the going gets weird the weird turn pro"
This is an attempt to unravel some of the changes that have taken place
within the Arts Council of England in the last few years and examine their
roots. Part one concentrates on official statements (drawn mainly from
the Council's web site) with part two aiming to look beneath the
surface rhetoric by drawing on a range of source material. The article
is intended to promote discussion and debate within this area. Please
contact us with any corrections or criticisms of the points raised.
"Mr Tony Banks MP...has told this Committee of his personal dislike
of the arm's length principle on more than one occasion: '...not
a great supporter of the arm's length principle ... I have never understood
why we go through the angst of going out, fighting elections and winning
elections only to hand all the fun over to somebody else who is unelected
and never had to go out there and who, in the end, is responsible for
these things, when we then have to take all the collateral damage here
when it goes wrong.'"
(Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Sixth Report)
"We are an independent, non-political body working at arms length
from government." States the Arts Council of England's (ACE)
website. A quarter of a billion is a lot of money to keep a mere arms
length - or more accurately a short stroll round the corner - from
the House of Commons.
"Labour yesterday appointed a man headhunted by Tony Blair to oversee
the party's media operation - a role once filled by Peter Mandelson.
Phil Murphy...was appointed...as assistant general secretary (communications).
He will head the press operation and tour the lobby briefing journalists
but, crucially, also help prepare for the next general election campaign.
His salary was not disclosed but he is at present earning £70,000
a year at the Arts Council, where he is communications director...At the
Arts Council, he was part of the team that oversaw 50 per cent staff cuts."
Political interference was something Phil was always on the lookout for:
"...such as his vigilant policing of the Council's e-mail system.
Last month he issued a note to all staff informing them that an internal
memo telling of a peace vigil for Iraq outside Parliament was not approved
of. 'Could I stress that the Arts Council system must not be used as a
vehicle for advertising or encouraging political activity of any kind.'"
So perhaps we are being misled when the ACE site communicates that "Changes
in lottery legislation in early July 1998 meant the Arts Council could
integrate its grant-in-aid and lottery spending." Legislation is
a plastic thing for such a lawyer dominated government - and that is
a very quiet way to introduce the matter over which the previous chairman,
Lord Gowrie, resigned (on October 1997) and about which questions remain
unanswered at the highest level.
"I am bound to say that I share the suspicions of those who have
said: 'This is but the first step, and we shall find more and more
money milked from the Lottery to provide money which should come from
(Lord Annan, Hansard: Col. 755 18/12/97)
The Financial Times reported the matter as a significant shift in capital,
and as 'Gowrie in disagreement' with ministers about the transfer
of Lottery funds from 'original good causes'. The timing coincided
with a Labour conference announcement by Culture Secretary Chris Smith
that millions originally agreed to be given to charities, the arts, heritage
and sport would be collected for the government's New Opportunities Fund
(NOF) before new Lottery legislation had been introduced in parliament.
And before Lord Gowrie was told he would be going. The money is regarded
by many as a kind of institutionalised slush fund.
The ACE website explains the origin of the government's "re-structuring"
of the ACE as a spin-off from the "Re-branding of Britain" in
the lead up to the millennium, which: "...builds on the much publicised
"Cool Britannia" phenomenon, a phrase supposedly coined by John
Major to characterise forward looking British culture, and the new Government's
political alignment with the creative sector."
After the election everyone got a little carried away with all that champagne
at a No. 10 party with Liam or was it Noel? A "Re-Branding Britain"
panel was chaired by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, to help out business
and tourism and to "engage Government departments and other bodies
in promoting the same message in their overseas activities." Further
little committee meetings followed with the Department of Culture Media
& Sport's (DCMS) Creative Industries Task Force and Creative
Industries Unit with Lord Puttnam, who for a small consideration admires
the government's line. Others - even the NME - thought of it
all as another cynical PR exercise.
Then according to the ACE site:
"In July 1997 Tony Blair set out his vision for Britain: 'The
heart of all our work is one central theme: national renewal. Britain
rebuilt as one nation, in which each citizen is valued and has a stake;
in which no-one is excluded from opportunity and the chance to develop
their potential; in which we make it, once more, our national purpose
to tackle social division and inequality.' To this end the Social
Exclusion Unit has been set up to ensure that Government policy across
all ministries takes on board the need to tackle poverty and promote social
Before we go on, compare the BBC's response - the DCMS are also
bureaucratically responsible for broadcasting, film, press freedom and
regulation - to the adoption of the government rhetoric within the
ACE's site. Following the DCMS Select Committee report into the BBC's
future funding, Director of Corporate Affairs, Colin Browne issued the
"We are disappointed that the main report from the Committee fails
to engage with the vision for public service broadcasting in the digital
age put forward by the BBC. This is very different from the market-driven
approach which seems to guide the thinking of the majority of the Committee.
As a result, it has reached very different conclusions from those of the
independent panel chaired by Gavyn Davies, which considered these issues
in depth over several months. We wish the Committee had looked in more
depth at how the interests of viewers and listeners in the United Kingdom
can best be served in a future likely to be dominated by pay television
from global operators, and how the UK can build on its strengths in this
And that's obviously couched in polite terms. With the ACE website
the government changes suborned a statement ostensibly contradicting and
condemning past policy, but in essence reinforcing a lumpen framework
for every arts organisation:
"The Arts Council has made a firm commitment to diversity and inclusion,
naming this as one of its five strategic priorities over the coming period.
