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Mandelson warns against attempts to 'divide up society'

Commenting on a spat between musician James Blunt and shadow culture minister Chris Bryant, the former Labour cabinet minister Lord Mandelson warned against attempts to "divide up society".

He told BBC2's Newsnight that he was unaware of what Mr Bryant and Blunt had said but added:

I think glibness, I think ideologically-based rhetoric, I think trying to divide up society between the haves and have nots and mobilise the middle ground against the rich is as unacceptable as we have from elsewhere in the political spectrum trying to mobilise the middle ground against what they call welfare scroungers but are actually poor people who have little and want more. I don't like that polarisation, that political polarisation, partly because it doesn't lead to very good policy, it doesn't help you get elected, and thirdly it doesn't have much chance of creating the sort of consensual politics you need in a country like Britain to create the sort of society we want to see.

– lord mandelson, former cabinet minister

Bryant: I was not trying to pull down James Blunt

Shadow Culture Secretary Chris Bryant has told ITV News he wants "everybody to have a chance at making a living from the arts".

Mr Bryant was criticised after he claimed the arts industry was "dominated by people from a privileged background" and particularly mentioned singer James Blunt. Mr Blunt responded by calling Mr Bryant a "classist gimp" and a "wazzock".

Mr Bryant insisted that he was not "trying to pull down James Blunt".


Downton creator responds to 'privileged' criticism

Lord Fellowes defended Downton Abbey and said it was commissioned because people want to watch it. Credit: Matt Crossick/ Empics Entertainment

Downton Abbey creator Lord Fellowes has responded to criticism from Shadow Culture Secretary Chris Bryant that the arts is dominated by people from privileged backgrounds.

In an interview with the Guardian Mr Bryant also said TV shows are not gritty enough and "we can't just have Downton programming ad infinitum."

Lord Fellowes told ITV News: “Chris Bryant is entitled to his own opinion but these shows are commissioned because an audience wants them. More people are watching Downton than any other show produced by this country and they’re not all privileged.

"I’m not offended by his comments but its not a good idea to criticise the audience for enjoying it or saying they have bad taste.

"The only really posh actress on the show was Rose Leslie who played the maid Gwen in the first series, everyone else is from a medium, normal background.”