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Lord Patten’s select committee catfight

27 November 2012

Sparks flew this morning in the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, as Lord Patten came to verbal blows with Tory MP Philip Davies over the extent of his involvement in the BBC. Patten has previously come in for criticism over allegedly holding down 14 separate jobs – including his role of chairman of the BBC Trust – but when asked about his day-to-day work at the corporation, he dismissed the MP’s ‘impertinent question.’ ‘Do you want to know my toilet habits?’ Patten scoffed.

Fortunately, Davies didn’t, but he went on to describe the BBC as ‘a shambles’, asking: ‘Have you been actually putting in the hours?’ Perhaps wearied by his morning of questioning, Patten had had enough. ‘I don’t think this Socratic dialogue is getting us very far’, he shot back.

Licence-payers’ cash – and its use – was the main topic of Patten’s select committee appearance this morning. Speaking alongside the acting Director General Tim Davie, Patten was quizzed about his work at the BBC, George Entwistle’s resignation, and the on-going inquiries into two Newsnight programmes.

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The results of the Pollard inquiry into why Newsnight’s programme on Jimmy Savile was shelved will be announced ‘certainly before Christmas’, Patten told the committee. The review won’t come cheap though. The QC employed to do the questioning is being paid for by the licence-payer, as are the legal fees of all BBC employees involved. Tim Davie added that the money to fund this is from a contingency fund usually used for ‘things like funerals’. ‘State funerals’, he clarified. But what about the cost of both the Pollard inquiry, and the second inquiry into the goings-on at the BBC when Savile worked there? It ‘clearly will be expensive’, Patten admitted, due to the number of lawyers involved. But a cap on the cost would have a knock-on effect of capping the inquiry – thus preventing a good job from being done.

Patten was also grilled about the departure of the former Director General, George Entwistle, from the corporation.  Patten alleged that he told Entwistle: ‘We’re not urging you to go, but we’re not urging you to stay,’ prior to his departure from the BBC. Entwistle’s  £450,000 pay-off was, he agreed, ‘a hell of a lot of money’, but less than Entwistle had initially wanted.  Had the BBC taken the matter to a tribunal, argued Patten, that sum would ‘almost certainly’ have increased by £80,000. Even so, Patten refused to ‘join in the trashing of a decent man’, adding that he ‘didn’t deserve to have his character demolished’.

Asked about how much of his time is dedicated to the BBC, Patten explained that his role as the BBC Trust Chairman takes up ‘about eight days a week’ at the moment. He mentioned – and then dismissed – the results of an FOI request which had been submitted by the blogger Guido Fawkes which revealed that he had spent an average of just two days a week in the office in the first six months of this year. He works at least three of four days a week, he said, and often spends one or two days a week doing other BBC work.

But on the subject of the McAlpine programme, both Patten and Davie were in agreement. There was ‘appalling editorial judgement’ said Patten, while Davie insisted that any mistakes which happened in the Newsnight programme were the fault of the BBC. ‘I wouldn’t outsource blame’, he said, referring to the BBC’s partnership with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism on the programme.

‘People at the BBC are aghast at what has happened… but they are delivering as usual. This is not an organisation that is falling apart internally.’

And for those who disagree with their verdict? Patten has a solution.

‘Anyone who rubbishes the BBC should be forced to watch Italian TV for a week. If you want Italian TV with bunga bunga, then so be it.’

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Show comments
  • ButcombeMan

    Patten must go
    Let us be absolutely clear. George’s failure was Patten’s failure.

    The first Newsnight mistake cannot be pinned on Patten, the second quite clearly can.

    George was Patten’s creature, Patten’ nominee, if George was not up to the job-and plainly he was not, because he failed so abysmally -Patten is to blame.

    After the first Newsnight fiasco, the Savile affair, the FIRST thing any new incumbent shopuld have done was a basic and quick, SWOT analyisis. Had this been done the second fiasco would have been “headed off at the pass”. This is BASIC management. George upto the job or not, should have been helped, by Patten, to see the essentials.

    Patten messsed up and big time. His arrogance in front of the committe is a gross impertinence, he was taking public money to do a job he did not do. From the look of things Patten wants the glory and the salary cheque, without the accompanying work load. This is OUR money.

    If Cameron has any balls, Patten should get an interview without coffee.

    The man is an absolute disgrace and an example of all that is wrong with UK public life,

  • Agonistes

    The more I see of Patten during this crisis the less I like him. Patronising, arrogant, a public sector man through and through – troughing on our entertainment tax. They deserve their inflated non job wages, were impertinent to query them. Well done Philip Davies – who is a good MP.

  • Bill Brinsmead

    The tone of comments re this post is nasty, mean, resentful and just sad. A bit like Philip Davies. Have all the mad Ukippers migrated from conservativehome? How many read the wonderfully written Spectator?

  • Michael990

    “the money to fund this is from a contingency fund usually used for ‘things like funerals’.”
    Let us hope it is an early nail in the BBC’s coffin.

  • Nick

    I am Italian and I live in the UK. Italian television use to be interesting but nowadays it shows few good programmes and a lot of rubbish.
    BBC is far more interesting, but this is not the case with British television in general: for instance, Jeremy Kyle Show is a British programme, isn’t it?

    My impression is that this Lord is trying to divert the attention from the BBC scandals. He should focus on the sexual abuses against teenagers perpetrated for decades by a group of BBC hosts and on the generous bonuses of the BBC managers. Sir, focus on that shame: you have enough to think about before making comparisons.

  • Wilhelm

    ” How dare you ask me ”

    Patten has put his foot in it, by being aggressive towards a very reasonable question, then adding sarcasm. you know he’s at it.

    I think he’s more interested in a restaurant menu than work.

  • MirthaTidville

    The equally odious Chris Bryant referred to Fat Pang as a class act…………..what more do you need to know!!

    • TomTom

      Chris Bryant ex-BBC

  • Wilhelm

    The arrogance, contempt and sense of entitlement of Patten borders on the supernatural.

    ” The impertinence, do you want to know my toilet habits.”

    What a smartass comment, listen chum, the British volk pays your wages.

    • TomTom

      There is clearly an issue with his toilet habits or he would not have mentioned it…..

  • Wilhelm

    How many whites have to be butchered by blacks on our streets, before the BBC mentions it ?

    • Bert3000

      And to think some awful people accuse you of being racist!

      • Wilhelm

        I’m sorry you feel that way Bert666, it’s such a shame you don’t have any sympathy for the 16 year old girl victim.

        And Bert666, Gosh ! I didn’t realise I was being racist. Who are these ” awful people ” accusing me of being this ?

      • EJ

        F*** off Bert – he’s right.

  • Chris

    I’d never heard of Philip Davies before. Just heard his performance on the radio. What an odious little cretin!

    • Vulture

      I’d never heard of him either, Chris – but he sounds like my kinda guy.

      Patten on the other hand sounds ( and is) all the things you say : odious, cretinous and little.,

    • TomTom

      Poor Chris…..he is in fact a very good MP and has a contempt for Patten who is basically a parasite on the public payroll

  • Wilhelm

    I gave up watching the BBC ( the Bolshevik Brainwashing Commissariat ) years ago, too ethnic for my tastes, if you get my drift.

    For example, they have put a black actor playing a knight in Merlin, sad, isn’t it ? Of course, as we all know, 8th century England was full of Africans, wasn’t it ? But the BBC is really racist because they didn’t put the black actor in the role of King Arthur !

    I hope when the BBC does a drama about ” Saint ” Nelson Mandela, they get a white actor to play him, without blacking up, that’s only fair.

    • TomTom

      I still hope for them to show Mohammed and Ayesha – A True Love Story

    • dalai guevara

      It would be interesting (not) to hear your review of the latest Jesus/Moses sequels. Blue eyes?

  • Biggestaspidistra

    ‘Anyone who rubbishes the BBC should be forced to watch Italian TV for a week. If you want Italian TV with bunga bunga, then so be it.’

    So sad. So predictable. He means from his villa in Tuscany.

    • TomTom

      Italian TV is for Italians – BBC is for BBC Staff who don’t watch its output. Why should anyone reference the failings of the BBC by talking about Italy which has far better weather and so fewer hours of TV are watched than in the UK.

  • Shane Mark

    Who appointed Patten? yes Dave , Arrogant overpaid beauracrat. from Hk to EU , last time he stood for election he was rejected in Bath 20 years ago.
    Philip Davies a star and really got under Pattens skin, these unelected Lords do hate tough questions.

  • HellforLeather

    This article is timed 22:28

    Hours and hours after other “news” outfits filled us in on this.

  • mcclane

    Chis Patten & Mervin King… Two sides of the same coin.

  • 2trueblue

    Obviously the role that Petten holds at the BBC is not a very important one if it is accepted that the person doing it is not expected to devote much time to it. It begs the question as to why he is needed there at all.

