LONDON: The Prime Minister's office and the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, are urging Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust, to do more over the next 48 hours to get a grip on the crisis engulfing the BBC but believe he should stay in his job, fearing his departure as well as that of former director general George Entwistle would leave the BBC rudderless.
Downing Street insisted the BBC was not in an existential crisis, and said it was encouraged by Mr Patten's response.
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BBC boss quits amid controversy
Director General of Britain's BBC George Entwistle resigns following controversy over the broadcaster's child sex abuse report.
Downing Street said Mr Cameron remained a strong supporter of the BBC and even feared the crisis might threaten traditions of investigative, risk-taking journalism if management sought to take more control in response to the disastrous errors of the past fortnight.
But two former culture secretaries – Kim Howells and David Mellor – called on Mr Patten to go. There was anger on the Conservative Party backbenches at the way Mr Patten repeatedly criticised Rupert Murdoch and News International on Sunday.
The opposition Labour Party's former director of communications Alastair Campbell also indicated Mr Patten's role as both cheerleader and regulator of the BBC was unsustainable.
Mr Mellor, speaking on the BBC's Sunday Politics, was the first to suggest Mr Patten should quit. "I'm not going to say to an old friend 'resign', but if I was him I'd consider whether I am so tainted by this nonsense . . . George, bless his heart, had the leadership qualities of Winnie the Pooh when it came to the world outside . . . if Chris Patten says I'd do the same again, I don't think he should be given the opportunity to do that."
He implied Mr Patten had wanted a weak figure such as Mr Entwistle, and said Mr Patten should be replaced by "someone who is more energetic and more focused".
Labour's Harriet Harman said Mr Patten would have questions to answer about his appointment of Mr Entwistle, but said politicians should not seek to micro-manage the BBC.
She said it was "a very difficult and dangerous time for the BBC because there are many who have got criticisms of the BBC and don't want it to succeed and flourish".
She welcomed Mr Entwistle's resignation. "What the BBC needed at a very difficult moment was clear leadership and it was evident, not only from his appearance at the select committee but then again yesterday on the radio interviews, that he, for all the great virtues that he had, was not able to step forward and show that leadership," Ms Harman told Sky TV.
Mr Campbell wrote on his blog: "Entwistle is a very nice man, and had his career as DG started off in different circumstances he might have grown to become a good DG at a time that is what the BBC needs. But it is hard to escape the conclusion that the same weaknesses some commentators and insiders saw in him when he was appointed lay behind the appointment in the first place: it would not be the first time the board of an important organisation appointed as chief exec someone they felt was unlikely to threaten or overshadow them.
"In any event, Lord Patten's role surely has to come under proper examination now, not just in relation to the appointment process, but also in relation to the uncomfortable position that makes him both cheerleader and regulator. It is unsustainable."
George, bless his heart, had the leadership qualities of Winnie the Pooh.
The chairman of the House of Commons culture select committee, John Whittingdale, condemned a failure of management, saying something was "badly wrong" with the way the BBC managed its news output. He said it was too soon to say if other heads needed to roll, but it had been a "terrible decision" to put out a program that made false accusations about the former Tory minister Lord McAlpine. He said someone needed to take responsibility for that decision.
Guardian News & Media