You'll have heard by now of Cliff Stanford's fall from grace – a fall he continues to strongly contest. Those of us who've known the man since his days with the Commodore Pet find very little of the story surprising: he is not a chap to shy from his chosen course no matter how abrasive others may find it, and once you've made powerful enemies then bad things may happen. Our gobs were utterly smacked, however, when the reports of him pleading guilty filtered out of the courtroom, and it was with a certain sense of relief that we learned the truth of the matter – he'd been cornered by the judge and was looking at serious stir if he did anything else. The man is appealing, which further fortifies our sense of normality.
Our new reporter, Tom Espiner, had the joy of attending the court – and a most dramatic event it was too, quite worthy of Tarantino. Tory corruption, blackmail, death and hitch-hiking were all involved – Cliff's co-defendant was in such dire straits financially he'd had to get lifts down from Scotland, while the blackmail charges had had to be dropped because of the demise "not in suspicious circumstances" of a Mr Green. By telling the BBC about Shirley Porter's hidden cash, Cliff had helped Westminster Council get ten million quid from the lady – but it was his interception of the emails that got him the information that got him into court.
Tom was particularly taken by the thespian side of things – the defence lawyer really did intone, and the judge took straightforward pleasure in putting the fear of God and the judiciary into all concerned. As the legendary Pamela Jones of Groklaw says, you want to avoid courts at all costs – you never know what will happen. But if it's someone else on the receiving end of the might and majesty of the law, it can be most entertaining.
Cliff got on the blower to me afterwards and was characteristically blunt and forthright while touching on matters far too scandalous to repeat outside a courtroom: let's just say he's got no intention of giving up and his campaign to clear his name is underway. "It's a bit strange not having any support structure", he said. "I can't use Max for this one" — referring to glory days of having Max Clifford handle some of his more outré extravagances during the pop star days — "so I guess I'll have to set up a mailing list".
We'll report on his progress as we intercept the results.
Meanwhile, Doonesbury is back in the Guardian, with an entire page given over to the five strips that should have run this week. Of course, they are rubbish. Trudeau is having one of his uninspired runs where the characters just sit around and watch the television, and the effect is more like a Warhol pop-art print than the pungent, character-led satire which marks the strip out as something special. But we won. Oh, and The Guardian has shamelessly nicked the Reg's airbase story. Don't you love it when that happens?