Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Take on Dyke at Your Peril

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Take on Dyke at Your Peril

Article excerpt


WHO could have predicted when it was announced that a New Labour donor and staunch Tony Blair supporter was to head up the BBC that this same man, less than two years on, would deal such a massive blow to the Prime Minister's integrity?

The Tories were outraged when Greg Dyke became director-general of the BBC.

I know because I was there as the head of media.

I was also there at the meeting where Dyke was supposed to prostrate himself before the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition and vow undying impartiality.

He swaggered in like a professional boxer and walked out nearly an hour later with his face and his dignity unmarked.

Dyke expected no quarter and he gave none.

Then and since, I suspected that, donor or no donor, Tony Blair had bitten off more than he could chew up and spit out when he took on Dyke.

If this was a poodle, then it was the kind Napoleon used to lead him into battle.

In television, he had a reputation for ruthlessness.

Toughened by a world as fierce as politics, he was always going to be a match for Blair and the bully boys, Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson.

And so he has proved with his ferocious defence of the BBC's reporting of the war in general and Andrew Gilligan in particular.

No quarter, no apology.

The BBC was always forensic in its attention to any and every complaint the Tories made, sometimes painfully so.

Nor is it my experience that the BBC is unable to say sorry, as Blair is now demanding.

At conference one year I crashed a dinner Dyke was hosting for his executives and various Tory MPs and launched into an attack on the BBC.

The previous week the New Labour luvvie Mandelson commentated on Blair's conference speech. The BBC had booked Michael Heseltine to do the same for William Hague's.

Everyone knew there was no love lost between these two men. Dyke immediately conceded that the decision was wrong and dropped Heseltine.

In the current row about over-sexed dossiers, Number 10 claims parts of the BBC were antiwar.

Well, until our troops went in, most of the country was, too.

To have failed to give due prominence to the opposing arguments would have been a gross dereliction of the BBC's duty. Coverage-does not equal partiality.

In politics you never ask a question unless you're sure of the answer.

When Campbell asked whom do you trust, the PM or the BBC, 66 per cent of the British people said the BBC.

After six years of broken promises, we trust the Government about as far as we trust the French to negotiate a fair deal over the Common Agricultural policy.

Tony Blair says he wants to renew his vows with the British people. What kind of nonsense is this?

He's our leader not our lover. And if this is a marriage, I want out.

Judy lands a punch

ON her book tour, Hillary Clinton has given one broadcast interview more than a dozen times. Her responses were so robotic, not even Peter Sissons, Jim Naughtie or Michael Parkinson could get anything out of her. In the end it was Judy, of Richard and Judy fame, who pricked her bubble.Judy pointed out that she would have chucked Richard if he had done a Monica on her.

Hillary's response was her now familiar eulogy on motherhood: she stayed for the family, what a privilege it was to be Chelsea's mum blah, blah. …

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