Other than in general and devolved elections, the people have very little say regarding what they seek from those who run their countries.
Most would probably like to feel that politicians offer coherence and consistency, along with caring about their constituencies and briefs. Over the last year, it has becoming increasingly apparent that both generally and with regard to the cultural industries, politicians have struggled to meet any of these basic criteria.
A stark example appeared in the form of a pained but heartfelt press release issued by Glasgow’s Tron Theatre earlier this week. Artistic Director Andy Arnold was clearly shocked and distressed to discover that social distancing rules proposed by the Scottish government would mean that his 230-seat venue can accommodate only 10 customers.
Without wishing to question the views of the man running the venue, with a little bit of imagination, it seems likely that this could be pushed up to two or three times that number, but that is merely playing with numbers, since in order to break even, it is generally accepted that theatres need to run at two thirds of capacity, i.e. around 160 paying punters.
Subsequently, the Scottish government published final guidelines that showed a slight improvement, reverting to a 2m spacing. However, for the Tron, with additional costs to allow only 30 or 40 customers, the prospect is uneconomical and the theatre will remain closed.
Clearly, the overlapping governments of the United Kingdom and Scotland have operated on very different bases throughout much of the pandemic. As Mr Arnold points out, we have reached the ridiculous position where if his theatre relocated just south of the border, say to Newcastle, from no earlier than 17 May it could welcome 115 people and, if Boris Johnson can be believed, from 21 June, 230 people.
Who is right? In this particular case, the answer might well be nobody. In order to remain safe, many would require at the very least 1m of social distancing. This would give the Tron a limit of approximately 80. Many might be loath to attend even with that degree of inevitable human interaction.
It became clear when some proponents of “greed and capitalism” tried to set up a new football league that the culture minister is far more interested in rich people kicking footballs around than poorer people acting on stages. Sadly, this will have come as no surprise to those who have followed Mr Dowden’s pronouncements over the last year.
It would be helpful for the UK government to get its act in order, provide proper funding to theatres and workers, insurance and coherent rules that allow theatres to open safely or, if it is necessary, remain closed.
To use a phrase with which this government might find it easier to relate, moving the goalposts on a regular basis is disastrous for businesses, individuals and public morale. They might even try to coordinate their practices with those of the devolved governments.