BBC staff circulate petition of 'no confidence' in their boss

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A second round of strikes may have - just about - been averted, but the BBC's director-general Mark "mad dog" Thompson isn't out of the woods yet.

A second round of strikes may have - just about - been averted, but the BBC's director-general Mark "mad dog" Thompson isn't out of the woods yet.

Yesterday, staff at our national broadcaster began putting their names to a petition of "no confidence" in their boss who has spent his first year in charge attempting to sack more than 6,000 of their number.

The internet petition, a copy of which will be presented to both the BBC's board of governors and the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, makes uncompromising reading.

It was written by Jonathan Jones, who is thought to be a freelance TV director, and is being publicised via internal e-mail at the Beeb.

"Thompson claims that his proposal for savage cuts across all parts of the BBC, including programme making and essential support services, will somehow deliver better programmes," it reads.

"But he and his managers have completely failed to demonstrate how this can actually work in practice."

It adds that Thompson favours "privatisation and outsourcing", and makes several unsavoury observations about his personal conduct, reminding readers of the now-infamous incident in which he bit a newsroom colleague's ear.

The BBC said, in a statement released yesterday: "We do not wish to respond to this, except to point out that the allegations it contains about Mark Thompson's 'alleged strangling of a picture editor' is untrue, without foundation and highly defamatory."

¿ Val Kilmer was greeted by a slap in the face when he turned up to support his successor as Batman, Christian Bale, at the premiere of Batman Begins on Sunday.

With Kilmer just a few yards away on the red carpet, Bale, left in Batman Begins, was asked what he'd made of Kilmer's performance in the 1998 film.

"I'm not a fan of the previous Batman movies, and didn't enjoy either Val Kilmer's or Michael Keaton's interpretations of the role," he said.

"In fact, we've respectfully ignored everything about them. This film is called Batman Begins because it's all about reinventing the story, rejuvenating it, and taking it as far away from the previous ones as we can."

Kilmer, who is 45, doesn't deserve this sort of cheek.

At the first night of his West End play last week, he loyally informed Pandora that he was "really looking forward" to watching the 31-year-old whippersnapper Bale's debut in the role.

¿ Bryan Ferry was reunited with Roxy Music for the first time in 22 years on Saturday, for a comeback gig at the Isle of Wight Festival.

It wasn't the only emotional reunion to have warmed Ferry's heart of late, though. For I gather that - after a brief break - he's returned to the welcoming arms of an old flame, Rita Konig.

Style journalist Konig, below, had a fling with Ferry, above, back in 2003, but the two were subsequently thought to have gone their seperate ways. However, I gather things are "back on" after she spent a weekend chez Ferry last month.

"They're basically a couple now," says a chum. "Things had cooled off, but Rita was down in Sussex a few weekends ago. I'm not sure how "deep" it all is - they're both fairly simple souls, much as I love them - but they're giving it another go."

¿ Ben Stiller is the latest Hollywood star to jazz up London's West End. Yesterday, he was spotted at the tiny Soho Theatre, buying tickets for Patton Oswalt's first ever UK performance.

A stand-up comedian, Oswalt is virtually unheard of on these shores, but has built up a cult following in his native United States. Apparently, he counts Stiller - who is in town promoting his film Madagascar - as one of his most loyal fans.

"Ben and I have been friends ever since he bought my CD," Oswalt tells me. "After that, I was asked to write punch-up stuff on his film scripts, and to help with the bonus stuff on some of his DVDs."

And there I was, thinking Stiller wrote his own jokes.

¿ Ding dong! It's round two in the battle of the broadcasters. At the recent Hay Festival, John Humphrys claimed his infant son could do a better job than the "overpaid" likes of Fiona Bruce and Huw Edwards.

Now Edwards has returned fire, jollifying last week's St Paul Travelers On Risk conference - a dreary affair for insurance solicitors - with a mention of "my small newsreader's brain, as John Humphrys would say".

To gasps from the floor, he then added: "That's John Humphrys, the dwarf, of course."

Although Humphrys might not be the world's tallest man, he's got a temper, and Edwards may yet live to regret picking a fight.

Having appeared in Pandora recently, Humphrys telephoned to claim (and who am I argue?) that this column is written by a "cock".