Andrew Marr’s hypocrisy (not a trace of schadenfreude here, honest)

It’s been one of the worst-kept secrets in the media, and today Andrew Marr finally admitted he was one of the 30 people who’ve taken out a super-injunction to prevent reports of their private life being made public.

The BBC interviewer’s legal action dates back to 2008, and has been credited with popularising the use of super-injunctions, which not only prevent reporting of allegations, but also prevent the injunction being reported. Today’s Guardian reports:

Marr said he felt “uneasy” and “embarrassed” about the use of the high court injunction, which he won in 2008 to suppress reports of an extramarital affair. He said the use of the so-called rich man’s gag “seems to be running out of control” and said he would no longer seek to prevent the story being published.

Marr’s decision to go public comes after Private Eye launched a challenge to the injunction last week. “I did not come into journalism to go around gagging journalists. Am I embarrassed by it? Yes. Am I uneasy about it? Yes,” Marr told the Daily Mail.

This image shows Google’s predictive search returns for ‘Andrew Marr’: I think it’s fair to say the cat was pretty much out of the bag.

Ordinarily, I would have sympathy for Mr Marr. I don’t care about his private life, and he has every right to protect his family from untoward intrusion.

But there’s a problem: his failure to extend that equivalent courtesy to others, most notably when he took the decision to question Gordon Brown live on TV about whether he used prescription pills to treat depression, an inaccurate allegation for which there was no credible source, but had been given some oxygen on a few right-wing blogs. (For the record, I’d previously rejected running the story on Lib Dem Voice because there was no evidence to support it.)

It was a genuinely shocking moment, when seemingly respectable political journalism descended into the gutter. As I blogged at the time, That Andrew Marr question: wrong, wrong, wrong.

That Mr Marr then chose to attack bloggers who, he said, lacked proper journalistic standards struck me as more than a bit hypocritical. As I blogged at the time, Andrew Marr: a little bit of a hypocrite. It’s an article which appears to be drawing in quite a few new readers to the site today.

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  • No, I’m sorry, this is self interest on the part of the money-hungry media and nothing else. I have zero sympathy. Indeed, if the press would actually go back to the disinterested presentation of events, rather than digging into people’s private lives and throwing muck then maybe there would be no need for people to go to the courts.

    Granted, the treatment of Brown was a disgrace (and every credit by the way for not running the story). But as much as Marr deserves condemnation for his professional conduct, it does not mean that his entire private life, and speculation about it, is fair game.

    What’s worse is that the media seem to be spinning that injunctions carry an inference of guilt. Maybe people need injunctions to be ‘super’ because to reveal the person would carry with it inferences. Suppose the McCanns had got an injunction at the height of the vile speculation about them. To say, ‘we have a story, it is about this family, but we can’t tell you what it is,’ is more or less ringing the bell.

    Andrew Marr’s private might be of interest to some of the public, but it is not in the public interest. The media do not have a right to make money by hounding people – they brought this on themselves.

  • @Duncan
    Sorry I must disagree. If journalists want to report on every aspect of public figures lives I for one would think they are equally open to the same tactics. I wonder how many of their lives live up to the false standards to which they hold others. I hope the next time he asks a particulalry ill judged question, such as that to Brown, the interviewee retorts by bringing this up.

    It’s a case of what goes around comes around.

  • Steve Way – OK, but how far do you take, ‘public figure.’ Take the McCann example again – were they public figures? And even if we decide that a person is a, ‘public figure,’ that still leaves them with an entitlement to privacy. Certainly those people they associate with should not be, ‘public figures,’ simply by virtue of knowing someone else.

    What about this – a company who have not been found guilty of any crime are the subject of a campaign. The company takes out an injunction, and also makes it, ‘super,’ because to reveal the name of the company would tacitly say what the story is. Is it in the public interest to have a company’s name dragged through the media gutter?

    Whilst I certainly share your desire for greater standards from our dumbed down media, I am not going to sacrifice privacy at the altar of selling copy. ‘A load of people on the internet are speculating about person X,’ is not news. If the media don’t like injunctions they should start to publish actual news.

  • Bernard Salmon – Yes, my example was Trafigura. No one is suggesting not reporting on court proceedings, but AT THE TIME, they had not been found guilty of any crime.

