One of the few traditional Conservatives to have served on the Tory front bench under Cameron, Paterson was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland before being promoted to the more high profile role of Secretary of State for Defra.

Candidate of the day

Owen Paterson

One day to go and Sir John Major has weighed in. “Labour divides to rule. To win votes they will turn rich against poor; north against south; worker against boss." We hope we don't wake up with them on Friday.

Hero of the day

Sir John Major

Another awful Labour woman. The fact Ed Miliband’s carved his pledges in stone doesn't mean he might not break them, campaign chief Lucy Powell has said.

Villain of the day

Lucy Powell

.

THE REAL CONSERVATIVE MANIFESTO

Back marriage. Restore grammar schools. Leave the EU.

David Keighley: Fairhead is just a BBC figurehead. Power lies with the faceless placemen of the liberal Left

Rona Fairhead, who David Cameron has parachuted in as new chairman of the BBC, is being grilled about her approach to the role by the Commons Culture and Sport Committee on Tuesday – and already questions of conflict of interest are being asked.

A former chief executive of the Financial Times group, she still owns a tranche of shares in parent company Pearson worth around £4.5m – and the BBC commercial arm BBC Worldwide has a deal with Pearson which involves the Corporation promoting  some of its educational products. No doubt the BBC’s spin doctors will come up with reasons why that’s perfectly OK, but for the moment they are staying schtum.

Actually, her appointment may be smoke and mirrors and almost an irrelevance. The real power in the Corporation is vested in the Executive Management Board. It takes the key day-to-day decisions about how the BBC is run.

The Trustees (of whom Fairhead will be chairman) is supposed to be the BBC watchdog, but since its inception in 2007 has in reality been pretty ineffective and packed with left-leaning climate change alarmists such as Alison Hastings and Diana Coyle.

Under former chairman Lord Patten, they pretty much sat on their hands while former Director General Mark Thompson presided over a bean feast of eye-wateringly massive pay-outs to departing executives, embarked on lunatic  new technology projects that cost licence-fee payers more than £100m, and also spectacularly failed to act as senior Corporation editorial managers effectively suppressed the Savile story.   Lord Patten tried to convey that he was in command, but he was powerless to stop these monumental blunders.

The Executive Management Board is made up of a core senior BBC executives, such as former Director of News Helen Boaden, who, rather than being sacked, was moved sideways to Managing Director Radio after huge question marks were raised about her conduct in the Savile cover-up.

But the board also has a range of outside non-executives and it is here – firmly out of the spotlight -  that Director General Tony Hall has been making a raft of appointments that show how the BBC is likely to conduct itself in the crucial build-up to 2017 Charter renewal, and who are likely to be far more important in the shaping of BBC conduct.

Who are these people? A mixed bag of fiercely independent minds?  Well no.

Step forward  Sir Nicholas Hytner, Alice Perkins, Dame Fiona Reynolds, Sir Howard Stringer, and Simon Burke.

All, it is true, have impressive-sounding career paths. Hytner is the former director of the National  Theatre;  Stringer  a former president of CBS, the US terrestrial broadcaster, and Sony, the Japanese conglomerate; Perkins is Chairman of the Post Office; Reynolds is a former Director General of the National Trust;  and Burke, a retailer, has a career that started with Richard Branson’s Virgin and he is now a director of the Co-op Food division.

But scratch the surface, and familiar alarm bells start clanging immediately.

Alice Perkins hasn’t adopted the name of her husband – he’s the former foreign secretary Jack Straw. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about that in terms of her outlook. She may, of course, have her own political views, but I doubt she votes UKIP. And one of her BBC executive colleagues on the board is James Purnell, Tony Hall’s Director of Strategy,  another former Labour minister; they worked together under Tony Blair in the Cabinet Office in 2003-5. How very cosy that they are now reunited.

Stringer has a very public obsession pursuing climate change alarmism. Under his leadership, Sony got into bed very firmly with all the usual eco militants in leading the charge towards a 50 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, and he is a platform speaker at climate alarmist events such as this.  This adulatory piece in the BBC’s house journal The Guardian says it all.

Reynolds , now the master of Emmanuel College , can be seen and heard here in full cry telling the students of St Andrew’s University that we are all going to fry and die unless we mend our wicked ways and all become as madly green as she is.  And under Reynolds stewardship, the National Trust turned from being a body simply conserving our heritage to one screeching that climate change is a major national issue that affects us all.

Hytner is very careful about giving interviews about his political outlook. But my guess from a trawl of his background is that he was never a fan of Margaret Thatcher and he stresses the need for the arts to reflect ‘cultural diversity’ – often the code for the multicultural agenda.

Burke is also a bit of an unknown quantity – his career path too colourless to attract much attention -  but he cut his teeth as a key lieutenant of the right-on green warrior Richard Branson, whose enlightened  philosophy is to tell climate ‘deniers’ to get out of the way.

The problem facing the BBC as Fairhead’s appointment moves towards confirmation is not particularly who she is, or what she represents, but that the Corporation  desperately needs input from genuinely independent radical-thinking  figures who can shake up its slavish adherence to left-leaning ideology and outlook.

All the signs are that it is moving in the opposite direction.  Tony Hall has gradually surrounded himself with a cosy coterie that shares his own worldview – and in turn, that’s exactly the same as that of the Trustees.

On Tuesday, the MPs on the Culture Committee will focus on Fairhead, but she’s destined to be an empty, toothless figurehead.  The real power lies elsewhere.

David Keighley

  • Nick

    Please stop calling these people Liberals – by attaching themselves to the AGW gravy train, they expose their Malthusian instincts and socialist/Marxist sympathies. They are elitist and anti-liberal. Liberalism used to and still should mean a belief that the rights of the individual are inviolable. These people want nothing more than the right of the state to strip that inviolability for the good of the people and to coerce all commercial and social relations to their utopian totalitarian nightmare. Do they not see where their ideas will necessarily end?

  • After supplying information to the members of committee, which seriously
    question the appointment of Ms Rona Fairhead as Chairwoman of the BBC Trust. I
    came to see the committee question Ms Rona Fairhead.

    What did I find, is
    the Chairman of the committee Mr John Whittingdale having such a
    busy relationship with his mobile phone, just like some other members of the
    committee who were using their mobile phones. One can only ask where was this
    committee’s manners and respect???

    As a member of the public watching
    these men and women question Ms Rona Fairhead, I have to say I have had tougher
    questions for my 10-year-old son concerning why he couldn’t stay up late. Only
    one member of the committee questioned Ms Fairhead concerning
    HSBC Group money-laundering activities in Mexico.

    Ms
    Fairhead response, was a joke and obscene joke at that, did she tell the truth
    to this committee??? Does the evidence support Ms Rona Fairhead’s response to
    the committee’s about HSBC’s behaviour in Mexico??

  • A member of staff kept coming out of the Wilson room looking for Ms
    Fairhead, eventually Ms Fairhead did arrived.

    After taking her seat and with shaking hands poured herself some water. If
    Ms Fairhead was nervous about the committee’s questions, she had no need to
    be.

    Was this committee tough on in its questioning of Ms Fairhead????? Please
    don’t make me laugh, children sitting there 11+ exam next week will face tougher
    questions than Ms Rona Fairhead did.

    Should the members of this committee hang their head in shame????