Sir Nicholas Hytner, the director of the Royal National Theatre, should calm down, says Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail. His frantic lobbying for money is ill-judged. What a “caterwauling” he put up in the run-up to the Autumn Statement! He wasn’t alone.
Left-wing columnists joined in, one announcing that “savage cuts are about to damage our theatre beyond recognition”. The blogosphere was activated. Twitter went into a “frenzy”. Danny Boyle, who designed the Olympic Games opening ceremony (cost: £82m), lashed out at culture secretary Maria Miller for not turning up to a protest meeting of theatre professionals a fortnight ago. Her remoteness was “outrageous”, he said. “She is the minister of **** culture, I mean, come on.”
Oh these luvvies, says Letts. The principle of subsidised arts is supported by all of the main political parties – it’s “nonsense” to suggest otherwise. Art civilises us. “It creates a society in which ideals of beauty can have an official place.” But some facts are in order.
In the last five years, the arts have received nearly £3bn of public money. Politicians point out that this is a generous figure (Ed Miliband has not proposed increasing arts funding), and if the arts are really worried about their income “they should jolly well go out and sell themselves to sponsors”.
Arts practitioners say £3bn is soon spent when you have to maintain some of our most prized theatres and galleries. Even so, the amount the arts received has remained fairly steady – the sums given directly by Whitehall have dropped while the sums from the National Lottery have risen.
Overall, the amount of money the arts receive per year is slightly more now than it was in 2005 (£602,179,000 as against £601,146,000), though this doesn’t take account of inflation. But how can an increase in the arts budget be justified when everyone else is having to make cuts? The answer, as Letts says, is that it can’t.
A new party for the South
England’s south has 50% more millionaires than the rest of Britain put together, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. One in eight households in London, the South East, the South West and East Anglia has a total wealth greater than £967,000, compared with just under one in 13 in the rest of Britain.
There are good reasons for this, thinks Kelvin MacKenzie, combative former editor of The Sun. Southerners are hard-working and creative, he writes in The Daily Telegraph. What’s more, they’re sick of subsidising everyone else.
As a southerner, MacKenzie is fed up with having his wallet squeezed by George Osborne. “I have done my bit and I would like the people of Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and vast areas of the rest of England to do theirs.” It’s become fashionable for all parts of the UK to seek home rule – well, let’s give it to them and have our own version for London and the South. Indeed, MacKenzie is thinking of starting a Southern Party to promote just that.
Tabloid money…rogue bookies encourage us to bet against ourselves
• “The PM has had a few good weeks,” says Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun. “Supporting Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury was inspired. So was choosing Canada’s Mark Carney as Bank of England boss. The PM performed adroitly on Leveson and has turned the tables on Ed Miliband over bloated EU spending. All he has to do now is squash the threat from UKIP and tell us exactly how and when voters will get their say on Britain’s future in Europe. Easy.”
• “How reassuring to see insurance firms acting with typical compassion during the floods by telling 200,000 drenched home-owners who are about to move into caravans for a month that they may not be able to offer them any cover next year,” says Brian Reade in the Daily Mirror. “These people are basically rogue bookies who encourage us to take a bet against ourselves (often with a Parker-pen bribe), twist crime figures and invent scare stories to con us into paying them inflated premiums, then try their utmost to get out of paying up when they lose the bet.”
• Celebrity evictee Nadine Dorries MP says: “MPs need to go where people are going and understand why they go there.” “Yes, dear,” writes Jane Moore in The Sun, “it’s called the Job Centre, they go there because of rising unemployment, and there’s every chance you’ll be joining them after the next election.”
• There seems to be a lack of real thought behind our overseas aid policy, says The Sun. “In the latest fiasco, international development secretary Justine Greening has vetoed the £21m for Rwanda authorised by her predecessor… to stop it being diverted to rebels fighting a war of rape and torture in neighbouring Congo.” But why is the government increasing the overall overseas aid budget from £8bn to £11bn when it can’t seem to distinguish between “who needs our help and who doesn’t”?