Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers today failed in a bid to persuade a judge to strike out a libel case brought by the Blairs’ former lifestyle adviser Carole Caplin over her alleged portrayal as “some sort of sexpot or randy masseuse”.
Caplin’s solicitor-advocate, David Price QC, told Mrs Justice Sharp at the High Court that the article, which appeared in the Daily Mail in September last year, gave the impression she was a “Svengali or Rasputin type figure” in the marriage of Tony and Cherie Blair.
But Associated Newspapers, the newspaper’s publisher, applied to have the case struck out – arguing that the meanings attributed to the story, which was flagged up on the front page with the headline ‘Will Carole Caplin lift the lid on Blairs’ marriage?”, were “unsustainable”.
Counsel Catrin Evans told the judge: “The article is not capable of being defamatory of the claimant at all and therefore the claim should be dismissed.”
Price, however, said the article inferred that, having insisted that Cherie Blair tell her every last detail of her sex life with Tony, there were grounds to suspect Caplin would now disclose them for substantial financial reward.
He claimed it also meant that the massages she gave to Mr Blair involved sexual activity and there were grounds to suspect she would disclose details of that.
The ordinary reader would assume that if something was given prominence and significance there was a reason for it, he said, adding: “The defendant’s approach to meaning is based on over-analysis, flawed logic and a massive playing-down of the impression created by the article.”
Price, who said the allegations were completely false, added: “My client’s business involves respect for confidential information – it’s at the heart of what she does, at the heart of this relationship.”
There were no grounds for suspecting that she would break that confidence and such a claim was clearly damaging.
Evans said the suggested meanings were exaggerated and inferential, and that the article was incapable of giving rise to the suspicion that Ms Caplin would “spill the beans”.
The judge concluded that, read as a whole, the article was capable of conveying the suspicion that Caplin would lift the lid on the Blairs’ marriage and their “sex secrets” for substantial financial award.
Rejecting the strike out application, she said it would be for the trial to decide what the words complained of actually meant in their context.