Now is the time to make our voice heard
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Simon Stephens
The general election in June fitted into the recent pattern of politics, at least in terms of its unpredictability. As this issue of Museums Journal went to press, it was still unclear how and if the new UK government was going to function, following the shock result.
The revival of the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn does point to a population that is fed up with what has seemed like a never-ending programme of austerity. Could this lead to a renaissance for our public services, as they again become valued and supported, rather than criticised and drained of funding?
In Scotland – the UK nation with the highest proportion of people who voted to remain in the EU –the political landscape is extremely complicated. The general election ended the Scottish National party’s seemingly unstoppable momentum and saw a revival of both Labour and the Conservatives.
In Northern Ireland, the future is also unclear, with no working government in Stormont and the general election dividing power among Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party. In Wales, the expected gains by the Conservatives never happened.
So, where does all this leave museums?

An end to austerity could certainly be beneficial, particularly if it means more financial support for council services. For the past few years, local authority museums all over the UK have been hanging on by a thread, as their budgets have been cut.

We also have the Brexit negotiations to contend with. Issues that affect museums, such as the future of cultural funding from Europe, the status of European nationals working in the UK and how the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will work are still to be resolved.

The sector is not known for being particularly fleet of foot, but it will have to make sure it reacts quickly to changing events, and seizes the opportunities if and when they appear.
It will be more important than ever for museums to clearly articulate the value of what they offer and how they improve people’s lives and strengthen communities.

The Museums Association is among the organisations working hard to advocate on behalf of the sector, and to make sure that its voice is heard in these rapidly changing times.

Simon Stephens, editor, Museums Journal


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