With Brexit delayed, Tory MPs are turning their attention to much more important (to them, at least) matters, such as who should be the next leader. At the time of writing I’m told that at least 22 aspiring prime ministers have raised money and a team. Blimey.
Conservative Home, a website run by hard-Brexit-loving Tories, who claim to represent the grassroots of the Conservative Party, has already issued a questionnaire to would-be leadership candidates. One question is particularly irritating: “You have a choice of attending a Channel Four party or mixing in a provincial pub bar. Look us in the eye and tell us which you feel more at home in, and why.”
Well, let me give a straight answer to the out-of-touch elite who run this website. It’s obviously Channel Four (run, by the way, by a Scottish woman with a PhD in physics). Any self-respecting Tory leader would want to go along to celebrate the phenomenal achievements of Britain’s creative industries, which have, in the past decade, grown three times faster than the rest of the economy.
Britain remains one of the best places in the world in which to make a film, add in special effects, publish a book, put on a play, mount an exhibition, conceive an advertising campaign, start a video games company, plan a building, compose a song, design clothes or produce a TV drama. James Bond, Star Wars, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones are all showcases for astonishing British creativity (not to mention Channel Four’s numerous Oscars).
That self-same Tory leader might also go along to claim credit for what the Tories have done to help our creative economy. Amazing tax breaks have made us a magnet for inward investment in film, TV and video games, and are now supporting our world-class theatre and museums as well. Oh, and the Tories’ problem with young voters? Maybe it’s time to celebrate some of the things they like, enjoy and are good at.
While the Chinese are apparently busy building replicas of the provincial pub where David Cameron took President Xi for a pint on his state visit, it’s nevertheless the case that they envy us for our creative edge.
Everyone knows how to make things, but the creative spark that makes an iPhone stand out from the crowd is honed more often than not in the UK.
So I will raise a pint to the first Tory leadership candidate who answers Conservative Home’s question in a way they don’t like. Perhaps it will be a pint of craft beer, as British creativity has even affected the pub.
And, by the way, Conservative Home, Channel Four is moving to Leeds. So maybe the leadership candidate who says they prefer a provincial bar is really saying they can’t face the trip up north. That wouldn’t be good news, would it?
- Ed Vaizey is Conservative MP for Wantage and a former arts minister.
Music in schools is a force for good
One moment of light relief from Brexit came when 20 primary-school pupils from inner London did a flash mob performance in Westminster Hall at the heart of Parliament. Standing on the spot where Barack Obama addressed us, and where Charles I stood trial, they played Here Comes the Sun as a violin ensemble.
They all benefit from a programme, of which I’m a trustee, run by London Music Masters, a charity that has taught thousands of children and counts cello phenomenon Sheku Kanneh-Mason and violinist Nicola Benedetti as ambassadors.
With half the children on free school meals and half speaking English as a second language, LMM opens up opportunities they would not normally have had. Forty per cent have music bursaries to secondary schools and a dozen have gone on to two of the nation’s most prestigious music schools.
Too many schools still see music as an add-on. In fact, it has a massive impact on academic achievement and self-esteem, which can make a real difference to people with mental health issues and in combating loneliness and criminal justice issues.
The arts are a powerful tool that can help fix deep-seated social problems. We need much more music, not less, in all our schools.
*My friend Matt Cain is chuffed that Madonna is playing Eurovision next month. His novel The Madonna of Bolton comes out in paperback the week before. It’s about a gay teenager who clings on to the pop star as a spiritual guide to get through a difficult childhood.
He’s just sold the film rights to the same people who made A Star is Born. Which gave me an idea. The revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company became a huge hit by reversing the genders. Why not remake A Star is Born, with Madonna as rock star Jackson Maine?
But who should play the struggling singer she discovers, and marries?