Confidential papers reveal Dyke asked the BBC to reinstate him

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The Independent Online

The bitter internal battle to force Greg Dyke out of the BBC is revealed for the first time in confidential papers disclosed yesterday.

It has also emerged that, a week after being forced to resign as director general, Mr Dyke wrote to the BBC governors asking for his job back.

The minutes of the board of governors meetings on 28 January and 5 February 2004 show that Mr Dyke believed he had struck a deal with the BBC chairman, Gavyn Davies, and had received assurances from one of the governors that his position would be safe following the Hutton report.

Lord Hutton examined events surrounding the death of David Kelly, a government expert on weapons of mass destruction. Dr Kelly committed suicide after being named as the source of a report by Andrew Gilligan on the BBC Today programme which claimed the Government had "sexed up" intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war. Lord Hutton's report severely criticised the BBC, plunging it into crisis and eventually leading to the departure of Mr Dyke and Mr Davies, who backed Gilligan's report.

During a fraught BBC board meeting on 28 January it was decided that the best way to neutralise criticism of the corporation was to ask for Mr Dyke's resignation. In a letter shown to governors a week later, he told the board: "I believe I have been mistreated and I want to be reinstated."

He claimed to have struck a deal with a governor, Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, on the eve of the report's publication under which she would back his attempt to remain in the job.

Instead, the board voted unanimously that he should follow Mr Davies out of the door, who quit just hours before. Dame Pauline denied reaching any such understanding.

Details of Mr Dyke's request to be reinstated were published yesterday by the BBC following media requests under the Freedom of Information Act. The BBC voluntarily published a second set of minutes from 5 February 2004.

At the 28 January meeting it is clear that Mr Dyke still enjoyed support from some governors, who had argued that Mr Davies' resignation had " lanced the boil" and that Mr Dyke's proven leadership skills were needed more than ever. But other unnamed governors countered that Mr Dyke's "stock" in Whitehall was "very low", that his relationship with the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, was already "very poor" and that Lord Hutton had made him a "lame duck" director general.

Mr Davies opened the meeting by describing Lord Hutton's report as " unfair" but said he would accept the "referee's verdict" which left him no alternative but to resign.

He said he now expected the rest of the board to consider their own positions. Mr Dyke then added his own view that Hutton was the most " one-sided report he had ever seen" because it gave the benefit of doubt to everyone in the Government, but to no one at the BBC. He left the room asking for the unanimous backing of the board ­ which was interpreted as offering his resignation if he did not receive this.

After discussing the pros and cons, the governors agreed that Mr Dyke's offer of resignation should be accepted. When he was told of this decision, the minutes show Mr Dyke was "very surprised and therefore shattered by the news".

By 8.30pm he had withdrawn his offer to resign, but the board was adamant that it would dismiss him if necessary. Later that night, he agreed to quit in return for 12 months' salary and a pro-rata bonus payment.

The second batch of minutes released yesterday relate to a meeting held on 5 February at which the details of Mr Dyke's letter were discussed. The meeting heard that Mr Dyke alleged "that a strategy had been agreed between Gavyn Davies, Pauline Neville-Jones and Greg Dyke... that Gavyn Davies would resign, and that Greg Dyke would receive the support of Pauline in a subsequent vote of confidence by the board". In response, Dame Pauline "stated that she had not been party to an understanding with Gavyn and Greg as described in Greg's letter".

Some of the governors said they were still prepared to re-examine the events of the previous week.

But the minutes stated: "In spite of the wide range of initial views, the governors were unanimous in the view that reversing their decision and therefore reinstating Greg Dyke as DG was simply untenable."

Minutes of the fateful January meeting

"Richard Ryder started the discussion by setting out some of the arguments in favour of and those against Greg staying in post and concluded by saying he judged that the overall view of the board was that Greg's offer of resignation should be accepted.

"Richard Ryder left at about 7.15pm to relay the board's decision to Gavyn and Greg.

"7.45pm. Richard Ryder reported on his first meeting with Greg Dyke, who was very surprised and therefore shattered by the news.

"Simon Milner returned to the meeting at 8.30pm. He reported that Greg had withdrawn his offer to resign and instead invited the board to dismiss him or maintain him in post.

"Over the course of the next 2-3 hours, Richard Ryder and Pauline Neville-Jones undertook two meetings with Greg Dyke. At 9.30pm they reported Greg was pursuing three distinct arguments as to why he should not resign:

"He had an understanding with Gavyn Davies that the chairman would resign and that Greg would offer the board an opportunity to back him.

"The external debate on the Hutton report was swinging in the BBC's favour.

"His work at the BBC was incomplete.

"Richard and Pauline reported they had told Greg any understanding with Gavyn Davies lost its force once the chairman had resigned. At 10.20pm they reported Greg had agreed the terms of his departure should be discussed. "

Dramatis personae

Gavyn Davies

Had been BBC chairman for three years when he offered his resignation following the Hutton inquiry. Backed Andrew Gilligan and the BBC news team throughout.

Where is he now? Involved in a number of private equity firms and writes a column.

Greg Dyke

Eventually accepted he should resign at the first meeting. However, submitted a letter to a subsequent meeting a week later arguing he should be reinstated amid opposition to his departure from within the BBC and the general public.

Where is he now? Columnist, broadcaster and adviser to venture capitalist firm.

Pauline Neville-Jones

Dyke claimed Dame Pauline, a key governor in the talks, promised to back him should Davies resign. But at the second meeting the former civil servant denied the claim and the governors decided they could not reinstate him.

Where is she now? Resigned from the BBC in December 2004. Holds several posts, including chair of a defence and security company.

Richard Ryder

Then deputy chairman, Lord Ryder took over the 28 January 2004 governors meeting when Gavyn Davies resigned. It was he who informed Dyke that the board wanted him to go. Critics have described his apology following the publication of the Hutton inquiry as "grovelling".

Where is he now? Resigned eight months after the meeting, in August 2004. Remains a Conservative peer.