JK Rowling really was outed as "Robert Galbraith" against her will

Conspiracists, back down: this wasn't a publisher-organised PR coup.

Since the world learned that JK Rowling had written a crime novel under the name "Robert Galbraith", conspiracy theories have been flying.

Some pointed to the fact that the Daily Mail had reviewed it as evidence that Rowling wasn't being treated like a real debut author (despite the fact that the other two books reviewed that day are a debut print book and a debut crime novel); others have argued that the fact that the book is back in stock so quickly means the publishers were in on the unmasking, with stocks standing by; still more have pointed to the massive sales boost after her name came out as evidence of… something (This despite the fact that if Rowling's only aim was to sell millions of copies, she could just have put her name on the book). Even more people haven't quite articulated what conspiracy they're alleging, but just feel that she can't have really wanted to be anonymous, and there must be some secret plan involved.

Well, if there was a plan involved, it's more tortuous than even David Icke could handle. The leak came via Rowling's solicitors, Russells. The Bookseller reports the firm's statement:

We, Russells Solicitors, apologise unreservedly for the disclosure caused by one of our partners, Chris Gossage, in revealing to his wife’s best friend, Judith Callegari, during a private conversation that the true identity of Robert Galbraith was in fact J K Rowling.

Whilst accepting his own culpability, the disclosure was made in confidence to someone he trusted implicitly. On becoming aware of the circumstances, we immediately notified JK Rowling’s agent.  We can confirm that this leak was not part of any marketing plan and that neither J K Rowling, her agent nor publishers were in any way involved.

Callegari then apparently tweeted the fact to Sunday Times journalist India Knight, and the whole thing spiralled from there. The tweet, along with Callegari's entire Twitter account, has now been deleted.

If people really want to continue criticising Rowling, they have avenues left open – yes, those who knew who she was probably gave her more attention than they would a real first-time novelist – but there's little doubt left that her "experiment" really was in good faith. "JK Rowling" is a name which carries a sales boost and a critical penalty.

Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty
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The Home Office made Theresa May. But it could still destroy her

Even politicians who leave the Home Office a success may find themselves dogged by it. 

Good morning. When Theresa May left the Home Office for the last time, she told civil servants that there would always be a little bit of the Home Office inside her.

She meant in terms of its enduring effect on her, but today is a reminder of its enduring ability to do damage on her reputation in the present day.

The case of Jamal al-Harith, released from Guantanamo Bay under David Blunkett but handed a £1m compensation payout under Theresa May, who last week died in a suicide bomb attack on Iraqi forces in Mosul, where he was fighting on behalf of Isis. 

For all Blunkett left in the wake of a scandal, his handling of the department was seen to be effective and his reputation was enhanced, rather than diminished, by his tenure. May's reputation as a "safe pair of hands" in the country, as "one of us" on immigration as far as the Conservative right is concerned and her credibility as not just another headbanger on stop and search all come from her long tenure at the Home Office. 

The event was the cue for the Mail to engage in its preferred sport of Blair-bashing. It’s all his fault for the payout – which in addition to buying al-Harith a house may also have fattened the pockets of IS – and the release. Not so fast, replied Blair in a punchy statement: didn’t you campaign for him to be released, and wasn’t the payout approved by your old pal Theresa May? (I paraphrase slightly.)

That resulted in a difficult Q&A for Downing Street’s spokesman yesterday, which HuffPo’s Paul Waugh has posted in full here. As it was May’s old department which has the job of keeping tabs on domestic terror threats the row rebounds onto her. 

Blair is right to say that every government has to “balance proper concern for civil liberties with desire to protect our security”. And it would be an act of spectacular revisionism to declare that Blair’s government was overly concerned with civil liberty rather than internal security.

Whether al-Harith should never have been freed or, as his family believe, was picked up by mistake before being radicalised in prison is an open question. Certainly the journey from wrongly-incarcerated fellow traveller to hardened terrorist is one that we’ve seen before in Northern Ireland and may have occurred here.

Regardless, the presumption of innocence is an important one but it means that occasionally, that means that someone goes on to commit crimes again. (The case of Ian Stewart, convicted of murdering the author Helen Bailey yesterday, and who may have murdered his first wife Diane Stewart as well, is another example of this.)

Nonetheless, May won’t have got that right every time. Her tenure at the Home Office, so crucial to her reputation as a “safe pair of hands”, may yet be weaponised by a clever rival, whether from inside or outside the Conservative Party. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.