PM visits National Gallery Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition, with tour conducted by Sam Cam, amid staff disgruntlement over government cuts
While the rest of the UK cannot hope to get a ticket to see the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition at the National Gallery, come Hell or high water, such restrictions do not apply to our Prime Minister, David Cameron, who paid a leisurely out-of-hours visit this weekend. This visit has not been officially announced, perhaps because of a political sensitivity to the widespread annoyance of failing to get tickets to this ‘exhibition of a life-time’. Nevertheless, Cameron failed to follow this mum’s-the-word policy, being spotted with the Leonardo Da Vinci catalogue on his way to work.
But, instead of getting a professional tour by the gallery curator (as one would suppose would be on offer to the resident at No. 10), the PM chose instead to take his wife Samantha Cameron to be his lawfully wedded guide. ‘They went first thing in the morning before it opened to the public,’ reveals a gallery insider; ‘Mrs Cameron did most of the talking, and he followed her around, listening attentively.’ Mrs Cameron’s qualification for the touring business should be under doubt, having undertaken an art foundation course at Camberwell College of Arts, and graduated with a Fine Art degree from the School of Creative Arts.
Perhaps she stepped up to the role due to an unwillingness on the part of the staff to help the PM in the midst of the furore about National Gallery cuts. Before the Christmas holiday, over 200 members of gallery staff, including curators, presented gallery director Nicholas Penny with a petition demonstrating their opposition to new measures which mean each gallery assistant now oversees two rooms rather than one. Whilst gallery officials maintain that this initiative is part of a long-term strategy rather than a response to government pressure, those in opposition claim that the change of policy is detrimental to the gallery as it will leave valuable artworks open to vandalism or theft. Security in general seems to be a growing concern at the National Gallery, as this month saw a theft take place, albeit a bizarre one; a man managed to leave the gallery in possession of four toilet seats. Negotiations, mediated by the Public and and Commercial Services Union, have been held between officials and gallery staff but apparently to no avail, as almost 180 members of staff voted for strike action in an initial ballot, with a follow-up walkout planned for 28 January.
In the words of one spokesman; ‘Instead of investing in the arts, and the people who look after them, the government has imposed massive spending cuts on our museums and galleries to pay for an economic crisis caused by bankers’.
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