The BBC was at war with itself yesterday, as rival factions began to attack each other over competing versions of the events that triggered the worst crisis in the corporation's long history.
Some of its senior managers turned on the journalist Andrew Gilligan, whose flawed reporting began the crisis, claiming that if he had not resigned last week, he would have been disciplined and possibly sacked.
Friends of Greg Dyke, the former director general, also weighed in, saying that he believed Mr Gilligan was guilty of "rubbishy journalism". Mr Dyke has also accused Downing Street of "systematic bullying" of the BBC over its coverage of the Iraq war.
Others within a divided BBC want its acting director general, Mark Byford, to continue the battle with the Government. A leaked document questions the accuracy of testimony given by Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former director of communications, to a Commons committee, and suggests that Lord Hutton's report, published last week, was "wrong in law".
Mr Dyke was forced out of the BBC after a secret understanding with Gavyn Davies unraveled at the last minute, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. The corporation's director general tendered his resignation to the governors on Thursday, confident that it would be rejected. Instead, to his surprise, it was accepted.
Mr Dyke believed that the BBC's governing body was discussing a press release announcing they had asked him to stay even as they decided he must go, according to senior figures at the corporation.
In private talks before the publication of the Hutton report, the BBC's chairman and director general discussed which of them should resign. The option that Mr Dyke should go and Mr Davies stay was rejected; the director general would be a greater loss to day-to-day operations. Despite Lord Hutton's damning conclusions, neither resignation was planned by the group of top corporation officials and lawyers who saw advance copies on Tuesday.
The former chairman spent the day with senior figures who were drafting a "freedom of speech defense" a lengthy statement it was believed that Mr Davies would read after Lord Hutton had finished his announcement the following day, say insiders at a key meeting in Broadcasting House. The report, drawn up on advice from the barrister Andrew Caldecott, disputed Lord Hutton's sweeping conclusion that "accusations of fact impugning the integrity of others should not be made by the media".
The report concedes that Mr Gilligan reported some of Dr Kelly's claims inaccurately, but adds: "Insofar as DR Kelly was accurately reported which in large measure he was the BBC was entitled to broadcast them whether or not the BBC had itself managed conclusively to verify what he said. Andrew Gilligan repeatedly made clear that his story was derived from what his source said."
But by Wednesday morning, Mr Davies had decided to resign that afternoon without consulting the governors. Mr Dyke, however, believed until the last moment, that his chairman would ensure that his own resignation offer would be rejected. The strategy, agreed in advance with Mr Davies, backfired after a revolt by the governors.
In the end, only three, Deborah Bull, Dame Ruth Deech and Angela Sarkis, backed the director general. A number of the other governors "felt bounced" by Mr Davies and Mr Dyke into accepting that the chairman's resignation was enough, according to a senior source.
There were also concerns that if Mr Dyke stayed, others "further down the food chain" would have to "carry the can". He had been furious with Kevin Marsh, the editor of Today. Mr Marsh's email criticizing"loose language" by Mr Gilligan, his defense and diplomatic correspondent, caused acute embarrassment to the BBC when it surfaced in the Hutton inquiry.
The former director general may have felt confident in
his position because two governors, Lord Ryder of Wensum, now the acting chairman, and Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, were part of the group that had previously decided no resignations were necessary. Neither Mr Dyke nor Mr Davies could be reached for comment.
Writing in today's Sunday Times, Mr Gilligan described the past seven days as the "worst week of my life".
It is unlikely to be improved when he reads what former BBC colleagues have said about him in The Sunday Telegraph, where Mr Gilligan used to work. He is accused of using "devious" tactics to protect himself.
© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd