Mayor Boris – pushing cronyism at City Hall?


by Sunny
10th October, 2009 at 5:33 pm    

The Times has published an email exchange on London Mayor Boris Johnson trying to get former Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley, who was a big supporter of his candidacy, chair the Arts Council of England for London.

So Boris writes offering his full support. This is the conclusion of the response:

So we are left with a due process that was not followed, a candidate who was manifestly less qualified than three of her competitors and three distinguished candidates put through a process that seems to have questionable validity. My conclusion is that the Mayor’s [Boris] intended appointment is based on reasons other than selection of the best candidate for the post. Had the appointment been run to the standard applied to other appointments on Council Veronica would not have been seen by the Mayor.

Wow. Given all the accusations levelled at Ken Livingstone (some rightly in my view) for favouring former colleagues for top jobs – I waited to see whether the Tories who are resolute about ‘merit and not cronyism’ for appointments would say anything. Nope. Nothing. Nada.

Conservatives do make a big deal about how they oppose ‘positive action’ on diversity for the same reasons – people should be judged only on merit. And yet when such flagrant examples of cronyism come to light they say nothing.
Adam Bienkov and Dave Hill have more.


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  1. pickles

    New blog post: Mayor Boris – pushing cronyism at City Hall? http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/6175


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    #PickledPolitics Mayor Boris – pushing cronyism at City Hall? http://tinyurl.com/yzq2w3m




  1. MaidMarian — on 10th October, 2009 at 5:40 pm  

    Sunny – Reading through the link, what is described is the much vaunted ‘localism’ in action. Johnson is the Mayor, he is the locally elected person, he can see/appoint who he likes.

    I personally think that localism is just an open invitation to dilute standards and promote inequality. As this shows.

    But Boris is well within his rights on a localist premise. Cronyism? Perhaps, but if he has not broken the law then this is localism in action.

  2. Sunny — on 10th October, 2009 at 5:46 pm  

    Huh? Localism doesn’t mean cronyism at all.

    I’m a big localist – but favouring someone when others are more qualified doesn’t automatically translate even if you are a localist.

  3. MaidMarian — on 10th October, 2009 at 5:54 pm  

    Sunny – ‘Localism doesn’t mean cronyism at all.’

    Agreed, but it means that if a locallly elected person wants to make their own appointments they they should be free to do so. If you don’t like the criteria they use, well it is a local decision.

    Looking at the e-mail there was a very good national process in place overruled by localism.

    What you seem to be saying is that localism is OK, provided that the localist actors do things your way?

  4. Sunny — on 10th October, 2009 at 6:34 pm  

    What you seem to be saying is that localism is OK, provided that the localist actors do things your way?

    No, I’m saying that even if people make decisions locally – they have to go through due process and make decisions based on merit and criteria. According to the letter published above, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

  5. damon — on 10th October, 2009 at 7:15 pm  

    Ken Livingstone had Dave Hill on his LBC (London) radio programme this morning for a full hour.
    He was in as a guest to review the papers and chat about anything thing that was in the news.
    Dave Hill mentioned this article in The Times about Prince Phillip complaining about television technology –
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article6868843.ece

    They also talked about whether Boris had taken the train to Manchester last week or had (OMG) flown there, as an image on Boris’ twitter page showed him working on his conference speech on his way to Manchester, in what looked like an airline seat.
    But it turned out the picture was of Boris flying to New York the week before (after twitters with too much time on their hands had been sending Dave Hill images of airline seats compared to rail carriage seats.)

    This story never came up in conversation. Why not?

    Maybe it’s a non-story like MaidMarian says.

  6. Kismet Hardy — on 10th October, 2009 at 9:27 pm  

    Ooh will Peggy Mitchell be there too?

  7. Sunny — on 10th October, 2009 at 10:11 pm  

    Maybe it’s a non-story like MaidMarian says.

    If it was a non-story, then why would Ken and Dave both had written about it?

  8. damon — on 10th October, 2009 at 11:20 pm  

    Perhaps they didn’t think that tens of thousands of LBC listeners would be that interested. (Half of them had voted for Johnson).

    They did talk though about the (now cancelled) plans for another (sorely needed) bridge over the Thames in in East London, and the also cancelled plans for a new Camden to South London tram.

    They chatted about lots of stuff (including Anton Du Beke), but nothing about Veronica Wadley that I remember.

  9. MaidMarian — on 10th October, 2009 at 11:48 pm  

    ‘If it was a non-story, then why would Ken and Dave both had written about it?’

    Because the London Mayoralty is overblown to the point of parody. Because there is a massive oversupply of media that needs to manufacture non-news to fill time. Because Ken and Dave owe a favour to someone at the Arts Council. Who knows.

    But this is a nonsense of a ‘story.’

  10. Cauldron — on 11th October, 2009 at 10:15 am  

    Power corrupts. Politicians of all stripes will eventually put their noses into the trough. The only way to minimise the problem is:

    (1) Have a society that is outraged by cronyism. Swedes get outraged. Italians just shrug their shoulders. I’m not sure where Britain stands.

    (2) Greater transparency. The internet is wonderful in this regards.

    (3) Reduce the scope for temptation by minimising the scope of the state. Why we need state funding for the Arts Council, which is little more than a jobs for the boys scheme for the good and the great, is really beyond me.

    Patrician Boris has failed to shrink the role of the state. If Cameron takes the same path at the national level then Tory politicians will also ultimately indulge in cronyism.

  11. Tom — on 12th October, 2009 at 8:19 pm  

    “then Tory politicians will also ultimately indulge in cronyism.”

    Um, the Tories have always seen so-called ‘cronyism’ as a feature, not a bug. The defining feature of Conservatism is an inability to generalise, after all.

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