More British politicans than you’d think at the opera

More British politicans than you’d think at the opera


norman lebrecht

July 31, 2015

The Guardian today runs what must be the 30th article we have seen about the failure of UK leaders to take an interest in culture. (I may have written three or four of them myself).

The Guardian’s premise is that we presently have the most philistine government in modern times.

Unfortunately, that’s untrue. It so happens that both the chancellor of the exchequer and the justice minister, George Osborne and Michael Gove, were seen at Wagner’s Ring this summer.

Not at Bayreuth (the last UK cabinet member seen there was probably Lord Young).

A Tory minister pays for his own tickets to Wagner’s Ring at unsbsidised Longborough.


thielemann merkel


  • Mike says:

    Yup – I remember the story of Gove, Osborne and a LibDem colleague going to Covent Garden to ‘endure’ The Ring, but it was last year, I seem to remember. What I definitely remember about the story was that all three apparently blagged freebie tickets off the management.
    Well – at least they could not then be accused of charging the tickets to their MP expenses…

    • Anon says:

      And any sensible management would be keen to give tickets to senior politicians. Who knows who will find themselves running ACE or other grant-giving bodies in a few years time? Keeping the right people happy to ensure the funding continues to come in is the job of management at such institutions; no real story here.

  • DESR says:

    No Ring at Longborough this year – just Tristan und Isolde.

    Gove has certainly been spotted at Bayreuth.

  • Stephen says:

    Cameron’s favourite among his Desert Island discs was Bennie Hill’s “Ernie, the Fastest milkman in the West”. (The other choices were quite as low.)

    • RW says:

      The late Terry Pratchett put it rather well: “…It was always a considerable annoyance to any Disc citizen with pretensions to culture that they were ruled by gods whose idea of an uplifting artistic experience was a musical doorbell ”
      On Earth as it is in Discworld…

    • Anon says:

      Yeah, but most likely a naive and misguided attempt to show popular, rather than cultured, taste. DC has been spotted slipping in and out of ROH unobtrusively; no big deal. I’m glad that there are politicians who seem to enjoy the same areas of the arts as we do.

      • Halldor says:

        David Cameron is actually an official Patron of the (rather good) Bampton Opera.

      • Anne says:

        I just wish he had the courage and the integrity to admit it.

        • CDH says:

          Tony Blair’s mouthpiece, Alastair Campbell, famously said “we don’t do God.” Politicians seem to want to avoid appearing connected to anything “higher”!

          What a long way we have come since the Kennedy White House was a magnet for the best artists and thinkers in America and from around the world, since the government of the day worked through the Blitz to keep London Theatres, including Sadler’s Wells Ballet, open to keep morale high, since poets were household names, since you could turn on the radio and get classical music…

          The message they give these days to politicians seeking selection is “anybody cultured or thoughtful need not apply.”

  • Peter Freeman says:

    There seems little difference of principle, Anon, between politicians begging freebies from taxpayer-subsidised arts bodies and adding the cost to their expenses. The outcome is the same; only the method differs.

  • PTR says:

    Other Wagnerian pols I’ve seen around include Michael Portillo, Tessa Jowell and Michael Meadowcroft. (The latter was sitting behind me at a Wagner gala with John Tomlinson and Anne Evans, near his old constituency in Leeds some years ago.)

    I don’t think any of them would have regarded Wagner (or any other form of high culture) as an electoral asset though. It seems obligatory at least to pretend to an interest in pop culture. (To be fair Gordon Brown, like Harold Wilson, was a genuine football fan, unlike Cameron and Blair.)

  • Una says:

    The only opera most of our politicians know about is the one that goes on daily in Canary Wharf with the bankers!