My heart sinks every time a politician offers an opinion on the Arts, and today's no exception as I read Margaret Hodge's reported comments on the Proms. Whether she's talking about the whole season or just the Last Night is being debated in a surprisingly well mannered discussion on the Grauniad "blogs" ( normally a hotbed of hate and ignorance way off the image of Grauniad readers as woolly liberal mung bean munchers), and of course there are less literate discussions going on, as well as the odd person happy to hitch her remarks to their own Beeb-bashing.
Hodge's words are of course flimflam, that show no knowledge or love of the subject at hand but an addiction to meaningless soundbites (pretty much what you'd expect from this government). It's interesting how quickly Downing Street seems to have intervened to put the can on the story - Hodge was booked to appear on Radio 4's The World At One, but at the last minute "something came up", and so we had to put up with Nicholas Kenyon waffling away.
I'm certainly not going to suggest that there's nothing that needs to be improved about the Proms - there's plenty - but this sort of thing really isn't going to start a sensible or useful debate about that. Rather, it's a sop, the Proms being a lazy shorthand (because of course to most people, the Last Night is the Proms, and indeed all classical music) for a certain type of white middle class idea of "culture". The minister's ill-thought out half-ideas about "inclusivity" and this governments obsession with a "British national identity" is fuelled partly by the prime minister's determination to make us forget that he's Scottish, and partly by a hatred of anything that might emphasise individuality. Hodge's singling out of the Proms is meaningless; it's a lazy, convenient target rather than any cogent analysis of contemporary culture. The only thing more depressing is David "Dave" Cameron's equally fatuous response. Let us not forget that politicians of all hues are rarely genuinely interested in the Arts, and never, ever interested in anything other than the lowest common denominator.