What goes around remains the same

On  the 20 May 1999 the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee were looking into the Performing Right Society  and the abolition of the classical music subsidy. Jazz Services, the Association of British Jazz Musicians and English Folk Dance and Song Society had made written submissions to the enquiry led by Gerald Kaufman who was the Committee Chair.

The only reason that I am posting this is that little has changed in terms of the arguments for a level playing field for the funding of jazz, folk music and other under-represented musics. Myself, Julian Joseph, pianist and composer, Martin Frost, Chief Executive and Brenda Godrich  Chair, English Folk Dance and Song Society gave evidence and were  examined. There may have been a modest increase in the funding of jazz but there is still no policy for jazz or indeed music per se.

The evidence can be found here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199899/cmselect/cmcumeds/468/9052010.htm

Even after 16 years it makes interesting reading leaving you with an overwhelming sense of deja vu.

A point of view

On the 1st September 2010 I received an email canvassing for the party leadership from my MP,  Mr Virendra Sharma. It had been sent by one of his employees. I replied to the email with the following questions:

“How my e-mail address was obtained , especially in view of the data protection act. What is the protocol with regard to MPs using a parliamentary e-mail address to promote a political party’s candidate in a leadership contest which clearly has no relevance to the work of the Houses of Parliament.”

Needless to say a reply was not forthcoming so I wrote to  the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. The correspondence can be seen by going to the following link: https://www.parliament.uk/documents/pcfs/written-evidence/2010-11/rectified/sharma-hodgkins-090910.pdf

The irritating thing about all this is that MPs are happy to send their viewpoint  through to you but do not like to reply  to your point of view. This is just another example of the inability of politicians to listen to people. When the person happens to be a constituent and a member of the same political party it only serves to increase  irritation, denude trust and the notion of accountability.

No taxation without representation

Extensive coverage in The Observer, 25th September 2016, of the Labour Party leadership and the debate over who should elect the shadow cabinet. It seems that a number of people have failed to grasp a few simple facts.

At the last general election 232 Labour MPs were elected with 9,347,304 votes that was 30.4% of the turnout. The total number of members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters of the Labour Party is 506,438 which equates to just 5.4% the 9 million people who voted for Labour. It is also worth noting that of Labour Party membership only 56% are fully paid up members. MPs salaries are paid for by the tax payer not by members of the Labour Party.

For real democracy to prevail the 9 million people who voted for Labour MPs should have their MPs decide on the election of the Labour shadow cabinet. Clause 14 of the 1215 Magna Carta promulgated the idea of no taxation without representation,

Radio 3 locked in the past and they have lost the key

Charlotte Higgins ran an article in the Guardian on the 24th September 2016,  saying that after 70 years Radio 3 needs a rethink . The rethink, whereby composers would be  put in charge, reminded me of a rearguard heroically defending a lost cause.

The BBC gave us the iplayer internet streaming catchup service and yet is bounded by the rationality of yesterday. For example, it could devolve Radios 1, 2 and 6 to its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide. Radio 4 could be retained and  Radio 3 reconfigured into a digital platform for jazz, folk, world music, classical music and opera. The BBC could also assist fledgling online radio stations in delivering the widest range of music and serving every niche and genre.

A multigenre channel could be developed, called something like BBC Music Live to ensure that cultural assets such as the BBC orchestras and live music output were retained and enhanced with the opportunity for new work of all kinds. A prime  example is the Proms which should be a vibrant reflection of the diversity of the UK music scene instead (bar a few cosmetic changes) being locked in the past.

 

The Labour Party leadership contest – “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”

 

“Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” is an American popular song  with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Ted Koehler. Cab Calloway first recorded it in 1931. The Boswell Sisters recorded the song with The Dorsey Brothers in 1932. Frank Sinatra also recorded the song in 1959. Ella Fitzgerald recorded it for her 1961 Verve album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook. Thelonious Monk plays it on his 1967 album, Straight, No Chaser and George Harrison recorded it on his  final album  “Brainwashed”. This popular song would make a fitting soundtrack to the current leadership contest.

I received Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign literature and  I  hit the reply button and the address that popped up was Owen Smith’s campaign address. Bizarre to say the least. This was the reason I included Owen Smith in my email to Jeremy Corbyn.

Dear Mr Corbyn

Regrettably your campaign seems unable to answer my questions I  sent to you by email and post. Now you are seeking my views. Here they are; although if you run true to form you will pay no heed as your campaign team appear unable to process the correspondence:

As a Labour Party member for over thirty years, what I want  from yourself and Owen Smith  is a rigorously costed, prioritised, concrete action programme with the detail of the wherewithal to finance the delivery of your pledges. I expect to see as a matter of priority a programme of re-industrialisation – for the avoidance of doubt, I am not talking about infrastructure projects but rebuilding a strong manufacturing base with a trained work force, a strong, well funded research and development policy – and an end to the housing scandal that has been ignored by politicians of every stripe for some years.

