back to article Liberty director threatens to sue Burnham over 'tawdry smear'

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti has demanded a grovelling apology from culture secretary Andy Burnham, following a bizarre reference by the latter to "late night, handwringing, heart-melting phone calls" between Chakrabarti and David Davis, formerly Tory home affairs spokesman, latterly libertarian pin-up. This, says …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    New Eupemism!

    "handwringing" Not heard it called that before.

    <--- The ...err... "handwringing" icon..

  2. david wilson


    However much of a tool Burnham may be, it's hard to see how he was doing anything other than making comments designed to tease, gently ridicule or annoy, and that does rather seem like typical politics of the schoolyard variety.

    It's hard to imagine someone reading what he said and thinking "That *must* mean Davis and Chakrabati are actually making the beast with two backs!", unless that person is also extraordinarily thick.

    If Burnham was trying to wind her up, it would seem he's succeeded.

  3. Dazed and Confused

    Damned if you do, damned if you don't

    Since they are clearly to cowardly to fight to go in front of the voters over this issue.

    Picking this fight might be something that they find it harder to avoid.

    Members of the Government don't believe in apologising because that would entail accepting responsibility for their own actions and clearly they can not been seen to accept responsibility.

    On the other hand if you get sued it's very hard to avoid a fight.

    So go for it I say.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hardly character assassination

    the el-reg sidenote, anyway. I mean it boils down to "he was drunk a lot at university"




  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it just me?

    Sorry, but I fail to see anything wrong here, I think a bit more context is required.

    He could have meant that she was applying a bit of emotional pressure in the cause of Liberty with a mildly sarcastic overtone.

    He could also have been imply they were having an intimate relationship, but I doubt it.

    Mind you do lawyers understand concepts like irony, sarcasm and humour, probably not.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    She won't sue, this is for PR only. She is clever and knows the systems is weighted against her, if she's suing as an individual she will run out of money, if Liberty are supporting this she'll be accused of wasting their funds.

    IT angle ? Hackers not being deported to the US and Liberty's support I guess...

  7. andy gibson

    He's from Leigh

    That town is an absolute shit hole with zero culture. I know, I had the misfortune to live there for eight months.

  8. Anonymous Coward


    What's probably more interesting than Shami Chakrabarti's threat to sue, is how Andy Burnham knows anything about David Davis' telephone calls in the first place. See the excellent SpyBlog piece about it:

  9. Pete James

    fancy a brew?

    Am I the only one that finds it bit ironic for the Chakrabati, a head of a libertarian movement, to be so intolerant of some flippant remarks? Generous helping of hypocrisy please. With onion gravy.

    On the other hand, why does Burnham find it curious that David Davis could be a supporter of capital punishment and against extended detainment? The two are not really related; Davis resigned about the issue of liberty, not about sentencing, and seeing as this Government is determined impose presumed guilt upon us maybe this is a rather second rate attempt to fuddle issues. Nothing new from the current administration then.,

    Sounds like a load of old handbags to me. Chakka's just spotted a way to make someone grovel, no way is she really that bothered about some halfwit Minister talking out of his backside.

  10. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Let the Lady speak ...

    Come on, El Reg, ask the Money Shot question..... Posted Friday 20th June 2008 11:03 GMT:-) It is surely the only one which has the definitive answer.

    It is valid.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's not the accusation that they're shagging.

    The accusation is that Davis is unduly influenced by Shami flirting with him.

    As both require reputations of honesty (Less so Davis, being a parliamentary candidate) it's defamatory. It's in print, so it would be libel.

    >She is clever and knows the systems is weighted against her...

    In a libel case it is for the libellous one to prove their accusations are founded, in short it's weighted against the defence. This is often mentioned as a problem of British libel law, such that when people can pick to try a libel case here rather than somewhere else, they do so.

    Besides she's a lawyer, her husband's a lawyer they must know lawyers they can do it cheap.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What aspect of Mr. Burnham's college career does El Reg object to, the onion or the towel?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's enjoy him squirming

    This was an on-the-record interview and he's a former spindoctor, Burnham knew what he was doing when he mentioned Chakrabarti. Bringing her into the conversation was not necessary to make a point, but he did it anyway. he should apologise.

    Maybe she shouldn't have risen to the bait, but hell it's an opportunity to embarrass one of the government's more greasy members.

    What's especially revealing is that Burnham can't get it into his head that people can agree on some things and not others. Such is the android level of conformity in new Labour he fails to see that it's possible for Liberty and Davis to agree on surveillance and disagree on the death penalty. People like Burnham who have no opinions that haven't been put their by the whips shouldn't be allowed into the House of Commons as they do all of us a disservice.

