A headline I didn’t expect ever to write: Tory right-wing calls for affirmative action in public sector

by Stephen Tall on October 30, 2012

I did a bit of a double-take on reading Fraser Nelson’s latest column in the Telegraph complaining that David Cameron has been ‘strikingly relaxed’ about appointments to government-funded bodies.

‘His allies say that he has been too much of a gentleman to play Labour’s game and start stuffing quangos with Tory placemen,’ says Fraser, whose tone suggests he’d like nothing better than for the Prime Minister to start stuffing quangos with Tory placemen.

His plea for greater patronage was taken up with alacrity by Tim Montgomerie at ConservativeHome who urged Mr Cameron to retaliate in kind ‘by having the same kind of political operation in Downing Street that Gordon Brown established to handle public appointments’.

In a quite remarkable turn of paradoxical phrase, Tim concludes:

… we could have a smaller state where patronage was less of a powerful political tool. So long as we do have a large state then we must do something to stop the Left’s march through the institutions.

Or, as Saint Augustine (pictured) would have put it more pithily: “Please God, make me good, but not just yet.”

Affirmative action — measures that favour minorities to counter the effects of a history of discrimination — is not normally associated with the Tory right-wing. But it’s amazing how perceptions change when you reckon yourself to be a discriminated-against minority, it seems.

Personally, I’m all in favour of appointing the best-qualified person to a post, no matter which party they support. After all, some of my best friends are Tories, y’know.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.