The appointment of Sajid Javid to the Department of Culture, Media and Sports.

Letter to The Guardian, 14 04 2014. [Edited extract published in the Guardian,15 04 2014].

The prospect of another investment banker, another multi/millionaire being put in charge of any major government department fills me with dread (Robert Booth, 12 04 2014: It’s a wonderful life: hard work, wealth and success but little time for culture), and the writers and poets, Blake Morrison, David Edgar, Michael Rosen, and actor Samuel West, between them spell out the problem, the offence and the inevitable crisis to follow, with passion and lucidity (Mark Brown, 12 04 2014. Writers have no great expectations of Javid). Their words also exemplify the quality they themselves bring to the arts of which they speak.

The record of Javid’s predecessors as listed (12 04 2014), in particular the contrast between Tory Jeremy Hunt’s slashing of the arts budget, and the personal, political and financial support for the arts under Labour’s Tessa Jowell and Chris Smith, marks out the fundamental social and political divide between the two parties: ignorance, arrogance, philistinism, and hostility to widening participation, on the one side; passion for and participation in the arts on the other, and commitment to arts as a human right.

I remember a Randy Newman concert in London 3 or 4 years ago. The huge auditorium was packed with people of all ages and buzzing with anticipation. It was just Randy and a piano. We gave him a wild welcome as he came on, and as he began each song, after two notes on the piano a wave of recognition swept through the auditorium. We all knew all the songs by heart. The sense of community was powerful and joyful. And it was also respite from and resistance to what was happening in our societies (his, ours and beyond). This unique musician and performer has given us over many years, songs that embrace our social and political values and concerns, as well as our personal and intimate lives. He writes of both power and love, bigotry and community, and he does it with insight, compassion, daring and humour.

What a pleasure it was on this occasion to see Tessa Jowell and other members of the Labour Party there; not as politicians and as a PR exercise, but as fans. Guardian writers were also in attendance I noticed.

val walsh



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