Paul Dacre ‘should be banned from reapplying’ as Ofcom chair, says Tory MP

Ministers restarted interview process for Ofcom job after former editor considered ‘unappointable’

Paul Dacre should be banned from reapplying to be chair of media regulator Ofcom because he failed the interview process on the first attempt, according to the Conservative MP who runs an influential select committee.

Downing Street has been trying to appoint the former Daily Mail editor to run Ofcom’s board since last summer, where he would have ultimate oversight of broadcast regulation and social media rules. However, earlier this year Dacre unexpectedly failed the vetting process for the £142,500 job at the final interview stage, with those on the panel considering him to be “unappointable” as an impartial chairman.

Rather than accept the panel’s verdict and choose one of the other successful candidates, ministers decided to restart the entire recruitment process to allow Dacre a second attempt at securing the prize. This new process has stretched out over the summer. The Guardian revealed there have been issues with finding credible people willing to sit on the new interview panel given it is widely-perceived to purely exist as a way of stitching up the job for Dacre.

Julian Knight MP, the Conservative chair of the culture select committee, has now written to the government to demand they make clear in the new job advert for Ofcom chair that previously unsuccessful candidates should not reapply. This would rule out Dacre and could open the door to other appointments, such as former culture minister Ed Vaizey.

Knight did not name Dacre specifically but said “the industry standard” for re-running a high-level recruitment campaign would involve making clear that candidates previously deemed to be unappointable should not reapply for a job a second time.

However, his committee has been sent a new draft advert for the Ofcom job, which is almost identical to the first attempt to find a candidate.

“The recruitment process is being re-run despite the absence of any adequate explanation being provided by government on the need to do so,” said Knight.

“Where a previous candidate has been deemed to be unappointable for a post, they should be ruled out of re-applying. However, this crucial line is missing from the campaign information to recruit Ofcom’s next chair. It would be extremely alarming if this was a deliberate omission rather than an oversight and we are seeking clarification.”

Although it is possible for ministers to ignore the select committee, it would be another embarrassing incident in the government’s attempt to install allies in positions in the arts and media. Knight has increasingly raised concerns about the recruitment processes for government appointments and called for his committee to be granted a veto on crucial roles.

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Jim Waterson Media editor

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