Britain’s best-known classicist Mary Beard is pretty much a national treasure. So you’d think she’d be easily accepted onto the board of the country’s most prestigious historical institution, right?
Well, in normal times, you’d be correct. But sadly we’re in 2020 and everything is awful. The Observer reports that Beard was rejected by Downing Street as a trustee of the British Museum. Whitehall sources said the decision last year to turn her down had been made because of her pro-European views, which she isn’t at all shy about on social media.
In response to the bizarre snub, the museum is reportedly planning to appoint Beard anyway, seeing as its constitution allows it to choose five out of its 25 trustees for itself, without any approval from Downing Street.
Sir John Tusa, a former trustee of the museum, told the Observer that the veto was an “absolute scandal”.
The trustees of the British Museum exist to protect its intellectual, academic and political independence. Government interference in putting in placemen or placewomen is a corruption of public life. Will any Remainer now expect to be punished by the government?
Before we all race to blame Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings, the decision to turn down Beard is believed to have happened at the end of Theresa May’s premiership.
On social media, people rallied around Beard.
Downing Street and the museum both declined to comment on the matter when approached by the Observer, but the museum is understood to be “upset” about it.