By Matthew Barrett
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Last month, we reported on the contribution of Matthew Elliott, CEO of the TaxPayers' Alliance, to a ConHome event on how to win the next election. Elliott made the important point that Labour's long march of the institutions has not been reversed by the current government. He also said two forthcoming appointments – the Chair of the Charity Commision and the Director-General of the BBC - would test the government's willingness to act on this issue.
The Daily Mail's editorial today – after rightfully attacking the BBC's pitiful coverage of the last few days' Jubilee celebrations – gives us an idea of exactly who Lord Patten of Barnes, the Chairman of the BBC Trust, is likely to appoint to the position of Director-General, after the incumbent, Mark Thompson steps down. The Mail said:
"[I]ncredibly, the man being tipped as the front-runner for the director generalship is an unashamed Labour supporter (he even helped write the party’s manifesto) who has never made a TV programme in his life. Indeed, as head of the media regulator, Ofcom, the only aptitude Ed Richards has shown is for running a bloated quango, with nearly 1,000 staff, housed in magnificent offices by the Thames. This same Mr Richards has been roundly attacked by a Commons committee for his misleading accounting methods (perhaps learned during his time working in Tony Blair’s policy unit alongside Ed Miliband and Ed Balls), his failure to control Ofcom’s exorbitant £140million budget and the lavish salaries he paid the quango’s senior commissars (including almost £400,000 for himself)."
The newspaper also quotes an MP who sits on the Public Accounts Committee – the committee mentioned in the quote above – who said: "Ed Richards treated the committee with absolute disdain and clearly felt he was above parliamentary scrutiny. He was the most arrogant witness in a long time." A Guardian profile of Richards from 2009 contains this nugget: "the former BBC director general Greg Dyke famously referred to him as a "jumped-up Millbank oik"".
As Elliott told the ConHome event last month, Conservatives must understand that appointments of this nature have a long-term impact, and are sometimes more significant than the policies of the government of the day. It would be a serious setback for Conservatives hoping for fair media coverage from the BBC if an out-and-out Labour apparatchik were to be appointed. David Cameron should do everything in his power to ensure a more suitable appointment is made.