Tory-backed favourites blocked from BBC selection panel over ‘independence’ concerns

Nick Ferrari grills Trade Secretary about donors becoming Lords

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When seeking a new chairman for the BBC, the watchdog struck off those backed by ministers. The watchdog also intervened in the recruitment process for board positions at British Film Institute and Office for Students.

The Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments also blocked appointments to the boards for the British Film Institute and Office for Students for not being “sufficiently independent”.

The interventions, revealed by a Freedom of Information request, also found that ministers complied with the watchdog’s recommendations and changed their recommended appointees.

The revelations come as the Government has been accused of trying to “rebalance” the leadership of powerful public bodies.

Last year, the former editor of The Telegraph, Lord Moore of Etchingham, withdrew as a candidate to be the chairman of the BBC when it emerged he was the Government’s first choice for the role.

Since then, former Goldman Sachs banker and ex-Royal Academy chair Richard Sharp has been appointed to head the corporation.

However, the OPCA confirmed it challenged candidates for appointment boards for the BBC and BFI and twice for the Office for Students earlier this year.

Since then, Conservative Peer James Wharton has been appointed to lead the Office for Students and Tim Richards, the founder of Vue Cinemas, to the BFI.

There are no rules preventing the Government from appointing supporters to prominent political roles, however, panels selecting such candidates must include non-political “senior independent panel members”.

In the instances where the then commissioner, Peter Riddell, intervened OCPA said he deemed the Government’s panel choices “were not sufficiently independent as set out in the public appointments code”. OCPA has not named the individuals it objected to.

However, in the case of the selection panel for the Office for Students, members included Theresa May’s former chief of staff, Nick Timothy, former Conservative MP Eric Ollerensaw and Conservative peer Laura Wyld.

Following the revelation, a government spokesman said: “The commissioner found no breaches of the code in the cases highlighted; he was properly consulted by ministers as required.”

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They also pointed out that of the 1,500 people appointed to public bodies last year, only two percent declared significant political links to the Conservative Party.

Meanwhile, Mr Riddell, who left the role of commissioner earlier this year, said he felt there had been a marked shift in the current administration to “rebalancing” the leadership of public bodies

Speaking of how things have changed since former Prime Minister Theresa May was in power, the ex-commissioner said: “The tempo has stepped up. Under the May government, May was, as you would expect, rather correct and she was concerned with getting good people to do things.”

The news breaks as yet another Tory backed role is being exposed.

Reports over the weekend revealed that senior Tory party donors were being granted a life peerage in the House of Lords upon donating sums in excess of £3million.

Several key members of the House of Lords involved in the peerage stopped donating to the party soon after joining the House.

One Lord upon entering has only spoken a handful of times in the chamber since gaining the position.

According to a Sunday Times report, in the last two decades, all 16 of the party’s treasurers – except the most recent– have been offered a seat in the House of Lords.

A further 22 of the party’s main financial backers who have given £54 million to the party between them, including nine donor treasurers, have also been offered seats since 2010.

An ex-party chairman told the Sunday Times: “The truth is the entire political establishment knows this happens and they do nothing about it… The most telling line is once you pay your £3 million, you get your peerage.”

Once again, independent sources raised awareness of the scandal that has further tarnished the name of the Conservative Party.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has since come under close scrutiny over his involvement and handling of the affair.

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