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EXCLUSIVE: ‘Very difficult for Newsnight editor to come back,’ says Michael Crick

‘Serious prospect of leading figures losing jobs’, says ex-Newsnight political editor

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Newsnight’s former political editor has told The Mancunion that “it would be very difficult” for his one-time boss, under-fire Newsnight editor Peter Rippon, “to come back, in the circumstances” from the Jimmy Savile affair which has rocked the BBC.

Michael Crick, who left Newsnight in July 2011, also said there was a “serious prospect of several leading figures losing their jobs.” Channel 4’s chief political correspondent was responding to questions about his former employer’s handling of what he called a “very, very serious” scandal.

On Monday it was announced that Peter Rippon had ‘stepped aside’ as Newsnight editor whilst an investigation is conducted into his handling of the Savile scandal. It has emerged that Newsnight was aware and ready to broadcast allegations that Savile had abused teenagers on BBC premises, and that other BBC personalities might have been involved – only for the exposé to be pulled. Rippon remains in his position as editor on full pay, but Crick has cast doubt on the long-term future of his former boss.

“I think, effectively, it would be very difficult for Peter Rippon to come back in the circumstances, and I think effectively the Director General when he faced MPs yesterday said so,” said Crick.

“It’s quite clear that [Director General of the BBC, George Entwistle] wasn’t impressed that the original explanation was inaccurate and had to be corrected in so many ways, thereby causing the BBC huge embarrassment – because that version of events had been accepted by him, George Entwistle, and by the Chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, and other senior members of the BBC management.”

Speaking at the University of Manchester’s Foundation Day ceremony – which saw Simply Red frontman Mick Hucknall and President of the International Paralympic Committee Sir Phillip Craven pick up honorary degrees – Crick also expressed regret at the extent to which the affair has tarnished the BBC’s reputation. “It’s a tragedy for Newsnight, it’s a tragedy for the people who work on the programme, and I think it will take some recovering from. It’s hugely damaging to the BBC,” he lamented.

“I don’t know whether [veteran BBC journalist] John Simpson is right when he says that it’s the worst crisis to have hit the BBC, but certainly it’s been very, very serious. There is the serious prospect of several leading figures losing their jobs.”

Crick left the Beeb last year in acrimonious circumstances after 21 years at the Corporation. His departure was the result of a dispute with Rippon, who had wanted to have Crick replaced as political editor. He explains: “It’s difficult, because my own relationship with Peter Rippon was tricky towards the end.”

“The BBC high command had decided that they didn’t want me to be political correspondent any more. They came up with another job with what I thought was a ludicrous title, called ‘Editor-at-Large’… they claimed that it would entail various things but I didn’t really believe it.” Unhappy at his treatment, Crick seized the opportunity to return to Channel 4 News – where he had been a founding member of staff – as its chief political correspondent.

A former Manchester Grammar School student, Crick became a University of Manchester trustee in September 2012. Trustees are responsible for the University’s vision and mission, exercising collective control over the institution.