regain Parliamentary seats.

In Swindon where Labour gained just one seat more people voted Labour than Tory but obviously not in the key wards. Interestingly in Plymouth where Labour won the council, more people voted Tory than Labour but not in the right places.

Also where councils switched from no overall control to Tory control – it was often by a couple of seats in places like Peterborough. The one exception was Nuneaton and Bedworth where the Tories were robbed – they got 51 per cent of the vote there but could win enough seats to take the council.

The other big factor which stymied Labour  and helped the Tories was UKIP. Many UKIP voters became Tories so they could get a hard Brexit. In Basildon and Great Yarmouth this gave the Tories the edge over Labour.  Labour did take  back seats from UKIP, but the Tories took more. In Great Yarmouth former UKIP candidates actually became Tory candidates. Britain Elects shows this disparity examining 81 UKIP losses with the Tories gaining 47 seats from UKIP while Labour gained 30.

It should not be a total surprise that the Lib Dems do well in local elections, they have won quite  a number of by-elections over the last year. But in three councils- where the whole authority was up for grabs – they did spectacularly well, trouncing the Tories. These are South Cambridgeshire, Richmond and Kingston, where they won sweeping gains pushing the Tories out. They also won seats in Hull, Sunderland  and Gosport but were pushed back in Birmingham and Newcastle upon Tyne.

So what is the prospect? The Tories can take comfort that they were not trounced and could claim a mandate for a hard Brexit after hoovering up  much of the UKIP vote. It is rather ironic that Theresa May treated councils she had not lost  as a victory parade-normally you go to places to celebrate a Tory gain.

Labour need to tackle the antisemitic issue promptly and to reflect soberly on how they need more than an incompetent government to form a majority administration. And the Lib Dems need to build on their local government base as a springboard to win  more seats in Westminster.

The reality for all parties is that it is going to be a hard slog to get or stay in government.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crime Live event – “Real Life” Silent Witness but no time for sexual liaisons

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A previous performance of live crime with the two forensic scientists

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On May 10 not too far from the National Theatre on the South Bank a remarkable stage scene will be set up at the BPP Law University. A room with walls spattered with blood, a potential murder weapon and clues galore.

But this dramatic scene is not part of a rerun Agatha Christie play or some avant garde production on a pre West End theatre debut..

Instead of actors there will be two forensic scientists Tracy Alexander, Director of Forensic Services at City of London Police and Jo Millington, Senior Forensic Scientist at Millington Hingley both of whom featured in BBC’s Conviction: Murder at the Station.

They will take the audience through how you investigate a murder going into detail of how the evidence is gathered using the latest modern methods.

As Tracy Alexander tells the audience: “If you’ve seen Silent Witness you’ll know that Emilia Fox attends the crime scene, examines the corpse, looks for clues, performs the post-mortem, comforts the family of the victim, interviews suspects and sleeps with the senior investigating officer, all in the same nice suit without transferring vital evidence from one to the other. I can’t do all those things myself – well, not in an hour.”

The demonstration is put on by Inside Justice, a charity  which investigates alleged miscarriages of justice particularly where a fresh examination of forensic evidence can make a difference and only when they are convinced that the person usually serving a long jail sentence is innocent.

The charity’s director is Louise Shorter. She is best known for her 10 years as a producer/director of the BBC’s long-running miscarriage of justice TV series Rough Justice. Sadly with reduced media budgets such programmes are no longer made.

The last programme she made about the wrongful  murder convictions of Barri White and Keith Hyatt led directly to new evidence being found which resulted in their convictions being quashed. In 2013, Shahidul Ahmed, the real killer in this case was convicted following a cold-case review led by Inside Justice Advisory Panel member Tracy Alexander.

The charity’s panel which is largely composed of forensic scientists has since then taken up a series of cases – though faces a difficult battle in persuading police forces to release all the forensic evidence it holds to re-investigate cases.

The fact that Inside Justice exists is particularly important because of two issues- which are potentially conflicting. One is the march of forensic science which is now miles ahead of itself. The other is the effects of privatisation and cuts in police manpower and budgets.

