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Wednesday, 3 October, 2001, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
Minister tough over Mellor
David Mellor
David Mellor is a former Tory heritage minister
Broadcasting minister Kim Howells has given short shrift to the suggestion that former Tory minister David Mellor could become BBC vice-chairman.

When asked if he would be surprised if Mr Mellor got such a public position, Mr Howells told the Guardian : "Yes, I would."

The minister was quizzed at the Labour Party conference about the post, which is rumoured to be going to a Conservative candidate to maintain political balance.

Kim Howells, MP
Kim Howells: Best person will get job
Among the other favourites reported to be in the frame are Mr Mellor's former cabinet colleague Michael Portillo and Baroness Hogg, wife of former foreign affairs minister, Douglas Hogg.

Speculation over the post of vice-chairman comes after the appointment of previous incumbent Gavyn Davies as BBC chairman.

Like director general Greg Dyke, Davies is known for his connections with Labour and there have been accusations of cronyism from the Tory Party.

Gavyn Davies
Mr Davies is known for his support of Labour
When questioned about the possibility of a Tory vice-chairman, Mr Howells added: "I've seen it so often in quangos, especially in Wales, where political positions have been responsible for the lousy public services we've had.

"They've been appointed because of political bent, not talent. I wouldn't want to see a Labour government guilty of that."

Football

A spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport sought to play down his comments.

"Kim clearly said that the job will be given to the best person for the job," she said.

The vice-chairman's post was publicly advertised on Sunday.

David Mellor, former MP for Putney, lost his seat in the 1997 election following a sex scandal which also cost him his marriage.

He is currently head of the government's football taskforce and is a former presenter of BBC Radio 5 Live's 606 football programme.

Michael Portillo
Michael Portillo: Favoured by former Culture Secretary Chris Smith

He is said to be the favoured choice of Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.

Mr Mellor himself is saying nothing. At his London office a spokeswoman said: "He is not commenting to anyone about this."

Former Culture Secretary Chris Smith has backed Michael Portillo for the position of vice-chairman.

Mr Smith, writing in The Observer, said he believed a Tory should be appointed to balance the political power.

See also:

01 Oct 01 | TV and Radio
Gavyn Davies starts BBC job
20 Sep 01 | TV and Radio
Davies appointment 'no surprise'
19 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Tories attack new BBC choice
24 Sep 01 | TV and Radio
Smith: Portillo for BBC
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