Labour and libraries: the shape of things to come

It’s official, the Shadow Culture Minister has confirmed that not only does he prefer a non-interventionist approach, that Labour will not legislate to protect public libraries, but volunteer libraries are also acceptable. In the interview Chris Bryant accuses the Government of a “dereliction of duty” but then states that he will do exactly the same.

So a hands-off, localism-centred, volunteer approach to libraries is the wrong path for the current government to pursue but if elected Mr Bryant will do precisely that. Only in politics would you get away with such blatant double-speak and expect the public to believe it! It’s a sad indication that some communities are so desperate to save their libraries that they do.

In response to a question. Mr Bryant said: “The last thing I think they want now is some know-it-all in Westminster telling everyone everywhere how to run local services”. Which seems a strong indication that, just like the current incumbent, Ed Vaizey, he will not intervene when local councils decide to decimate their library service.

Perhaps this should come as no surprise as it’s been pointed out that Chris Bryant refused to support campaigners in his own constituency when they fought successfully to save Rhydyfelin library from closure. As usual, while happy to criticise conservative library cuts Chris Bryant remains steadfastly silent when Labour councils do exactly the same.

What’s becoming apparent is that the Shadow Minister will not be drawn into a meaningful discussion about libraries. Many, including Voices for the Library, have tried but with no success. It seems nothing makes him go silent faster than being asked an opinion on libraries and he’s more comfortable pontificating inanely in the press than talking to those who genuinely know about the sector.

Many have an high expectation of Labour rolling back the devastating damages done to libraries. In the interview Chris Bryant gives lie to this hope. If elected it looks like it will be business as usual and rather than rescuing libraries it appears that what we get instead is an Ed Vaizey mark II; a swapping of tweedledum for tweedledee with only the colour of the political logo changed.


6 thoughts on “Labour and libraries: the shape of things to come”

  1. Is what Chris Bryant has stated now *official* Labour policy?

    When Helen Goodman announced in June 2014 that leaving volunteers to run local libraries “risks a decline in service quality” was that an official Labour view? See:

    Is what Dan Jarvis said in June 2013 about the ConDem coalition “making a mockery of the government’s legal duty to oversee the service” now to be dumped in the Labour dustbin, too?

    And if you memory’s good enough to recall Gloria de Piero: “We must not allow ladders of opportunity to be taken beyond the reach of ordinary people” – Her ‘crusade’ for Libraries in 2011. See:

    There have been more Shadow Culture Ministers during this Parliament than ever before. What are we to make of their claims? What’s official policy and what’s not?

    Chris Bryant must be persuaded to acknowledge statements made by his predecessors in office and explain NOW how Labour policy has changed and why. The many floating voters who rely on public libraries need to know.


  2. Of course, Labour don’t need to “legislate” – all they need to do is abide by and enforce the 1964 Act!!


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