  14. Luther Blissett

    @ AC 11.25 - see Harriet likes "frolic"

    > He could also have been imply they were having an intimate relationship, but I doubt it.

    > Mind you do lawyers understand concepts like irony, sarcasm and humour, probably not.

    In the sense your point requires, lawyers do, but it's politicians qua holders of public office who don't. History shows their official understanding of humour is limited to putting their foot in their (own) mouths. (Wilson's "Reds under the bed" running gag from the 1960s is not an exception, because it was done on the electioneering stump and not in office). It is why authorizing the assassination of other politicians they do not like, etc must be kept secret - "I was only being ironic" does not wash as an excuse, regardless of postmodernity ("I was being fashionably ironic"?). It is why saying "Burnham is a clown" is not libellous, regardless of how he dresses out of hours. So there is a prima facie case here, and I hope it sees Burnham shafted, though on current form exceptions to the nu labouring clique's pussilanimity should not be expected.

  15. Mark

    Who cares?

    I can't really see much wrong with the remarks, but then who cares? If it entails dragging an especially offensive NuLabour wallah through the courts for a touch of humble pie consumption, let that trusty sword of British justice smite where it may.

    It gets scary when a tory's view on civil liberties sounds attractive.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Open Mouth, Insert Foot

    Another NuLabour attempt to divert attention from something that just blew up in their faces - I love it!

    If he'd kept his mouth shut, El Reg wouldn't have mentioned this and I'd probably never have heard about it (despite an interest in British politics)...

    Instead we have another example of the way the current Government view "their" people - only this time the target is in a position to do something about it!

    I can't wait to see how Godrun Brown and the Culture Secretary (try to) squirm their slimy way out of this, and their answer to her comment about not debating such things in public (or, indeed, at all...)

    I hope she prosecutes him to the full extant of the law... at least, until they re-write it to stop her...

  17. david wilson

    System weighted against her?

    How *could* someone realistically sue for a comment which is basically on the same intellectual level as:

    "Ooooh! You *spoke* to him/her! That must mean they're your *boy/girlfriend*! Nah nah na nah nah!"

    The correct response seems to be to either an obviously much better put-down, or to tell the person to grow up.

    Doing a lawyer's equivalent of saying "You take that back or I'll tell my dad on you!" just seems *more* likely to make people wonder if some raw nerve had been accidentally hit upon.

  18. Tim
    Dead Vulture


    As a guess (mostly based on the amount of make-up our Culture Club secretary wears) I wouldn't be surprised if he was just jealous - of Shami. DD is, after all, a strong, principled, ruggedly handsome bull of a man who is more than capable of giving Andy Burnham the spanking of his life with his tough, SAS-killer's hands. Not that I would want to be seen casting aspersions on a serving government minister, however effeminate and limp of wrist he may be.

    (Sorry to everyone who read this and now feels as sick as I do at that image. I'm horrified that I was even able to write it down.)

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    So a government minister knows what's being said in a phone convo between the director of a non-profit and an MP. I guess this means that Wilson Doctrine is truly dead and buried along with the privacy of the rest of us. I hope Chakrabati sues these scumbags for every penny she can get.

    We're all truly fucked.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    She should sue for that

    She's a liberal lefty politically correct hand wringing menace, not just a hand wringer. They really should get it right next time.

  21. Nordrick Framelhammer


    I didn't see what Italian suppositries has to do with ths

  22. brainwrong


    I recall seeing an interwiew with Chakrabarti, on the day that Davis resigned, where she stated that she had spoken to Davis the previous night, after he had spoken with David Cameron. It's quite possible she also mentioned about trying to talk him out of it.

    I don't think the bugging thing is needed to explain Andy Burnham's remarks.

  23. brainwrong

    @ Nordrick Frankelhammer


    I always thought it was a Japanese butt-plug.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @ Jealous? by Tim


    Tim, that's hilarious

  25. shay mclachlan


    Anyone intentionally defiling their beer by putting an onion in it is obviously unfit to hold public office.

  26. Jimmy

    Andy Burnham - the authentic voice of Nulabour.

    Burnham is on record as making the following statements:

    "The individual has no right to anonymity."

    "The state has a right to know who you are."

    And when Blair resigned to count his millions and save the world Burnham came in bang on cue with "I was a Blairite, and now I am a Brownite."

    Any contest between this boot licking smear merchant and someone with the probity and integrity of Shami Chakrabarti is laughable. Go on girl, give him a bloody good slap.

    All ACs be warned: Andy Pandy is coming to get you.

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