MANDRAKE: Lib Dems say BBC must accept they are now the opposition

The Lib Dems are set to meet with BBC director general Lord Hall, over election coverage. Pictured,

The Lib Dems are set to meet with BBC director general Lord Hall, over election coverage. Pictured, Lib Dem MP Ed Davey meeting Lib Dem MEP candidates. Picture: Polly Hancock. - Credit: Archant

Ed Davey says resurgent Lib Dems must take a 'robust' approach to getting airtime commensurate with their vote share, Paul Dacre's salary goes up after ceasing to be Daily Mail's editor, and Rupert Murdoch fixes it for two of his journalists to meet Donald Trump

The Lib Dems are to demand a meeting with Lord Hall - the director general of the BBC - to ensure that the corporation gives the party coverage that's commensurate with its latest poll ratings, Mandrake can reveal.

"Brexit is the defining issue of our times and the BBC argument up until now is that there's never been a credible opposition with a real mandate to put the arguments against it," says my man at Lib Dem headquarters. "The polling our party is getting now - YouGov even saying last week we are ahead of all the parties - shows that's no longer the case."

Sir Ed Davey, speaking at the Lib Dems' first leadership hustings in Jeremy Corbyn's Islington North constituency, which fell to the Lib Dems in the EU election, said they now needed to take a "robust" approach with the media. "We are now top of the polls so we should get more coverage than anyone else," he said. "We can legitimately ask why is Nigel Farage on so much of the time?"

One problem the Lib Dems may have is the cosy relationship that Hall has with at least one leading Brextremist in the shape of Michael Gove, whom he used to wine and dine during his years in charge of the Royal Opera House.

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There are also the close friendships of BBC staff with senior Brextremists - one thinks of the Today show editor Sarah Sands' adoration of Boris Johnson - that will mean the Lib Dems may well face opposition in some quarters.

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In the money

Paul Dacre may no longer have to fret about writing pro-Brexit headlines for the Daily Mail - one thinks of "Steel of the new Iron Lady", beside a picture of Theresa May - but its ousted editor hasn't had to take a pay cut. The latest figures from Daily Mail and General Trust show he trousered £2,684,000 last year, up on the previous £2,313,000.

"Mr Dacre was paid his normal salary and benefits package for the full financial year until September 30 2018, when he retired from his role as executive director and editor in chief of the Daily Mail," says the company.

His outside earnings are looking buoyant, too: new accounts just in at Companies House reveal £943,000 in accumulated profits at Canaird River Company - the hydro-electric business he set up in 2013 with EU grants to harness the power of a river which runs through his 17,000-acre Langwell Estate in Wester Ross in the Scottish Highlands. The company - tipped to make £15 million - generated a £415,000 annual profit in 2018.

Trump's fixer

The job of fixing interviews for journalists on newspapers normally falls to gofers on the news desk, but not at the Sun or the Sunday Times. Mandrake hears that Rupert Murdoch himself sorted out the oleaginous interviews that these newspapers' political editors - respectively Tom Newton Dunn and Tim Shipman - conducted with Donald Trump ahead of his London visit.

Murdoch previously fixed it for Michael Gove - when he was still working for the Times - to interview Trump before his inauguration in 2017 and is said to have sat in on it. Trump amusingly appeared not to remember that encounter. When Shipman told him Gove was "coming up on the rails" in the leadership contest, Trump replied: "Wow, from Wales?"

Predictably, both interviews afforded Trump the chance to mouth off still more about a hard Brexit and what great guys Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are.

Sam's stand

Sam Gyimah's declaration over the weekend that he would be standing for the Tory leadership is audacious and brave. He's quite right that there is "a wide range of candidates for the job, but a narrow set of views on Brexit being discussed".

I saw Sam talk at an Acuitas Communications breakfast in Mayfair last month when he came across, in his quietly-spoken way, as wise and statesmanlike.

His principal point was that a no-deal Brexit would not put an end to our problems: it would just be the start of a new and infinitely more depressing chapter.

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