British Museum defies Number 10 veto as it makes Mary Beard a trustee
British Museum defies Downing Street veto as it plans to make pro-EU scholar Mary Beard a trustee
- Mary Beard, 65, was rejected by Downing Street as a trustee of British Museum
- It is thought to be because she frequently expresses pro-Remain views online
- Museum will now bypass the official process and appoint Beard anyway
The British Museum is set to defy a veto by Downing Street as it plans to make a pro-EU scholar a trustee.
Mary Beard, who is arguably Britain’s best-known classicist, was rejected as a board member at the British Museum by Number 10 last year.
The 65-year-old has frequently expressed her pro-Remain views on social media which prompted the decision to turn her down for the role, according to Whitehall sources.
But the museum is now thought to be planning to bypass the official process and appoint Beard anyway.
Mary Beard (pictured), who is arguably Britain’s best-known classicist, was rejected as a board member at the British Museum by Number 10 last year
Downing Street currently has a say over the appointment of the museum’s 25 trustees – with the museum only able to elect five members of its own choosing.
Speaking to the Observer, Sir John Tusa, another former trustee, said: ‘This is 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?’
Beard previously fulfilled ‘a lifetime’s ambition’ by working for a day as a visitor attendant at the museum (pictured) and when asked recently about her thoughts on being appointed she said that ‘if asked’ she would ‘do [her] duty’
Beard previously fulfilled ‘a lifetime’s ambition’ by working for a day as a visitor attendant at the museum and when asked recently about her thoughts on being appointed she said that ‘if asked’ she would ‘do [her] duty’.
She was also quizzed about the initial rejection and said: ‘There are cock-ups and conspiracies.
‘I’m not, however, going to diss Boris Johnson or the Department of Culture.’
She would not, however, be the only trustee to have made political public statements.
Artist and broadcaster Grayson Perry, who has been on the board since 2015, has previously expressed his support for both the Labour party and Remain campaigns.
A spokeswoman for the British Museum confirmed that Mary Beard was on a list of potential trustees submitted for Prime Minister approval back in spring 2019.
But added that the Museum would not make any further comment on the matter.
Downing Street has also been contacted for comment.
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