At the ministerial urinal

At the awarding of the Art Fund Prize the other night at Tate Britain, I was surprised to hear Jeremy Hunt (Secretary of State for Culture) reveal in his speech that he and the prize-winner Neil MacGregor (Director of the British Museum) had been chatting before the ceremony – in the gents.

I know I wasn’t the only audience member to disappointed to hear that the female museum directors present such as Diane Lees (Imperial War Museum) and Heather Lane (The Polar Museum, Cambridge, also shortlisted for the prize) had missed the informal briefing with our Secretary of State.

I was reminded of a (male) journalist on a (nameless) national newspaper telling me that when he’s got a story he cares about, he doesn’t bother with the news editor or the conference, he just follows the Big Editor into the gents, and sells him the story at the urinal.

And everyone knows that at the court of Henry VIII, the job of the Groom of the Stool was highly valued – because this servant attended the king in intimate moments, such as when he was dressing, or using his close stool (toilet).  The best time to ask Henry VIII for favours was when he was off-duty: ‘when he was comfortably filled with wine, or when he had gone to the stool, for them he used to be very pleasant’.

So, after four men in a row, let’s hope for a female Secretary of State for Culture next time.  Then the female museum directors can do their networking in the powder room.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *