Former culture minister Ed Vaizey has criticised the British arts establishment for its “relentlessly left-wing groupthink”, and argued that campaigners should think up "radical ideas" when it comes to funding libraries and museums.
Vaizey, who was sacked as culture minister by Theresa May earlier this year, argued that there was a dearth of plays that represent a right-wing point of view in the arts community and added that the community is prone to “[sitting] in a bubble” and not being open to differences of opinion, the Telegraph has reported.
Vaizey said that the arts lobby should challenge the overriding view that “all must stay the same”, and consider that underused libraries or museums should be closed down.
Delivering the Chairman’s Lecture at the Royal Society of Arts, Vaizey said he was now in a position to give his opinions on things that he would be “murdered” for saying while in government, insisting that libraries, museums and galleries should work more closely with digital companies and not rely on old models.
“There is massive groupthink in the arts, both in terms of cultural policy and in terms of cultural offers", Vaizey said. "Let’s not beat about the bush: the arts are relentlessly left wing. As Munira Murza [the former London mayor’s head of culture] once said: there is no pro-fox hunting play. Indeed, there are no plays about over-powerful trade unions letting down their members. As a Remainer, there is no pro-Brexit play attacking unaccountable Brussel’s bureaucrats building a European superstate. There’s no play exposing the corruption and abuse in a country like Venezuela – why not?"
He added: “The arts sit in a silo in Whitehall, but perhaps they sit in a bubble outside of Whitehall, where everyone in the arts community reinforces each other’s thinking and cold-shoulder people with different points of view. You have to subscribe to the groupthink to get on, and that is not healthy.
“There were very few radical ideas put to me when I was a minister. I was only ever asked for more money. The view seemed to be a simple one: no museum or library must ever close, no performing arts organisations must ever be shut down – if it was funded once, it must be funded forever. All must stay the same.”
Vaizey praised the arts as a whole and called for a halt to financial cuts adding that he hoped prime minister Theresa May would acknowledge that the “arts do a huge amount for our country”.
Vaizey was appointed culture minister in 2010, and disappointed library campaigners by a lack of action in office, despite bullish talk while in opposition. His repeated mantra, that there was no crisis in the library service, despite the evident widespread cutbacks and closures, was a cause of particular anger.
Following his departure from the post, Vaizey was involved in a Twitter spat with Nick Poole, the c.e.o. of The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), over the former’s record on library leadership.