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Labour manifesto and the arts

The arts and culture have a new prominence in the Labour manifesto

Perhaps it is a response to the Conservatives having taken the initiative on the arts in recent months; perhaps it is at last a recognition that being associated with culture isn't necessarily a byword for elitism; perhaps it is just a cynical recognition that while the arts may not be a vote winner, by ignoring them you provoke the ire of a small but extremely noisy arts lobby.

Whatever the reason, the arts and culture are prominent in the Labour manifesto to a quite unprecedented extent - at least as long as I have been reading Labour manifestos.

There may not be much in the way of surprises in the Communities and Creative Britain chapter of the manifesto, which was launched today. But what we do have is a handful of initiatives and policies: a biennial Festival of Britain to celebrate British achievements in the arts from 2013; a £10 theatre ticket scheme to be rolled out nationally to ape the National Theatre's Travelex £10 tickets; primary legislation for national museums so that their independence may be increased; and new incentives for philanthropy.

There is also an idea about reviewing the structure of English Heritage to put "mutual principles at the heart of its governance so that people can have a direct say over the protection and maintenance of Britain's built historical legacy". I'm not quite sure what this might mean (EH goes John Lewis? EH goes Restoration?) but it's intriguing – and in line with Labour thinking on, inter alia, pubs and football clubs). There is also a promise to "give public institutions new rights to borrow works of art from the national collection, so that more people can benefit from access to our national artistic heritage". Again, that's slightly mystifying. What are these public institutions? And what is the national art collection? Is it the contents of our national museums? The government art collection? The Arts Council collection?

We'll pick through the detail later. For the time being, though, I'm pretty amazed that culture gets such star billing – and not just as a branch of the "creative industries", but also as a contributor to the "common good" and as something that "stand[s] for more than material success". Is Labour getting just a little less wary of celebrating British arts and culture? © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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