Stephen Glover: Patten and Cameron may be on collision course

Media Studies: In other circumstances I might admire someone with an aversion to TV, but it doesn't seem an ideal qualification in a chairman-designate

The former Tory Cabinet minister Chris Patten has been confirmed as the new chairman of the BBC Trust. He is a pugnacious, intelligent heavyweight. No one could doubt he is equal to the task – if he really wants to do it.

Does he, though? I was struck by a sense of detachment in the evidence he gave last week to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee. I wouldn't be too worried by his saying that he intends to remain a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party, despite previous BBC chairmen with political affiliations having resigned their party memberships as a symbolic gesture of independence. Lord Patten is no one's patsy.

But his decision not to give up his paid advisory work for BP, thought to bring him at least £30,000 a year, is more worrying. He will also remain Chancellor of Oxford University, an honorific role that must soak up time and energy. As chairman of the BBC Trust he will be paid £110,000 a year for what is supposed to be a four-day week, and one can't help wondering whether he will put in the hours.

Lord Patten, no spring chicken at 66, also admitted that he "hardly watches television" though he is a regular listener to the Today programme on Radio 4, as well as to Radio 3. In other circumstances I might admire someone with an aversion to TV, but it doesn't seem an ideal qualification in a chairman-designate. The BBC is above all a television broadcaster, and its TV output will experience the most drastic cutbacks, some of which were leaked last week. It is in television that the corporation will face increasing competition from Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB.

If I am somewhat unclear why Lord Patten sought the job, it is more obvious why he has been appointed. The director-general, Mark Thompson (a practising Catholic like Lord Patten, by the way) has pushed for someone from the main governing party who knows where the levers are, and might also be relied upon to stand up for the BBC. As governor of Hong Kong, Lord Patten did not mind aggravating the Chinese, thereby winning the plaudits of the liberal chattering classes.

Assuming he has the necessary commitment, he may be at loggerheads with Mr Cameron before long, despite their both coming from the same liberal wing of the Tory party. The Prime Minister is already much exercised (reasonably in my view) by the BBC's relentlessly negative portrayal of the supposedly disastrous consequences of cuts. Lord Patten may soon find himself called on to be the BBC's staunch defender.





Is Mr Rusbridger hiding something?



For at least two weeks, journalists have been asking why The Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, has gone soft on Rupert Murdoch. When the Government announced that the media mogul could acquire the 61 per cent of BSkyB it does not already own, The Guardian – which had been leading the charge against the deal, as it had been inveighing against the News of the World's phone hacking – ran a notably damp editorial. ("This was hardly the moment to be offering Mr Murdoch even more power".) It also carried a flurry of rather sympathetic pieces on its website to mark the tycoon's 80th birthday.

What could be going on? There was speculation that Mr Rusbridger may have felt vulnerable, for some unknown reason. Was it possible that a Murdoch paper had acquired evidence that The Guardian had employed private investigators? (Actually, it did so once, in 2001, when investigating the multinational company Monsanto.)

All speculation was blown apart on Saturday when the collapse of a murder trial enabled the paper to reveal the links between a former private investigator called Jonathan Rees and the News of the World. An angry leader chided David Cameron and Nick Clegg for appointing the paper's former editor, Andy Coulson, as the Government's director of communications in May 2010 while knowing that he had re-engaged the services of Rees after his release from prison.

So The Guardian is no longer pulling its punches where Murdoch is concerned. The baffling question remains why, for at least two weeks, it did.





The BBC's litmus test for news stories



It was the News of the World which broke the story about Prince Andrew's unwise relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender, on 20 February. A week later The Mail on Sunday took it further, and the Daily Mail enthusiastically developed it. The Times and others then joined in. Almost inexplicably, The Sun, no admirer of minor royals, was slow to get going.

But the BBC sat on its hands. Only after The Guardian had splashed with a piece about the Prince on Saturday 5 March did the corporation begin to take the multiplying allegations seriously. Its new-found interest helped to redouble the energies of The Daily Telegraph, which reveals new horrors about the Prince almost every day.

The trajectory is a familiar one. If a story involves sexual shenanigans or general wrongdoing in a major public figure, the BBC hangs back, especially, as is usually the case, if a tabloid is the prime mover. It is only when The Guardian determines a story is kosher that the BBC jumps in.



How to make a Diamond sparkle



In an age of banker-bashing, Damian Reece's treacley interview of Bob Diamond, chief executive of Barclays, in The Daily Telegraph made my eyes pop. The paper's City Editor accompanied Mr Diamond during his whistle-stop tour of Kenya while the banker "outlined his vision". Mr Diamond's purpose in being interviewed in Africa – where, we were told, he had been into the bush and watched tribal dancing – was presumably to counteract images of him as a hard-nosed, metropolitan fat cat. It was a PR stunt which cried out for the pen of a satirist, but we got Mr Reece instead. In a separate column, the City Editor considered Mr Diamond's £6.5m bonus under a headline suggesting that "he was worth every penny".

s.glover@independent.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Lead Systems Developer / Software Developer

COMPETITIVE + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Lead Systems Developer / Sof...

Recruitment Genius: Social Media & Engagement Manager - French or German Speaker

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: The world's leading financial services careers...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive - 6 Months Contract

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Digital Marketing Executive...

Guru Careers: Account Manager / Senior Account Manager

40-45K DOE + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Manager / Senior Account Manag...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory