12/11/2012 03:30 GMT | Updated 12/11/2012 06:43 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: A Reward For Failure?

The ten things you need to know on Monday 12 November...


Is the BBC its own worst enemy? The corporation didn't need to help the newspapers with their Monday-morning headlines and splashes but I guess Beeb bosses thought they'd give them a hand by agreeing a whopping £450,000 pension-and-severance package with outgoing director-general George Entwistle, who quit on Saturday night after just 54 days in the job.

The Tory chair of the culture, media and sport select committee, John Whittingdale, who you'll be hearing a lot from in the coming days, said last night: "A lot of people will be very surprised that somebody who was in the job for such a short period of time, and then had to leave in these circumstances, should be walking away with £450,000 of licence fee payers' money."

Labour's Harriet Harman put it more succinctly: the payment, she said, looks like "a reward for failure".

A BBC spokesman said the money reflected Entwistle's decision to "continue to help" with BBC business, including two ongoing inquiries into the Saville scandal. Yes, but 450k? (The acting director-general Tim Davie, incidentally, will today set out his own plans for reform of the corporation in response to a report that's been completed on what went wrong at Newsnight. I wonder what he's being paid...)

Meanwhile, David Dimbleby has been on the Today programme - some are suggesting DD should be the next DG - and was keen to defend the BBC's reputation from this "one absurd broadcast" on Newsnight.

He did, however, launch a series of attacks on the outgoing DG and the self-perpetuating bureaucracy at the top of the corporation.

"The fact that he chose to resign rather than stay and fight" shows Entwistle wasn't the right man for the job, said Dimbleby. The values of the BBC, he added, were "being betrayed" by the corporation's management. "It's gone bonkers" at the management level, he said. "Good plain-speaking is needed, not gobbledeegook." He also argued that the BBC Trust should take it's time in selecting a new DG, and not rush the process.


Will BBC Trust Chair and ex-cabinet minister Chris Patten be the next to go? The (right-wing) papers seem to be gunning for the pro-European leftie Tory - as so do some (right-wing) politicians. Rent-a-quote Tory MP Philip Davies tells the Telegraph that the BBC chair's position "has become farcical. This pay–off [for Entwistle] is totally unjustifiable, it's unacceptable, it's extraordinary and I suspect it's been done to save Lord Patten's bacon."

A headline in the Mail reads: "The chairman has failed. Now he must go too." The Sun calls him: "Toast man Patt".

The FT leader, however, argues: "[I]t is hard to see what is to be gained by decapitating the very top of the BBC, by pushing out Lord Patten, the chairman, for instance. This would only perpetuate the sense of crisis. The priority must be to stabilise the corporation and find a new director general."

I'm with the FT. The BBC needs a few days (weeks?) to just calm down a bit.


Tory MPs and the Murdoch-owned press might not want to mention it but the FT offers us this rather apt reminder:

"In a 2011 survey by Ofcom, the media regulator, 59 per cent of people said the BBC was the news source they most trusted. The next, ITV News, scored 7 per cent. No newspaper beat 2 per cent.

There are signs that this level of trust is being eroded, but the BBC is clearly still a long way ahead."


From the Guardian:

"Chief constables have been barred from warning the public that a low turnout in Thursday's police and crime commissioner (PCC) elections could have a negative effect on policing.

... The ban stems from section 60 of the PCC Elections Order 2012 on illegal canvassing by police officers, which says they must not do anything that would persuade or dissuade anybody from voting.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has told forces: 'At its most literal, this could mean that any well-meaning officer who encourages the electorate to become involved in the elections would be acting contrary to this law and liable to prosecution, regardless ... that they are not endorsing any political position.'"


A British serviceman in Afghanistan has been shot and killed in yet another so-called "green on blue" attack, i.e. by an Afghan counterpart, rather than by the Taliban.

The shooting took place yesterday, after Remembrance Day services in Helmand province. More than 60 coalition troops, including 12 British servicemen, have been killed by Afghan soldiers or policemen this year - remember that particular statistic next time a minister blithely claims we're making progress in Afghanistan.


Watch this video of Truffles the guinea pig, who's just reclaimed the world record for the longest leap. ("The longest leap by a guinea pig, that is," as the HuffPost UK Comedy team point out. "Obviously.")


