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Mishcon Academy: Digital Sessions - In conversation with Thangam Debbonaire, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Posted on 5 February 2024

Thangam Debbonaire MP, who has served as the Shadow Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport since September 2023 joined us in January to speak with Deputy Chairman Anthony Julius about her career and shared her thoughts on the upcoming election.

In her political career, Thangam became the Labour MP for the Bristol West constituency in May 2015, succeeding a Liberal Democrat majority. She has held significant roles such as the Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Homelessness and the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons. She views culture, media, and sport as not only sources of enjoyment and community, but also as important contributors to the tax revenues that support our public services.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Okay, hello everyone.  This is a Mishcon Academy Session, which is part of a series of online events, videos and podcasts.  We have such a perverse range of guests.  I think it’s very much, for me, a privilege to participate in them both as a audience member and sometimes, when I’m really lucky, as an interviewer and I’m really delighted to introduce Thangam Debbonaire, who is going to talk to us about so many different topics.  But it’s a tremendous privilege to have a senior member of what is highly likely to be the government in waiting and thank you so much…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

You’re very welcome.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

…for joining us.  And I would like, I would like the audience to get to know you even better than perhaps they already do, so can we go on a whistlestop tour…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

We can, yes, we can.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

…of your life. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Ooh.  Well, I’m 57 so it will take a while.  I think the thing that has been talked about since I took up the Culture, Media and Sport role at about 10.30 on the 4 September after a gruelling media round, which had started at sort of about 5.30 in the morning, is that I was originally a cellist and I started playing the cello when I was four, so it’s usually a good place to start because that’s basically most of my life. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

You had a little one.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I had a little one, yes, I had a little 1/8 size cello and a little chair that my dad had specially sawn the bottom of the legs off so it was the right size and rather poignantly, and this is a bit the life of a politician – no tiny violins for it – but my very first cello teacher, it was his funeral this morning…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Gosh.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…up in Yorkshire and this is one of the deals you make as a politician, is that you like you won’t be able to get to everything anymore. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yeah.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

But it was a poi… it was a lovely moment for me this morning thinking about how playing the cello has given me such great joy and these guys who, who work for me will know, you know my cello is in my office and I do most weekdays try to get to the office very, very early so I can get in at least twenty minutes, just so that I’ve played, most days. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

When you were, when you were playing it most, how many hours a day would you play?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Well, probably when I was at music school, I was at Chetham School of Music way back in the ‘80s and, you know, at that point you get up very early, you practice, you go to choir practice, you do some academic lessons and I was good at maths and I actually studied university, maths at university, so I did do but it was a cunning subject because there’s not, there’s no essays with maths.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

No.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

And you play your string quartet.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

There are numbers though.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

There are numbers, yes.  I’m fond of them.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Not a complete free pass.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Different sort of thing.  But, yes, so I had, you know, choir before school, school, orchestra practice at lunchtime, string quartet practice at, string quartet is my favourite medium and I still, if we’re going to sort segue from four to school to now, I have a string quartet, parliamentary string quartet called, if you know your parliamentary jargon, this is a really corny name but we’re called The Statutory Instruments. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Ha, ha, ha.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yeah, thank you for the laugh.  It might have been a sympathy laugh.  During the Brexit years we formed, during the Brexit years, yeah, we’re allowed to say Brexit now, and, still traumatising mind, and we, the four of us got together, there’s a woman called Emily Benn who is from the Benn family, and Cathy Newman, who is a journalist, and a woman called Katherine Chibah is a parliamentary researcher, and we formed, Emily I think met, met me at an event in the Speaker’s House and said, “We have to play together” and she’s very, very strong-minded, so there was no choice. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

And we were rehearsing after Cathy played, did the news, but often before votes or just after votes, during the Brexit years and one day she, Cathy didn’t bring her music stand and so we fashioned one out of box files that I had, I was a whip in those days, and Defra, I don’t know if you remember any of you, Defra policy, I mean we were doing Statutory Instruments morning, noon and night and quite often the same ones each week because someone would find out on a Friday that there’d been a mistake in one on a Tuesday and we’d get back the next Tuesday and I’d go, “Hang on, we did this last week.”  So, Cathy, because she’s a journalist and a wordsmith said, “We should be The Statutory Instruments.”  But we still play. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Are you a similar standard?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yes.  Thankfully.  It would have been really awkward, wouldn’t it. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

If one of us had been terrible and the other three really good.  How do you deal with that or three of us terrible?

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

How would you?  I mean, it’s a, it’s a cabinet question as well, isn’t it, how would you have dealt with it?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I think we’d probably have played together once and then let it slide maybe.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

There would have been a…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

But we hit it off, it was like a blind date, I mean the four of us, we didn’t all know each other and when we got together, we realised very, very quickly, as any of you play musical instruments will know, you know, sometimes you just, just works, and it just did, it was one of, it’s, and it is, it’s one of the reasons why string quartets are my favourite medium is, when it’s right, it’s one of the most beautiful forms of any sort of relationship you can have and we’re now really good friends as well but the mechanics of playing in a string quartet are really quite extraordinary and in a little, in a way a bit like being in a shadow cabinet or cabinet, that you all, you all have your role, you need all of you. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes, but I mean.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

You have to work together.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

And mostly cabinets don’t work together, so.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Well I like to think ours definitely will, I mean, we’re, we’re getting on splendidly.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Of course.  Yes, of course and that’s a huge relief to hear.  But still, it must be hard to move from the perfectly sequenced performance in a group, a small group, even a quartet, to the kind of rough and tumble and enmities of political life and that’s just in your own party. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Well we, we have moved beyond the…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…challenging years, shall I call them.  Bit like a fever dream now. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.  Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I mean I think Keir’s splendid and I mean he took over, goodness me, I mean, he took over in the first few weeks of the Corona virus lockdown.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I mean, our first six months, twelve months I think where all our meetings were online, that’s not a great way to form as a group.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

No.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

But Keir managed to get us to, to coalesce.  I think he’s done an amazing job.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Do you think of him like a, a conductor of an orchestra?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yes, very much.  And he’s a good one, you know, he knows how to command an audience.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I think if you watch PMQs, you can see it, I mean that’s a skill, it’s not easy and in an orchestral concert, I mean nobody yells at you, you know, so, well not usually anyway.  So, no, I think he’s, he’s really, he can command a room, he can, he’s great.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

But can he command an orchestra?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yes. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Well we’re, also we’re…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

He commands the Labour Party.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

He very much does and I think in a really good way, I think he’s brought on the talents of many different people in the parliamentary Labour Party and spotted potential.  I would say that, wouldn’t I, because he gave me the job I wanted but, you know, I think he’s done that for many people, he’s really brought us together. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

This is the third Shadow Cabinet position.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yes, it is.  Yes.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I was surprised when Keir phoned me on the 4 April 2020 to say “I want you to be my Shadow Housing Secretary.”

