Ian Martin offers some last-minute advice to political strategists
MONDAY Democracy is broken. Our two-party system has silted up. A resigned sense of deadlock, torpor and inertia hangs over everything. Party strategists are utterly failing to reach a disengaged and apathetic electorate. There’s panic at the top.
So that’s PERFECT. One person’s panic is someone else’s built environment advisory gig at three grand a day plus VAT and a proper lunch.
TUESDAY To Spearmint Rhino, where a private room has been reserved in the name of ‘Michael Green’.
Conservative party leader Grant Shapps is there in a wig and fake moustache, looking like a 70s footballer at ease with his sexuality. It’s a clever disguise; Grant could easily be a Spearmint Rhino customer. ‘Welcome to our thinking cell!’ he squeaks. ‘Let’s scrum down and spank out some one-liners!’ He keeps disappearing for half an hour at a time.
My cellmates are all about 80 years old and seem to be in a permanently bad mood. There’s a medievalist scholar opposed to everything after Durham Cathedral, a weird Mussolini superfan smelling strongly of scotch, and some doddery architect who once converted Margaret Thatcher’s pantry into a Neo-Gothic CIA bedsit. Lunch is at Rules, where we scribble some coordinated Tory pledges on a spanking paddle.
Summary: dispose of all public assets including local authorities; incentivise housebuilders with subsidies and peerages; grant ‘futurospective’ planning permission for everything submitted after May 7; Beatrix Pottery design guidelines to attract overseas investors; get some hip-hop Tories to rap about our ‘property-owning democracy’.
WEDNESDAY To a simple giant open-plan kitchen in Hampstead, where an unnamed, intensely relaxed billionaire is in-absentia hosting a ‘policy pitstop’ for the Labour party.
Most of the people here seem to have very slight connections to the built environment. If I didn’t know better, I’d say a lot of high-end development in central London was funded by laundered cash from gambling, petrochemicals, prostitution, tobacco and drugs. My fellow ‘policy possiblisers’ (most are in their 30s, tiny radio mics attached to their contoured faces) seem in a terrible hurry to get back to whatever it is they do, so we’ve wrapped by lunchtime.
Summary: a new garden city for every actual city; simultaneously increase and reduce infrastructure spending; boost the affordability of everything by 20 per cent; declare hundreds of thousands of acres of scattered brownfield land to be a single entity, confer a personality upon it, then somehow publicly shame it into creating new housing.
THURSDAY The Liberal Democrats are holding their emergency thought-processing day in a converted Routemaster. Perhaps it’s a metaphor. The mood’s definitely depressed on the lower deck, a mood tinged perhaps with a nostalgia for antique relevance. They’re smoking something upstairs, but nobody’s laughing.
We all work in silence on our laptops, emailing our thoughts to an unsmiling ‘conductor’. At the end of our shift he dings the bell and issues purchase order tickets.
Summary: network of ‘allotment cities’ with an engorged Cambridge concentrating mostly on vegetables; new network of housing suppliers to be encouraged through collaboration, partnership and shout-outs on social media; a Green Buildings Act to reverse climate change all the way back to the Renaissance, anything’s possible, believe.
FRIDAY In the morning, I join an SNP ‘brainhoolie’ via videolink. Summary: a completely new built environment for the whole of Scotland, called something tabloid-friendly like ‘The Great McOver’; Donald Trump to become National Design Laird; 21st-century building types, eg nanocrofts, microvillas, tinyments.
In the afternoon, a freestyle ideas jam on Google Hangouts with the Greens. Summary: forge a spiritual consortium with the spirits of the wind and sun; an end to roads, airports and all unnecessary additives in building materials; new elvish space standards; more fibre in visual arts.
SATURDAY UKIP Policy Awayday. I say ‘awayday’, that’s what UKIP’s director of environmental policy (Alex ‘Gyppo’ Thompson) calls it. Conjures up the early days of team-building when you could smoke indoors, and homosexuality was just a phase people went through.
What today’s actually about is a bunch of gung-ho Rotary Club types getting half-timbered all day in a Thanet pub. Every now and then ‘Gyppo’ scrawls someone’s brainspurt on the ‘I’m Not Racist But…’ whiteboard. ‘…herbaceous borders make good neighbours…not being funny but black people don’t do gardening, do they?’
Summary: Make sure everything’s CAPPED. Immigration, social housing, golfers, cultural ambition, tweets.
SUNDAY Apolitically reclined.