Patten in jobs for the boys quiz

By Richard Kay


A BBC cronyism row is threatening to erupt after MPs revealed plans to grill new Director-General Lord Hall and BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten over why three senior Corporation appointments worth more than £1  million a year were not  advertised.

On Thursday, Hall and Patten are due to give evidence to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee.

It will be the first time Hall has been called to Parliament since taking up his post on April 2.

In what committee members are describing as a 'wide-ranging session', Patten will be questioned over how Hall appears to have avoided an open interview process to gain the £450,000 job.

Patten will be questioned over how Hall appears to have avoided an open interview process to gain the job

Patten will be questioned over how Hall appears to have avoided an open interview process to gain the job

Hall will then be quizzed over why he subsequently appointed former Labour Cabinet minister James Purnell to a £295,000 strategy role and Anne Bulford, his former colleague at the Royal Opera House, to a £395,000 finance post. Between them, the trio have been given three of the most senior positions at the BBC with a combined salary of £1.14 million without apparently having to go through the normal channels of applying for their jobs and being interviewed.

A source tells me members 'want to get to the bottom of the controversy', adding: 'The committee certainly wants to ask Patten about the circumstances of Hall's appointment, and to ask about the two unadvertised appointments Hall himself later made.

'These are questions of great concern, so it is right that Patten and Hall are coming.'


Hall's appointment as BBC chief was rubber-stamped by Patten last November at the height of the crisis triggered by the Jimmy Savile scandal and the Lord McAlpine debacle.

David Elstein, former head of Channel 5, tells me: 'There are a whole lot of questions that ought to be asked. The biggest relates to Tony Hall's appointment.

'It remains puzzling and obscure that the BBC, a publicly funded organisation, is able to ignore its  well-established selection processes for three of the most senior jobs in the Corporation, including the top job.'

Will Kate and Wills look back in Anmer?

While the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge prepare for the birth of  their first child, a possible snag has cropped up in plans for the Georgian mansion earmarked to be their new country home.
As I reported last month, the Queen has been given consent for a range of alterations to be carried out at Anmer Hall, a ten- bedroom property on her Sandringham estate which she is said  to have given to William and Kate.

Country home problem: The Cambridges

Country home problem: The Cambridges

But I hear that the  re-routing of the driveway to provide additional security and privacy for the royal couple can go ahead only after an archaeological dig nearby has taken place.
The plans involve moving the gate to the mansion further down a country lane so that a new driveway can cut across a  field.

But this field is, in fact,  a scheduled monument - the site of the village of Anmer in medieval times.
If a test dig finds anything of significance, there are fears that further archaeological work might be needed, leading to a possible alteration of the plans.

'William would be obliged to do whatever experts suggest because of the risk he might be  accused of riding roughshod over British history,' says a chum.

After a tumultuous year of highs and lows - from service in Afghanistan to his cavortings in Las Vegas - could today be a turning point for Prince Harry, the nation's favourite bachelor? For St George's Day is when members of the highest order of chivalry, the Knight of the Garter, are announced.

Harry's elevation to the order would signify authority and maturity. He will, without doubt, one day wear the plumed hat, but have events in Vegas put his appointment on hold? Says an insider: 'There's no way you could have a KG being caught partying naked with strangers in Las Vegas.'

He was a hobbling presence at Lady Thatcher's funeral. But for Andrew Lloyd Webber, the back pain he is suffering is matched only by the misunderstanding he fears his discomfort is causing.
'He is worried people might think there is something more seriously wrong than there is,' says a friend. 'It's uncomfortable and it makes him grimace, but there is no need for alarm.'

The composer made a complete recovery from a prostate cancer scare three years ago and more recently has had two operations to free a trapped nerve in his back. 'If anything, this is more of a nuisance, but he is coping and is busy with his music for his schools' project, which he will be promoting on The One Show on BBC this week,' the friend says. 'He doesn't want people to worry if they see him struggling a bit.'

Mother-of-four Sadie couldn't read her poems without her bifocal spectacles

Mother-of-four Sadie couldn't read her poems without her bifocal spectacles

Sadie raises her glasses to dad

One-time sex kitten Sadie Frost, former wife of Jude Law, tells me that time has finally caught up with her.

At 47, she was out on the town at Soho's Madame Jojo's nightclub to read three of her own poems in aid of the Albert Kennedy Trust, which helps homeless bisexuals, lesbians and gay folk.

But mother-of-four Sadie couldn't read her poems without her bifocal spectacles.

'I can't see a thing without them now,' says Sadie. 'I'm not past my sell-by date, but, I suppose, I have become slightly middle-aged.'

The actress was one of several performers at the event and says of her poems: 'One was about my father's nose.'

Sadie is the daughter of the late psychedelic artist David Vaughan, who painted furniture for Princess Margaret.

'He was a brilliant artist, but was always getting into fights and breaking his nose,' she says.

Just months after finding a rare 17th century masterpiece hanging undiscovered on the walls at his Ritz Hotel in Paris, Mohamed Al Fayed is celebrating selling the painting for a record price. 

Christie's art adviser Joseph Friedman spotted the work, painted by Charles Le Brun in 1647, during a renovation last summer.

Now the auction house has accepted a £1.2 million bid for the canvas, which will hang at New York's Metropolitan Museum Of Art.

Al Fayed, 67th in the new Rich List, is donating the proceeds to the foundation he set up in memory of his late son, Dodi, which helps children with life-threatening illnesses.

'Mohamed is thrilled to be able to contribute this amount to the charity,' says a pal.

Ps Heston Blumenthal may need to work even harder to support his latest passion - heliskiing, the most expensive version of an already costly sport.  'I absolutely love it,' he says. 'But I think I'm going to have to add a nought to my annual skiing budget.' 

The TV chef was encouraged to try heliskiing - in which a helicopter whisks skiers to virgin powder snow higher up the mountainside - by his tour operator pal Amin Momen in the Italian resort of Courmayeur. 'I just trusted Amin that it was going to be OK,' says Heston. 

'I was so carried away by the beauty of it all that I almost forgot any anxiety I had about skiing in deep snow. Then I suddenly remembered. “Ah! yes,” I said to myself, “don't forget the skiing bit!”'


The comments below have not been moderated.

How is Patten still there?

Click to rate     Rating   4

Does Tony Hall have the right experience to be DG? ROH: Turnover £111m, staff just under 1,000 BBC: Turnover £4,379m, staff 19,995 BBC 3 (TV): Turnover £113m, staff nk QED

Click to rate     Rating   6

Is Tony Hall the right man to be DG? ROH: Turnover £111m, staff just under 1,000 BBC: Turnover £4,379m, staff 19,995 BBC 3 (TV): Turnover £113m, staff not known QED

Click to rate     Rating   1

Why, apart from his family & friends, would anyone give Lloyd Webber a second thought if they saw him hobbling? What an odd think to worry about.

Click to rate     Rating   3

Wonder what the other Knights were busy doing . Do you think they were all perfect ? At least Harry is single , while some of them including his father were busy with other men 's wife's .

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