The appointment of Lord Wharton to chair the ‘independent’ university watchdog Office for Students (OfS) has once again highlighted the murky web that connects the various arms of the establishment.
The OfS is England's regulatory body for higher education, tasked with protecting the rights of students. However, since its inception in 2018, the OfS has been mired in controversy, following the farcical resignation of Toby Young just three weeks into the job.
The cronyism that led to Young’s appointment is still a feature of the role today. Despite possessing little in the way of relevant experience or qualifications, Wharton has been parachuted into the two-days-a-week, £59,000-per-year position with endorsements from Gavin Williamson and the Education Select Committee.
Lord Wharton – also known as Baron Wharton of Yarm – was a Conservative MP for Stockton South, and was also Minister for the Northern Powerhouse. He has glibly dismissed opposition to his appointment from Labour MPs, saying: “...if [criticising government policy] brings me into conflict with the government then so be it. And if it doesn't, it doesn't.”
The truth is, the office could never be independent of government influence, regardless of who held the role. But to be absolutely sure, the Tories have filled the Education Select Committee with their own kind too.
The Conservative party has once again been accused of cronyism after a 36-year-old Tory peer was appointed to chair the independent universities watchdog.— The Times (@thetimes) February 10, 2021
Lord Wharton of Yarm will earn £60,000 a year for just two days’ work a week. https://t.co/Cr7GI0Bb4G
Tory MP David Simmonds was a member of the pre-appointment committee. He put the following to Lord Wharton: “You're a Conservative peer, and the question has to be asked – ‘Are you going to retain the Conservative party whip or are you proposing to step away from it?’”
Lord Wharton simply replied: “I can absolutely assure the committee that I recognise the crucial importance of the regulator being independent.” And that was that – no more questions asked!
Not only does Lord Wharton hold the OfS role two days a week; in addition, he’s an advisor to Aquind, a controversial electricity company. The Aquind board of directors includes Alexander Temerko, a Tory donor. It is not difficult to see how Wharton managed to worm his way into yet another lucrative little earner.
Although Wharton is a recent example of the corruption and cronyism that runs deep within the Conservative Party, he is far from the only one.
Former chancellor George Osborne has recently taken a full-time role at the investment bank Robey Warshaw. He is leaving the Evening Standard after walking into an editorial position there, following his resignation from David Cameron's cabinet in the wake of the Brexit referendum.
Osborne will also be leaving his £650,000-per-year, one-day-a-week role at investment giant BlackRock, as well as jobs in academia and at the right-wing think tank the McCain Institute. He will, however, be able to fall back on his advisory role at the holding company Exor, should things not turn out how he would like.
And who will replace Osborne at the Evening Standard? Cameron's sister-in-law, Emily Sheffield!
Another former Tory chancellor, Sajid Javid, will be joining political chameleon Chuka Umunna and Tony Blair, after taking an advisory role at JP Morgan. Like Osborne, Umunna is no stranger to failure: he first made an aborted Labour leadership bid; then abandoned the now-defunct Change UK splinter group; and then failed to become a Lib Dem MP.
Elsewhere, Richard Sharp, another Tory donor, has been made Chairman of the BBC – although the preferred candidate was none other than...George Osborne!
Sharp was also Rishi Sunak’s old boss at Goldman Sachs. And prior to his new role heading the supposedly ‘unbiased’ BBC, he had also been drafted in by Sunak to help with the government's disastrous response to the pandemic.
Alongside the huge salaries and blatant cronyism at the top of society, the working class face a future of deeper cuts, harsher austerity, and further attacks.
This is not a case of a ‘broken system’, or a few rotten apples. This is the status quo under capitalism. The system is working exactly as is intended – to advance the interests of the ruling class.
The capitalist class will always seek to maintain their profits and power by ensuring that their representatives are in every key position throughout society.
As long as society’s wealth and economic resources are in the hands of capitalist parasites and gangsters, the various institutions and arms of the state will be stuffed with their ilk, serving their interests.
Replacing this-or-that elite figure or Tory politician is not enough to remove the crushing grip of big business. The whole rotten lot must go.
The only way to truly transform society in the interests of the working class is to overthrow this entire capitalist racket.
The labour movement needs workers' representatives on a worker's wage, and a militant leadership armed with a socialist programme. Only on this basis can workers and youth put an end to the establishment's revolving door.