Well, that happened...

The never-ending Brexit omnishambles, a decline in cultural funding, and a lifeline is thrown to an iconic British high street brand

Well, that happened...

Three weeks ago Theresa May suffered a defeat not seen in Parliament since the 1920’s. Somehow she managed to limp on, and last week returned to Parliament to face an array of amendments put forward to try and wrestle control from the government and put it in the hands of MP’s in an effort to avoid a no deal.

It turns out that MP’s would rather not have that responsibility, as they approved an non-binding motion to say they are opposed to a no deal Brexit, but then failed to support a bill put forward by Yvette Cooper to actually prevent it. 

The big win of the night came in the passing of the Brady amendment, which has Theresa May trudging back to Brussels to attempt to reopen negotiations over the Irish backstop. It took just 10 minutes for the EU to issue a response saying that the deal was not up for renegotiation, a message you might recall them issuing when she last went back to them following her humiliating defeat. The deal is the deal. The EU leaders were happy to clarify the deal, but the position was clear. 

What's equally clear is that our MP’s are either cowardly or delusional. Businesses, experts, and an increasing number of the public are saying that no deal would be bad for the UK. Yet, when presented the opportunity to make sure that doesn’t happen, they would rather continue deliberating over a deal they unanimously voted against. 

Politicians are failing to do what is necessary to walk us back from the cliff-edge. Some do so because they believe in Brexit, others do so in the belief that there will be an uproar over a Brexit betrayal. It’s exceptionally short sighted. Imagine the uproar when people can’t afford to buy food (if there is any on the shelves), and diabetics can’t get the insulin needed. Will people be so worried about an ill informed and ill advised referendum when global corporations (continue) to pull out of the UK and move to countries with access to the single largest market in the world - resulting in unemployment, and whole communities decimated?

It’s time for MP’s to stand up and be counted. They are our elected representatives, meaning that yes, they represent our views, but more importantly, represent our interests. Yet, while it is so blindingly clear that a no-deal Brexit is in nobody’s interest, politicians are content to sit and debate the best course of treatment for a deal that was dead on arrival. The only operation needed here is spinal. 

US Government shut down temporarily ended

Could you believe that literally the day after I scheduled the last ‘Well, that happened…’ to go live, Trump made the surprise announcement that he had reached a deal to reopen Government for three weeks, bringing an end to the longest shutdown in US history. This deal was reached without any funding for his wall, meaning that 800,000 US workers missed two paychecks for nothing, and the shutdown is likely to begin anew on 15 February when the Democrats again refuse to budge on the wall funding. He has once again floated the idea of using emergency powers to get the funding.The walls (not that one, though) have been closing in on Trump the last few weeks, with a number of new arrests, charges and subpoenas brought against those close to his election campaign. 

He did however get to deliver his State of the Union address, which had also been postponed as a result of the shutdown. It continued to play on all his most divisive issues: abortion, immigration, and the “ridiculous partisan investigations”.

A “special place in hell” for clueless Brexit leaders

Calm and civility continues to dominate Brexit discourse as this week european council president Donald Tusk mused on what that “special place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.” Admittedly, EU frustration has been growing as UK politicians continue to dither on providing clear direction for what the intention is, and continue to push the idea of the backstop being negotiable when it very clearly isn’t - just wasting time, really. 

The response has been predictable, with Brexit supporting MP’s immediately jumping on the comments and condemning them as spiteful and unacceptable. It’s rather amusing, considering that to be offended, you have to admit you’re one of the people Tusk is talking about, which means you did promote Brexit without any idea how it would work. It’s probably important to highlight that Tusk specifically aimed the barrel at politicians, not those who voted for Brexit - so please don’t let the comments be misinterpreted or misrepresented, and save your anger for those who continue to let the country march closer to a disaster of our own making. 

£400m decline in local authority culture budgets since 2011

b79b3c6c50dc96c154f8ca53a8b44f292f9b334c.jpgCouncils in England have cut their culture budgets by £400m in since 2011, new studies have revealed. An analysis by the County Councils Network has found that of spending for culture across local authorities over the last eight years dropped from £1.4bn to £1bn. Of that, £54m has been cut from budgets meant for artistic development and support, often to try and fill the deficit in social care. 

It is the shire counties, and counties with county councils that have been hardest hit, with a decline of 30% in culture spending in the last eight years. Looking specifically at arts spending - excluding libraries and museums - county councils have reducing spending by £26m since 2011, which is half of all arts cuts felt across the country. 

