Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Attorney General: Who Knew What and When?

Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Attorney General said of the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith a few months ago: "I regard the Attorney General as a person of impecable integrity." He repeated this when I interviewed him on 18 Doughty Street a couple of weeks ago. Just because he has had an extra marital affair does not make him a bad man, or a man unfit to hold his office. However, when the affair was with a high flying barrister whose career he was in a position to help, it is legitimate to ask questions. Furthermore, the affair was going on while he was giving advice on the legality of the Iraq war. Inexplicably, he changed his mind on the legality of the war overnight. He had told the PM it could be illegal, and yet 48 hours later told the Cabinet the reverse. At he time it was thought that Lord Falconer, the then Lord Chancellor, had persuaded him of the error of his ways. I understand that Goldsmith's affair with Kim Hollis was common knowledge in the upper echelons of the legal profession and would probably therefore have been known by Falconer. Is it beyond the realms of possibility for Falconer to have hinted at his knowledge at the time to Goldsmith?

And are we really to believe that the Prime Minister knew nothing about the affair, as he told Andrew Marr this morning? I find it highly unlikely. With his wife's contacts I find it incredible. And if the security services didn't know about it and hadn't passed it on, it begs the question as to what they were doing.

There is a legitimate public interest justification for further inquiries here.

32 comments:

Howard said...
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Anonymous said...

Iain, I totally agree with you. It's not the fact that the AG was having an affair, it's the fact that he was having an affair with someone over whose career he had influence, aka John Prescott and his secretary. In the private sector such behaviour would mean instant dismissal.

Anonymous said...

Bollocks would it mean instant dismissal!!!

The vast majority of affairs happen with work colleagues of some sort! Whether thats co-workers, bosses, secretaries, people from other parts of your industry, people you met at a conference!

This isn't confined only to the public, government or law sectors!!

pisspoor said...

And when did anyone ever criticise Churchill for being an alcoholic war time leader? THAT didn't have any affect on his job! Why would a bit of hanky panky!!

jafo said...

Indeed it would mean instant dismissal in the private sector - and if we had been reading this story about the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police I think he would be clearing his desk right now.

To suggest that Tony and Cherie Blair did not know is to insult our intelligence. If she actually didn't know, she must be a really really rubbish barrister with no friends at all in the legal profession.......... Can't really believe barristers are too high and mighty to gossip, somehow. The ones I've met certainly weren't.

It definitely casts a new slant on his sudden about-face over the Iraq War advice, I feel.

Anonymous said...

Iain, bit of a moan here - 18 Doughty St website needs sorting - I always have problems with it, on more than one computer when other sites, including audio video work fine. 18D. st site is slow and painful!

Londontory said...

From what I've heard about the Blunkett affairs, I thought that the PM would know straight away if there was a situation that might lead to blackmail. Was Goldsmith blackmailed by the government into giving dodgy legal advice? Was he told a la Robin Cook to decide there and then?

Liz said...

Nonsense. How on earth can the AG assist in her career? Her next step from being a QC is promotion to Judge. An independent panel determines this - not the AG.

Anonymous - I do not know what sector you work in but I know of no company that would dismiss an employee because of an extra marital relationship. Can you quote the appropriate law for dismissal on these grounds?

mitch said...

Although and call me old fashioned but if he will cheat on his wife(break his vows)then cheating his country would be a small step(breaking his vows of office).I do not trust people who do either.A semi secret affair leaves him open to
if not blackmail then "pressure" and thats what this smells of.

shergar said...

I wonder what the soldiers make of it. Particularly the ones who were pursued by the CPS at huge public cost and exonerated. Like Trooper Kevin Williams and Col Jorge Mendonca.

jailhouselawyer said...

It's not just a question of who knew what and when. But also, why has it only just emerged in print when the story is 2 years old?

Clearly, Dominic Grieve does not understand the meaning of impeccable integrity. Firstly, because any integrity that Lord Goldsmith may have had possessed prior to his altering his advice was lost at this stage. The legal position and the political position are at opposite ends. Secondly, where is the integrity when cheating on one's wife? Unless Dominic Grieve is able to understand the difference between right and wrong, he is not fit for purpose as the Shadow Attorney General let alone becoming the Attorney General if the Tories get into power.

Because QCs and judges are appointed upon recommendations, it would be quite wrong to appoint on the basis of whether anyone is any good in bed. I feel that the Bar Council should be asking Kim Hollis a few questions. And, we ought to know exactly why did Lord Goldsmith alter his advice and whether Lord Falconer had any input into this. I don't think a bit of totty on the side was the lever. As Iain points out it was common knowledge amongst those in the upper echelons of the legal profession, therefore hardly a bargaining tool for Lord Falconer. Purely on a personal note, I would be interested to discover how Lord Goldsmith's wife discovered this unfaithfulness.

If Tony Blair did not know, why did he not know? We already know that Tony Blair is a liar, therefore we can assume that he did know and that he is just telling yet another lie in his denial to Andrew Marr. There is a legitimate public interest justification for further inquiries. Even if I feel that that is not the reason for Iain's interest.

IanP said...

Of more interest should be 'who' leaked this and the story of the DPP to the press at a time when the CPS is about to make decisions over Yates of the Yards enquiries into No.10

mark williams said...

