His success dates from the time he was rejected and ejected as an MP by his constituents; at which point his friends in high places gathered round and appointed him, successively, a European commissioner, governor of Hong Kong and, most recently, chairman of the BBC Trust. And yes, remuneration in each case is significantly more than the minimum wage.
Despite his conservatism, Patten has had a pretty easy ride from the left; principally, I suspect, because, as Dr. Johnson would say, he has not merely read a book, but read it through. He is plausible, a tolerable dinner party companion, and – as one of the Dimblebores characterised him this morning – a “shrewd old bird”.
Clearly, not shrewd enough. His appointment of George Entwhistle, by all accounts a decent man, was a misfortune. His dismissal of George Entwhistle, careless. Literally so.
As so often these days, in the face of a crisis, the cry of the establishment goes up: “deputy heads must roll”.
Which is not to diminish the egregious offence of Newsnight’s allegations against Lord McAlpine. As the subject of a current false and defamatory statement on the internet, I know how much the sheer injustice hurts. I cannot imagine what Lord McAlpine suffered as millions believed for 72 hours that he was a paedophile. Compared with the Newsnight allegations, my problem was petty and trivial and I am humbled by the dignity with which McAlpine bore himself during those initial hours after the broadcast.
The false and damaging statement was made without research or evidence. Disgracefully, he was not even contacted to be given an opportunity to deny the charge, which had spread virally across the internet before being formalised in a Nationwide broadcast. In the fuss about Newsnight, we have ignored the importance of the internet, where more people garner their information than from hundreds of Newsnight broadcasts.
I have recently stumbled across the website of an organisation called CUREE, the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education. It is based, intriguingly, in Coventry - just down the road from where I am currently sitting. Its mission is to support and promote “the use of evidence by building bridges between academic research and professional practice”.
I am impressed by its objectives and its methodologies, and it occurs to me that the team at CUREE might establish similar organisations in other disciplines.
It is clear that Newsnight could do with a Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Journalism.
We could perhaps introduce a centre for political appointments.
And maybe there is also a role for a Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in restaurant reviewing.
An edited version of this post appears on Wilde's Things: a restaurateur's blog at www.wildes.uk.com
Today’s listening: Brothers by The Black Keys. Don’t know why this has evaded my radar until now, but I will be making up for lost time.