Philip Atkins, Conservative vice-chairman of the County Councils Network and leader of Staffordshire County Council, has said that the cuts are likely to continue if the upcoming spending review doesn’t see central government allocate enough funding for social care - an area that has increasingly demanded more expenditure from councils.  

Source: The Stage

Bryan Singer has BAFTA nomination revoked after sexual misconduct claims

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts has removed director Bryan Singer’s name from the Bohemian Rhapsody nomination for best British film following fresh allegations of sexual misconduct against the director. Singer, who was fired from Bohemian Rhapsody just a few weeks before the end of production due to unruly behaviour has a long line of allegations against him, dating back to 1997 where he was sued during the making of Apt Pupil for filming minors naked without permission during a shower scene. The latest allegation comes from five men with claims that Singer acted inappropriately with them when they were underage boys. The suspension of Bryan Singer’s nomination will remain in place until the allegations have been resolved. 

Bohemian Rhapsody is up for seven BAFTA Awards at Sunday’s ceremony. 

Source: IndieWire

Liam Neeson makes some potentially career killing comments

There has been significant backlash over comments Liam Neeson made during an interview with The Independent in an interview promoting his new film, Cold Pursuit. The 66 year-old actor said he could identify with his character as he himself had been driven to seeking revenge over an attack of someone close to him. He then continued to explain that someone close to him had been raped by a black man, and that he spent the next week prowling specifically black areas of the city armed with a heavy stick, "hoping some 'black bastard' would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could ... kill him."

What quite possessed Neeson to make such comments is unclear, but he has since gone on the defensive insisting that he is not a racist, and recalling what he did at the time as “horrible” and “awful”. His red carpet appearance was cancelled, and he has since appeared on Good Morning America saying that he has learned that society needed to have a larger discussion to end racism and bigotry.

More children than ever are being denied Music A-Level


Academic achievement and family wealth are key indicators as to whether or not a student will be able to to study arts A-levels, a new study has revealed. Cambridge Assessments has released data that shows that students from areas of deprivation are significantly less likely to be offered the opportunity to pursue creative A-levels in school.

Music was found to be the most divisive subject. The study found that 71% of schools with the highest academic performance offered music, while only 12% of schools with the lowest academically performing students did. Equally, 64% of schools in the lowest economically deprived areas offered the subject, while it was only offered in 14% of the school in the most deprived areas. However, the study also found that across the country there has been a marked decline in the provision of music A-levels in schools and colleges. Since 2013, more that 165 schools have cancelled the course altogether, and the number of education institutions offering the subject has dropped by over 7%. 

Source: Arts Professional

HMV saved, but stores will close


HMV has been in trouble for a while now, but things seemingly came to a head just after Christmas when the company collapsed into administration again. However, news this week broke that the chain is being rescued by Canadian music entrepreneur Doug Putman, who oversaw a similar rescue of the HMV brand in his home country. Through the purchase, Putman has saved 100 HMV shops from closure, and protected 1,500 jobs. 

It isn’t all good news though. 27 stores face immediate closure with 455 job loses, and a further 122 warehouse jobs due to go in the coming weeks. Among the store closures is the iconic Oxford Street branch, which was the first store ever opened in 1921 by British composer Sir Edward Elgar. 

Doug Putman has said the plan for HMV is similar to his strategy in Canada, by putting more focus on vinyl and live music events. 

Image: Martin Deutsch

Spotify buys Gimlet and Anchor as it bets big on podcasting

740d4d5db721524783de6cc960f4d6c1c542dbbd.jpgMusic streaming service Spotify has announced that it has purchased two podcasting startups as it continues to bet big on the future of the industry. Spotify has been serving podcasts since 2016, but with the acquisition of the two startups, it is clear that podcasts will become a central offering of the service going forwards. It is said that Spotify spend $230m on acquiring Gimlet, and no price was announced for Anchor. Apparently a further $500m has been allocated towards further deals throughout 2019. 

Gimlet produces popular podcasts like Reply All, and Homecoming, and was turned into an Amazon television series. Anchor allows people to quickly make and distribute podcasts on their phone. 

Podcasts are likely considered to be a good investment by the streaming service due to their growing popularity in recent years, specifically after the hit phenomenon Serial. Podcasts also won’t require the same royalty payments as music, which eats away at Spotify’s profitability. That said, for the first time Spotify actually posted a quarterly operating profit, of €94m, but this was in part due to their falling stock price reducing their tax.

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Header Image Credit: UK Parliament (Flickr)


Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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