ANDREW Neil “put up” the UK Government’s preferred candidate to take over as BBC chair.

The chair of the right-wing Spectator magazine spoke strongly in favour of Samir Shah’s appointment when his candidacy was announced, and Shah told MPs on Wednesday that Neil had been the one to propose he go for the top role.

Shah told MPs on Westminster’s media committee: “Andrew believes impartiality needs to to be central and it’s also what I do. His feeling was it would be good to have someone on the board who understands that.”

The prospective BBC chair said he and Neil go “back a long way”, something the Spectator chair has also spoken about.

READ MORE: Who is Samir Shah? The 'anti-woke' TV executive named new BBC chair

After news of Shah’s candidacy was announced, Neil wrote on social media: “Some good news for Aunt Beeb at last. Samir Shah to become Chairman of BBC. Superb appointment.

“I’ve worked on and off with Samir for decades. He gave me my start in BBC political shows. His production company made the legendary This Week on BBC1. That alone qualifies him!

“He’s a brilliant broadcaster. Smart, focussed, across the issues, fiercely independent. I wish him all good fortune in the job. He’ll need it!”

Elsewhere in Wednesday’s pre-appointment hearing, Shah was asked whether he thought it was appropriate that BBC board member Robbie Gibb, a former press secretary for Theresa May, “lectured” Newsnight staff on how to be more impartial.

Gibb was also described as an “active agent” of the Conservative party by former Newsnight host Emily Maitlis.

Shah said: “I do need to hear everyone else’s account of it, including Sir Robbie’s account of it.

“I can’t, if I were chair, make a decision without actually gathering the facts and evidence yourself.”

Shah added that it would not be appropriate for members of the BBC board to lobby the Culture Secretary over who should be the head of Ofcom.

It comes after Nadine Dorries (below) alleged in her recent book Gibb lobbied her when she was in the culture secretary post to appoint Stephen Gilbert to the role.

The National: Nadine Dorries formally resigned over the weekend (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Shah said: “It would not be anything to do with them, Ofcom are the regulators.”

The prospective BBC chair was also asked if the broadcaster is having a “good war” with regard to the Middle East conflict.

He replied: “The BBC journalists are working in very dangerous, very difficult circumstances.

“We need to be cautious, sitting here in the safety of Britain, [asking] if they are having a good war or not. There have clearly been some mistakes – there is no question the BBC has acknowledged those.

“Emotions are very high and people are taking very strong views either side and it put the BBC in a difficult position to get that right and be impartial.

“There is enough criticism of the way the BBC has covered this war, if I were to be chair, to review it.

“You didn’t mention it but I may as well mention it – the word ‘terrorist’ – we need to look again at that.”

The BBC currently does not describe Hamas as terrorists but attributes the word to others, such as the UK Government.