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Paul Dacre has withdrawn from the race to be the next chairman of media regulator Ofcom after concerns about the transparency of the recruitment process.

After failing his first attempt when an interview jury ruled the former Daily Mail editor-in-chief did not qualify, ministers then cleared the way for him to be given another chance.

But when the Guardian revealed that a lobbyist from a company with close ties to the Conservative Party had been chosen to help select candidates for approval, Dacre announced he would no longer process a candidacy despite urging from ” many senior members of the government “. ”.

He said he was deemed inappropriate to lead Ofcom the first time because his “strong beliefs” were incompatible with the role.

A government official told the Guardian he was “really disappointed” with Dacre’s decision to step down and that ministers expected to back him to become Ofcom chairman. They insisted that the former editor of the Daily Mail made the decision not to continue after not enjoying the original interview process and considering how it could be a second time. . The growing public scrutiny of government appointments and blunders in the wake of the Owen Paterson affair may also have played a role, although the source insisted ministers did not tell Dacre to withdraw.

The government had spent more than a year trying to facilitate Dacre’s candidacy for the post. After failing the first interview process, the government spent the summer trying to find people willing to sit on a new interview panel for the job, with many reluctant to sign up for the process. The job description was also rewritten to favor a more confrontational candidate, in another move seen as favoring Dacre.

The government now only has 10 days to find another preferred candidate, with applications due by November 29.

Announcing his decision to withdraw from the Ofcom race, Dacre described the civil service hiring process as an “unfortunate banter with the blob,” and suggested that it is the workers of Whitehall rather than the politicians. ” who really run this country ”.

Writing in a letter from The Times, he said:) everything; the process could take a year during which your life will be put on hold; and if you have an independent mind and are not associated with liberals / lefts, you will be more likely to win the lottery than to get the job.

Dacre said he wished Ofcom “all the luck in the world” as it prepared to fight “trying to regulate the omnipotent, ruthless and, as we have learned, amoral tech giants without undermine freedom of expression “.

In a final attack on the civil service, Dacre said he was accepting “an exciting new job” in the private sector that “is fighting to create wealth to pay all those top civil servants working from home so they can spend more. time to exercise. on their Peloton bikes and polish their political correctness ”.

Following suspicions that senior politicians had interfered in an attempt to install Dacre despite his apparent inadequacy for the role, Boris Johnson was asked to exclude him from the race.

Conservative MP Julian Knight, chairman of the Culture Select Committee, said earlier this fall: “When a previous candidate has been found unfit for a post, he should be barred from running for re-election.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports said: “The recruitment process is fair and open and complies with the governance code for public appointments, which clearly states that review boards must be objective when deciding which candidates meet the criteria. for a role.

“The process is regulated by the Public Appointments Commissioner, who is responsible for ensuring that the appointment is made under strict guidelines. “

It came as the Scottish and Welsh governments were concerned about interference in the recruitment of Ofcom’s next chairman, saying it could ‘negatively affect the reputation of the public service broadcasting system’.

In a letter to Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, ministers from the two decentralized administrations said “delays, changes and an apparent lack of transparency have made us lose more confidence in the process.”

They questioned the level of interference from Downing Street, saying the appointment process had been “marred by delays and questions about the real independence of those involved”.

Accusing Dorries and his predecessor as Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden of overseeing a selection “below the standards we expect”, the Welsh and Scottish governments have asked to be included in the process.

They wrote: “Given the importance of public service broadcasting to our nations and the real impact on our nations of any decision on the selection of the President of Ofcom that is not transparent or impartial, we urge you to be fully involved in the process as it is right to protect a system which is so important to the public in Scotland, Wales and across the UK. “


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