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Former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre blasts ‘liberal’ civil servants as he quits Ofcom chairman race

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To the Editor of The Times

Following a welter of ill-informed, increasingly hysterical speculation from the left-wing media, I’d like to set the record straight that I have not reapplied for the OFCOM Chairmanship, nor do I intend to apply despite being urged to do so by many senior members of the government.

I wish OFCOM all the luck in the world as it faces the awesome challenge of trying to regulate the omnipotent, ruthless and, as we’ve learnt, amoral tech giants without damaging freedom of expression – a freedom I spent 28 years as an editor fighting for both publicly, and privately with ministers.

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.

As is the daunting task facing OFCOM of helping ensure that the BBC (which I am on record as describing as a great, civilising force which I would die in a ditch to defend) is saved from both itself and the frighteningly well-resourced streaming giants.

At the original Chairmanship interview – in which the contribution of one of the assessors was unhelpfully undermined by a belated admission of a small conflict of interest – I suggested that OFCOM’s role as independent regulator of the BBC was compromised by the fact that two of its senior Board members were ex-BBC executives (one of whom subsequently resigned over his involvement in the Bashir scandal).

After the interview – at which another candidate, a senior public official with an impressive reputation, was also judged to be unappointable – my feedback was that, though I’d given a good performance, showing a solid grasp of technological issues, I’d revealed strong convictions that were incompatible with the role of an independent chairmanship.

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.

Me? After my infelicitous dalliance with the Blob, I’m taking up an exciting new job in the private sector that, in a climate that is increasingly hostile to business, 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, safe in the knowledge that it is they, not elected politicians, who really run this country.

Yours sincerely

Paul Dacre

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