Richard Ingrams' Week: The blue sky's the limit for these overpaid executives

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The Independent Online

The days of the BBC, like those of the C of E, could well be numbered, as the people running the corporation show complete indifference to the feelings of the licence payers (you and me).

With redundancies and cutbacks the order of the day, the BBC's senior executives have chosen to pay themselves huge bonuses. Special attention is given to the case this week of Ms Jana Bennett (new salary £536,000), the Head of Vision who earlier this year was censured for her role in the so-called Crowngate when the BBC falsely claimed to have film of the Queen storming out of a photo session with the boring American photographer Annie Leibowitz.

Whenever BBC bosses are accused of feathering their nests like this they answer the charge by arguing that they could earn a lot more working for a commercial channel.

This week was no exception. Defending the bonuses and the huge salaries – his own is £816,000 – Director-General Mark Thompson spoke of job applicants "almost rolling on the floor laughing" when they were told about the BBC's rates of pay compared to those on offer elsewhere.

It was the former director-general John Birt who first started this line of defence while simultaneously paying himself huge sums, not to mention all the perks. But his own career failed to support his argument.

He was so confident of his exceptional abilities that when he retired he even talked of getting a job from Bill Gates of Microsoft. It never happened and he ended up working as a "Blue Skies Thinker" for Tony Blair.

And what were the innovative ideas that he came up with? There is nothing at all that we can point to.

And where is he now? Nobody knows or cares.

Freedom fighter or figure of fun?

The News of the World has done its best to paint Max Mosley as a Nazi. Others will see him simply as some kind of weirdo, or sexual pervert. On the opposite side there are people hailing him as a champion of freedom, fighting for the liberty of the citizen to do whatever he likes in the privacy of a Chelsea basement.

The real damage to Mosley is that he will emerge from his court action as a figure of fun. For all the indignation felt by some about immorality or the threat to our liberties, there will be a great many more who regard the episode as superbly comical.

First there is the so-called orgy itself, with the girls, according to their evidence, dressed in costumes from a fancy-dress website, barely able to suppress their giggles, while one of them attempts secretly to film the proceedings in exchange for a large sum of money from the News of the World. Then there is the absurdity of taking the newspaper to court in an attempt by Mosley to uphold his right to privacy. Here again, there must be many of the lawyers concerned struggling to keep a straight face.

I pointed out before how Max Mosley seems to have inherited a strong sexual appetite from his father, the fascist leader Sir Oswald. But Mosley Snr also lacked a sense of humour and was quite unaware that, to many onlookers who saw him strutting about on a platform giving Nazi-style salutes to his cheering followers, he was a comic figure. It is worth remembering that Oswald Mosley inspired P G Wodehouse's only venture into political satire in the person of Sir Roderick Spode, leader of a movement of militarised boy scouts known as Black Shorts.

* Considering how few people nowadays go to church, it is curious how much interest there is in the current controversies about gay clergy and women bishops, both of which are threatening to break up the Church of England.

That is perhaps because all the campaigners for gay rights and equal opportunities for women see a chance to proclaim their beliefs and wax indignant about an institution apparently still in thrall to old-fashioned prejudice. The liberal consensus, typified by the BBC, will take the same line while making an unconvincing attempt to appear impartial on the issue.

With no interest in – and little knowledge of – religion, these people see nothing to choose between a church and any secular organisation. In their eyes a Bishop is no different from, say, the manager of a chain of supermarkets. To discriminate against women would be outlawed in Tesco, so how can the Church of England justify its outdated system? This is the 21st century, we are reminded, when voices are raised to defend the status quo.

What does it all matter, in any case, ask other concerned voices, when people are starving in Zimbabwe and teenagers are knifing one another in the streets? Surely the Church has more important things to do.

It may be true. But people who say that sort of thing ignore the more important point: that there are now a great many Anglicans who are keen, in some case almost hysterically so, to vote for changes which they know will deeply offend others and possibly lead to a break-up of the already tottering Church. And that looks horribly like a death wish.

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