Tessa Jowell was at the centre of a bitter new row over Labour "cronyism" last night after she vetoed both the recommended candidates, selected by an independent panel, for the post of chairman of English Heritage. The apparent reason was their political leanings. One, Lord Marland, is the Conservative party Treasurer, the other, Lady Cobham, the partner of the former Conservative Cabinet minister David Mellor.
The post will now be readvertised at further cost to us, the taxpayers.
The move follows controversy over the appointment of Labour supporters to the Big Lottery Fund, which distributes £2.3 billion of lottery money.
Last night Lord Marland, who had been told he was the favourite, accused Miss Jowell of rejecting him because he was not a member of the Labour Party.
"To have been independently deemed the preferred candidate and then rejected by the Culture Secretary, shows the Labour Party is only interested in appointing one of its own," he said.
According to the Telegraph, Lord Marland and Lady Cobham, who chairs the British Casino Association, were recommended after being interviewed by the independent body set up by Lord Nolan which aims to ensure that public bodies are not stuffed with political appointees.
This really is disgraceful, but no surprise.
Heaven only knows that all governments in history have made some use of patronage to bolster their position and appoint friends, but New Labour have been particularly shameless and quite hypocritical. They complained bitterly about supposed cronyism under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, but at least most of the people we appointed were qualified.
Labour keep setting up independent reviews and panels, then finding ways round them, or just ignoring the results if they don't like them.
Apart from anything else, if they were going to rig the appointment process to appoint one of their own, could Labour not at least have been competent enough to find someone they wanted to give the job to who was able enough to get through the sift, so they didn't have to waste money going through the appointments procedure twice?