Is Archie Norman's appointment bad news for the Tories?

Could the new ITV chairman clash with his old party?

Over at Comment Central, Daniel Finkelstein suggests that the appointment of the former Conservative MP Archie Norman as the new chairman of ITV is bad news for the Tories.

Here's why:

Because the party will need change managers to help transform public services. And there is no better change manager in Britain -- as ITV will discover -- than Archie Norman.

The Tory party has lost, at least for the moment, the best possible GOAT.

Finkelstein, who served as an adviser to William Hague before joining the Times, will have had close dealings with Norman, who was one of the early supporters of Hague's leadership bid.

If like his immediate predecessor, Michael Grade, Norman throws his weight behind the government's plan to top-slice the licence fee, he could yet clash with his former party.

David Cameron has set the Conservatives against top-slicing, an idea they previously championed, in a U-turn many believe was influenced by the Murdoch-owned Sky.

James Murdoch has declared that top-slicing the licence fee would be "catastrophic" because it would lead to more commercial media companies becoming dependent on public money. Much as he may want to see a "much, much smaller" BBC, Murdoch does not want to fight a war on two fronts.

The shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has similarly warned that top-slicing would make broadcasters focus "not on attracting viewers but on attracting subsidies".

What position will Norman take? This is one to watch.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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We're running out of time to stop a hard Brexit - and the consequences are terrifying

Liam Fox has nothing to say and Labour has thrown the towel in. 

Another day goes past, and still we’re no clearer to finding out what Brexit really means. Today secretary of state for international trade, Liam Fox, was expected to use a speech to the World Trade Organisation to announce that the UK is on course to leave the EU’s single market, as reported earlier this week. But in a humiliating climb-down, he ended up saying very little at all except for vague platitudes about the UK being in favour of free trade.

At a moment when the business community is desperate for details about our future trading arrangements, the International Trade Secretary is saying one thing to the papers and another to our economic partners abroad. Not content with insulting British businesses by calling them fat and lazy, it seems Fox now wants to confuse them as well.

The Tory Government’s failure to spell out what Brexit really means is deeply damaging for our economy, jobs and global reputation. British industry is crying out for direction and for certainty about what lies ahead. Manufacturers and small businesses who rely on trade with Europe want to know whether Britain’s membership of the single market will be preserved. EU citizens living in Britain and all the UK nationals living in Europe want to know whether their right to free movement will be secured. But instead we have endless dithering from Theresa May and bitter divisions between the leading Brexiteers.

Meanwhile the Labour party appears to have thrown in the towel on Europe. This week, Labour chose not to even debate Brexit at their conference, while John McDonnell appeared to confirm he will not fight for Britain’s membership of the single market. And the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn, who hardly lifted a finger to keep us in Europe during the referendum, confirms the party is not set to change course any time soon.

That is not good enough. It’s clear a hard Brexit would hit the most deprived parts of Britain the hardest, decimating manufacturing in sectors like the car industry on which so many skilled jobs rely. The approach of the diehard eurosceptics would mean years of damaging uncertainty and barriers to trade with our biggest trading partners. While the likes of Liam Fox and boris Johnson would be busy travelling the world cobbling together trade deals from scratch, it would be communities back home who pay the price.

We are running out of time to stop a hard Brexit. Britain needs a strong, united opposition to this Tory Brexit Government, one that will fight for our membership of the single market and the jobs that depend on it. If Labour doesn’t fill this gap, the Liberal Democrats will.

Tim Farron is leader of the Liberal Democrats.