Paxman a controversial casualty of the bore war: Esther Oxford reports on TV journalist's failed attempt to join the Garrick Club

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The Independent Online
JEREMY PAXMAN, the BBC television interviewer revered for his caustic wit and bumptious banter, has been lying low for the last few days. Last week he suffered a humiliating rejection: he was refused membership of the Garrick Club, the gentleman's club in Covent Garden, central London, frequented by the great and the good in the worlds of art, law and literature.

Yesterday, longstanding members spoke with Paxmanish bluntness on his behalf: 'The men who made this decision have shown themselves to be real asses,' one said. 'They've made cracking idiots of themselves.'

Officially, the Garrick remained tight-lipped. 'There is nobody here to comment,' said a porter in a chopped cockney accent. 'All I am willing to say about membership policy is that we don't like bores.'

The comment was seconded by another member: 'When deciding whether to admit a new member, we have to ask ourselves, 'Is this man going to bore our pants orf?' If we decide that - yes - we might actually be deterred from visiting the bar for fear of bumping into Mr X, that is a good reason to exclude him. But from what I know of Jeremy Paxman, he is a man of considerable substance - he is not a bore.'

Mr Paxman, who refers frequently to the pounds 750-a-year club in his book Who Runs Britain, applied to join with written support from distinguished members including John Mortimer, the playwright and author, and Andreas Whittam Smith, editor of the Independent.

The club is useful for sampling the latest conversational hot-points. 'It used to be said that nothing happens in the Cabinet, the courts, the arts or the media that you won't here about in the Garrick bar within 24 hours,' one member said.

Some regulars have found such a feature indispensable. Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian lawyer who fought the Spycatcher case, claimed to have gathered inside intelligence about the tactics of Sir Michael Havers, the then attorney-general.

Fearful of a repeat performance, four of the 24 committee members 'blackballed' Mr Paxman's application in a secret ballot. 'They imagined Jeremy Paxman bringing his cameras in with him,' a member volunteered. 'They are also worried that an excess number of journalists might upset the balance in the club.'

One rumour had it that Mr Paxman's interviewing technique was not favoured by some on the selection committee: 'Various old farts didn't like him being beastly to politicians on television.'

Another regular said some committee members were jealous of the interviewer's success, adding that Mr Paxman should apply again in six months, as there had been such an uproar about the blackballing that committee members would feel obliged to climb down.

'I would understand their reluctance to accept a television personality if it was someone like that young chap - what is his name? - Chris Evans,' he said. 'But Jeremy Paxman - they can't even say he is too young] He is 43]'

(Photograph omitted)