When Malcolm McLaren ran for mayor

The late Sex Pistols manager's foray into politics.

The former Sex Pistols manager and "godfather of punk", Malcolm McClaren, has died at the age of 64. Among the early tributes that have poured in, perhaps the most succinct comes from the critic Jon Savage, who described McLaren as "one of the rare individuals who had a huge impact on the cultural and social life of this nation."

McLaren's career, which ranged across music, fashion and art was never dull, but for now, we're casting our minds back to 1999, when he put himself forward as a candidate for mayor of London. He didn't last the course, but he did launch a manifesto in the pages of the New Statesman.As you can see below, it is typically provocative - and includes McLaren's now-infamous call to legalise brothels outside the Houses of Parliament. You can read the rest of his "vision for London" here.

Points to ponder: the McLaren Manifesto

1. Housing: The government has failed the homeless. The mayor should create a London homeless lottery system. Tickets will be sold by the homeless like the Big Issue. Computer hard- and software would allow the administration of the lottery to be run from street-corner kiosks. All money raised through ticket sales would go directly into housing, which would be designed and built by the homeless themselves. This would result in some great new buildings, with eclectic styles and taste - a real addition to our capital, rather than the faceless government housing schemes that have destroyed so much of the city. No existing council or government-owned housing would be allowed to remain empty. There would also be pressure to use the space over shops - many London high streets are empty above shop level. Multiple use would lead to safer streets and livelier ones.

2. Education: Revive the Ilea, which provided adult education at affordable prices - £1 per year for those on subsidies or in full-time education. These courses serve social as well as educational ends. Students can study anything from belly dancing to the bassoon. Currently the courses are underfunded and too expensive, which means they are undersubscribed and many have had to shut down.

3. Transport: Bring back electric transport - more environmentally friendly. trams running the two main axes through London (N-S and E-W) should be free during off peak hours. More should be made of the Thames by introducing water/river buses, which would be operated by London Transport. We should turn to alternative means of transport, such as rickshaws, bicycles and horses. Reduce the number of cars coming into London by imposing a direct tax. We should give people incentives to buy electric cars by allowing them to park anywhere. Traffic control (wardens, fines, clamping and so on) should directly fund public transport.

4. London sports week: London's boroughs should have their own football teams and compete annually.

5. Lobby for decriminalising (some) drugs: Use Amsterdam as a model to reduce organised crime in the capital. This would have an added benefit: police would not waste time chasing pot-smokers.

6. No fees for museums or art galleries: Londoners should not pay entrance fees for museums or galleries, but should be able to drift through public buildings as alternative routes through town. All non-UK residents entering Britain would pay an entrance tax (collected at airports) to be directed into national collections.

7. Flag for London: Create the first ever multi-ethnic flag for the 21st century to reflect the true population of London.

8. Reclaim public places: Parks, squares, churches and the Thames should be open night and day. We should introduce bars in public libraries; drink a glass of Guinness while reading Dickens.

9. London carnival: To be held by different groups from across London, the carnival would take over Oxford Street. We would also establish a Don't Buy Anything Day, and a No Car Day will allow kids to play in the streets.

10. Chains/cappuccino culture: Restructure rates in order to tax business according to scale. Chains such as Pret A Manger, for instance, now pay the same rates as a local florist. If we don't save small businesses, London will lose its soul and become like Singapore or Hong Kong - a shrine to capitalism.

11. Legalise brothels opposite the Houses of Parliament: This will help get rid of sleaze scandals in the government and allow us to focus on the real bullshit that the elite produces.

12. Hologram of Dixon of Dock Green: Introduce information stations, the BBC's famous old-fashioned neighbourly copper - "virtual reality" information covering street directions, train and bus information and suchlike.

13. Popular protest: London has a proud history of freedom of expression - anarchists, revolutionaries and dissidents have written their pamphlets here. Street protest is every Londoner's right and should never be stomped upon.

14. Licensing: Certain areas to be designated 24-hour zones with no licensing restrictions so that we encourage chance encounters.

15. Website democracy: New technology could encourage a more responsive democracy, with local voters using the web to voice their opinion on anything from whose statue should be put up or taken down, to one-way streets.

16. Artisans in Oxford Street: With more e-commerce, old-fashioned department stores should be more diversified, welcoming artisans. Shoemakers could set up their workshops in John Lewis, table-makers in Selfridges. Subsidise artisans and allow Londoners into the process of production.

