Former press baron Richard Desmond and Camelot in bitter battle over ticket to run the Lottery

The National Lottery operator Camelot and former press baron Richard Desmond have begun a war of words as they prepare to fight for the right to run the competition from 2023.

Former Daily Express owner Desmond, whose Northern & Shell media group runs The Health Lottery, last night confirmed that he is aiming to take over the licence for The National Lottery.

A spokesman for Desmond said The National Lottery had 'lost its way' under Camelot – which is owned by the Can$201.4billion (£116billion) Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (OTPP) – and it should be taken 'back into British hands'.

Camelot confirmed it is interested in bidding to keep the licence and it stressed that the OTPP provides 'stability, commitment and continuity' and maximises donations to good causes.

A spokesman added: 'We believe having the right owner is more important than the nationality of that owner. The National Lottery is in its best-ever shape.'