It was a cheap and hackneyed way of filling three pages. After the new Tory culture secretary Jeremy Hunt made his inaugural speech, the Guardian newspaper asked heads of UK arts institutions to respond. All did so in the same fawning tones as they used only last month with the outgoing Labour secretary – and you can hardly blame them since a large chunk of their budget is dependent on government whim.
The lone exception was Liz Forgan, chair of Arts Council England, who nannyingly instructed ‘every member of the government to go out and actually experience an art event… preferably in the company of someone under 12.’ Liz, a diehard Labourite, is due for the chop and her organisation will not long survive unreformed.
Six spots below we meet, in large type on the pages of the Guardian and uncorrected on its website, somebody called ‘John Betty’ of English National Opera, who has yet to cross my radar. Could they possibly be referring to John Berry, ENO’s artistic director?
Berry is one half of the team that brought ENO back from a near-death precipice. He is well known and liked across the arts and he can – I can vouch from many communications – spell his own name. How on earth did the Guardian transform him from robust Berry to rather wimpish Betty? Did some unpaid intern, pushing the free copy onto three pages, think it looked better that way? Was there no journalist on duty? Should Peter Geld (sic) be worried about his next policy statement from the Met? And Gerard Mortuary?
I guess John will get an apology in the next few days, but I wonder who’s next for a Grauniad lapse. The German Chancellor cannot know how close she comes nightly to being mistaken for a lewd medieval object while the White House must be offering bedtime prayers that the organ of British left-rectitude does not headline its master as ‘President Osama’.
It’s all part of a great Grauniad tradition. As Gustav Mahler famously said of the Vienna Opera: ‘what passes for tradition is usually an excuse for Schlamperei (sloppiness).’ Obviously, he was another satisfied Guardian reader.