Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday, 8 March 2013

Ugly is as ugly does

I'm afraid thing have been rather quiet around here, largely thanks to a bad cold which has made it impossible to attempt anything more intellectually demanding than watching Top Gear.

Actually, even that proved too much yesterday evening, when I must have dozed off in the middle of their African Special quest for the source of the Nile or something and woke up blearily wondering exactly when they were going to get to Mordor with the Ring.

Blimey - Gandalf's let himself go a bit!

I realise, though, that I have as yet said nothing on the nefarious doings of Huhne and Pryce, a topic ripe for myriad speculations and reflections.

We've already seen the unusual spectacle of a jury falling by the wayside - the result, I wonder, of modern trends in crime novels and TV series? These days, thanks to the therapy habits of our transatlantic cousins, every fictional malefactor has their deepest psychological recesses mined and analysed for motive and mitigation.

In asking about the effects of Ms Pryce's religious beliefs, were the jury subconsciously erring into the well-trodden territory of the contemporary crime drama rather than a court of British law, seeking the sort of resolution they have come to expect in their nightly entertainment?

And just when you thought the rogues' gallery was full - hypocritical Huhne, his vindictive spouse and her current beau (I use the term very loosely indeed), Denis 'Laptops' MacShane - the fragrant Constance Briscoe rears her officially not-at-all-Ugly head again.

Ms Briscoe, you may recall, is the author of one of those real-life misery memoirs that are lapped up with unseemly relish by the sort of reader who claims to find them 'life-affirming' or 'inspirational'. In it, she described in lurid and lucrative detail the mental and physical abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of her mother.

This appears to have come as something of a shock to her siblings, who subsequently supported their mother in a legal battle to clear her name. After a hard-fought case over decades-old accusations made by her  barrister daughter, the mother lost and was left facing crippling legal bills.

But what's this? Prosecutors are apparently deciding whether to charge Constance Briscoe with lying to police over the Huhne-Pryce speeding points affair, casting more than a little doubt on her honesty in the face of official questioning, and some in high places seem to agree:
Mrs Briscoe-Mitchell was last year able to postpone demands for her to sell her house at a High Court hearing, pending the outcome of the court case against Chris Huhne and his former wife Vicky Pryce.
As a general exercise in loss of credibility, this case has it all. I am not unsympathetic to Ms Pryce's plight when faced with the emotional blackmail of her husband's potentially career-wrecking speeding points but, from then on, everyone involved in the case, Ms Briscoe included, seems to have acted with a startling lack of prudence, self-respect and dignity.

I wondered at the time of the Briscoe trial whether the unanimity of the jury in favour of the misery-memoir author owed more than a little to the popularity of the genre and to the Oprah Winfrey-inspired ethos that strict veracity was not as important as 'emotional truth', and that to quibble was somehow wrong and disrespectful - imagine a juror who shares the opinion expressed by one of Winfrey's viewers; "The fact squad; those people make me sick!"

If Mrs Briscoe-Mitchell does indeed take up her libel case again, it will be interesting to see whether changed times will bring a change of outcome. Though if the jury in Vicky Pryce's first trial is anything to go by, she'd probably better not hold her breath.


  1. Get better soon - it's a pain having a cold.

  2. A tot of brandy in your coffee helps. We've just recovered from colds. My wife and I started at the same time so a sneezer in Sainsbury's was the likely culprit.

    Or rum instead of brandy.


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