The Spectator

Letters: arts funding is in good hands

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Culture clash

Sir: Rosie Millard doesn’t like the current Arts Council England (ACE) strategy (Arts, 18 November). She quotes the experience of two organisations, ENO and the Fitzwilliam Museum, ‘who did not get their regular grant’ and who have fallen ‘out of favour’. It is often forgotten that no arts company is guaranteed funding beyond the agreed three-year period. All trustees know this and plan for different outcomes. ACE funds a broad range of organisations across the country. A few facts may help reassure that this strand of arts funding is in good hands. DCMS negotiated an increase in funding for ACE in the last round. ACE received a record number of applications last year and funded an equally record figure, almost a thousand, around the country. Of course, some applicants were unsuccessful, but almost 300 were funded for the first time, like the Foundling Museum and Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery. Some, like the outstanding Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, saw their grant increase.

Lord Mendoza

Former Commissioner of Culture, DCMS, 2020-2023

Trust them to ignore you

Sir: Trevor Standen (Letters, 18 November) expresses the hope that the National Trust will take account of the 60,000 or so members who voted to abolish the so-called Quick Vote with which the Trust gerrymanders the results of elections and motions. I wouldn’t be optimistic about this, as the Trust is in the habit of ignoring such expressions of members’ opinions, and in the aftermath of the recent AGM issued triumphalist statements celebrating its successes in the votes. Moreover, it encourages the fiction that those who vote against it are part of a right-wing conspiracy. There is absolutely no doubt that the Trust does not want anyone on its council who might dissent from its groupthink, as the rejection of the candidacy of the distinguished but free-thinking former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption amply demonstrates.

Roger White

Sherborne, Dorset

Inspirational leaders

Sir: It occurred to me that the ‘narrative arc’ of Conservative and Labour eras of government resembles that of the Apple iPhone (‘Back to the future’, 18 November). They start with a charismatic leader with vision (Jobs/Thatcher/Blair/Johnson) getting ambitious and original projects off the ground (GPS phone navigation/union control/Cool Britannia/Brexit) and seem to go from strength to strength until the charismatic leader overstretches (or dies) and is replaced by a boring administrator (Tim Cook/John Major/Gordon Brown/Rishi Sunak et al). The dynamic sweeping changes peter out into marginal incremental and often meaningless improvements.

Thus, for example, the massive early achievements of being able to send emails on the move with the iPhone 1 or Thatcher’s 1980s City Big Bang cannot be compared to the launch of animated emojis or legislation to control pedicabs. The country could benefit from a new political version of Steve Jobs and the Labour party certainly isn’t putting one forward. We nearly had one with Liz Truss but let’s not forget that even Jobs was sacked from Apple in ignominy before he returned in triumph.

Roger Peacock

Old Buckenham, Norfolk

Electoral fruit

Sir: Rod Liddle is absolutely correct in calling out Tobias Ellwood for his claim that the Conservatives never win elections if perceived as being too right-wing (‘The Establishment wins again’, 18 November). Mr Ellwood and much of the Tory high command fail to grasp that the reason they are destined for a heavy defeat at the next general election is not because they might be judged as being too right-wing but because vast numbers of people who voted for them last time round now think they’ve gone too far left. On matters such as immigration, multiculturalism, crime and policing, net zero, tax, the EU, they have failed miserably. The centre ground has also moved further left in recent years, and the Tory party, in its scramble to stay close to it, seems to have forgotten its raison d’être.

There is however a fertile area which Mrs Thatcher knew well where they can rediscover their true identity. It is called the populist ground. Mr Ellwood might need to hold his nose to set foot on it but it is there that the electoral fruit the Conservatives have forgotten to harvest will be found.

Joss Walker

Pembury, Kent

New coronet

Sir: It was fortunate that Lord Roberts of Belgravia did not need a coronet along with the venerable robes lent to him by the Ukip peer Lord Willoughby de Broke for the State Opening of Parliament (Notes, 11 November). They would have been ill-matched. The de Broke family’s ancestral coronet was in 1852 ‘placed on a shelf in the family vault on a coffin covered with red velvet studded with brass nails’ containing the mortal remains of the 16th Baron. The 19th Baron was not pleased to have ‘to go to the expense of a new coronet’ for George V’s coronation in 1911, exactly 420 years after the creation of his title.

Alistair Lexden,

House of Lords, London SW1A

Taking charge

Sir: Matthew Parris’s article about the long delay he suffered due to a passenger whose train ticket couldn’t be accessed on a dead phone was a valuable and topical one – but not for the reason stated in the headline (‘You can’t trust the will of the people’, 18 November). I feel the point was less to do with whether the public can be trusted with complex policy, rather it was a powerfully eloquent argument in favour of retaining train station ticket offices. A half-hour of squabble and police involvement could have been avoided if the miscreant traveller hadn’t relied on his phone and had just brought a printed ticket.

Robert Frazer

Salford, Lancs