High profile figures, including author Neil Gaiman, have criticised the Labour party for appearing to boast that it won’t cancel the Conservatives £83m cuts to the national arts budget.
The party tweeted “P.44 of Tory dossier says Labour will cancel cuts to the arts budget. We won’t.” in response to a dossier from the Conservatives, titled A Cost Analysis of Labour Party Policy, which was released on Monday (5th January).
As reported in the Guardian, the Conservatives claimed that Labour was planning to spend billions of pounds in the first year of a new government without clarifying how it would be funded. Labour responded by saying that it could not commit to reversing the Conservatives cuts for the year 2015-16.
Gaiman responded to the tweet, saying: “This is not something to brag about”, while "The Thick of It" screenwriter Simon Blackwell wrote: “And you’re proud of that? Jesus.” The message also garnered criticism from director Tim Stark, who tweeted: “Why not stand up for the value of the arts rather than cowardly appeasing cuts that do real damage?”, and author and journalist Owen Jones, who sarcastically called the tweet “inspirational”.
Labour’s deputy leader and shadow media secretary Harriet Harman defended her party’s commitment to the arts. On Tuesday (6th January), she said: “The Conservatives are peddling untruths about Labour’s spending plans and must stop misleading the public. Because this Tory-led government has failed on living standards and failed on the deficit, a future Labour government would inherit a very difficult situation and unfortunately we will not be able to reverse every spending decision made by this government.”
She clarified: “Labour has said that our starting point for Department for Culture, Media and Sport funding – as for all departments – is the government’s 2015-16 spending plans on the basis of which the Arts Council England has already made three year settlements with arts organisations up and down the land. We have always been clear that we will not make unfunded commitments and that all our manifesto pledges would be fully costed.”
She added: “We would ensure that we reinstate the importance of arts in education and we would look creatively at how we can rebalance available resources more fairly across the regions and make sure that everyone has better access to culture regardless of their income, background or postcode.”
She also said that a Labour government would “continue to value the huge contribution the arts and culture make to the lives of individuals, communities and the economy”, but that another Tory government would “be disastrous for the future of the arts” as it would “continue to devalue creativity in education and that would take public spending back to levels seen in the 1930s”.