Lord Hussey, Thatcher's man at the BBC, dies

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Indy Politics

Marmaduke Hussey, the man said to have been brought in by Margaret Thatcher to "sort out" the BBC, has died aged 83.

Former colleagues paid tribute yesterday to Lord Hussey, who was chairman of the BBC for 10 years from 1986. Lord Hussey, who lost a leg in the Second World War, was installed by the Thatcher government with the apparent intention of tackling the corporation's perceived left-wing bias.

The crisis of his chairmanship came in January 1987 when he sacked Alasdair Milne, then director general, over the debacle surrounding the Zircon affair - a banned television investigation into the Government funding of a spy satellite. The programme, which Mr Milne barred from being broadcast, resulted in Special Branch officers raiding BBC premises.

Lord Hussey retired from the BBC in 1996 amid reports of a growing rift with then BBC director general John Birt. The pair were said to have fallen out overMr Birt's management style and his failure to inform Lord Hussey of the contents of the Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.

Known as Dukie, Lord Hussey used an artificial leg and walked with the aid of a cane after being hit by sub-machine-gun fire at Anzio in 1943.

From 1971 to 1980 he was managing director of Times Newspapers. He tried to secure a national agreement with the unions for new technology in Fleet Street. The move led to industrial strife in 1978, forcing The Times and The Sunday Times to cease publication for nearly a year.

Lord Hussey married Lady Susan Waldegrave, a lady-in-waiting to the Queenand godmother to Prince William. The couple had a son and a daughter.

Lord Rees-Mogg, former editor of The Times, said Lord Hussey was a very close friend who had been "a truly wonderful man".

The BBC director general, Mark Thompson,said: "He will be remembered for his great vision, his integrity and his forthrightness, but also for his great personal kindness." The acting BBC chairman, Anthony Salz, said: "Before his retirement in 1996 he ensured that the BBC was in a strong position to lead the advent of the internet and digital broadcasting."