UK Election: Which Political Party Should Get the Music Vote?

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the UK Labour Party, and Theresa May, Prime Minister.

UK Election: Which Political Party Should Get the Music Vote?

The Journal of Music looks at what the parties are promising for music and the arts.

While Brexit, the National Health Service and tax are the headline issues in the forthcoming UK election, the implications for music and the arts are significant. The main political battle in Britain is between the Conservatives and Labour.

Conservatives: Edinburgh concert hall and decentralisation
There is no mention of music in the Conservative manifesto. Neither is there any costings. The only music-related initiative is the development of a new concert hall for Edinburgh as this year is the 
70th Anniversary Year of the Edinburgh Festival.

The BBC, which is the most significant supporter of music in the United Kingdom, is mentioned just once, but in the context of the BBC World Service. As regards culture generally, under a section titled ‘Prosperous towns and cities across Britain’, the manifesto states:

Our towns and cities excel when they have vibrant cultural life. Britain’s arts and culture are world-beating and are at the heart of the regeneration of much of modern Britain. We will continue our strong support for the arts, and ensure more of that support is based outside London. 

The manifesto also states that the Conservatives will ‘introduce a new cultural development fund to use cultural investment to turn around communities’, and that they will hold a ‘Great Exhibition of the North’ in 2018 to celebrate achievements in innovation, the arts and engineering.


Labour: Creative Sector at the Heart of Negotiations
The Labour manifesto, which is costed, has a two-page section titled ‘Culture for All’. It includes a specific reference with regard to music venues:

Music venues play a vital role in supporting the music industry’s infrastructure and ensuring a healthy music industry continues in Britain. Labour will review extending the £1,000 pub relief business rates scheme to small music venues. And we will introduce an ‘agent of change’ principle in planning law, to ensure that new housing developments can coexist with existing music venues. 

More broadly, the section states that, ‘As Britain leaves the EU, [Labour] will put [the UK’s] world-class creative sector at the heart of… negotiations and future industrial strategy. We need to do more to open up the arts and creative industries to everyone.’

The manifesto continues with a commitment to a capital fund for the arts of €1 billion that will be administered by the Arts Council: 

We will introduce a £1 billion Cultural Capital Fund to upgrade our existing cultural and creative infrastructure to be ready for the digital age and invest in creative clusters across the country, based on a similar model to enterprise zones. Administered by the Arts Council, the fund will be available over a five-year period. It will be among the biggest arts infrastructure funds ever, transforming the country’s cultural landscape. 

Labour also commits to introducing an ‘arts pupil premium to every primary school in England – a £160 million annual per year boost for schools to invest in projects that will support cultural activities for schools over the longer term.’

We will put creativity back at the heart of the curriculum, reviewing the EBacc performance measure to make sure arts are not sidelined from secondary education.

Labour will similarly introduce ‘a creative careers advice campaign in schools to demonstrate the range of careers and opportunities available, and the skills required in the creative industries, from the tech sector to theatre production.’

‘Being a performer is a great career…’, the document continues, but ‘too often the culture of low or no pay means it isn’t an option for those without well-off families to support them.’

We will work with trade unions and employers to agree sector-specific advice and guidelines on pay and employment standards that will make the sector more accessible to all.

Regarding the BBC, in a section titled ‘Media’, the manifesto states that ‘The BBC is a national asset which we should all be proud of. … Labour will always support it and uphold its independence. We will ensure the BBC and public service broadcasting has a healthy future.’ 

Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats, which may be involved in a coalition if there is a hung parliament, state that:

Arts, media and sports are essential for personal fulfilment and quality of life… they are part of what turns a group of people into a community. Funding for these organisations is put at risk with Brexit and the Liberal Democrats will ensure that we continue to invest in our cultural capital. 

As part of their commitments, they say they will ‘protect sports and arts funding via the National Lottery’, ’protect the availability of arts and creative subjects in the curriculum and act to remove barriers to pupils studying these subjects’ and ‘examine the available funding and planning rules for live music venues and the grassroots music sector, protecting venues from further closures.’

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
There is no specific mention of music or the arts in the manifesto documents of Sinn Féin, DUP, SDLP, Scottish Nationalist Party or Plaid Cymru.

The Ulster Unionist Party manifesto introduction references ‘actors, artists, musicians’ as high achievers in Northern Ireland and states that the party will ‘Challenge the arts sector, creative industries, our universities, FE colleges, and business to co-design a 10-year strategy for excellence to future-proof our place as competitors on the world stage’.

For more on the election and the arts, listen below to a recent edition of BBC Radio 3’s Music MattersThe election takes place on 8 June.

Published on 31 May 2017

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