There it was – a coy beauty peeping up at me from the bottom of page 11 of The Guardian. True, I’d had to wade through pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 (oh, and pages 26, 27 and 28 for good measure) of muck and Murdochgate to get there. But what a corker when I finally arrived.
The little pearl was sensationally headlined: “Archbishop’s PR chief to leave after attacking coalition policies”. Actually, this wasn’t strictly accurate, as it was the archbishop himself who had done the attacking, and his PR chief who has taken the rap. Never mind: the article was rich in revelations of a different kind.
I’d always seen George as a droll and affable clubman with a talent for anecdote. Little did I realise he was, in reality, Svengali in a dog-collar, ruthlessly manipulating the primate’s political strings and making him say all sorts of things he didn’t really mean.
Pitcher it was who engineered that guest-editorship of the New Statesman, an act – it seems – of gross and culpable irresponsibility that encouraged the unworldly old boy to take leave of his senses.
How else explain the extraordinary metamorphosis of the Tory Party at Prayer’s principal representative into a foaming radical berating our poor, beleaguered prime minister for being a political charlatan?
In the understandably incandescent aftermath of this treacherous assault on coalition pieties, Lambeth Palace officials took fright and began frantically casting about for a scapegoat.
Luckily for them, Pitcher had already offered his head on a platter. According to The Telegraph (he did a stint as religion editor there, so they know their man), he was speared by his own cocktail offensive.
It happened like this. In the wake of the New Statesman fusillade, Dr Williams was taken to task at a party by political and religious affairs commentator Cristina Odone. Entirely characteristically Pitcher, playing Boswell to the Telegraph’s Mandrake, reported that the archbishop had responded to the confrontation by taking her “roughly over the canapés”.
Odone saw the joke, but Lambeth Palace did not. With the result that Pitcher is now out on his ear.
Somewhat ruefully he admitted to The Guardian: “I am returning to journalism, a culture to which I am better suited.”
That’s not entirely true, though, George, is it? You’re modestly doing down your talent for PR. No other reasonable conclusion can be drawn from the £4m you earned on exiting Luther Pendragon, the PR company which you co-founded.