Sir: Polly Toynbee has got it wrong! Referring to Jenny Lee, she writes: "by the Seventies, Labour had lost that vision of high art for everyone" ("Politicians are the true philistines", 18 October). I was Shadow Minister for the Arts from 1970-73 but she will find in none of my frequent questions or too infrequent debates "a mindless lefty view of art-for-the-people". I strongly supported a wider availability of the high arts and was never "tempted by the sirens of cheap populism". I was, however, sacked by Harold Wilson in 1973 for quipping in support of the Palestinians, in a Foreign Affairs debate, that it was time MPs on both sides of the House resolved whether they were "Members of the House of Commons or Members of the Knesset". At the time, it seemed sage and amusing advice.
I was not responsible for the arts in the mid-Seventies but, in my second stint as arts spokesman, 1979-82, I pursued the loftier aspirations of the high arts until I was sacked by Michael Foot for my opposition to the Malvinas exercise. Unfortunately, there will be no third chance to serve as (according to Lord St John of Fawsley) "the best Arts Minister we never had!"
MP for Warley East (Lab)
House of Commons
19 OctoberReuse content