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

And I enjoyed it but you know as, as I think Lisa Nandy said, she was the first Shadow Foreign Secretary not to leave the country, in fact I don’t think she left Wigan and I was the first Shadow Housing Secretary not to see a single house, I mean, you know, doing that job in a lockdown as tricky.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

And he then moved me on to Shadow Leader of the House which is one of those very niche roles but if you love Parliament, and I do, it was, it was an absolute joy and I’d been a Whip for three years so you get to know the mechanics of Parliament and how it works and how processes work and so that was a lovely role. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

And you were opposite Rees-Mogg.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I was opposite Rees-Mogg and then eventually…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

And how was that?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Well, it was combative.  There was then a man called Mark Spencer and then Penny Mordaunt.  Penny Mordaunt is still in post and had a fantastic starring role in the Coronation. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes, with the…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

With the sword and the outfit.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.  Sword and the outfit.  Yes. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I mean the outfit was quite something.  I was watching, half watching the Coronation and I had to leave the room for something and I said, I said to my partner, can you just keep watching for me, call me if anything happens, and there was a screech from the other room when he said, “Come quick, Penny’s holding a giant stick” and it was quite something, I mean it’s actually quite heavy so, yeah, she must have trained. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

She did.  She did well.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yeah, she did.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

And that gave her a huge profile in the country.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

It did.  I, but I also like to think it gave the role of Lord President of the Council a great role because that’s the role she was doing it in. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes, I think that may be a…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Very, very obscure.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes but…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

But it means you technically make the King, I mean she had to do the ceremony which, in which the King technically becomes King. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Going right back then to the beginning of your political life.  Your mother was a Labour Party person.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

My, well my, my dad was a musician who came over on the boat from what was then Madras via what was then Ceylon, through the Suez Canal and spent his nineteen birthday on the Suez Canal to take up a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music as a pianist and he was second study organ and he met my mum, who was also a pianist, second study organ…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…at the Academy and she came from a political family.  Her parents were both trade unionists, Co-op party members and Labour Party members.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

My granddad was Shop Steward at the Cowley Works.  He moved there from Manchester when it was an armaments factory during the War and of course then it was cars…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…and he became a Labour councillor and it’s a classic, in a way it’s a classic political sort of male/female thing because my grandmother was highly intelligent, highly politically aware, would have made a superb politician but in those days the women made the tea and my grandfather, it was very rare for women to be in politics, I mean there have been women in the parliamentary Labour Party since 1923.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes, Jennie Lee.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Jennie Lee but that was quite late on, I mean there were, Ellen Wilkinson and Margaret Bondfield in the ‘20s and a few more but it was still very rare.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

And my grandfather was asked if he would consider being a parliamentary candidate and he said, “I’m a working man.  I can’t afford to take the time off work.” 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

No, it, it’s not straight, it wasn’t a straightforward thing and in my view my grandmother would have made the better MP.  Anyway, I hope she’s, if there is a cloud, she’s watching on, I hope she’s proud. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

I’m sure she is but did you have a sense of, of frustration from her?  Did she feel that, that she was being impeded in what she wanted to do?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Oh 100%.  Yeah, I mean she gave me various pieces of life advice that consisted of “Don’t get married”, “Don’t get kids”, “Have your own money”, “Buy your own house.”  I mean, she was very, very fierce on things.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.  Very clear advice.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Very, very clear and actually did encourage me to think about politics but I did not follow her advice at the time.  I joined the Labour Party very early on, I mean that was just an accepted transition of life in my family. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.  Yes.  So how old were you when you joined?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Eighteen. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

And you were just about to go to college at that point?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I joined I think probably it would have been just after I’d left, I was eighteen in August so I must have just left school and then went to university to study, well I went to Oxford to study Maths…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…which I did not complete, I’m afraid to say because I got to the third year and hit a plateau, I don’t know if anyone here studied Maths but that is a, it was a shame because I…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

No, no, I, I hit the plateau around GCSE.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

That was an O-level Anthony, wasn’t it.  It wasn’t a GCSE.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes, it was.  Actually, it was, it was just an O-level in my case but yes, yes, and it is true that with Maths, you, you just know when you can’t go further.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yes.  Got to a plateau.  It was a definite plateau because I’d been really good at it and then suddenly, bang.  But also, this was in the ‘80s, in those days there was still an awful lot of tutors at Oxford that thought women shouldn’t be doing Maths.  I was at a women’s college so the first year I was cushioned but the second year when I had to be tutored at a men’s college, which I will not name, my male tutor taught my male tutee partner entirely and ignored me.  Which nowadays I’d sue him, you know, but in those days I thought oh okay then. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

And we would be very happy to act for you. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I wish I could remember his name. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

You see that was a slightly ambulance chasey kind of speech on my part. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

A little bit. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes, that’s extraordinary and dismaying.  My experience of mathematicians at university was that they were all bonkers so, so the…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Well, there’s probably a bit of that. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Is there?  I mean, by, I was not at Oxford but it, it, the college and the university I was at, the mathematician was in an asylum for most of the year and only allowed out for I think two or three months.  But what was, yes, but what was said was that as he became saner, so his maths deteriorated. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Oh, yeah, no I can imagine that.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

And that was a thing, so the idea that those people would also be discriminating on grounds of sex, it’s kind of hard to fathom but that’s…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I mean it might just have been him and it might just have been me, I mean nowadays, I can’t imagine what I didn’t just assert myself. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.  Yes, of course.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I’m not, I’m not known for being unassertive so.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

No, but still, did you feel that that was a defeat when you, when you…?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Kind of yes and no because by then I was enjoying what so many of us enjoy at university, which is you know I was doing lots of things, I was playing the cello a lot, I was finding my way, I found both string quartets and playing live music in theatre, which were the two things I did most as a professional musician and I just loved it.  And it didn’t stop when I stopped doing my degree, people kind of didn’t really take in that I was no longer a student, so I was still part of student life…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

You paused, of course. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…I was working. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yeah, yeah.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I went and got a job but yeah, I was enjoying my artistic life and it was wonderful. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

But did you then go on and do studies in music or you, you just launched yourself in your musical…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I was taught by a rather wonderful teacher called Raphael Wallfisch who I’m still friends with…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…and still he’s the classic cello teacher, like before he says hello, he’ll say, “Are you still practising?”

