Jon Gaunt’s attempt to overturn a decision by Ofcom to uphold a complaint against him on the grounds that this constituted an ‘unlawful interference with his freedom of expression’ has been dismissed by the Court of Appeal in ruling which shows that the current Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, possesses a deliciously ironic mastery of the art of deadpan understatement:
39, When considering whether it offended paras 2.1 and/or 2.3 of the Code, the interview must be considered as a whole and in its context, as both Ofcom and the Divisional Court said. It would be wrong to focus too hard individually, let alone exclusively, on
(i) Mr Gaunt’s specific insults, such as “health Nazi” or “ignorant pig”,
(ii) his hectoring tone and bullying manner,
(iii) his persistent interruptions,
(iv) his failure to let Mr Stark develop any argument or even answer the points made by Mr Gaunt, including telling Mr Stark to “shut up”, or
(v) his treating more than one innocuous comment by Mr Stark as an insult.
All these points must be considered together, together with the fact that the interview was permitted to run on for many minutes after it had become clear that it had got out of hand.
For reasons I can’t quite fathom myself, Lord Neuberger’s carefully crafted exposition of Gaunt’s standard interview technique reminds me of nothing more or less than one of the finest pieces of political satire ever to emerge from the pen of the late, great, Peter Cook; the biased judge sketch. I’m not, of course, suggesting that Lord Neuberger was in any sense biased in drafting this part of the Court’s ruling, merely that his deadpan ‘delivery’ of what is an utterly devastating and comprehensive demolition of Gaunt’s conduct during the interview rather echoes the tone of Cook’s satirical masterpiece.
And, of course, it gives me a perfect excuse to include a video of Cook is action in one of the great comedy sketches of all time.