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So many UK culture ministers, so little time in office

12 February 2023

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

The sight of British politicians visiting construction sites and factories in hi-vis jacket and hard hat has became so common that in 2016 a twitter account called @PPEinPPE was set up to document the phenomenon of MPs with degrees in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford wearing Personal Protective Equipment.

British culture ministers get fewer opportunities than other cabinet ministers to don such fluorescent yet rugged attire, but there is another kind of photo opportunity that few of the 12 (not a typo) holders of this post have passed up. It seems to Rakewell that admiring a JCB tractor is to a trade minister what gazing at the walls of a national museum is (or has been) to: Jeremy Hunt, Maria Miller, Sajid Javid, John Whittingdale, Karen Bradley, Matt Hancock, Jeremy Wright, Nicky Morgan, Oliver Dowden, Nadine Dorries, Michelle Donelan and, now (but who can say for how long), Lucy Frazer.

The National Gallery tweeted cheerfully about this week’s visit of the newly appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (who has lost the ‘digital’ that Karen Bradley gained for the department in 2017). And Rakewell naturally rejoiced at the sight of a culture minister looking soulfully at Monet’s The Water-Lily Pond (1899) in the company of the director. But what made your roving correspondent even happier was the resplendent pink dress Lucy Frazer wore on this occasion. In fact, it reminded us of our favourite picture of any recent culture secretary (the culture secretary of our heart, if we are forced to choose): Nadine ‘why-are you asking-me-that-question’ Dorries in fuschia at the Wallace Collection. It is clearly dear to Dorries too, since she has kept it as the image on her twitter header.

Frazer looks delighted to be at the National Gallery, but there is still time to fit in a 13th culture secretary in fluorescent garb before the next general election is due in 2024 – or before the National Gallery starts celebrating its 200th anniversary in style.

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.