Tag Archives: John Nash

Tory donor for OFSTED? The 8 cronies that Gove already appointed

Michael Gove

While claims that Michael Gove will replace the chair of Britain’s schools inspectorate with a Tory donor splashed the papers earlier this week, regular Scrapbook readers may have been less than surprised — as the education secretary is absolutely shameless in placing Tories in supposedly non-political roles.

Leaving genuine political advisers to one side, here’s a run-down of his cronies:


Gove didn’t trust civil servants to deliver his Free Schools policy. So he awarded a £500,000 contractditching the tendering process designed to ensure impartiality — to his 25 year-old former adviser Rachel Wolf. This was followed up by another £1.5m contract. New Schools Network is now led by the former deputy director of Policy Exchange, the think tank founded by Gove.


While the rest of Whitehall endured a money-saving freeze on external recruitment, Gove ignored this to pack his comms team with true believers:

  • James Frayne was formerly campaigns director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance before being brought in to be director of communications
  • Six months later Gabriel Milland was appointed DfE head of news from Policy Exchange, the think tank which Michael Gove founded

In March 2011, Gove again flouted a civil service recruitment freeze in order to advertise externally for two speech writers. Can you hazard a guess where they came from?

  • In a transparent ruse, Elena Narozanski left as his special adviser in February 2011 before being re-appointed as one of the speech writers a month later.
  • Alexandra Gowlland was a former researcher for Tory minister Nick Gibb. She is still the DfE’s chief speech writer and head of the visits team


Gove’s enforced partisanship extends to the highest levels of the department:

  • Board member John Nash was a £300,000 Tory donor and was eventually ennobled to become a Lords education minister in 2013
  • As a Tory donor and a trustee of Policy ExchangeTheodore Agnew is doubly blessed
  • You don’t have to be a donor though. Former Tory HQ staffer Tom Shinner was over-promoted to be the department’s £105,000 director of strategy — a role usually requiring years of senior civil service experience.

OFSTED staff could be forgiven for ordering a ‘David Ross’ door name plate already.

£300,000 Tory donor given peerage and ministerial job

House of Lords

A private equity tycoon linked to £300,000 in donations to the Conservative Party has been given a peerage and a job in government. John Nash is the new education minister, replacing Lord Hill — the peer who tried (and ineptly failed) to resign from the government but has now finds himself the Tories’ leader in the Other Place.

Pre-empting the cash-for-jobs headlines, the Tories have attempted to parry criticism with a briefing on Nash donations to the Speccie’s James Forsyth:

“I suspect that there’ll be a media squall over the fact that Nash and his wife have donated £300,000 to the Tories over the years. But the fact that Andrew Adonis involved him in the academies programme and that Pimlico was turned around in record time shows that he’s qualified for the job and more than just a deep-pocketed donor.”

But even the peerage is dwarfed by the government contracts and favourable legislation thrown in the direction of companies in which Nash has an interest. In May 2011, a company part-owned by Nash secured a £69m contract awarded by Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP for the Work Programme.

Perhaps his most controversial transaction came as chairman of Care UK, one of the largest private healthcare firms in the country and which will trouser tens of millions of pounds thanks to Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act. Nash donated £21,000 to Lansley six months before the general election when he was a shoo-in for health secretary.

Nash isn’t even the first Tory donor to be given a government job this week — £276,000 man Dolar Popat finds himself a minister at BIS.

  • Follow us on Twitter