Of all the wretched executive appointments we have seen at the BBC – up to and including the shortlived last director general – the installation of Alan Davey as controller of Radio 3 goes down as the greatest betrayal of BBC values and aspirations.
Mr Davey, whose press lackeys have been mobilised to extol his love of classical music, is a faceless bureaucrat, without one independent act in his public career to show for his inflated salary.
Let’s consider first his predecessors in the role.
John Drummond was an impresario, an ideas man who led the Edinburgh Festival to its final summits and provoked lively discussion wherever he went.
Nick Kenyon was a journalist who had manned the barricades of the early music movement, served time at the New Yorker and written a couple of good books.
Roger Wright had directed the crucible of contemporary British music, served as artistic administrator to the Cleveland Orchestra, headed the Deutsche Grammphon label and saved the BBC orchestras from self-destruction.
All three were men of achievement before they accepted the Radio 3 chalice.
Nothing. Nul points. Zip. Zilch. Ohne Eigenschaften.
No international experience. No independent decision making. No engagement with the commercial sector. No broadcasting track record. No capacity for public presentation. No discernible personality.
Nothing but a desk and a pen to push on it.
In the novels of Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time, the one certainty in each successive tale of the cycle is that Kenneth Widmerpool will crop up at some point in an ever higher social or state position. Widmerp0ol is the acme of the ordinary.
So it is with Alan Davey. He is a man without qualities, a colourless functionary who rises through a mindless system like plastic bags on a polluted sea*.
Lord Hall, the BBC’s director general, has sold out to its bureaucracy. Alan Davey will do no noticeable harm at the BBC. But he is the last person to pull Radio 3 out of its summer of slumbers since Wright’s departure, the last to revivify one of the crown jewels of British culture.
This is a miserable moment for music in Britain, a shameful one for Tony Hall.
* Alan Davey’s c.v.:
Starting as an Administration Trainee in the DHSS 1985, he was Private Secretary to the Minister of State for Health, 1988–90. He went to the Department of National Heritage in 1992 to head the National Lottery Bill Team. He was Principal Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for National Heritage, 1993–94, then Head of European Business, Medicines Control Agency 1995–97, then secretary of the Royal Commission on Long Term Care, 1997–99. He was awarded a Fulbright/Helen Hamlyn Scholarship in 1999. After this, at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, he was Head of Arts Division from January 2001 to April 2004, and subsequently Director of Arts and Culture from May 2004 to December 2007. Davey became chief executive of Arts Council England in 2008,