It recognises that there are many communities which have not, in the past,
had any direct access to its funding - either in terms of the grants
it gives or the organisations which it funds...it is the Council's
view that every arts organisation, as well as the Arts Council itself,
must work towards that objective. Advocating the role that the arts can
play in addressing social exclusion is, however, a new departure for the
Arts Council...The PAT 10 report has helped to highlight the range of
cultural activity taking place within communities and among groups who
can be defined as excluded. That is: the arts have often played a vital
role in community development - delivering tangible social and economic
benefits such as jobs, improved skills, and learning opportunities. The
Arts Council is now committed to redressing the historic imbalance in
its support for work of this kind."
Forcing a political project on every organisation - or using government
schemes as a template - perpetuates this historic failure to address
central cultural issues: namely, freedom of expression. This admission
of failure moves not to support the redress of racism or class prejudice
directly. It defines a mass to which politically contrived cultural propaganda
projects will be administrated via the NOF with the ACE following the
ideological trend of these projects. Exclusions will continue to operate
within a very hierarchical and secretive system, but they will operate
using a rhetoric which says they do not. The odd grant for a temporary
publicity campaign is obviously not going to solve any long-term economic
problems. The government do not seek to establish the legitimacy of forms
of expression which directly and politically engage with race and class,
these are still thought to be a challenge to the government.
As misconceived ideas about what the government was trying to do filtered
down through the Arts Council system they tended to cause a broadly regressive
political limitation and control of the arts - with the more mindless
arts officers bolstering their inadequacies by paranoid adherence, while
artists wondered what was happening. Perhaps purely for bureaucratic ease
we saw a rise in the level of unnecessary prescriptive conditions on funding
allocations, which have always existed to some extent; but, when taken
together with no real appeals or independent inspection procedure within
the Arts Councils - the 'rules' become merely vague guidelines
when they are traduced from within - made for a belligerent intolerance
of difference. This boosted acceptance towards projects which do not challenge
pre-conceived notions and ignoring the specific reality, the dynamic of
art - locally and nationally - in favour of the imposture of the
PAT 10 report as a model.
Sadly this Policy Action Team's report to the Social Exclusion Unit
was a process which could be described as one government advisor from
the 'think tank' Comedia reporting his findings to another government
advisor from the think tank Demos.
It was a fait accompli: an aid to the government helping themselves to
Lottery money via sleight of hand. Previously the share of Lottery funds
was: 16% each for arts, sport, heritage and charities; 20% for millennium;
and 13% for health, education and the environment. The 'temporary
adjustment' changed this to: 5% for arts, sport, heritage and charities;
20% for millennium; and 60% for government health, education and the environment
projects. (PAT 10 Annex E 12)
Of the pilot projects listed, the reality is that some have no additional
resources - such as 'Better Government for Older People'.
Many have no connection whatsoever with any community, their location
is "to be decided". All the projects represent additional funds
to government offices, from the Lord Chancellor's to the Cabinet
and Home Offices who are running these projects. What remains centres
on the New Deal or is dependent on Local Authorities. Here, years of downward
pressure on finances have led to drastic reductions in not simply arts
spending, but also the dismantling of the basic social services infrastructure.
These 'pilot projects' are façades which cover this up.
Unless there is an attempt to increase local government spending, severe
problems will remain.
Credulity towards the government's plans for the arts evaporated
when Mark Fisher the DCMS minister, who wrote a great deal of it, was
re-shuffled and ended up thoroughly denouncing the government's whole
approach and joining Peter Hall's 'Shadow Arts Council.'
Yes, what if you do not believe the government's rhetoric? What if
you believe that the party which denied its constitutional basis concerning
the redistribution of wealth will not engage in the redistribution of
wealth. Or what if you actually believe that the government is incapable
of forming worthwhile policy towards the arts?
Through changes to ACE and the Lottery, government control of two forms
of economy within the arts has tightened and increased. The level of funds
may well rival the market economy (excluding grey and black areas) at
the level of the working artist, a perspective rarely taken into account.
Control of these funds have been concerted towards specific ends, one
of which is simply to accumulate funds in the Treasury. The chief inconsistency
within the fact that so little money goes to artists is that arts policy
is supposedly based on consultation with artists. Who seem to have requested
that they be ignored within all decision-making procedures and that these
be held in secret. Government abuse of Lottery funds to hype their ideas,
has the overarching illusion of 'Social Inclusion,' which masks
the process of major policy shifts quietly abandoned days later; which
are not the acts of a strong government. This policy was conceived to
reflect the views of small influential groupings: the nexus of people
who are paid to advise and consult.
Speaking at the Arts Marketing Association's annual conference (Cardiff,
29 to 31/7/99), the new minister for the Arts (Mark Fisher's replacement)
Alan Howarth and François Matarasso from Comedia and chair of the
PAT 10 report "proposed that arts organisations need to rethink themselves
at a fundamental level, looking outwards at their value and impact rather
than seeking only to change what people think." (Dispatches 2/8/99)
That pair have been going up and down the country promoting a very polite
description of government control of the arts:
"The DCMS Review was also intended to usher in new, more strategic
relationships between the Department and its quangos. The Department has
sought to achieve greater alignment between its objectives and those of
its quangos, sending clearer signals about overall direction, while at
the same time seeking to disengage from day to day interventions. The
Funding Agreements between the quangos and the Department are described
by the Department as being 'at the heart of the developing new relationship.'"
(Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Sixth Report)
The "shared strategic objectives" of the government and its
quangos set out the overall aims and objectives of the DCMS, any particular
aims for the sector in question and the aims and objectives of the quango.
They then set out what are viewed by the DCMS as "explicit and challenging
statements of the outputs and levels of performance expected of sponsored
bodies over the funding period". The agreements are signed both by
the Minister of the Department and by the Chairman of the quango concerned.
