Vote, Vote, Vote for... ?

Reporter: Peter Lathan

Dateline: 1st May, 2005

It's the general election this week. I may be wrong, but it's my impression that the only people filled with election fever are the politicians and the media: I don't get the sense that many other people are terribly bothered. So many people I've talked to have said the same thing: "Why bother? They're all the same."

But are they? I decided to take a look at each major party's arts policy to see if they are different.

New Labour says "We believe in and are supporting sport, culture and the arts both because of their potential to lift and inspire but also and not least because of their contribution to combating social exclusion and tackling ‘poverty of aspiration’. We recognise that individuals thrive best as members of a community because we cannot alone provide all the opportunities we need."

And, it goes on to say, "Equality and inclusion are at the core of our political beliefs. It is right that our cultural policy represents the diversity of all our distinct communities bringing about a situation where true equality of opportunity results in a more equal and just society. The arts and sport can play a crucial role in bridging barriers between different groups and fostering a sense of community cohesion and our ambition is that they continue to do so, innovating and leading from the front. Our black and ethnic minority communities, our lesbian and gay community, older people and those with a disability should all be recognised and celebrated by our cultural policy."

However in terms of specific policies, there is nothing about the arts. The DCMS is committed to bring the Olympics to London, to enhance sporting opportunities in schools and to tackle obesity in children. No mention of the arts.

The Conservative Party says that "A Conservative Government will place a greater emphasis on the cultural value of the arts," and "We will value excellence and, as in all other areas of Government, will do what is necessary to get value for money. We will drastically reduce Arts Council and DCMS bureaucracy."

On the use of the Lottery to fund programmes like the New Opportunities Fund, it says, "We will abolish Labour’s Big Lottery Fund, complete the funding of all existing NOF programmes, and put extra Lottery money into charities, arts, heritage and sports. Unlike Labour, we will guarantee that the four good causes each receive 25% of Lottery funding after current licences expire in 2009. Over a licence period of seven years, this should provide arts."

They will, they say, "allow institutions to bid for project endowments to ensure long-term financial viability."

The Liberal Democrats say, "Liberal Democrats have a proud tradition of championing the arts, culture and heritage, which successive governments have undervalued. This government's move towards greater state interference in the arts has threatened to stifle artistic freedom. We will restore the National Lottery fund's independence, requiring the DCMS to separate clearly government spending from independently determined Lottery spending in its annual reports. We will end Labour's freeze in the core Arts Council budget, guaranteeing that growth in core arts funding at least matches inflation."

Neither the Green Party nor the UK Independence Party mentions the arts in their manifestos, nor does the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Plaid Cymru says, "Support for the arts, museums, libraries, sport, and our historic environment, is an important part of the provision of public services. We will work for the establishment of a National Gallery for the Visual Arts, and will encourage national cultural institutions to strengthen their links with communities throughout Wales."

None of the Irish parties - DUP, SDLP, Sinn Feinn and Ulster Unionists - make any mention of the arts.

The Scottish National Party says, "To encourage excellence and promote talent we will encourage greater specialisation within our comprehensive system. For example, we will encourage the development of specialist sports academies. Success breeds success and every young Scot should have the chance to share in the ethos and success of their school. Every school will be able to identify a specialism from science to languages and from literature to music," but makes no specific referenmce to the arts elsewhere.

The British National Party says, "The handing out of National Lottery funds to so-called ‘modern art' projects that insult and degrade (as of course they are intended to) the very name of art, has become a minor national scandal, almost as bad as the way in which money from the same fund is repeatedly handed to politically correct rather than popular causes. The boards which decide on lottery grant applications should be picked by ballot from lists of individuals who have raised significant sums of money for local charities, not appointed by the government or other members of the out-of-touch liberal elite.

"Music, including training to play a musical instrument, should be compulsory in schools between the ages of five and fourteen. From fourteen upwards, every effort should be made to encourage those children who have shown musical talent to play for their own and their peers' entertainment.

"Soap operas should seek to portray slightly ‘higher' than real-life behaviour as the norm, rather than setting out to show ordinary people – in particular the white working class - in the most negative and unattractive light possible."

The Monster Raving Loony Party does not mention the arts, but it does suggest, "We will issue a 99p coin to save on change", which sounds almost sensible!