No. 10 A Second Open Letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer
Rt Hon Rishi Sunak
Chancellor of the Exchequer
11 Downing Street
As this is my second missive to you, I’m assuming we can now be on a first name basis (even though I never actually sent the first missive). And because of your (fantasized) rhapsodically supportive reply, (I am similarly fantasizing that) we shall sally forth, Best Allies for Life, and re-establish music’s rightful place as a central and non-fungible force for individual and social healing.
As I’m sure you know, when Winston Churchill was asked to cut funding in favor of the war effort, he replied, 'Then what are we fighting for?'
Mr. Williamson did not think through the cost to social cohesion and Gross National Happiness....
But we have work to do! A consultation by the Office for Students and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson suggested halving the amount spent on ‘high cost’ higher education arts subjects in England because of his belief they were not ‘strategic priorities’. This is most dismaying for several reasons:
while positing a ‘cost savings’, Mr Williamson did not think through the individual and collective cost to social cohesion and Gross National Happiness by such a draconian truncation of an established individual and social healing modality;
as pointed out by UK musician and radio presenter Jarvis Cocker, the pre-existent disparity within the UK between those that can afford training and education in the arts will be severely exacerbated;
Mr. Williamson failed to affirmatively specify either what constituted primary "strategic priorit(ies)" in education or the logic of what would establish them, apart from his conclusion that music and art education were not among them.
Having clearly cast Mr Churchill aside, perhaps Mr.Williamson found a mentor, if not patron saint in Betsy DeVos, former Secretary of Education of the United States under Mr Trump. For example:
when questioned by reporter Lesley Stahl about her repeal of Obama administration guidelines for colleges dealing with reports of sexual assaults, she was quite clear her concern was for men falsely accused of such assaults. Damned be the victims of sexual assault! Damned be the victims of the government-sponsored purloining of healing modalities – poor people whose access to the arts will be taken away;
Ms DeVos unsuccessfully attempted to cut federal funding for the Special Olympics from her department's budget, no less than three times during her tenure as Secretary of Education. Mr Williamson similarly is attempting to deprive those most in need. Damned be those that, through no fault of their own suffer from intellectual or physical disability;
Ms. DeVos also opined that the presence of guns was appropriate in elementary schools because of the presence of grizzly bears. I was surprised not by her endorsement of the presence of guns in close contiguity to toddlers, but by her not siding with the grizzly bears. The parallel to Mr Williamson’s might be a bit tenuous – but, in contrast to Mr Williamson, Ms DeVos was clear and unabashed in her statement that defense against grizzly bears to the point of the utilization of firearms in an elementary school classroom was a ‘strategic priority.’
Please know of my gratitude for your financial help to self-employed writers, artists and musicians
So, Rishi, although we will be sitting on the opposite sides of the stadium for those wonderful Oxford-Cambridge football matches, I'd like to think we sit on the same side of the proverbial stadium in monitoring – and ultimately delimiting – the degree to which music and art are no longer considered ‘strategic priorities.'
Thank you ever so for your ( again, highly fantasized) invitation to meet you at Claridge’s next Thursday at 4 pm for high tea. Please know of my gratitude for your financial help to self-employed writers, artists and musicians thus far. And I look forward to hearing how the remaining part of the £2 billion that you had promised is to be deployed.
I do realize that the resulting decisions will be difficult. I stand at the ready to offer suggestions.
With kind regards as always,