Tessa Jowell is one of the few Labour politicians about whom I have no strong opinion — but I've known for ages that her husband, the solicitor David Mills, was potentially a massive liability. I can't remember when his links with Silvio Berlusconi first surfaced, but it must have been at least five years ago. And before that, there was the little matter of his involvement with Bernie Ecclestone, the motor-racing entrepreneur who gave a massive donation to the Labour Party just when Labour was planning to ban sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco companies.
Now, I've no idea whether Mills took a bribe from Berlusconi or what Jowell knew about her husband's activities, but I can't help but agree with Peter Cole in the Independent on Sunday today (click here) when he says that the current hoo-hah about Mills's business dealings is anything but a vindication of the British press's fearless investigative journalism.
There has certainly been a prima facie case for investigating Mills's money for a long time — for the simple reasons (a) that he has been working for years for Berlusconi, a very rich and powerful man, to help him avoid tax; and (b) that Berlusconi has, to say the least, an extraordinarily murky past, some extremely dubious associates and a political-media power base that is a scandal in itself (on which see Paul Ginsborg's piece in the Observer here).
But the truth is that none of the British papers took very much interest in Mills until the story required the minimum of effort — because various Italian investigating magistrates turned up a large number of documents that suggest he might have done something very dodgy indeed. Fearless? Tell me another.