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

And his mother, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, who I’ve also met, you know, it’s, if you don’t know the story of Anita, it is quite something. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Please tell the story. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

So, Anita was a teenager at the time when she was sent to a concentration camp and she survived because she and her, she and her sister survived because they played musical instruments and they were put in the orchestra to entertain the Nazis.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Gosh. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Two camps she was in.  And eventually, I think nearly starved but eventually, at the end of the War came here.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

And you know married a musician, went on to have Raphael and so on and I always, I think of that story of the cello as a, she literally survived the War because she played the cello and I feel a great sense of, of, I mean a privilege but also a responsibility to, that I never give up the cello because I think you know what Anita must have gone through and because she did that and then Raphael got to be the cello teacher that he is and I got to learn from one of the most wonderful cellists in the world.  I’m very, very lucky. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

It’s a very, it’s a very timely moment in the year to tell that story.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yes, it is.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

But what I’m, apart from its intrinsic merit and interest, what I’m also hearing from that is that music playing has always been bound up in other activities and contexts for you. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yes.  Yes, and I mean it, if you live, if you are a professional musician, many professional musicians, the general model is you just play music but from quite an early age I realised and I think it’s probably why I did other things as well as music in my twenties, I realised that I didn’t just want to practice five hours a day, go to orchestra rehearsal, play a concert in the evening and marry a second violinist or something. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Um, I…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

And yet you make it sound so appealing. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Well it depends, it is all so appealing and it’s the fork that I didn’t turn down but the, the life of a young musician now is very different, I mean I went to visit the Guildhall School of Music which was where Raphael taught when I was learning from him and I had a place and chose to do Maths at Oxford instead, and they now do, you know, whole parts of their courses are about “How do you integrate your political interests into your music making?”

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Really?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yeah, it’s great. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

How interesting. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

So there’s, there’s young people there who are doing stuff about sort of integrating their interest in environmentalism and sustainability…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Which is you know, actually, when you think about it there’s a lot of relevance. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

But at the time we were taught, was like you practice, rule number one, very good life lesson, turn up on time, rule number two is be able to play really well because if you can’t turn up on time, there’s literally no point and I found that, you know, that was really good training as a musician.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Be there. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Well, you have to be there for the half and if you’re not, there’s kind of no point to you and there is no excuse.  My husband, who is, was an actor, was an opera singer and has now gone back to music, tells a story that I can’t remember the full details of but it involves him literally running through London when the Tube stopped because he knew he would get sacked and nobody would be interested, so that’s a good discipline, an artistic discipline that I learned. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes, of course. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Which is invaluable for politics because the same thing is true, like if you don’t turn up, what’s the point. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

If you’re not in the Chamber for your bit and the parliamentary day can be quite chaotic, looking from the outside, because you don’t know how to read the codes, well if I need to start moving now because my bit’s coming in ten minutes or twenty.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Then you miss your bit.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I once, as a Whip, had to, I won’t say who it was but I once had to make up a series of spurious points of order because a colleague hadn’t arrived on time. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

You had to busk. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I busked.  I think the Speaker knew exactly what I was doing but luckily, he was game.  That was in, in the previous…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.  But when you said about these young students who are being taught other stuff as well as music, my thought was actually, how difficult it is to be a young student now because you’re expected to practice just as many hours I guess or whatever the equivalent, whatever you’re studying but then you have all these additional things which are piled on, on top. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yes but also I think what I saw when I visited the Guildhall, when I talk to young musicians now is that the, the range of career options that you’re encourage to consider is much broader, certainly at Chet’s I was taught you know, you basically you aspire to be a soloist, if you can’t make it as a soloist you need a string quartet and orchestral musician, if you’re an orchestral musician you want to be on the front desk.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

And there was a sort of real sort of like, that’s what you aspire to be and I mean nobody really thought of music therapy as a valid career for anyone except someone who couldn’t make it in the other three, which is terribly unfair. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

And has that attitude really changed now?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yes, I think so and I think also now young musicians are making music, my, one of my nieces is a musician and she, her career is so interesting and she does such a wide range of activities…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…which includes but is not confined to orchestral depping and I, again to bring it back to this role that I’m in, I think creative education is one of the things that certainly the creative organisations and the people that I talk to say is, is the most important thing for them and I would say also encouraging young people to see creative education isn’t just about whether or not you end up being a famous cellist, it’s also are you encouraged to be creative in your thinking, are you encouraged to collaborate in the same way as you have to in a string quartet, are you encouraged to problem solve which as a musician you don’t always realise but that’s what you’re doing…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…is how do we technically, what’s the thing that happens that allows us to make this noise together and then repeat it and make it sound spontaneous?

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I mean that’s actually relevant to lots of careers. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Performance skills, which you know you guys have to do.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

We do.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

You do and, and…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

We do.  Always…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

And, and I personally think a musical training is just invaluable, certainly you know my colleagues, performance skills is, it’s important. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

It’s, you know it’s true because there is so much still I think that culture of admiration of the solitary, creative genius that it does tend to push everything else out and the everything else is really important too.  And are you, in your job and when you actually get into government, you’ll be in charge of the ‘everything else’ other than the solitary, creative genius bit of creativity. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I love that you’re allowed to say ‘when’, I’m going to say ‘if’.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Okay. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

This if we win the General Election and I hope to be Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…you know, that’s, that’s, it’s a great gift, let’s be honest. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes, wonderful.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Almost everything…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

All these free theatre tickets. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Which I don’t have time to take up at the moment.   But I was at the Donmar to see Macbeth.  Has anyone seen it?  I mean, it’s sold out now but if you have any connections at all to get to go and see it…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

That’s with, who is?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Well, David Tennant and Cush Jumbo.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

But it’s also, it’s a clever thing because the sound comes through headsets, so although they’re there, I mean David Tennant is right there and I know he’s speaking because at one point I took my headphones off just to check but they get the sound through the headphones because they’re doing some amazing things with sound, absolutely amazing, it’s quite phenomenal, there was one point where I started shrieking at the person next to me because it sounded as though the witches were sitting right next to me, which is just really clever use of tech. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

