Question time over BBC boss appointment

1995 library filer of Chris Moncrieff. Photo by Peter Smith/PA
1995 library filer of Chris Moncrieff. Photo by Peter Smith/PA
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George Entwistle was plainly a hard-working, valuable and loyal servant of the BBC for nearly a quarter of a century.

Yet, good man though he is, he was plainly unfitted for the post of director-general. That became painfully obvious during his recent unimpressive performance before the Commons Culture Select Committee, followed by his mauling interview on the Today programme by John Humphrys only a few hours before he quit. But who selected him for this post? None other than Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC trustees, who stood alongside him as he made his painful resignation statement and said Entwistle had acted with “honour and courage”. So it is scarcely any wonder there have been calls for the resignation as well of Lord Patten. He had before him, when he made his choice, an array of people who would almost certainly have been more fitted for the post than the unfortunate Entwistle. Never before can a BBC director-general have faced such an inferno, almost the moment he got his feet under the table.

I am astonished Ann Widdecombe has attacked the Tory authorities for having suspended Nadine Dorries from the party. Widdecombe has described those who took this step as “idiots”. Let it not be forgotten Dorries was elected to Parliament not on the strength of her own personality and brilliance, but, like nearly every other Member of Parliament, on the back of one of the major political parties. Those who get elected to the Commons on the strength of their personal popularity could be counted on the fingers of one hand – and I suspect Dorries is not among them.

That is why she has broken faith with the Conservative Party, to whom she owes her seat, by going on this hugely profitable jaunt without telling the whips. So Sir George Young, the Government chief whip, was right to remove the party whip from her.

And Dorries – and Widdecombe – were wrong. Loyalty should still count for something.

A point which her Mid-Bedfordshire constituency party will no doubt bear in mind when she returns.

No wonder David Cameron is scared stiff to hold a referendum on whether Britain stays in or gets out of the European Union - because the signs are there would be a substantial majority of voters who want us to break away. It seems unbelievable they have the brass neck to try to secure £13.8bn in extra funding from national governments for this year and next. It is unbelievable because while taxpayers all over Europe are having to tighten their belts, the EU is demanding yet more. Last month a band of so-called Tory rebels helped to inflict a humiliating Commons defeat on the Government over the question of EU finances. That vote was not binding on the Government. Why not? What is the point of voting at all if the outcome is meaningless?