1 Feb 2014

Baroness Sally Morgan – a Labour face that simply didn’t fit anymore?

There are many reasons to question Michael Gove’s decision not to reappoint Baroness Sally Morgan to a second term at the helm of the school’s inspector Ofsted.01_sally_morgan_r_v

At the time (2011), it was seen as a bit of a coup for the education secretary when he hired Lady Morgan as chairman. Here was an out-and-out Blairite (she was one of Tony Blair’s closest aides during his premiership) who was nevertheless a supporter of the Conservatives’ free-schools programme.

So what’s gone wrong?

It seems that Lady Morgan was told by all and sundry what a fantastic job she was doing. But with an election approaching, a Labour face simply didn’t fit.

And she’s not the only left-leaning – or even just progressive – chair of a public body to suddenly fall out of favour.

Dame Liz Forgan was forced out of the Arts Council; Baroness Kay Andrews was replaced by Sir Laurie Magnus, an old-Etonian investment banker, at English Heritage; the Conservative William Shawcross took over from Labour-supporting Dame Suzi Leather at the Charity Commission; and, at the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, Prof Lisa Jardine – who lists her Labour party membership as an “interest” on the HFEA website – isn’t being reappointed.

Friends of Baroness Morgan say Mr Gove implied she’d done nothing wrong but that he needed Conservatives in place at key public bodies in the run-up to the election.

If that is indeed the case, and if it’s also the case at other regulators, commissions, councils and authorities, then it has potentially far-reaching implications. Yes, politicians form public policy, but shouldn’t the bodies in charge of inspecting and implementing it be apolitical?

Of course, the previous Labour government did its fair share of appointing party placemen/women and supporters. It shouldn’t have done, and the current coalition should surely think twice before following suit.

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