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On resignation, Greg Dyke, little black books, and why The Guardian needs an awayday on fame and how to describe people

Posted on 4 August 2011 | 11:08am

I had really wanted to see the ‘My Resignation’ documentary on BBC4 last night. It is an interesting theme and the people making it seemed a cut above your average instant docmaker.

Having interviewed me on a rainy day like today, they were also polite enough to tell me when the programme was on. But I forgot, so the first I realised I had missed it was a bit of twittertraffic and this morning’s review in The Guardian. The reviewer, Sam Wollaston, put me in a short list of what he called ‘classy’ interviews, and I also note that I am one of three people – Greg Dyke and Richard Desmond are the other two – deemed by him and his subs not to need description.

This is an interesting phenomenon – why do The Guardian assume that Dyke (ex BBC, Roland Rat, Brentford FC – got him yet?) Desmond (pornographer – he owns the rights to my post-adolescent sex scribblings I think – owner of Daily Express and Daily Star) and I (you probably know me or else you wouldn’t be wandering round my website, but basically all round good guy, used to work for Tony Blair ((former UK Prime Minister, also all round good guy))) ‘need no introduction’ but Jacqui Smith requires the label ‘former Home Secretary’?

To understand who Richard Luce is Mr Wollaston and/or the Guardian subs believe we need the whole works – ‘parliamentary under-secretary of state for foreign affairs in 1982’. Similarly I learn that the film included interviews with ‘Dr Stephen Bolsin, the anaesthetist who blew the whistle on the bungling killer surgeons at Bristol Royal Infirmary;’ and ‘Catherine Gun, who leaked a US national security agency’s request to bug the offices of the UN’.

I also learn that I missed a chat with ‘former F1 boss’ Max Moseley. This is a fascinating one. The Guardian is assuming we know what F1 is (though frankly my first thought would be that it was a keyboard shortcut) but that we cannot know who Moseley is without being told of the link to the keyboard shortcut. Yet surely anyone who knows that F1 is meant to mean Formula One rather than a keyboard shortcut would know of Max Moseley’s relationship to it? I think The Guardian needs to have an awayday, and sort out its fame lists … just who does need a description, and who does not, and for those who do, how much of a description should it be? It could be half style book/half celeb commentary. It might even become something of an unexpected bestseller, like the Lynne Truss book on apostrophes.

Other newspapers could then rely on it too, including the Gulf paper which once carried a picture of TB in a line of half a dozen Arab princes in full Arab gear, and the caption said ‘Tony Blair, (third from left), meeting members of the government yesterday’ … there is a whole chapter to be done on what information can be assumed on seeing a photo.

Anyway enough of this digression, back to the substance of the programme I didn’t see. Sam (may I call him Sam now? – I feel quite familiar having read his piece so closely) revealed in his review that in the film, former BBC director-general Greg Dyke said that he had a little black book, and that it contained names as varied as mine, Tony Blair’s and Sarah Hogg’s, once a colleague at the Beeb.

There is one step up (or should it be down?) from the little black book concept, and that is what a former Mirror colleague of mine called the FTA list – Funerals To Attend. This is a list of people about whom one feels so strongly that one not only wishes them harm, but wishes to be there to witness its final effect.

I don’t know whether Greg will be pleased or disappointed to know he is not on mine, and nor is he in my little black book. In fact, as I sit here ruminating on my LBB and my FTA lists, I realise that they do seem to shorten with age.

When Greg and I were doing the media rounds on phonehacking recently, I bumped into him for the very first time since he was forced to resign in the aftermath of the Hutton Inquiry. I suspect that means that just as my FTA list has shortened, so my desire to socialise – which was never very strong – has diminished too.

So having gone years without a sighting of each other, two came along within the space of a few minutes. We had perfectly civil, if spiky exchanges, but I certainly bore him no ill will, and felt none in return, though he did insist on telling me the BBC had been ‘right’ in their reporting of WMD, and I did therefore insist on pointing out that the report in question was that we inserted false intelligence into the WMD dossier, knowing it to be untrue, and against the wishes of the intelligence agencies. Wrong, wrong and wrong, and nothing has emerged since to change that.

I don’t know if any of the background to my own resignation made the programme. Sam reveals that I was definitely on the programme – classy indeed – but there is no guide as to content, and I seem to recall discussing my own resignation and that of Robin Cook, Peter Mandelson (twice), Tony Blair, Ron Davies, Steve Byers, and many more besides.

