‘Proposed Monuments to British Parliamentary Corruption’
series of models for public sculptures, 2012–ongoing
England is the mother of parliaments.
—John Bright, British Member of Parliament, 1867
Johnson's Folly: Proposed Monument to British Parliamentary Corruption, Circa 2021, 2021
ink on paper sketch
The proposal is to place a tall verticle column on Parliament Hill, London, where it will be seen for miles around and serve as a warning against corruption. The monument is a reminder of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s failed attempt to change parliamentary rules in 2021, in order to protect a Conservative MP from punishment. The scandal blew up because Owen Paterson chose to lobby the government’s Food Standards Agency, on behalf of two companies that were paying him £100,000 a year as a ‘consultant’. His actions were found to be an “egregious” breach of regulations by the independent Committee on Standards, which Johnson subsequently attempted to abolish. The design of the column is based on the Burton Pynsent Monument in Somerset, built by William Pitt (an eighteenth-century British Prime Minister) in memory of an unpleasant aristocrat. Pynsent left Pitt his entire estate in his will, as thanks for opposing a ten-shilling tax on a hogshead of cider.
I genuinely believe that the UK is not remotely a corrupt country, nor do I believe that our institutions are corrupt.
—former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 2021
The Disgrace of Liam Fox: Proposed Monument to British Parliamentary Corruption, Circa 2011, 2016
The proposed monument commemorates the actions of the disgraced former defence secretary Liam Fox, who was forced to resign from the government in 2011. Fox allowed his former flatmate and best man, Adam Werrity, to pose as his adviser and travel the world with him meeting heads of state. Werrity took the opportunity to advance his own ambiguous business interests, while pretending to work for the British government – whereas in reality he had no official parliamentary job and no security clearance. His company Pargav Ltd. claimed to be fostering ‘peace’ initiatives. Thanks to the success of the Brexit campaign, Liam Fox returned to government in 2016 as Secretary of State for International Trade. The sculpture is based on an anti-war monument commissioned in 1935 by socialist feminist Sylvia Pankhurst, for the London suburb of Woodford Green.
A beacon of democracy. The Palace of Westminster and Big Ben are synonymous with democracy and have become a symbol of parliament around the world.
—UK Parliament website, 2020
Stockholm Duck House: Proposed Monument to British Parliamentary Corruption, Circa 2009, 2012
An image of the Stockholm Duck House was widely circulated in the British media in 2009. It became the symbol of a corruption scandal, in which many British MPs were found to be fiddling their parliamentary expenses and claiming money for inappropriate items from the public purse. It was an aristocratic Conservative MP, Sir Peter Viggers, who famously claimed the ‘Stockholm Duck House’ as part of his parliamentary expenses. The structure, designed to provide protection for birds, is based on an eighteenth-century building in Sweden. Viggers’s expenses files reveal that British taxpayers also footed the bill for 28 tons of horse manure. Fellow Conservative MP Douglas Hogg, Third Viscount Hailsham, claimed the cost of cleaning the moat around his country estate. The proposal is to raise a monumental public sculpture of the duck house, as a warning against future impropriety.
installation view of The Disgrace of Liam Fox and Stockholm Duck House, Maureen Paley, London, 2016
Horse: Raisa – Proposed Monument to a Loyal Servant, Circa 2012, 2012
The proposal refers to a political scandal in 2012, in which a horse named Raisa became the symbol of ‘friendship’ between the various upper echelons of the British political elite, including then Prime Minister David Cameron, Rupert Murdoch’s News International media corporation and the police. The horse rose to prominence having been ridden by Cameron on outings with disgraced newspaper editor Rebekah Brooks, to whom it had been improperly lent by its owners, the London Metropolitan Police. Rebekah Brooks was a prominent figure in the News International telephone hacking scandal, having been the editor of the News of the World when illegal telephone hacking and police bribery were carried out by the newspaper. By raising a statue of Raisa, the principles of loyalty and friendship will be immortalised in a public monument.
‘Emily Steer in conversation with Olivia Plender: 5 Questions’ Elephant Magazine, September 2016
Olivia Plender solo exhibition at Maureen Paley Gallery, London, 2016(view here)
‘Boris Johnson says the UK is not ‘remotely a corrupt country’. Is it?’, The Guardian, 11 November 2021(read)
‘Liam Fox resignation: Adam Werritty money trail was final straw’, The Guardian, 14 October 2011(read)
‘MPs’ expenses: The Legacy of a Scandal’, BBC News, 7 May 2019(read)