It is difficult to believe that there is so much fuss over Mr Gove’s decision not to reappoint a Labour peeress to a Quango on expiry of her contract. It is even more bizarre to complain that he is trying to politicise these appointments, when the outgoing person is a Labour politician.
As we have now read, Labour made many more Labour appointments to quangos than the Coalition has made Conservative appointments, adjusted for the periods of time involved so far. I saw nothing wrong in principle with Labour Ministers appointing Labour supporters to these important jobs. Doubtless they wanted people running these arms of the state who shared their general world view and aims. Of course they needed to undertake fair recruitment process and ensure that if someone was a known Labour supporter they had the qualifications and experience to justify the appointment. So why then do they dare to complain if occasionally Conservative Ministers take the same view about their supporters? Should a known Conservative who is qualified now be banned from a quango appointment because he or she is a Conservative?
This row raises some wider issues. Why is so much power concentrated in the hands of these quangos, when Ministers maybe should take more control and accept more responsibility for what is going on. There is no evidence that so called independent bodies are better at judging matters than elected Ministers acting on good professional advice. Just look at the mess the independent Bank of England and the FSA made of banking regulation, bringing on the worse crash in more than century. Previous Chancellors who had more direct control did better. Or look at the Environment Agency’s decision to allow floods in large parts of the country.
Can we really believe there are truly independent people in areas of great contention? The global warming theory supporters would not regard an appointee to the job of Environment Agency Head as properly qualified if they did not believe in global warming theory . Anti global warming theorists regard the appointment of a pro theory person as folly or treachery. These are political minefields, and no-one is in this case “independent”. A School Inpsector who believes comprehensives are best might set different standards from one who thinks the best grammars and private sector schools are the ones to match. This again is political territory.
I favour bringing more powers back from quangos to Ministers. Better still let’s find more powers quangos have which we could return to people and businesses, leaving them freer to do as they see fit. And let Mr Gove choose who he will. It will be his results that we judge in 2015, so he should have the helpers he needs to do the job.