ACE welcomed the Funding Agreement, believing that "it provides much
greater clarity than in the past about what is expected" of the ACE
by DCMS. ACE argued that the Agreement "should be the central - and
possibly sole - document governing the relationship between the Department
and the Arts Council." (Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport
We do not live in a totalitarian regime however. In official documents,
there is a "studied ambiguity" about the results of failure
to meet the agreed standards. The ACE's asserts that the Department
"has the right to reallocate the 'investment for reform' if the Secretary
of State is not satisfied with the progress achieved by the [ACE]".
At the same time, it seeks to provide reassurance that "indicators
are not a crude on/off switch for" funding of ACE. The select Committee
observed a slight incentive problem in all this quantification and compliance:
"For example, if a quango meets all its targets, this may mean there
is a case for re-allocating resources to other areas where targets have
not been met."
They also found that Chris Smith "has not been open enough in his
dealings with quangos...that he had ignored their earlier demands that
all letters and dealings with the quangos - which include ACE - should
be made public."
Conservative Members of the Commons and Lords object in principle to the
Lottery being used to fund what should be the responsibility of Government.
They object too, to the introduction of the provision that effectively
gives the Secretary of State power over the New Opportunities Fund.
"It is no wonder that the Secretary of State does not want to place
any limit on the amount of money that he can divert to the new fund. We
have sought and failed to secure protection for the existing good causes.
That is a matter of shame, because the lack of protection undermines the
confidence of the distribution bodies and of the recipients of the lottery
(Hansard 30 April 1998)
According to them the Secretary of State and his successors will be able,
without further reference to Parliament, to allow new causes to benefit
from Lottery money. In response to questions by MPs in a select committee
as to what criteria were used to evaluate Lottery Projects, Peter Hewitt,
the Chief Executive of ACE replied:
"We look at the status and contacts of the board, which tend to be
Which will come as little comfort to artists and groups who "never
had any direct access to funding" and even may be from these communities
which have been excluded and ignored - and we may even refer to our
culture in our art.
The group which formulated the new shibboleth - the DCMS - fraudulently
present it as the result of independent research and consultation:
"The PAT 10 report has helped to highlight the range of cultural
activity taking place within communities and among groups who can be defined
as excluded. That is: the arts have often played a vital role in community
development - delivering tangible social and economic benefits such
as jobs, improved skills, and learning opportunities."
(ACE web site)
The ACE's trust in the government's engineers of the soul is
presented as adhering to the findings of an independent group which has
'helped' them. Yet scrutiny of the fundamental set-up of PAT
10 reveals a rigged jury. It contained 13 members of government out-numbering
11 supposedly independent individuals, mostly from government-funded organisations
with a meagre involvement with the arts, whose common characteristics
are that they have become inured to this sort of thing passing as democracy.
Needless to say none of them are artists although in the sub-committees
(much the same people) we see consultants such as François Matarasso
(Comedia) masquerading as an artistic 'practitioner.'
The lunacy abounds with the ACE site outlining how they will redress "the
historic imbalance." The basic problem with the following paragraphs
are revealed by cutting out the abstract stuff:
"The following initiatives, taking place from April 2000, are intended
to lay the foundations for long-term change... The majority of the Council's
funds are distributed to a relatively small number of Regularly Funded
Organisations (RFO)... Most RFOs do not work specifically to address social
Astonishingly the web page states that:
"The PAT 10 report identified the lack of long-term arts evaluation
studies as a key issue... Evaluation is taking place, but on an ad-hoc
basis - there is a need for longitudinal studies and a coherent overview....Evaluation
is too often seen by organisations as an add-on - a bureaucratic exercise
in form-filling to trigger funds - rather than something which has
a use and value in itself. The DCMS is committed, as part of its Action
Plan for tackling Social Exclusion, to a programme of research into the
impact of culture and leisure on individuals and communities and to 'developing,
monitoring and evaluating methodologies as standard elements of social
We know we don't know what we're doing now, and we know it will
all come down to justifying our own position of inventing policies so
that we can continue inventing policies. So hire more consultants.
What exactly is on offer to the poor? Reading the sections on the New
Deal is to witness the ACE walk down a very dark road. It is a blatant
encouragement to organisations to make money out of the poorest sections
of the community, parts of which read like the haggling of slave traders
or more accurately a directive from the World Bank. It enforces an interpretation
of the purpose of arts administrations as joining with the state in assuming
power by implementing continual conditions as a form of control. Where
administration becomes rationing.
It supposedly tackles a 'Lost Generation' and lumps truancy
and school exclusion; street living; problem estates; begging and homelessness;
lone parents and the disabled, all of whom will be going 'off welfare
and into work'.
"ACE are drawing up plans for a research project looking at possible
models by which arts organisations can map there [sic] 'social'
In the manner of Chico and Groucho tearing pieces off the "Sanity
Clause" the writer relates that the 'New Dealer' "has
five options". But then one option "is still being developed
and is not yet described in the New Deal literature." The current
four options are reduced by "the option summarised in the New Deal
literature as 'work in the voluntary sector' is potentially misleading,
and on it goes. The process for the 'New Dealer' is outlined
with this friendly warning: "You cannot replace existing employees
with New Dealers." Then it is noticed that most organisations will
not be able to participate because they cannot offer any qualifications.
Of course the fact is that a great deal of the people forced onto fictitious
work will be artists. Perhaps we could all employ each other.
