Opinion: Just what is in the public interest?

Edinburgh South MP Nigel Griffiths has had a rough few days after the News of the World exposed an extramarital affair. It is clear from the article that the paper was desperate for a public interest angle.

This is important - NotW knows that after the Max Mosley case, it is no longer good enough to find someone cheating. Exposing a person's infidelity could very easily lead to an expensive trip to the High Court and an opportunity for Justice Eady to build further his privacy law.

Griffiths' position as an MP, it could be argued, makes him fair game - sufficient for a public interest defence - but NotW really made sure. Not only was the 'louse' Griffiths unfaithful, but his infidelity took place in the House of Commons. They even dredged through the MPs' code of conduct to find a spurious breach, suggesting he had brought the Commons into disrepute.

The public interest search went even further. Not only was Griffiths unfaithful; not only was it in the House of Commons; but it took place on Armistice Day! Now that truly is a public interest case as everyone knows it is unpatriotic to have intercourse on a day of remembrance.

In reality, one of two things happened. Either the paper paid someone to seduce a middle-aged man, or a woman seduced him and then sold her story (and pictures). And one has to wonder which of these is in the public interest.

Whatever problems there are with Griffiths' state of mind or his marriage that led to his infidelity are now multiplied by this national exposure - but that is just collateral damage. NotW will see no public interest in compassion.

Griffiths himself seems to have had a 'head in the sand' approach when he should perhaps have been more proactive, maybe by giving an interview to the Saturday edition of the Daily Mirror to spike the NotW guns. You might be laughing at Griffiths' embarrassment now, but take a pause to consider how NotW might find your life publicly interesting.

Alex Hilton is a Labour parliamentary candidate and founder of political blogs Labourhome and Recess Monkey

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