Say it with flattery
Observations on the BBC
The BBC is haunted by two ghosts, but they are behaving in very different ways. Gavyn Davies reacted to the loss of the BBC chairmanship with stoicism and wry humour. When he resigned, he wrote an emollient letter to Tony Blair. He had no plans to luxuriate in grievance. But to his surprise - because the PM is usually good at the little courtesies - there was no reply. Davies mentioned it to his old friend Gordon Brown. There was still no reply.
Then, irritated by something Alastair Campbell was reported as saying, Davies announced at a party that perhaps he would sue Campbell after all. A number of Blairites were present. Two days later, Davies received a warm letter from Blair.
That almost certainly closes the matter with Davies, but the former director general, Greg Dyke, is in less conciliatory mood and will not be initiating a friendly correspondence with No10. Hurt to the core by the governors' decision to accept his offer of resignation - and still at moments giving the impression that he expects his old job back - Dyke is writing his memoirs. He intends to lay into his enemies, starting with the PM. The expectation is that the book will be serialised in the Sunday Times in the weeks just before the Labour Party conference so as to cause maximum trouble. Dyke also intends to give his detailed views of the BBC governors' personalities and shortcomings.
When he was appointed, Dyke told a BBC audience that he thought he had some of John Birt's intellect and some of Michael Grade's flair. "If it turns out to be the other way round," he went on, "God help us all." Whatever his intellect or flair, no DG was ever more popular with BBC staff. Yet Grade may emulate him. One shrewd observer has identified the reason: Grade's family background. Several of his relations were successful impresarios - good at talent-spotting and at nurturing, humouring, soothing and flattering it. Grade has been wandering around the BBC talking to staff as if they were starlets who deserve a dressing room full of flowers and champagne.