The 'dirty campaign' to sink Dyke

IN PERHAPS the most vital week of his career in television, Greg Dyke is, according to his friends, sanguine, almost bemused at the maelstrom raging around him. He would like to be BBC director-general, they say, but is aware that the row about his pounds 50,000 donation to the Labour party has blown up out of his control.

In fact, said one friend, "Greg is still on a high after Barcelona." Mr Dyke is a director of Manchester United football club and was sitting close to his idol Bobby Charlton during his club's historic victory over Bayern Munich in the European Cup Final. "I think it might have been the best day of his life. He is still up on a cloud," said the friend.

During the whole affair, with The Times lining up on one side, and his friends rallying on the other, he has remained silent, determined that only the BBC's board of governors will hear his point of view.

The story began when the Murdoch-owned Times revealed that Mr Dyke had contributed not only to the Labour party in general, but directly into the coffers of Tony Blair's leadership campaign. Immediately conspiracy theorists argued that this was Rupert Murdoch's revenge for Mr Dyke's opposition to BSkyB's bid for Manchester United. And the theorists were delighted as The Times went on to dredge up a three-year-old letter to The Independent in which Mr Dyke admitted contributing to the back offices of successive shadow secretaries of state for culture.

The Times carried a series of articles and letters from leading figures saying that Mr Dyke's candidacy had become untenable. John Tusa, the former head of the BBC World Service, doubted that he could be "a truly independent director-general". The independent MP and former war reporter Martin Bell said Mr Dyke was the best-qualified candidate but called the political donation an "insurmountable" problem. A former managing director of BBC Television, Sir Paul Fox, wrote that Mr Dyke had "disqualified himself from being a candidate for the job of director-general".

It looked bad for Mr Dyke - but he stuck with his decision to remain quiet. His friends could not. Old colleagues were keen to point out that Mr Dyke's record was one of fierce editorial independence where politicians are concerned.

Several wrote to The Times saying that the suggestion that Mr Dyke might be susceptible to political pressure "unfairly questions the integrity and honesty of a very singular man". The signatories included Clive Jones, the chief executive of Carlton, Adam Boulton, the political editor of Sky News, and John Stapleton, the journalist and presenter.

Other signatories were, however, part of a group known as the "LWT mafia", which Mr Dyke's critics have denounced as being an overly influential behind-the-scenes elite in the media and political world.

At LWT Mr Dyke worked with people who were to become some of Britain's most powerful television bosses. His colleagues included not only Sir Christopher Bland, the BBC's chairman, who will have a key vote in whether to appoint him, but also the current director-general, Sir John Birt.

Other LWT big hitters included the deputy chairman of Channel 4, Barry Cox, the broadcaster and candidate for London mayor, Trevor Phillips, and the Labour peer and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg. All three signed the Times letter.

The LWT mafia were all spurred on early in their careers by the conviction that they were at the cutting edge of "intelligent television", through involvement with the watershed programme Weekend World. These were the days in which John Birt and Peter Jay proclaimed that television current affairs were about having "a mission to explain".

At the core of the group was, perhaps, the most controversial figure of them all: Peter Mandelson, a veteran of Weekend World, who was best man at Trevor Phillips's wedding, and aspired to be Culture Secretary with political influence over all the former colleagues who rose to the top of the television business.

Years later, the connection has come back to haunt Mr Dyke. A key part of The Times's allegations was that he, at Mr Mandelson's request, and with Melvyn Bragg's encouragement, wrote the party a single cheque for pounds 25,000 to go into Labour coffers.

His LWT days were to work against Mr Dyke in a second way. Some of his friends did not subscribe to the theory that The Times's attack on Dyke was anything to do with Manchester United. Mr Boulton, for instance, saw it, instead, as evidence of an old-school BBC establishment regarding Mr Dyke as an outsider and something of an oik.

When Mr Birt came into the BBC, he brought a lot of LWT editors and producers with him to Lime Grove with the "mission to explain" philosophy. Nastiness bordering on internal warfare broke out as LWT people struggled to leapfrog old-schoolers in the BBC hierarchy. Remnants of the old tensions remain, and helped to fuel another conspiracy theory: that anti-Dyke stories were being planted by BBC executives.

The political dimension blew up when the Tories weighed in this week with a letter which reached The Times before its official recipient, Sir Christopher. It claimed that Mr Dyke would be "totally unacceptable" politically.

Mr Dyke's friends say that the level of vindictiveness against him will backfire. They believe that the BBC's governors will be minded to show independence of Mr Murdoch, The Times and the Tory party and appoint Dyke after all.

Leading article, Review, page 3

Those Who Defend Him

MELVYN BRAGG

A Labour peer who was made to give up his programme on Radio 4 on the grounds that his politics might undermine the perception of his impartiality. He says Greg Dyke's personal beliefs have never interfered with his editorial judgement.

MICHAEL PORTILLO

The Tory 'leader-over-the-water' has said that Greg Dyke should not be penalised for having donated money to a political party. His view clashes with that of William Hague, who says Mr Dyke would be 'totally unacceptable'.

BARRY COX

Deputy chairman of Channel 4, another old LWT hand, who is an old friend of Mr Dyke's and helped draft a letter to The Times pointing to "the integrity and honesty of a very singular man".

... And Those Who Don't

MARTIN BELL

The anti-sleaze independent MP considers Greg Dyke the "best qualified candidate" to be DG, but says his pounds 50,000 donation to Labour "rules him out for the top job in British broadcasting".

ANTHONY HOWARD

The renowned political commentator says Mr Dyke's appointment would "give the clearest signal yet that in Blair's Britain, pork-barrel politics has finally come into its own". He describes Mr Dyke as a "close crony" of Mr Blair.

JOHN TUSA

The former head of the BBC World Service has said "it is staggering someone who has been involved financially with the Prime Minister's leadership campaign should then end up with the most powerful job in the British media".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower