Leading article: The right art

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The Independent Online

It's tough being a Conservative culture minister. Essentially, your job is to rub along with people who are often awkward to start with, on top of which they frequently profess profound contempt for your politics while at the same time demanding your patronage. All credit to Ed Vaizey for being so upfront about this, and for cheerfully admitting to The Independent that at least one of the artists whose works decorate his ministerial office was "horrified" to discover where his painting had ended up.

Mr Vaizey is right to admit that the relationship between Tories and artists, as a genre, is often a difficult one. In recent decades art and Conservatism have not made natural bedfellows. They haven't done so since royal courts ceased to be great patrons.

Other Tory ministers can get round this problem, of course, enlivening their walls with the works of painters who, from the grave, cannot protest. But a culture minister must honour the living, not the dead, even if it means enduring their scorn. Mr Vaizey might draw comfort from some of the stickier relationships between patrons and artists in the past; Michelangelo's notorious rudeness to Pope Julius II comes to mind. Yet Julius put up with it. So, it seems, will Mr Vaizey.