Friday 5 July 2024

Blairism, the dogs & working death. (Part one) (draft)


I feel I have to declare from the outset what I am trying to write here. I want to try, in various ways (at work, mind (whispers: Postman)) about working class experience, the epistemic disconsolation of that 'experience' as both a historical category/historically periodised & one of the personal, the hurtful distempers of biography & mud. I will somehow try to do these daily/or at least 2/3 times within the dross of my working week. So please be lenient to my occasion lapses in historical-social-aesthetic continuity. I many senses, it might be a strappy & in no way wholistic attempt to view the things that fall under the scope. I may pick up one point, shortly drop it for it to re-arrive somewhere in another attempt. I make no mind to properly re-draft these attempts either, but if there happen to be glaring errors. Please don't tell me.

In all this, one individual has come up as a complicated mar in the whole. Blair. Tony Blair. Or Tonibler, if we are in Kosovo. But we are not. Blairism presents nothing short of a rejection of Labour’s socialist history, the wholly hearted acceptance of the basic tenets of neoliberal ideology & rebranding it all under the auspices of a ‘New’ entity.

Blairism had markedly changed the landscape, the visual & ideological scope with the impression of newness that I have not seen in my life regarding politics. As I write this, we have an incoming Sir Keir Starmer, former QC Director of Public Prosecutions. Best recalled for having applied Blairs own cudgel to the heads of 1st year undergraduates, 24 hour courts with an appearance at 4am outside Highbury Magistrates Court. CCTV heaven. Our PM. Inevitable. I wrote about Keir in my book of poems Ah Beautiful Sky, a sort of eulogy to that very spirit that fulminated & imploded. That incidentally I was in the midst of & that drove a sensibility during the period I studied. Manic Millbank March. Kettling. Notionally the idea of toppling the Government? No but yes. No but....yes?  

Keir Starmer,

a redoubtable wielding roflcopter 

of justice drugged to taskforce 

a plea-filled earglow of your children's hopes 

as burnt out missives 

in commercial leases,, the courtyard tribunal

upon which the presiding authority sat; 

inside these delicate circles

hails exception lawfully 

enshrined the age-old tradition

legally spiked to peace

to a lauding State,,

that creates & tends to all things, 

& that in its care 

that's flashing through me, right now! 

the Power of the Bar, 


& what constitutes, a weapon 

Twenty-Four-Hour court sittings 

no pause on weekends 

to increase the rate of convictions, & 

made a personal appearance at 4am 

at Highbury Magistrates Court 

to boost morale                                           

Core Quality Standards     

scabs who cry

a placards weaponised 

on rapid prosecutions

hovering roses 

curve in burning

above asserting: 

these accoutrements

meet human rights guidelines

in the portcullis

a Snooper’s Charter 

is read for KCB, QC, pledge:

There’s no room for sulking 

illustrative purposes….illustrative purposes

all the relevant factors into account.

What constitutes ‘a weapon’ ?

& hearts may contest 

yet words are truest, 

said from gathering round its apex, 

it is hard to see how anyone escapes,

as night entwines in web door creaks, 

a eulogising speech as it breaks against teeth

streamlining statutories 

the Knight of the Realm,, follows codes 

of conduct granular work ethic, 

Sir the State You

are Britain’s Fairest Man

on the bonnet of a Jaguar 

green emerald

is a lawful You.

The 'surge of optimism and goodwill' that even though I was young, I could feel in some inordinate way. Through things, largely the para-pathologically sense of this in reflection but certainly this was 'real'. I sometimes walk around now, thinking this same thing, somewhat departed from its historical period as experience but as an object, person or something else. For instance, I am under the impression that some part of Blair lives inside Thomas Heatherwick, & firmly certain that if Blair did not exist nor would Heatherwick. Today I took a New Routemaster bus. Heatherwicks design. Or walking Paternoster Square, past the mock-pathetic columns of Juxon House are simply the Vents or the Angel Wings, which is both a sculpture & functional ventilation for the London Undergrounds electrical substations. 

The sculpture was commissioned by Stanhope and Mitsubishi Estate, who jointly developed the Paternoster Square site, for four electricity transformers under Bishop’s Court. Heatherwick's design with metal grilles integrated into paving, allowed ingress of cool air with warm air flowing out through the two tall vents which form wings that mirror each other. Each wing comprises 63 isosceles triangles of stainless steel about 6 mm (0.24 in) thick, assembled into a monocoque helical form that stands about 11 m (36 ft) high. The design was inspired by origami experiments from folding pieces of A4 paper. The outer surface was given a satin finish by shot blasting with glass beads.

It is not just this, that I have somehow conceptualised as an extension of Blair but all the other curiously insipid acts, strange diminutions of Heatherwick's massive failures that seem beguiling and in obviously no way forewarning anyone at all. Even in Manchester.


