The death of Rabbi Hugo Grynn might well give The Moral Maze pause - and it did for a moment at the start of yesterday's edition, when Michael Buerk delivered a short tribute, before releasing the ferrets onto the question of the hour. But the Rabbi's going creates a loss which the programme will find difficult to make up. It was a matter of tone, perhaps, more than content. He was, for one thing, the only person on the Maze who ever sounded puzzled. He provided a steadying ground around which those other strident and querulous voices could play. He was, so to speak, moralism's good conscience.

He was used as such: a mascot of decency. The convention by which he was given the concluding word on every topic was a great face-saver. Whatever onslaught of sanctimony preceded it, there was the final homily or parable to knit up the discussion's frayed edges and egos.

Yesterday's "fundamental issue" was one pretty well chewed over: press intrusion of privacy, limits to. They require the witnesses under inquisition to give some semblance of playing the moral game - and they almost met their match in yesterday's first guest, Brian Harris, chief photographer with this newspaper. Confronted with some tricky ethical choices his gambit was simply casual indifference.

He was asked about snapping the Royals. He replied that anything you couldn't be sued for was fair game. Michael Buerk was ready with the magic word. "But morally?" Harris: "Morally? Oh come on. They're a shower. The whole lot of them. The Royal Family are an absolute shower." What, even the Queen Mum? Would Harris really be happy to take a photo of her falling over in public? As Dr Starkey put it: "What has she ever done? All that Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother has ever done in public is smile and be cooperative." Harris: "Inanely."

A hard man, but that's the way to do it.

Comments