The billionaire founder of Carphone Warehouse has quit as chairman of a prestigious museum group in protest at a ‘culture war’ being waged in British institutions.
Sir Charles Dunstone resigned from the board of Royal Museums Greenwich after Ministers refused to reappoint a trustee whose academic work encourages ‘decolonising’ the curriculum.
It comes as Boris Johnson’s administration seeks to reset the balance of opinion at the top of Britain’s cultural and media institutions, often through greater involvement in board appointments.
Sir Charles Dunstone resigned from the board of Royal Museums Greenwich after Ministers refused to reappoint a trustee whose academic work encourages ‘decolonising’ the curriculum
Royal Museums Greenwich oversees some of Britain’s most popular cultural destinations including the Queen’s House, the Royal Observatory and the Cutty Sark.
Sir Charles warned Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden that he would resign as chairman unless the Minister reversed his decision to reject a second term as trustee for Aminul Hoque, a Bangladeshi-British academic at Goldsmiths, University of London. Mr Hoque told the Financial Times that he was ‘shocked, disappointed and baffled’ by Mr Dowden’s decision.
Ministers in Mr Dowden’s Culture Department announced 92 appointments in the last full reporting year, of which only 31 were reappointments.
With the backing of Downing Street, Mr Dowden is believed to have blocked several reappointments at top institutions in favour of candidates more in tune with Government thinking.
Nicky Morgan, the former Conservative Culture Secretary, is tipped as the next chair of Sports England, while Robbie Gibb, a former Downing Street director of communications, was last week nominated to the BBC board.
Royal Museums Greenwich oversees some of Britain’s most popular cultural destinations including the Queen’s House, the Royal Observatory and the Cutty Sark (pictured)
Sir Charles left as chairman of Royal Museums Greenwich with immediate effect in February. He has declined to comment.
Peter Riddell, the commissioner of public appointments, claims the Government has ‘actively sought to appoint allies to the boards of public bodies’.
‘This is not the first time this has happened,’ he added. ‘Such attempts tend to go in waves. What is different now is the breadth of the campaign and the close engagement of 10 Downing Street.’
Mr Dowden wrote to museums and galleries in September to warn that their funding could be cut if they removed statues and other objects associated with the slave trade and colonialism.
A Government spokesman said: ‘All reappointments are considered in line with the Government code for public appointments. There is no automatic presumption of reappointment, and indeed in the vast majority of cases, fresh talent is added with new appointments.’
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