Boris Johnson has confirmed the appointment of Veronica Wadley as London Chair at Arts Council England, describing her as “a hugely accomplished woman who has a proven passion for London and its unrivalled arts and culture.”
The appointment follows a row over the selection process which saw Johnson accused of breaking the Nolan rules on political interference in public appointments after claims that he’d recommended the former Evening Standard editor despite objections from two of the three members of the selection panel.
Political opponents and some commentators accused the Mayor of “cronyism” with suggestions that was repaying Wadley for favourable coverage during the 2008 Mayoral election. Throughout the row Mayor Johnson has stood by his description of Ms Wadley as the best person for the job.
The row led to Labour Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, who the Mayor accused of taking “a narrow and party political approach”, blocking the appointed a commitment from the Mayor to re-run the selection process.
Last year a spokesman for the Mayor described Wadley as “one of the very few women in the UK who has edited a serious newspaper. She knows London intimately and is a highly-qualified, award-winning editor with serious and grown-up arts coverage.”
Confirming the appointment the Mayor said Wadley would “bring energy, drive and ambition to this vital sector that does so much for our quality of life in London and the capital’s reputation around the world.”
In a statement issued by City Hall Wadley said she was “delighted” to be appointed and said she’d spent the past year visiting “a great many arts organisations, travelling the length and breadth of London” and said he task was “to ensure that we can support their excellence and innovation. I will do all I can to champion the arts in London, encouraging work of the highest quality at every level. I will work with ambition and caution.”
Responding to today’s announcement, Len Duvall, leader of the London Assembly Labour group, said: “This confirms every suspicion about how the appointment has been handled. They re-started the process when they were found out, independent advice was ignored, candidates were over-looked and an important position was left vacant until a Tory government willing to play along was elected. All so the Mayor could fix it for one of his cronies to get the job. It stinks, it’s dishonourable, but it’s nothing less than we expected. So much for the new politics.”