Cultural policy News United Kingdom

Surprise appointments in UK cabinet reshuffle

Former culture minister Jeremy Hunt is promoted to Health Secretary, while the relatively unknown Maria Miller is given his post

Who saw that one coming?

The UK has a new minister of culture after a cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday 4 September in which the former minister, Jeremy Hunt, was promoted to become Health Secretary. Hunt’s new job took many by surprise, not least because he had to weather criticism for his handling of News Corp’s bid to buy BSkyB while at the Department for Culture Media and Sport. At the end of June, while speaking at the British Museum, Hunt referred to its monumental statue of Ramases II as a reminder of the “temporal nature of political power”, alluding to his recent grilling by the Leveson inquiry into press standards. No one predicted Hunt would now be responsible for the National Health Service. What a difference a day in politics makes.

The new culture secretary Maria Miller, who is one of the few women in the Prime Minister David Cameron’s reshuffled cabinet, is another surprise appointment. She has been a relatively unknown junior minister in the Department for Work and Pensions. Before becoming a Member of Parliament, she worked in marketing and advertising. The department she now leads is responsible for a range of activities. It remains to be seen how highly culture will feature alongside media and sport. High on her agenda will be making the most of the London Olympic Games’ legacy.

One of Hunt’s last acts as culture minister was to appoint Peter Bazalgette as the chairman of the Arts Council, the body that administers government funding for the arts in England. Bazalgette is the former head of the television production company Endemol, which successfully adapted the Dutch-devised Big Brother reality TV format for a UK audience. His business background is expected to mean he is more in tune than his predecessor, Liz Forgan, with the Conservative government’s wish to encourage private support of the arts to compensate for cuts in government funding.

Relative unknown Maria Miller is taking over culture post
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