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As if all this frenzied activity were not enough, yet another appointment has been made. Eric Forth, too, has a new PPS, who, as a lay Methodist preacher and amateur poet, sounds far less interesting than his flamboyant boss. But Hartley Booth has, briefly, been far more famous than Mr Forth, earning instant notoriety 18 months ago for doing his bit to scupper the "back to basics" morality drive by being, as the Washington Post put it, "maybe the first politician ever to resign for not having sex".

It was Dr Booth who resigned his PPS-ship for "kissing and cuddling" with his researcher, student journalist Emily Barr. And writing poems to her. (Sample: "You said you seduced me, he who is tall has further to fall and I fell, how I fell".) So what happened to John Whittingdale, former PPS to Mr Forth? "Sorry. We don't know," said the DFEE. "Er... I'll try and find out for you. Have you tried his personal office?" said the man from Conservative Central Office.

Finally, the cuttings library revealed the truth. He resigned in May after voting against Government plans to restrict large newspaper groups from bidding for television stations. So now you know.

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