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.

Vanessa Lubach
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Elmet leaves the metallic taste of blood in the mouth

Fiona Mozley’s debut novel digs deep into the psycho-geology of Yorkshire. 

In the autumn of 616 or 617 AD, one of the last remaining Celtic kingdoms of ancient Britain to withstand Anglo-Saxon settlement was conquered by its Northumbrian neighbours. Elmet, which covered what is now the West Riding of Yorkshire, was referred to by Bede as “silva Elmete” (“forest of Elmet”), with its devastation verified by the Historia Brittonum, which claimed that Edwin, the king of Northumbria, “occupied Elmet and expelled Certic, king of that country”. In 1979, several years before becoming poet laureate, the Celtic obsessive Ted Hughes collaborated with the photographer Fay Godwin on Remains of Elmet: A Pennine Sequence, a book that evoked the “spectacular desolation” of the Calder Valley where he grew up, a landscape saturated with myth and memory.

There is more than a hint of Hughes’s shamanistic unleashing of the power of language in Elmet, Fiona Mozley’s debut novel, a work of troubling beauty that has been longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize. At once spare and ornate, Mozley’s writing digs deep into what could be termed the psycho-geology of Yorkshire, much as Alan Garner’s work does with Cheshire: the intermittent glimpses of vanished lives from centuries earlier alongside those of the present day, the trauma of past upheaval and resettlement echoing along the dark valleys.

Elmet, for all its formality and ritual style, has a modern setting but appears to inhabit a space that is outside time. Opening with a ragged account from a survivor of a savage act of destruction, the narrative moves back to the events leading up to the routing of a smallholding held by the 14-year-old Daniel and his conspicuously small family: his sister, Cathy, and their father, John, always referred to as “Daddy” or “my Daddy”.

Daddy is a giant of a man, worshipped by both children, “more vicious and more kind than any leviathan of the ocean… His music pitched above the hearing of hounds and below the trembling of trees.” Far from being carried away on a crescendo of poetic whimsy, however, the book is firmly rooted in stark realities. Daddy is a violent man, who makes his living from bare-knuckle fighting.

Having removed his children from school, he sets about building a house in a remote copse on land that he does not own. Lawless, but then so is Price, the most powerful and ruthless of the unscrupulous local landlords who dominate this ex-mining area of subsistence-level existence. The battle between Price and John is decades old, with links to the children’s vanished mother, and is as much a battle for the soul of an individual as for a plot of land. It is this agonising constriction, like one of the hunter’s bows John stretches to tautness, that Mozley emphasises.

If John is the “Robyn Hode” of legend, Cathy and Daniel are his “scrawny vagrants”, running wild in the ancient forest that surrounds their home. It is a hard life but, in Mozley’s telling, an enchanted one: rich and gamey with dark cuts of animals hunted for food, cider and roll-ups, singing till dawn and “skylarks on toast, almost whole, with mugs of hot, milky tea”. Daddy has built a fortress and a flawed paradise, in which Cathy – a mixture of Brontë-esque wilfulness (the name is surely no coincidence) and fearless warrior princess, with hair as “black as Whitby jet” and eyes “blue like the North Sea” – strives to protect her younger brother.

However, even as their precarious shelter is under siege, Daniel and Cathy are changing. Cathy is most resistant to adaptation. Like Daddy, she had “an outside sort of head”; like him, she is a loner. Daniel, though, is drawn to the world of learning and culture, as demonstrated by Vivien, an unlikely acquaintance of Daddy who gives the children informal lessons. Vivien influences Daniel in other ways, too, for this is a novel about not conforming to stereotypes, be they gendered or otherwise. Daniel’s long hair and sense of curiosity and delight in his body contrast with Cathy’s awkwardness in hers, her fatalistic awareness that as a woman she is vulnerable, a target: “We all grow into our coffins, Danny. And I saw myself growing into mine,” she tells him, just before the book’s violent culmination.

Brutal, bleak, ethereal, Mozley’s novel combines parable with urgent contemporary truths about dispossession and exploitation. Reading Elmet leaves the metallic taste of blood in the mouth: centuries old, yet as fresh as today. 

Elmet
Fiona Mozley
JM Originals, 320pp, £10.99

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear