The chancellor of the exchequer caused uproar for his vague remarks about what people working in the arts should do as the industry struggles amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I can't pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job that they were doing at the beginning of this crisis,” he said.
”That's why we've put a lot of resource into trying to create new opportunities.”
He told ITV News that the government is “trying to do everything we can to protect as many jobs as possible” but admitted unemployment was “likely to increase”.
Asked whether he was suggesting some of the UK's “fabulous musicians and artists and actors” should get another job, Sunak said “as in all walks of life everyone's having to adapt”.
“Can things happen in exactly the way they did? No. But everyone is having to find ways to adapt and adjust to the new reality,” he said.
The ITV article was later updated to state: “This article has changed to reflect that the Chancellor's comments were about employment generally and not specifically about the music or arts sector.”
However, Sunak’s comments still caused anger from those working in the struggling arts sector.
“There you have it. Govt throws culture - an area where the U.K. has real global influence - under the bus,” tweeted Labour MP Pat McFadden.
Musician and political activist Jermain Jackman echoed his comments, writing: “This Conservative Government has just thrown, not just musicians but every single person that works in the creative industry, under the bus.”
Blur drummer and Labour councillor Dave Rowntree tweeted: “What a stupid thing to say. The ‘arts’ earn over £100bn for the UK each year. £13 million an hour. It’s one area where we really are world beating.”
“Nothing changes. Haha. F*** you too then,” said post-punk band Sleaford Mods in a typically succinct tweet.
Liam Gallagher posted his own expletive-filled rant, writing: “So the dopes in gov telling musicians and people in arts to retrain and get another job what and become massive c***s like you nah yer alright c’mon you know LG x.”
He added: “This country would be beyond w*** if it wasn’t for the arts and the music and football show a bit of respect you little TURD cmon you know LG x.”
TV presenter Sue Perkins wrote: “The arts contributes in the region of 10 billion a year to our economy. The people who work in it have already trained long and hard, thank you. This is shameful.”
Solo artist and Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess suggested: “Maybe some MPs should retrain, as they aren’t really doing their job anyway.”
“Without the arts, our lives are impoverished. This is nuts,” said Scottish author Ian Rankin.
Architects frontman Sam Carter wrote: “Hey Rishi F*** off! yours sincerely the entire music industry.”
Writer and journalist Dawn Foster said: “Absolutely spiteful, ruinous stuff from Rishi Sunak. He’s been endlessly trying to avoid a promised rescue deal for theatres and performers. It’ll be working class, BME, and disabled people pushed out of the arts, but also priced out of seeing performances.”
“I suggest Rishi shoves my records up his arse!” said musician Badly Drawn Boy.
During the interview, Sunak pointed to the government’s £1.5bn “cultural recovery programme” for the arts sector, which was announced three months ago, and added that self-employed arts workers have also been eligible for wage support this year.
He adds that the “Kickstart” scheme will help younger people find new opportunities, and cited a move to putting arts and theatre lessons online.
However, many in the culture sector feel the industry has been largely left to fend for itself. Over the past six months, several popular independent music venues have been forced to close, while other arts venues have launched fundraises in a desperate bid to stay afloat amid the pandemic.
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