On Friday 13 July thousands of Londoners took to the streets to protest the arrival of US President Donald Trump on these shores. Trump wasn’t in London, but having tea with the Queen in Windsor Castle. Undeterred, between 100,000 and a quarter of a million people attended the protest – mostly students, middle-class women and muslims – which was interpreted as a show of popular sentiment. A quick look at the numerous placards, however, showed that the protest was, in fact, a coalition of the usual suspects – the Socialist Workers Party, the People’s Assembly against Austerity, Unite the Union and Momentum, with the organisers a role-call of Labour politicians, Labour supporters and Labour-supporting unions. Typically for the left there are two organising groups, the SWP’s Stand Up To Trump and Owen Jones’ Stop Trump, both claiming precedence and neither talking to each other. In other words, this was another Labour political spectacle, and, of course, Oh Jeremy Corbyn was given a platform from which to blather on about ‘a world of justice’. I’ve written before about Labour’s appropriation of the language of street protest to its parliamentary aspirations, and this was no exception, with Trump’s presence offering another opportunity to attack the Conservative government of Theresa May – as if a Labour government under Oh Jeremy Corbyn wouldn’t meet with the President of the USA on which so many of our post-Brexit trade deals will rely.
Besides the evangelical Labour leader, the centrepiece of the protest was a giant baby blimp of Trump, which was inflated in Parliament Square when the marching crowd arrived. Since this lies within the Government Security Zone, where the Metropolitan Police Force has free reign to arrest and otherwise beat the crap out of you on the mere suspicion that you’re about to do something anti-social let alone illegal, doing so required authorisation from another Labour politician, Sadiq Khan, who reportedly justified his decision by saying:
‘The UK, like the USA, has a long and rich history of rights and the freedom to protest and freedom of speech. The US ambassador himself commented that one thing the USA and the UK have in common is freedom of speech, and the idea of restricting that and the right to assemble because someone is offended by something is a slippery slope. When determining these things it should be about whether it is safe and peaceful. As a politician I should not be the arbiter of what is good or bad taste.’
This will be news to the hundreds of protesters who have been arrested by the Metropolitan Police Force for carrying placards or saying something the busies deem to be ‘offensive’, which under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 is now grounds for arrest; and to the thousands of protesters who have been kettled for hours by the Met for holding protests in London without Sadiq Khan’s permission. Unsurprisingly, Trump responded by accusing the London Mayor of doing a ‘bad job’ on crime and terrorism, since when the handbags have continued to fly in ever greater assumptions of moral outrage – Twitter writ large on the world stage for everyone to see.
Now, regular readers of the ASH blog will appreciate the irony of Labour’s leaders assuming the mantle of moral superiority in the face of Donald Trump. Undoubtedly there are degrees of incompetence, corruption and appallingness in our political leaders, and compared to Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Theresa May anyone would look good. But that doesn’t mean the Labour Mayor and Council Leaders responsible for what’s happening across London’s 21 Labour-run boroughs have suddenly turned into saints, or that the obscenity of what’s being done in Tottenham, or at Woodberry Down, or at Blackwell Reach, or in Stratford, or in the Elephant and Castle, or in Brixton, or in Croydon, or in the Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea Opportunity Area, represents some sort of model of political transparency and accountability to which we should aspire.
Unfortunately, we live in irony-free times, where the spluttering of the permanently offended constitutes what’s left of our political discourse. So continuing our commitment to providing design alternatives to the lies of Labour councils, ASH has designed these inflatable blimps of the politicians who have a rather more direct and immediate effect on the lives of Londoners than the President of the United States of America. Of course, I know that the middle classes like to keep their protests to issues that don’t call into question their own class position as homeowners, middle-income earners or mortgagors with the bank of mum and dad, and far prefer to get outraged about things happening on the other side of the world on which their protest will have not the least conceivable effect; but should Disgusted of Hackney, or Haringey, or Tower Hamlets, or Newham, or Southwark, or Lambeth, or Croydon care to focus their liberal outrage on what’s being done all around them by the Labour councils they’ve just re-elected to greater majorities in local government, we recommend these Labour blimps for their use. Oh, and when following Oh Jeremy Corbyn into the Promised Land, beware of golden calves, inflatable or otherwise.
Architects for Social Housing
Architects for Social Housing is a Community Interest Company (no. 10383452). Although we do occasionally receive minimal fees for our design work, the majority of what we do is unpaid and we have no source of public funding. If you would like to support our work financially, you can make a donation through PayPal: