14th September 2015
Jeremy Corbyn’s appointment as Labour leader will be positive for the arts, figures in the trade have said, while warning the party must stick together to form a strong opposition.
Corbyn was appointed as the new Labour leader on Saturday (12th September) with 59% of the vote. Before his election he said that investing in the arts and culture was "central" to creating a better society.
Author Matt Haig told The Bookseller: “His appointment is good for the arts, so it is good for libraries and bookshops. I like his approach –he said the arts are vital to health, so he gets it. We haven’t had people in power, whether that’s Labour or Convervatives, that understand the arts in a long time.” He added: “It’s going to save the Labour party, which had lost its identity.”
Author Katherine Rundell agreed that Corbyn’s emphasis on the arts made his appointment an asset for the publishing industry. “I think the fact that Corbyn hopes to bring focus and funding to the arts - that he believes in them as something fundamentally socially and economically galvanic - fills me with hope,” she said.
While Laura Swaffield of The Library Campaign, said Corbyn’s opposition to austerity could be beneficial for libraries. “Corbyn has already stated that he would want to reverse cuts to arts and libraries, and that he understands their importance to health, communication and generally being human. What's not to like?” she said.
However others have warned the Labour party must be unified if they are to provide a strong in opposition to the Conservative government.
James Daunt, m.d of Waterstones said: “Well, in the short term Labour might be somewhat distracted…The nature of fixed term parliaments means they have time to sort themselves out, one way or the other. To have a strong opposition is in all our interests.”
Meanwhile Tim Godfray, c.e.o of The Booksellers Association said he hoped the Corbyn team would be sympathetic to supporting bookshops. “Whether you’re a fan of Jeremy Corbyn or otherwise, securing 59.5% of the votes in the first ballot is pretty impressive,” he said.
However, he added: “Having a strong opposition is really important for a democracy; but in order to achieve this, he has to unite the Labour party and gain the confidence of the business community, and first indications suggest this may well be a considerable challenge”.
Alessandro Gallenzi, co-founder of independent publisher Alma Books, said he was "delighted" Corbyn had been elected but sounded a note of caution about how he will be treated in the press.
He said: "I was delighted to hear that Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader of the Labour party. I was one of the many disenfranchised and disillusioned people who registered and voted for him. He strikes me as a decent and passionate man, and his commitment to causes (lost or to be won in the future) is refreshing in a world where idealists and anti-establishment figures are an endangered species. Corbyn rightly says that more emphasis should be put on the arts, which are the driving force of any healthy, liberal and forward-looking society, so he gets my full backing."
He added: "On a side note, I worry about how Corbyn was and is being deamonised by the media. I thought Britain was the cradle of free speech and I am shocked at the level of personal abuse and misinformation that was directed at him. I thought this sort of thing belonged to the eighteenth century."
Richard Mollet, chief executive of The Publishers Association, said the group would continue to work with the “opposition and the shadow cabinet conveying the importance of the creative industries”.
“We’ll be helped with that because we have been working with trade unions on conveying the importance of intellectual property to them,” he told The Bookseller. “I think there is a very strong understanding in the left of the Labour party of the importance of intellectual property to jobs.
“I think everyone in the Labour party, whoever has won this election, we’d have seen a leader that understood the importance of culture and creativity.”
Mollet said Lucy Powell, the shadow education secretary, and Angela Eagle, the shadow business secretary, would “be important contacts, probably more than the leader”....
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