Mary Beard has taught Classics at Cambridge since 1984YouTube

The British Museum has announced that it still plans to appoint Cambridge Classicist and academic Mary Beard as a trustee, despite her being rejected by Downing Street for the role last year.

Whitehall sources told The Observer the original decision, under Theresa May’s premiership, had been motivated by her pro-European views, which the scholar has been very vocal about.

The museum currently is able to decide independently over the appointment of five out of the 25 trustees.

“This is an absolute scandal,” said Sir John Tusa in response to the original decision, a former trustee and former BBC World Service boss told The Observer.

“The trustees of the British Museum exist to protect its intellectual, academic and political independence… will any Remainer now expect to be punished by the government?”

Another former board member also commented on the subject, but stressed that “the decision to reject her is more about political correctness than respected classical scholarship”.

But Professor Mary Beard told Varsity she considers No 10’s decision “more a cock-up than a conspiracy”.


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She also expressed gratitude on Twitter for the support that she has received in relation to this news, saying she was “touched”.

“I should in fairness point out one thing: in this, Boris is innocent. It was before his time in No 10,” she added.

The Guardian believes that the decision to block Beard was taken last spring, when the British Museum proposed four candidates for its board. The other three candidates, important business and finance names, were all accepted and announced in April 2019.

The Guardian understands that the museum made some discreet enquiries after noticing that Beard had not been appointed by Downing Street. It was then that it was told that the government did not appreciate Beard’s pro-EU public social media comments.

Professor Beard has been very vocal about her opinion regarding Brexit in social media, as have been other trustees such as Grayson Perry, who has voiced his support for the Labour and Remain campaigns while being a board member.

No 10 Downing Street has been contacted by Varsity for comment.