The website is being disingenuous in the extreme with its comments on
the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education report
by Ken Robinson, chairman of the Whitehall-commissioned inquiry. He has
delivered an outspoken criticism of the Government's response. His request
that summaries of the report, be sent to every school and arts organisation
was rejected by school standards minister Jacqueline Smith. At first he
was told the government 'don't have the resources to print summaries
of the report.' Then when the National Union of Teachers offered
to pay for it the issue became one of copyright, which the Government
has so far refused to address. For Ken Robinson: "It isn't just about
raising standards, it's about broadening our standards. The last government
didn't get it and neither does this one." (The Stage 2/12/98)
Chris Smith: We now understand very clearly that a government cannot and
should not create art, nor dictate what art does or can do. On the whole
art that has been dictated by governments, however benevolent, has tended
to end up being not particularly good. The thing about literature, painting,
music and artistic creation of all kinds, is that it speaks to the imagination
and soul of people....In Glasgow's City of Culture year, a ferment of
activity transformed Glasgow's previous image to a new image which made
people who lived and worked there feel a lot better about the place, gave
them more things to do, put Glasgow on the map and generated a lot of
extra economic activity for the city. So I see artistic value and economic
value running hand in hand.
Ken Warpole: The problem with the Glasgow example is that there were writers
in the city who thought that a specific and unique cultural tradition
was actually marginalised by that commercialising process.
Chris Smith: I would contest that. Quite a number of them are still able
to use that tradition to very great effect.
"It is the absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs
and the consequent absence of first-hand knowledge of them which distinguishes
the typical intellectual."
In 1986 Ken Worpole wrote From arts to industry, new forms of cultural
policy, for Comedia with his friend Geoff Mulgan who worked at the GLC
and organised pop concerts. With Martin Jacques, he oversaw the final
transformation of the Communist Party of Great Britain's theoretical journal,
Marxism Today (MT), into the think tank 'Demos'. MT worked to efface its
connections with the Soviet Union, and sung the praises of Thatcherism
in the eighties along with attacking the Labour left. With the launch
of the Demos Quarterly, and a series of well-received reports (No Turning
Back, Freedom's Children) signs of Demos' origins were hidden. Then (one
day as Pinocchio was skipping to school...) Demos and Comedia steadily
insinuated themselves towards an opportunity called New Labour.
Lecturer at University of Westminster (1988-90), consultant to European
Commission and also member of Comedia, Mulgan is another proponent of
the Third Way - which aids business and government in suborning local
initiatives. Alongside David Miliband, he is an 'intellectual'
in the Number 10 Policy Unit. He worked with John Prescott and Lord Rogers
on the Government's 'Urban Task Force', integrating strategy
towards 'social inclusion'. He will also help draft the next
election manifesto. He argues that the role for new-style government should
be to set moral agendas, to shape minds rather than change institutions.
Mulgan's attack on the irrelevance of academics in the recent special
MT issue is a virtual dismissal of theoretical argument itself.
Mulgan and Charles Landry (who runs Comedia) wrote The Other Invisible
Hand: Remaking Charity for the 21st Century (Demos, New Statesman, 3/3/95).
Building on this and other works in 1997 (most likely to coincide with
the election victory) Mulgan and fellow Demos member Mark Leonard cobbled
together, Britain, which advanced the think tanks' most ludicrously
superficial argument - that the UK could rebuild itself by rebranding
itself. Just as the renaming of Doonray to Sellafield solved the problem
of radioactive pollution. Mulgan proved useless to Gordon Brown as an
advisor - ridiculed in the debating chamber not just because of his
'Marxist' past but for the substance of his advice.
The ideas which influenced the Social Inclusion Unit's PAT reports
and then the DCMS and thus ACE policy began in early '97 with Leonard
pushing the 'rebranding Britain' notions outward for the Foreign
Office - while Mulgan turned it inward for the Cabinet Office, working
as 'special advisor to Tony in No.10 and on the Social Inclusion
Unit itself. Leonard's role is promoting Britain abroad in a manner
which will distract from its position as a major exporter of war industries
and training - the boot boy of NATO. He also writes as an apologist
promoting European Union legitimacy in the face of wholesale corruption
with works such as 'Making Europe Popular'. Mulgan - through
his position on the Social Inclusion Unit - advised Blair on the broad
rhetoric around his themes of promoting art as a distraction from cutting
public spending by 60%. The tough approach - compulsion towards single
parents and the disabled to find work - having caused major disagreement
and protest around the 'welfare roadshows', leading to the departure of
Harriet Harman and Frank Field, in July 1998.
Mark Leonard is Director of the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) which develops
his Foreign Office work towards an MI6 front. Presumably Demos and Comedia
are supposed to be objective and impartial. Leonard's new FPC co-publish
with Demos (http://www.fpc.org.uk/projects/).
One interesting board member is Baroness Ramsay who followed a career
of over twenty years in HM Diplomatic Service in MI6. She now lies for
the Foreign Office in the House of Lords. She was Foreign Policy Advisor
for John Smith from 1992 until his death. She was part of a Glasgow University
60s clique which included Smith, Donald Dewar, Derry Irvine the Lord Chancellor,
Menzies Campbell, Angus Grossart the merchant banker, Jean McFadden the
ex-leader of Glasgow City Council and Lord Gordon, founder of Radio Clyde
who holidayed with Ramsay and Dewar shortly before he had his heart attack.
(Sunday Times 15/8/99)
The FPC organises conferences such as this in November: "The USA
in the International Community: Creating Effective Strategies for Multilateralism
with the British American Security Information Council". In the immediate
aftermath of the US elections, this conference "will assess and debate
how the new political landscape will affect America's participation in
international governance. Bringing together key figures from government,
politics, the media, NGOs and business from both Europe and the US, the
conference will focus on how proponents of multilateral frameworks can
seek to foster strategies for maintaining and enhancing multilateral co-operation."
