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Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Tories still in love with the quango state

Whatever one's view of the Welsh bonfire of the Quangos, there is no doubt that it tackled one particular malaise, namely the tendency of Tory Secretary of States for Wales to rule through unelected placemen and women, most of whom shared political views with those who appointed them.

Today's Times indicates that this particular malaise still infects the body politic in England at least, where democratic devolution has not yet been put in place.

The paper says that Conservative party donors, departing Tory MPs and journalists close to David Cameron have all been called upon to serve as part of a rush of public appointments to quangos and arts bodies before the election.

They add that key funding boards, which distribute government and lottery money, are now overseen by former Tory MPs while some of Britain’s finest museums have Tory donors on their boards:

Most of the appointments happened in one block last Friday, March 27, when the Commons was not sitting and Ed Miliband launched his campaign.

Sir Peter Luff, the former Tory defence minister who is standing down at this election, was appointed by Sajid Javid to be chairman of the board that runs the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The latter alone has £375 million to invest in projects each year.

Sir Peter Ainsworth, another former Tory MP, was also re-appointed chairman of the Big Lottery Fund.

This appointment was made by Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, publicly signalling that he is expecting a seat in the House of Lords after the election.

Among his other appointments to the Big Lottery Fund was Rachael Robathan, a Tory councillor in Westminster and wife of Andrew Robathan, former defence minister.

On the same day, Mr Javid appointed four board members to the British Library.

One of them was the property magnate Sir John Ritblat, who was listed as being on the prime minister’s table at last July’s Tory fundraiser. Another was Jonathan Callaway, who overlapped with Mr Javid at Deutsche Bank.

The prime minister appointed three trustees to the Imperial War Museum. One was Matthew Westerham, who donated £5,500 to the Conservative party. There were also three appointments to the Geffrye Museum, including Alexandra Robson, a Conservative “A-lister” who took part in the infamous candidate “fast track” process to become a Tory MP before the 2010 election.

Nicholas Coleridge, an early Cameron cheerleader and the publisher of Condé Nast magazines, has been made chairman of the V&A museum.

Dame Mary Archer will be chairwoman of the Science Museum Group and will be joined by Matthew d’Ancona, the Tory inclined Guardian journalist, and David Willetts, the former science minister.

There has of course still been controversy about appointments in Wales but at least here the process of filling these positions is subject to clear rules and is far more transparent. It may not be perfect but it is a major improvement on what is going on over the border.
I thought they would have slimmed the state down a bit but the Tories seem to have a Totalitarian edge to them which even Blair could not be guilty of
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