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September 28, 2002

A Major Problem with Libel

It turns out that ex-Prime Minister John Major had a major affair during the 1980s on his climb to top office. Now, the real news is not in the gossip but remembering that when he was in office, Major wielded heavy-handed libel actions against newspapers that even speculated on his lack of fidelity.

In Britain, such actions are not a minor dispute over money compensation-- they involve the life and death destruction of news outlets. Back in 1993, the political magazine New Statesman reported gossip that Major was having an affair with a London caterer. Major responded by not only targeting the magazine but threatening distributors of the magazine. He also targetted a tabloid Scallywag as well. This article puts Britain's problems with libel in a bit more historical context.

I generally don't care about the private lives of politicians but one saving grace of the United States is that politicians can't use the libel laws the same way to intimidate the press. The hypocrisy of John Major just adds to that lesson.

Posted by Nathan at September 28, 2002 09:02 AM

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I'm not sure if it was the New Statesman but one left wing publication was sued and lost, after publishing a piece about the rumour and deciding reporting that it was FALSE. They had to pay a huge sum. Max S. has a good post about the police activity in DC yesterday,d

Posted by: D.Ghirlandaio at September 28, 2002 01:24 PM

I was editor of the New Statesman at the time. For anyone interested in reading the original article and how John Major's action almost bankrupted the magazine, the relevant articles are now on my website:


Posted by: Steve Platt at June 30, 2004 01:34 PM

Think simple. Learn different. Macinstruct.net

Posted by: Adrian at July 6, 2004 09:00 AM

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