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MU General Secretary Joins Calls For Urgent General Election

MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl talks about our presence at this year's party conferences and what’s going on in music education, touring in Europe and orchestras, theatre and arts funding.

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By Naomi Pohl Published: 20 October 2022 | 5:12 PM
Naomi Pohl speaking into a microphone next to George Peretz KC on a panel at Labour Conference.
We will continue to represent members' interests to decision makers across the UK and work behind the scenes on our key policy areas. Image credit: The MU.

Today we have witnessed the resignation of Liz Truss as Prime Minister after just 45 days and the UK Government is in utter disarray.

At the MU, we add our collective voice to calls for a General Election at the earliest possible opportunity in order to allow the people of this country to choose their next Prime Minister and to restore stability.

Regardless of what happens, however, the MU will not be deterred from its mission. We will continue to represent members' interests to decision makers across the UK and work behind the scenes on our key policy areas.

To that end, the Union had a presence at both Labour and Conservative Party Conferences again this year and we made the most of the opportunity to highlight a range of issues affecting MU members.

We were, however, disappointed to be refused a meeting by the previous Secretary of State for Culture, Nadine Dorries, and we will continue to press for an urgent meeting with her successor, Michelle Donelan. On a more positive note I have had productive meetings with the Shadow Secretary of State, Lucy Powell, and the Leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer.

Music Education

The MU stands at both Party Conferences, and our fringe events, focused on universal access to music education in England and better pay and conditions for our teaching members across the UK. Attendees were easily engaged on this subject and appeared passionate about music and music education regardless of their place on the political spectrum.

The Brodsky Quartet played at our Conservative Party Conference reception and Jacqueline from the group spoke passionately about her own experience of free instrumental tuition. Her testimony was powerful and clearly resonated with those present.

At Labour Party Conference, Ben Cooper from the Fabian Society presented his report and recommendations which would deliver an improved music education system in England. We also highlighted better policies that exist in Wales and Scotland.

Orchestras, Theatre and Arts Funding

I sat on a UK Music panel at Conservative Party Conference called The Power of Music. In my contributions to the discussion, I highlighted the work that orchestras do in their local communities – in education, care homes and healthcare settings. I made the point that public funding for orchestras has stood still for 15 years and has decreased significantly in real terms due to inflation.

In discussions with Conservative and Labour Party MPs I argued that we need dynamic tax cuts for arts organisations and well as increased funding and made the point that musicians are low paid on average and many orchestral musicians do not have a clear route to progress and increase their salary.

I also discussed difficulties in the theatre industry and touring with box office sales still not fully recovered post pandemic, international tourism down and rising costs for musicians and companies.

We are supported in these asks by trade bodies such as Creative UK and UK Music.

I have been asking for a meeting with Darren Henley from Arts Council England to discuss these issues and this will now take place in November.

Touring in Europe 

I represented the Union on panels at both Labour and Conservative Conferences discussing ways to improve the UK-EU relationship.

It is clear that achieving an EU-wide deal is unlikely in the short term but at both Conferences there was talk of maximising the opportunity to review the trade agreement in 2026.

In the meantime, the MU is advocating for bilateral agreements that allow for more than 90 days of work in a 180 day period.

Again, I have been speaking to MPs about this and David Lammy's team indicated that he could raise the problems in his talks with EU member states.



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