Trustee who backed ‘decolonising’ curriculum purged from top museum in government ‘culture war’

Refusal to reappoint Aminul Hoque – a leading Bangladeshi-British academic – triggers protest resignation of board chair

<p>Royal Museums Greenwich oversees the Cutty Sark, the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum</p>

Royal Museums Greenwich oversees the Cutty Sark, the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum

A trustee who backed the “decolonising” of the curriculum has been purged from the board of a prestigious museum group, triggering the resignation of its chair in protest.

The refusal to reappoint Aminul Hoque – a leading Bangladeshi-British academic – at the Royal Museums Greenwich is being seen as the latest example of the government’s “culture war”.

Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, has blocked a number of reappointments at top institutions, making clear he wants to replace them with like-minded allies.

And he sparked anger when he threatened museums and galleries with funding cuts if they removed statues and other objects associated with the slave trade and British colonialism.

Now Charles Dunstone, the billionaire founder of Carphone Warehouse, has quit as the museum group’s chair after Mr Dowden refused to lift his veto on a second term for Mr Hoque, the Financial Times revealed.

Colleagues at the Royal Museums Greenwich described the academic as a “devoted and conscientious” trustee, while he told the paper he was “shocked, disappointed and baffled” by the minster’s decision.

Mr Hoque said he was never contacted directly by the government, but – after sending two emails requesting an explanation – was told there was no “automatic presumption” of reappointment.

The block comes after criticism of Mr Dowden for vetoing a second term for two female board directors of Channel 4, the state-owned but privately funded broadcaster.

Last Thursday, he nominated Robbie Gibb, Theresa May’s former Downing Street director of communications, to the BBC board. 

Meanwhile, Paul Dacre, the former editor of the right-wing Daily Mail, is the frontrunner to become chair of Ofcom, the broadcasting watchdog.

And Nicky Morgan, the former Conservative culture secretary, is also tipped as the next chair of Sports England.

This week, the commissioner for public appointments said the government had for 18 months “actively sought to appoint allies to the boards of public bodies”.

“This is not the first time this has happened. Such attempts tend to go in waves,” Peter Riddell said. “What is different now is the breadth of the campaign and the close engagement of 10 Downing Street.”

A government spokesman told the Financial Times: “All reappointments are considered in line with the government code for public appointments.

“There is no automatic presumption of reappointment, and indeed in the vast majority of cases, fresh talent is added with new appointments made.”

In February, the schools minister rejected calls for compulsory lessons about the Empire and the slave trade by claiming they risked lowering “standards”, triggering criticism.

More than 268,000 people had signed a petition condemning the curriculum for failing to teach students about “Britain’s role in colonisation” and the shame of trading in slaves.

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