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Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 13:37 GMT
McLaren's web of wonder
By BBC News Online's Ed Main
"In my opinion win or lose is irrelevant. I am sowing the seed of a new kind of dissent."
Malcom McLaren is explaining why his campaign to be mayor of London is in the vanguard of a global revolution in political culture triggered by the rise of the internet.
The mastermind behind punk rock and the Sex Pistols has been holding forth for 20 minutes on how the web will open up democracy to independent candidates like himself - and shows no sign of pausing for breath.
We are in the offices of the PR company hired by Alan McGee, the former boss of Oasis and Creation Records who faces being booted out of the Labour Party for bankrolling the McLaren campaign.
It is probably the only mayoral campaign HQ where the walls are decorated with platinum and gold discs.
Malcolm is outraged by Millbank's threats to excommunicate his friend and benefactor.
"It is the first time I have seen the Labour Party behave like juveniles," the man behind Anarchy in the UK tuts like a teacher despairing at a wayward child.
Returning to the web Malcolm is evangelical in his enthusiasm.
The internet, he insists, is not only transforming lifestyles and employment patterns, but will also radically alter the structure of politics.
"The net makes us feel we can care about someone living in Lahore as if he is living next door," he rhymes.
"That has changed our whole view of the world and somehow has had an effect on our consciousness."
In terms of domestic politics the net means individuals will be empowered, as never before, he believes.
They will be able to get their messages across to the electorate as easily as the large parties. he says.
So far Malcolm's own campaign has been largely walkabout free. Instead it has been waged through interviews and his own website.
He believes that the traditional concept of a politician is also appearing increasingly old fashioned.
With online referendums the public could have a greater direct say in crucial decisions, he muses.
"The net, something that was developed by the military for its purposes has been taken control of by the individual," he says.
"Politics is about controlling people.
"People now want to control themselves a lot more. In this city there is a desire for Londoners to control their own destinies.
"What has given them that new feeling and desire for change I believe is technology."
A pause for breath comes only when Eric Jarvis, Malcolm's electoral agent and a disenchanted former Labour Party official, brings in lunch.
But a mouthful of sandwich barely slows the flow of ideas.
Malcolm's rivals may, he acknowledges, regard him as something of a joke candidate because of manifesto pledges such as allowing legalised brothels opposite parliament to reduce political sleaze scandals.
He, in turn, regards them as unworthy to run the city which he is passionate about.
"I had to look at the whole of the party machinery and realise it was a farce," he says.
"If members of whatever political party gets to power they have agendas that are above the interests of all London. They have agendas for their particular powerhouse.
"And I didn't think that would ultimately benefit Londoners. I didn't think anything would get done."
Referring to himself in the second-person, he adds: "They will want to treat you like a joke because on their terms you are.
"You are not a member of their club.
"You are definitely not a politician and in essence you don't want to be treated like one, because basically your platform is that you don't like politicians.
"You often think, every day of the week, politicians fail you.
"What you really care about is London and that in essence makes you a very different kind of egg to those that are standing for and on behalf of their political parties."
Only an independent he believes can shrug off the constraints of party ideology and do what is best for the capital.
Even Ken Livingstone, who Malcolm rates as "a good egg", would he says have "to play footsie with HQ" to some extent.
Malcolm's plan as mayor would be to run the capital with "a cabinet of talents" - a panel of independent voices with particular expertise and experience.
John Bird, the editor of the Big Issue, would be given the task of tackling homelessness.
He has already persuaded Malcolm that his idea for the homeless to sell lottery tickets to fund new housing is probably unworkable.
Malcolm would ask Stephen Lawrence's parents to help root out racism from the Metropolitan Police.
And Formula One hero Damon Hill has already offered to sort out London's traffic problems.
London Underground would also be turned over to a publicly-owned trust so Londoners could run it be free from interference by central government or big business.
Malcolm also believes the mayor must intervene to stop the large chains of sandwich shops and cappuccino outlets wiping out the smaller shops which give London its character.
"If we don't save small businesses, London will lose its soul and become like Singapore or Hong Kong - a shrine to capitalism," his manifesto warns.
However, there is one group of capitalists who he is, perhaps surprisingly, keen to court.
"The mayor needs to work very closely with the financial district of this city, because they bring money and make money for London and Londoners have got to look at them as absolutely the heartbeat of this city," he says.
"I intend to go to the City and talk to them very seriously. I know there is a hell of a lot of Sex Pistols fans there," he adds lowering his voice for added emphasis.
Hang on, hasn't he spent most of his adult life ridiculing or trying to overthrow the establishment.
Is this professed admiration for the Square Mile just another wind-up by the veteran prankster - who invented the punk slogan never trust anyone over 30 when he was already that age.
Surely, City financiers are the chief culprits in the commercial homogenisation of London that he rails so bitterly against.
" I think there is an element of truth in that but it is not the whole story," he says.
"I think the city represents this individual sanctum where people can go and damn well make money by using money and trading in money and trading in bonds of all shapes and sizes.
"It is a metropolis of absolute total freedom.
"Anarchy in the UK is as much about the City of London as it is about anywhere else in this town.
"The City are a great bunch of freewheeling geezers," he laughs, warming to his theme, "out to basically earn lots of money for themselves.
"Basically they are people that are very intelligent and if weren't making lots and lots of money in the City they probably could run this town a hell of a lot better than the government that is in power at present
"I do think the City are an amazing group of individuals that I have never been, ever, not fascinated by."
"City people recognise talent if they recognise anything," he adds.
"The City probably thinks this bunch of politicians in the mayor's race are a bunch of nerds. They are probably right."
Links to other UK Politics stories are at the foot of the page.
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