A CULTURE secretary from the Treasury – it is what John Maynard Keynes, the founder of the Arts Council, would have wanted.
That hasn’t been the mainstream reaction: Sajid Javid, newly-appointed to the Cabinet in the wake of Maria Miller’s departure, has been given a cool reception from arts quarters. A former banker, an economic policy wonk with no special interest in matters aesthetic – what sort of an ambassador for Britain’s culture is this?
Keynes saw it rather differently. The Arts Council began as an arm of the Treasury, at his request. The idea was simple: if you were going to do something as controversial as involve the state in funding art, the last thing you wanted was politicians getting involved. A corner of the Treasury was, he felt, just out of the way enough to prevent official interference. Politicians were qualified to distribute arts funding only if they could be trusted not to get involved.