As Louise explained to me  new developments in forensic science mean that a minute level of DNA is enough to trace one person to a spot even if he or she wasn’t there.

As she put it: ” Supposing we shake hands and I go off to the ladies toilet. I then touch something in the toilet and a trace of your DNA as well as mine is left there. Supposing unknown to either of us a crime is committed there two hours later. When the police arrive they will find a trace of your DNA at the crime scene. It is now possible to do this and you could become a murder suspect.”

Now this high level of DNA detection is good for crime detection but not so good if a hard pressed police force is anxious to get a quick conviction and you do not have an alibi. Given the growing concern about wrongful police convictions – from recent rape cases where the defence were not given all the evidence – this is not good news.

But in the  meantime it is obviously a  fascinating experience to see how forensic science can help solve real murders.

Inside Justice Poster SCREEN FILE There are two performances at the BPP Law University at 137 Stamford Street
London SE1 9NN. It is  five minutes walk from Waterloo station. Tickets for the event can be obtained from Eventbrite. GO TO WWW.EVENTBRITE.CO.UK
AND SEARCH FOR ‘CRIME LIVE’

 

Phone Hacking: The Guardian should hang its head in shame over its stance on a second Leveson inquiry

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Lord Justice Leveson: Pic courtesy of Leveson inquiry website Not chairing any new inquiry now

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The Guardian is my old employer. It has a long and honourable tradition of fearless investigations which do not follow the rest of the pack. That included holding the media industry to account.

The decision this week to join the rest of the press pack and welcome the demise of Leveson 2 – the inquiry which would have taken a cold hard look at how mainstream media – in particular the News of the World and the Mirror – indulged in phone hacking and other nefarious practices  is profoundly disappointing.

It is even more so because one of the Guardian’s finest investigative reporters Nick Davies – now properly retired unlike me – exposed the practice in the  Milly Dowler case which triggered  the public exposure of the whole sordid business.

It is the spurious reasoning the paper has used to justify such action. The paper talked about looking forward rather than in the back view mirror as the main reason why it had decided to side with the Sun, the Murdoch empire and the Daily Mail and Telegraph. Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and Rupert Murdoch must be rubbing their hands with glee at their latest supporter, Kathy Viner, the editor in chief of the Guardian.

The inquiry would have made publicly accountable the top people who authorised such shameful practices which bring investigative journalism into disrepute  whether by hiring private investigators to blag, steal and phone hack anybody’s private life so long as they were a celeb or a Royal. More to feed the public’s voyeurism than in the public interest.

Worse, through this culture, they may have been with the Met police an accessory to  the horrific murder in 1987 of private investigator, Daniel Morgan – now at long last the subject  of a forensic independent panel inquiry under Baroness Nuala O’Loan , the former first Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. If the second Leveson inquiry had been launched, the independent panel report would have helped  inform Sir Brian Leveson in his difficult task.

The dropping of the inquiry has nothing to do with the future of press regulation – even though it is in the interest of newspaper proprietors and The Guardian to suggest it is. That is a separate matter.

If one followed the spurious logic of the Guardian – in simple don’t look back in anger – then it could have said in 1994 that the ” cash for questions” saga was also old hat -it was revealed 10 years after the event anyway- and there was no need for an expensive inquiry by Lord Nolan.

Yet because they did examine this historic scandal we now have a benchmark for MPs and ministerial behaviour and a permanent body – the Committee on Standards in Public Life- which can investigate new issues of propriety. It still as relevant today as in the 1990s.

The Leveson 2 inquiry could have provided something similar for the media and opened the debate on the way social media operates.

The  same logic would also suggest – as the Daily Mail and The Times already have – that there is no need for the present independent child sexual abuse inquiry – as that is just historic or why bother covering reports from the National Audit Office as they look back at past mistakes. It will be a very quick way of denuding the Guardian’s website and print editions.

My suspicion – and I have no knowledge – is that this decision is driven by commercial worries. Mainstream media is being sandwiched between the rise of social media giants Google and Facebook who are taking away their advertising – and the growing  popularity of websites and blogs – often with a right or left wing bias which attract a young readership.

