Political conference round-up: What do the parties have planned for the creative industries?

As the political party conference season comes to a close, we look at what the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats had to say, and get insight from the Creative Industries Federation.



Michael Dugher, shadow secretary for culture, media and sport, gave a speech on Labour’s plans to “open up” the arts and creative industries to people nationwide. His main points were:

  • The arts and creative industries “unlock the talents of individuals, sustain millions of jobs and add billions to our economy every year”.
  • He wants to increase local council budgets for the arts, following “massive cuts” made by the Conservatives which have “closed down opportunities and access to arts and culture across the country”.
  • He aims to tackle regional disparities by “rethinking how funding is allocated” nationwide.
  • He also wants to tackle disparities in funding between different sectors within the creative industries.
  • He aims to improve access to the arts for those from working class backgrounds.
  • Labour plans to complete a review into investment for the arts, and a “comprehensive national plan” for publicly funded arts and culture. This follows Jeremy Corbyn’s Arts for Everyone policy document, which promises all-inclusive creative industries.
  • He thinks the BBC is the “cornerstone of creative industries in this country” and wants to protect it. He says the Conservatives’ plans for the BBC are “cultural vandalism”.

Closing remarks: “Let’s celebrate everything that is good in this country about our arts, our culture, our creative industries and our sport. Let’s open them up for people from every corner of the country for all backgrounds.”



John Whittingdale, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, gave a speech on the Conservatives’ take on the creative industries as “central” to the UK. His main points were:

  • The Conservatives are “deeply committed to protecting and promoting British arts and culture, and our historical buildings, collections and museums”.
  • He thinks the creative industries are “central to who we are as a nation” and notes that they attracted 35 million visitors to the UK last year.
  • He wants to champion the creative industries in “other fantastic parts of the UK” alongside London, such as Cornwall, Scotland, Wales, Yorkshire and Manchester.
  • He pledges to invest £78 million to create a new Manchester arts venue called The Factory, in homage to record label Factory Records.
  • He promises every household will have guaranteed access to basic broadband by next year.
  • He says the BBC has a “reputation for quality and creativity as well as accuracy and creativity” – but “it has not always been as fair and impartial as it should.” He is calling for complaints to the BBC to no longer be assessed by the BBC themselves.

Closing remarks: “Just because something [the creative industries] is fun, it does not mean that it is trivial. Those things that enrich our lives also enrich us financially…

“I am passionate about our creative industries, fashion, music, the arts, film and TV and games, and I am determined to help them stay at the top of the international league.”


Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats didn’t have a speech devoted to the creative industries, but this is their document Power of Creativity 2 outlining their strategy for the sector, which pledges to “put Britain’s thriving creative industries at the heart of future plans for economic growth”. It was released prior to the General Election.

What does this mean?

The Creative Industries Federation attended the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative party conferences, and took part in fringe events at all three. They give us their take on what the party conferences meant for the creative industries.

The arts should be at “centre” of government

Louise Jury, the CIF’s director of communications and strategy, says: “At the Labour and Conservative conferences, our chief executive John Kampfner made the case for the centrality of the arts and creative industries in Government thinking, emphasising that public investment is investment from which everyone, including the commercial world, benefits. He also took issue with the Government’s perceived marginalisation of creative subjects in education, where they are not part of EBacc.”

“At the Liberal Democrats event, issues included the STEM to STEAM debate on arts education, careers advice in schools and freelancing as a potential career. Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter paid tribute to the Saturday clubs offering art and design and other subjects to teenagers, introduced by Sir John Sorrell, founder of the Creative Industries Federation.

Britain’s fastest-growing sector

“It would be hard to say culture was centre-stage at any of the conferences even though the creative industries remain Britain’s fastest-growing sector, but there was, at least, discussion.

“Labour’s Michael Dugher, making his inaugural speech to conference in his new role, pledged ‘sustained investment’ for the arts and to ‘defend the BBC’; John Whittingdale said the Tories were ‘deeply committed to protecting and promoting British arts and culture’.

“The issue is getting the policies to follow, including renewed support for creative subjects in schools. What might be interesting for the design world is whether they should be more involved in those debates, at party conferences and elsewhere, to help secure the pipeline of talent and enable business deals to survive and thrive.”

“Vital for business growth”

John Mathers, CEO at the Design Council, adds that design should be valued as a driver for the economy. The Design Council will release research entitled The Design Economy on October 22.

“All the culture secretaries, across the parties, have mentioned the importance of funding for the arts, which I would fully endorse,” he says. “However while design can be seen to sit in the arts, it is also a vital driver for creativity, innovation and business growth. In that respect, responsibility for design rests with the Business Secretary Sajid Javid.”  

He says: “Our research will look at the value of design across the economy, from design engineering to web design to design of places and spaces, and will help us all make the case for continued investment in promoting the uptake of design across the UK.”

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