This is Millbank for HR, by our favourite furious poet Niall McDevitt. It’s for anyone whose heart leapt with joy at the sight of students smashing into Millbank/Mordor and wreaking creative destruction inside; it’s probably not for Telegraph readers…
Millbank for HR by Niall McDevitt
“No one in their right mind could claim that the violence of students in London today is justified” – The Telegraph.
It’s challenging to think the most politically joyous day
—and the most ecstatic news bulletin I’d turned on in years—
was that of the young marchers ransacking Millbank
in the late autumn of 2010. This, I felt, was sedition… At last!
No, not drawing a brilliant cartoon of some Tory basilisk,
or writing an iconic protest song, or devising a modern dance,
or even finding the just words for a literary satire
to call forth Puppet Ubu from his shit-caked lair again
but an action that transcended the artistic, the aesthetic,
a replay of Bastille. That I laughed and cheered on 10/11/10
so fulsomely, so earnestly, drunk on nothing but the facts,
sending messages to the round earth’s PC-screened corners,
later made me ask myself if something was amiss.
Perhaps I—or many of us—had been warped by the control-machine
of Conservatism, and made incapable of finer feelings?
To hear the young had smashed into the Tory forcefield
—think of the name Millbank, the very concept of Millbank:
a fusion of Blake’s satanic mills with the banking system—
seemed like an orgiastic victory. They’d struck a blow,
ferocious cherubs with Asian bows-and-arrows,
not by throwing eggs at individuals or fire extinguishers at no one
but by attacking the furry, malodorous Ubu of an institution,
punishing an office ceremonially, humiliating a party HQ,
one that corrodes the morals of those who work in it
with powergames and endgames
‘forever and ever amen’,
by assaulting Tory architecture in black hoods and leopardskins
along the chameleon smile of the Thames.
The students shocked everyone out of their automatism
that day. Authority was rug-pulled. That night: masterless revels
in an upside-down realm, with a cavalcade of royals and retainers
looking a thousand years old in slow-rolling contraptions,
and a palpable mass joy not felt in years. London throbbed
with frisson, and the vibration of the island was raised.
Those hecklers who cavilled of ‘self-interested students’
had missed the point that—while the sad majority
have become inured to suffering Tory-dealt attritions
retaliating at best with cartoons, songs, dances, poems
or, at worst, buying shares in loss leader alcohols—
a new generation had stood upto Goliath and hurled
the full force of its slingshot, right at his walnut brains.
Images of the spider-webbing glass, the spray-painted As
and youths kicking and chanting at yellow phalanxes
of Met baboons, seemed to my bruised and fragile psyche
a vision of the coming Eros and redemption
(even if there’s something wrong with me for thinking it
or something wrong with you for reading this)
Pick up your copy of Strike! here