“The Era Of Culture Wars Is Over,” Says UK’s New Culture Secretary

The “era of culture wars is over”, Lisa Nandy has promised in her first speech as culture secretary, saying her department will be at the heart of efforts to reflect a more positive and less divisive vision of the UK.

“For too long, for too many people, the story we tell ourselves, about ourselves as a nation, has not reflected them, their communities or their lives,” Nandy told staff at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

“This is how polarisation, division and isolation thrives. In recent years we’ve found multiple ways to divide ourselves from one another. And lost that sense of a self-confident, outward-looking country which values its own people in every part of the UK.

“Changing that is the mission of this department. The era of culture wars is over.”

Nandy, who was made culture secretary after Thangam Debbonaire, who had held the job in opposition, lost her Bristol seat to the Greens, said the Labour government “will be different”, with officials saying her plan was to prioritise celebrating British culture and stories rather than battling with institutions.

Under 14 years of Conservative rule there were 12 culture secretaries, with many of them spending a good portion of their time feuding with and criticising the BBC, or clashing with organisations such as the National Trust.

Perhaps the most energetic on that front was Nadine Dorries, who took the role under Boris Johnson and at one point labelled the BBC an institution riven by bias and staffed by people “whose mum and dad worked there”.

The most recent Tory incumbent, Lucy Frazer, lost her Cambridgeshire seat to the Liberal Democrats last week. She has been replaced as shadow culture secretary by Julia Lopez, formerly a junior culture minister.

In her speech, Nandy said another goal would be to make culture more inclusive, recalling how a group of women from one of the council estates in Wigan, where she is the MP, hired a coach to see a play in Manchester about the role of women of the 1980s miners’ strike.

“It was a story that had been told about their lives so many times without them in it,” she said. “And it was magical to see their response to being put at the centre of their own story again.

“That is how I intend us to serve our country – celebrating and championing the diversity and rich inheritance of our communities and the people in them.”

Nandy went on: “Governments don’t make this country what we are – people do. And whether it’s through investing in grassroots sport, a visible symbol of what our young people mean to us in every community, or enabling brilliant working-class kids to succeed in drama, dance or journalism – their raw talent so obvious, but for too many of whom geography is destiny, we will be a government that walks alongside them as they create that country I’ve believed in all of my life, but never quite yet seen.”

Her department, Nandy said, was “central to that mission”, telling DCMS staff: “Working with you all to achieve that will be the privilege of my life. I’ll be asking more of you than ever before. But I promise you that if you give it your all, I will always have your back.”

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