Boris Johnson was accused of cronyism last night after it emerged he tried to install former Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley as London Arts Council Chair.
Two of the three members of the selection panel described Wadley as "manifestly the least qualified" candidate for the job and agreed not to forward her for interview.
One panel member described Wadley as "inadequate" with "almost no arts credibility" and only Boris's Adviser Munira Mirza disagreed.
However, this decision was overruled by Boris, who described Wadley as "highly qualified" and subsequently recommended her for the position.
News of her imminent appointment was then leaked to the IoS and the process was only stopped because it was judged that Boris had broken the Nolan rules on public appointments.
In a letter sent to the Department of Media Culture and Sport, panel member Liz Fogan said that:
"we are left with a due process that was not followed, a candidate who was manifestly less qualified than three of her competitors and three distinguished candidates put through a process that seems to have had questionable validity. My conclusion is that the Mayor's intended appointment was based on reasons other than the selection of the best candidate for the job."
Ridding Cronyism from City Hall
Under Wadley's editorship, the Evening Standard ran a relentless campaign against Ken Livingstone and for Boris Johnson.
The close relationship led to the paper being referred to as the Evening Boris and it's new owner has worked hard to restore it's political independence.
Boris too, was accused of cronyism last year after he installed one of his major election donors onto the board of the LDA.
It was also reported that he intended to appoint his brother Jo as "Director of Strategy" at City Hall. The appointment never occurred.
Wadley's defence, that one panel member was "a lefty" (Liz Fogan sits on the Scott Trust) is to be expected.
However, it is Boris's decision which is the remarkable one, as much for its political naivety as for any apparent breach of the rules.
I mean how did Boris think this was going to look?
"I would be extremely concerned if the mayor was not following transparent criteria for appointments. This London Mayor has only been in office a year and a half, yet we have had an extraordinary series of scandals and mistakes. An independent report commissioned by the Greater London Authority and the Metropolitan Police Authority admonished the Mayor for his "extraordinary and unwise" behaviour when Damien Green MP was arrested. The rushed nature of his appointments of deputy Mayor’s certainly contributed to the subsequent loss of some of them. Finally, another deputy mayor had to resign after he was able to falsify his expenses over a period of several months.”
An aide to Boris Johnson said today:
"If he has to sit out for a new secretary of state, he will."