Captain Moonlight: Heseltine in very small desk mystery

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The Independent Online
MY TRADE, as I have warned you before, is trivia. Let others contemplate things that shake the world, rattle cages and disturb order; top of the Captain's agenda this week has been desks. It started with the bemusement of an American journalist when faced with the modest resting place for the thoughts and elbows of Michael Heseltine, the President of the Board of Trade. Surely he needed something bigger and busier than a small piece of pine undisturbed by so much as an in-tray? Mr Heseltine demurred, apparently unable to see what the chap was going on about.

The Captain was as nonplussed as his American fellow toiler after truth. It had always been my understanding, too, that the more important and successful the person, the bigger the desk. Lord Archer's, for example, is, his personal assistant assures me, six foot by three. Michael Winner's, Michael Winner assures me, is 66 inches by 46 inches, a partners' desk, of the sort once used by two. Tiny Rowland also uses one.

My late and fellow Captain, Robert Maxwell, had three desks in the old Mirror building covered with vital documents which he could never find: a couple of eight by threes (feet, that is. You should also know that the desk of the President of the United States measures a mere six by four) and a glass, circular one which could seat 12, and which he used to beat in a fury that resounded round the building to the delighted apprehension of all within. Lord Stevens of Ludgate, the Express magnate, has a desk reliably described to me as being about the same size as a football pitch.

The Queen and the Prince of Wales have large desks, and, somehow unsurprisingly, the Duke of Edinburgh has an even bigger one. But, thereafter, comes a large dose of the Heseltine tendency. Horton of Railtrack? Five by three. Knapp of RMT? Five by two. Dieter Bock, Tiny's difficult colleague? 'Medium.' Same for the Princess of Wales. Same for Lady Archer, but she has two. Rupert Murdoch appears barely to use one.

What can it all mean? Over to that man of the moment, Desmond Morris, who tells me that the smaller desk signifies that the owner has no need to make status statements; its emptiness demonstrates clarity and efficiency. I wonder tentatively if size, particularly among men, might be compensating for something. Morris hopes not, as he has two, but I can tell he's thinking. Another series, I'll be bound. That's mine in the picture, by the way.

(Photograph omitted)