How interesting, so it’s like a kind of movie style quality?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yeah again to sort of wrench us back to my political role…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes, yes. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…I think you know that again that sort of, the creative thinking that goes into that, even if you did that at school as happy amateur…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…that springboards you into so many interesting careers and the technical careers that are involved in, in the creative industries are, they’re incredible, I mean I meet chippies and sparkies who choose to work in film because then you get to work with Indiana Jones or whatever, you know, or James Bond but you could just as easily be working on someone’s loft but people who are interested in the creative industries…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Of course. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…you know, getting to realise, you don’t just have to be an actor or a musician or a film director, you can be a technical person and somebody technical made that show on Friday something absolutely magic that I want to… you know, it’s an amazing role but I mean the, the interesting thing about the media, I mean some of you will know professionally the media landscape at the moment is going through almost…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Well, so, it’s my responsibility to bring you to politics because I know you don’t want to talk about politics…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

No.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

…and I, I’m here to partly find out more about you but also to find out what you think and what your party thinks about some of the hot questions and you’ll just say if you can’t answer but I know everyone is very interested in licence fee questions and the BBC, so perhaps you could tell us a little bit about where the Labour Party is at the moment on that. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I’ll give you a bit of process and some indication or direction of travel because if you read The Times, you know that we’re on a timetable at the moment…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Policy development and so it’s a little, mini perder around lots of details.  The licence fee will fall on, you know, renegotiating the licence fee moment will come on my watch, if I’m Secretary of State. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

As will the charter renewal.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Let’s start with the basics.  I love the BBC, I, you know I absolutely love it, I think if we didn’t have it, we’d want to invent it.  It’s one of our best exports, both as a brand and as a commercial product.  They are, the BBC, are the biggest commissioner of the creative industries in the entire country, so why would I not want to protect them and give them every possible resource to do their jobs.  They have suffered an egregious effective funding cut over the last fourteen years…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…and that has impeded their ability, which I think they have got round creatively but we know it’s there, to do what they do best. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Well just, sorry, just, if you don’t mind…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

So, that’s background. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

…my interrupting you. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Interrupt away.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Just, no I just, just want to look at the question of what it means to defend the BBC because defending the BBC implies that the BBC is under attack. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

It definitely is. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

And I would be really interested to hear what you think about the nature of the attack on the BBC and whether there’s any elements of legitimate critique in it or whether one is simply saying, “Here is an institution which is fully and wrongly under attack and it simply needs to be… I need to throw myself between the people firing the weapons and the institution itself.” 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I mean one of the things I find really interesting about the BBC is this question of so-called bias.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I mean, first of all, I think the myth of objectivity is overblown but second of all, if you look at the Ofcom guidance, you know, it’s about having impartiality in the round so, you can have a programme…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Of course.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…that takes a point of view but you have to be able to show that you have presented other views as well.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.  Yes. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

However, you don’t have to take a balanced view of climate change.  Climate change exists, you don’t have to put someone else on that says, “No, it doesn't.”  You know, that would be ridiculous, I think now we know that, whereas I think fifteen years ago there was still a tendency amongst news broadcasters to go, “We better have a climate sceptic.”  So, objectivity is, there are specific questions on which you will view it in a particular lens.  Now, I know because I’ve been up close and personal in the BBC, I talk to Tim Davie, the Director General, a lot.  I talk to people who work in the BBC, I talk to you know viewers and listeners obviously but I also hear what I hear from the governing party and to be fair, it’s, it’s mostly from the backbenchers but, you know, you will all know that the backbenchers include presenters of shows on another TV station that has ‘news’ in its title and that’s quite challenging I think, you know, GB News has been found wanting by Ofcom many times and I think it’s been quite interesting to watch some backbench, in particular Tory MPs, attack the BBC on grounds of bias and then scuttle off and do their show. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

And that, that’s not great as far as I’m concerned but I think it, it’s, the BBC has an enormous amount of scrutiny and if you take a thing, as a couple of government ministers did earlier this week and say well, I didn’t like this sketch on the news quiz.  I mean, honestly, if you listen to the news quiz, they really do take, they make fun of us too.  And they’re gonna make fun of us even more if we’re in government. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Do you think that the, the main attack on the BBC, which has implications for licence fee and charter renewal objectivity, is that your sense?  The issue?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

It’s one of them but…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Because you know they’re a completely separate commercial considerations aren’t there which run against the renewal of the licence fee.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

There’s a whole bundle of things but I, you know I’ve mentioned the attack, the political attacks from the, a lot of Tory MPs, I don’t think all are at all, I think there are some who really love it.  But I also know that, you know I saw from the comments on my own Twitter feed the other day, well I thought well I’m getting attacked from the Left and the Right for saying they’re not biased.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.  So you’re doing something good. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

So I must be doing something right because I mean there was one person who said you know, “The BBC is biased against the Labour Party.  Watch Question Time and you’ll see” and I thought I’ve been on it, I do know that the audience in Question Time is tough and Fiona Bruce, you know, she’s there to make good telly. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

So, yes it’s a tough gig and I’ve definitely come away from Question Time feeling roughed up but you know if you take it as a whole production, is it biased against the Labour Party or the Tory Party?  I’ve been on Question Time sometimes where I’ve felt almost sorry for the Tory minister.  There was definitely one show when I got really given, I think, quite an easy ride.  I mean, I better not, if Fiona’s listening, no, definitely not but you know it was an easy ride compared to the vaccines minister because it was in the middle of the Covid crisis, we were 2 metres apart, the audience was 2 metres apart and everyone hated her and you know so I don’t think that occasion that there was any bias against me, there was a lot of attack on her. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

What’s your sense of the, of the appeal of the privatisation, the full privatisation of the BBC on the Conservative side?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I think there are those who would love to.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

But it, am I right in saying it’s very much a minority position?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I haven’t done a head count but what worries me is when the Secretary of State, as she did a few weeks ago, stands at the Dispatch Box, talks about the licence fee and does not mention the words ‘public service broadcasting’.  PSB is an important concept.  We’ve got, you know, ITV, Channel 4 and BBC, I was hosting a dinner looking at public service broadcasting early this week and each of them has got a different funding model, it’s been telling I think that having thirteen, I think it’s the record number of cabinet ministers in fourteen years is the Culture, Media and Sport brief and one of them, two Secretaries of State ago did not know how Channel 4 was funded.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

You know, that’s a bad sign if you don’t understand the PSB landscape.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

So the, so, so one thing’s clear, the Labour Party stands for the principle of public service broadcasting.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Absolutely.  And the principle of universality and I’ve got to own up because Anthony’s being very polite.  You may have noticed I haven’t answered his question about what we’re going to do to the licence fee.  I mean, we’ve got challenges because obviously we want people who are you know the licence fee exemption for people over the age of 75, it’s not great that that’s fallen on the BBC, that means effectively the BBC is paying a social benefit and it’s been a cost to them and they’ve done it.  Is that the right thing to have done?

