Government could face legal action if it hires ex-Daily Mail boss Paul Dacre as new Ofcom chair

Dacre was previously deemed to be 'not appointable' by an interview panel

The government has been threatened with legal action if it decides to go ahead and hire ex-Daily Mail boss Paul Dacre as the new chair of Ofcom, despite an interview panel deeming him “not appointable” in May this year.

Boris Johnson and his administration have been slammed for rigging the appointment process for the new chair of Ofcom, the media regulator, after deciding to rerun the process and re-writing the job description after Dacre’s rejection by the interview panel.

It is believed that Dacre is the preferred choice of prime minister Boris Johnson for the role. He is an arch critic of the BBC and it was concluded by an interview panel that he did not meet certain requirements of the job. Rather than choose from the names of three other candidates who were passed on to the culture secretary, the government has chosen to rerun the process.

The Good Law Project says its lawyers have written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), asking the Government to explain why the competition for Chair is being rerun and why Dacre is being allowed to reapply.

The Good Law Project said in a statement: “When it comes to the Prime Minister’s allies, there’s a pattern emerging in Downing Street. When Boris Johnson doesn’t like the outcome of an official process, he tries to rip up the rules and start again.

“We saw it with the Owen Paterson scandal and we’re seeing it again now with the rigged appointment process for the new Chair of media regulator Ofcom.

“Paul Dacre is the former editor of the Daily Mail of 26 years, and Johnson’s preferred candidate for the top job at Ofcom. He’s in a bit of a pickle though, given that an interview panel deemed Mr Dacre “not appointable” just a few months ago.”

The not-for-profit campaign organisation goes on to state: “We’re asking the Secretary of State to explain why the competition for Chair is being rerun and why Mr Dacre is being allowed to reapply.

“We want proper answers from the Government. If we don’t get them, we expect to take legal action.”

A petition launched to stop Dacre from becoming Ofcom chair has gained over 75,000 signatures.

A DCMS spokesperson told LFF: “We will not not be drawn into speculation on an ongoing appointments process. This process is being run in line with the Governance Code for Public Appointments and we will not prejudge the outcome.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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