The right Karen
The first thing to say about the new Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport is that she is not Karren Brady, the Tory peer and vice-chairman of West Ham Football Club. No, it’s Karen Bradley, the 46-year-old MP for Staffordshire Moorlands and at first sight not as well qualified for the job as her close namesake – until yesterday she was the Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime. So she was in the Prime Minister’s former fiefdom, the Home Office, and it smacks of being a leg-up for good and faithful service.
Maybe it is, but there might be more reason in it. A closer look at Mrs Bradley’s CV shows that her real expertise is not in confiscating knuckledusters but in fiscal management; she’s a chartered accountant. After graduating with a maths degree and before being elected in 2010 she worked for Deloitte & Touche and then KPMG as a tax number cruncher, and a number cruncher is just what the creative industries are going to need as they flounder in the smog of Brexit.
The creative industries may be worth £84 billion a year to our economy, but as the Creative Industries Federation never tires of pointing out, they’re actually outstripping even the feted financial services industry Bradley comes from without appreciable help from the government – while other countries have increased their support for the arts the UK has reduced it by 25% since 2007.
And they are worried. At June 24 the Fed had around 1,000 members, organisations and individuals coming together to make an authoritative network rom both private and public quarters to ensure growth against international competition, and since then it has grown by 20% with new members piling in to get advice on what on earth to do now. They are worried about free movement of artists, access to the single market, access to the capital funding that has been available from Europe, and to the digital single market, all seen as vital components to their potential success.
“Calm down, dear” the Fed is telling its fretting membership. If we do this right we could not merely survive, the creative sector might lead the country to unprecedented prosperity. This week it announced a new International Advisory Council to shine a light on what happens beyond the Continent, chaired by a once rising star of the Foreign Office, Tom Fletcher. He was the foreign affairs advisor to Blair, Brown and Cameron who as ambassador to Beirut until a year ago saw at close hand what a tough world it is beyond Europe. “The strongest economies” he said “will be those that prioritise their cultural institutions. This is the urgent and vital task ahead of us.”
For all the doubts about Boris Johnson’s suitability as foreign secretary, if anyone is likely to be an enthusiast champion of our cultural accomplishments it is him, and if the new culture secretary with her nimbleness with the figures could join with him to sweet talk the new chancellor, whose predecessor had got it, they might just persuade him that far from being in peril, our creative industries could just get us all out of this one.