David Dimbleby looked certain to be in the chair come next Thursday. But the chair of what? The new series of Question Time? Or the BBC?
All he needed to be anointed champion of the sacred editorial independence of public service broadcasting was to survive the new and allegedly open selection system.
Before, the job was in the gift of whoever occupied No.10. Now it had to go through a Department of Culture, Media and Sport interview panel before being submitted to whoever occupies No.10 for approval. Or rejection.
How depressing it would be if the new chairman were other than the only candidate with BBC ingrained in him like the letters in a stick of seaside rock.
Unlike Baroness Jay, lately Government leader in the Lords. And unlike Gavyn Davies, Goldman Sachs honcho and generous Labour supporter (though not as generous as Greg Dyke, who got the job of DG in spite of having donated £50,000).
The new system has already favoured Davies. It made him deputy chairman, and he has striven hard for the No. 1 job, which Downing Street could spin as non-crony by making some Tory sympathiser his No. 2.
But that would hardly appease anxiety that both the chairman and DG were Labour supporters (which would be just as undesirable an axis were the jobs to go to Tory cronies).
The selection procedure is beyond satire. Which candidates were for real? Which short-listed to make the "open process" look open? Maverick ex-Channel 4 boss Michael Grade? Grey ex-British Library chief John Ashworth?
BBC chairmen need the intellectual rigour and strength of character to stand up to whichever party is in government. And to whoever is DG and editor-in-chief.
Would Davies (for all his talent to enrich) or Jay (for all her talent to enrage) be more independent than Dimbleby?
The public impression, based on four quality decades on air, is of a man frightened of nobody. Ever ready to impale politicians on the sharp end of his insistent questions.
And you could replay his every broadcast without detecting which way his own vote might go at election time.
The BBC is in his blood. He would never tolerate weakening of its hallowed commitment. He would want the ITV-minded DG to restore journalism to primetime on BBC1. Panorama could come in from the cold into which Dyke booted it.
Dimbleby is a man for all seasons. And would make a BBC chairman for all reasons.