I expect the Parliamentary Labour Party to stand behind whoever wins the leadership election. The unpalatable truth is that no matter who wins the leadership election they will lose the next general election as they conveniently  forget that positioning in the minds of Labour Party members is one thing  but positioning a credible manifesto in the minds of the electorate is another. I then trust that a caretaker leader will be elected whose task is to ensure there is a leadership election with a slate of credible candidates – including female and diverse candidates – who have substantial hinterland and will provide this member with real choice.

In terms of gender and diversity the Labour Party is strong on bombast and  magniloquence but well short on action.  I recently made a Freedom of Information enquiry on special advisers. I was informed that special advisers are recruited as temporary civil servants. Special advisers are personal appointments made by Ministers under the Constitutional Reform and Government Act 2010 and are exempt from the requirement to be appointed through fair and open competition. No information on the pay, appointment, gender or ethnicity of special advisers is held by Government. However contrary to this reply the Cabinet Office published Special adviser numbers and costs for December 2015.The estimated pay bill for 2015/16 is £8.4 Million. Opposition parties, to which the same non-rules apply, are entitled to £7.1 million from Short Money allocations for 2015/16.

A total of £15.1 million pounds will have been spent on unelected “personal” appointments that fly in the face of the Equality Act 2010.

If you and Owen Smith, a political adviser to Paul Murphy the former Northern Ireland secretary, wants to ensure gender equality and diversity then you should both ensure special advisers are appointed through open and fair competition and that becoming a special adviser is not a tawdry, backdoor  into the House of Commons.

The political establishment is bounded by the rationality of the past. The first past the system is now an anachronism. Labour is  entrenched in its old ways. The Conservatives foisted on the nation a needless referendum and will be hard put to extricate themselves from the mess of their own making. Add to this a growing number of politicians on all sides who have slid into politics via public relations, as special advisers, short lived media jobs and think- tanks. Few of them appear to have got their hands dirty working in manufacturing, agriculture, services or not for profit work. This lack of “real” world experience and an informed view of how people live has created an electorate that is disenchanted and alienated by a political system which has failed the country and the electorate.

The solution is reform. A federal system for England that gives regions a strong voice; replace the House of Lords with an elected Second Chamber, the “first past the post system” replaced with proportional representation, public funding of political parties. Compulsory voting where every citizen has to vote even if it is to register an abstention. Different ways of electing parliamentary candidates that bypasses the sclerotic party machinery, for example, Sara Wollaston was elected MP for Totnes in May 2010 after winning the UK’s first American-style primary election open to every voter in Totnes for the conservative candidacy.

With regard to voting for a leader of the Labour Party, I voted for Owen Smith, marginally the best of the two appallingly weak candidates.  The reason for my vote is the utter lack of leadership that is the hall mark of the current Parliamentary Labour Party and the Party at large. With the charge of the light Brigade they at least knew in which direction they were heading.

cc Owen Smith

This will come as no surprise but no reply was received from Jeremy Corbyn. However Owen Smiths campaign team did reply.

A UK political reformation is needed

The Observer leader and other commentators on Brexit (3.7.16) like the political establishment are bounded by the rationality of the past. The first past the system is now an anachronism. Labour is entrenched in its old ways. The Conservatives foisted on the nation a needless referendum and will be hard put to extricate themselves from the mess of their own making. Add to this a growing number of politicians on all sides who have slid into politics via public relations, as special advisers, short lived media jobs and think- tanks. Few of them appear to have got their hands dirty working in manufacturing, agriculture, services or not for profit work. This lack of “real” world experience and an informed view of how people live has created an electorate that is disenchanted and alienated by a political system which has failed the country and the electorate.

The solution is reform. A federal system for England that gives regions a strong voice; replace the House of Lords with an elected Second Chamber, the “first past the post system” replaced with proportional representation, public funding of political parties. Compulsory voting where every citizen has to vote even if it is to register an abstention. Different ways of electing parliamentary candidates that bypasses the sclerotic party machinery, for example, Sara Wollaston was elected MP for Totnes in May 2010 after winning the UK’s first American-style primary election open to every voter in Totnes for the conservative candidacy.

The malaise and its treatment rests entirely with the politicians to provide political reform where it counts; at the ballot box.

Loose talk could ruin the Labour Party

Owen Smith in the recent Labour Party Leadership, has like the child who cried wolf too often, been talking about a split in the Labours Party.

As a Labour Party member for over thirty years the antics of Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn have led to a “head in the hands moment.” What I want to see from both candidates is a costed, prioritised, concrete action programme with the detail of the wherewithal to finance the delivery of their pledges. I expect to see as a matter of priority a programme of re-industrialisation and an end to the housing scandal that has been ignored by politicians of every stripe for some years. Back in 2012 the stock of buy to let housing accounted for 12.5% of the total market of 11.2 million mortgages worth £1.2 trillion.

Owen Smith should desist from his scaremongering that the Labour Party will “bust apart and disappear”. I expect the Parliamentary Labour Party to stand behind whoever wins the leadership election. The unpalatable truth is that who ever wins the leadership election will lose the next general election as they conveniently forget that positioning in the minds of Labour Party members is one thing and but positioning a credible manifesto in the minds of the electorate is another. I trust that the leader of the Labour Party after the next general election will remain in post and ensure there is a leadership election with a slate of credible candidates – including female and diverse candidates – who have substantial hinterland and will provide this member with real choice.

