Belfast Telegraph

Why Hislop’s no hero for revelling in exposure of Marr’s infidelity

By Jane Graham

Am I the only person feeling nauseous at the idea we should all be hailing Ian Hislop as a hero and vilifying Andrew Marr as a worthless creep? I can, of course, understand how this set of circumstances arose.

One: Andrew Marr had an extra-marital affair — that never goes down particularly well with the public.

Two: he used legal means to cover it up — a cardinal sin for the public’s most righteous representatives on earth, the popular press.

Three: Ian Hislop (below), whose mouthpiece Private Eye previously launched a challenge against Marr’s gagging order, has been doing the rounds attacking Marr for his hypocrisy and presenting himself as a journalistic Braveheart, intrepid upholder of principle and truth.

None of it sits right with me. As I wrote last week, I have no truck with the argument that the masses are entitled to know the sexual habits of celebrities, and I — gasp! — include politicians and journalists in that. Marr hasn’t made a name for himself peddling gossip about who’s having who in Westminster. That’s never been his style, not when he was editor of the Independent and not now as presenter of his Sunday morning talk show.

Hislop’s insistence that it was “rank” of Marr to take out an injunction while he himself made a living “asking politicians about failures in judgment” is deliberately misleading. Marr has always been a journalist of integrity. The “failures of judgment” he interrogates MPs about involve the economy, motivation for foreign policy, attitudes towards different social groups in society — ie Things Which Actually Affect the Public. Hislop’s sly implication that he hid an affair while grilling politicians about their own bedroom antics is distastefully devious.

I also disagree with the common assumption that every person who has an affair is evil and |has surrendered their right \[Michael Ford\]— and their entirely innocent family’s right — to any kind of dignified privacy. There are many reasons why people have affairs, often deeply complicated.

I know a few couples for whom the love has clearly died, who are honourably keeping it officially together for their children. I can also think of a few spouses |who are routinely treated |with undisguised contempt by their partners, and I often wonder why they’re not out there actively seeking an affair with someone who treats them like a human being.

On the other hand, there are cold, selfish cads who sleep easy while lying to their trusting families every day — but we don’t have much evidence that Andrew Marr is one of those.

In fact, affair aside, Marr has acted as decently as any man could. He offered to resign from the BBC and his offer was refused. When his ex-mistress announced she was pregnant he agreed to pay a generous regular maintenance sum without requesting a DNA test (seven years later he discovered the child wasn’t his). He took legal steps to protect his wife and children from public humiliation and misery.

It’s not a huge leap for me to forgive Andrew Marr — but, call me twisted, I don’t regard the man revelling in his embarrassment and his family’s upset as ‘the hero of the hour’ as one paper described Ian Hislop this week.

To me, the Have I Got News for You panellist and self-appointed moral guardian seems a horribly smug little chap — but there may be deeply-rooted emotional reasons for his personality so I fear it would be unfair of me to judge him.

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