Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

April 12 2010

A tale of two covers

Soviet chic and austere hymn book – the looks Labour and Conservatives have picked for their manifestos

The Tories and Labour are both clearly on a mission. Their rival manifestoes look uncomfortably, or comically, all too much like religious documents for the comfort of Britain's largely agnostic electorate.

The Tories' starchy blue "Invitation to Join the Government of Britain" reminds me of a book of trusty, well-established hymns. One can easily imagine I Vow to Thee my Country alongside Blake's Jerusalem, which both parties have adopted for their own faux-mystical ends even though the dissident poet would have hated this double misunderstanding of his plea for a world free for untrammelled spirits.

And, yet, if the Tory manifesto is more or less par for the course, although a bit too leftish in its message for the old party faithful (who wants riff-raff joining in the governance of these "sceptr'd isles"?), the Labour manifesto is decidedly, even feverishly and messianically so. From one perspective, this cover calls to mind illustrations found in The Watchtower, the Jehovah Witness house journal, in which perfect 1950s-style families picnic in Elysium fields surrounded by lions and lambs happily lying down with one another.

It's hard, though, not to get the feeling that both parties are sending themselves up. Labour's image of a heroic Soviet-style family, circa 1950, seems to be an in-house joke by someone who enjoys Private Eye's lampoon of Gordon Brown as the Supreme Leader of a half-cock, Soviet-style state. The cover of the Labour manifesto looks for all the world like a kind of run-of-the-socialist-mill poster, promising loyal workers, fecund farms, all-year sunshine and cities that appear like New Jerusalems over far hills crowned with a nationalised halo.

Manifestos tend to be deeply boring, if unintentionally comic, documents, especially this year when the parties have converged more than they are willing to admit to the electorate. The plain blue wrapper of the Tory manifesto might look very different at first glance from its colourful Soviet-chic Labour counterpart, yet at heart these are two parish magazines, or songs of praise, trying – a little too hard – to persuade us of the righteousness of two unholy political parties. In brief, both are very funny indeed, and even funnier taken as a pair. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.
No Soup for you

Don't be the product, buy the product!

YES, I want to SOUP ●UP for ...