Special advisers – “Nice work if you can get it”

It was recently reported in the press – 16th July 2016 that Cameron overruled Whitehall to boost aides’ pay-outs to £1 million and an encore  for top players in Prime Minister’ s Home Office team.

I recently made a Freedom of Information enquiry on special advisers. I was informed that special advisers are recruited as temporary civil servants. As special advisers are personal appointments made by Ministers under the Constitutional Reform and Government Act 2010 they are exempt from the requirement to be appointed through fair and open competition. Also no information on the pay, appointment, gender or ethnicity of special advisers is held by Government. However contrary to the reply I received the Cabinet Office published Special adviser data releases: numbers and costs for December 2015. The special adviser pay bill for the Cameron Government for 2014/15 was £9.2 million, excluding the cost of severance, which was £1.9 million (net of repayments from special advisers who were reappointed in May 2015. The estimated pay bill for 2015/16 is £8.4 Million. Opposition parties are entitled to £7.1 million from Short Money allocations for 2015/16.

A total of £15.1 million pounds will have been spent on unelected “personal” appointments that fly in the face of the Equality Act 2010.

Many of these special advisers on all sides slide into Parliament as MPs. It should come as no surprise that this egregious behaviour has helped create an electorate that is disenchanted and alienated by the current political system.

The media and the political establishment stuck fast in the same rut

Much of the media like the political establishment are bounded by the rationality of the past. The first past the post system is now an anachronism. Labour is entrenched in its old ways. The Conservatives foisted on the nation a needless referendum and will be hard put to extricate themselves from the mess of their own making. Add to this a growing number of politicians on all sides who have slid into politics via public relations, as special advisers, short lived media jobs and think- tanks. Few of them appear to have got their hands dirty working in manufacturing, agriculture, services or not for profit work. This lack of “real” world experience and an informed view of how people live has created an electorate that is disenchanted and alienated by a political system which has failed the country and the electorate.

The solution is reform. A federal system for England that gives regions a strong voice; replace the House of Lords with an elected Second Chamber, the “first past the post system” replaced with  proportional representation, public funding of political parties. Compulsory voting where every citizen has to vote even if it is to register an abstention. Different ways of electing parliamentary candidates that bypasses the sclerotic party machinery, for example, Sara Wollaston was elected MP for Totnes in May 2010 after winning the UK’s first American-style primary election open to every voter in Totnes for the conservative candidacy.

The malaise and its treatment rests entirely with the politicians to provide political reform where it counts; at the ballot box.

Response to the Culture White Paper

 

On the 2nd April I wrote to the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport. My letter is printed below.

“Dear Mr Whittingdale

Re: The Culture White Paper

I read the Culture White Paper and I have a number of comments that I trust you will find helpful. Perhaps it might help to explain my background to put my comments in context. I am currently a jazz musician, composer, band leader, record producer, and broadcaster. Until my retirement in May 2014 I was the Director of Jazz Services the national organisation funded by Arts Council England for 29 years. My details can be found at www.chrishodgkins.co.uk

1 I was disappointed to see that in the list of consultees there was no representation from jazz organisations, folk music organisations or Brass Band England all of whom are funded by Arts Council England. Also from the list of consultees no consultation with the Musicians’ Union or Equity.

2 In 2015 I published a paper on public investment of jazz. I enclosed a revised paper, Public Investment in Jazz.  In summary the paper deals with a number of issues pertinent to the lack of funding of jazz by the funding system and covers the following topics:

  • A level playing field for jazz
  • The paucity of public funding for jazz
  • The lack of a coherent policy for jazz and music in the UK
  • The education sector and the supply of jazz musicians and live music
  • Keep music live

3 To summarise the position as succinctly as possible here is my letter to the Guardian 20th February 2016

Darren Henley’s article, “The ENO must evolve for its own sake” (17.02.16) is disingenuous and highlights the problem with the Arts Council and arts funding; a lack of an art form policy that holds the organisation to account for its funding decisions. Before the last funding round in 2015 the Arts Council conducted a comprehensive review of ENO resulting in a £5 million cut in its funding from £17 million to £12 million, but ENO was offered an inducement of £7.6 million to help in the transition of its business plan. In 2015 ENO was awarded National Portfolio Status judged against strict criteria, two of which were an effective business plan and sound governance. Shortly after passing these tests ENO was put into “special measures”. Darren Henley seems to think in this age of harsh austerity two opera houses cheek by jowl in London is fine; this all demonstrates that it is the Arts Council that lacks credible ideas. The Royal Opera House has absorbed vast amounts of lottery and revenue funding and is ripe for privatisation. It is time that the Arts Council is replaced with a leaner, innovative organisation that can deliver a policy for the arts that ensures equitable distribution of public funds across regions and art forms.

I trust that these points will be take into account and the under representation in terms of public funding for jazz, folk music and brass bands is addressed in any legislation arising from the Culture White Paper.”

Please click on Public Investment in Jazz  to read the revised paper