BBC hits back at Grant Shapps

Chris Patten hit back at Grant Shapps today, branding his recent attack on the BBC "exceptionally ill judged", as the war of words between the corporation and government ministers continued.

Shapps recently threatened to take away the BBC's monopoly over the licence fee and specifically singled out home affairs editor Mark Easton for liberal bias.

Speaking to the New Statesman, Patten, who, like Shapps, was also Tory chairman before becoming chair of the BBC Trust, said the attack went a step further than the usual government complaints about the corporation.

"We were appearing in front of a select committee the other day … I said what had surprised me during my period as chairman of the trust was on the whole the lack of political pressure from anybody. And then, just to make it look as though I was a cloth head, the chairman of the Conservative party launched himself into an exceptionally ill-judged attack on the BBC," he said.

"The chairmen of the Conservative party invariably have a bash at the BBC in the run-up to elections. I have to say to my eternal shame I did the same. But what was odd was publicly linking an attack on a journalist with the BBC as whole and the licence fee."

"I was thinking the other day that in some newspapers the BBC gets bashed more than President Assad. It's extraordinary."

The Shapps attack was quickly followed by criticism from home secretary Theresa May, who went outside of her remit to comment on the effect the BBC News website was having on local newspapers.

Patten went on to defend some of the executive pay-outs which have been the cause of huge controversy in the corporation and in parliament.

"If you then look at a period of seven years from 2006 to 2013, people who left and were paid more than they were contractually entitled, that totalled £6.8 million, which is about what you'd have to pay to televise a football match," he said.

"This is not the most outrageous example I can think of mortal sin. But it was wrong. And it stopped. And it won't happen again."