Sally Morgan’s claim this morning that No10 is trying to purge non-Tories from quangos doesn’t ring true to me. Last time I checked, Team Cameron was still putting Labour types into quangos, oblivious to the game that Labour has been playing so long for so well.
Exhibit A is the egregious Chris Smith, a former Labour Culture Secretary who has somehow ended up chairing the Environment Agency (whose incompetence can now be seen covering 23,000 acres of the in Somerset Levels). In the Labour years, the Labour Party was very good at deploying its own people to charities and quangos – making a good government-in-exile to attack a Tory government for cuts, etc.
I admire Sally Morgan, a former teacher and proven reformer, and regard her as an honourable exception to the template of a clueless politician being given a safe berth in a quango with a broad remit to just make trouble for a new government. But her claim this morning that there is Tory purge underway is a bit bizarre. Here she is on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning.
“I think there is an absolutely determined effort from No 10 that Conservative supporters will be appointed to public bodies. I think that is an issue for the Cabinet Secretary and the Cabinet Office to look at. It has been a quiet, quiet drip. I’m not talking about Labour people being replaced, I’m talking about non-Conservative supporters being replaced by Conservative supporters.”
When it comes to ‘drip dip’, Baroness Morgan would (I’m afraid) know all about that. The government she served made sure that many of its people were safely lodged in a quango (or charities, like Save The Children) forming a kind of government in exile. (I wrote a Telegraph column on this last year.)
The below figures, from the Taxpayers Alliance, are a breakdown of public appointments of individuals declaring political activity from the Commissioner for Public Appointment’s annual reports. It shows each party, as a percentage of quango appointees who declare some political allegiance. (This measure is not perfect, as many ex-Labour staffer have since declared themselves to be neutral). Note how, in 1997-8, Labour did precisely what Baroness Morgan accuses the Tories of doing now. And note how in 2010-11, under Cameron, Labour types still accounted for the majority of political appointees.