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Friday, 11 September 2009

The Wholly Libel?

Eventually it came to pass at the start of this week: Tory MP and Zimbabwe Moment experiencing blogger Nadine Dorries had writs served for libel on Pa Broon’s former hatchet man Damian McBride and all round total prat Derek “Dolly” Draper. She is also, apparently, after Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell.

But what is the alleged libel? What we know is that Draper was sent an email by McBride which made an allegation about Ms Dorries’ personal conduct. Neither party published the email, and publishing is supposed to be what libel is about. The contents of the email were finally published by the News of the World, but the paper is not being sued.

And what O’Donnell has to do with this is a mystery: perhaps, as Cabinet Secretary, there is a suggestion that he is responsible for what political appointees get up to when on-line within Downing Street. The more I look at this one, the more questions I see.

If nothing was published by any of the defendants, then how can there have been a libel? Is this action being pursued on a no-win, no-fee basis (because – and Ms Dorries will find this out if she doesn’t already know, libel actions are expensive – ask Richard Desmond)? Is there an expectation that McBride and Draper will settle quickly in order to avoid the expense of defence?

My feeling is that McBride (who has sensibly kept schtum so far) and Draper (who, not sensibly, hasn’t, though only to assert that nothing was published by him) will sit tight and let Ms Dorries’ lawyers come at them. It could be expensive, it could be messy, and it certainly won’t be the fun that some who have been getting involved in it might imagine.

But for those of us who treat politics as a spectator sport, it will provide capital entertainment.

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