Sajid Javid, the new culture secretary, quoted Star Trek as an unlikely source of political inspiration as he gave his first keynote speech about the arts.
Highlighting his impressive knowledge of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the former investment banker implored the arts sector to become more accessible to the working classes and ethnic minorities.
Javid, who grew up as the son of a bus driver in a flat above a shop in Bristol on a road described as "Britain's most dangerous street", described his own cultural education as limited to the cult science fiction show, U2 and Bollywood films.
“The idea of popping along to the Donmar Warehouse – or even the Bristol Old Vic – to take in a cutting-edge production was simply not on the agenda. It wasn’t what people like me, people from my background, did," he said, the BBC reported.
He then admitted that he had "a pretty mainstream cultural education", the kind that "millions of Britons will recognise," as he quoted Star Trek character Jean-Luc Picard’s words to evoke his own political philosophy.
“Maybe I should quote someone I’m familiar with from my younger days. What we do in this country is great because, far from being ruled by central diktats, our culture is based on freedom and self-determination. That’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard. The Next Generation, season three, episode 26.”
Javid reassured the sector that he was “not going to lecture you on how culture should look, sound and feel”.
But he told his audience that the arts sector needed to become more accessible, complaining that too many Britons are “culturally disenfranchised”.
He called on the arts to attract more working-class talent and said it was “unacceptable” that a sector which received so much public subsidy effectively shut out poorer young people by offering entry-level jobs with low or no pay.
He also signalled that he wanted to see people from black and ethnic minorities engage more with the arts, pointing out that these groups are far less likely to visit galleries or attend performances. “There are still too many people in our country who are effectively excluded from what should be our shared cultural life,” he said.
Javid made millions in the City before switching to politics, and used the speech to poke fun at his banking career.
Speaking at St George’s concert hall, a former church in Bristol, he said: “As we’re in church I’m going to start by making a confession.
“My name is Sajid Javid. And I used to be a banker. No point denying it.
“When I became an MP back in 2010 I had a unique sensation – I was the only member of the new intake who was moving into a more popular profession.”