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18 November 2009

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

Could the new ITV chairman clash with his old party?

By George Eaton

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.

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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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