Isabel Oakeshott’s real scoop-getting record

Former Sunday Times political editor Isabel Oakeshott has taken to the Spectator to bemoan missing the scoop about Matt Hancock’s infidelity. The former health secretary quit last weekend, to much amusement (although not from his wife).

“I was sent a compromising picture of the then health secretary and his mistress almost a week before the Sun newspaper sensationally revealed their relationship,” Oakeshott wrote. “And I did not believe it was him.”

Oakeshott prides herself as a scooper, citing her role in the jailing of cabinet minister Chris Huhne for convincing his then wife Vicky Pryce to take the penalty for driving too fast. Others will not remember her involvement in such glowing terms.

Huhne and Pryce were both convicted for perverting the course of justice, serving short stints in jail. The story came out because of Oakeshott’s reporting, but that is not where her involvement ends.

While Pryce’s anonymity was initially protected, she was eventually revealed as Oakeshott’s source. The Sunday Times hack blamed her for going to Mail on Sunday, whose own reporting was allegedly not careful enough to conceal Pryce’s identity.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) later ordered the Sunday Times to cough up its correspondence with Pryce. Though the paper put up what Oakeshott called “a vigorous fight”, it was forced to capitulate by the courts.

This is the nicer version of events. But fellow hack Nick Cohen cited then CPS director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer’s statement in a less flattering retelling:

…he said that the CPS had advised the police that they needed the confidential information from Pryce in Oakeshott’s possession if they were to send Pryce and Chris Huhne to the dock. In October 2011, the authorities secured a court order for the “newspaper to produce material to the police”. The Sunday Times appealed, as it should have done. But, Starmer continued, [editor John] Witherow and Oakeshott’s resolution soon faded. They did not fight to protect their source “but subsequently consented to producing the material in question just before the appeal was due to be heard, on 20 January this year”.

Given this lack of willingness to protect sources, “no-one in their right mind should talk to Isabel Oakeshott,” was Cohen’s brutal conclusion. And where did such savage commentary appear? The Speckie

Journalist, pamphleteer and propagandist rarely mistaken for a man of principle. Still trying to back the winning side in the English Civil War.

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