The Golden Boy of some charmless mould. Heatherwick's mother, Stefany, was a painter and jeweller who ran a shop in Portobello Road, selling necklaces and beads. His father, Hugh, the son of a servant at Windsor Castle, was in the Royal Marines, where he boxed and played piano. He's worked at his son's studio for 10 years.

"In the 70s and 80s, he ran a charity called the Time and Talent Centre in Rotherhithe, when the docks had been shut down and the depressed community was wondering about its future, says Heatherwick fondly. "His skill is in supporting people, although he hasn't a business bone in his body." Had he been an indulgent father? "He was very truthful. It's hard to have a father like that when you're young.

He wouldn't say, 'Ooh, that's lovely, well done, that's a great drawing'. He'd say, 'Actually a cat doesn't look like that,' and hold an honest mirror to you. In our design reviews at the studio, we try to have that honesty and candour and frankness, and hold it up to ourselves." Born in 1970, Heatherwick grew up in London, where his father used to take him to design projects. They would visit the House of the Future in Milton Keynes together, or check out carbon-fibre cars in Earls Court.

His mother, by contrast, showed him a world of light industry. "Together we went to exhibitions, model engineering shows and craft fairs," he recalls in his book, Making, co-written with his former partner, Maisie Rowe, "spending time with people who were forging iron, blowing glass, machining metal, erecting timber building frames, knotting hammocks, laying hedges, making sheep fences and constructing dry-stone walls."

In some way, recently poems are foistered with the interlinking elements of experiencing this new London, via or vis-a-vis Heatherwick: 

what hurts more in stone bowers, 

a paraboloid roof plunging?  

glass & concrete mime an upturned ark

the imagined version of the 

1% as architectural design, bed of grey

white pearl shining throwing a halo

a dash or eternity? 

A Heatherwick Stairway?

gad crack'd all people outside 

are now dead as voices 

from near silence under kissing buildings,

landscrapes your hands & face 

forget yesterday's unkindness;

the heritage version of history 

is embedded shit bas-relief 

buried centuries our little gaps of sedge

get demented. 

The Garden Bridge, B of the Bang, the London Olympic Cauldron. It was also the ways in which Heatherwick would start to follow me throughout London. Where I studied, he was in wait anticipating. Where I worked, again but he got there first, installing the massively shit Bleigiessen; using 142,000 glass spheres suspended on 27,000 high tensile steel wires; 15 tonnes of glass and just under a million metres of wire. Each sphere creating  “shifting colour and brightness coming from a layer of dichroic film set between the two hemispherical lenses that make up each sphere”. 

In 1996, Blair’s introduction to What needs to change: New visions for Britain referred to his “moral credo” which he summed up as “…a society in which ambition is matched by compassion, success by social justice, and rewards by responsibility.” These themes were echoed in his speech at the Royal Festival Hall on Friday 2 May 1997 and reflect an appreciation by Labour that to govern effectively it would need to meet often competing challenges and objectives. To be relevant, Labour would need to strike the right balance between what were seen as the old ideologies of ‘left’ and ‘right’. Reforms to benefits, tax credits, and the minimum wage diminished the penal dole culture of Thatcher Major years. New Labour retained the hard neoliberal revolutions of Thatcher’s premiership— most significantly, retaining her trade union laws, crippling attempt to stop the rot of the working-class movement. Eddie Dempsey is a ghost, a spectral ghoul tapping at the door. 

 'A new dawn has broken, has it not (...)so we can put behind us the battles of this past century and address the battles of the new century. It will be a Britain renewed…where we build a nation united. With common purpose, shared values, with no one shut out, no one excluded, no one told that they do not matter. In that society, tolerance and respect will be the order of the day…That is the country we have wanted for so long. A Britain whose politics start once again to live up to the finest ideals of public service. And a Britain that stands tall in the world…”?' 

Tony Blair

In 2011, Blair became godfather to one of Rupert Murdoch’s daughters. The surge of optimism & goodwill.  2016 Chilcot Report. 

