Thanks to the spiffing new Spectator archive, I am able to present the following, cut from Ned Sherrin's review of Philip Kerr's 'Penguin Book of Lies', which appeared in the Spectator on 5 October 1990, which feels to me like yesterday.
The journalist Henry Porter is honoured with quotation in a piece called 'Close encounters with the truth' — an analysis of tabloid fiction. My own memory of the plausible Mr Porter is of an interview when he did not so much invent as decline to transmit 'the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.' He once asked me if there was a witty remark of which I was particularly pleased. I said, no, and any- way the only time I thought I had been moderately, if unfairly, witty it had re- bounded on me, so I was not proud of it.
The occasion was the summary replacement of Donald Baverstock at the BBC by Huw Wheldon. On the Monday morning I was summoned to Wheldon's office which had been Baverstock's. Overnight the room, walls and all, had been cleared of his effects. Wheldon's had not arrived. It was empty. `Ah! Huw,' I said spitefully, 'Put the stamp of your personality on the office already, I see.' This was rude and also inaccurate. Whatever qualities Wheldon lacked, personality was not among them. However, I foolishly boasted of the remark to David Frost who told a gossip columnist on The Daily Mirror. It appeared in his page the next day. As Wheldon and I had been alone in the office there could be little question of the source. Of course, of this cautionary tale the only part that Porter printed was my ill-judged remark paraded as the piece of wit of which I was most proud.