Andy Richardson: 'Cultural economy faces decimation'

While Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was busy being the Government’s daily fall guy as he returned from Spain, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden was busy signing the death warrant for many UK theatres.

The cultural economy has been the biggest fall guy of Covid-19 – even more so than Grant Shapps, Chris Grayling and Dominic Cummings. It faces decimation. Theatres rely on Christmas pantomimes, earning 25 per cent to 33 per cent of their annual income in a month.

The nation’s leading producers needed assurance by August 1 that pantos would take place. Without it, 70 per cent of theatres would close.

Mr Dowden duly obliged, telling them he’d get back to them in November. Great. Theatres are unable to operate on socially-distanced capacities, they make losses leading to insolvency. And now Mr Dowden has told them that they’ll effectively be expected to go a full year without any serious income, as a best-case scenario.

Trying to find a theatre that has benefited from his much-vaunted £1.5 billion arts package is like trying to find a smiling Grant Shapps holiday photo. The money hasn’t reached the people who need it – and for most it’s already too late.

Dr Richard Beeching is remembered as the man who closed our railways. Dowden could be remembered as the man who did the same for our theatres.

At a time when airlines face disaster and theatres are being pushed over the brink, it’s reassuring to know that Boris Johnson is finding new ways to fritter tax payers’ money.

Having splashed £900,000 on a paint job for his aeroplane, he was disappointed not to have reached the magic million. Time for another wheeze, this time a £100,000-a-year spin master who’ll lead press conferences that are his job to lead – great, more time with his pet dog Dilyn.

Johnson’s Presidential-style Premiership means Ministers can ignore pesky journalists who ask hard questions, talking over their heads to the public. Difficult Brighton vicars won’t be able to ask about Dom Cummings’ safaris to Barnard Castle, either.

At least Johnson will be out of the firing line. He’s been told off for misleading the nation over child poverty claims with the Office for Statistics Regulation confirming he used inaccurate figures. In a time of tumultuousness, it’s reassuring to know that some things don’t change.

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