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Londoner’s Diary: Khan and Dorries clash over arts cuts in capital

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ayor Sadiq Khan and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries had a war of words over cuts to arts funding for London at the National Theatre last night. In a speech to Creative UK, Khan accused the Government of cutting London’s arts funding by £75 million by 2025. Pointing to low cultural participation rates in the capital, he called “for a rethink”.

Dorries then hit back. “There is no cut to Arts Council funding,” she first claimed. However, seeming to acknowledge the issue, she pointed out deprivation elsewhere in the UK and said: “I’m moving some of that funding out of London to those communities”.

Khan told The Londoner afterwards that “she’s wrong, the amount of money coming to London has been cut. There’s no arguing there”.

In their speeches, both mentioned growing up on council estates, and Dorries put on a Scouse accent to show how she used to speak. She also spoke of herself as a writer. “There are critics who would say I don’t put enough blood, sweat and tears into my work,” she said, but dared them to “do it themselves”.

Khan had earlier promised “We’re at the National Theatre, but I promise there won’t be any drama tonight”. He was wrong.

Visa-less Rhodes is less travelled

Getty Images

Designer Dame Zandra Rhodes is in travel purgatory because of a criminal record for growing “luxurious” marijuana plants in the Eighties. The fashion doyenne lived part-time in the US for decades, and wants to travel to see an opera production she worked on.

She’s has been waiting two months for a visa. Rhodes has had troubles before but never this bad. “I’m now 81 and I haven’t done anything since 1984,” she says, pointing out weed is legal in much of the US. Someone let her in!

People’s palace or MPs’ interim base?

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As the Queen moves out of Buckingham Palace for good, how should the palace best be used? Neil Sinden of the Campaign for Rural England suggests to us it should become a public park, that way “the Queen would leave a wonderful lasting legacy for future generations of Londoners and visitors to enjoy”. Other ideas circulating include a temporary Parliament during the renovations there, or perhaps a new Trocadero. Prince Charles may have other ideas.

‘Immigration has been weaponised’

Michael Gove announced the scheme in the Commons on Monday (David Parry/PA)

/ PA Wire

Michael Gove this week denied that the UK ever had a hostile immigration policy. Sonita Gale, director of new documentary Hostile, which tells the story of four people struggling with tough immigration rules, hit back at a BFI screening last night. “All governments have been complicit in weaponising this term in legislation,” she said, accusing him of trying to “cover something up”. Gale had to walk out of the film, explaining that she feels grief when seeing it. “Right now people are crossing borders from Ukraine and from Russia for safety,” she said. “It’s 2022, why are we not moving on?”

Dr Who stars find time for a reunion

Catherine Tate and David Tennant had a Doctor Who reunion last night at a screening of her Nan Movie at the Ham Yard Hotel. Elsewhere, actresses Marisa Abela and Katrine De Candole and models Edie Rose and Emilia Boateng celebrated the Longchamp Spring/Summer ’22 collection. At charity coffee shop Social Bite on the Strand earlier in the day, actor and musician Martin Kemp told us that while fame is sometimes a “difficult thing”, he’s happy to “use it for good”.

SW1A

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Minister for Brexit Opportunities, last month pledged to axe 65,000 civil service jobs, claiming many were created in the pandemic. But some in Whitehall tell us that will be difficult — due to Brexit. Thousands of roles have been created to manage “everything Brussels used to do”, they say. One new job is Rees-Mogg’s own.

It seems there is no rest for Tulip Siddiq MP. She recalled how one of her Hampstead and Kilburn constituents chose to remind her that she had not responded to her email when the music lulled during a recent pilates class. She told Politics Home that “I was hanging with my legs in straps — not very dignified!” Perhaps not the ideal time to talk shop.

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