Tony Hall's Appointment Shows Why We Should Ignore Old School Ties

22/11/2012 18:56 GMT | Updated 22/01/2013 10:12 GMT

There have already been rumblings about the fact that Tony Hall, the new director-general of the BBC, went to a private school. No doubt this will be picked up by papers such as the Guardian - which, as Michael Gove has pointed out, has had private school-educated male editors for the last sixty years - as yet another sign that British society is under the hold of a privileged elite.

They may well be right, as the vast majority of top jobs are currently in the grips of those who went to public school. At least there is relief in the fact that Hall was not a pupil at Eton, and no doubt it would not be hard to find a tail-coated boarder willing to sneer at the new D-G's day school in Birmingham, however lucky most people consider he was to go there.

However, Hall's appointment provides a very good reminder of why big decisions should not be made on the basis of irrelevant factors like where someone went to school. Just as a candidate should not be promoted because of an old school tie, he should not be strangled because of it either.

At a time of great crisis for the BBC, it is clear that Hall is a man who has all the credentials to stabilise the Corporation and lead it to future success. The BBC needed someone with the expertise in news to act as a proper editor-in-chief, but also with the experience of running an external organisation that is vital in preparing someone for the chief executive side to the D-G's job. It is no surprise that Hall has already managed to unite the commentators, on both left and right, and inside and outside the BBC: he's the right man for the job.

It would have been ludicrous if the person best placed to get Auntie back to where she should be had been barred from the role by dint of a decision made by his parents around half a century ago. The problem with a fixation with a person's schooling is that it tells you little about a person's current abilities: there are plenty of duds from private schools, but plenty of great talents too - just as there are in comprehensives. I'm pleased the BBC Trust did what all good meritocratic organisations should: simply, it picked the best person for the job.