    • TomTom

      He is supposed to represent THE VIEWER against the Management

  • Daniel Maris

    Did anyone notice the venom with which Patten spat out the word “populist”?

    Yep, that’s what they really think about you.

    It’s time for the people of the UK to take control of their destiny from the great toads of the establishment croaking their eternal songs of self-advancement.

  • In2minds

    The BBC and bunga bunga, remind me how much the BBC paid Jonathan Ross? Patronising Pang must go.

  • TomTom

    Patten is also recipient of an EU Pension in addition to his other sinecures

    • Torontory

      Of course! This explains Patten’s robust defense of Lord Tony Hall getting his BBC pension as well as the DG salary; suspect that is pensionable as well!!

  • Torontory

    I watched this from start to finish. My take was that Patten was patronising and arrogant from beginning to end using his politician’s art to deflect the question and answer something other than what was asked. Bear in mind that as a Parliamentary Committee, it has the right to ask whatever question it wishes whether the participant likes it or not. His spat with Philip Davies – clearly Davies had got under his skin – was a contempt of the committee and therefore a contempt of Parliament. John Whittingdale should be demanding an apology. Davies comment that Patten liked the title of the job, but not the work was spot on; a new Chairman of the BBC should be sought as soon as the investigation reports are in.

    • Daniel Maris

      I agree. I think Philip Davies did well not to be intimidated by Fat Pang and to tell him what his job was.

      • telemachus

        My question is who the hell does Philip Davies think he is
        We are all grateful for the steady solid Patten when the baying hoardes were trying to break it up
        Fortunately the pack has moved on

        • telemachus

          Philip Davies, the MP for Shipley, claimed people with disabilities or mental health problems were at a disadvantage because they could not offer to work for less money.

          Philip Davies: the minimum wage is not helping disabled people
          Relaxing the law would help some disabled people to compete more effectively for jobs in “the real world” in which they are “by definition” less productive than workers without disabilities, he claimed.

          • TomTom

            3.5% Remploy Workers found new jobs……tell us why you don’t hire disabled workers in your business Telemachus

            • Andy

              Telemachus doesn’t do anything so grubby as run a ‘business’. It’s probably a social worker in Rochdale or bleedin Rotherham.

          • Whyshouldihavetoregister

            Davies is quite right. Your problem with him, Teletubby, is that he explodes your belief that thinking beautiful thoughts is enough.

        • Vulture

          Davies is an elected MP – which is more than can be said for that fat arsehole Patten, who since he was booted out by the good burghers of Bath in 1992 has held a myriad of well-paid sinecures for no good reason whatsoever. He’s a corrupt, arrogant oaf. Typical pal of Dave.

        • TomTom

          Philip Davies knows he is a damned good Constituency MP. That is his Constitutional position – he is nor running an Organisation established by Royal Charter like the East India Company and not even accountable under The Companies Acts. The BBC is ACCOUNTABLE to Parliament – it uses Taxation Powers conferred by Parliament and hires Capita to collect its taxation under penalty of Crown Prosecution for Non-Payment. Meanwhile Grand Panjandrum Patten is SUPPOSED to represent the Licence Payers but seems to be in bed with the Management. The BBC Trust is SUPPOSED to be the way the BBC avoids being regulated by OFCOM like ITV – clearly the system does not work and an INDEPENDENT REGULATOR of the BBC is essential.

        • Colonel Mustard

          The true test of a politician’s dodgyness: advocacy by telemachus. If the politician is a supposed “conservative” then factor 10 and Common Purpose.

        • EJ

          Says it all about Fatty Pang that a Leftie like you thinks he’s good news!

    • dalai guevara

      Don’t know if we watched the same thing – his response was entirely appropriate and the laughs were on…his side.

      • Daniel Maris

        I watched it in 3D – which includes the dimension of him being a public servant not one of our masters. Why he thinks it outrageous for members of the committee to see his office diary, given he is a public servant in receipt of public money, I don’t know. One suspects it was a pretty occasional sort of thing up until recently.

        • dalai guevara

          Come on. So is the PM, or the Head of MI6 for that matter. The response received for what is hardly a public affair is hard to swallow for some, but nonetheless absolutely appropriate.

          We must ask ourselves this: why in all honesty is the Chairman’s diary of any importance here? What is the issue? You want to figure out who he had his next meeting with to see who was in line for the DG post? Nosey git! You wanna prove that he has not overseen the news bulletins that went out? You should know that that’s none of his business. What do you really want? Link him fate to Savile, again? It just does not wash.