The Conference is by invitation only. The Guardian blithely stated that:
"The [FPC] will make foreign policy feel less like the preserve of
an elite and more the topic of national conversation". It is funded
from the following sources: BBC World Service, BP Ameco, Bruce Naughton
Wade, Clifford Chance, Cluff Mining, Commonwealth Institute, Control Risk
Group, Lord Gavron CBE, Paul Hamlyn, Institute of Commonwealth Studies,
Interbrand Newell and Sorrell, Rio Tinto and Royal Commonwealth Society.
Control Risks (a 'private security firm') and its spin-offs
has long had deep associations with (and gets its work through) MI5 and
MI6, SAS and so forth. (The Terrorism Industry, Edward Herman and Gerry
O'Sullivan, Pantheon, New York 1989)
Mulgan and Leonard's ideas were put forward in conferences such as:
"Does Britain Need a New Identity?" (3/11/97, ICA London) an
"invite only lunchtime event to present the findings of the Demos
report 'Britain' - commissioned by the Design Council - and
to serve as a focal point for gathering ideas and exploring ways of taking
the recommendations forward. Speakers: Peter Mandelson MP, Geoff Mulgan,
Andrew Marr, David Potter, Sir Colin Marshall, John Sorrell."
One can picture them all in this secret huddle talking about social inclusion.
Marshall is involved in political/business interfaces such as the CBI
and The British American Business Council (and his financial interests
are linked with tourism) he subsequently joined various hypocritical government
panels on ecology and business. Potter is the founder and chairman of
Psion Plc. Marr is a pro-government Guardian journalist.
The report (published with Marshall's British Tourist Authority)
confuses the 'brand' Britain and Britain itself. Selective sources become
equated with fact, failing to distinguish between 'actualities' and images
of actualities Demos still seem caught up in Marxism Today's bland
acceptance of postmodernists such as Baudrilliard. The re-branding has
the ultimate aim of making Britain attractive to foreign, particularly
German and American, investors. The target consumer of this rebranding
is an economic consumer and the rhetoric of national identity has shifted
to that of marketing. It envisages a number of interlocking themes to
exploit; Britain as an international hub, a creative nation in arts and
sciences, an ethnically mixed country, a nation predisposed to business
and commerce, an innovator in government and organisation, and committed
to fairness. A world pathetically reminiscent of Trumpton and Chigley.
Even friendly commentators struggle to understand what Mulgan is on about
in his books:
"Mulgan says he is interested in 'the ancient left idea of co-operation'.
But within that ancient idea he charges about all over the intellectual
china shop - now embracing the ideas of Amitai Etzioni, the avatar
of US communitarianism; now reaching for the business management thinking
of the Harvard scholar Mary Bet Kantor; now taking up the work on trust
associated with Anthony Giddens, director of the London School of Economics,
and Ulrich Beckt the German sociologist."
Its the old 'End of Ideology' routine. As Mulgan puts it: "the
limits of freedom may have been reached, and the sharp edges of freedoms
must be smoothed down to ensure they are responsibly exercised."
The inequalities produced by the free market and maintained by elites
are redefined as the surrogate problem of social exclusion. The pretence
is that private capital has cunningly re-branded itself as 'global'
and is thus out of reach of government. The Third Way says that something
must be done about this; the government should have a social policy, but
the systemic connections between 'global' market forces and
poverty should not be particularly identified. Bad for business.
But cheer up; strong trading relationships are beneficial in other ways.
In the words of objective British policy analyst Geoff Mulgan:
"The world can be more easily unified through the peaceful activity
of buying and selling than through international treaties or fantasies
of world government ... Trade breeds trust, and trust breeds trade."
So this then, is a pack of lies:
"When I met Geoff Mulgan back in Australia on his honeymoon in 1998
he advised me that the stakeholder idea had frightened the big end of
town and so it had been dropped. Company directors were concerned that
they would be made accountable to people n other than shareholders and
institutional investors were frightened that it would destroy shareholder
(Shann Turnbull http://cog.kent.edu/archives/ownership/msg00778.html)
Because no other mechanism for criticism is in place (or wanted) there
has been a lot of bitching. Speaking anonymously, one No. 10 policy aide
"at one level, in specific areas, armies of academics are coming
in and out as never before. Thatcher didn't do as much as we are doing,
I am sure. For Blair's Beveridge lecture on welfare we had a large number
of academics writing background papers - including some, like Ruth
Lister, who have been highly critical. The Social Exclusion Unit's report
drew on a lot of scholarly work. But in political philosophy it has been
a failure. The Third Way debate was launched in the hope that intellectuals
would get excited about it; but they have responded by saying it's pointless."
(Falling Out, John Lloyd , Prospect, October 1999)
"Mark Leonard...is seen (by foes of New Labour) as a stereotypical
New Labour intellectual - brashly and ahistorically writing about 'rebranding
Britain.' He says that "the problem for the big public intellectuals
is that New Labour operates a pic 'n' mix approach. The disillusioned
people like Will Hutton [editor-in-chief of the Observer] weren't comfortable
with this because they wanted to be taken seriously. But people are dropped
very quickly. And picked up very quickly"...[T]he New Policy Network,
run by Mark Leonard...is a networking of Third Way-ers across Europe;
and, more concretely, a sustained effort within the Cabinet Office to
apply evidence, research and analysis to policy-making and governance.
The project, still in its early stages, is being overseen by Ronald Amann,
formerly the director of the Economic and Social Research Council."
Lloyd - a former Moscow Bureau chief for the Financial Times - joined
up with Leonard at the FPC, but who is that name he let slip: Ronald Amann?
