Lord John Birt was born 10 December 1944. He worked at Granada and London Weekend Television, where he became good friends with Peter Mandelson (they've been on Tuscan walking holidays together and Mandelson was Birt's guest at the 1997 FA Cup Final). He started at the BBC as deputy director-general in 1987. He was the Beeb's Director-General from 1992 to 2000, (he left with a payout of £784,000 and an annual pension of £130,000), was awarded the life peerage in 1999, and took his seat in the House of Lords in March 2000. 
He was "Crime Czar", then an adviser on transport in the Cabinet Office Forward Strategy Unit. In October 2001, Birt was appointed as Tony Blair's personal advisor, for what was termed 'blue skies thinking'. The position was unpaid. His role was controversial: as a special advisor rather than a civil servant, he was not obliged to appear in front of Commons Select Committees - and refused to do so when requested. 
He prepared reports on crime, drugs, education, health and transport - all of which have been released under the Freedom of Information Act. NuclearSpin applied for a copy of his report on nuclear power - widely reported to recommend building new nuclear power stations - under the Act, but the government said it could 'neither confirm nor deny whether [it] holds [such] information'. NuclearSpin has appealed against the decision.
While at Downing Street, Birt worked part-time for management consultants McKinsey & Company, which has won a considerable number of contracts with the Government. Since February 2004, Birt has been a member of the Board of Directors of PayPal. DodOnline Political Biographies: Lord Birt, subscription only but can be accessed for free through the UK Parliament's website 
See relevant page on SpinProfiles John Birt
- DodOnline Political Biographies: Lord Birt, subscription only but can be accessed for free through the UK Parliament's website UK Parliament's website undated, accessed February 2006.
- BBC news website 'Profile: Peter Mandelson', August 13, 2004.
- Birt's letter of appointment, released under the Freedom of Information Act (pdf), undated.
- Select Committee on Public Administration First Special Report, November 17, 2005.
- Documents released by the Cabinet Office under the Freedom of Information Act, undated, accessed February 2006.
- Marie Woolf and Andrew Grice, "Nuclear power? Yes please, says Blair", The Independent, April 23, 2005, unavailable on Independent website, but can be viewed at Climate Ark website;
- Nikhil Rathi Letter to Rich Cookson February 10, 2006.
- PayPayl website: Board of Directors, undated, accessed February 2006.
- UK Parliament's website undated, accessed February 2006.
- Tania Branigan, "Ministers 'used Live 8 to bury' critical report", The Guardian, July 4, 2005.
- Downing Street announcement 'New Job for Lord Birt', December 15, 2005.