The week in politics: The strange case of the footballer and the model

If only all constitutional crises were so pleasing to look at
If only all constitutional crises were so pleasing to look at

He might be President, but even Barack Obama couldn't overshadow the peculiar magic of Ryan Giggs' personal life.

By Ian Dunt

In a week that saw the leader of the free world celebrate Britain in parliament, the nation and its intellectual sensibilities was predictably distracted by a real, proper news story. This one had it all: sex, secrecy, constitutional warfare and Twitter. Sub-editors across the country packed up and went home early after fitting all their favourite words in one headline. Well, they left out 'constitutional warfare' obviously. No-one cares about that.

Ryan Giggs' alleged affair with former Miss Wales, Imogen Thomas, had blown up over the weekend, when thousands of Twitter users confused an #iamsparticus hashtag with genuine political self-sacrifice. With a small army happily screaming the Man United player's name, his legal position was looking more and more vulnerable by the hour. That hour came on Monday afternoon, when Lib Dem MP John Hemmings revealed the name during a Commons debate on super-injunctions.


There was a short hush. Journalists looked at each other. "Ooops," someone said. Somewhere in the background, John Bercow was saying something. After a while everyone started debating the name's legal status. Sky News didn't care. It blew its top and started screening images of him training. Everyone followed suit, sooner or later. It was the story with something for everyone: constitutional battles between MPs and judges for the broadsheets, high-minded panel debates on privacy for the broadcasters, a freedom of information campaign for editors everywhere (complete with laughable righteous indignation) and, of course, a footballer having sex with a pretty girl for the tabloids.

Obama's arrival on Tuesday, scheduled so that we wouldn't worry about the US and Britain drifting apart anymore, barely managed to pull people's attention away. Like some idealised version of what a perfect president/first lady team should look like, he walked around Britain like the sun itself had descended for a visit. Once his (lovely) plane took off for France, the rain began, hammering Westminster in punishment for allowing the saviour to leave. MPs went back to bed - I mean their constituency surgery - with warm memories of Obama pretending the UK still has a leadership role in international affairs.

We were back on familiar territory on Thursday with Clegg promising. wait for it. more changes to the health and social care bill! Hasn't he done this before, you ask. The answer is yes, but he went a little further this time, effectively benching it for half a year by sending it back to committee and retaining (this is important) the health secretary's duty to provide a comprehensive service for all.

Meanwhile, Keir Starmer confirmed that the officer who shoved Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests would be charged with manslaughter, Ed Miliband continued to do well and badly simultaneously and MPs decided that the girls of Britain must not, under any circumstances go wild.

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