One of the strangest things about Gordon Brown is the gulf between his fantasies about having a ‘vision’ and his pathetic appetite for gimmicks. The latest is his appointment of ‘Sir’ Alan Sugar as the government’s ‘Enterprise Czar’. Apart from the ludicrousness of thinking that this one-dimensional celebrity might be able to address anything as complex as industrial policymaking, there is the small matter of the way his acceptance of a post on Brown’s sinking ship compromises the independence of the BBC. So it’s good to see that the Tories are taking up the case.
The Conservatives today launched a concerted attempt to scupper the appointment.
Jeremy Hunt, Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, said: “Presenting a programme for the BBC and working for the Government on the same issue is totally incompatible with the BBC’s rules on political independence and impartiality. Sir Alan Sugar needs to make a choice between his role in The Apprentice and his role as the Government’s business tsar.
“I have written to Sir Michael Lyons and asked him as a matter of urgency to explain who at the BBC gave guidance to Sir Alan and whether he had informed them that he would be a Labour peer.”
John Whittingdale, chair of the Culture Select committee of MPs, said: “In my view it is not possible for him to continue to present The Apprentice at the same time as he is so closely identified with the Government.
“I had assumed that by accepting the role as Enterprise Czar he would stand down from his role in The Apprentice.
“His show is all about business and enterprise. He will be making recommendations on policy to Government. He is already a political figure – he has made no secret of his admiration for Gordon Brown.
“Either he is an influential figure in Government or this is just window dressing.”
If the BBC Trust dodges this, then some of us licence-fee payers might have to take some online action involving Sir Michael Lyons’s email inbox. After all, according to the Charter, the purpose of the BBC Trust is
“to work on behalf of licence fee payers, ensuring the BBC provides high quality output and good value for all UK citizens, and it protects the independence of the BBC”.
I haven’t yet been able to locate the Chairman’s personal email address, but for starters there’s always firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE: The Observer reports that:
Government insiders say ministers have been wrangling about who should take responsibility for the feisty businessman and star of The Apprentice. “No one wants to have him,” said one source.
Sugar’s appointment was announced with great fanfare by the prime minister in his cabinet reshuffle, but a spokeswoman from Lord Mandelson’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills confirmed that he would have no staff and no office there.
“We want him to go out and meet small businesses and report what he’s seeing. He’s not in the government, he’s just an adviser,” she said.