Election 2010: what would the three main parties do to the arts?

What Labour would do

  • A biennial Festival of Britain to celebrate British achievements in the arts
  • A nationwide reduced-rate ticket scheme to mimic the National Theatre's £10 deals
  • After 2012, Lottery money diverted to the Olympics will return to the arts
  • Creative bursaries to support artistically gifted young people at the start of their careers
  • Free admission to museums and galleries will be maintained
  • Every child will have lifetime library membership from birth

What the Conservatives would do

  • Rebuild our "broken economy" by making Britain a hub for hi-tech, digital and creative industries
  • Promote and protect a strong and independent BBC by ensuring that it is properly audited by the National Audit Office
  • The Tory shadow culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, promises the arts "won't be singled out" for cuts under a Tory government, although "the honest position to take is to say that it is going to be tough in every department"

What the Lib Dems would do

  • Maintain free entry to national museums and galleries and open up the government art collection for greater public use
  • Set up a creative enterprise fund offering training, mentoring and small grants or loans to help creative businesses get off the ground
  • Cut red tape for putting on live music by reducing the need to apply for entertainment licences
  • Use cash in dormant betting accounts to set up a capital fund for improving local sports facilities and supporting clubs
  • Ensure that the BBC remains strong, free from interference and securely funded
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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.