BBC bosses George Entwistle and Lord Patten may have to "fall on their swords" over the corporation's handling of the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal, according to a former BBC journalist turned MP.
Mr Entwistle, who took over as director general last month, has been roundly criticised for his appearance before the Culture, Media and Sport select committee where he was told to "get a grip" on his organisation.
An inquiry has been set up into why Newsnight dropped an investigation into Savile, and another has been given the job of looking at the culture of the BBC while he worked there.
It emerged yesterday the BBC is also investigating nine allegations of "sexual harassment, assault or inappropriate conduct" among current staff and contributors.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller said Mr Entwistle's evidence to the select committee and the BBC's handling of the wider scandal raised "very real concerns" about public trust.
In a letter to Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust, she said it was vital the two inquiries were "able to follow the evidence wherever it takes them".
Lord Patten's reply contained a thinly veiled warning that the Government should not wade into the row. "I know that you will not want to give any impression that you are questioning the independence of the BBC," he wrote.
But Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale, a former producer and director of current affairs programmes at the BBC, criticised those remarks. He said: "Chris Patten is an old friend and a former parliamentary colleague for whom I have had a high regard, but in his comment he has made it clear that he is out of touch."
He added: "The 'Auntie knows best' line simply does not wash any more.
"It is as if your favourite and respectable aunt has been revealed to be on the game, and if Lord Patten is not able to grasp that, then I fear that not only the director general but also the chairman of the BBC Trust are going to have to fall on their swords."