What is the view of the Andrew Gilligan affair at the Frog and Firkin? It is some time since I have been down to the Frog, but I feel I know its ways so well that I can be pretty sure what they are thinking. Most of its denizens are stuck somewhere between boredom and bewilderment. They feel as though they have been asked to take a paper in astrophysics with half an hour’s preparation on the subject and the aid of a blunt pencil. Of course, there will be some who believe they understand the whole thing perfectly. The landlord, who happens to be a Labour councillor, is certain that the BBC and Mr Andrew Gilligan are gravely at fault, and looks forward to the day when Alastair Campbell is raised to the peerage. The man who props up the bar, on the other hand, is a lifelong Tory who for the first time finds himself siding with the BBC. The rest of the Frog’s regulars look on in appalled incomprehension as the two of them slog it out, wishing that the conversation could be steered towards the prospects for Chelsea under its new Russian billionaire owner, or the rumour that a new lap-dancing club is opening around the corner.
No one’s understanding will have been greatly assisted by Wednesday’s newspapers, which reported Mr Gilligan’s appearance before Lord Hutton the previous day. To read some of them, you would think that the BBC’s case had been blown apart, and Mr Gilligan exposed as a shoddy reporter. (The Sun called him a LIAR on its front page.) To read others, you would come away with the impression that it was the reputation of Alastair Campbell, not Mr Gilligan, which had been trashed. ‘Campbell sexed up the dossier’, proclaimed the Independent’s front-page headline.