From the moment Gavyn Davies, BBC chairman, squared up to Jonathan Sumption QC yesterday, you could almost smell the money. As the million-pound-a-year former whizzo banker took on the million-pound-a-year whizzo lawyer, this was clearly the inquiry's battle of the big-wads.
Unfortunately, as we lesser-paid mortals never tire of pointing out, having lots of dosh is never a guarantee of class, courtesy or consistency.
And when Mr Davies and Mr Sumption clashed, their behaviour had a whiff of a lunchtime brawl in a City winebar. "Naaaar! Look at my WAD! I've got Loadsaevidence!" each seemed to say to the other.
Mr Sumption was out to portray the Beeb chairman as an unscrupulous defender of the indefensible (ie, Andrew Gilligan). But it was soon obvious that the QC had made his fatcat reputation in corporate law rather than criminal trials.
His case was not helped by his strange habit of suddenly jerking back his head and body in the manner of the Carry On actor Jack Douglas. Or by his habit of lodging his tongue firmly in his cheek after every point, as if sucking a huge gobstopper.
Mr Davies was not going to give ground for a second, getting in his counter-punches with alarming regularity. When Mr Sumption argued that the BBC chairman had intervened to stop the governors discussing the accuracy of the Gilligan report, Mr Davies replied: "That is a very tendentious way of putting it."
When Mr Sumption said Mr Davies had watered down the governors' statement, the chairman replied: "I have never heard such nonsense."
When it was put to him that he had ignored the accuracy of the Gilligan broadcast, Mr Davies said: "I do not at any stage in my life ignore the facts."
Mr Davies revealed that he had an idiosyncratic view of note-taking. Most television and radio hacks, he claimed, based their work on "memory". Lord Hutton furrowed his brow.
Mr Davies' curious disdain for notetaking was further underlined when he challenged a note taken by a secretary of the governors' meeting. "Shorthand notes, to be honest ... may or may not totally accurately grasp all the words, reflect all the words they used," he said. Hmm, said Lord Hutton.Reuse content