A sorry spectacle: all those who thought Greg Dyke would never say sorry, think again. Yesterday, speaking to an audience in Glasgow, he apologised unreservedly – for having once given Tony Blair £5000 to help him win the leadership contest in the Labour party. Mr Dyke said he now saw that Tony was “the worst sort of prime minister.” Greg’s repentance for having assisted him in the past was total.
Of course, some of us think Tony unfit to be prime minister because of his habit of appointing people like Greg Dyke to posts where impartiality is needed. Natalie Solent has described how people below a certain moral level can’t see how they betray themselves even as they apologise. That Greg had contributed sizable sums to Labour party funds was known to me. That he had also given money somewhat more directly to Tony was news to me (and perhaps to many in his audience). A cleverer man would not have mentioned it while denouncing his sacking. A man who had a clue why the BBC should try to be impartial would not have reminded us how very partisan he was. And a man with a sense of humour would have avoided a speech that so invited parody (I helped Tony get Tony’s job and Tony helped me get mine; how dare he go back on the deal !).
The idea of this rather obvious satire did not help the air of martyrdom Greg saught to hint at: (I summarise the gist) ‘Now that the government have had their revenge on the BBC and imposed their authority, at least the renewal of the BBC’s charter in 2007 should go through easily.’ I’m not sure if Mr Dyke really sees himself as a noble sacrifice for the cause of the BBC, but I suspect he hopes others may. In the same vein, having vented his spleen on the prime minister, Greg preferred to damn his successor at the BBC with faint praise (a good sign as far as it goes, I suppose, though savage criticism of him would have been a much better one). There was a definite air of holding himself in, and great praise for the splendid people in the BBC generally. I think this disappointed some in the audience, who hoped for scandalous revelations (or assertions, at least) but Greg is not burning any boats. Tony is a passing thing, but the BBC is eternal.
I pass over his defence of the general correctness and well-intentionedness of everything else he has ever done and said. He offered nothing new and others have posted more than enough analysis of it. It was a little unfortunate that a man assuring us he got things essentially right should repeatedly fluff the names of such well known actors in the drama as Tony Blair, Andrew Gilligan and Saddam Hussein, but (as he himself might agree with reference to Tony Blair), speech-making skill is no guide to general ability. I’m happy to extend him as much courtesy on this as he and his like show to such right-wing US politicians as sometimes fluff their lines.
He had his friends in the audience but it is hard to keep left-wing activists happy, One of these wanted to know why he had not supported a plan for a wholly Scottish 6 o’clock news (I can well imagine how keen the left-wing establishment here is that we in Scotland should less often ‘see ourselves as ithers see us’). So much for any hopes Mr Dyke may have had that the throwaway remark in Rod Liddle’s critique of Greg’s regime at the BBC
… seminars (I remember them well) where you were told, “The Scottish and Welsh Assemblies are very important and don’t you dare ever suggest otherwise.” …
would at least have saved him from such criticisms. Here too, he may feel, there is little gratitude. As for me, I’m just grateful he’s gone.