The only way I will find out if via iplayer I guess, but I feel there is something not quite right about watching a programme during the day that went out at 9pm, and all on your own when nobody else is watching.

So instead I intend to think a little about who, on The Guardian awayday that is surely now being planned, will go in the list of ‘people who need no description.’ Sorry, Sam and subs, but I don’t think I will be on it. Nor will Greg Dyke. Nor will Richard Desmond.

The Queen? For sure. Barack Obama. Almost certainly. David Beckham and Tiger Woods. I think so … but no, wait a moment. What was my son telling me recently? That an Oxford graduate he met asked the question ‘who is Nelson Mandela?’ True story.

So I think it is best always to assume ignorance. We can discuss at the awayday the extent to which the media is to blame. But assume it we must.

I can’t believe I have written almost 1100 words about a programme I had been hoping to see, but missed.

** To order signed copies of Alastair’s diaries via Waterstone’s, click here

Ps, the signed-book-ordering feature is now also on the frontpage of the website. Waterstone’s is a well-known bookstore chain, I shall be telling The Guardian awayday assuming, as its inspiration, that I am invited.

  • the ghost of Kenneth Williams.

    Can we put a tweet limit of characters to your blog entries, please? That was uncharacteristically dull and a complete waste of time.

  • Anonymous

    I can no longer cede any credibility to your writing until you call Gilligan on his assertions and his challenge to you to sue him..

  • Robrob2002

    Interesting to read about your encounter with Greg Dyke – but more interesting to read you reaction to his comments. 
    You made a massive contribution to Labour’s victories – and I feel most fair minded Labour supporters (including myself) would acknowledge and thank you for that. 
    But – there is still persists a strong belief about you and the Iraq dossier that won’t go away. 
    That is, you transferred your undoubted talents of Communication, PR and Spinning into an area that you wasn’t appropriate.
    i.e. making the case for going to war. 
    If you fail to address this – and stick with your existing arguments – you will never escape the ‘Dodgy Dossier’ accusation that overshadows all the other achievements you have made.

  • Mark Hinchcliffe

    did see the documentary which, rather than following a traditional, linear
    approach, chose to dip in and out of the individual’s stories at a confusing rate.  However one thing came across very clear, of
    the 15 to 20 participants in the programme, Greg Dyke was by far the most
    bitter and angry about his own resignation.


    Dyke was happy to admit that he had agreed to offer to resign on the understanding
    that this would be rejected by the BBC board. He seemed to be of the opinion that
    this offer alone would be enough to calm the furore caused by the Hutton report
    finding the BBC completely at fault.


    was no indication from Mr Dyke that he thought he should resign because he was in
    the wrong and had made a mistake, so imagine his surprise when his resignation
    was accepted.


    Stephen Bolsin and Catherine Gun who, despite being in the right, sacrificed a
    huge amount to resign from their posts with dignity intact, Mr Dyke (still
    denying he was in the wrong) spoke at length about his bitterness and his resentment
    towards individuals he saw responsible for his downfall.


    did take time out from the bitterness to point out that he was not too worried
    about resigning because he didn’t have a mortgage, presumably unlike Dr Bolsin
    and Ms Gun.


    very classy about Mr Dyke then or now I’m afraid.

  • Robert

    Just caught the programme on I-player.

    Not bad. They should have put subtitles: “speaking in YYYY”, in all fairness as much of it was archive footage.

    Neat that they put your piccie as the intro – perhaps they realised the only I-player audience would come through your puffing it!

    Loved the quote from Robin Cook – “swimming in a sea of emotion here”.

  • ambrosian

    I get intensely irritated by the many presenters who say “of course” after describing their guest or interviewee. James Naughtie is the worst offender.
    “We’re joined by Fraser Nelson, Editor of the Spectator, of course.”
    If all 7 million listeners know who he is, why tell us? If, as is the case, some people won’t know who he is, then why say “of course”?
    However, he didn’t say “of course” when he used the wrong consonant in referring to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. I don’t know if this was because he thought everyone knew he was Culture Secretary or that everyone knew he was a ***t.

  • I won’t be in the new Guardian style (famous and fabulous) guide unless I sell a lot more personalised handmade and fabulous cards – that IS a hint.

    Back to the theme…which is, in essence, whether to watch iPlayer alone after the event has been screened to the masses. There are considerations a-plenty:

    1] you must use either a laptop or a new-fangled wonderous telly with the iPlayer feature. I have neither but hubby lends me the former if I am really good.

