Sajid Javid, the new British Conservative secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Anny Shaw, writing for The Arts Newspaper, reports that –
Cultural and political figures are calling on the British government to sign up to the Hague Convention, which provides protection for a country’s heritage in times of conflict. Writing in the Guardian newspaper on 15 April, Helen Goodman, the Labour MP and shadow culture minister, says there is “no excuse” for Sajid Javid, the new Conservative secretary of state for culture, media and sport, to not ratify the treaty.
“The convention prohibits looting, theft, vandalism and reprisals against cultural property,” Goodman writes. “Importantly, it also forbids the export of cultural property from occupied territories and makes provision for the return of objects deposited with third-party territories for safekeeping during conflict.” Goodman points out that the UK is “one of the only Western powers not to have ratified the convention”. Goodman’s comments echo similar advice given by The Art Newspaper’s editor Jane Morris in a prompt from the BBC. “We really ought to [ratify] the Hague Convention,” she told the news service last week. “It’s something the DCMS [Department of Culture, Media and Sport] could take a lead on, in tandem with the Foreign Office.”
Let’s hope so. Rupert Christiansen, writing in The Telegraph pulls no punches when he says –
You [Sajid Javid] appear to be very much a money man, with a background in banking, and there is nothing – forgive me if I am mistaken – in your curriculum vitae to suggest that you have any prior interest in or knowledge of the bulging arts folder in your ministerial brief.
I don’t imagine you much relish grappling with its contents. The arts are a running sore and constant irritant for every government. Your predecessors have generally been excoriated and mocked by the chattering classes and liberal media for their failure to understand or value their mysteries, and you will already have been warned to expect heckling and rotten tomatoes when the next round of Arts Council grants are announced in the summer.
You will also have to confront some of the most forcefully intelligent, sharply articulate and widely respected people in contemporary public life – Sir Nicholas Serota of Tate, Sir Neil McGregor of the British Museum, Sir Nicholas Hytner of the National Theatre, for instance – and I would advise you not to under-estimate them, not least as they command much more instinctive sympathy from the press than you will ever do.
The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict was signed 60 years ago next month (14 May 1954). With the exception Andorra, Ireland, Philippines and the UK every other country has ratified the convention.
The Arts Newspaper feature here. The Telegraph article here.