The BBC is forking out £150,000 a year on one of Tony Blair’s former spin chiefs to help rebuild its reputation in the wake of the Savile scandal.
Godric Smith, the Labour prime minister’s official spokesman between 2001 and 2004, is receiving the generous salary to work part-time for the battered broadcaster.
Godric Smith with Tony Blair during a Downing Street press conference in 2006
The appointment has infuriated Tory MPs as the BBC already has 140 staff in its in-house PR department, with a salary bill of around £5million, the Daily Mail has reported.
The appointment is likely to raise questions about cronyism at the corporation, the Sunday Times wrote when Smith secured his contract.
Smith was recruited this summer by former Labour Cabinet minister James Purnell, who he worked closely with at No10.
Tory MP Steve Barclay, a member of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, told the Mail: "The BBC seem to be partying like it is 1997 all over again, with new Labour cronies dishing out licence fee bungs to each other without the convenience of a job interview or even having to turn up to the office full-time."
Smith, who succeeded Alastair Campbell as the prime minister’s spokesman, was a key figure at No 10 when the Hutton inquiry claimed the scalps of Gavyn Davies, then the BBC chairman, and Greg Dyke, then its director-general.
Smith gave evidence at the Hutton inquiry, during which he said he had advised Campbell against making public the fact that an official, later identified as David Kelly, the former weapons inspector, had admitted being the source for a controversial report by Andrew Gilligan, the BBC journalist, about the compiling of a dossier of evidence about Iraq’s weapons capability.