From our Swindon correspondent:
From the Guardian
She is Britain’s best known classicist, a Cambridge don with formidable intellect and a knack for getting people interested in all things ancient.
That combination of passionate erudition and accessibility would, you might think, make Mary Beard a shoo-in for the board of the country’s most prestigious historical institution.
You would be wrong. The 65-year-old scholar has been rejected by Downing Street as a trustee of the British Museum, the Observer understands. Whitehall sources said the decision last year to turn her down had been made because of her pro-European views, which she has frequently expressed via social media.
But people aren’t selected on purely their skills as a classicist, in the same way that the content of the major museums isn’t decided purely on the basis of the science or natural history. When you take the government’s shilling, you’re going to have to do what the government tells you to do, or no longer get the shillings. You might think that what they’ve told you you’re going to have to do is dumb, but that’s the way it’s going to be. And 46% of their income comes from government.
What’s rather beautiful is that this situation arose because of Blair’s changes to museum funding which was part of that whole March Through the Institutions. Make museums free, government fund museums. So, you then have features in the Science Museum highlighting inventions made by former slaves because it ticks a diversity box on a DCMS form, rather than important inventions by rich white men. The Right Sort of People run the museum towards New Labour thinking. But it does mean that having done that, a government with a different outlook can use it as a tool for their agenda. Government wants arch-remainers removed? Well, do it or lose half your money.
Now, in response to the first rejection of a proposed British Museum trustee by No 10 for many years, the museum is understood to be planning to take matters into its own hands and appoint Beard without the lengthy and sometimes byzantine process of the Whitehall system.
I can understand that this is a shock as they’re all probably currently knee-deep in Woke Guardianland, but can anyone see this going down well? Defying the people who pay half your bills? Some sort of “nice museum you’ve got there, shame if something happened to it” visit from the minister is probably forthcoming.