Shadow deputy prime minister Harriet Harman has condemned the "brazen and wholescale government retreat from backing the arts and creative industries", and announced a five-point plan for the sector that includes strong championing of intellectual property.
Harman, who is also shadow culture secretary, was speaking to an audience of creative industry professionals at an event to explore the future of Britain's art and culture policy held yesterday (12th February) in Soho, London W1.
Harman told her audience that the former culture secretary Jeremy Hunt thought it "perfectly OK" to cut Arts Council England's budget by 30%, while communities secretary Eric Pickles was "crushing" the ability of local government to fund the arts. She asked: "Why doesn't [current culture secretary] Maria Miller realise her actual job is to fight back against this?"
Thanking her audience for their vocal protests against the cuts, Harman warned: "If there's no fightback against the cuts the conservative government is making, they'll take it as a signal that you are ready to make more cuts... We need to forge a survival strategy for the arts right now."
Labour's five-point plan for jobs and growth in the arts and creative industries will include strong championing of intellectual property, Harman said, promising "no agnosticism" on the issue. "Yes, it is about education [of people about piracy], but it has to be also about regulation and have a bit of toughness about it," she said. "It's not just an issue of rightsholders we are protecting here, it is an issue of [protecting] investment in rights."
Enabling crowd-funding for loans to support start-ups, a focus on young people from pre-school to university and internships, a focus on the regions and on supporting exports abroad are also on Labour's five-point plan. For example, all UK embassies should be showrooms for our cultural industries, Harman said.
Iain Wright MP, also speaking at the event, pointed out that the creative industries are one area where the UK has a competitive advantage, saying: "You need a focused industrial strategy [for the arts], partnership between government and the creative industries," based on a sense of the economic impact the arts can have as "a powerful engine of growth in our economy." Of the crowd-funding initiative, he claimed: "Labour should be the party of entrepreneurship in a time of financial difficulties. "
The next election will be held in 2015.
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