Ian Martin swops Posh Whining Liberal for Meritocratic Whining Bastard
MONDAY. To Manchester for the Tory party conference. It’s like one big happy extended family. You certainly don’t feel that anyone here is in danger of having their benefits cut to £64.30 a week.
There’s a lot of impenetrable rhetoric about The Environment. Obviously ‘quality of life’ means ‘more disposable income’ but I’m confused about this promise to ‘reverse the decline in our biodiversity’. Suggestions from delegates I speak to include: make Bill Oddie some sort of Garden Bird Tsar, increase the level of friendly bacteria in people’s guts, reintroduce wolves to Scotland.
‘Improving urban green spaces’ is also puzzling, a clash of environmental tropes. Green space can be anything from someone’s front garden to Hyde Park, or even a ROOF – harnessing precious biodiversity in the form of insects etc. ‘Urban’ on the other hand is shorthand for the opposite of all that. ‘Urban’ is the permission architects give themselves to create heartless, angular, dead-eyed bachelor pads that look fabulous in CAD renderings. If we’re to have green spaces and urban places meeting head-on in Conservative Britain, what will they look like?
I ask some delegates. Apparently a typical ‘improved urban green space’ would be a municipal garden of remembrance dedicated to those who fell in two world wars, sold off to the tax-break subsidiary of a Saudi development company. There would be a small breathing charge as the PFI deal would include ‘air rights’. There would be a Tesco Nano kiosk. There would be No Smoking. And approved buskers doing covers of pop songs by non-threatening artistes. There would be statutory minimum levels of robins and redstarts. And signs everywhere reminding us how green everything is. Benches made from ostentatiously recycled mementoes of our industrial past, and a path gritted with real grit to lend the place a ‘real’ gritty feel. The atmosphere would be further urbanised by a group of introspective teen skateboarders with tans and highlights called Hugo and Dorian and Emily… I wake up with a snore.
A smarmy, tieless speaker skips onto the stage and tells us the next Conservative Government will be ‘working towards zero waste’. I don’t even bother to ask my frantically clapping neighbours what this means. I just assume it means the next Conservative Government will be anally retentive and full of SHIT. I slip out of the hall to a mercifully uncrowded bar.
TUESDAY. Hungover after a night carousing with Tory architects. God, I never knew there were so many. The default setting for practitioners of epic space always used to be Posh Whining Liberal. Now it seems to be Meritocratic Whining Bastard.
Oh well. As they used to say about Margaret Thatcher, at least you know where you are. Tory architects can still feel moral outrage, it’s just that now it usually focuses on the unfairness of the public sector procurement system or the evil genius of indemnity insurance. Of course they’re being incited by the Royal Institute for the Protection of British Architects, which has a stall in the conference exhibition area promoting sustainability, and Affordable Homes For Affordable People.
WEDNESDAY. More fringe interaction with my new friends, the compassionate conservative architects. They feel invigorated by the twin bonuses of a change in government and a constructive new relationship with the Prince of Wales.
Charles plans a reverse takeover of the RIPBA, in order to ‘monarchise’ the profession. Nobody was interested until they discovered that all Crown-approved architects will automatically become Peers of the Realm.
THURSDAY. Lunch with my old friend Loaf, the mayor of London. He had a good conference, skidding into the hall like a fat dog after a chocolate treat, then impressing everyone with his tricks.
He’s banging on about the Olympics again, though I notice ‘dazzling architecture’ has been downgraded to ‘impressive engineering’. The idiot. Talk about a poisoned chalice. God, he should have been at the last Olympic Rebadging Task Force meeting. Games minister Suzi Towel expressed ‘relief, and I have to say a certain Schadenfrau’ at the prospect of transferring the Olympics Legacy to the Conservatives. Who, to be fair, did lumber Labour with the Millennium Dome.
FRIDAY. Repair Broken Britain, using pithy Twitter posts.
SATURDAY. Envision compassionate conservative epic space as a massive private luxury hospice in the Cotswolds.
SUNDAY . Warn self against complacency. Sound smug. Ignore self. Pleased with self. Recliner. twitter.com/IanMartin