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Politically impossible for the Labour Party to row back on.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Difficult.  I mean in a difficult financial situation which we’re in, I definitely can’t say that we’re going to do that but we will have as fundamental principles, universality, I do not want two tiers of access.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

So, sorry, just to, just for the sake of the one person who doesn’t know what that is, we’re talking about a kind of premium service which people have to pay for in addition to the licence fee.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

And that’s a proposal which is around and I, I don’t see a world in which a Labour Party is going to bring that in, it goes against everything of who we are.  We are, we’re about equality, we are the part of equality, it’s the 100th anniversary this year, this week sorry, of when the Labour Party was first in government and we went in with ambitions for equality and those have never left us.  The nature of that obviously, that’s changed over a hundred years, what that means, how we conceptualise it but for me, the BBC is a good example of that is that from its start it was available to all and it was to serve the public.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

So I’m Tim Davie…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Ah.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

…for the purposes of…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I’ll tell him that when I see him next. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

I’m Tim Davie for the purposes of this question and I come to you and I say, “Dear Minister, we’ve gone through the funding agony.  We now know what the licence fee is.  That means I’m only going to be able to make 80% of the programmes that I wanted to make.  Would you please let me charge for the football matches that we broadcast because it would not represent a problem to the football fans, it would be, you know, a quid a match or something like that and it would transform our programme making capabilities.  It’s a simple thing, it’s a reasonable request.  What do you say?”

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Well, first off, Tim Davie definitely hasn’t said that to me or…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

No, no, of course, sorry, in fairness.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I want to make sure.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

And you’re not in a position to say yes or no yet either but I mean, purely as a hypothetical, how does that, how does that violate the universal access?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Well it violates the listings regime as well, I mean depending on which, which…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

I understand that but just in political terms, why would that be a, absolutely out of the question “no”?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Because we believe in the principle of universality and public service broadcasting and we’re not shifting that.  I’d be interested in proposal Tim can come to me with and he is, with how the BBC might be able to maximise its income but there are other, you know there’s other routes like maximising its ability on commercial sales is something that I’m much more likely to consider how we would help that, of their product than charging British people to watch something that’s always been part of public service broadcasting.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Or, or…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

At the point of delivery. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

And maybe at the moment of delivery but then saying, iPlayer can charge for people who didn’t want to sit in front of the TV at the moment that it was first broadcast. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I mean you bring up iPlayer and I think that’s part of the challenge isn’t it, is that 800,000 people, well there are 800,000 licence holders, I think it’s roughly that, than there were a few a years ago and one of the reasons is probably you’ve got a whole generation of young people who don’t own a telly and don’t conceptualise watching or consuming TV products in the same way as those of us who were used to sitting down and there were three channels, you know, that, that’s, it’s just a complete different mindset and there’s a challenge I think, questions we will have to answer are if you consume BBC product on a phone on the way to work, you know what does the licence fee mean but there has to be a way of funding the BBC so that it allows it to be the public service broadcaster that we treasure and we’d miss it if it was gone and it’s the most trusted source of news and current affairs and that stuff isn’t going to, you know you’re not going to be able to go out to market and sell your news and current affairs. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

No, no, so I’m…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

It’s got to be good.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

I’m only going to be Tim Davie for another one minute so I can ask this follow-up question and then we’ll, we’ll move on but I’m really interested in the funding question because I think just worries us all if what happens is that the government, the present government does not do the radical thing and privatise but instead it, it’s, it settles on a funding provision which leaves the BBC a bit starved of cash. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

It’s done that already. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Even more so.  And that’s the, that’s what you inherit and then the BBC comes to you, Davie comes to you and asks you the question and you say “Well I’m not going to allow you to charge for any of your services” and he says “Well that’s the only idea I’ve got so unless you’re going to give me lots more money which I don’t suppose you will” and I imagine, if I can think of this then I’ve no doubt he thought of it a long time ago.  So do you think he’s privately praying for a Conservative victory because he thinks that the Conservatives will be more likely to let him introduce a two tier system?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Tim Davie’s private prayers are definitely not in my, part of my knowledge but…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

No but do you see what I mean?  Do you see, I mean, is it in the end in the interests of the BBC to charge for football, which is what they would get from a new Conservative government but not from a Labour government?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I mean we’ve, this, you bring me onto one of my favourite subjects as the…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Good.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…all politicians, which is “When’s the next General Election?”  I mean if the General Election is in May, I genuinely don’t see that they’ve got time to do that.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Even if it’s in November, I think we’d be hard pressed to see how the Beeb may do that in that timeframe so I don’t see that being the, THE problem, I think there will be others, I mean we go back to 2010, 2011 when Jeremy Hunt imposed a 19% cut, you know, I mean there’s layer upon layer upon layer of cuts that’s happened over the last fourteen years.  Most of us watching the BBC still think the news and current affairs is good but Newsnight’s taken a hammering, which will kick in quite soon and I’m a big fan of Newsnight, partly because I like going on it but I like watching it as well.  That’s quite hard to take because I can see how they feel that they’ve been pushed into a position that’s not ideal.  So, no, we’re going to have a good dialogue Tim and I, it’s going to be interesting over the next few months but I want to preserve the principle of universality, you know, come what may and the concept of public service broadcasting is, it’s such a great British institution.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes, I mean this is a general problem for the Labour Party, where you had a succession of governments that have cut public services, not just BBC but benefits and all the rest, and then a Labour government comes in under very difficult, positively constrained financial circumstances and the most that it can do is maybe give a little bit back but not very much and, and defeat all the aspirational politics and high hopes and induce a further round of cynicism and apolitical apathy as a result, I mean just to paint the bleakest picture. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

And you paint a very bleak picture.  And yet in 1997, the incoming Labour government stuck to the Conservative spending plan and did transform the country over the course of the next five to ten years.  It was a very different country after two rounds of Labour government.  I think that that’s one of the reasons why you will not be able to get ahead as we Shadow Cabinet members in conversations like this or in the media about we know what we can commit to and everything that’s outside that, we can’t.  And that’s because we don’t, we do know that cynicism is there and we do not want to be part of continuing it.  We know that the public thinks…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

You don’t want to over promise.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

It’s a bad idea at any time and it…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

