The accusation that the Tories have been installing their people in public appointments should evoke only a hollow laugh. They have been comatose on the subject. One of the greatest skills of New Labour was putting its allies in positions of control across the public sector. A great many are still there, and yet the Tories wonder why their efforts at reform are frustrated. Maggie Atkinson, for example, was imposed by Ed Balls, when in office, as Children’s Commissioner, against the recommendation of the relevant selection committee. She lingers on in her useless post. Lord Smith, the former Labour cabinet minister who has been flooding the Somerset levels, is still at the Environment Agency. Sally Morgan, appointed as chairman of Ofsted in a fit of ecumenism by Michael Gove three years ago, now berates him for politicising things because he is not renewing her contract. Yet she was one of New Labour’s Regius professors in the subject. Now the Liberal Democrats are having a go. Despite having succeeded in imposing the dreadful Professor Les Ebdon as Director of Fair Access to universities, thus getting their slice of coalition action on education, they are now trying to annex Conservative territory and prevent Gove appointing whom he wants as Lady Morgan’s successor. This is a world of perfect hypocrisy. Any governing party should appoint people who are sympathetic with its broad aims. If it doesn’t, it cannot achieve much of what it promised the electorate. Labour understood this. Unfortunately, until almost too late, the Tories didn’t.
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