Labour's philistines come under attack

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The Independent Online
The philistinism of new Labour comes under savage attack from a Labour MP today, with Tony Blair depicted as the man who will be "tough on the arts, tough on the causes of arts". Anthony Bevins, Political Editor, reports a cry of dissent from the ranks.

Brian Sedgemore, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, will tell a Tate Gallery conference today that just as the Prime Minister believed in politics without conflict, he appeared to want art without subversion.

In a prepared text, he says: "New Labour wants art that is as pungent as processed cheese, as soul-searching as a conversation between Po, Laa- Laa, Dipsy and the other Teletubby, as original as Dolly the Sheep. As part of the politics of contentment, new Labour wants colours that do not clash, textures that do not distort, and shapes which Cubists would not understand.

"Turner in, conceptual art out, should hereinafter be the slogan that hangs outside the Tate. And please keep that painting which depicts Stanley Spencer's aching balls away from Tony's children. Surely there are less traumatic ways to express impotent love."

Mr Sedgemore, who claims more artists per square metre live in Hackney than anywhere else in the world, says: "The threat to fine arts institutions is that deep down new Labour, notwithstanding its sensitive, cultured secretary of state, Chris Smith, is every bit as philistine as Old Toryism."

"It doesn't want sensations or palm prints of Myra Hindley or visual satire which mocks the most powerful image in Western Christendom. I somehow can't see Harriet Harman sending out Christmas cards which have the mother of Jesus in the background tilling the fields around Bethlehem, with the son of God being looked after by a child-minder in the foreground."

But Mr Sedgemore becomes even more savage when dealing with the Stepford Wives - "that's those female new Labour MPs who've had the chip inserted into their brain to keep them on message, and who collectively put down women and children in the vote on lone parents' benefits. Few of them have shown any interest in culture."

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