Get ringside seats for a great commentariat celebrity death match in the offing: Dame Liz Forgan, queen of leftie arts luvvies and head Guardianista, versus Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail. Forgan, who chairs the Arts Council, has taken tremendous exception to being mocked last week by the Mail’s Quentin Letts.
She has duly had her Arts Council flunkeys write a legal threat to the Mail advising them that she is going to the Press Complaints Commission and that she was tempted to sue for libel because Letts’s piece “bordered on defamation”. The thing that really got Forgan angry was Letts’s description of Forgan’s “multicultural nomenklatura”. The Arts Council’s letter to the PCC, sent by the Council’s solicitor Sarah Bailey, asserts that this broke the editors’ code that the ethnicity of any individual should not be identified. It demands that Dacre and Letts issue “sincere and personal apologies” to the entire Arts Council board and senior management team for suggesting that they might have been token appointments who won their jobs on anything but open competition.
Part of Forgan’s case seems to be that she herself is not responsible for senior appointments at the Arts Council. This, Guido understands, has caused cackling laughter in the office of Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. His aides remember the terrible battle Forgan fought to try to stop the ex-Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley becoming an Arts Council member.
Letts, on hearing that the Arts Council claims that his piece was “grossly offensive”, responds: “I certainly hope it did border on defamation, because, by definition, that means it was not defamation. Did I intend to be rude to Dame Liz and her Guardian-loving friends at the Arts Council? You betcha!” Guido just wonders how much the Arts Council pays its solicitor Sarah Bailey for this sort of work. The taxpayer-bloated Keynes-founded Arts Council is surely a body devoted to freedom of artistic expression. How does it square that with legalistic bullying of hacks?