Heath hits at Hague over Dyke Dyke job' says Heath

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The Independent Online
THE FORMER Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath launched a withering attack on William Hague yesterday, claiming that Conservative criticism of the incoming BBC director-general, Greg Dyke, had been counter-productive.

As Mr Hague prepared to meet Mr Dyke today, Sir Edward said the Tory leader's public opposition to the media chief had "ensured" his appointment.

Tory worries over Mr Dyke's well-documented pounds 55,000 donation to Labour led Conservative Central Office to announce yesterday that it was hiring specialist media monitors to scrutinise the BBC's output for pro-government bias.

Mr Dyke will discuss with Mr Hague Tory concerns about the impartiality of the corporation when he meets the leader at his private office in the Commons.

But Sir Edward dismissed fears about political interference, saying no one had complained about previous Tory chairmen of the BBC. The former Tory leader told GMTV's Sunday programme "nothing troubles me at all" about Mr Dyke's appointment.

"What Mr Hague doesn't seem to have realised is that when he publicly criticised it before the appointment was made, he was more or less ensuring that the appointment was bound to be made," he said. "The chairman and the board of the BBC can't afford to be seen to be giving way to the Leader of the Opposition. This is all entirely unnecessary fuss."

Mr Hague wrote to Sir Christopher Bland, the BBC chairman, last week, warning him the party would find Mr Dyke "totally unacceptable".

The Conservatives had already been planning to bring in media specialists to monitor BBC output because they were unhappy with the corporation's response to claims of perceived bias in its reporting.

The appointment of the unnamed firm - on a "six-figure contract" - was brought forward after the announcement that Mr Dyke was to succeed Sir John Birt.

The monitors will detail the length and content of political news, who is interviewed and the type of questions asked. They will report directly to Amanda Platell, the Tories' communications director.

The move threatens to usher in the worst era of political tension between the BBC and the Conservatives since the 1980s, when the then party chairman Norman Tebbit attacked its reporting of the bombing of Libya by US warplanes.