“Heads must roll” is not a quick fix for the BBC or the cabinet

What’s there to trust in public life? A new Hillsborough inquiry into a dreadful police cover up of how 23 died in the same year as Finucane ; UBS in the latest bank scandal over fixing the Libor rate, amid unresolved rows about big banks and bankers’ pay. Off with all their heads? But also comes  a reminder  that it should not be so easy to sack cabinet ministers such as  Andrew Mitchell and Peter Mandelson, “the comeback king”.  Where stands the BBC in this litany after the Pollard report?   Scornful newspaper reaction to “Deputy heads must role” but a reminder from a BBC veteran that different standards apply to the press themselves.

  As for the calls from politicians and pundits for more scalps, how many newspaper editors quit after they libelled the parents of Madeleine McCann by in effect accusing them of her murder? How many “decided to retire” after branding the wholly innocent Christopher Jeffries as the killer of Joanna Yeates?

You might well agree with MPs  condemning as “cavalier” the 415k + pay off to the short-lived director general, George Entwistle.  I expect no more from people who are paid a basic 60k and are still feeling the effects of the expenses scandal. The BBC outcome was  a civil service solution than a politicians’ solution, more in keeping with its founding traditions than the current fashion of trying to throw politcians out of the window at every available opportunity, to the cheers of the press  Big organisations are neurotic enough without building in yet more insecurity. As BBC chairman Chris Patten has just pointed out, “three DGs  suddenly removed in 25 years over editorial crises  is too many and it’s got to stop.”

Many, perhaps most will disagree. Yet despite the immediate impression of more BBC complacency, I somehow doubt if my the old place will feel quite the same, a few months into the New Year.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London