The exit of Maria Miller, former UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, over inflated expenses claims, and her replacement by Sajiv Javid, who becomes the first “the first Asian male Conservative cabinet minister,” as the BBC put it, could be seen as a positive signal for an embattled sector in British life. But both Miller and Javid’s post is immediately junior to that of the widely reviled Ed Vaizey, UK Minister for Culture, who has presided over systematic yet deniable neglect of the UK public libraries, apparently on ideological grounds.
Despite Javid’s highly politically correct credentials on ethnic grounds, besieged and aggrieved intellectuals and creatives in the UK could be due for a disappointment. This is the same Javid who, as Financial Secretary to the Treasury, declared in March that all recent appointments to the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) have been male, because “all appointments are made on merit.” And back in 2011, Javid buffed his cultural credentials by claiming that ticket touts “act like classic entrepreneurs, because they fill a gap in the market that they have identified.”
Children’s novelist and poet Michael Rosen has already posted a highly critical “Open letter to Sajid Javid, the new Culture Minister,” where he points out that: “It’s very difficult to see … how you’re qualified to do this new job at the Ministry of Culture.” Rosen continues: “This country is very ambivalent about ‘culture’. That’s to say, it’s very convenient for politicians to make loud noises about the importance of this or that big cultural figure – Shakespeare, Beethoven and the like – but very difficult for them to acknowledge or support the thousands of ways all of us create and consume culture.” And, he adds, “You’re an ex-banker who made millions during the fatal bubble of the early 21st century. You were at a bank that has been fined for rate-fixing. You know all about this kind of money. The fact that people like you got up to all sorts of greedy lending and fiddling is why we’re in the crisis. And yet the party you belong to keeps telling us that the reason why we’re in the crisis is because ‘we’ spent too much money on health, education, social services, benefits and – yes – culture.”
According to media in and around his constituency, Javid is an enthusiastic patron of the arts. May it be so.