          For most there is an entirely different open/hidden agenda. It is to ‘rebalance’ the the political message that is thrown at us. Well guess what – the way this used to work was that one half of this left/right black/white polarisation was delivered via a privately run organisation. Did they take a knock? Have the red-tops directed at the underclass lost all their revenue streams now that Lembit and Peter Andre are toast and the ‘message’ is no longer delivered effectively?

          If you believe this lot have suffered too much, perhaps split the BBC into a granny channel and one for rebel socialists. Go provide the balance we all require – deliver it all under government’s control, whilst send the gossip lot off to the other side of the world where the sun shines. If it raises the standards, I am all for it. It could not have gotten any worse than it had. But that is hardly Lord Pattens fault.

          • Noa

            He’s handsomely rewarded for whatever it is he does. By you and I.
            Do you know what Lord Patten’s job objectives are? Or how he measures up to them? Or who assesses them? Or when? and what should happen when he doesn’t perform? Can he be sacked?

            Let us see his targets, reports, and achievements or lack of them.

            So far the latter predominate, but he continues to draw the pay and expenses.

            • dalai guevara

              Performance targets: I guess they are just up for discussion at the moment as I outlined above.
              Remuneration: I could not care less, honestly. It’s all in proportion or do you know otherwise?

              • Noa

                My point really, if you didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing in the first place how do you know whether you were getting value for your taxes.

                But if you didn’t care in the first place, why should you care now?

                You seem most deferential to people in senior public sector positions.
                Do you think would they be as understanding of you, if you performed as incompetently and with such hauteur in working for them?

                • dalai guevara

                  First of all, prove incompetence. Secondly, we know what he is supposed to be doing, but now his job description might change due to the ‘imbalances’ I have outlined. Thirdly, deference does not come into it. I have tried to highlight the conundrum the e n t i r e press is in at the moment (not just the BBC), and trying to make a case for the illegitimacy of a governmentally-run news agency by digging out a withheld news bulletin of program A by program B is such a weak case to start with, it would not convince a five year old, even if you raised his pocket money. Any kid would still sense you are up to something sinister.

      • TomTom

        He had brought his own audience…….

    • Border Boy

      I instinctively disliked the bumptious, self important Philip Davies and his smart arse questions designed to insult Patten. This is part of a larger pattern of behaviour by select committees, where MPs not fit for government strut their unimpressive stuff and seek to bully witnesses. Patten’s response might be viewed by some as arrogant, but Davies got what he deserved. If he had behaved less like a prat he might have found he was not treated like one.

      • TomTom

        So Parliamentary Select Committees are unimportant in your grand view. The Executive is everything, the Legislature is nothing. Well BorderBoy at least we know that you have contempt for democratic accountability and find that LOrds should not have to answer to elected Members of Parliament.

    • EJ

      It’s the way he stands there with his hands in his pockets that winds me up: a smug, arrogant, contemptuous old trough-snuffler – a leftie Trojan horse gorging off the public – appointed by the ultimate leftie Trojan horse: Cameron.

  • GIN1138

    Who the hell does Patten think he is? This puffed up buffoon has lurched from one disaster to another for the past 25 years.
    How he keeps getting these prominant roles in public life god only knows, but its about time this vastly over-promoted moron was finally held to account.

    • Austin Barry

      Well, Patten is clubbable and well-fed, the beneficiary of endless agreeable meals in pretentious dining rooms where he basks in the glow of his own soiled, self-regarding mediocrity, smelling faintly of smoke, congealed sweat and deep fried pomposity. A typical inert product of our ruling elite, smug in the embrace of the establishment’s incestuous and seemingly endless generosity and patronage.

      • telemachus

        And to cap it all he deigns to defend the dangerously left BBC

        • TomTom

          BBC is not dangerously left but simply ridiculous for the best-funded News company in the world. It is a bloated bureaucracy like taxpayer funded TV in Germany (ARD, ZDF) full of nepotism and lavish lifestyles. It is cheaper to buy a TV than a Licence

      • EJ

        A beautiful and Dickensian description!

    • Daniel Maris

      The only time he’s shown any humility is when the flag came down and the PLA marched over that bridge in Hong Kong, reducing him to tears. Were his tears for the people of Hong Kong? Were they f***! Just tears for the exposure of all that prep school bluster he indulged in while governor.

      • Colonel Mustard

        I watched him stand in the weeping rain as on behalf of Britain and its spineless grey men he handed that jewel of the orient and all its people to a totalitarian regime that murders its own students. I shall never forgive him or Britain, despite the “sensible” wets that may bleat and whine “Well, what could we do?”

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