What do we know about Mayor Johnson's newly-appointed culture director? (Or should that be "adviser"? And is there a difference?). Well, we know she worked for the right-of-centre Policy Exchange think tank, co-authoring the report Living Apart Together, about young Muslims and multiculturalism (whatever that means, and so on) published last January which found that for most Muslims in Britain, "religion is not a barrier to integration and is very often perfectly reconciled with being - and feeling - British."
We also know that she, herself a Muslim, believes the press must be free to ridicule Islam because "Press freedom is the foundation of a free society." And she tells today's Standard that, "I've argued for a much less instrumentalist politicised approach, freeing up the arts and enabling them to deliver high-quality projects."
What might this mean? Well, Mirza wrote in the - rather wearingly contrarian - libertarian Right Spiked Online that, "The troubled artistic search for truth is dismissed as ‘a bit dodgy’ and state-funded artists are happily recruited to produce propaganda for the latest war against social exclusion." The same argument was deployed in support of the New Generation Manifesto - of which I am a signatory - on the grounds that "diversity policies...encourage people to see everything through the prism of racial difference."
But hold on a minute. What if one group's freedom inhibits the freedom of another? What if "diversity policies" aren't actually the primary cause of narrow racial and religious identities, but historic patterns of social exclusion driven by prejudice are? What if "freeing up" the arts fosters not the "troubled search for truth" but dull conventionality? And who decides what "quality" is? Can it be measured objectively, or will even the freedom-loving Munira Mirza's judgements be subjective and political? These and other obvious questions may or may not be answered sooner or later.