    2] you have to be as comfy as watching the telly which is great if using 1] latter and dicey if using 1] former actually on your lap.

    3] you must like being alone and love yourself enough to think you are worth the treat of daytime telly watching, whether it be 1] former or 1] latter

    4] you don’t have to tell anyone you’ve done it…unless you’ve already blogged that you haven’t seen the original screening in which case subsequently blogging that you have seen it gives the game away.

    5] you have to want to watch it much more than reading your own comments

    Go on Alastair, you know you want to…

  • Rebecca Hanson

    Perhaps they should just give enough information so that you can clearly identify the person if you Google them?

  • Gilliebc

    AC I caught that prog. last night.  More by accident than design and as it was on BBC4, I thought at first it was probably a repeat of a prog. made a few years ago.  So at first I was only half-watching it, but then Jacqui Smith popped up and of course I then realised it couldn’t be that old a programme!  So fortunately I was paying more attention when you said your piece.

    I have to say that my heart went out to you and your family when you described the home/work conflict that occured over the Iraq thing.  A difficult time for all of you.

    This programme is well worth a watch imo and I am hoping to watch it again soon.

  • MicheleB

    A person should not have to stay in the stocks pleading for no soft fruit to be thrown ad infinitum.

    Grey Dyeke, the slack ‘controller’, claimed not to have heard his own stations sickening hourly news slots for weeks after they started.

    He and his Today underlings (some of whom are still in post and lording it daily) should own up to their shambolic behaviour (who in their right mind would schedule a 6am phone interview with a shambolic hack?) and to  being the cause of Dr Kelly’s mis-placed shame as well as catastrophic damage to Britain’s reputation at home and worldwide. 

    July 7th anyone?

  • MicheleB

    Aw, how sweet, you joined specially for that.


  • MicheleB

    That fly has already been swatted.

  • Gilliebc

    Who the hell are you to come to this site making judgements?  You didn’t have to read it!  I assume no one was forcing you to read it.  You vacuous wanker.

  • Gilliebc

    Shirley, do you have a website for your “personalised handmade and fabulous cards”?  Sounds interesting.  I’m always on the lookout for something that bit different in the card line.

  • Lou Rossati

    To the chattering classes and those actively involved in politics you need no introduction (of course) but some people might be surprised to learn that your first name is Alastair and not “F**king”… 🙂

  • Lou Rossati

    Away-days for all media would be a good idea and then it would be interesting to compare their lists of who needs no introduction. 

    What always amuses me is that, in political circles, mention of “the Dark Lord” needs no clarification. ( For those not quite so steeped in British politics, think Mandelson not Voldemort! )

  • Anonymous

    I think not. He (gilligan) called Mr Campbell a liar and seems to be getting away with that.
    What are you afraid of Mr Campbell?…surely not that there is any truth to his assertions?

  • MicheleB


    I do enjoy the compulsion that must be felt by the brand-newly registered single posters or those popping in after a year out  😉

  • MicheleB

    Recommended reading for you from your own type of journal :

    and this a far more reputable journalist than Gilligan could even pretend to be, who was also a close friend of Dr Kelly:

  • Anonymous

    A little strong Gilliebc… and he did say uncharacteristically. Even the best people need criticism sometimes 🙂

  • Ehtch

    Did see it, and was not bad. Quite interesting. Greg Dyke does come across as a bit of a chameleon, and to hear that he keeps a black book is not surprising. Jackqui Smith did comes across as a bit naive, especialy as having been in the position of Home Secretary. And have always liked Max Mosley, what with the positive things he did for Formula One and other motorsports at FIA. Although his private life adventures seem quite bizarre to me, especially when considering who his father was, Oswald.

  • Ehtch

    And just to digress, as usual, BLIMEY!, the markets are falling like an Isaac Newton stone!

    But I have my own theory on this – capitalism cannot be sustained with our present modern forms of communication, where one side of the world knows what the other side is doing within a second or two. Capitalism, in what we have experienced in most of our lifetimes, depends on taking advantage of a position, with a large time lag, weeks, months, or even years, in finding out what someone was up to.

    Those days seem to be over, and it is quite pathetic in what has happened in the last few years, with “certain people” trying to keep it going, and falling on their faces. This weeks chapter just backs it up. Emporer’s clothes anyone?

