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Mandrake: Paul Dacre’s ‘belittling’ ambition to be Boris Johnson’s place man

The former Daily Mail editor was rejected from the position of heading up OFCOM - could he end up reapplying?

Paul Dacre - Credit: Getty Images

The former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has finally completed his memoirs, but it may be some time before they see the light of day. Mandrake understands that publication is on hold while Dacre still clings to the hope he might be put in charge of the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom.

“Paul will almost certainly have made his political views obvious in his book, so it’s clearly not in his interests that they come out before the Ofcom impasse is resolved,” says my man at Northcliffe House, the Mail’s London HQ. “There’s an expectation of at least the appearance of political neutrality in that role.”

Dacre, 72, was rejected the first time he applied, but, with Boris Johnson seemingly adamant he should get the job, it’s now being re-advertised with a decision expected sometime next year.

Even allies of Dacre, pictured, are wondering if he shouldn’t let the Ofcom job go. “Love him or hate him, Paul was a great editor, right up there I’d say with Ben Bradlee, Harry Evans, and, of course, David English [his predecessor and the creator of the modern Daily Mail]. They were all to their dying days fiercely independent newspapermen, beholden to no politician and no government. It’ll be belittling if Paul ends his days sitting in the Ofcom office in Southwark as Boris’s place man.”

The current favourite to bag the £142,500 role is the former culture minister Ed Vaizey.

Friend indeed
Mandrake has always taken a dim view of sources who give duff tips, but Tim Shipman, political editor of the Sunday Times, appears to have a more forgiving nature when it comes to Michael Gove’s “friend”.

Around Christmas, Shipman was happily quoting this individual tipping Gove as the next health secretary, and, more recently, saying he’d replace first Dominic Raab as foreign secretary, and then (after I disclosed that job was going to Liz Truss) Priti Patel as home secretary.

Shipman must have been startled that Gove ended up instead with a potpourri of roles including housing and communities minister and secretary of state for levelling up. So far from blocking Gove’s “friend” as a caller, Shipman was, over the weekend, quoting him/her saying that there was no way these roles amounted to a demotion for Gove, and, added, for good measure: “Boris has realised that if he needs to achieve anything, he needs Michael to deliver it for him”.

Starry night
The party that publisher Malcolm Turner threw at the ICA in London to launch my book Star Turns was a heartening, if humbling, occasion, with so many of my heroes attending: Gina Miller, John Bercow, Adam Boulton, Michael Cockerell, Kevin Maguire, Samira Ahmed, Alastair Campbell and Matt Kelly, the founder of this esteemed organ, among many others.

Turner was especially excited by the attendance of Lord Archer, who, he said, knew more about making a book sell than any writer on earth. This I can vouch for. I first met Jeffrey 37 years ago when he walked, unannounced, into the Bournemouth Echo newsroom and demanded that someone interview him about his latest thriller, First Among Equals.

Taking no notice of my protestations that he didn’t come from the area, he sat me down and more or less forced me to write a feature about him.

He then headed off to the town’s radio station and its weekly paper before jumping back into his Jag and heading to the next major conurbation to repeat the ritual.

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