David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education and Employment, spoke
to a meeting convened by the Economic and Social Research Council (chairman
Ron Amann) on 2/2/00 observing that:
"Within Whitehall there has been a failure to develop the structures,
techniques and skills needed to use and apply knowledge in a systematic
and cumulative way in the policy making process - particularly a failure
to anticipate and invest in strategic and cross-cutting information needs...More
widely across government we are making a decisive break with the anti-intellectual
Labour will continue the work of the Performance and Innovation Unit in
the Cabinet Office and the Social Exclusion Unit and the Policy Action
Teams by appointing Amann as Director of the Centre for Policy and Management
Studies for the Cabinet Office where he will push the Government's need
for a social sciences contribution to 'evidence-based policy.'
He will also work on The Civil Service College (part of the Centre) and
he has been put on the Civil service management committee.
Big Ron is also vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham, Chairman
of the Economic and Social Research Council, a member of the steering
group for Research Programme on Soviet Foreign Policy; a member of the
Society and Politics Group, Research Centres Board, Committee for Public
Understanding of Science, Joint Executive Committee for the OST/Wellcome
Infrastructure Fund and the Advisory Board for Research Councils. He was
also retained in the New Labour purge of the elite think tank the Foresight
Big Ron also oversaw the formation of Leonard's think tank and like
Leonard and the gang there is an old Soviet connection. Ron edited or
wrote: Industrial Innovation in the Soviet Union, Yale University (82),
Technical Progress and Soviet Economic Development, New York (86), Searching
for an Appropriate Concept of Soviet Politics (86) and Soviet Politics
in the Gorbachev Era (90). Now who in the USA at that time would be interested
in dry stuff like that?
The samizdat writers noted in '85 that Sovietologists never discussed
a possible transition to capitalism in the USSR, or anywhere else in the
Communist world, before it actually started. Most of the evidence contemporary
thinkers rely on relates to the period of 1987-91 and is drawn from the
accounts of the Soviet insiders Ellman and Kontorovich (E&K). But
Ron's knowledge of the Glasnost routine will come in handy. The actual
course of market reform was characterised by arbitrary and inconsistent
policies, the incompetence and irresponsibility of advisors and general
chaos. The leaders with ambitious goals had no idea how to accomplish
them (Mozhin in E&K p. 121). They consulted the official economists
who had no idea either, but nevertheless advised bold action (Zoteev in
E&K p. 142; Yasin in E&K p. 144). Once the rulers were sold on
the proposal, it was pushed through without a discussion, virtually overnight.
Objections of other experts were ignored, as had been the case with the
radical reform (Yun in E&K p. 140). Gosplan...was powerless against
the arbitrary actions of politicians and the onslaught of dilettante economists
with their miraculous prescriptions. (Zoteev in E&K p. 142). It was
not just the public debate that was severely constrained. We now know
that internal discussions were hardly any more free. (http://www.haverford.edu/economics/kontorovich/papers/reforms.html#_ftnref23)
"Britain has seen an increasing use of arts initiatives to address
socio-economic problems in recent years, ranging from major capital schemes
to local participatory projects. While the economic value of these has
been researched, there has been no large scale study of their social benefits."
(The Social Impact of Participation in the Arts, François Matarasso
And few have reaped more socio-economic benefits than Comedia. Matarasso's
book promotes Comedia's research, is published by Comedia (which
he runs) and is written by, shall we say, a Comedian who went on to report
to the Government's (and Mulgan's) Social Inclusion Unit as
a member of the PAT 10 team and several sub-groups which formed policy
which said we need consultants to...let me pick a random example:
The total cost of the Cardiff Bay opera house feasibility study was £105,225.72,
broken down as follows :
£21, 824 (20.7%)
Ahrends Burton and Koralek
£2, 460 (2.3%)
Veryard and Partners
£7, 550 (7.2%)
KPMG Management Consulting
£31, 244 (29.7%)
£37, 297 (35.4%)
Matarasso's work constitutes an attack on freedom of expression because
it seeks to limit its parameters. His work is academically flawed because
its outcome was predetermined: "The research was designed to add
a dimension to existing economic and aesthetic rationales for the arts
by looking at their role in social development and cohesion." His
studies ignore the principle aspects which make indigenous culture relevant.
They do not address economic impacts and undermine the contribution to
local economies made by 'invisible' voluntary labour - the
people who make participation in the arts possible. He perceives that
child care, social services, health promotion and crime prevention, are
often paid for (where there is a financial transaction) out of the communities'
existing resources, with marginal support from the state and he now aids
the government in keeping it that way. Meanwhile they can manipulate a
few small token organisations, erecting a framework for developing the
role of 'participatory arts initiatives' in public policy to
produce "social change which can be seen, evaluated and planned for."
And how they plan: Lord Puttnam who runs the NOF's NESTA (more on
which later) meets up with Charles Landry (Comedia) and with Julia Middleton
(Demos) in the well-named think tank 'Common Purpose' another
member of which is...(drum roll) Chris Smith. (http://www.commonpurpose.org.uk/biogs.htm#sheilaadam)
Puttnam and Mulgan both have connections with the NATO led '21st Century
Comedia is run by just four people: Landry, Liz Greenhalgh, François
Matarasso and Ken Worpole who has co-directed a number of their projects
Currently Landry is helping the World Bank to devise a strategy to incorporate
a cultural dimension to development while they create poverty. His past
National evaluations include cultural tourism in Bulgaria, Croatia and
Bosnia on behalf of the Council of Europe. (http://www.commonpurpose.org.uk/biogs.htm#charleslandry).
But the guardians of Lottery funds must get other advice, what about those
other consults AEA also on 20%?
A fright at the opera
It is a long story, but something of a power vacuum was created back in
97 with the ACE's trouble with the Royal Opera House (ROH). Lord
Chadlington (a long-suffering board member) began secret consultations
with Ms Allen, the Secretary General of the ACE, but not that organisation's
lead assessor of the ROH. Given her experience of public office, Ms Allen's
conduct "fell seriously below the standards to be expected of the
principal officer of a public body" (House of Commons Select Committee
on Culture, Media and Sport First Report).
