The role of Culture Secretary (or, in full, Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) was created relatively recently, by Conservative Prime Minister John Major in 1992.
It was - of course it was! - first filled by David Mellor, who dubbed the position ‘Minister of Fun’, which showed you just how seriously he took it.
Since then, 14 different people have been in charge of the department and, on Monday, following her latest hugely-successful-and-in-no-way-another-absolute-mess of a political move, Theresa May reshuffled her pack and plonked West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock into the role.
Now, you can debate the merits of having a Culture Secretary - somehow, Britain managed to produce a fair bit of culture in those barren government interventionless years before 1992 - but it’s time to set up the online petitions, it’s time to get making those placards, it’s time to book your trains down to London, because we march on Parliament at dawn to protest this unacceptable appointment.
You thought Toby Young was an ill-judged candidate to occupy a position on the board of the Office for Students? Think on my friend, because the bar has been lowered so close to the floor that an ant would struggle to limbo underneath it.
Matt Hancock is 39 years old, and he is an MP, so we will forgive him for not having his finger exactly on the cultural pulse. But a truly alarming interview conducted last year saw him questioned on his favourite song, and album.
His answer? Oh you already know the answer don’t you. You know it’s bad, that’s why I’ve written this and why you’re reading it. But still, it sends a shiver down your spine to see it in pixels.
Of course, of course, it’s Ed Sheeran’s ‘Galway Girl’ and it’s Divide.
For the love of god. Could this be any worse? Now, I have written at exhaustive length about my begrudging respect for the undeniable talent of Ed Sheeran, and perhaps Matt might simply have thought: “Well, everyone loves Ed don’t they, and he does tremendous business for the UK music industry, and ‘Galway Girl’ is the most memorable song on the album so I’ll just go with that.”
But he wasn’t in the top role when the interview was conducted was he? He could have said anything and, hang the industry, he could have had some fun.
‘Stinkfist’ by Tool and The Best of Chas & Dave? No one would have complained. In fact, people would have loved it. Remember when Tom Watson told everyone to listen to Drenge? That got him so many cool points it was ridiculous. And it was so easy. He even ended up playing Glastonbury. Matt, that could have been you, mate.
This is what he said: “Ed Sheeran has been amazing for the music industry this year and the whole album is fantastic, but ‘Galway Girl’ is probably my favourite song from it.”
Now, he did apparently receive free tickets to a Sheeran gig, so maybe he’s an actual fan. But if he was an actual fan, he’d know that Ed’s first two albums are far superior. If he really had to say Ed, he could at least have gone for Plus or Multiply or Integrate by Parts or whatever it’s called and picked a legit brilliant song like ‘Small Bump’, but no, he went with the most basic Ed Sheeran album choice and the most basic song choice.
No, this smacks to me of Tom being a person who has only ever listened to Ed Sheeran. He answered Ed Sheeran because he doesn’t know any other music. One album a year at Christmas, just to ‘keep up’. Of course, like all people lining themselves up for a future job, he did pretend to like Skepta in 2016, yet was unable to name any of his songs.
Still, who are we to doubt Theresa May’s choices given the overwhelming and continuing successes of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who, having made such a triumph of managing the NHS has now been given an effective promotion. To be fair, I’ve yet to meet a single person who works in the NHS who doesn’t speak highly of him. Oh hang on, sorry, that’s not quite right, it should be: I’ve yet to meet a single person who works in the NHS who doesn’t wish he was dead. That’s better.
Actually, it turns out that Ed isn’t the only music Matt knows, as he also went to another free concert, as revealed after being pressed in the Commons by Labour’s Jon Trickett last year.
Who was it Matt? Napalm Death? SOPHIE? A$AP Rocky?
“It’s Adele isn’t it?”
Yes it’s Adele.
Oh well, at least he likes cricket.