There seems to be a misapprehension that Ed Vaizey is no longer willing to speak to Cilip due to vote of no confidence expressed by the body in him. If this were true it would indeed, as Phil Bradley points out, be the politics of the playground. Annie Mauger, CEO of Cilip, has drawn a direct correlation between the vote of no confidence and the minister’s refusal to meet and others within the library world have expressed a similar opinion. However, this view misses two important points.
The first is that votes of no confidence in ministers are nothing new. In 2013 both the BMA and the teachers unions passed votes of no confidence in Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove respectively, yet neither minister refused to meet those involved afterwards and face-to-face dialogue continued. Obviously, both the NHS and education are bigger political hot potatoes than libraries but it raises the interesting question of why Ed Vaizey has taken a different tact.
Forget anything to do with personal petulance, that’s not the way politics work in public. The fact is Ed Vaizey does not need to hold meetings with Cilip as they have no real political influence and he is winning all the arguments. This leads us to the second and for many, a rather unpalatable point. The previous meetings with the minister were just a sop, a smokescreen to disguise the fact that the government ignored anything that Cilip or campaigners had to say regardless. But even that pretence has now ended.
Ed Vaizey believes he has won the argument that keeping libraries open with volunteers is an acceptable alternative to a professionally run service. He’s so confident that he can even let officials take charge of advocating the setting up of community managed libraries without taking responsibility for such advice himself.
This is because Cilip and the government are at opposite ends of the spectrum over public libraries. Cilip would like a comprehensive and efficient library service, well-resourced and appropriately staffed/managed, while the government wants the exact opposite. Ed Vaizy, Maria Miller, and all the other ministers are dedicated to an ideology of neo-liberalism, a programme of austerity, and a vision of a ‘Big Society’, and that’s why Vaizey doesn’t need to bother with Cilip – or indeed anyone else interested in protecting libraries – because he genuinely doesn’t share their point of view, and in this he has the full backing of the coalition.
It makes you wonder if those who, to a greater or lesser degree, support and implement the government’s approach to libraries such as the LGA, ACE, and even the SCL have any difficulty in getting to talk to the minister. Somehow I doubt it!
It’s not a question of ‘we don’t talk anymore’ but rather ‘what is there to talk about?’