In his post on the death of Bernard Levin, Oliver Kamm makes an interesting point about the attitude of the Left to the arts.
Thirdly, unlike one or two journalists I could name whose half-baked cultural enthusiasms served merely as a cipher for their own political prejudices, Levin had a great knowledge and appreciation of art, music and literature, and was able to communicate those enthusiasms lucidly and expertly. He did so not as a hobby, but as a duty. One of the columns I most prize of his output - it's in one of his collections, and I'll quote from it when I get home - referred to the philistinism of the Greater London Council under the (unelected) leadership of Ken Livingstone in the early 1980s. The GLC Labour group of that time took it into its collective tiny mind to divert public support for the arts away from the supposedly elitist Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank and towards a 'People's Festival' in Hyde Park. Levin was quick to mock the stupidity of this affectation, which reflected more an obscurantist refusal to acknowledge the concept of aesthetic excellence than any genuine left-wing tradition. The socialist convictions of William Morris, Robert Blatchford or, in our own day, Arnold Wesker, inspired their advocates not to decry high art but to attempt to spread appreciation of it more widely. Levin's denunication of the cultural vandalism of an intellectually disreputable part of the Left - the real snobs, for they implicitly assume that Beethoven or Janacek is not for the likes of their own constituents - was always a joy. But more than that, it was an education. His enthusiasms were diverse, and some were perplexingly idiosyncratic - but it was difficult not to get drawn into them as he advanced them in his impeccable prose. He will be much missed.
I've seen this attitude at work myself in all sorts of areas - I recall a discussion at a (Labour controlled) local authority planning committee some years ago, about a small grant to restore a historic building where Garibaldi had stayed. The building was of great architectural value anyway, but the association with Garibaldi added historical and political significance to its restoration.
In the end though the discussion degenerated into one about biscuits, in a perverse display of cultural and political arrogance. The politicians there seemed incapable of understanding that 'ordinary people' had any affection or concern for their own history and projected their own philistinism onto their electorate.