    Worldwide communism might be the way, you could argue…

  • Ehtch

    Furthermore, with reference to gays in the armed forces being witch hunted in the past – all I have got to say is what the hell was the problem in the first place? My Great Aunt, who was a public school teacher in Yorkshire, and during WWII was an officer in the Landarmy, suffered many nervous breakdowns through her lifetime due to her sexuality choice, and there was no reason for it. I am straight, and with my experiance in the RAF and the TA, I could always spot a gay a mile off, met several of them in the services, but I never had a problem with them, and I couldn’t understand such a witch hunt.

    This is the reason why – you go to work, whatever occupation you do, and put your work hat on, and then you knock off work, and put your personal hat on, whoever above legal age is waiting for you at home. The film “Victim” by Dirk Bogarde when watched when young about 35 years ago gave me a education on such matters, and how society makes a mess of their lives by their smallmindedness. In Wales, we have always been accepting of gays, even though there was always ribbing and gossip at such, but it was accepted almost all on the whole.

  • Ehtch

    Further to my comment on totally backing gays or not, with having to resign or not, Ladytron, started up in Liverpool with their bi-curious things, one of my favotite groups that I like to listen to, released around about now. And by the way, I am just a fan, and understand where they are coming from, artistically and culturally, and do NOT have any financial interest. That is the sort of person I am. Totally haunting and enchanting video and music,

  • Indeed I do – follow my facebook trail by hitting my image here – you are looking for SDCrafts – without actually giving you the url – seems a bit unfair to take free ads from AC’s space. Then you can email me with your requirements as no online shop.

    Meanwhile, back to the day – jargon – we’re all at it too – AC, DC, GO etc. 

  • Janete

    Superb links provided MicheleB. Susan Watts’ testimony particularly damning:  
    “She told the inquiry that she felt “under considerable pressure” to reveal to BBC bosses the source of her story on Newsnight.
    She felt that executives were trying to corroborate the story by Andrew Gilligan in a way that was both “misguided and false”.
    Ms Watts also said “there were very significant differences between his report and my report.
    “Namely, that I did not include the name of Alastair Campbell.
    “And that I did not refer to my source as being a member of the intelligence services.”
    She told the inquiry that Kelly “didn’t say to me that the dossier was transformed in the last week and he certainly didn’t say that the 45-minute claim was inserted either by Alastair Campbell or by anyone else in Government.
    “In fact, he denied specifically that Alastair Campbell was involved in the conversation on May 30… he was very clear to me that the claim was in the original intelligence.”

    On reading all three articles, one cannot help but draw the conclusion that Gilligan and the subsequent behaviour of BBC executives caused the tragic set of circumstances surrounding the death of David Kelly. I cannot understand how anyone can champion Gilligan in light of his behaviour.

  • Ehtch

    and If my daughter turned up tomorrow, and said “hey dad. I am gay”. I wouldn’t blink an eye. You can always adopt with your “friend” I would tell her, if you want, but I am not clued up on those things, or sperm doner or something, on one of you or both, or something. I would have to ask my ol’ mate and landlord Rupert Rushbrooke from Forest Hill what to really say in said situation, children in a gay couple situation that is. I would be out of my depth, initially.

  • MicheleB

    Hi Janete; I’m afraid i couldn’t find an even more relevant report that I found a couple of weeks ago; I should have bookmarked it.  That one damned the whole group at Today, especially Rod Liddle. 

    Summary was that Gilligan’s  role was a new one and his given target was to get scoops – hardly the right criteria for a ‘Defence Correspondent’ imhoo.  It was highly critical of the Beeb in general and said Gilligan had no legitimate credentials for either his topic or the level of responsibility his title carried.  I don’t know whether with the ‘legitimate’ they were making ref also to the forged refs he’d used when applying for a role with Keith Vaz a few years earlier.

    All a dreadful embarrassment to anyone that loves R4 as I do!

  • Gilliebc

    Point taken Tauntoncider!  I shall withdraw my last sentence which was uncharacteristic of me 🙂

  • Anonymous

    All the more reason to sue him and put him where you think he belongs.
    By the way I have never in my life read the daily mail. I think your bias is showing there MicheleB

  • ronnie

    How can he do anything else but stick to his existing arguments when the existing arguments are the truth?
    The ‘strong belief’ you refer to is not based in fact but in ten years of reporting which can be at best described as very selective but has frequently been downright biased, to the extent that it has virtually rewritten history on this particular subject.
    The dossiers made the case that Saddam Hussein was a continuing threat that should be taken seriously – not that we should go to war with him. The obvious and overt intention was to pressurise him to disarm. Nobody was hiding this at the time and there was and is nothing wrong with this as a course of action. It has been acknowledged time and time again that the authorship of the document was the responsibility of the intelligence services, not the government or A. Campbell.
    Surely in a situation where a false belief has been created by the media, it’s absurd to suggest that the only way to ‘address’ the situation is to start to say that the falsehood is in fact true? 
    Would it not be better to appeal for some even-handed reporting of the subject?