Chris Smith had been Culture Secretary for only four days when this meeting
took place. The Permanent Secretary had also just taken up his position.
There was no one in control with any knowledge or experience of what was
going on either in the ACE or the ROH. As the new government came in and
Lord Gowrie went out, instead of focusing on the plight of its clients,
a number of whom were going out of business because their grants had been
cut or withdrawn, those left at the top of the Council concentrated on
their own survival. Graham Devlin was Deputy Chief Executive of the ACE
and became Acting Secretary-general in 1997 when Mary Allen as a member
of the selection committee which decided on the new director of the ROH
inadvertently selected herself for the job.
"A plan drawn up by acting secretary general Graham Devlin, pandering
to Chris (Jonah) Smith's People's Culture prejudices, sees the council
abandon the high art of theatre, opera and ballet, and embrace 'cool
Britannia'. It proposes amending its royal charter, to enable it
to offer financial assistance to would be fashion designers and pop singers,
at the expense of the so called 'old arts.' "
(TheatreNet: News Archive
Ironically eventually Devlin quit, apparently because the new management
structure, with three top-level directors, gave him no effective role.
A further irony is that the DCMS's Quality, Efficiency and Standards
Team (Quest) Advisory Board which will oversee the Government's new
plans includes Graham Devlin. Quest was described as "a complete
waste of time" by the present ACE chair Gerry Robinson. (Select Committee
on Culture, Media and Sport Sixth Report). But it will prove a useful
position for Mr. Devlin who also works for AEA Consultancy Services who
share the spoils along with Comedia.
AEA are: Chris Foy (Chairman) said to have "extensive board member
and leadership experience in Unilever". Adrian Ellis Executive Director
of the Conran Foundation, responsible for planning and managing the Design
Museum. Prior to that, he worked on privatisation and monetary policy
at the UK Treasury and the Cabinet Office. Of the Senior Consultants:
David Hall spent six years at the Association for Business Sponsorship
for the Arts (ABSA), establishing ABSA Consulting Ltd. Keiler Snow is
a research associate in Corporate Planning at Exxon Company, Magnus von
Wistinghausen was at S.G. Warburg as an international economist and in
corporate finance. AEA Associates "all of whom have long-standing
professional relationships with AEA" include Robert Cogo-Fawcett,
an arts consultant whose clients include the ACE; Maddy Morton, previously
Marketing & Market Research Manager and Touring Advisor to the ACE
and Jenny Waldman who worked for three years at the ACE. (http://www.aeaconsulting.com/consultancyservices.htm)
This lucrative intermingling (arrangements about which we know to be conducted
in secret) of former employees, whose record is one of failure has not
achieved much for artists and the public. It is at odds with the very
concept of the Arts Council giving money to the arts. Similarly the trade
in 'intellectual arbitrage' brought back from the USA has yielded nothing
for the government to base its decisions on. How many consultation exercises
can come back with the findings that no figures exist and that another
consultation should be commissioned. The government's Social Inclusion
report states they need "information about information" and
that everyone is "hoarding" it.
What in-depth reports and accurate information which does exist undermine
the fundamental principles which were used to govern and administrate
A main example here was the October 1998, National Audit Office report
on the monitoring of 15 major Lottery funded capital projects which found
only eight of the projects had been, or were scheduled to be, completed
on time. Twelve were over budget, and eight had applied for, and been
granted, additional funding.
David Davis MP, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee said;
"Almost all the projects are over-budget and half are running late,
some by more than a year. It appears all too easy for grant recipients
to go back to [ACE] for top-up grants when they find they run short of
He added that ACE's weak monitoring of projects meant much of the money
had been wasted.
"I am extremely concerned about the financial sustainability of some
projects. There is a real risk that ultimately Lottery funds may have
been used to no long-term effect at all. They may end up with some nice
buildings, but if the arts bodies cannot sustain themselves, their buildings
will sit empty."
(Independent 14/5/98 The NAO press release may be found on: www.open.gov.uk/nao/pn.htm)
ACE issued a statement immediately after publication of the report which
said nothing. Reactions in the press were very hostile to Gerry Robinson
(because of the resignations of the entire drama panel at the ACE) who
was not there when decisions on this took place. This also ignores the
slight complexities of the core problem of leverage.
On 24 May Arts Business carried a more pertinent editorial which read:
"The NAO has come out and said what many people have thought for
a long time...a number of the very largest projects (mainly those regarded
as being of 'national' significance) have still managed to go hopelessly
out of kilter, generating vast overspends, project delays and 'partnership
funding' under-achievements. [The] sheer level of capital available to
arts organisations during the first four years of the programme (around
£l billion), and more importantly, that already earmarked for the
next few years, is so vast in comparison with the total value of potential
partnership funding (i.e. 25%) which would need to be raised to lever
these sums, that further under-achievement in this area is not a 'risk'
as the NAO describes it, but a racing certainty. Government and the various
Arts Councils should acknowledge this once and for all, and start to fund
such capital projects outright on the basis of their strategic value - not
on the basis of the wishful thinking and guestimates of boards, managers
So the insistence on private sector funding is detrimental to these projects - there
is no need for it, nor can it be raised.
Yet two months later ABSA, the 'independent' national association
which promotes partnerships between the private sector and the arts, unreservedly
welcomed the DCMS spending review announced by Chris Smith, to develop
business support for the arts. The announcement included a commitment
to a private public Pairing Scheme and for ABSA to undertake specific
projects on behalf of the Department. Responsibility for funding the Pairing
Scheme will move from DCMS to the ACE, but responsibility for managing
the Pairing Scheme will remain with ABSA. But who had overall responsibility
within the ACE for monitoring lottery projects?
