Musicians and artists have criticised Chancellor Rishi Sunak for suggesting that people should retrain and find new employment if they lose work due to the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing restrictions.
Multi-millionaire musicians Liam Gallagher, Badly Drawn Boy joined former Bake Off host Sue Perkins and crime writer Ian Rankin to slam Mr Sunak’s remarks.
The outraged arts employees demanded more government handouts to support musicians and prevent them having to find viable alternative employment – despite millions of Britons across the country facing losing their jobs to the coronavirus crisis.
Unemployment is forecast to hit 7.5% – 2.6million people – and the entertainers’ demands for special treatment will anger ordinary working Britons in other sectors that have been devastated by the pandemic such as travel and hospitality.
The government’s furlough scheme ends at the end of October, having already cost the taxpayer £60bn and sending public debt soaring and leaving the country on course for its biggest budget deficit since World War Two.
The arts sector has already received more than £1.57bn in support from the government.
It faces further hardship as the government enforces stricter restrictions to try and halt rising coronavirus cases – backed by many voices on the left who want to prioritise controlling the virus at the expense of helping Britain’s economy recover and saving jobs.
Musicians and artists are amongs the hardest hit by social distancing restrictions and Mr Sunak has been fighting to minimise the economic impact of rules such as the 10pm pub curfew which he as called ‘frustrating’.
The arts sector has the most employees who are still on the furlough scheme and facing looming unemployment. But it is closely followed by hospitality and transport where hundreds of thousands are also facing hardship
Badly Drawn Boy suggested that The Chancellor should ‘shove my records up his arse’
In a foul-mouthed missive, Liam Gallagher suggested the government should themselves retrain. He did not offer his own solution to the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic
Right Said Fred branded the suggestion that artists should find alternative employment ‘appalling’
£1.57bn in government support schemes for the arts
In July the government announced a £1.57 billion investment to protect Britain’s world-class cultural, arts and heritage institutions.
It was billed as funding to help businesses who had to shut their doors stay afloat in Covid-19 times.
The pot included £1.15 billion for cultural organisations in England delivered through a mix of grants and loans made up of £270 million of repayable finance and £880 million grants.
A further £100 million went on targeted support for the national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust.
And £120 million capital investment was announced to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and for heritage construction projects.
The entertainers’ outrage was triggered by ITV News tweeting an interview with the Chancellor, in which he was asked about his plans for supporting jobs through the winter.
The Chancellor was asked: ‘If you’re a professional musician, what is your message right now? If they can’t earn enough money to live, is your message for them, you’re going to have to get another job?
Mr Sunak said: ‘It’s a very sad time, three quarters of a million people have already lost their jobs, we know that and that is likely to increase and many more people will.
‘I can’t pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job they were doing at the beginning of this crisis and that’s why we’ve put a lot of our extra resource into trying to create new opportunities for people, so our kickstart scheme for example for young people who are most at risk of becoming unemployed, all the way up to the age of 24 ,are going to benefit from a fully funded job placement’.
ITV tweeted a video clip of the interview out with a headline suggesting Mr Sunak was specifically talking about arts employees.
They later deleted the post after Mr Sunak denied he had been talking about the arts and said his words were about employment generally, despite the short chat clearly being framed around that specific industry.
But it was too late for those who had been infuriated by the earlier presentation of the interview.
One dance choreographer fumed: ‘I already have a degree and 19 years experience in the industry I trained to be in, why would I consider now retraining to be something completely different? And also start from scratch on a new pay ladder!?’
TV presenter Sue Perkins wrote: ‘The arts contributes in the region of 10 billion a year to our economy. The people who work in it have already trained long and hard, thank you. This is shameful.’
Author Ian Rankin said: ‘Without the arts, our lives are impoverished. This is nuts,’ said Scottish author Ian Rankin.
Gallagher fumed: ‘So the dopes in gov telling musicians and people in arts to retrain and get another job what and become massive c**** like you nah yer alright c’mon you know LG x
‘This country would be beyond w*** if it wasn’t for the arts and the music and football show a bit of respect you little TURD cmon you know LG x.
Liam Gallagher was infuriated by the remarks and said Mr Sunak and MPs should retrain too
Tweets from celebrities and members of the public did not think Mr Sunak had been fair
‘If anyone needs to retrain it’s them shower of C**** c’mon you know LG x.’
Blur drummer Dave Rowntree – who is also a Labour councillor – said on Twitter: ‘What a stupid thing to say. The ‘arts’ earn over £100bn for the UK each year. £13million an hour. It’s one area where we really are world beating.’
Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess said: ‘Maybe some MPs should retrain, as they aren’t really doing their job anyway.’
And Badly Drawn Boy had his own proposal on the best way forward, proposing ‘I suggest Rishi shoves my records up his a***!’
One man learning an instrument said he feared that the medium of music would be lost forever by the chancellor’s comments.
He said: ‘Music teacher just made a boss point when i told him what Rishi Sumac (SIC) said.
‘Hope he turns on the radio one day and it’s just white noise because there’s no musicians left.’
Mr Sunak’s comments were made to ITV News and answered questions on what struggling workers were expected to do in the pandemic.
Asked specifically about ‘fabulous musicians and artists and actors’ he said while there was work in the creative industries some may need to adapt.
Earlier he had admitted ‘I can’t pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job that they were doing at the beginning of this crisis’.
The comments enraged the music and arts community who vented at the idea of having to retrain.
He said: ‘I can’t pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job that they were doing at the beginning of this crisis.
‘That’s why we’ve put a lot of resource into trying to create new opportunities.’
The furlough scheme is set to be replaced by the Job Support Scheme, under which the government will subsidise workers so they can pick up 77 per cent of their usual wages for doing as little as a third of regular hours.
Under the new system employees’ wages receive a maximum subsidy of 22 per cent from the Treasury, depending on how many hours they work.
But firms must pick up the additional 55 per cent, compared to 20 per cent under furlough.
It has sparked fears that many businesses will simply lay staff off instead of taking it up.
Employers are obliged to notify government when they plan to make 20 or more staff redundant in any single ‘establishment’ using an HR1 Advance Notice of Redundancy form. However, they often make fewer positions redundant than the number they initially notify.
Rishi and ITV News: Did Chancellor say arts workers should retrain?
INTERVIEWER DANIEL HEWITT: You’ve said you want to save as many jobs as possible, but you can’t save every job. It appears in some sectors you’re not trying very hard. For musicians, actors, directors, freelancers in the arts, they say you’ve not helped them at all. Where is the help for those businesses, those jobs , for those people in those industries who simply can’t work?
RISHI SUNAK: In the cultural sector a few months ago we outlined £1.5billion cultural recovery programme. That money is now getting out the door, it’s being administered by the Arts Council and other bodies, I think money’s gone to independent cinemas and independent music venues just in the last week. That’s £1.5billion, it’s an enormous amount of support to preserve our important cultural institutions in all our local town centres and elsewhere and with regard to those who are self-employed, between two and a half and three million people have been able to access our self-employed support scheme, many of the people you mentioned will be able to do that and it remains one of the most comprehensive and generous support programmes for those who are self-employed anywhere in the world.
INTERVIEWER: If you’re a professional musician, what is your message right now? If they can’t earn enough money to live, is your message for them, you’re going to have to get another job?
RISHI SUNAK: I think as I’ve said, my simple message to everybody is that we are trying to do everything we can to protect as many jobs as possible.
INTERVIEWER: But they don’t think you are. In that sector, they just don’t think you are, Chancellor.
RISHI SUNAK: It’s a very sad time, three quarters of a million people have already lost their jobs, we know that and that is likely to increase and many more people will. I can’t pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job they were doing at the beginning of this crisis and that’s why we’ve put a lot of our extra resource into trying to create new opportunities for people, so our kickstart scheme for example for young people who are most at risk of becoming unemployed, all the way up to the age of 24 ,are going to benefit from a fully funded job placement
INTERVIEWER: But that’s a different job isn’t it, that’s you saying go and get a different job
RISHI SUNAK: That fresh and new opportunity for people, that’s exactly what we should be doing
INTERVIEWER: But we’re a country that has created so many fabulous musicians and artists and actors and you’re effectively saying ‘Look, I know it’s hard, but maybe go and get another job’.
RISHI SUNAK: I think you’re probably not quite right that there’s no work available for any of them at all
INTERVIEWER: For a lot of them, there isn’t
RISHI SUNAK: In all walks of life everyone is having to adapt, I’m getting emails and seeing how theatre companies are adapting and putting on different kids of performances, it is possible to do theatrical performances online as well and for people to engage with them that way and for new business models to emerge, plenty of music lessons are still carrying on , the same thing happens, certainly in my household and elsewhere. So yes can things happen in exactly the way they did, no, but everyone is having to find ways to adapt and adjust to the new reality, and that’s what we all have to do, and that’s why we are allowing that to happen and also providing new opportunity for people if that’s the right vehicle for them.