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Labour peer Melvyn Bragg: ‘The Tories have done some terrific things for the arts’

Labour peer Lord Melvyn Bragg: 'Its very odd that philistine governments do terrific things for the arts'. Picture: Nigel Sutton Labour peer Lord Melvyn Bragg: 'Its very odd that philistine governments do terrific things for the arts'. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Friday, June 13, 2014
10:00 AM

Strange tides were afoot this week as Labour peer Lord Melvyn Bragg praised ‘philistine’ Tory governments for innovation in the arts and shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman conceded Labour’s legacy was wanting.

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Shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman admitted Labour's legacy on the arts had fallen short during a talk at the Roundhouse in Camden. Picture: PA/Nick AnsellShadow culture secretary Harriet Harman admitted Labour's legacy on the arts had fallen short during a talk at the Roundhouse in Camden. Picture: PA/Nick Ansell

During a rousing defence of the arts as a social leveller, the deputy leader of the Labour Party admitted her former government had not done enough to open up the sector to all.

“We did not embed and entrench the sense that every young person has a right to the arts and this is a universal entitlement, irrespective of a child’s family background or where they live,” she said, talking at the Paul Hamlyn Roundhouse studios in Chalk Farm on Monday.

“We didn’t very publicly make, and win, the case for public subsidy for the arts underpinning this.

“We should have done more to banish the notion that the arts is seen by the public as mostly for the privileged few.”

"Margaret Thatcher’s government put Channel 4 in place. John Major created the Lottery for the arts, which has had a massive effect on culture."

Lord Melvyn Bragg

She said governments must do more to convince the public of the benefits of arts subsidy, as she launched a major consultation on Young People and the Arts which will shape Labour policy.

Also in reflective mood was veteran Hampstead broadcaster Lord Bragg who, when asked by the Radio Times magazine whether the coalition was a particularly philistine government, replied: “Looking back on the last 25 to 30 years, it’s par for the course. It’s very odd that philistine governments do terrific things.

“For instance, Margaret Thatcher’s government put Channel 4 in place.

‘‘John Major created the Lottery for the arts, which has had a massive effect on culture.”

But the peer, who was born into a working class family in Cumbria and joined the BBC as a graduate trainee in 1961, said the arts industry was now being dominated by public school alumni like Dominic West, Damian Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch and Mumford And Sons.

“It’s because there’s respectability in these professions now, and money,” he said.

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