After virulent condemnation by the press of the vaguely denoted 'anti-capitalist' demonstration in Whitehall a few weeks ago, a welcome voice against the corporatisation of London was raised at the Royal College of Art last week by Malcolm McLaren - sartorially presented, as Nigel Coates observed, as the quintessential 'English gentleman', perfect for the onetime manager of the Sex Pistols and agent provocateur.
According to McLaren, who eventually withdrew his candidacy in London's mayoral contest, 'corporate life is replacing public life' and 'lifestyle', invented by the media as a saleable package embracing everything, has replaced 'culture'. Tony Blair is 'a karaoke Prime Minister', in a world of waning authenticity, or, even worse, 'a third-rate, surrogate Fleetwood Mac.' As a result, 'London is becoming a place that the people who live in it have less and less control over', and the 'interaction of self and the city becomes insignificant.' McLaren contrasts this scenario with the days when his 'badness' was part of the public life, the messy process . . . creating surprise', and the city was 'an environment to run wild in'.
McLaren's mayoral agenda was to try to stop the process by which 'aesthetical - ly, London will be a ghost town in 20 years.' He said he felt that 'as an artist' he should 'speak up, get his head above the parapet'. Among his 'policies' - and he claims that none of the candidates really knew or could do anything about the high profile issues such as the future of the Tube - were a reform of taxation to make corporations pay higher taxes than other businesses, a reduction of the number of police on the street, and a promotion of 24-hour free access to churches as 'the only places left in London where you don't have to buy anything'.
McLaren's eventual decision to withdraw from the mayoral contest was triggered by Livingstone's triumphant assumption of 'outlaw' status, making him 'probably the best character we had'.
Not only did Livingstone become 'slightly less square', he also became 'our new Diana' as a result of his victimisation by Blair and the Labour party, and 'moved away from the karaoke world' to become 'slightly more authentic' - effectively appropriating something of McLaren's own platform and making his stance redundant.
According to McLaren all the candidates 'started trying to be independent' in recognition of the fact that people are 'beginning to get tired of' the branding and corporatisation of contemporary life. If there is any justification for McLaren's claim that this whole process was started by the Nazi party, which 'knew how to brand a nation, had the best iconography', then wholeheartedly embraced by America after the war, and by the promoters of 'Cool Britannia' in the last three years, it should give pause for thought before outof-hand condemnation of the recent so-called 'outrage' perpetrated by the 'anti-capitalists'. As McLaren puts it with the provocation his reputation rests on: 'There is the Holocaust, and then there is cappuccino.'
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