There's a Spitfire in Trafalgar Square today. Not a Banksy Spitfire, amusingly positioned so it looks like it is crashed into the steps leading from the National Gallery. It's not propped up between the lions by a protest group and it's not there as a misguided celebration of Prince Harry's safe return to England. It's there to launch a campaign to put a statue of Sir Keith Park on the fourth plinth and do away with the revolving door series of modern sculpture that currently occupies that particular corner. A Spitfire is a fairly aggressive, confrontational item to launch a popularity campaign and it's definitely setting the tone for what we predict to be a heated scrap for that coveted slot.
Sir Keith Park was leader of the RAF pilots who played a key role in defending London and the South East during World War II and had a highly decorated 30 year career rising from soldier to Air Chief Marshal. The New Zealander commander is due a statue of some sort - but should it be on the fourth plinth? Ken Livingstone doesn't think so and is going to stand firmly behind the public art programme organised for Trafalgar Square. And this particular Londonista has to agree with him.
The fourth plinth has been empty for so long and so hotly contested over it's 150 year+ unoccupied existence, it seems to make perfect, practical sense to have no permanent sculpture there at all. To choose a particular person, representing a particular period in history, representing a particular community and political position to stand forever in Trafalgar Square without ruffling a lot of feathers and causing major hoo-hah is just impossible. The time to put a permanent figure has passed; Sir Keith Park has unfortunately missed his slot.
Instead, having a changing series of fresh new work is inspiring and revives Londoners with every new installation. There's been much debate about the role of public art in the last year or so, that has generated a certain amount of excitement and activity - and that's not a bad thing in this Londonista's mind. Find Sir Keith Park a place to be remembered but keep him off the fourth plinth: it's just too damn good to keep seeing what comes next.