In praise of The xx

This year's Man Booker Prize shortlist prides the literary inventiveness of Tom McCarthy and Emma Donoghue over the more established Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie, and all the better for that; while the Mercury Prize for music has been awarded to The xx, a beguiling trio whose seductive debut album, recorded in a converted garage when they were still teenagers, is in the best tradition of British experimental indie music.

Our rich history of artistic innovation is why the creative industries in Britain have long been one of the most buoyant sectors of the economy. That is something the government, which has already abolished, "streamlined" or merged more than 50 arts bodies, including the UK Film Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, would do well to remember. In 2007, Tony Blair said: "A nation that cares about art will not just be a better nation . . . it will be a more successful one. The whole process of stimulation through plays, books, films, works of art; the delight in design, in architecture, in crafts: all of this enlarges a country's capacity to be reflective, interested and bold." Whatever you may think of our former prime minister, on this he was correct.

This article first appeared in the 13 September 2010 issue of the New Statesman, France turns right