Boris Johnson’s top choice to be chairman of the BBC has ruled himself out of the role, according to reports.
Lord Charles Moore had been asked by the prime minister to take up the post as the successor to Sir David Clementi when he stands down as chairman of the BBC board in February.
His appointment – if it had gone through – would have been controversial; Moore has previously been a longstanding vocal critic of the BBC and was in 2010 fined for not paying the licence fee. He has also previously come under criticism for his comments on race and same-sex marriage.
But the Sunday Times reported he had decided against even applying “for personal reasons”.
It had been said that the former editor of the Daily Telegraph and biographer of Margaret Thatcher was “virtually a done deal” after six weeks of wrangling over pay and conditions.
The paper added that the BBC would have been forced to inflate the salary to at least £280,000 to attract him to the role. The current BBC chairman, Sir David Clementi, is paid £100,000 a year.
Moore has previously written that the BBC could not carry on before and must “decolonise”. He received backing from Michael Gove, who told the Mail on Sunday: “Charles Moore is one of the most brilliant writers, journalists and thinkers in Britain today.
“Anyone who knows him knows he is open-minded, fair-minded, passionate about this country’s success.
“The BBC is an amazing institution and Charles is someone who would bring a properly Reithian approach to it. He would want to make the BBC succeed.”
A formal recruitment process to find a new chairman has yet to be launched, but a job advertisement is expected to be issued shortly.
Other potential candidates for the role are the former culture secretary, Baroness Morgan of Cotes, and the former home secretary, Amber Rudd, the Sunday Times has previously reported.
Paul Dacre, the former editor of the Daily Mail and another fierce critic of the BBC, remains Johnson’s choice to become chairman of Ofcom.
Critics have raised concerns that such a move would threaten the broadcasting regulator’s reputation for fairness and independence.
Gove said: “Paul Dacre is probably the single most successful newspaper editor of the past three or four decades and he is someone who has defied expectations in the campaigns that he’s run on the environment and to pursue the killers of Stephen Lawrence.
“Because both men are right of centre, and because both of them – like 52% of the people in this country – thought we should leave the European Union, they have been painted in primary colours as somehow demon kings. That is just not true.”
Downing Street declined to comment on speculation. around the recruitment process.
A government spokesperson said: “We will launch the application process for the new chair of the BBC shortly. It is an open recruitment process and all public appointments are subject to a robust and fair selection criteria.”