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Government appoints ex-Tory advisor married to Tory MP to help pick media regulator

Government appoints ex-Tory advisor married to Tory MP to help pick media regulator
Former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre is No.10’s pick to chair Ofcom

An ex-Conservative advisor who is married to a Tory MP will help choose the UK’s next media regulator, the government has confirmed.

Michael Simmonds, husband of former schools minister Nick Gibb and brother-in-law of former No.10 communications chief Robbie Gibb will sit on the interview panel who will chose the next chair of Ofcom.

Downing Street is widely reported to want former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre to take the job and has already re-booted the recruitment process once after the right-winger unexpectedly failed his final interview and was deemed “not appointable”.

But Mr Dacre is expected to run for the role again, with a new interview panel and a rewritten job description which he may have a better chance of meeting.

The move to appoint an ally of the ruling party to the top of the supposedly impartial media regulator comes after former prime minister John Major branded Boris Johnson’s administration “politically corrupt”.

The government last week pushed to abolish the Commons standards watchdog and replace it with a committee with an in-built Tory majority, after it tried to punish a Conservative MP for breaking lobbying rules.

The Daily Mail faithfully supported the Conservatives throughout Mr Dacre’s tenure as editor, dutifully launching attacks on everyone from opposition politicians to judges.

Responding to the latest news, Labour’s shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said the government had a “pattern of behaviour by the government of manipulating rules or tearing them up for their own political purposes”.

She added: “The Ofcom chair is a critical role with a hugely wide ranging remit that will include the new online safety regime.

“The public need to have confidence that independent regulators and how senior roles within them are appointed are truly independent and not influenced by ministers or their friends.

“There cannot be one rule for the government and their friends and another for everyone else.”

The appointment of the next Ofcom chair will be approved by culture secretary Nadine Dorries – another right-winger who has written for the Daily Mail newspaper on a number of occasions. .

A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport, said: “This recruitment process will be fair and open and in line with the Governance Code for Public Appointments, which clearly sets out that assessment panels must be objective when deciding which candidates meet the criteria for a role.

“As required under the code, a senior independent panel member has been appointed for the process and additional panel members can be included to ensure a range of views and a fair and robust assessment of candidates.”