No, I think it was coincidental, because interestingly, the News of the World had the first chance at the de Sancha story and elected not to publish it, so... I think it was just, you know, an inconvenient moment for one's private life to fall out of the cupboard.
Then I think, after it didn't had happen, after what happened, I think the temptation then -- with the benefit of hindsight, what I should have done, which is what I offered to do the first night it came out -- if I had had to resign, I would have been perfectly happy to contemplate life away from the ministerial cars. John Major, for reasons that I now think I understand better than I did then, was very keen that I didn't, not setting an undesirable precedent about ministers resigning when they were found with inconvenient girlfriends.
So I stuck it out and then I think it became a subject of amusement for the press. And this was where, I think, we got to the point -- at the end of the day, as I say later in my evidence -- and I will say -- I don't think politicians should be protected from this stuff, actually, and I gather someone has already anticipated me, giving evidence this morning, talking about France, which I hold as a very necessary thing for us to appreciate, about what happens in France and I will come back to that.
But in relation to me, I stubbornly clung on, and even when I decided I had to go, there were plenty of efforts to persuade me not to, and I thought at the time they were all meant and actually they probably were, but actually, I hung around too long, and while I was hanging around, the truth was not enough for some of these newspapers. They decided to go and invent it. And that is where -- if I have any resentment about any of this -- you know, generally, I think if you walk a bit on the wild side in your personal life and you are in politics, you should expect to get into trouble. What shouldn't happen, though, is it then becomes a sort of vendetta and people then go around thinking because you are a wounded animal, rather like in those nature films -- you know, the beast can sort of rip you to bits without any worry about fairness, truth or anything, and you know, we come to the wretched Chelsea shirt, you know, which I am -- fan that I am of Chelsea Football Club, I have never owned a Chelsea shirt. Never felt the need to -- and that was a total invention and I gather you had Mr Clifford. I read some of his evidence in front of you. I mean, Mr Clifford -- I am amazed -- he doesn't take his oath very seriously. It's already been admitted on previous occasions this was all totally cooked up. It was cooked up between him and the then deputy editor of the Sun, Mr Higgins, because the then editor -- now, of course, a serious statesman on all these matters -- Kelvin MacKenzie was on holiday. And I have it on very good authority from someone who was a very senior person there at the time, who I won't embarrass by saying who he was, but quite a well known name -- he said it was a bidding game. "If she says this, what you will you pay? If she says that, what will you pay?"
That, you see, is when it all becomes mischievous. You see, you can argue that politicians who have irregular private lives -- although there is no shortage of irregular private lives in the media, or indeed in the law from my remembrance of my time at the Bar, but you know, not all of us have to confront that, and of course, the recruitment agencies for politicians are not full at the moment because a lot of people don't want their private live dragged around.
But the point that nevertheless has to be faced is this: the press is not running a morality patrol to cleanse public life. The press are running a morality patrol for their own squalid reasons about their circulation. As the press came under more pressure from television, the press became much more part of the entertainment industry -- I am talking here about the red top tabloids -- than the news dissemination business, and as a result, anything goes.
And because they knew that politicians were afraid of them -- I think it was Douglas Hird who said, you know, Britain today -- he said some years ago -- was characterised by strong journalists and weak politicians, and that is so, so true.
So why should they worry about inventing a story? It is all just a laugh, isn't it? And anything about the Chelsea shirt -- which, to be honest, I am sick and fed up with. You know, I really don't want to go to my grave with the only thing people remember about me is some bloody Chelsea shirt, but the point is -- the point is that that is a sign -- that is the highwater mark of the arrogance of power without responsibility, because they made that up. They made that up with total cynicism, and that, you know, is something which you cannot say in a free society is justified, because that has nothing to do with the other work of the press, which I also speak about in my statement, which is: without the press, this would not be here. The government -- I am sure the government bitterly regrets setting up this inquiry. The government never wanted to expose all of this hacking stuff. It was inconvenient to them.
Members of Parliament, as politicians, become more and more creatures of the system and become more and more just paid hacks, rather than having some independent substance outside politics. They weren't looking for trouble and the police -- and I gather I have attracted the ire of the counsel for the Metropolitan police by suggesting that the failure of the police in dealing with this matter was abject. But abject it was. So who has put it on the agenda? Why the press?
So what we have to be aiming for here is a press that actually does the job of exposing the things that a lot of people would rather not have said, but also a press that has some respect and integrity of its own. Insofar as my rather sad and pathetic little Chelsea shirt incident has any relevance to that, it shows a press that was out of control and had to concern with the truth whatsoever, no concern with the public interest. They were just having a laugh and I was stupid enough to put myself in a position where they could have a laugh at me, fool that I was.