Douglas Murray writes:
Recent analysis by the Tax Payers Alliance (TPA) proves the trend. Its scrutiny of appointments to public bodies or quangos over the last decade breaks down appointees by declared political activity. Over the last decade Labour appointees exceeded Conservatives in almost every year.
Even in 2018-9 there were 54 appointees who declared significant political activity in the Labour party as opposed to 36 who said the same about the Conservative party. Given some of the other numbers over the decade it is surprising the Conservative presence was so high. But it is also a demonstration of a pathetic and craven oversight by three consecutive Conservative governments.
The Conservatives have been in power for 10 years, yet they’re still appointing Labour activists to more boards than their own people.
I suspect we see some of the same here. National often appointed ex Labour people to boards, but you never see the same in reverse unless it is a Bolger like figure who is there just to blunt attacks from the opposition.
National in Government supported Mike Moore to the WTO and Helen Clark to UNDP. Can’t imagine the same being done in reverse.
Which brings me to the third excuse of the party faithful. “We just can’t find people willing to be put forward” they say. To which – assuming that is true – one might pertinently ask “And why might that be?”
One reason is because of something like what happened to Toby Young during the weakest days of the Theresa May minority government. Readers will remember that over New Year’s Eve 2018 the Conservative government slipped out the news that Young – a prominent, writer, journalist and founder of and campaigner for free schools – was to be appointed as a member of a 15-member advisory board called the Office for Students.
Now frankly the whole OfS is the sort of entity that shouldn’t exist. If the entire board of the OfS agreed as one to do something bold it would still merely land as a recommendation to sit as a paper on a ministerial desk and possibly provide a blueprint for future consideration and action. I am amazed that Young wanted anything to do with such a eunuch-like body.
But the Left went for him when it discovered one of its toys might land in his hands. They picked his life apart, found some sophomoric tweets from a decade earlier and destroyed him in public view. During the ensuing firestorm the government allowed Young to step down from the role he had not started. So it isn’t exactly difficult to work out why Right-wing, or even just vaguely conservative people, might not find the whole appointments thing attractive.
Well here is a thought. I would think that the present government has no more than three to six months to enact it. Flood the public sector with Right-of-centre cultural and political figures. Change the weather. Re-centre the culture. If they don’t do it now they never will, and the frit-ness of the last decade will remain the default position of this one.
As well as all the other appointments the Conservatives should also focus on making appointments that enrage their opponents. To demonstrate that the era of Clegg-ism and May-ism is over. Appoint Toby Young – and worse – to meaningful, “damaging” roles. Watch the Left scream and stamp their feet once more. At which point we can all turn round to them and say “Well, perhaps you should have won a majority of 80 at the last election”. And “Isn’t this what you would do?”
Boris might do it. The screaming alone should make it worthwhile. First though he needs to move the House of Lords to Birmingham.