You don’t want to over promise but you also want to inspire.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yes.  Yes, of course.  And I think one of the things I hope we’re inspiring on is that we will not make promises that we don’t know how we’re going to pay for or deliver but also that we have high ambition for this country so, you know, I recognise and value and love the fact that our culture, our media and our sport are three of the best things that we do in this country and I, I hope that what I’m doing when I’m meeting organisations in those three worlds is I’m, I hope what I’m doing is showing them that I will fight everywhere, anywhere, any source of money or regulatory change, anything that I can do to give them the opportunity to do what they do best, you know, I don’t want to tell a museum how to run a museum, I want to make sure they’ve got the resources that they need and that’s what my job will be is to, not just about financial resources but there are certain things that say museum sector or the film sector or the art market for that matter or newspapers are asking for, which are not to do with money, they’re really not.  And so certain things are about for instance trading arrangements. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes, so talk about because I notice that, I noticed that in the research that I was doing on you and your policies.  There was interesting exchange in relation to an aspect of your arts policy, the production of a kind of arts map and you were asked the question, “How much is that going to cost?” and you gave the answer, “Nothing” which was a really interesting exchange because, because it…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Doesn’t cost nothing really does it.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Well no but I didn’t, that wasn’t my point in a way…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

You’re not buying it. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

I didn’t mind that, I thought of course, of course, actually a creative, imaginative politician can actually have ideas that don’t have price tags, it’s, it’s actually possible to be innovative without presenting a bill and this seemed an interesting example of it.  I mean maybe you could talk a little bit about that. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

So, most local authorities already do really, really good work mapping what they already have in terms of cultural and artistic provision and including the creative industries like, so where are the film studios or the games makers, you know most local authorities already do lots of that.  What they don’t do and what I would like civil servants and DCMS to do, they already know this so I’m not breaking any confidences, is join up those maps and join them up as well with maps of the transport system of this country.  That allows you to spot much more clearly where there are gaps and I already know, I don’t need to spend any money to tell you that there is no cinema in Sunderland, there is no cinema in Wigan. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Right.  So that’s a really basic part of most people's cultural life and yet I don’t need to spend any money to tell you that, you know actually travelling to a cinema in another city from either of those places, it may look like it’s not very far on the map but if you know anything about the railways at the moment, you’ll know that that’s not easy and if you know anything about the buses, you know it’s not easy.  So, it’s a matter of allocating civil servants to your priorities, the civil servants who will currently be working on some other aspects of government policy and of course I’ve got my own ideas about what I would like them to do less of…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…and what I want them to do more off but actually my main thing with the cultural mapping is I want to have a really good, strong partnership with local authorities and mayors and they are almost all of them already doing a lot of that.  What they aren’t able to do, and I would be able to do as Secretary of State, is bring that together and look at culture in a much more, in a, in a national way but also in a, with a regional lens because I want everybody, everywhere to have access to the best possible arts and culture and to the potential jobs that you can get in the creative industries and to the joy, the job and the joy are my two favourite words in this brief, but that doesn’t mean that you put the same things absolutely everywhere but it means that you have what I, Chris Bryant who is my, one of my team, Shadow Ministers working with me on the creative industries, we think of it as the sort of the Chris Bryant-Thangam Debbonaire, the Rhonda Valley versus the centre of Bristol.  There should be no reason why, there’s no biological, inherent reason why young people in Chris’ constituency are any less talented, any less capable of being a games maker or a musician or a DJ than mine but mine, in Bristol central, have more opportunities just physically around them and then even within my constituency, there is a social and demographic gap between a group of young people in the very poorest part of my constituency or the poorest parts of the country who are physically closer to the cultural spots but for all sorts of other reasons, social, class, other forms of inequality, discrimination in some cases, much less connected to them than those at the richer part of my constituency. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

So, again, we’re the party of equality and I want to make sure that when we know what those barriers are, and we do with some of them and we don’t with others, that we are showing how we’re going to try and correct them, change them, transform them but also, we’re not saying, I’m going to sit in Whitehall and say right, I know that Wigan doesn’t need a cinema or needs a dance studio, I’d much rather ask Wigan what Wigan thinks it’s got and when I went to visit Sunderland recently and I went to an old mining village, it’s no longer got a mine but it’s got mining heritage, it’s got history, it’s got band history, and that’s very different cultural history to the one of my city centre in Bristol or London.  I think most communities have got a pretty good idea of the range of things that they want to enjoy and I think the Arts Council is critical in this but so are local authorities who used to be, and still are actually, one of the major sources of funding for publicly available arts and culture. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Arts funding under local authorities over the last fourteen years has been difficult because they’ve had massive funding cuts but you know a lot of them have managed to hang onto the best, some of them have really struggled.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes, so encouraging cooperation, removing irrational barriers…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Planning. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

…that doesn’t… planning… that doesn’t in itself cost any money because there’s already the investment in paying your salary and your civil servant salaries and all the rest of it. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

But then you have to work out how you’re going to fix the problems, that, that brings us onto the next bit which is, I am talking to and working with and researching any and every source of possible funding that there is and people often think about, and they use the word ‘subsidy’ which I frankly ban in my team, we don’t to talk about subsidy for publicly invested arts, they are invested in and they are the R&D of the commercial sector so, you run a successful games company, one of our best exports by the way, it’s one of the things we do really, really well but to get the workforce you need, you need the school sector and the university and college sector to have invested in the skills but you will have musicians who have worked in the publicly invested sector such as an orchestra and their skills which are then bought in by the games industry to make music or the film, I mean one of our, one of our great sources of income for musicians, for you know a small number of musicians, is film music.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Film, the film industry comes to this country for our musicians not because they’re the cheapest but because they’re brilliant at sight-reading and that’s a real skill.  Now, that took investment by the public sector, so I think of it as, you know, you have the publicly invested sector which does take public money whether it be via the Arts Council, local authorities or directly funded from DCMS but you also have private equity that wants to invest in our creative industries…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Of course.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

…but needs to see some certainty in the line of travel from government.  You have the pension funds, you have dormant assets, you have the lottery, you have all sorts of things which if properly harnessed and you take a good picture, like what’s there at the moment that’s not being used, what costs could we reduce?  If you look at the art market which I think is the, the venue you were talking about, the art market says to me, “We actually don’t want you to give us any money, we’d just like you to tweak the trading arrangements” and that will make them more money.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

That’s making them more money and then they can pay more in taxes which I can then hopefully find…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes, yes of course.  I mean it’s, it’s a, it’s also a, it’s also, it runs in parallel with your interest in governance.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yes.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

