Sell your Damien Hirst now - before 'con art' bubble bursts
Opinion digest: Damien Hirst's artistic value and self-harming Tories
SELL YOUR HIRST BEFORE IT'S WORTHLESS
JULIAN SPALDING ON 'SUB PRIME' ART
If you are the owner of a Damien Hirst work, sell it now before it becomes worthless, writes Julian Spalding in The Independent. While some argue that Hirst is a great artist and others say he is execrable, they are "missing the point". Damien Hirst isn't an artist at all, and while he may draw the crowds, his works have "no artistic content and are worthless as works of art". Hirst himself has argued that he adds the "artistic content" to works like the pickled shark, which went for $12 million, by having the conceptual idea of the piece. Others even argue that his work is "an investment". But if there is no artistic content in any of his work and people in the future don't value Hirst's "input" as highly as it is valued today, what are you left with? A shark in a tank. What Hirst makes is "Con Art", like the sub-prime mortgage business, built on smoke and mirrors.
WITH TORIES SO WEAK LABOUR MUST POUNCE
POLLY TOYNBEE ON LABOUR'S GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY
Labour strategists could not have devised a better wish-list of Tory self-harm in recent weeks, but fear seems to dog their steps, writes Polly Toynbee in The Guardian. Everything about the Cruddas affair smacks of systematic carelessness and ineptitude, from sending an arrogant Francis Maude on to the Today programme, to refusing to name any donors, to making a swift U-turn. There's more. What about the hidden nugget in the Budget that the Government is to increase inheritance tax exemption for non-doms? It's "another bonus for the mega-wealthy to make the granny tax look yet worse". Meanwhile, Cameron's minimum alcohol price has "fallen apart", with the IFS showing it gives an £850 million bonus to the drinks industry. The polls show Labour ahead, but "trepidation dogs their steps". Ed Miliband needs to act now to bolster his ideas for growth and sharpen the concept of "responsible capitalism".
CRUDDAS AFFAIR: POLITICS AND MONEY
GEOFFREY WHEATCROFT ON AN OLD STORY
Politics has always been awash with money, writes Geoffrey Wheatcroft in The Guardian. Just over 100 years ago, Conservative leaders were "rich, languid, superficially intelligent Etonians", whose party represented - if anything at all - "money, property and the interests of trade". For 40 years up until the end of 1918, the Tory party was a "partly owned subsidiary of the liquor business". Tory leader AJ Balfour sat in the house for 20 years as MP for Manchester East, a constituency that was "effectively in the gift" of local brewers. More recently, with the collapse of party membership, funds must come from "vulgar means", but is it even necessary for parties to enjoy large incomes? "If they spent at the next election a quarter of the money they did at the last, would we be any worse governed?"
GRAMMAR SCHOOLS: AN UNDERGROUND SUCCESS
PHILIP JOHNSTON ON A LOW-KEY REVIVAL
After decades of political persecution, grammar schools are making a quiet comeback writes Philip Johnston in The Daily Telegraph. Historians will look back at the closure of most of our grammar schools in the 1960s and 1970s as "an act of monumental folly". In fact, it was vandalism. Tony Crosland, education secretary for Labour in 1964 vowed "to destroy every f****** grammar school in England". He never fully realised his ambition: 164 grammars remain, and for the first time in 50 years a new one may open. Kent County Council will, on Thursday, consider expanding the number of grammar places through a new 120-pupil school in Sevenoaks. A similar scheme is taking place in Torquay. Both look likely to go ahead", but new grammar schools are officially forbidden so this expansion is happening in an almost "clandestine fashion". Surely it is time to accept grammars back as "part of the solution" to our educational woes?
CALLAGHAN BETTER THAN BLAIR OR BROWN
LEO MCKINSTRY ON AN UNDERRATED PM
Despite his reputation as our "worst Prime Minister," James Callaghan was a better premier than either Gordon Brown or Tony Blair, writes Leo McKinstry in The Daily Telegraph. Callaghan had the misfortune to preside over "unprecedented national decline" as Britain became the "sick man of Europe". On the centenary of Callaghan's birth we should recognise that he was a far more substantial figure than the verdict of history suggests. "He was a leader who brought a natural dignity, authority and calmness to his role in Downing Street". He is the only politician ever to have served in all four great offices of state: the Home Office, Foreign Office, Chancellorship and Premiership. For "all the miseries of the winter of discontent", Callaghan caused far less long-term damage to Britain than his two Labour successors in the highest office, Blair and Brown. When Callaghan departed in 1979, the mess that his government left was reversible, as Margaret Thatcher demonstrated. But, tragically, the same is not true today.