The hilarious, and increasingly hilariously drunk, former MP was holding court, mostly about the personal disaster that was his career.
Of particular interest to the assembled hacks was how he used to deal with bad press (God knows, he got his fair share).
His method was simple: he’d ring the offending hack up and take him out for a drink. He’d say: I thought what you wrote was unfair, but let’s put it behind us. Red or white?
Then he’d give them a story.
Very few senior flaks and even fewer chief executives react like this, certainly not anymore.
But by the agreement of every hack in the conversation, it is the most effective tactic by miles.
That person stops being a target and becomes a contact. Even if the good natured bonhomie ends there, it is impossible to think about this person so negatively ever again.
This isn’t a sophisticated point, but it does seem to get lost. It’s very hard to be mean about someone who seems like a decent bloke with a sense of humour, and a sense of his own failings.