Labour actually have some policies, shock! Yesterday they unveiled a “five-point plan” for the Arts and Creative Industries. Not to be confused with a creaky old socialist Five Year Plan, comrade.

* Anti-piracy. Which had so little success when Labour were in power, despite being driven forward by a whip-wielding Peter Mandelson. Ah, but this time it’ll have added… “regulation and [will] have a bit of toughness”. That sounds to me like they anticipate hanging our civil liberties from the nearest lamp-posts. Again.

* “Enabling crowd-funding for loans to support start-ups”. Fine, but isn’t the private sector working quite efficiently there? Given Labour’s utterly dismal record on stimulating public philanthropy when in office, one hopes they’re just thinking about simple legal changes (to enable things like equity crowd-funding in the UK, something which the USA’s legislators are currently working on and the present government will no doubt copy in due course). But this is tax-and-spend Labour, so I’d have to suspect that they sniff tax income from slapping licensing regulations and taxes on crowd-funding.

* A very vague… “focus on young people from pre-school to university and internships”. Worthy, but you have to remember just how badly Labour messed up education and universities when they had control, and allowed our skills base to decline. Given the strap-on mention of internships, and Labour Yoof’s preaching about the subject over the last two years, I’m guessing Labour might have in mind some new nanny-state regulations around arts internships. Although that’s all fairly moot, now the current government’s Creative Employment Programme is underway and aiming have 6,500 new arts apprentices within two years.

* There was also a welcome pledge for a school curriculum… “which has arts and creativity running through it”. Worthy 1, but let’s remember that it was under Labour that schools saw creativity stifled with bureaucracy and targets, heavy-handed inspections, tick-box testing and statistics fraud, and a curriculum that was systematically dumbed-down. Not to mention Labour’s deliberate erasure of most adult evening-courses at local colleges — under Labour adult education in England & Wales lost 1.5 million course places in 2006-2008, and many more before that. In higher education, Labour presided over a precipitous decline in funding for arts and humanities departments in universities.

* Funding to ensure “that the Arts Council is well supported and funded” under “a strong central government department”. No sign of reform there of the Arts Council or the DCMS. Business as usual, and with what sounds like with a nice big trough of taxpayer-squeezed juice to sup from. Plus a “focus on the regions”, which might seem to imply beefing up the slimmed down regional Arts Council offices. In that regional context, let’s remember it was Labour which completely cut adrift local council arts funding, by cancelling all the arts match-funding agreements with local councils.

* A move toward “supporting exports abroad”, in which “all UK embassies should be showrooms for our cultural industries”. This from Labour, which shut 30 embassies around the world. But William Hague has already commanded all British Embassies to covert themselves into UK export trade showcases. Short of installing cinemas in our embassy basements, it’s difficult to imagine what more could be done. Certainly Labour’s record on creative industries export drives isn’t stellar. Remember that it was Labour that disbanded all the British Council’s specialist arts departments, abolished its advisory panels involving real creatives, and for good measure also closed the Council’s film department. Although that last move was probably wise, given Labour’s dismal record on promoting the production of exportable hit films.

No Labour promise not to go till-dipping into the National Lottery. It’s perhaps useful to remember that money going to the arts generally from the Lottery dropped by £82m between 1997 and 2006, as the Labour government pillaged and pilfered from Lottery funds. That was before Labour’s March 2007 announcement, as the nation’s money ran out, that they would actually cut £62m from Arts Lottery funds. In that same period (2007-2010) Labour cuts wiped out nearly all the gains made in grants to museums and galleries under the denuded Lottery (and those institutions had by then already seen Labour hack their acquisition budgets back to almost nothing).

  1. I think Gove was wrong to effectively allow his educational changes to encourage target-watching headteachers to crowd-out drama / arts / design in schools, and I hope he wasn’t influenced in that by a few boorish “anti- Media Studies” Tories… but that’s all back on the drawing-board now, and hopefully sense will prevail.