Letter: Politics of art appreciation

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From Mr Gerard van Werson

Sir: Polly Toynbee's article "Politicians are the true philistines" (18 October) asserts that our

Royal Family usurps the place in our heritage that rightfully belongs to great architects, writers and artists. By contrast, politicians in countries with a republican tradition have used their national culture as a binding force to create a sense of nationhood.

Leaving aside the brilliant and extravagant patronage of Charles I, George III and George IV, it might be more accurate to maintain that the cult of the armed forces and the love of la gloire, allied with a fragile sense of civic liberalism, characterise the republican nature of government in France and Italy. Both countries have used their respective national cultures and their claims to linguistic superiority to justify insularity at home and dubious interventionism abroad.

The claim that "the Tories have never much liked the arts" does not account for the astonishing creation of domestic architecture and landscape gardening during the first half of the 18th century and continuing up to the present day. One can disapprove of Thatcherism, as I do, and doubt the accuracy of Ms Toynbee's claim that Mrs Thatcher is "profoundly uninterested" in the arts personally.

Yours faithfully,

Gerard van Werson

London, SW11

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