Newspaper review: Press ponders Plebgate and Pollard


What many might see as two pillars of the British establishment find themselves under an uncomfortable spotlight this morning - the police and the BBC.

Many of Thursday's papers split their focus between the Pollard Review into the BBC's handling of a shelved Newsnight investigation into the Jimmy Savile child abuse abuse allegations and the deepening "plebgate" row.

The Independent describes the Pollard report into the Savile affair as "damning" and "excoriating".

In its editorial, the paper says "cock-up rather than conspiracy" has been identified as the culprit - but that should not be a relief for the corporation.

It believes poor decision-making and an absence of effective editorial responsibility have lain behind almost everything that has gone wrong at the BBC in recent years, despite elaborate chains of highly-paid executives.

'Modern dysfunction'

The Guardian calls the report "scathing" and says it reveals a culture of "suspicion and mistrust", riven by factions and in-fighting with "rigid management chains".

In its editorial, the newspaper says nobody familiar with the inner workings of the BBC will see in the report anything other than a true likeness.

The report paints a picture of "modern dysfunction" - warring barons keeping information to themselves; rigid management chains and a director general in George Entwistle who lacked the means and will to tackle the issues, it says.

The paper believes the job of clearing the decks has surely only just begun.

To think the "behemoth will float back to the top of public opinion" through copious servings of Strictly Come Dancing would be a mistake, it says. Pollard has presented Lord Hall with a golden opportunity to start afresh, it says.

'Toxic worst'

The Daily Mirror says the Savile affair reduced the corporation to its "toxic worst". Avoidable own goals were scored. But the inquiry could restore BBC to its very best, it says.

The Daily Telegraph says the BBC failed to sack a single executive despite admitting its leadership was chaotic.

A former Newsnight editor, Sian Kevill, tells the paper the corporation may have to do more than move executives to retain public trust.

But Stuart Purvis, a former ITN executive, tells the Financial Times it's a classic BBC response. "One man is gone, one man is about to retire and two have been moved sideways," he says.

'Tame' report

The Sun writes of a "devastating probe" laying bare "incompetence and ruthless backstabbing" at the top of the BBC.

An apoplectic Daily Mail agrees with the Telegraph in finding it surprising that no-one who was moved from their posts will be sacked.

In its editorial, it labels the report "tame" and accuses Nick Pollard of telling us what we already know about the corporation's labyrinthine bureaucracy and lack of leadership.

It complains that "Auntie" will now sink back into her old ways as if nothing happened - and compares that to the fury unleashed on the Press by the Leveson Inquiry.

'Scrupulous investigation'

Meanwhile, the Times leads with the other main story of the day on what it calls the deepening row between the Conservatives and the police about the Downing Street altercation that cost Andrew Mitchell his job as chief whip.

The paper says the original allegation of a lack of respect wasn't trivial but it's been usurped by claims of an altogether different magnitude - that evidence may have been fabricated to discredit a senior government figure.

Its leader says the police must "scrupulously investigate" what happened and why because the public trust depends on it.

The Independent agrees that "Plebgate" has moved beyond what Mr Mitchell said and his future career.

The paper says the debacle has cast doubt on the integrity of the police.

It believes that an officer bearing false witness to attempt to force the dismissal of a government minister is nothing short of subversion of the state.

'Open warfare'

The Guardian says relations between the Conservative party and the police are threatening to erupt into "open warfare".

The FT says pressure is growing on the Metropolitan Police to explain its role in the affair.

In its editorial, the FT notes that what did it for Mr Mitchell was his disputed use of the word "pleb".

In a government top-heavy with posh boys, this "whiff of hauteur" was noxious. But with serious doubts emerging, answers are needed.

The FT says the police need to explain their actions fast - after phone hacking and Hillsborough, they can ill afford to forfeit more public trust.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the former UK Head of Counter Terrorism, John Yeates, says the row has reached farcical proportions - the public is entitled to ask what is going on.

'New peak'

The lead story for the FT is on the settlement paid by UBS for the manipulation of interbank lending rates.

The paper says the imposition of one of the largest penalties ever faced by a bank is a new peak in a sprawling investigation that has drawn in nearly 20 banks and inter-dealer brokers.

In its editorial, the FT says the settlement is not just another notch on the regulator's belt.

It calls the scale of UBS's involvement "astonishing" and thinks the bank's attitude to risk-management and compliance "beggared belief".

Unwanted presents

Lastly, with those Christmas shopping days ebbing away, the Telegraph has news of a survey which probably won't surprise many wives, partners or girlfriends...

Nearly half of men still haven't bought any presents - and expect to be shopping on Christmas Eve.

Worse still, about a third will be making their purchases at a service station.

No surprise then that separate research - in an adjacent story - shows that 15 million people will be throwing away unwanted presents.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites