Matt Lucas has launched a legal action against the Daily Mail claiming that it invaded his privacy and intruded into his grief when his partner died. You might ask why he didn't bother to go through the Press Complaints Commission, rather than hiring lawyers. If you do ask, you don't know the Press Complaints Commission very well.
To remind you of the kind of thing the Mail did print - and the charming reader comments which were ever so sensitive - you might like to have a look at this post from the archives. And then, of course, there was the delightful way in which Jan Moir ripped into Stephen Gately, just hours after he had expired, mentioning Matt Lucas's dead partner as some kind of way of extrapolating a couple of incidents into a worldview of gay relationships. As ever, though, the rule with this kind of story is: don't let the corpse get cold.
Should Matt Lucas, as a celebrity, just accept that his life, from the moment he gets up and goes to the toilet in the morning, to putting himself to bed at night, be public property? Is it a case of being famous, and therefore having to live in a glass box? I am not so sure it is. I don't know if launching a legal action will solve anything, but then again, what damage would it do the Daily Mail to be hauled over the coals once again by the PCC? Not a great deal.
I can't help finding myself sympathising with these people who have had moments of intense grief and upset intruded into, even if the stories are accurate - but when they're just made-up nonsense with handily anonymous 'friends' doing the whispering behind backs, what then? Should Matt Lucas just have to 'suck it up' because he's famous? I don't think that's fair. Sure, celebrities have to accept a certain degree of prurient interest in their lives; but to have people make stuff up about you in the wake of a traumatic death of a loved one? That's a whole different kind of wrong.
Another recently-discovered corpse, which has caused a lot of excitement up and down Fleet Street, is that of Gareth Williams, a Government worker who was found dead the other day. Was he killed by the Taliban? Was he murdered by the Spooks? Was it a gay crime? Was it his 'sordid' private life? What was it? Who knows? But what we do know is that the speculation won't end - and happily for the press, the dead (especially dead non-celebrities) can't sue:
Williams's uncle, William Hughes, said it was possible the government or another agency might be attempting to discredit his nephew by orchestrating a smear campaign. He said Williams's parents, who live on Anglesey, were "very, very angry" about false reports over his private life. He said his nephew's reputation was being destroyed by the "horrible and completely fictitious accounts".
This is an important point to make. It's not just about the person concerned in a story, but those close to them, their families, and loved ones, and so on. A smear campaign, whether it comes from an official source or not, can be extremely traumatic, particularly if it latches on to a recently deceased person and if they're not around to defend themselves or prove the rumours wrong. Sure, it's legally safe, but you have to wonder whether it's entirely ethical or not, or if it matters whether it's true or not. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe if it's a juicy enough lie, that will deflect attention from everything else.
And so to the lolgay Tory minister. It's a sleazy business - not his personal life, but the actions of the hyenas prowling around him. Now I appreciate that by talking about this, it brings recognition to rumours that people might not have otherwise seen, but on the other hand, they are being spread by much more widely read publications than me, including national newspapers. I won't mention his name, but you don't have to be a bloody genius or anything to work out who it is.
Let's suppose he's gay or bisexual. Who gives a shit? He's not exactly Captain Homophobe, is he? There's no hypocrisy to speak of. Indeed, he was one of the prominent Tories who tried to make the Conservative Party more inclusive. So who cares what he does behind closed doors? Does it matter what he does with his penis, so long as he's not breaking the law? If the implication is that there's some impropriety about the people he's employing, then let's see evidence - let's not have childish giggling round the back of the fucking bike sheds.
That kind of muckspreading makes all bloggers and journalists look stupid, not just the ones who do it. I can't help remembering the same kind of 'nudge nudge' bollocks around the time that Peter Mandelson was outed; you kind of hope that people would be a bit less childish in the 21st century, but maybe we haven't really grown up all that very much.