Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Arts funding under the Tories

On the basis that Labour's wounds are now so grave it cannot survive, it makes sense to start looking at what the other lot of bastards will do when they take power. The Tories have unveiled their views on the arts. As reported in today's Guardian, the Tory shadow Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, says a future government 'will "support, nurture, and encourage" the arts, and "will not set the direction of travel, except with the lightest of touches." Okay, that sounds good. Labour, he says, far from being the party for the arts, have become the party for arts bureaucracy. Again, I wouldn't argue.

So specifics, then. What would the Tories do? It's a curious mixture, I have to say. Some good, some bad.

1. Radical reform to the Arts Council - excellent.
2. Possibly funding large arts organisations through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport rather than through Arts Council England - disaster. Funding must be separated from government. What do politicians understand about arts? They would turn arts funding into a political game.
3. Help the arts maximise income from other sources - oh dear, the cynic in me sees that as a euphemism for cuts in government subsidy. But:
4. Help foster an American-style culture of philanthropy" for the arts in Britain - excellent idea. But:
5. The honours system would recognise cultural philanthropists - both those who give money, and those who work as volunteers - No! No! No! Jesus christ, cash for honours, now arts for honours. How to bring the arts into disrepute in one easy lesson.
6. More tax incentives for those who wish to give to the arts during their lifetimes - yes, that's more like it. A straight financial transaction, without the murkiness of 'honours for favours'.
7. National lottery independence act so the lottery "cannot be raided by politicians for their own pet projects" - good idea, but they won't do it because they need that money every bit as much as Labour do.
8.Paying tribute to Venezuela's radical classical music teaching programme, El Sistema, he will also say music teaching would be improved and streamlined - good idea, but the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra is a current favourite in luvvy circles, so there's a niggling fear that the Tories are just grabbing at anything popular.

And that's my overall impression. Some good stuff, but not yet a coherent package. And, anyway, I have a long memory, I'm afraid. I remember the contemptuous and contemptible way Virginia Bottomley and co dealt with libraries in the 1980s. I don't ever want to return to that sort of philistinism.

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