Whatever the current social norms, people of "impeccable character" do not have extra-marital affairs. End of discussion as Mr Milliband would say.

Colin D said...
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Anonymous said...

ianp - Yates' file has not gone to the CPS yet, so what is your point?

Observer said...

Her next step from being a QC is promotion to Judge. An independent panel determines this - not the AG.

Actually i thought it went to the JAC and required references. One reason that Barristers have an easier time than Solicitors is that the former have appeared before Crown Court and High Court Judges......I doubt a good word from the A-G would be harmful to a career.

I simply find it a very louche culture of self-satisfaction in this government - it is good that noone respects any member of it or is above suspecting that barristers cook deals with the CPs to sell out clients

Anonymous said...

senior tories are on very, very shakey ground when they start making people's private affairs into a political story.

Fib Dem said...

The AG put himself into a position of being vulnerable to threats.

He exercised poor judgement which is not what his office requires of its holder.

A man of real integrity would resign.

He has not.

Mr Greive is too saintly for this work.

judith said...

I'm not bothered about Goldsmith having an affair, but if Blair really didn't know about it, he's being let down by his Private Office and his Whips - and it's far more interesting that 2 Blairites get their private business aired right now - wonder who's talking to the Press to blacken the PM by association?

Dr.Doom said...

If shagging on the side makes someone 'suspect'in the eyes of the public in a public role and is therefore a threat to National Security, then it should have been me that was hanged in Baghdad and not Saddam.

Doom

Mad Bad Angus said...

My opinion of the AG has risen considerably. My views accord with the French view of politicians - any man who doesn't have freestyle bonking as hobby is deeply suspicious. Lang may his lum reek wi' ither folk's coal!

Anonymous said...

Oh Iain, I wish you would understand that "begs the question" does not mean the same as "raises the question"

Iain Dale said...

Blame it on my comprehensive education.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

jafo [12.01 pm] Yes, the Bar lives by gossip. "It's what we do."

Actually, gossip is not such a bad thing. You get to know who you can trust.

morrocanroll said...

For all the labour sympathisers on here, a simple quiz:

your boot on turn other foot now

best regards

a working class conservative

Maggie Thatcher Fan said...

Anonymous said...
Oh Iain, I wish you would understand that "begs the question" does not mean the same as "raises the question"

2:43 PM


Anonymous, Methinks you ought to have put a full stop at the end of your sentence.

verity said...

Anonymous 12:12 - I have been complaining about reception from 18 Doughty St for a couple of months now. I couldn't even watch it on Friday because it just said Buffering. It didn't even tell you what percentage was buffered, so you had no idea whether it was doing something or not. I quite after two minutes and tried again. Again, nada.

Then the sound quality varies so badly. It's OK when Rachel North is inaudible because silence from her is much to be desired, but there are people like Croydonian and Dizzy and a few others who I really want to hear.

Neil Craig said...

This depends on the assumption that he could have changed his legal advice on the legalityof war only under pressure of blackmail. There is the possiblity he was merely a pusilanimous cur needing only to be firmly told what his opinion was.

It is noticeable that the government have implied that they never even bothered to ask whether bombing Yugoslavia was illegal - where the case was much clearer, the bad way - & he made no complaint.

The Tories are in a non-credible position too here Iain, having said that Blair should have told them there were no WMDs, the belief in which is the only thing that could make the war legal, & then they would have happily voted for it.

Paul said...

There is a legitimate public interest justification for further inquiries here.

What's more important, Goldsmith shagging some old bint, or if the future Prime Minister of the Nation took drugs?

Really who cares?

Penlan said...

Traditionally,the A-G was an eminent QC who sat on the Govt benches in the Commons.Labour had some of distinction in the past-Shawcross,Elwyn Jones and Sam Silkin.Even the luckless Hastings was one of the greatest advocates of his day.Now we have Goldsmith,personally picked by Blair and placed in the Lords to act as his private Counsel when we now learn that he was potentially compromised personally and seemingly leant on over his Iraq advice.I doubt whether there is a case on cash for honours but with the way Blair has abused the constitution,can anyone now safely accept Goldsmith 's Opinion?

Anonymous said...

Liz said...

"I know of no company that would dismiss an employee because of an extra marital relationship."

Don't know about any law Liz but I have, in the past, run across companies where it was against company rules to bonk a colleague. For example, I had a girlfriend who worked for a management accountancy firm where this applied. Had the company known that she had previously been bedding a colleague they would both have been dismissed. Plus, the bloke's wife would probably have been a bit miffed.

On the other hand, in most companies sex amongst colleagues in more or less the norm. Not long ago I came across a supervisor whose main contribution to the company was, apart from sleeping at his desk, to employ on his staff chicks who he expected to, and usually did, bonk.


Mad Bad Angus said...

"My views accord with the French view of politicians - any man who doesn't have freestyle bonking as hobby is deeply suspicious."

Quite right. Have to laugh at these straight-laced contributions from some people. I bet they're blokes married to prodigiously promiscuous babes.

Anonymous said...

So whats the point in saying anything - anyone with a bit of brain knows full well that this lot are the most greedy, hypocritical , thieving load of crooks to govern this country for generations - do you think any of them will take any notice of what mere citizens think?