In 1996, Blair’s introduction to What needs to change: New visions for Britain referred to his “moral credo” which he summed up as “…a society in which ambition is matched by compassion, success by social justice, and rewards by responsibility.” These themes were echoed in his speech at the Royal Festival Hall on Friday 2 May 1997 and reflect an appreciation by Labour that to govern effectively it would need to meet often competing challenges and objectives. To be relevant, Labour would need to strike the right balance between what were seen as the old ideologies of ‘left’ and ‘right’. New schools popped up throughout the country, art galleries remained free under the threat PPV, hospitals emerged from the ground itself. Education Maintenance Allowance. EMA. You remember that, the thing so blithely cut from the hands of working class people as to be almost a mysterious stupefaction that created it. How could we possibly have made that. Enabled that, for what and for whom. EMA. Get fucked. Hard and tough cuts await you, in the corridors you have seamlessly been lead down. The aspirations you procreated, the feelings you thought you had. Obliterated. EMA. Pumping money into public amenities, for what? The social-democratic nuances of that very thing I keep repeating in order to inordinately prove, both its callous evisceration as a needless cause & how it impacted my life. It changed to idea of what was feasible, it made me feel genuinely bonded to educational models without the concept of meritocracy. It is the reason for so many feelings are deep inside of me, the capacity to think poetically & the very option to be able to render something out in any artform.

If it did not exist, nothing else would in my opinion. I would be down a river. What EMA stood for was precisely the departure from a Britain defined by people who had the means to achieve their basis of their kind of social, cultural, or economic future. It created a level of indeterminacy that was incredibly unlike British code. It was the biggest fuck up for ensuring the classes kept in creeping order. Or so I thought. 2010. Clegg. The doors closed. I see. I see now saddled with mountains of debt. You only have to look back at history to remember whatever EMA represented was a meaningless incursion in the largely framework. We give you 30 pounds to go to school, but we fleece you from the future. At least you have Canon DSLR to finish your A level photography. With the introduction of university tuition fees in 98' (again we forget) and the subsequently trebling of them in 2004, and then again 2010 the major defeat that I participated in. I stood, at the helm of that ripping earth into the pit of whatever university education appears to be now. Which is a kind of waking death. To the increasing numbers of rentiers, teeth pulled by tripling private landlords in a housing system left untouched by Thatchers RTB. Nothing changed, my charmed coddled heart in those days. 30 pounds in my pocket. Walking the streets of a industrial town in Swale, Kent. Hands in pockets. 

a broken Clegg bite unstitched   

with what hour it is rictus-pilled  

to sentry decimal's erupting .........

tomorrow closed for & filled   

with desiccated incentives the whole darkness   

into a medical restriction of the bold  

rains to take for exclamation the xenophobias, 

the screens  ALL individuals (organisms) exist 

in a continually changing world of experience 

(phenomenal field) of which they are the superintended 

& I would like to be at the other hand   

receiving the hardness of facing you transparent  

 to bore a hole as he was named   

on swollen grave inconsequence

Blair tried to imitate, implicate in ways which reflected Britain’s cultural preoccupations, values and behaviour had over the course of 5 years altered. 1985 felt like 50 years ago to someone in 1995. It was a clear sea change in the terms of British sensibility and taste even. Freeze was 1988, even. You can see the change in the very utility of those spaces from that palmy days (before Mike Weatherley & Kenneth Clark) wherein you could seemingly propose and inhabit any spaces with any airy project and not pay thousands to some real estate investment, development & asset management firm.

At its most basic level, this manifested itself in ‘photo op’ moments such as playing ‘head tennis’ with Kevin Keegan or guesting with the much loved & regarded ‘Richard and Judy’. Beyond this, Blair was keen as apples to communicate that he was culturally in tune with the public at large, describing himself as a regular guy Steve, sharing tastes in music, playing guitar etc etc. ‘sofa government’.

Back to Thomas, & thinking back slightly to that crony penned letter from Joanna Lumley to Boris. The contents of which are, remarkably pitted with chum lined requests but how did Heatherwick secure a contract to design Lumeley's 175m garden bridge. Sure-the regeneration crows typifying the Conservative government’s commitment to private enterprise at the expense of state intervention and public provision. The rendezvous was not designed to provide health facilities, or any other public-spirited functions. But instead it devised a market-led strategy that slashed through red tape to lure developers and new businesses. Unfettered by the lengthy consultations and conventional planning practices that dictated the pace of developments elsewhere, ensuring over £43m of public money was spent before construction even began. The Garden Bridge was planned to Cupronickel, of which the most common modern use of is silver-coloured coins.

They fall out the sky occasionally. 

Heatherwick represents therein the 'new' modern spin & the trust deficit …a slick media operator with an instinctive understanding of PR? It is soft neoliberialism in architectural/public design form. Nothing more, nothing less. 

Another hone on taste, 

parades red fusses & the monks

poise professional managerial class

is dayblue turning trite 

manifestos out logheads 

but I cannot read at 


remember the future society

logarithmic falling levies 

remember all things big & bright

you can see friendships in ruck 

this gelded hellscape, now

raked on consignments

nubbing like a estate childs cursed leaven

bright the kinder noughties tonight

phishing out some hallowed light 

broken piling the last stars 

paled by an invisible hand

being blessed by Tony via telecommand.