RACING:Change is heralded but Wyatt stays

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The Independent Online
Two Tory peers were appointed to key positions in the racing industry yesterday. But while the re-appointment of Lord Wyatt as chairman of the Tote came through the traditional method of having the right connections, Lord Wakeham's installation on the British Horseracing Board's Industry Committee is a reflection of the new-found democratisation of the sport's politics.

That democratisation seems likely to bring tangible reward soon. In revealing Lord Wyatt's re-appointment for a further two years, the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, also announced a review of the future of the Tote that may result in the BHB taking charge of the body that has hitherto come under the control of the Home Office.

Ceding control to the racing industry of at least a part of its revenue- generating mechanism would come as a direct result of the replacement in June 1993 of the self-electing Jockey Club by the more representative BHB as the industry's leading body. The report of the 1991 Home Affairs Select Committee had recommended that racing's rulers would have to become accountable before the Tote could be incorporated into a racing organisation.

In the first instance, the BHB are to be offered a seat on the Tote Board, and the BHB's chairman, Lord Hartington, unsurprisingly welcomed Mr Howard's plan.

"It is a boost because it reflects a recognition by government that, in under two years, the BHB has achieved in large measure the commercial and democratic credibilty which the Home Affairs Committee recommended should be a prerequisite of racing's ownership of the Tote."

Rather less happy were those who believe that Lord Wyatt, at 76 and after 18 years in the job, has had a retarding effect on the development of the Tote.

Alan Beith, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for Home Affairs, said: "Michael Howard's refusal to advertise the position or to consider any other candidates for it has made a nonsense of the Government's claim to have reformed the way it hands out top jobs.

"Lord Wyatt has come first past the post in a one-horse race; the Tote could not have even taken bets on it. Michael Howard's decision gives another two years in a £95,000 quango post to a 76-year-old, who happens to be the only journalist who still writes favourably about the Home Secretary."

Without such bitter controversy was the election of Lord Wakeham to the BHB's Industry Committee. With support from many of the factions such as breeders, trainers and jockeys, that make up the committee, the former Conservative Cabinet Minister held off challenges from the ex-Labour MP and political interviewer Brian Walden and Matthew McCloy, solicitor to the Aga Khan.

Parliamentary reaction, page 9