Luvvies have never really liked Tory governments. Poor Tracey Emin was nearly lynched by the arts crowds when she had the audacity to let David Cameron hang one of her neon pieces in Downing Street.
Things are getting heated with the new no-nonsense Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, who seems to have upset the triumvirate of darlings: Danny Boyle, Stephen Fry and Stephen Daldry. They have all laid into the government this week for apparently choking off arts funding, with the less-than-subtle undertone being that Tories are philistines. Needless to say, their star quality has given the story some glittering legs.
It is true that ‘the Arts’ are taking about a 30 per cent reduction in grant aid from the state; however, the drop from £452 to £350 million has been made up by reforms to Lottery funding. By my maths, an extra £90 million diverted to all things cultural leaves the thespians, folk collectives and dance troupes around £12 million shy of their funding levels before the evil cuts were announced; given that, and I’m plucking an example at random here, the police have had to deal with a 20 per cent budget cut in the same period, no amount of protest poetry is going to change public perceptions of that fact.
Maria Miller tells those who will give her a fair hearing that ‘we will always support the arts, but we are in tough economic times and the arts should accept that as other public services have such as Education and the MoD have.’
In reality though, while the welfare and defence budgets have been slashed, the arts have been wrapped in cotton wool to the tune of £2.9 billion in taxpayers’ cash between 2010 and 2015. £1.896 billion of that sum came straight from our wallets into the ample Arts Council coffers, with another £1 billion in cut-proof new lottery cash, something there won’t be an impromptu recital about.
One person who has not come to Miller’s rescue is Boris, who joined in the bashing this week claiming: ‘One of the key reasons that people come to London is for its arts and culture. Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.’ A source close Ms. Miller hit back, telling me last night:
‘As a classical scholar, Boris Johnson will know that Aesop was a keen story teller. Indeed, The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg was one of his most famous fables. The irony is that so much of what we’re hearing from the arts world about the extent of cuts is fictional.’
Miaow. This could be a spat to watch.
More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.