New Director-General: Tory anger at `this foolish appointment'

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MPS AND MEDIA figures last night welcomed the appointment of a "forceful motivator" to the helm of the BBC, but many expressed concern about Greg Dyke's political impartiality.

Referring to Mr Dyke's reported pounds 50,000 donation to the Labour Party, Martin Bell, the BBC war reporter turned Independent MP, said: "Right from the start of the job, people will have perceptions that he is not politically neutral."

The former Conservative armed forces minister, Nicholas Soames, described the appointment as "foolish and irresponsible". He said that at a time when there was "a great deal of anxiety about propriety in public life" it was a "very risky choice" to select as director-general of the BBC a man who gave pounds 50,000 to the party which was now the party in power.

Andrew Neil, publisher of The Scotsman and Sunday Business who himself was interviewed for the post of director-general, also expressed concern. "It is not ideal that a prominent backer of the Labour Party should run the BBC," he said, adding that he hoped the row over his political allegiance could turn out to be a blessing.

While Mr Neil regretted not getting the job himself, saying "It would have been a great way to have spent my fifties", he reckoned Mr Dyke was in for a hard time. "The BBC is riddled with people who will try and stop you from doing anything and bad-mouth you and feed stories to the press to try and undermine any radical agenda," he said.

Trevor Phillips, the broadcaster who said that "every day was an adventure" when he worked with Mr Dyke at London Weekend Television (LWT), said he believed the appointment would be a morale booster. "Greg is a tremendous motivator and that is what the BBC needs right now. John Birt has done a great job at re-engineering the organisation, but now it needs someone to enthuse it."

Mr Phillips added that Mr Dyke was "too off-message to be regarded as a safe bet by anybody, whatever his political allegiance".

The Liberal Democrats weighed into the political row with a claim that previous senior figures in the BBC have been active supporters of the Conservative Party and called on Mr Dyke to prove his impartiality.

Nick Harvey, the party's head of campaigns and communications, said: "Previous chairmen of the BBC have been known Tory activists. It is up to Greg Dyke to show in his conduct that he is not politically biased."

Michael Jackson, chief executive of Channel 4, who ruled himself out of the race for director-general, said last night: "Greg Dyke is a charismatic leader who will be a brilliant motivator of staff at the BBC."