Panic has led the mainstream media to rush to hang together and try and stop any further independent inquiry into their working practices. They should be careful – those who hang together could fall together. That is why the Guardian – a traditional dissident voice – should  hang its head in shame for what it now stands for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMPRESS reject arbitration and compensation claim from ex MP over Esther Baker investigation story on this blog

esther baker

Esther Baker

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The press regulator, Impress, has refused a request for arbitration and compensation from former Liberal Democrat MP, John Hemming, over an article published on this blog last September when the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to  issue criminal proceedings against the ex MP and two other people over allegations of child sex abuse from Esther Baker.

The article reported, almost in full, statements issued by Staffordshire Police and the ex MP after the decision was announced by the CPS. The CPS concluded there was ” insufficient evidence ” to proceed, the ex MP said he had been the subject of false allegations.

Since then Esther Baker has appealed the CPS decision and a ruling is expected some time in the autumn.

This blog is not directly covered by the regulator, IMPRESS, but because I cross post articles on the independent platform, Byline, it is indirectly covered since Byline has agreed to be regulated by IMPRESS.

IMPRESS’S regulatory committee ruled  that the article  on its own could not been seen  as Mr Hemming claimed as ” harassment”. And it dismissed his claim for compensation by saying that any  alleged harm caused to Mr Hemming  by this article was ” trivial ” and ” too insignificant to meet the  test ” for a claim.

For the record  and to prevent other people putting  any spin on this decision this is the text of the ruling sent to Byline:

“I am writing to advise you that an IMPRESS Regulatory Committee recently met to consider John Hemming’s request for arbitration. Having carefully considered his request in accordance with the IMPRESS procedures they have decided that the request is not suitable for arbitration under the CIArb/IMPRESS Arbitration Scheme. The reasons for their decision are set out below.

Reasons for Board arbitration suitability decision:

Rule 8.3 of the IMPRESS Regulatory Scheme requires the Board to make an administrative assessment of whether a claim is covered by the scheme. For the avoidance of doubt, this decision is not based on an assessment of the merits of a claim.
Rule 46 of the Regulatory Scheme Procedures provides six administrative criteria that need to be satisfied before a claim can be accepted under the scheme.

The Board considered each of these in turn:
(i) The claim is made against a publisher regulated by IMPRESS.
The Committee was satisfied that the claim was made against a publisher (Byline) that was regulated by IMPRESS at the time of the act complained of (6 September 2017).
(ii) The claim is related to one of the areas of law covered by the scheme.
The Committee was satisfied that the claim related to an area of law covered by the scheme, namely defamation and harassment. With regards to the claim for harassment however, though this related to one of the areas covered by the scheme, the Committee determined that the claim for harassment did not satisfy the relevant test. This was because, under a claim for harassment, a ‘course of conduct’ required two or more events to be characterised as such. The claimant therefore could not bring a claim against the publisher for the publication of one article.
(iii) The claim is not a pre-publication matter where it is appropriate for it to be directed to the courts.
The Committee was satisfied that the claim did not relate to a pre-publication matter where it was appropriate for it to be directed to the courts.
(iv) The claim provides a clear statement setting out the harm or financial loss suffered by the claimant.
The Committee was not satisfied that the claim clearly set out the harm or financial loss that the claimant had suffered as a result of the published article. It noted that the claimant largely relied on the fact that the article was part of a wider campaign against him which he accepted that Byline was not a party to.
(v) The claim describes a specific action or activity of a publisher that has caused the alleged harm or financial loss.
The Committee was not satisfied that the claimant adequately described how it was the article published by Byline that caused the alleged harm and loss to the claimant. This is because, although the claimant identified specific harm and loss caused by the ‘wider campaign’, the claimant failed to specify any harm or loss which arose as a direct result of the article published by Byline. The Committee determined that any harm or loss caused to the claimant by the publisher was trivial or incidental in conjunction with the remainder, and was thus too insignificant to meet the test.
(vi) The claimant explains why the complaint is not suitable for resolution by the IMPRESS complaints procedure.
The Committee accepted that given that (i) the complaint did not, on the face of it, appear to engage the Standards Code and (ii) the claimant sought financial compensation as a remedy, it was not suitable for resolution by the IMPRESS complaints procedure.
In conclusion, the Committee decided that the claimant’s request for arbitration should be refused on the grounds that parts (iv) and (v) of the test were not met.

Peter Preston: An appreciation

Peter Preston

Peter Preston Pic credit: The Guardian

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There are two people who changed my life as a journalist. One was Brian MacArthur, who took me on The Times Higher Education Supplement in 1973. The other was Peter Preston who appointed me as a reporter on The Guardian in 1976.

I still remember the first interview  with Peter Preston for my job at the Guardian when he out of the blue suddenly asked what my politics were – probably not the politically correct question you might expect in applying for a reporter’s job.

” Disillusioned Labour “, I said.. “Aren’t we all ” came back the riposte.

PP was a man of few words but enormous depth. You could not always fathom what he was thinking but what you did know he was utterly committed to the newspaper, perpetually fascinated by stories and would defend you against the powerful who might seek to censor or even ridicule you.

He was utterly committed to press freedom both at home and abroad and not bothered or even remotely interested about becoming a member of the Establishment.

He also got me out of scrapes – both on a personal and professional level. After I joined the Guardian my wife, Margaret and I bought our first house. I had spotted a small ad for a four bedroom  refurbished terraced house in Holloway which even in the late 1970s appeared to be too cheap at around £23,000. She was sceptical whether there was something wrong but it passed a survey and we got a mortgage. She turned out to be right when the joists which held the main staircase started to give way and cracks appeared. I asked for a mortgage to repair it but found the building society would charge extra interest to give me a loan. I mentioned this to Peter Preston and he offered me a £500 loan from the Guardian which I paid back from my salary – just in time to prevent the staircase collapsing.

In another instance rather the worse for wear  I foolishly remarked to the Tory housing minister, then John Stanley, that their divisive housing policies could lead to a breakdown in society  between rich and poor and end up with people kidnapping prominent people- citing  how would Michael Heseltine ( then Environment Secretary)  feel if someone kidnapped his daughter.

He interpreted that to mean that I knew someone in the IRA who would, contacted Heseltine, who called in Special Branch. An inspector rang the Guardian for my home telephone number and they refused to give it to him, saying they would contact me. When I got home later  ( no mobile phones then) and found the message I rang the inspector and convinced him I was no terrorist. ” I am glad you rang I was just about to send someone around to batter down your door”, he said.

The next day Peter Preston wrote to Heseltine pointing out that there was difference between a Guardian reporter having strong views and being a terrorist and sought an apology for his over reaction. Heseltine declined to apologise saying he had to protect his family.

What neither of them knew is that our baby sitter for the night was a lovely middle aged Irish lady, who had a very strong Sligo accent. If she had answered the phone to special branch, I will leave it to your imagination to think what would have happened next.

PP was  a amazing innovator. Others like David McKie, in his Guardian obituary, have much more eloquently explained the huge innovations he introduced to the design and content of the paper during his long editorship.

But on a  straightforward reporting level he thought out of the box. In 1986 I was very nearly poached by the Independent, offering me first social services correspondent and then Whitehall editor. He responded with the idea of sending me down to the lobby with a brief that had never been held by anyone – to use Parliament as a base to investigate MPs, lobbyists and Whitehall – and not follow the day to day lobby events.

Never a supporter of the Westminster club,  I think he really put me down there as an unguided missile to see what would happen. And when I started to get into trouble he always backed me.

He took on the Privileges Committee  when they were considering removing me from Parliament over the leaking of the National Audit Office memo which revealed the ” Rover sweeteners” scandal – the  secret bung given to then British Aerospace for buying ailing British Leyland.

He also neatly diverted Neil Hamilton MP – when he wrote to him a year before the ” cash for questions” scandal broke in 1994 – warning him about my activities and saying there was ” nothing worth printing ” about the story. The story which started when Mohammed al Fayed  inadvertently revealed to him he had been paying MPs was one of his crowning glories.

He will always be  my hero – despite the Sarah Tisdall scandal  where he was forced by the courts to give away a then unknown source – because he backed reporting and was interested in news. His reaction to a good story was normally one word ” terrific”. When he said that you knew the story was home and dry.