New culture secretary has vast experience, no passion

New culture secretary has vast experience, no passion


norman lebrecht

May 11, 2015

David Cameron has named John Whittingdale as UK secretary for culture, media and sport.

As chair of the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee throughout the last Parliament, Whittingdale knows more about the business of culture than any politician in years, and he has demonstrated a healthy scepticism towards BBC, Arts Council and Culture Department bromides.

His appointment augurs well for those of us who believe failing arts officials should be held to account.

What it lacks is any hint of passion. Whittingdale is a dry stick.

john  whittingdale



  • John Borstlap says:

    The picture suggests that mr Whittingdale has just left a Stockhausen performance.

    • Rex Richards says:

      Either that, or he’s been told who’s taking over the Berlin Phil

    • Milka says:

      More likely than not he just heard a Borstlap work .

      • John Borstlap says:

        ….. yes and then told by his wife at his side: ‘Why couldn’t YOU do something like that instead of dabbling into useless management???’

    • Sir Peter Jonas says:

      Do not condemn him before he starts. Dry he may be but remember, he is a UCL educated economist and is not averse to the economics of change while really knowing his way around the internecine arts world (politically if not aesthetically) and, as I remember all too well, as Thatcher’s political secretary he did not stand in the way of her sending us (ENO as we all were then) to the Soviet Union on the historic and successful rapprochement tour in 1990 which cost the Government, Midland Bank and the British council and Gorbachev quite a few million (and the Arts Council not a penny!). In fact he was supportive. One thing is for sure: the current destructively impotent Arts Council apparatchiks will not be sleeping well in their beds tonight for it is their continued flatulent existence that holds the clue to whatever cost savings there might be had in the arts to the benefit of the regions, the grass roots and ENO’s further successes!

      • norman lebrecht says:

        Well said, Peter. He knows more about culture than the last five secs rolled together. ACE, DCMS and BBC need to watch out.

  • Halldor says:

    He also hates the poor and weak, listens to Andre Rieu and ears babies’ hearts for breakfast…I mean, that’s a given, surely?

  • Halldor says:

    “Eats”…sorry, still so traumatised by last Thursday night that I’m struggling to type.

  • Jayne says:

    Terrifying to see that he also recently voted against Equal Pay (Transparency) Bill and Same Sex Marriage legislation in recent years. Surely this is NOT the man we want securing the future of culture (and media and sport) in this country.


  • Mark Pemberton says:

    This is the man who, when I gave evidence to the Culture Select Committee, asked me in all seriousness why orchestras, as a cost-saving measure, couldn’t just play smaller symphonies.

    • Robert King says:

      I trust that your riposte was along the lines of “And whilst we are at it, let’s save even more money by having fewer MPs”…

  • Mark Doran says:

    And now, for your amusement, his *parliamentary voting record*:


    • CDH says:

      Wow. Not exactly what I would call a people person. Unless “people” in question are rich businessmen.

      He may manage to excise some rot from the Arts Council, but he is going to be hostile to subsidy. The principle of it. The Arts is going to need someone of Kenneth Tynan-like articulacy — and not gay and married — to take him on.