Paul Dacre: Former Daily Mail editor pulls out of running to be new Ofcom chair

Dacre alleged that the civil service, which he calls the ‘Blob’, interfered in the process

Lamiat Sabin
Friday 19 November 2021 20:26 GMT
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<p>Paul Dacre had reportedly been asked by the PM to put himself up as a candidate to take charge of Ofcom</p>

Paul Dacre had reportedly been asked by the PM to put himself up as a candidate to take charge of Ofcom

Former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has withdrawn from the running to become the next chair of media watchdog Ofcom.

Boris Johnson’s reported favoured candidate has quit the contest despite the government having decided to rerun the appointment process to give him another chance.

Mr Dacre, 73, said he had decided not to reapply for the role as he was not successful after the first round of interviews.

He said he would instead be taking up an “exciting new job in the private sector” despite “many senior members of the government” urging him to try again.

After leaving the Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) this week after 42 years, including 26 as editor of the Daily Mail, it was reported that he was Mr Johnson’s preferred choice during the initial interviews.

Mr Dacre described his experience of the process as an “infelicitous dalliance with the Blob” and claimed the civil service had influenced the decision to reject him because of his right-of-centre “convictions”.

“The Blob” is a term favoured by Mr Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings to describe the collective ranks of the civil service.

Mr Dacre wrote to the newspaper: “To anyone from the private sector, who, God forbid, has convictions, and is thinking of applying for a public appointment, I say the following: The civil service will control (and leak) everything; the process could take a year in which your life will be put on hold; and if you are possessed of an independent mind and are unassociated with the liberal/left, you will have more chance of winning the lottery than getting the job.”

In another attack on the civil service, Mr Dacre said his new private sector job “struggles to create the wealth to pay for all those senior civil servants working from home so they can spend more time exercising on their Peloton bikes and polishing their political correctness”.

He also warned that the new chair of Ofcom would face an “awesome challenge” trying to regulate “the omnipotent, ruthless and, as we’ve learnt, amoral tech giants”.

Mr Dacre took aim at Ofcom’s current chief executive, Dame Melanie Dawes, adding: “Whether Ofcom, whose chief executive is a brilliant career civil servant, latterly at the Ministry of Housing, has the wherewithal to deal with such issues, is a different kettle of fish.”

The Good Law Project suggested that its threat to take legal action against the government for “rigging” the appointment process could have influenced Mr Dacre’s decision to quit the race.

Almost 90,000 people had signed a petition set up by the Good Law Project against the government’s favouritism for Mr Dacre.

The group said last week that “there’s a pattern emerging in Downing Street” in that Mr Johnson “tries to rip up the rules and start again” when there is an outcome he does not like.

It added: “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.

“It all beggars belief. And unsurprisingly, we think this brazen string pulling is unlawful.

“Lawyers acting for the Good Law Project have today written to the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, stating that this ‘second competition raises very serious concerns, in particular as to whether it has been held, and designed, in order to favour Mr Dacre’s candidacy’.”

It had called on the government to give answers on why the process was being “rigged”, and that they would sue the government if it did not explain its actions.

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