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Wednesday, January 21, 1998 Published at 17:49 GMT


Ex-Tory MP loses libel action
image: [ Mr Allason was a panellist on the television show Have I Got News For You ]
Mr Allason was a panellist on the television show Have I Got News For You

The author and former Tory MP Rupert Allason has lost his libel action against the writers of a book based on the satirical television show, Have I Got News For You.

Mr Allason was suing over an entry in the Have I Got 1997 For You diary, which referred to him as a "conniving little shit."

The BBC's Daniel Boettcher reports from the High Court in London (0'40")
Mr Allason, former MP for Torbay, described the entry as a "vicious and revolting" slur on his reputation.

The diary, published in December 1996, contained a photograph of Mr Allason with the caption: "The maverick Tory MP, when he is writing spy novels, is called Nigel West, and when he is fighting against his own government is called something quite unprintable.

"Indeed, given Mr Allason's fondness for pursuing libel actions, there are also excellent legal reasons for not referring to him as a conniving little shit."

Mr Justice Popplewell, sitting in London's High Court, was told the description referred to Mr Allason's opposition to the Maastricht Treaty and his refusal to support the government in a vote of no confidence on the issue.

[ image: Have I Got News For You is presented by Angus Deayton]
Have I Got News For You is presented by Angus Deayton
The first sentence of the description was used by Angus Deayton when he introduced Mr Allason as a panellist on the television show in May 1996.

Publishers BBC Worldwide Ltd and Hat Trick Productions claimed that Have I Got 1997 For You was as light-hearted as the television programme on which the book was based.

They denied that the words were defamatory in the context in which they appeared and pleaded fair comment on a matter of public interest.

During the three-day case, Mr Allason shrugged off a suggestion that he had a fondness for litigation, having previously launched 17 libel cases.

He was accompanied at the High Court in London by his friend, violinist Jane Burgess, and his mother, who first alerted him to the entry.

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