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

SAMUEL COURTAULD TRUST
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The monochrome set

In Pieter Bruegel’s hands, even black and white paintings can be full of colour.

Grisailles – monochrome images usually painted in shades of grey and white – have a long tradition. Early examples appeared in the 14th century as miniatures or manuscript illuminations and then later on the outside of the folding panels of altarpieces, where they imitated sepulchre statues and offered a stark contrast to the bright colour of the paintings inside. With their minimal palette, grisailles also offered painters a chance both to show off their skill and to add their bit to the age-old artistic debate about paragone: which was superior – sculpture, with its ability to show a figure in three dimensions, or painting, with its powers of illusion? By pretending to be sculpture, grisailles could better it.

The first artist to paint grisailles as independent works for private enjoyment and contemplation was the Netherlander Pieter Bruegel the Elder (circa 1525-69), whose folk scenes of peasants carousing or of hunters in a snowy landscape have long been staples of art’s quotidian, earthy strand. Only about 40 works by him are now known and of those, just three are grisailles (not a term he would have recognised; he referred to the pictures simply as “painted in black and white”). This trio of survivors has been reunited for the first time, at the Courtauld Gallery, with an accompanying selection of copies and engravings – a mere ten pictures in all – for a fascinating one-room exhibition.

The grisailles show a deeper and more intellectual artist than the sometimes slapstick figure who would dress as a peasant in order to gatecrash weddings in the Brabant countryside and record the drunken and playful goings-on in his pictures. They reflect the position of the Low Countries in Bruegel’s time, caught between the Catholicism of their Spanish overlords and the emerging Protestantism that had been sparked by Martin Luther only eight years before Bruegel’s birth. These tensions soon erupted in the Eighty Years War.

Of the three paintings, two show religious subjects – The Death of the Virgin (1562-65) and Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery (1565) – and one is a scene that would have been familiar in the streets around him, Three Soldiers (1568). This last, lent by the Frick Collection in New York, shows a drummer, a piper and a standard-bearer in the elaborately slashed uniforms of German Landsknechte mercenaries. Such groupings featured often in German prints and Bruegel’s small picture is a clever visual game: painting could imitate not only sculpture, but prints, too. What’s more, the gorgeously coloured uniforms (mercenaries were exempt from the sumptuary laws that restricted clothing to sedate colours) could be shown to be just as arresting even in black and white.

If this is a painting about painting, the ­religious works have, it seems, added layers of meaning – although it is always difficult with Bruegel to work out what that meaning is and how personal it might be. The Courtauld’s Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery shows Jesus stooping in front of the Pharisees and saving the accused woman from stoning by writing in the dust, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” That he spells out the words in Dutch rather than Hebrew, which was more usual in other images of the scene (and which he uses on the tunic of one of the learned men observing the mute play), suggests that this picture – a plea for clemency – was intended to serve as a call for religious tolerance amid mounting sectarian antagonism. While the gaping faces of the onlookers recall those of Hieronymus Bosch, the flickering calligraphic touches and passages of great delicacy are all his own.

The picture stayed with Bruegel until his death, so it had a personal meaning for him; more than 20 copies were subsequently made. Included in the exhibition are the copies painted by his sons, Jan and Pieter the Younger (a coloured version), as well as the earliest known print after it, from 1579, by Pieter Perret, which shows some of the detail in the crowd around the central figures that has been lost in the discoloured panel.

If the sombre tones of grisaille are suited to the pared-down faith advocated by Luther, the death of the Virgin was a familiar topic in Catholic and Orthodox iconography. Bruegel’s picture, from Upton House in Warwickshire, depicts an episode that doesn’t actually appear in the Bible. A group of Apostles and mourners has gathered around the Virgin’s bed, the scene lit by the heavenly light emanating from the dying woman and the five flames from the candles and the hearth that correspond to the five wounds suffered by her son on the cross. Domestic items litter the room – a slice of orange, slippers, a dozing cat – and there is a sleeping attendant, unaware of the miracle of Assumption that will shortly unfold. Here is a moving nocturne in which the mysteries of religion emerge from and disappear back into the shadows.

While Bruegel’s peasant works display a delight in physical pleasure, these three bravura works, painted for humanist connoisseurs and for himself, portray the sober, spiritual concerns that come to the fore once the last drop has been drunk. 

The exhibition runs until 8 May. For more details, go to: courtauld.ac.uk

Michael Prodger is an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman. He is an art historian, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Buckingham, and a former literary editor.

This article first appeared in the 11 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The legacy of Europe's worst battle