Web of friends at heart of power

By IAN JOHNSTON (01/07/2005)

KIRSTY Wark has intimate links with Scottish Labour and many of its senior supporters.
She was a close family friend of the late first minister Donald Dewar and even shared a garden with him when they were neighbours. It was Mr Dewar who appointed her to the panel to choose the design of the Scottish Parliament. She was impressed by Enric Miralles – the eventual winner – and they were said to have become close friends.

Amid mounting claims of “cronyism”, it was Ms Wark’s television company, Wark Clements – set up in 1990 with her husband Alan Clements – which was chosen to make a documentary about the building of Holyrood. There was outrage when Ms Wark and the BBC refused to hand over all the film shot during the making of the documentary, called The Gathering Place, to the Fraser inquiry into the handling of the construction. The counsel to the inquiry, John Campbell, QC, who questioned her, was a friend – she had been a bridesmaid at his wedding. Despite this, however, Mr Campbell made his displeasure at her refusal to hand over the tapes abundantly clear.

Ms Wark was backed up by her colleague, then controller of BBC Scotland, John McCormick, who insisted handing over the tapes would clash with the BBC’s policies. Mr McCormick has since left the BBC and recently took up a post as chairman of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, an appointment made by the Executive.

Another friend of Ms Wark, James Boyle, is currently chairman of the Scottish Executive’s cultural commission. He previously worked at the BBC and was also on the board of Wark Clements, when he was paid £21,000 as a consultant, according to company documents from April 2003. He also previously chaired the Scottish Arts Council, which includes Glasgow City Council Lord Provost Elizabeth Cameron on its board.

Jack McConnell’s wife Bridget is Glasgow City Council’s director of cultural and leisure services. She is also a member of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) board in Scotland, chairwoman of Vocal, the influential local government cultural body, a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the board of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

She appeared to have a very public falling out with Mr Boyle after commission “sources” said she and council officials should stop interfering in cultural issues. However, Mrs McConnell and Mr Boyle are still thought to be friends and were seen together at a one-man-show by former No 10 spin doctor Alistair Campbell in Glasgow last year.

Another Mr Boyle, John, the former Motherwell FC chairman and millionaire businessman, is another close friend of Ms Wark and Mr Clements, with strong links to the Labour Party. He has a house on Majorca not far from Ms Wark’s holiday home.

Mr Boyle, who is currently in Australia, bought a £1 million share in Wark Clements and was on the board of the company in April 2003, according to the latest accounts filed with Companies House. He has made substantial donations to the Labour Party, including one of £20,000 in 1999. Mr Boyle is close to millionaire businessman Willie Haughey, the boss of City Refrigeration Holidays, who is chairman of Scottish Enterprise Glasgow and a major donor to Labour. In 2003, the former Celtic director gave £330,000 to the party.

He sits on the board of Scottish Enterprise Glasgow with Ms Wark’s husband.

The influence of Wark Clements increased when the firm merged with Muriel Gray’s Ideal World Productions, its leading rival in Scotland, to become IWC Media.

Why Personal Ties Cannot Be Bought?

By Casella & Hanaki (2006)
American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings May 2006, p.p. 261-264

The unambiguous message of our model is that networking transmits information effectively only if its cost is low. When networking is free, it is preferred to signaling by both firms and workers almost without exception. But it is never a very precise mechanism, and if its cost is higher, firms’ hiring decisions interact with workers’ selfselection preventing endogenous improvements in precision. At high cost, signaling transmits information more accurately and supplants networking completely. We are somewhat surprised to conclude in qualified support of the sociologists’ position: networks work best when they are unintentional, and thus free by-products of people’s social life: ethnic, religious, family networks. In this case, they are extremely difficult to substitute with a market mechanism. Nor is it easy to mimic these spontaneous network through the intentional, and thus costly, creation of personal ties, because such action distorts, as opposed to favoring, the transmission of information. If ties are costly, market mechanisms are superior.

Paper here