The Millennium Dome 20 years on… revisiting a very British fiasco

It was supposed to be the ultimate symbol of Cool Britannia. Instead it became a nightmare that exposed the spin and hubris of the New Labour project

I entered through a discreet door in Whitehall, that of the Cabinet Office, and passed down a long sequence of spaces – literally, corridors of power – that run parallel to Downing Street, a few metres to the left. I continued to the point where another door or two would, were I so authorised, have got me into No 10. I was admitted to the office of Peter Mandelson, minister without portfolio, at this time in 1998 the second most powerful man in government, sometimes called the Prince of Darkness.

I didn’t know what to expect. Jonathan Glancey, then architecture and design editor of the Guardian, had been yelled at and threatened by a government press officer for his attacks on the Millennium Dome. I had written a front-page story for the Evening Standard, whose message – “New threats to the dome” – had graced newsstands all over London. It turned out I was getting the “good cop”. Mandy (as he was also tagged), reclining informally on one of the leather couches in his office, told me how terribly disappointed he was in my criticisms, as he particularly admired my writing.

Zaha Hadid, asked to shrink her mind zone, was furious: ‘You can’t slice my work like a salami,’ she said

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