Not-so-black Wednesday for Lamont with two libel victories

By Dominic Ponsford

The Evening Standard has agreed to pay libel damages and apologised over a story which suggested former Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont sought to insult James Major by giving him a copy of his autobiography.

The libel claim followed a story in the Londoner’s Diary section of the Standard on 3 February headlined “Lamont comes cheap”. The story claimed that a first edition of Lord Lamont’s memoirs, In Office, had been put up for sale by bookseller Richard Thornton, and that this copy contained a handwritten dedication: “For James and Emma many congratulations on your forthcoming marriage Norman Lamont.”

The article stated that Lamont had given the book to James Major and Emma Noble as a wedding present. It said the memoirs contained criticisms of James’s father, John Major, and suggested that by giving the couple the book as a wedding present, the Standard deliberately sought to insult and offend them.

In a statement in open court, due to be read out today, Lamont’s lawyer David Price is to say: “My Lord, the truth is that the claimant did not give the couple a copy of his memoirs either as a wedding present or at all. Accordingly, there was no basis to accuse the Claimant of cheap and vindictive conduct.

“The claimant was hurt and embarrassed by these false allegations. He was not prepared to allow them to remain unchallenged and notified the defendant of his claim for libel on the day that the article was published.”

Lamont has also successfully sued the Oxford Companion to 20th Century British Politics over an entry which wrongly claimed that Lamont had once “anxiously asked a policeman to make him a way through traffic” on the basis that he was the “rote minister responsible for the British Nuclear Button”. Another statement in open court was also due to be read out in relation to this today.

Photo: REUTERS/Russell Boyce 

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