What might the UK's longest serving Culture Minister take as his next step? Amanda Parker makes some suggestions.
No-one can be surprised by the parliamentary hemorrhaging that’s marked another week in British politics, but one resignation has some significance for the sector – and I don’t mean Nicky Morgan’s. Her departure means we’ll soon be onto our third Culture Secretary in less than a year, with ministers in that role having had varying degrees of profile and influence. But ask many in the sector who’s been the most successful Government minister in recent history and the answer is unlikely to be any of these.
Ed Vaizey was the longest serving Culture Minister since the post was created in 1964 and this week he’s explicitly linked his resignation with his desire to contribute to the arts. So what will Ed do next? If he fancies getting hands-on, I believe there’s a senior leadership vacancy at Southbank Centre, as well as the top job at the BFI still in the offing. The screen industry has made a big contribution to the UK economy recently, adding a 0.3% boost to GDP over the summer and saving the economy from going into the red. As Amanda Neville’s leadership draws to a close, it might be an exciting role with plenty of scope to influence on an international stage... just saying. And if Ed doesn’t want to go around checking West End theatre ceilings, someone certainly needs to before we have a serious accident on our hands. The Theatres Trust’s annual at risk register might need revision in light of London’s Piccadilly Theatre ceiling collapse. Theatre goers are starting to wonder which one’s next to go.
What’s most worrying about the pre-election exodus is the number of women MPs leaving the job, in part down to the barrage of hate they’re experiencing, with many fearful for their personal safety. Their departures are not just bad for equality and representation, it’s also a sorry sign of our failure to successfully negotiate the sometimes tricky balance between freedom of expression and tolerance of others’ views. What’s happened at Middlesbrough Town Hall draws this in sharp relief. When a leader chooses to resign rather than endorse programming views they find intolerable, you can rest assured that there are hundreds of us who may not have the confidence to resign, and are suppressing our true feelings in plain sight, in our places of work. Having had a look at the first wave of responses to our Pulse survey on freedom of expression, it’s clear that there’s an urgent need to find a way through the vitriol and violence that’s becoming increasingly commonplace on social media and through microaggressions in the workplace. We’ve had some shocking reports and admissions: we want to build as big a picture as possible of just how free we are to express how we feel. If you’ve not already done so, add your voice now.