By Paul Goodman
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Before Margaret Thatcher, the following was true as a rough rule of thumb. The arts leaned left, as now. The armed forces, the judges, the police and even, arguably, the teaching profession leaned right. The civil service was somewhere in the middle. In short, the left's "long march through the institutions" hadn't gathered pace. The EEC had not yet become the European Union, and the European Court of Human Rights was a distant presence.
Today, the judges certainly don't lean right, and nor do the police. That some of the main organisers of the anti-Thatcher protests are teachers helps to show how the ethos and culture of the profession has changed. The Militant Tendency used to dream of nationalising "the commanding heights of the economy". It failed to do so, but it's scarcely an exaggeration to say that the Left is squatting on the commanding heights of culture.
Centre-right politicians shouldn't tell artists what to write or judges what to think but, if they govern, they should at least ensure that those appointed to public bodies are broadly representative of voters as a whole. As Matthew Elliott pointed out at the recent ConservativeHome Victory 2015 Conference, the proportion of Labour supporters appointed to quangoes under David Cameron has reached a record high. Matthew wrote recently on this site:
"We also need to take care not to act as a head hunter for Labour. Under the last Labour Government, the proportion of politically
active public appointees aligned to the Labour Party increased from 32%,
to almost 75%, according to the Cabinet Office. Yet despite the change
of Government in 2010, that figure was 77% in 2011/12."
Why, Matthew asked, does New Economics Foundation got
roughly £300,000 from the taxpayer? Why has the Foreign Office given £190,000 to Bruegel, "a fervently pro-European think tank
in Brussels". Why are over 3000 trade unions, through "the excessive
subsidy of facility time", given the boots on the ground
it needs to organise protests against the Government and campaign at
Quentin Letts has more in the Daily Mail this morning, and his piece takes in James Purnell at the BBC, Lord Smith at the Environment Agency, Jenny Watson at the Electoral Commission and Ed Richards at OFCOM. He lists some changes for the better – such as William Shawcross at the Charities Commission – but they are few and far between.
I was told six months ago that Cameron recognises there is a problem, and has shaken up Downing Street to deal with it. But there's no evidence that the purported change has had much effect. And regardless of your point of view, it's wrong that a party which gained 29% of the vote in 2010 should win 77% of the appointments.
ConservativeHome will return to this unfinished business after Margaret Thatcher's funeral and during the coming months.