You couldn't make this up. Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn has spent his life scorning the Guardian but today backs the paper in its fight to protect its sources of the Milly Dowler phone-hacking story against legal action by the Met.
Littlejohn writes: "Even those of us who find the Guardian insufferably smug, self-righteous and censorious applauded the journalistic operation which uncovered the extent of wrong-doing by some executives at the News of the World."
He adds: "By delicious irony, it is the Guardian itself which has fallen foul of the new spirit of suppression, which deems that any contact between any journalist and any police officer is a criminal offence.
"The Yard wants to use the Official Secrets Act to force reporter Amelia Hill to disclose evidence which could identify the detective on the inquiry who provided her with the information to break the story that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked.As I said earlier, there’s a temptation to conclude: serves them right.
"The Guardian opened this can of worms. Let them live with the consequences. But any inclination towards schadenfreude must be resisted. What’s at stake here is nothing less than the future of our free Press.
"Attempting to use the Official Secrets Act to interfere with a legitimate journalistic investigation is outrageous. How dare the Yard claim that this information was not in the public interest? How dare they try to put the frighteners on reporters?
"If they get away with this, what next? Will they start arresting political correspondents who are fed a few Budget secrets in advance of the Chancellor’s speech?The Attorney General may yet intervene, but what is worrying here is the atmosphere in which the police are emboldened to use such draconian tactics against journalists."
He concludes: "You can’t have a free society without a free Press. This isn’t just an attack on the Guardian, it’s an attack on us all. It must not be allowed to succeed."
- In February, Littlejohn in a piece bashing local councils, revealed how he has relied on the Guardian to help fill his column.
He wrote: "For the past 20-odd years, this column has made a decent living documenting the insanity and waste in Britain’s Town Halls.
"If all else failed, there was always the Guardian jobs pages on a Wednesday to dig me out of a hole. The recruitment of five-a-day enforcers, lesbian bereavement counsellors and assorted real nappy outreach co-ordinators was guaranteed to raise a giggle."
There was even a picture of a serious looking bloke reading the Guardian to illustrate Littlejohn's article.
- The Daily Mail in a leader also supports the Guardian and warns: "It is not only journalists who are threatened when politicians flex their muscles against the media, while the police make pre-dawn arrests and invoke the Official Secrets Act. It is everyone who values freedom from tyranny."