In Brief

Theresa May’s Festival of Britain idea rubbished

Event aims to promote post-Brexit Britain and will put the UK’s best in business, arts and sports centre stage

Theresa May’s plans for a Festival of Britain in 2022 to mark what she called a “moment of national renewal” has been widely ridiculed, with even Conservative commenters questioning whether it is in fact a ruse to distract attention from the government’s flagging Brexit strategy.

The prime minister has promised £120m would be spent on hosting the event which aims to promote post-Brexit Britain and will put the UK’s best in business, arts and sports centre stage.

Inspired by the 1851 Great Exhibition held during Queen Victoria’s reign, and the post-war Festival of Britain in 1951, events are set to take place around the UK. May believes it will raise billions of pounds in investment to the nation.

According to The New European, “the government is rather optimistically hoping that the 2022 celebrations would lead to a repeat of the boost the country gained from the 2012 London Olympics through construction, tourism and trade” while the Tories are also hoping the event will give them a boost just months ahead of the next scheduled general election.

But the Prime Minister's plan “has sparked criticism”, the Daily Express says, “that she is keen to distract attention from progress in Brexit talks and discontent in Tory ranks about her controversial Chequers proposals on leaving the EU”.

“There are also suggestions that the idea has been hastily dreamt up” reports the Daily Mail, with Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright reportedly only asking Cabinet colleagues for their views on the festival just a few days ago.

“Unsurprisingly, many of those who voted to remain in the EU have greeted the news about the proposed festival with disdain”, says the i newspaper.

David Lammy, the Labour MP and anti-Brexit campaigner, tweeted: “Theresa May’s £120 million 'Festival of Brexit Britain' is historically illiterate. The Labour government’s 1951 Festival of Britain marked a new era of growth and international cooperation. The opposite of where this Tory government is taking us.”

Suggesting an alternative motivation behind the 2022 date, the Labour peer Lord Adonis claimed the idea for what he called a “festival of Brexit” might just be “an appalling sop to the DUP”, May’s parliamentary partners who keep her in power.

“Few have woken up to why May announced it as the 'Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland' and why the timing is significant – 2022 marks a century since the creation of Northern Ireland”, Adonis writes in The Gaurdian.

Yet others have jumped to defend the idea.

“It’s an idea not worthy of derision. At least not yet”, says Stephen Bayley in the Daily Telegraph.

“As the shortcomings of our virtual world become daily more clear, there is a renewed appetite for analogue experience”, he writes, and “that’s what you get with festivals and exhibitions”.

“Moreover, they have often raised national morale in troubled moments through bravura demonstrations of science and art, while leaving behind monuments”, he adds.

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