In sports.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yes.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

It’s, it’s, it’s how to, how to fine tune the, the structural arrangements that allow the actual participants in the industries to fully realise their potential and be as successful as they can be.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

So, football isn’t asking me for any money at the moment, I mean bits of are asking other bits of it for money but what they’re mostly asking me for is, “”here’s the football governance bill?”.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I mean, not every bit of the football industry is asking “Where’s the football governance bill?”, some bits of it are saying, “Can it go away, please” but we are, I mean I can tell you this, this isn’t, shouldn’t be news but if the Government doesn’t bring in the football governance bill, we will because we know what value it’s going to have and we know why it matters but they’re not asking me for money at the moment but I think where they should asking me for money more, and certainly Sport England are aware of this, is where have all the pitches gone?  Where are the schools that have got absolutely nowhere to play?  A lot of them were sold off ten years ago.  I’m not just talking about schools, I’m talking about local authorities as well.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.  I mean it’s shocking actually that we’ve spent the best part of hour talking about your brief and we haven’t discussed football yet, which is, it’s of course as we all know the national religion and I suppose that must make you the Archbishop of Football or the Shadow Archbishop of Football.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

No, I think that’s Keir, I think that’s genuinely Keir.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Is he.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I think he’s the Archbishop.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

He’s probably the patron saint.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I think he is but I, I mean I have, it, it, with sport, I came to sport quite late in life, I mean I wouldn’t even call what I do sport, I call it system activity.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

But quite late in life, you know, I was a brown girl in the ‘70s and you know football gave me a very clear message about how welcome brown girls were – not very – and that kind of leaves its mark on you but I discovered how interesting football governance is and where the politics lie and that football is a fun thing to do to play, for a lot of people or to go to a match and also that my job as a politician isn’t, you know Keir does this really well, he can play football, you know the man’s obsessed and I think in a really good and healthy way, I have a different love for physical activity, I go running and I do it a lot but I’m not massively good at it, I’m never going to win a marathon, I have run in one but I’m never going to win one. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Remarkable for a very competitive person not to want to win one but I’m happy with my time but, actually not that happy, I want to improve on it this year, but I know that where the politics lies is which people are being excluded, who is not getting to enjoy physical activity and it’s often women and girls, often women and girls in some forms of physical activity.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

And that also doesn’t take money that takes a particular kind of focus and energy and effort and interest.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

It takes doing, yeah, and doing what I did last night which is there was someone sitting next to me at a dinner, a sports dinner actually, who is a sports clothing manufacturer and I said, “What are you doing about women’s bras?” and if you run, you know what I’m talking about.  Also, if you’ve ever been pregnant, you will know how unsuitable most women’s sports clothing is.  If you’ve ever been a teenager who is anxious about her period, you know you will know how much it matters that the clothing is right.  I had breast cancer eight years ago, nine years ago, well fifteen anyway, fifteen to sixteen, that’s when I discovered physical activity because my surgeon said, “You need to hop because your bones are weakened because of the chemotherapy so you need to prevent osteoporosis” and he said “one of the best things you can do is impact” and he also said “and you need to keep your weight down because that’s how you prevent the recurrence of breast cancer” so I went out walking and eventually one day I was impatient, just started running and that’s when I discovered that running is actually fun.  It is for me, not for everybody.  But I also discovered that sports clothing for women ain’t great, you know…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Really.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

...and yes, and that there are good manufacturers of it and there are some really bad ones.  And the expensive ones are not always great and that seams can chafe in places that, you know, the designer probably thought it looked great but you know actually when you put the damn shorts on, it’s not very nice, and that’s also to do with women’s bodies, we are not the same shape as men and I, this sports manufacturer I was speaking to last night, I won’t name him because he was a good guy but he said, “Yes, we’ve mostly just done what’s called ‘pink it and shrink it’.”  Yeah, women in the room, you know what I’m talking about.  And it’s really annoying but I mentioned breast cancer, partly because it’s what got me exercising but also, if you’ve got scars which, if you’ve had breast cancer you do, it really matters where the seams are and you know lots of women have breast cancer, 1 in 8 of us so, why not think about how to design a sports bra for women that have had breast cancer?  Or why not think about how to design a sports bra that all women could wear but that that includes women who’ve had breast cancer or who have breast fed, you know why not, why not put some money into that, we’re half the population.  We’re also pretty good runners, you know, it just seems smart to me and he, he, I hope he was convinced, he promised he’d come back to me with some bras. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

No, but I think, sorry, I mean that’s…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

But that’s the politics, sorry…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

No but it’s, it’s not only, it’s not politics, I mean and I absolutely don’t think that there’s any pejorative colouring to the word ‘politics’ but actually what you’re talking about in addition is, is using your office to exercise what might be called or would have been called at an earlier time, ‘moral leadership’. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yes.  And I think that’s important.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

It’s very important. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

It’s important that as a politician you’re, you’re looking at, well who is getting the benefit of the thing that I’m responsible for and who is being excluded so, every culture, media and sport organisation I meet, I say, “Where are women?  Where are people of colour?  Where are people from working class communities?” and I mean horizontally and vertically, so some organisations say “we’ve got lots of black people”, yeah, they’re on the football pitch, they’re not in the board, right, and that, why does that matter?  It matters for all sorts of good reasons.  You make better decisions if you have a diversity of thought and background and experience.  You make better stuff if you’re a commercial company and you’re challenged by people who aren’t…

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes, and also I mean any party that’s committed to equality at the very least…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

And it’s who we are.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

…at the very least you should be committed to equality of access.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I was horrified to discover that it really wasn’t that long ago and in my lifetime that women were allowed to compete in the marathon at the Olympics.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Right.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

You know, I tell the story to, when young women who say to me you know “why did you become a feminist?” and I say because when my mum became a single parent and she went to the bank and said “I need to take over the mortgage”, they sort of looked at her with a look of horror and when she wanted to buy a washing machine when she was still married, on hire purchase, they said “can you go back and get your husband to sign this piece of paper.”  Now it’s in our lifetimes.  There are still things like that, the fact that it’s in my recent lifetime that women were allowed to compete in the same sports as men’s just appals me even though I don’t want to do it myself. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

It is shocking.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Why are we excluded?  Sorry, how long have we been talking?  I’ve lost all sense of time. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

We’ve been talking actually, I know, and it’s, and I’m slightly anxious that I’ve been delinquent.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Have you been delinquent?

