Political column – June 3

Before becoming a renowned film critic, the late Barry Norman worked on a gossip column but, by his own admission, wasn't very good at it.

He explained that if he doorstepped some high profile person who was having an affair or something like that, and asked them about it, if they replied: "What business is it of yours?" he could not think of a good answer.

He could have come up with some guff about if they put themselves in the public eye then the public has a right to know all about their private life, but I've never found that convincing myself – and I'm a journalist.

For the last week or so the entire nation has been reeling from the seismic shocks caused by the Phillip Schofield scandal, although it's not really clear what the scandal is.

I have heard of Phillip Schofield. He presents The Cube. I also remember that his hair went grey when he was a young presenter on children's television and so he dyed it, which caused headlines back then.

He's hitherto had an image as a nice guy, which he traded on in those telly adverts.

So what has caused his fall from grace?

Now there could be something in the background that those in the know, know, and we who are not in the know, don't know, and those in the know for some reason are not putting us in the know and only know between themselves.

But after examining the evidence of what we do know it appears his crime is to have lied to the Daily Mail and Holly Willoughby.

In general terms I am on not in favour of lying, but there are certain situations in which lying and hypocrisy are the only way. At a very basic level, motivated by politeness, you should of course say you loved the tartan tie your granny knitted you for Christmas, even if you have no intention of wearing the ghastly thing.

When it comes to hypocrisy, that is a privilege gained through personal experience, the hallmark of acquired wisdom and greater maturity than those to whom you preach hypocritically.

So if you tell your teenage children not to smoke even when you smoked like a chimney as a teenager yourself, you are really doling out a piece of your knowledge and experience which in their ignorance they have not yet acquired for themselves.

You can call it hypocrisy, but really you are acting as a selfless educator.

Anyway, back to Mr Schofield, and time to put yourself in his shoes.

I'm not sure how it happened, but it may have happened something like this.

There he is sitting on the daytime couch, checking his lines on the autocue in the few spare minutes while a pre-recorded piece is being broadcast, when Holly leans across and, looking directly into his eyes, asks: "Phillip, are you having an affair with a younger man, part our team?"

There are a number of possible responses to that. For any normal person, the obvious and natural reply is: "Why don't you **** off and mind your own business."

It is the reply that Barry Norman found so difficult.

However, having a Mr Nice Guy image does have its disadvantages, and I can understand why Mr Schofield may have been reluctant.

Possibility two is this response: "Yes, Holly, it's true, I am so sorry, I should have told you before. I am so ashamed. We could do a piece about it after the weather. If there's no time for it today I'll do an interview with the Daily Mail instead."

And then lastly, there is the reply which he apparently gave: "No Holly, it is not true, and where could you ever have got such an idea?"

All fall down in shock. Mr Nice Guy lied to Holly. There again, if somebody asks you an intrusive and impertinent question about something which is none of their business, or anybody else's, is it not justifiable to lie without any guilty conscience, taking a leaf out of Colonel Nathan Jessup's book: "You can't handle the truth!" (If I've lost you on that, look it up on IMDb).

Mind you, look what happened to him.

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