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.

MONTY FRESCO/DAILY MAIL/REX
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A hatchet job on the Daily Mail: Peter Wilby reviews Mail Men

Peter Wilby on Adrian Addison’s expletive-strewn history of the Daily Mail.

The Ukip leader Paul Nuttall recently claimed that he was among the crowd at the Hillsborough football stadium disaster in 1989 and that he lost close personal friends there, statements which suggest, at best, a flexible relationship with the truth. David English, the Daily Mail editor from 1971 to 1992, went one better. He claimed to have been in Dallas in November 1963 on the day John F Kennedy was assassinated. He was, he told Mail readers 25 years later, “part of the inner press circle which the Kennedys courted so assiduously” and: “We lived and travelled well, we President’s men . . . in brand new special planes.” In Dallas, he “witnessed the whole unbelievable scenario”. In fact, English, then based in New York for the Daily Express, was 1,600 miles away having a coffee break near his office. Adrian Addison’s riotously entertaining book is full of similar stories.

The present editor, Paul Dacre, has never been caught out in such flamboyant untruths. Yet, as Addison explains, the very appearance of the Daily Mail is based on a more subtle lie. Flick through its “human interest” features and you find “typical” Britons talking about their experience of relationships, crime, hospitals, schools, and so on. “Typical” in the Mail’s world means Mail readers as envisaged by its editor – white and middle class, not too fat or too thin, with smart but sensible clothes, hair and shoes, and free of tattoos and nose rings. A story does not, as editors say, “work” unless a picture shows the subjects conforming to this stereotype. If they don’t, make-up artists and hair stylists are despat­ched along with the correct clothing.

Addison, a BBC journalist for much of his career, has experience of tabloid journalism, though not at the Mail. Well over half his book is devoted to the editorships of English and his direct successor, Dacre, with the Mail’s first 75 years – including the familiar but still shocking story of its proprietor’s admiration for Hitler in the 1930s – dismissed in just 150 pages. The paper’s Sunday sister, launched in 1982, is mentioned only briefly.

In many respects, the book is a hatchet job. Dacre emerges, to quote Stephen Fry, as “just about as loathsome, self-regarding, morally putrid, vengeful and disgusting a man as it is possible to be”; English comes out very slightly better, thanks to personal charm and lavish parties; and the Mail Online’s publisher, Martin Clarke, who gets a chapter to himself, is portrayed as a cross between Vlad the Impaler and Fred West, redeemed, like Dacre, by demonic energy and undeniable success in attracting readers.

Like a good tabloid editor, Addison varies the tone, giving us occasional tear-jerking passages to show that even Mail editors have a human side. English befriends an ­office messenger boy, promises to find him a job in journalism if he gets an A-level in English, and proves as good as his word. Dacre, shy and socially clumsy, summons a features editor who had said the previous night, “You are mad, you know, Paul,” and asks, “I’m not really mad, am I?” Addison even deploys that old tabloid staple, the faithful, prescient dog. It belonged to Vere Harmsworth, the 3rd Viscount Rothermere and fourth Mail proprietor, who died in 1998 just 12 weeks after English, some said of a broken heart because the two had become so close. The day that Harmsworth, tax-exiled in France, was leaving home for London, where a heart attack killed him, his dog Ryu-ma refused to accompany the master to the airport in the chauffeur-driven car as it usually did.

The Harmsworths command a degree of admiration from many journalists. Of all the great newspaper dynasties – the Beaverbrooks, the Astors, the Berrys – they alone have stayed the course. The present proprietor, Jonathan Harmsworth, the 4th Viscount Rothermere, is the great-great-nephew of Alfred (“Sunny”) Harmsworth, who co-founded the paper in 1896. The Mail’s masthead hasn’t changed in 121 years, nor have several other things. Just as Sunny had only one Daily Mail editor until his death in 1922, Jonathan sticks by Dacre, allowing him to get on with his fanatical Brexiteering despite being a Remain sympathiser himself. So, too, did his father allow Dacre to denounce Tony Blair while he himself moved to the Labour benches in the House of Lords. Again like Sunny and Vere, Jonathan keeps accountants at arm’s length, giving the editor such generous budgets that the Mail scraps roughly two-thirds of the features it commissions yet still pays higher “kill” fees for them than other papers pay for the articles they print.

Other aspects of the Harmsworth legacy are less admirable. Most papers worried about the militarisation of Germany in the years before the First World War but, Addison writes, the Mail “raged”. Today, it is rage against immigrants, liberals, Greens, benefit claimants, human rights lawyers, the EU, overseas aid and a host of individuals from Polly Toynbee to Gary Lineker that oozes from almost every paragraph of the paper.

Many among what Dacre calls “the liberal elite” will find that Addison has written the exposé of the Mail that they always wanted to read. The inside story, with its unexpur­gated f***s and c***s, is as bad as you thought it was. But remember: the paper sells about 1.5 million copies a day, second only to the Sun. Its faults and virtues (there are some of the latter) owe nothing to marketing constructs, the proprietor’s business interests, party loyalties or anything other than the editor’s judgement as to what people will read. Denounce it by all means, but remember that millions of Britons love it.

Peter Wilby was the editor of the Independent on Sunday from 1995 to 1996 and of the NS from 1998 to 2005

Mail Men: The Story of the Daily Mail - the Paper that Divided and Conquered Britain by Adrian Addison is published by Oneworld (336pp, £20)

Peter Wilby was editor of the Independent on Sunday from 1995 to 1996 and of the New Statesman from 1998 to 2005. He writes the weekly First Thoughts column for the NS.

This article first appeared in the 16 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Brexit and the break-up of Britain