It is time to get tough with the anti-business arts elite

Britain is a world leader and that makes the UK a magnet for tourists, as well as making London, alongside cities such as Manchester and Birmingham, global hubs for business and finance. We would all be poorer without it. Theatres, galleries and music venues have all been forced to close because of Covid-19. Already, 350,000 workers, about half the total, have been furloughed and, when freelancers are added in, the loss of work and income is probably even greater than that.

This isn’t their fault and until the scientists can agree it is safe for the buildings to open up again, there is not much that can be done about it. Rent still has to be paid, and premises maintained, and if teams are disbanded it will be hard to put them back together again.

And yet if there has to be a bailout, there should also be strings attached. In truth, the arts have become hooked on subsidy, and that has allowed an anti-business, anti-innovation, anti-market culture to take hold.

Sure, there are a few big businesses that are greedy and grasping, and there are private equity firms that strip assets and financially engineer the profits out of an industry. But there are many more major companies that are creating great new products, serving their customers, and paying staff and suppliers responsibly. Most entrepreneurs are trying to build something new and better, and the majority of small businesses are putting in incredibly long hours, and supporting their local communities, for relatively meagre rewards.

You would have to wait a long time to see any of that portrayed at your local theatre, independent cinema or art gallery. Business is always pitiless, companies vengeful and entrepreneurs, if they exist at all, deranged. Empathy, nuance and subtlety, the cornerstones of great art, fly straight out of the window when business is the subject.

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