    You suspect that injunctions are used to prevent wrongdoing (interesting that you do not use the word ‘crime’) becoming public. Maybe, I don’t know. But is a footballer’s private life news? Is it right to use it to sell papers? Is David Laws’ private life fair game? If I was having an affair, I guess that the people I work with and my friends would find it interesting, but that they are interested does not over rule privacy.

    That you can dismiss privacy as an, ‘airy-fairy notion,’ is by the way truly staggering.

  • @Duncan
    My point is purely aimed at the media. They glory in destroying peoples lives where there is little or no public interest yet in this case do not want the same treatment themselves. He wanted to expose a (false) facet of Gordon Browns personal life, and did so with little or no evidence. He deserves no protection for this hypocrisy and should receive exactly what he gives to others..

  • Steve Way – I, of course, appreciate your point which was well made.

    ‘He deserves no protection for this hypocrisy and should receive exactly what he gives to others..’

    Privacy is not for who you or I or newspaper editors decide is, ‘deserving,’ or (presumably), ‘undeserving.’ As fun as it is to watch the media class squirm, privacy has to be more than an airy-fairy notion.

  • One feels for prominient Guardian columist Jacky Ashley (Marr’s wife) but doesn’t this reflect rather badly on her as well?

  • Bernard Salmon – Perhaps there is a need to be a bit more precise here. As I understand it, Trafigura’s liability arose from a claim in the civil courts, not criminal. As I understand it, Trafigura have not been found guilty in any court and they have not done (as far as I know) anything illegal in the UK. The claim against ‘them’ was actually against some people they hired in Africa.

    The point is that by saying, ‘we have a story, but they took out an injunction,’ is ringing the bell. The point of the injunction is anonymity. Trafigura were within their legal rights. The morals, I will leave to others.

    Trafigura, as I said were not at the time of the media coverage guilty of anything and still are not as far as I understand it.

  • Bernard – AIUI the Trafigura case related to information which (they claim) is legally privileged (rather than about privacy). The idea that someone can seek legal advice on their position and that that advice cannot then be obtained and used against them is an old idea and I would suggest an important legal principle which secures a defendants rights.

    Furthermore on the Guardian’s own reporting of the case the Judge said – at the interim stage – that the evidence he had been shown was that there was no public interest in publishing it (not always the case for an interim injunction though the final decision on the merits had not yet been made.

    Whether the material is legally privileged hadn’t at the time been decided – that seems like a perfectly proper situation for an injunction. A lot of the fuss about Trafigura came because the Guardian deliberately (and it was a brilliant campaign technique) over egged the restriction to draw public attention to the issue. They could have resolved the parliamentary privilege issue by either returning to court or getting the consent of Trafigura’s lawyers – I think they chose a much cleverer approach in terms of pursuing their overall agenda.

    Super-injunctions are a legitimate tool to protect people. Are they overused and given out to readily? Possibly. But I’d be worried to see the concept disappear completely. That particularly applies to interim injunctions (which was the case in Trafigura) where the substance of the trial had not yet been heard.

    As Sam said to Josh in the West Wing “just because they make a lot of money doesn’t mean they lose their rights”
    (To which Josh responded – “You know I can’t believe they didn’t write a folk song about that”)

  • This is all very interesting but why am I not able to post any comments on the BBC news pages? Personally I suggest that Mr Marr is guilty of rank hypocrisy. I go further and suggest that someone that purports to seek the truth on a publicly funded national broadcast medium and behaves in this way, should resign.

  • Ah- now whether the law is absurd is a different matter 🙂

    If this was linked to a criminal matter then Trafigura’s case is even stronger. Situations where someone is condemned in a criminal matter by legally privileged information is a place we so do not want to start going to. It’s similar to using discussions with your solicitor as evidence against you.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 28th Apr '11 - 9:36am

    So what is actually being done to give people a proper right to privacy rather than having to try on ridiculous superinjunctions which appear to be pretty ineffective and are being used for other invalid purposes?

    My guess is that since it is the last thing that Mr Murdoch and co want to see is that the answer in the end will be absolutley nothing whatsoever, especially with this Government.

    “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

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