Is Ed Balls about to force yet another U-turn in government policy? From the Times:

"George Osborne is preparing to cancel an increase in fuel duty, Tory MPs believe... The Chancellor has been under pressure to cancel a 3p increase due to be imposed in January. Several Conservative MPs had been planning to join Labour to vote against the rise in the Commons today. However Robert Halfon, a Tory MP who has led the campaign against a fuel duty increase, said he was sure that Mr Osborne was in 'listening mode'."


Meanwhile, the Sun reports that the PM is on a "collision course" with Britain's top generals over a possible UK military intervention in Syria.

The paper says that Cameron "had ordered chiefs to draw up a raft of military options — including Our Boys establishing 'safe zones' to protect civilians.

But he faces a major battle because top brass are dead set against the idea.

A military source said: 'When one Brigadier heard the news Cameron wanted an armed solution his response was, 'you and whose Army?'

The source added: 'They don’t want to get embroiled in another war when they’re already stretched beyond capacity.'"


We all remember Rowan Williams' various broadsides against the British government - over Iraq, the treatment of refugees, the lack of social housing, austerity measures and the rest.

His successor Justin Welby, who was confirmed as the new archbishop of Canterbury on Friday, seems to be equally unafraid of taking political - and anti-government - stances.

From the Independent:

"The incoming Archbishop of Canterbury risks provoking a row with ministers by claiming that planned City reforms will fail those in Britain's poorest communities.

Just three days after being named as the new leader of the Church of England, the Right Reverend Justin Welby will demand that legislation is redrafted to shame banks into lending more money to poorer regions.

The House of Lords amendment is his first political act since he was named as the next leader of 80 million Anglicans last Friday. He is currently the Bishop of Durham and takes up the new post next month."


The Greek parliament has approved a fresh set of austerity measures overnight - it's the second package of so-called 'savings' to be voted through in the space of a week.

From the Guardian:

"The legislation will impose deep spending cuts on the country's already battered economy, as international lenders demand further austerity in return for assistance.

... Thousands of people gathered outside the Greek parliament in Syntagma Square, Athens, to urge MPs to vote down the budget... The protesters' chants included "Out, out, out with the IMF" and "Hands off workers' rights". There was drama inside the chamber where opposition MP Stathis Panagoulis, of the leftwing Syriza party, warned that Greece faced "civil war", and that politicians risk being "lynched" and "murdered" as a result of the austerity measures."

The Greek premier said he hoped it would be the last time the parliament would have to vote for such deep cuts in public spending. I wouldn't hold your breath, Antonis...


Judging from my Twitter feed, most of the denizens of Westminster and Fleet Street tuned into 'I'm A Celebrity...' on ITV1 last night, to watch MP Nadine Dorries be humiliated in the jungle (full disclosure: I was watching 'Homeland' on Channel 4...)

The Times reports that the Mid-Bedfordshire MP "is to donate her parliamentary salary to charity while she is taking part in I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!

But the Conservative MP for Mid-Bedfordshire could still make a profit from her time on the reality show, earning as much as £40,000 while being away from her constituency for up to a month."

Last night Mrs Dorries was voted to face the Bug Burial trial. Asked if he'd voted too, the communities secretary Eric Pickles tweeted:

"Yes, phone on speed-dial."


“There is no deliberate institutional collusion [at the BBC]. When people stand back, these are isolated incidents. The organisation is so vast, so complex and imperial, but I don’t think the case for structural change has been proved.” - Media analyst, Claire Enders, speaking to the FT.


From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 44

Conservatives 32

Lib Dems 8

That would give Labour a majority of 120.


@Ed_Miliband BBC needs to put in place strong DG and reforms to sort out its problems. Essential to restore trust in one of our great national assets.

@ianbirrell Entwistle payoff demonstrates the BBC's astonishing ability to shoot itself in the foot...and why Patten is not the right man for his job

@oflynnexpress Don't agree with Lab saying it's Entwistle duty not to take his severance. How many outgoing Lab ministers did not take theirs 97-2010?


John Simpson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "The only way the corporation can regain the trust of viewers and listeners around the world is to admit its mistakes and then prove that its high standards have not been lost irretrievably."

Jackie Ashley, writing in the Guardian, says: "Bad management isn't new at the corporation, but let's keep things in perspective. There's no reason it can't rebuild."

Tim Montgomerie, writing in the Times, says: "Parties of the right, here and in the US, must find a way to reassure those who are afraid of market forces."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol