An apolitical manifesto
The trouble with general elections is politics. They get in the way of proper policy-making, and the politicians draw up manifestos full of the kind of promises they think will appeal to the electorate – fewer foreigners jumping the NHS queues, more power for the unions, fair tax for everyone, no tax rises for anyone - while the really important stuff is left in the in-tray. Really important stuff vital in a unique way to the British economy like the arts and allied endeavours. Top of the news lists post-election will be the winners tying themselves in knots as they try to get out of those promises.
Nevertheless, John Kampfner and his Creative Industries Federation have got a “creative industries manifesto” out before even the main parties have, and it’s not hard to see how: it’s virtually the blueprint submission to business secretary Greg Clark’s industrial strategy submitted a few days before the election was a called, but none the worse for that. Kampfner says the creatives industries should be a priority in the election; it won’t be, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth making the point about why it should be at every opportunity because there is another audience.
In a non-election situation Clark happily accepts that the creative industries have become a vital element for our future prosperity, and since this is a Brexit election Kampfner wants to make sure that the promise and the perils awaiting the arts in leaving Europe are understood and acted upon.
He’s made it easy for those with no time to absorb exhaustive briefs by making ten succinct points: first, the cultural industries are worth £90 billion a year, so make sure they are high on the Brexit negotiating agenda; prioritise them in a new visa system to make sure artists can still travel freely (we need foreign creatives because our education system precludes making our own); double the number of creative organisations exporting by the end of the next Parliament; introduce creative enterprise zones with special rent rates for artists and small enterprises – bizarrely, despite the enormous economic value of the creative industries those who work in them are notoriously poorly paid; make a business booster sector to encourage investment in new start enterprises; set up a creative skills commission; launch a creative careers campaign; limit the designation “outstanding” to the schools that deserve it by virtue of their creative skills teaching; make national and local arts subsidy inflation proof; maintain and increase the growth of the creative industries.
Not much to frighten the horses, though index-linked subsidy – sorry, “investment” – might cause some mild indigestion, but it's a manifesto that isn’t launched at the British electorate so much as the eurocracy that will be ranged on either side of the table shortly after June 8th. Calling this election is an act of political expediency, so let’s make the point about the importance of the creative industries now and then forget about it for a few weeks until this other nonsense is over, and then push as hard as possible. The creative industries won’t be a priority up to the general election, but let’s make sure they are as soon as the polls close.