This week has been positively Shakespearean. Indeed, had he been living today, the Bard could hardly have created a greater and more compelling drama than the one that has played out.
The week ended on a sad note as Her Majesty the Queen passed away (may she rest in peace) to be succeeded by his Majesty King Charles III and not just the Mike Bartlett version. There will be very few readers who can remember a time when the United Kingdom really was a kingdom.
Before that, a tragic protagonist was finally vanquished, characteristically proclaiming to the very end that he had been sorely misused. Time will tell as to whether the anti-hero’s replacement will prove to be a saviour of the masses or the next tragic protagonist waiting for time to catch up with her misjudgements.
Liz Truss must undoubtedly have been expecting that her first big call, lifted almost wholesale (apart from some of his good bits) from Sir Keir Starmer, would make headlines for days or weeks.
Offering limited protection from unaffordable energy costs is undoubtedly good news but the lack of detail is telling. Only a week or so ago, the Prime Minister in waiting was adamant that she did not want to protect individuals or companies (apart from energy providers) from the worst ravages of an impending economic disaster. Now, she has made a rather vague initial announcement that promises help to the generality of the population, though the richest will do best out of it.
In addition, there was an airy-fairy statement that businesses would get a six-month stay of execution, although that will come too late for some. Going a step further, we also received a hint that those in certain particularly hard-hit industries would receive help further down the line.
That brings us to our own sector and the imposition of yet another Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Astonishingly, even those who are capable of counting on the fingers and thumbs of both hands will not reach the total number of holders of this vital office of state since the Conservative Party took office 12 years ago. We are running at an average of almost one a year and it would be unwise to bet on a long stay for the latest incumbent.
With all due respect to Michelle Donelan, if anyone has heard of her at all it is because the former Minister for Universities was by far the least gaffe-ridden Education Secretary that we have seen in recent times, primarily because she only held the office for two days until Boris Johnson finally met his Waterloo.
Unwisely, this critic assumed that we had hit rock bottom when Oliver Dowden, a man whose interest in the arts was negligible, took office. He is owed an apology, since this harmlessly anodyne politician’s successor Nadine Dorries seemed intent on destroying everything that we hold sacred.
The bestselling novelist gave every indication of hating the arts and particularly those who indulge in high culture. Indeed, the lady may have misunderstood the role and believed that her title was Minister for Culture Wars. As a result, her main goal seemed to be to destroy the BBC and Channel 4, while ensuring that fellow travellers were appointed to significant roles on the boards of our top artistic institutions.
The good news is that Ms Dorries will no longer be plaguing the arts, although it is rumoured that she will take up a seat in the House of Lords before too long, which might help to strengthen the already widely held desire for reform of that institution.
We currently know very little about this week’s Secretary of State, who at 38 is clearly an up-and-coming star in the Conservative Party. She has no registered interests and, while making numerous spoken contributions in Parliament, none in the last year has been connected to topics covered by her new post, though she does seem fascinated by freedom of speech on university campuses, a favourite culture war battleground.
Having studied history and politics at York University, the new arts supremo was clearly destined for a career as a politician. It would have been good to discover that Michelle Donelan was a culture vulture with a widely proclaimed love of the arts.
Instead, a quick scan of the Internet suggests that her cultural endeavours to date comprise nothing more significant than spells working at Marie Claire magazine and as a WWE wrestling promoter plus student work at York Student Television.
To be fair, it isn’t obvious that she has too much of an interest in the other areas of her remit beyond those loose connections with media and sports. She may surprise us. Who knows, perhaps the new Culture Secretary will discover a passion for opera, ballet or Shakespeare?
What we need at the moment is a passionate advocate for the theatre and the arts more widely who will understand the contribution that they make both to the well-being of our society and also its economy at this troubled time when so many institutions are struggling to survive.
We can only hope that Michelle Donelan proves to be that advocate.