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Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber: 'I regret taking the Tory whip in the House of Lords'

25 June 2021, 09:55 | Updated: 25 June 2021, 11:01

By Fiona Jones

Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber told LBC he regrets taking the Tory whip in the House of Lords if he had known how the government would treat the arts during the pandemic.

It comes as the composer and theatre impresario joins other leading entertainment figures to launch legal action to force ministers to publish details of Covid pilot events.

Growing consternation in the arts industry has been ignited further after the Euros was permitted to take place, and both Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix at Silverstone are approved to go ahead, with the latter at full capacity.

He told Nick Ferrari: "I have never been a member of the Conservative party although I did take the Tory whip in the House of Lords, and quite frankly now I regret it," he told Nick Ferrari.

"If I'd known that a Tory government would do this to the arts...you couldn't think forward like that."

Lord Lloyd Webber clarified that "do this" means "not support" the arts: "The £1.5 billion in the culture fund is very welcome and well done Dowden for getting it, but none of that - well a tiny percentage of that - has gone back into commercial theatre."

He continued, "The opportunity they could have been done to really have taken the lead, which the Tories desperately needed to do but in the cultural field, and claimed some ground there, they have completely lost."

He also said that he does not know anyone in the current Government and is yet to meet the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, and has had a "much better" relationship with former governments, with John Major and Margaret Thatcher having "much more interest in the arts."

Lord Lloyd Webber told LBC he'd say to the Prime Minister: "The country really, really needs its theatre. I don't think they get that. Without our theatre, without live entertainment our lives are immensely poorer."

The composer dismissed Public Health England officials, telling LBC they "don't have a clue about theatre."

Read more: Lord Lloyd Webber tells LBC theatres have been made a 'sacrificial lamb'

Conversely the British Grand Prix at Silverstone will take place with a full capacity crowd of 140,000, organisers have confirmed.

Ticket holders will be asked for either proof of a negative lateral flow test taken within 48 hours of arrival at Silverstone or proof of having both doses of a Covid-19 jab.

It will be the biggest UK crowd since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, taking place from 16 to 18 July - a day before restrictions are lifted in England on so-called 'Freedom Day' on July 19.