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

I think I may have been.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Are we supposed to have gone to Q&A already?

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

I think we’re supposed to have gone to Q&A.

Audience member

So, Shadow Secretary of State, wonderful to meet you.  This is a question from a member of the Conservative’s Party.  So, if you watch the TV and you look at various sections of the media, you’ll see that the sort of two main parties are always pitted against one another or at least they are certainly most of the time.  What would you say is the proportion of times that you agree on things, like what is that like compared to the proportion of the times that you disagree on things?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Can I ask your name please?

Audience member

Stuart.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Stuart.  Lovely to meet you, Stuart. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

But because we’re running out of time, I think what I would like you to do…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I’ve got an answer. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

…you know, I’m sure, and I’d like you to give the answer but there were two other questions…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yes, shall we take them all.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

…and then you can, then you can…

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I’ll bring them together in a neat little whole. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Yes, exactly.  And then we must draw a line under the proceedings.  And questions, not speeches. 

Audience member

I’m Jane.  I’m with Anthony’s, if you’ll allow me, I’m just going to make one observation.  I’m a Sunderland lass and we don’t have a cinema but we may soon have a worldclass film studio. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Yes, I know about that film studio.  Oh yes. 

Audience member

Glad you are onto that.  Onto my question.  You talk about, I thought, powerfully about creative education and one thing I would love to see from a government of any colour is a strategy for creative education and through life, in mid life as well.  I’d love to see that emerge one day from somebody because I benefitted from midlife creative education and 57.25

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Very good. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

And a great stadium. 

Audience member

Yes. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

And then our third question at the back and then you can wind us up. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I’ll segue them all together. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Wind us up in a good sense. 

Audience member

Hi, I’m Fazana.  I play in a, in the largest grassroots, inclusive women’s football team in London.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Hey!

Audience member

Similar to, I suppose the constituency is similar to Easton rather than Clifton and I have a question because I’ve noticed that Anthony mentioned charging for football and we’ve seen off the back of the Euro 2020 and the Women’s World Cup that there’s a huge demand now for women’s football matches, particularly record breaking attendance here at my favourite team, Arsenal, and I was just wondering what the strategy is for women’s football in terms of making it accessible and commercially viable for growth in terms of broadcasting rights but also, of the back of what we saw was great commercial interest during the Euros 2020 of Pitch, Please with a ‘p’ to sort of make football accessible for younger generations of women.  What’s the strategy long-term which doesn’t exclude people on the basis of you know paying for fees or so on?

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Okay.

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Three questions.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I’ll try and answer them all together. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

In two minutes. 

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I can’t give you an absolute proportion but we get along with colleagues, we agree on lots of things.  You’ll see if you watch Select Committees that’s it’s often very difficult to tell who is the Conservative, who’s the Scot Nat, who’s the Lib Dem and who’s the Labour, you know, we’re focussed on scrutinising the Government, there are Conservative chairs of select committees and members of select committees who are very tough on their own side and vice versa.  I actually think that in our committee work which is under noticed, you all, if you watch politics at all, most people just watch PMQs which is the most unrepresentative bit of the week, I’ve got to tell you that, that stuff is very, very unrepresentative of how we work but we have different ideologies but I’m on, I’m on shows with Conservative colleagues who we can chat, we go on, we can debate, fiercely, and then go off again, I’m perfectly capable of holding a different political opinion from someone and getting along and also, finding the thing that we have in common, which is, you know, it will be often about those things that there is no obvious party political message on. 

In terms of creative education, yeah, Jane, I share your ambition.  I, my ambition is that everybody, everywhere, and I meant everyone not just young people, is able to pick up and learn something new, enjoy something new, be exposed to different things or the thing that they’ve always loved and why I mentioned Sunderland and cinema but you know, yes, I know about the film plans, the studio plans, I think they’re great and I’m really interested in seeing how I can help.  And in terms of women’s football.  Which team by the way?  What?

Audience member

1.00.22

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Okay.  Okay, well I hope that at some point you invite me to come and watch.  I, I can tell you right now, getting women, women’s physical activity rather than women’s sport, so women’s sport is within women’s physical activity is going to be a big priority for me, it already is, you’ve heard me bang on about bras already so, you know, it’s, it’s not for nothing, that’s not just a minor pursuit, it’s a big deal.  To make it commercially viable if we’re talking about women’s football, I, well you will know that there’s all sorts of interesting options there.  What I do know is that women’s football at the moment is at a critical point.  If it doesn't get the broadcasting rights it needs, it just won’t be able to compete and grow so, I am doing all sorts of things that, I’m learning a lot about how I might be able to help that, shall we say.  But it does need to get the broadcasting rights it clearly deserves but also it needs to have, it needs to have backers and the public as well but also politicians who believe in its ability to grow.  Women’s football is a great growth industry if you want to look at it, purely commercial terms, because it’s going from here to here.  Men’s football is already here.  Where’s the potential for growth?  Yeah, just a bit more, whereas women’s football has got such a potential for growth.  I mean I personally think if anyone wants to invest in women’s football, now is the time to do it because there’s clearly great participation, there’s clearly great potential.  In terms of participation, our commitment, Bridget Phillipson and Keir, who announced it about creative education, it’s actually Creative and Sport and it’s because we know that it’s both creativity and sport and that they go hand in hand and there’s no point promoting women’s football if there’s only a small chunk of the population of girls whoever gets to play football at school or as a young person.  So, I met yesterday with the Football Foundation and I’ve asked some tough questions of them about how are you making sure that there are pitches in the right places and that girls are getting to use them?  Have they got the right changing rooms and the right facilities and that we’re not, you know as I said with the clothes, not just pinking and shrinking but actually thinking what might be the different needs?  It is pointless if women, women’s amateur games, women’s amateur teams, are told yeah, you can have a go on our pitch but not till 10 o’clock at night.  I don’t know, why is that pointless?  You know, it’s those sorts of things that I think shouldn’t need to be explained but if they do need to be explained, I will be doing that and I think it’s a great opportunity for us to make sure that women and girls, as well as men and boys, have access to the widest possible physical activity, arts and culture, and that’s going to be what I’m going to do if we win the election.
 
Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

Well.

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I hope that was neatly tied up. 

Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman
Mishcon de Reya

It was brilliantly, succinctly and comprehensively formulated series of answers.  Thank you, thank you very much for coming and giving us some of your time.  Thank you very much, Thangam Debbonaire.   

Thangam Debbonaire MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Thank you.

Speaker

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