Magazine article Art Monthly

The Mayor, the Minister, the Deputy and His Lover

Magazine article Art Monthly

The Mayor, the Minister, the Deputy and His Lover

Article excerpt

In the same week that his former deputy at City Hall, Ian Clement, was found guilty of fraud for claiming expenses for wining and dining his girlfriend, Mayor Boris Johnson himself hit the headlines for alleged cronyism over his appointment of Veronica Wadley, former Evening Standard editor and powerful supporter of Johnson's mayoral campaign, to the important arts job of chair of Arts Council London. The main complaint against her appointment is that, in the words of Sir David Durie, one of the three selection panel members, Ms Wadley was 'manifestly the least qualified of the four candidates'. Despite this, Johnson went ahead and appointed her anyway, a choice enthusiastically supported by the lone voice of his faithful director of policy for arts, culture and the creative industries, Munira Mirza (see Editorial AM331).

Understandably aggrieved, the redoubtable former London mayor, Ken Livingstone, commented: 'Many of the people I appointed were criticised for being of the left, but never for not being able to do the job.' In a leaked letter to Mick Elliott, culture director at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Liz Forgan, chair of Arts Council England, who took part in the shortlisting process and who, when she left, was under the impression that Wadley had not made the cut, suggested that the process had been 'fundamentally flawed' and that the appointment was 'based on reasons other than selection of the best candidate for the post'. Not one to mince his words, Livingstone stated baldly: 'This is quite simply a payoff for the scale of support [that the Evening Standard] provided for Boris in the election.'

True to form, 'a source close to Ms Wadley' was reported as dismissing the letter on the grounds that Ms Forgan, who is also chair of the Scott Trust, which owns the Guardian, is 'a leftie'. Wadley herself has fought back, claiming that under her editorship: 'the award-winning Standard campaigned against corruption and waste of taxpayers' money at City Hall. The Russian-owned Standard now appears to want to dump Boris Johnson, one of the most popular politicians in the country, and reinstate Ken Livingstone, the discredited mayor who was voted out of office by London.' To which Livingstone could justifiably counter claim: 'with a little help from Wadley and the Evening Standard.'

The long and the short of it is that culture secretary Ben Bradshaw has blocked the appointment on the grounds that the process breached the Nolan rules which prevent political interference in the public appointments process. …

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