Leaders: An austere speech for a time of austerity | Crombie must listen to artists
AFTER Labour leader Ed Miliband’s audacious attempt last week to purloin the idea of “One Nation” politics from the Tories, the response
yesterday on behalf of party that developed the idea out of Disraeli’s writing was somewhat lacklustre.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, the Chancellor, George Osborne, attacked Mr Miliband’s claim with some gusto, but having done so failed properly to reach what might, with only a modicum of irony, be called the Dizzy-ing heights of rhetoric required to reclaim the great man’s mantle.
For that, one perhaps cannot entirely blame the Chancellor. Though he is no great orator, the circumstances in which he found himself addressing the party faithful were not propitious.
The United Kingdom is in recession. We are suffering from a depression greater in many ways than that which gripped the country in the 1930s. Unprecedented amounts of quantitative easing have not had the effect many, including Mr Osborne, might have hoped – though there is no telling how much worse the economy would be had the Bank of England not intervened.
On top of this, the Tories are in office but not fully in power, having been forced by virtue of failing to win the election outright, into a tense coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
Against this background, Mr Osborne had little choice other than to press ahead with more spending cuts – to benefits in particular – in a tacit admission that his borrowing and debt reduction plans are set to fail.
The Chancellor cast himself in Thatcherite clothing, although instead of saying he was not for turning, with his own piece of political audacity, he borrowed from US president Barack Obama, telling delegates, and the country, “we shall overcome”.
Mr Osborne was uncompromising. There was no sign of a Plan B, or even a Plan A+, or A1 or any other variation, despite calls from many independent experts, Labour, the SNP – and this newspaper – for greater infrastructure investment to counteract the damaging effects of the recession.
It is hard to see how this approach will revive the Tory fortunes in the UK in the short term, at least though Mr Osborne must hope that by sticking to the nasty medicine the patient will recover by the time of the next election.
In Scotland, where there is a broad consensus in favour of a different approach to the economy, and there seems to be little sign of an upturn in the fortunes of the Conservatives, the speech is likely to resonate even less.
Whether Mr Osborne has deliberately cast himself as the bad cop to allow the Prime Minister to play the good cop in his keynote speech tomorrow remains to be seen.
For now, the best that can be said about the Chancellor’s contribution yesterday was that it fitted the mood of the moment. It was an austere speech for a time of austerity.
Crombie must listen to artists
When he left the demanding position of chief executive of Standard Life, Sir Sandy Crombie must have thought he could “put something back” by becoming chairman of Creative Scotland.
He probably imagined spending his time attending opening nights, going to exhibitions and dispensing bonhommie along with taxpayers’ cash.
It has not turned out like that. For months, Creative Scotland has been at the centre of a storm of protest over its controversial funding shake-up in which guaranteed grants were replaced by yearly or project-based investment.
Now about 100 of our best known names – including distinguished writers, musicians, composers and artists – have written to Sir Sandy to express their grave concerns.
They claim there is a “deepening malaise within the organisation”. Routinely, there is “ill-conceived decision-making, unclear language, lack of empathy and regard for Scottish culture”. When such powerful and knowledgeable voices speak out, they must be listened to.
Their ideas on changing Creative Scotland for the better – including the need for stable funding, collaboration with artists themselves and ensuring that decisions are taken by people with a knowledge of art – should be heeded.
As a wise old head who has handled many a crisis in the business world, but who also has a great empathy for the arts, we are sure Sir Sandy will see the strength of these arguments. He must act upon them to restore the credibility of an organisation that has lost the confidence of the people on whom it depends, Scotland’s artists.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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