Letter reveals Dyke gift to Blair

Jane Robins Media Correspondent
Friday 28 May 1999 23:02 BST

THE CAMPAIGN to stop Greg Dyke from becoming director-general of the BBC is expected to go into overdrive today with further revelations about the Pearson TV boss's donations to the Labour party.

Mr Dyke's enemies have unearthed and are publicising a letter to The Independent, written in November 1996, in which he admitted that he not only helped finance Tony Blair's campaign to become leader of the party, but that he also "made contributions to help pay for the back offices of successive shadow Secretaries of State for Heritage". From the contents of Mr Dyke's letter, it appears that his cash would have helped fund the offices of Mo Mowlem, Jack Cunningham and the current Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Chris Smith.

Mr Dyke has already been the subject of criticism for being overly-close not just to the party in general, but to Mr Smith in particular. He has denied colluding with Mr Smith in putting himself forward as a director- general - but is known to be highly regarded not only by Mr Smith, but also Mr Blair and the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Peter Mandelson. If he were to become director-general, Mr Dyke would have to deal with Mr Smith in negotiating the level of the licence fee and the extent to which the BBC is involved in digital broadcasting. The "stop Dyke" camp is expected to argue that Mr Dyke is now unacceptably compromised. In the letter, Mr Dyke makes no secret of his wish for a Labour government and encourages others to contribute to the party's 1997 election fund.

The Times newspaper has taken a lead in running articles discrediting the candidature of Mr Dyke on the grounds that he donated pounds 50,000 to the Labour party. These, in return, have prompted a vociferous pro-Dyke movement. Industry luminaries such as Barry Cox,Channel 4's deputy chairman,Clive Jones, boss of Carlton, and Lord Bragg, the broadcaster, have rallied around Mr Dyke, declaring that he is a man of "integrity and honesty" who would never let his personal beliefs interfere with his editorial judgement. The stop-Dyke campaign has included Martin Bell, the independent MP and former war correspondent, John Tusa, the former BBC World Service boss, and Anthony Howard, the political commentator.

In 1994 Mr Dyke gave the McTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh film festival in which he argued that the BBC must be independent of political parties. "We must never again be in a position where the government of the day can fill the board of governors of the BBC with their friends and placemen as the Thatcherites did in the Eighties," he said.

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