Conservative Diary

« Owen Paterson: The Bloody Sunday Inquiry should report "as soon as possible" | Main | Would you like to join ConservativeHome's new creative team? »

The Conservatives need a long march through Britain's institutions

The BBC is reportedly seeking to recruit a woman aged around fifty to present news bulletins.  It may be illegal but is typical of a Corporation - like many public bodies - that is obsessed with all sorts of diversity measures (a book in America called it Colo(u)ring The News) but misses the biggest institutional biases.

Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt thinks it is probably more important that the BBC recruits a few more Conservatives.  I think he is probably right about the BBC being short of Tory perspectives although research by ConHome from two years ago suggested that the main bias was pro-liberal, with very few small 'c' conservatives inside the Corporation.

This all raises the wider question of the new establishment in Britain. Dennis Sewell wrote about it recently in a very important cover story for The Spectator. The bloated quangocracy in Britain is, Sewell wrote, full of people appointed during the Brown/Blair era. He lists some of the Labour high-ups who will still be running important organisations after Labour is (hopefully) removed from national office:

"David Clark got the Forestry Commission, Chris Smith the Environment Agency, Geoff Rooker the Food Standards Agency. Larry Whitty, the party’s former general secretary, is chairman of Consumer Focus (where Dame Suzi is a fellow board member — that freelance consumer consultancy experience came in useful after all). Baroness Morgan won a seat on the board of the Olympic Delivery Authority, Lord Warner went straight into a paid NHS chairmanship. The list seems endless..."

His article is a must-read.  It contains nuggets like the fact that five of 12 members of the Big Lottery Fund board have Labour backgrounds and how this has produced a bias to the funding of projects in Labour-held seats.  As I wrote on CentreRight: Labour's twenty year rule of appointment-land will mean they'll lose office but not power next year.

The Tories need a strategy for dealing with this problem or they'll find many of their endeavours blocked by ideological appointees.

Many of the Labour-stuffed quangoes should, of course, be abolished altogether (Sewell says that is the only sensible course).  A second preference would be to see many more democratised.

The third option is for Tories to appoint many more friendly people to those parts of appointment-land that survive.  Ex-military and ex-business people should be the leading sources of such appointments.  We have been too fair in the past.  During the Thatcher and Major years we allowed too many left-liberals to prosper.  Labour were never so reasonable during their time at the helm.  Sewell worries that Labour's ending of prime ministerial patronage and the establishment of independent appointments machinery means that the new establishment will self-perpetuate.  Getting rid of that institutionalisation of Labour power must be a first year priority for a new Conservative government.

Tim Montgomerie


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.