A CLOSE ally of the Tory party who was recently appointed to the BBC board of directors has tried to block an editorial appointment on political grounds, according to reports.

Sir Robbie Gibb, who was Theresa May’s communications director in No10 and has ties to the Tories which go back decades, tried to prevent the BBC hiring Jess Brammar to oversee its news channels’ output.

The former journalist told BBC news and current affairs director Fran Unsworth in a text message that she “cannot make this appointment”, according to the FT.

Gibb, whose brother Nick is a Tory minister, reportedly said the government’s “fragile trust in the BBC will be shattered” if Brammar were to be hired.

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The warning came after Brammar, a former editor-in-chief of HuffPostUK and deputy editor of Newsnight, emerged as the preferred candidate for the newly created role, which will oversee content on the corporation’s domestic and global news channels.

The FT reported that the finalisation of the hire has taken longer than usual. Some in the BBC attributed this to the need to vet her social media, while one denied there had been a delay.

The BBC denied that any appointment had been "blocked".

News of Gibb’s attempted intervention has been met with fierce backlash.

LibDem peer Chris Rennard compared the move to autocratic nations around the globe. He said: “This is what Victor Orban does in Hungary, or Putin in Russia, or Sisi in Egypt, or Xi in China.

“It is not what anyone respecting British democratic traditions would do. We pay for an independent BBC not a Conservative press office.”

While Gibb has been vocal about the need for impartiality from those working at the BBC, he tweeted about his support for Brexit while still in the corporation’s employ.

He worked as chief of staff to Tory life peer Francis Maude between 1997 and 2000, when Maude was shadow chancellor, and also supported Michael Portillo in his 2001 bid to become the leader of the Tory party.

Gibb, who has sat on the BBC board as a non-executive director and as its “England Nation Member” since May, has previously accused the corporation of being “captured by the woke”.

The BBC website says that such “non-executive members for the nations are appointed by HM The Queen on the recommendation of Ministers”.

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The BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan said Gibb’s “appointment clearly strengthens the BBC's links not just with Westminster, but with the Conservative Party specifically”.

One former BBC manager told the FT that Gibb’s text message was “amazingly ill judged”, saying the corporation now had no choice but to hire Brammar or seem to have bowed to political pressure.

That sentiment was echoed by Daily Mirror associate editor Kevin Maguire, who said on Twitter: “BBC must appoint @jessbrammar to demonstrate independence after this outrageous editorial interference by a Conservative Government’s chief spin doctor.

“And @RobbieGibb should be asked to resign or be sacked as a BBC director.”

Author Ian Dunt accused Gibb of “trying to turn the BBC into a government press office”, while Good Law Project boss Jolyon Maugham said it was a “serious breach - by a Number 10 Board appointee - of the notion of an editorially independent BBC”.

A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC doesn’t comment on ongoing recruitment processes, which are the responsibility of the executive, but for the record, no recruitment process has been blocked.

"People should wait for the outcome which will be announced in due course. And as a general principle, Board members are able to discuss issues with other Board members or senior executives. These principles were adhered to.”