The campaign by the Murdoch press to push back against the prospect of Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry has developed not necessarily to their advantage, as the Sun’s deeply unpleasant editor Tony Gallagher has gone in to bat for the mafiosi and found himself comprehensively bowled by a straight delivery from Sarah Montague, one of the hosts on the BBC’s Radio 4 Today Programme. Put directly, Gallagher was caught lying.
Tony Gallagher - in search of another fire extinguisher
Tone appeared before Ms Montague’s inquisition yesterday morning, where he asserted that the cost of Leveson Part 1 had been £50 million. Ms Montague, being in possession of the correct figure, which was definitely NOT £50 million, but just £5 million, gently corrected him. But admitting that the Sun is wrong, and the BBC is right, cannot be allowed, and so Tone attempted to bluff his way out of it.
The £50 million figure, he declared, was a “consensus”. This excuse was ridiculous enough to have been considered for the Monty Python dead parrot sketch, alongside “it was a pun”, “beautiful plumage”, and “tired and shagged out after a long squawk”. It was simply untrue - unless you put your decimal point in the wrong place.
What to do? Simples. As befits any inmate of the Baby Shard bunker, the solution was for Gallagher to deploy his titanic intellect in order to assert his charismatic presence and blow away these mere pygmies. Failing that, he would resort to doing what he does at work, bullying, lying and being generally abusive and obnoxious. This he did.
Former England Rugby stalwart Brian Moore asked Tone if he didn’t know the cost, or wilfully exaggerated it. “It's a well known figure - one used by your own paper if you got beyond the sports pages” sneered The Great Man, adding “Figure is very widely reported, no reason to doubt it”. More than one liar in the press? Knock me down with a feather!
Then Gallagher made a mistake - he admitted that he was being seriously economical with the actualité. “I gather it's the cost of Leveson plus the assorted fruitless police investigations”. But if it’s the cost of Leveson plus something else, then it isn’t just the cost of Leveson, is it? Moreover, as my good friend Peter Jukes pointed out, “Fruitless? 13 Convictions for phone hacking (including 5 editors) 30 plus for bribing public officials”.
And when he turned to forthright abuse in response to Evan Harris of campaigning group Hacked Off, Tone really let the cat out of the bag: “Actually, am only quoting published costs of entire thing: £43.5mn. Don't forget: this is a career for Harris, a clapped out politico”. Whatever else Harris may or not be, he ain’t “clapped out”. And Gallagher has admitted he took the (wrong) £43.5 million figure and rounded it up to £50 million.
That would be the £43.5 million which he only got by adding in the cost of several items that were not part of Leveson. The actual figure is £5.4 million. Tony Gallagher has his pants on fire, and not for the first time. But don’t mock him - he runs four miles of a morning.
Pity he can’t run a half decent newspaper as well. Or break the habit of a lifetime and tell the truth. Here’s your arse on a plate, Tone. You’re welcome.