MANDRAKE: Tory donor now favourite to become BBC chair

Question Time host David Dimbleby. Picture: Contributed

David Dimbleby. Picture: Contributed - Credit: Archant

TIM WALKER on the latest manoeuvrings for the job of BBC chair. Plus, the return of Michael Gove's mystery leaker.


Mandrake hears that the BBC plans to announce its new chair before Christmas and it looks as if Richard Sharp - a Tory donor who was once Rishi Sunak's boss at Goldman Sachs - is a shoo-in.

More colourful contenders such as Charles Moore - known to Private Eye readers as Lord Snooty before Boris Johnson chose to actually ennoble him - and David Dimblebypictured, both decided to rule themselves out of the running for the £160,000-a-year job.

The three others who made the shortlist all have experience of working at the Beeb - Tina Stowell, who used to the BBC's head of corporate affairs before her peerage and appointment as leader of the Lords; Rupert Gavin, once the boss of BBC Worldwide who now presides over Historic Royal Palaces; and Michael Hastings, a previous head of BBC public affairs before he, too, was sent to the Upper House. Hastings would, incidentally, have been the first man of colour to have been appointed BBC chair. 

Lord Seb Coe is also understood - once again - to have been in the running, but this is starting to look like one race he is unlikely ever to win. 



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No hope

A great many people claimed to be plugged into the mood of the country during the last election, but few took the trouble to ask thousands of their fellow citizens what they were actually feeling at the time. That's what Stephen Coleman and Jim Brogden, two professors from Leeds University, did in Bradford.

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Their resultant book, Capturing the Mood of Democracy: The British General Election 2019, published later this month, shows a swathe of the population that largely feels politics is beyond their control. "We went to the working men's clubs, mosques, gyms, academy schools, you name it, and almost always the people we talked to saw themselves as spectators rather than participants.

"The last election was no 1945 New Jerusalem moment - there was little sense of hope. Feelings on Brexit ran high, but there was no great interest or understanding of what it actually entailed. People talked about things that people had told them - not friends of theirs, but random strangers online."

In the event, Labour held Bradford's three seats, but the Tories won in nearby Keighley and Shipley. Coleman says writing the book didn't make him "any more" depressed about politics, but he felt talk of societal unrest - even civil war - was absurd. "It was hard enough getting people even to summon up the energy to talk about politics," he said.


Healthy move

The rascal who keeps leaking complimentary stories about Michael Gove is back with a vengeance - and a mission. No doubt conscious that Gove's role overseeing the Brexit negotiations is growing ever more awkward as January 1 approaches, the leaker seems to fancy the idea of Gove taking over as health secretary. "One source said Mr Gove would be a perfect candidate at the Department of Health to refresh the team and prepare for a potential third wave of coronavirus next winter," the Daily Telegraph reported the other day.

Over the weekend, Tim Shipman reported in the Sunday Times that Gove did "a proper, three-minute long speech" in which he argued for a "draconian" lockdown. Matt Hancock's job would, of course, be a demotion for Gove and his obsession with the health of the nation contrasts with his original "run this hot" approach to tackling the coronavirus, but no doubt the leaker has his best interests at heart.


Sweet talk

Boris Johnson considers Theresa - now Lady - May so boring he walked out of the Commons chamber when she began to talk the other day.

Happily, others are more appreciative of her oratorial skills as attested by the £1.3 million she's made out of speaking engagements over the past year.

She trousered £136,000 for a single 30-hour gig in South Korea earlier this year which has helped The Office of Theresa May - the limited company she set up in October last year  - to pay her a salary of £85,000 on top of her basic £80,000 as a backbencher. 

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