THE UK Government moving to install a favourite of Boris Johnson as head of broadcasting regulator Ofcom may be unlawful, Good Law Project has warned.

Paul Dacre, a former editor of the Daily Mail who has been an outspoken critic of the BBC, was reportedly “wooed” by Johnson over drinks in Downing Street early last year.

Dacre previously said that the BBC was “in every corpuscle” against conservatism, accusing it of exercising “a kind of ‘cultural Marxism’ in which it tries to undermine ... conservative society”.

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As the head of Ofcom, it would be within Dacre’s remit to regulate the national broadcaster, as well as being the arbiter of everything from social media regulation to broadband and the postal service.

However, an interview panel deemed him “not appointable” in May, which led the Government to restart the entire hiring process.

Ahead of the rebooted interview process, the job description was rewritten.

The National: Michael Gove at the event

Good Law Project, which has spearheaded legal campaigns against the Government including having Michael Gove (above) found guilty of unlawful conduct, said it “appears that the requirements of the role have been adjusted so that Mr Dacre is better positioned to be judged appointable in the second competition”.

Its director, Jo Maugham, said the Tories are trying to "rip up the rules and start again" just as they did with the Owen Paterson scandal.

The Guardian reported that there have been issues finding anyone else to apply for the Ofcom job as the interview process is widely regarded as a formality before coronating Dacre.

That is despite the Conservative chair of the culture select committee, Julian Knight MP, writing to the Government to demand Dacre and others “deemed to be unappointable for a post … be ruled out of re-applying”.

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Lawyers acting for Good Law Project have written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nadine Dorries, who will have the final say on the next Ofcom boss’s appointment.

They write: “This second competition raises very serious concerns, in particular as to whether it has been held, and designed, in order to favour Mr Dacre’s candidacy.”

It also raises concerns about members of the new interview panel, two of which the lawyers claim have “potential conflicts of interest” that may affect their decision making.

One is Michael Simmonds, the brother-in-law of BBC board member and staunch Brexiteer Robbie Gibb, while the other is Michael Prescott, a director of a PR firm which represents media organisations overseen by Ofcom.

Good Law Project’s letter asks the UK Government to explain why the competition for Ofcom chair is being rerun and why Dacre is being allowed to reapply.

A spokesperson said: “If their explanation is unsatisfactory, Good Law Project will issue legal proceedings.”

The National: Jo Maugham QC

Maugham (above), the director of Good Law Project, said: “From ignoring the first interview panel, to re-writing the job description, to reportedly giving Dacre tips on how to pass the interview, this Government seems determined to re-run the appointment process until they get what they want: Paul Dacre installed in the top job at Ofcom.

“There’s a wider pattern here. When Boris Johnson doesn’t like the outcome of an official process, he tries to rip up the rules and start again. We saw it with the Owen Paterson scandal and we’re seeing it again now with this rigged appointment process.

“We want proper answers from the Government. If we don’t get them, we expect to take legal action.”

Dacre stepped down as chair and editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail’s parent company Associated Newspapers, at the start of November, according to the Guardian. Before this, he was the editor of the Daily Mail from 1992 to 2018.

A UK Government spokesperson from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: "We will not not be drawn into speculation on an ongoing appointments process. This process is being run in line with the Governance Code for Public Appointments and we will not prejudge the outcome."