  • Janete

    Absolutely agree Michele.

    I watched the ‘My Resignation’ documentary today and saw the clip of Greg Dyke saying he didn’t know what the BBC were apologising for!
    Something was very wrong for the likes of Gilligan and Liddle to be employed in the first place, not to mention the incompetent and arrogant handling of the complaint by managers and governors.
    That many people still believe Gilligan’s story despite clear evidence to the contrary can be traced to the BBC’s refusal to properly admit their error and impartially report Hutton’s findings.

    I also love the BBC and R4 but that makes me all the more determined to criticise them when their standards drop or they allow their political colours to show.

  • MicheleB

    Blimey I never realised what ‘Flag’ meant … it’s like ‘Report’?

    I think I pressed it once to see if it gave me an icon of some type so have inadvertently reported someone ….. oh my 🙁

    I thought your post was funny btw Gillie and well-deserved … if a little bit surprising.  The m-word might have stayed 🙂

  • MicheleB

    “………………That many people still believe Gilligan’s story……………”

    I don’t believe they actually need to believe anything Janete.  Part of the catastrophe of the whole thing was that it gave some diehards a weapon of their own, something anything to hurt Labour in general but its media strategist in particular. 
    There’s an irony there about weaponry but I’ve not had enough of my uber coffee to catch it yet.
    The most awful aspect of blogs’ easy access is the gangbanging that can take place so quickly, not to mention that several IDs agreeing with each other could even just be one person with several browsers open.  Or is that actually not so awful …. awful that there are such nutcases but better than however-many of like mind?

    Back to my whooosh pot!

  • MicheleB

    I finally got round to watching the programme on iPlayer and am even more puzzled about how Dyke ever got the job in the first place.

    He admits he screwed up but doesn’t seem to realise the seriousness of the nature of it. 

    He still boasts that he will be avenged and seems to think part of that has been TB’s resignation (ignoring that in between times TB had won another election and his resignation was not amid shameful controversy).

    In his resignation letter he apparently wrote
     “I accept that the BBC made errors of judgement and I’ve sadly
    come to the conclusion that it will be hard to draw a line under this
    whole affair while I am still here”

    He doesn’t acknowledge that HE made errors, one of the biggest must
    surely be his claim that he had not heard (a single?) BBC radio news
    headlines till weeks after the Gilligan interview.  If true it is
    shameful lack of diligence in QC and if a lie ……..

    Am gobsmacked.

  • Gilliebc

    Hi Michele,

    I don’t think “Flag” is the same as the “Report” button, seen on some other sites whose comment system is also powered by Disqus.

    The reason why my comment in reply to “the ghost of Kenneth Williams” is at the moment “flagged for review” is because in the light of Tauntoncider’s comment to me, I agreed with him that I had been a little harsh on the ghost of KW  and I “edited” my orginal comment to exclude the last sentence.

    When comments are edited they have to go through the Moderation process again and this takes a lot longer than a normal comment takes.
    At one time, not that long ago an edited comment used to disappear without trace!  But lately they seem to return several days later, duly edited.

    I think it’s fair to say I have some experience where edited comments are concerned!  If someone draws my attention to the fact that I’ve written something that’s just plain wrong and I think they are correct, I will try and rectify the error by acknowledging my mistake and edtiting the original comment.  What can I say, I’m a very reasonable woman, most of the time! lol 🙂

    Your comment Michele to “the ghost of KW” was much nicer and gentler than mine, but acheived the same purpose.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy writting mine, at the time, but I do try hard not to be deliberately unkind to other people.  Sometimes though I just can’t resist it, especially if I think they are a bit of a div.  I don’t mean you Michele or any of the regulars on here.  I’m thinking of the ultra right-wing, anti-semetic, rascist types who drop in here now and again.

    Blimey, what a long answer to a relatively simple question!  sorry about that 🙂

  • Herbert

    I’d been looking forward to the programme too but gave up after 20 minutes or so because of the way it jerked around. The producers should know that as grown up people we are capable of taking in a sequential narrative.