Captain Moonlight: Garrick shuts out Paxman

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The Independent Online
OH, DEAR. It's blackball time again at the Garrick. Members of the club that likes to think itself louche are riven and racked over a decision to turn away Jeremy Paxman, the BBC journalist noted for his unimpressed approach to politicians.

Just the man, you might have thought, for the Garrick, founded 1831, home of lawyers of the unbuttoned variety, actors of broader pretension and journalists of nobbish persuasion. Wrong: four black balls went into the bag last week when Paxman's name was considered by the 20 or so members of the Garrick's general committee.

His application had already run into objections from, says a source, 'various old farts who didn't like him being beastly to politicians on television'. Lord Chalfont, it is said, wrote to say that he had only met Paxman once, but had found him 'rather full of himself', which, it was pointed out, was rich coming from Lord Chalfont.

This is the sort of thing clubland enjoys. Club officials wrote to Paxman's proposer and seconder suggesting that he might like to withdraw. Outraged, they rallied, lobbied and attracted some formidable support from, inter alios, Sir Robin Day, Lord Rees-Mogg, John Mortimer and, I should tell you, Andreas Whittam Smith, editor of the Independent.

To no avail: after what is said to be a lively discussion, the requisite four balls went into the bag and Paxman was out, joining a list that includes Henry Irving and Bernard Levin.

Levin was excluded by the Garrick's legal fraternity because he had written rude things about Lord Goddard, the then Lord Chief Justice. Fred Emery, the journalist who seconded Paxman, says that the reason given for the objections was Paxman's behaviour on television.

'I think it ironic that a club founded in the name of David Garrick, an actor, should judge somebody on their performance rather than their character,' says Emery. 'I find it bizarre and regrettable. Committee members have told me that those who blackballed Jeremy have made asses of themselves and the club.'

Dominick Harrod, former economics editor of BBC Radio, is said to be one of the objectors; yesterday he had no comment to make.

Paxman himself is slightly bemused, as he has never met any of the committee. He says he is impressed to find himself in the company of the likes of Irving and Levin but prefers not to comment further.

He could re-apply in six months; Dickens and Trollope fought a tremendous campaign to have the Irving decision reversed. Emery said yesterday, ominously, 'I and Jeremy's supporters are considering our next steps.'

(Photograph omitted)

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