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Rebuilding democracy, one pedimented portal at a time

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Ian Martin redesigns the Ecuadorean embassy

MONDAY. I’m on the shortlist to design an ‘electronic town square’ for the Labour Party.

They’re being very vague about what they want. It’s almost as if they don’t know themselves. But I sense we’re about to take another trip down Memory Lane with this one. ‘Electronic town square’ sounds like something from Second Life, or a 1980s Fisher-Price toy.

I’m sure everything will become clearer at the ‘talk-through’ I’ve been invited to at the party conference. There’s always a great deal of transparency there.

TUESDAY. Write an essay hymning the flat roof and commending plain design over swishy narcissism. I’ve titled it ‘In No Wave-Shape Or Form’.

WEDNESDAY. Redesign the Ecuadorean embassy. Out go the wholly redundant ‘diplomatic areas’. Diplomacy, like everything else, is now Skyped on laptops from Costa Coffee.

In comes a honeycomb of high-end boutique sanctuary pods for the international refuge-seeker. I’m putting in a lot of frosted glass/mirrors to give guests more opportunity for blurring the general perception/time for reflection.

THURSDAY. To Manchester for a meeting with Gigi Tanner, the Labour Party’s ‘ideas runner’.

We need a detailed brief for this electronic town square. I’m not optimistic. Labour’s so slow and lumbering. It’s taken a quarter of a century to change ‘Militant’ to ‘Miliband’, just by altering a couple of principles.

First, I ask what the square will be ‘for’. Gigi looks at me as if I’ve been sick on her shoes.

‘For? FOR? It’s an online HUB. I’m sure we put that in the…yes, here it is in our note to you. Online. Hub. Yes?’ I sense that I am trying her patience, but persevere. That’s great I say, it really is. So who will congregate in this town square?

She rolls her eyes, holds up a biscuit and briskly snaps it in half. ‘We don’t say congregate. Too faithy. The square will act as a meeting place for policymakers to exchange ideas…’

I make a mental note to put in some benches, and make sure the pub has tables outside.

‘But also…’ She indicates with half a bourbon. ‘We want ordinary people to come and hang out, tell us what THEY think a good idea looks like…’

Oh God. Politicos and civilians mixing in the same place? This may have worked in the 1940s, when Labour actually…wait. I’ve just had a thought hubble.

FRIDAY. I have given the Labour Party electronic town square a Britain In Wartime look. Everybody loves a period drama in our Age of Distraction, and this way I can differentiate visitors.

Party members can be milling about in uniform, on leave from fighting the Chipping Norton Nazis. Civvies in rationed clothes, all keeping calm and carrying on.

Wartime also means bomb damage, which is good, as the historic buildings will have been smashed up by Adolf Osborne and his Luftwaffe, not by the lying shit Blair and his neoliberalism.

I’ve sketched out a pretty convincing square, bustling with cultural icons. Look, there’s the cast of Dad’s Army, marching bumptiously to the town hall for a Labour Party policy briefing on affordable homes or bins or something.

Whoa, gangway! It’s Miranda Hart on a bike! Maybe she’s on her way to the post office.

I get an email from Gigi.‘URGENT: don’t put a post office in our Labour Party Electronic Town Square as it will remind people that we shut them all during an economic boom…’

Bummer. Maybe I could call it a political baggage handling zone. No. I settle in the end on rebadging my post office a ‘predistribution centre’.

SATURDAY. Snippy note from Gigi relieving me of the Labour gig. They’ve decided to ‘go another way’. It’s to be a modern town square, apparently, with exotic street food and no smoking.

Yes, I can see it now. The town hall will have a sleek, yet deferential look. Inside, a post-PFI privatised lobby. Outside, fair-faced aspirational cladding.

Well, good luck to the hapless bastard they DO hire. I hope whoever it is manages to negotiate a ‘Living Fee’.

SUNDAY. Newspaper review in the recliner.

Not for the first time, realise how easy it is to appear plugged-in nowadays by putting the word ‘smart’ in front of any noun.

Abandon my smart reading, put on my smart coat and go smart-walking to the smart pub for a smart pint.

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