NESTA, the national endowment fund born out of the government changes
is run by two men Lord Puttnam the rather dull film maker and the lesser
known Jeremy Newton. They have been given £200m to play with.
"Chairman. Could you assure us that National Debt Commissioners,
of whom I have never heard before, is not another name for the Treasury?
(Mr Newton) No, I cannot.
It is actually the Treasury.
(Mr Newton) They are the Government's representatives in holding certain
types of investment on behalf of both the Government and public bodies.
I would need to check in more detail to give you absolute chapter and
verse on their identity.
We shall not force words out that are on the record. We shall go by nods
and winks and proceed.
(Mr Newton) You are very kind."
(House of Commons - Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of
Democracy in action! This conceals the fact that billions of Lottery money
is simply stashed away by the government:
"as at October 31 1998, the balance of funds in the NLDF sat at £3.6bn.
This money is held in Treasury bonds, where it serves no function other
than to reduce the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement for the government."
(The fifth year, Richard McGowan The Lottery Promotion Company 1998)
Back at that select committee we see the tight scrutiny that goes into
allocating precious resources.
"[Question] Would I be right in assuming that your financial relationship
with the National Lottery may well be ongoing in the sense that they may
give you another £200 million at some time, but that you are not
beholden to them, you do not have to answer to them, you are an independent
trust which has been set up to paddle your own canoe?
(Lord Puttnam) Very much so."
(House of Commons Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence
Just as with the Dome, because NESTA is a politically favoured project
one sees the casual way that £200m gets allocated to an untested
organisation while doubts remain as to whether it is a proper purpose
for Lottery funds to make up for failures in the capital market its board
are so enamoured of. NESTA was funded by tapping into money from the mid-week
draw. It was part of the government's NOF.
Puttnam described its purpose as making a few 'fat cats'. Newton
defined it as a merchant bank:
"One of the key things we do need to do and are beginning to do already
is to work in very close partnership precisely with that venture capital
industry. We are in very close conversation with... a number of the existing
elements of the venture capital industry....They are extremely excited
about working with NESTA to enable us to introduce to them new ideas,
ideas with venture capital potential and to act as a kind of research
and development arm for them. We have to make sure that we are not exploited
in doing that, but if we can make that trick work, then there is a valuable
bridging role that NESTA can play between the public sector driven research
world and the venture capital private sector world. That is what NESTA
is designed in some senses to do."
So they handed most of their first lot of money to The Wellcome Trust
which has an asset base of £13bn and an estimated expenditure in
1999/2000 of some £600 million, and is the world's largest research
charity. This after the 1998 £600m fund which was to transform the
scientific research environment within UK universities. The Joint Infrastructure
Fund (JIF) was set up by the DTI and the Wellcome Trust whose members
dominate the board. Prof. Ronald Amann is an influential member. (http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/en/1/awtprerela98n93.html)
Wellcome of course now commission 'art'. (Hey! who needs an
Arts Council...) Following the success of their 'sciart' awards
in 1997 and 1998, a consortium comprising the ACE, the British Council,
the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Scottish Arts Council and the
Wellcome Trust was formed in 1999 to continue the sciart initiative and
to extend its remit. The consortium is also sponsored by NESTA.
"The House of Commons select committee on science and technology
has recommended that [NESTA] must take risks in funding to succeed overall.
The committee said that the government should not scrutinise short term
operational cost efficiency, but look for its long term output and value
('Spin', Science Policy Information news, 2 August 1999, No.
If you're itching for a scratch card you may like to know that 20%
of 'their' money will go on staff. Jeremy Newton the NESTA Chief
Executive was technically appointed on 1 November 1998, although previously
he was 'the interim chief executive on secondment' with NESTA
for months while he simultaneously ran the Arts Lottery Fund at the ACE,
where he had worked since its inception shaping the direction of the fund.
With NESTA he "will work hard to avoid waste - and cut down on
red tape," he says.
To do this you could say Jeremy took the very first part of the ACE's
Lottery 'guidelines': "...the need to ensure that money
is distributed...for projects which promote the public good or charitable
purposes and which are not intended primarily for private gain..."
Decided that the stuff in between was unnecessary: so ditched it, and
then tagged on the bit at the very end which says: "The Council may
encourage applications of particular types...It may also draw the attention
of potential applicants to the existence of funds and the possibility
of an application being eligible for consideration. Such actions do not
Oh and that bit about private gain has also been snipped. And you get
a National Endowment. The government enquiry which castigated the ROH
fiasco found that:
"The lottery grant was a violation by the Arts Council of conditions
which the Council itself had set. (Para 36)"
Newton left the ACE just as the NAO report came out thus avoiding any
unnecessary questions and now gets £50,000 at NESTA. The rest are
on £75 a day if it is 'spent on NESTA business', a running
joke no doubt. The funds are unlimited: the £200m will give them
£10m every year. You don't have to be Carol Vorderman to work
out that's a lot of money but she's on the NESTA Committee anyway.
Well she's everywhere else. (http://www.go-ne.gov.uk/Corporate/Business_Support/NESTA.htm)
We will draw this to a close with a little story. When NESTA rolled into
town on a 'public consultancy' meeting, by invitation only and
behind locked doors. When we phoned up to request them, telling them who
we were, they said the meeting was full, sorry. We obtained tickets and
one of us went along to the meeting (which was empty of artists - not
even one film and video workshop had been invited) and afterwards asked
Puttnam why they were doing nothing for the visual arts. He had no answer
and mumbled that he'd have to speak to his press officer. He had
nothing to say either.