The V&A has been urged to investigate why the museum auctioned a private tour as a prize at a Conservative fundraising dinner when one of its trustees is a Tory party chair.
In a letter to the commissioner on public appointments, Labour’s shadow culture secretary, Lucy Powell, said the auction was a clear breach of the code of conduct for trustees of public bodies.
Ben Elliot, a V&A trustee, is co-chair of the Conservative party and has faced repeated questioning over the use of his concierge firm, In sostanza, and services it has provided to Russian oligarchs.
The tour was auctioned at the spring lunch party fundraiser by the Foreign Office minister James Cleverly, including the museum’s chair, Nicholas Coleridge, showing the winning Tory donor “his 10 favourite items” in the museum’s collection, secondo to the Mail on Sunday.
In the letter copied to the V&A director, Tristram Hunt, and the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport permanent secretary, Powell said the offer “raises new questions about the conflicts of interest that seems to be so common with this Conservative government and public bodies”.
In the code of conduct for board members of public bodies, dice: “In your public role, you should be, and be seen to be, politically impartial. You should not occupy a paid party political post or hold a particularly sensitive or high-profile role in a political party. You should abstain from all controversial political activity.”
It continues: “You must not use, or attempt to use, the opportunity of public service to promote your personal interests or those of any connected person, firm, business or other organisation.”
Powell said the revelations proved the Conservatori were “still selling off political access and perks to Tory donors instead of coming up with a plan to tackle the cost of living crisis”.
In una dichiarazione, the V&A said: “The V&A understands that a short tour of the museum with Nicholas Coleridge was offered at auction at the spring lunch. No V&A staff or resources were involved and no special access to the museum was offered. We understand that neither Ben Elliot or Nicholas Coleridge attended the event.”
Powell said the V&A was risking its reputation as a world-leading museum. Lei ha aggiunto: “It has survived over 150 years on the basis of its groundbreaking exhibitions, housed in one of the most historic Victorian buildings in Britain. It would be unacceptable for the museum, charity and public body to be brought into disrepute by a rogue trustee and his links to Conservative party sleaze.”
Quintessentially has said Elliot no longer has day-to-day control over the business with a role similar to a non-executive director. The firm has previously said it “completely condemns President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine” and was “monitoring its member base to ensure it was not servicing any individual or corporate body on sanctions lists, confirming that there were none so far”.
It deleted a webpage detailing its presence in Russia, with about 50 staff in the country, which had said the company had “15 years’ experience providing luxury lifestyle management services to Russia’s elite and corporate members”.
A Conservative party spokesman said that the event had been arranged by Women2Win, which campaigns to elect more Conservative women. “This was not a Conservative party event and Ben Elliot had no involvement in it.”