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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 January, 2004, 12:04 GMT
Ryder's tough role at BBC
Lord Ryder
Lord Ryder is a former Tory chief whip
Lord Ryder, the BBC's acting chairman following the resignation of Gavyn Davies, has a reputation as a no-nonsense operator with a belief in old-fashioned journalistic values.

All eyes will be on Richard Ryder as he faces the task of temporarily steering the BBC through one of its most troubled times, following the publication of the Hutton Report.

His admirers say he will draw on all the qualities that made him a feared and respected chief whip for five years of John Major's Tory government during the 1990s.

Described as discreet, clever and loyal by his friends, Lord Ryder of Wensum, 54, is a farmer's son from East Anglia who carved out a high-level political career under two Tory leaders.

He was political secretary to Margaret Thatcher between 1975 and 1981, and won the Mid Norfolk seat for the Conservatives in 1983.

BBC board of governors
There are 12 members on the BBC's board of governors
During his time in the Commons he was appointed parliamentary private secretary (pps) to the financial secretary to the Treasury.

He was also a pps to the foreign secretary, assistant whip, and parliamentary secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food - a period in which he insists he was not responsible for the BSE crisis.

Lord Ryder was economic secretary to the Treasury in 1989-1990, paymaster general in 1990 and chief whip between 1990 and 1995.

He presided during the Maastricht rebellions and the subsequent expulsion of eight MPs from the Conservative party. He retired from politics in 1997 to pursue a career in the City.

Former Tory MP Michael Brown remembers him as a powerful operator who stood no nonsense.

"He was the first chief whip for half a century to discipline his recalcitrant MPs by taking the whip away from them," he said. "That shows how tough he is."

Gavyn Davies
Gavyn Davies resigned as chairman on Wednesday
Some observers believe he may also be tough on the BBC's journalists.

Minutes of a BBC governors' meeting from 2003 - published on the Hutton website - included a discussion about a return to the Pathe news style of reporting.

It is unclear whether Lord Ryder was arguing in favour of this move, although he had misgivings about the Radio 4 Today programme's agenda.

Shorthand notes quote him as saying: "Must be realistic. Culture of Today programme is to create news. Rod Liddle (former Today editor) admits that.

"Tabloid and Sunday newspapers have for a long time not contacted people seeking denials. They don't do that. I support Today programme in this incident but in the future we should look at whether that is the Today programme we want."

Columnist Matthew Parris, who worked with Lord Ryder in Margaret Thatcher's office, said he had an "old-fashioned" view of journalism.

A journalist is not there, he would believe, to slant the way they report with their own opinions
Matthew Parris
"He would feel a journalist is there to report news; to write down what he or she sees or to take pictures of what happens.

"A journalist is not there, he would believe, to make the news, to cause things to happen, or to slant the way they report with their own opinions."

Lord Ryder became vice-chairman of the BBC two years ago, taking over from Gavyn Davies after his elevation to chairman to succeed Sir Christopher Bland.

He is a director of Great Bradley Farms and a director of Ipswich Town Football Club.

From 1997 he was founding chairman of Eastern Counties Radio and Vibe FM but he resigned this post on his appointment to the BBC board.

He has a BA Honours in History from Magdalene College, Cambridge and was awarded the OBE in 1981.


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