Broken Britain: UN Rightly Condemns Eight Years of Tory Austerity, But the Labour Party Is No Saviour; Try Extinction Rebellion Instead

Anti-austerity protesters, and the Extinction Rebellion logo.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.

 

Britain, is, not to put too fine a point on it, screwed — and also deeply divided. Philip Alston, an Australian-born human rights lawyer, and the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, has highlighted both these problems in his newly-issued report on the impact of eight years of savage austerity policies by the Tory government.

Alston pulls no punches. After spending two weeks travelling the length and breadth of the UK, and meeting people at the sharp end of austerity, as well as meeting government ministers, Alston notes how, in “the world’s fifth largest economy”, it “seems patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty. This is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes to see the immense growth in foodbanks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the sense of deep despair that leads even the Government to appoint a Minister for suicide prevention and civil society to report in depth on unheard of levels of loneliness and isolation.”

Alston also explains how, during his visit, “I have talked with people who depend on food banks and charities for their next meal, who are sleeping on friends’ couches because they are homeless and don’t have a safe place for their children to sleep, who have sold sex for money or shelter, children who are growing up in poverty unsure of their future, young people who feel gangs are the only way out of destitution, and people with disabilities who are being told they need to go back to work or lose support, against their doctor’s orders.” Read the rest of this entry »

Video: I Discuss the Tidemill Eviction, the Broken ‘Regeneration’ Industry and Sadiq Khan’s Stealthy Elimination of Social Rents

A screenshot from a video of Andy Worthington discussing the housing crisis outside City Hall on November 3, 2018.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

On Saturday, I was interviewed about the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign, and broader issues relating to the housing ‘regeneration’ industry after a rally at City Hall, ‘No Demolition Without Permission’, that was set up primarily for tenants of council estates facing demolition, who have not been given ballots on the future of their homes, despite it having been official Labour Party policy since last September. One of the 34 estates affected is Reginald House in Deptford, a block of 16 structurally sound council flats, which the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign is determined to save, along with the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden.

The 15-minute video, posted below, was shot by Bob Robertson of Ladywell Labour Party, who I first met earlier this year, when I was on a Saturday stall in Deptford Market with other Tidemill campaigners, spreading the word about the need to preserve the precious and irreplaceable community garden and the 16 structurally sound council flats of Reginald House, next door, and for Lewisham Council and the developer, Peabody, to go back to the drawing board, and to work with the community on new plans for the Tidemill site, which includes the old Tidemill primary school as well as the garden and the flats.

Bob was very supportive, and spoke frankly about efforts within the Labour Party in Lewisham to shift the political focus away from the corporate-focused ‘regeneration’ frenzy that took place under Steve Bullock — and that we are now seeing replicated under the new Mayor Damien Egan, and his Cabinet, including the Member for Housing Paul Bell — but he acknowledged, of course, that it is an uphill struggle to change those in charge, even though the membership of the party is more solidly left-leaning than it has been for some time because of the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader three years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

A Radical Proposal to Save the Old Tidemill Garden and Reginald House in Deptford: Use Besson Street, an Empty Site in New Cross

One of the two beautiful Indian bean trees in the occupied Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, October 11, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).In Deptford, in south east London, a battle is taking place. On one side are Lewisham Council and the developer Peabody, who intend to destroy the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, a garden that has been used by local children and the wider community for 20 years, and Reginald House, a block of structurally sound council flats next door, for a new housing project centred on the old Tidemill primary school. 

Opposing the council and Peabody — in the manner of that little Gaulish village that held out against Julius Caesar in ‘Asterix the Gaul’ — are representatives of the local community, who have occupied the garden since August 29 to prevent it being boarded up prior to its intended destruction, and also to prevent the demolition of Reginald House, whose tenants are also involved in the campaign.

The Tidemill campaign has, very noticeably, the moral high ground, while the council and Peabody have nothing but spin and deception. The garden is a magical green space and community asset that is also of notable environmental significance, mitigating the horrendous effects of pollution on the traffic-choked roads nearby, and is therefore genuinely priceless. As for Reginald House next door, there can be no rational justification for knocking down structurally sound social housing to build new properties that are also described as “homes for social rent”, unless some subterfuge is involved. Read the rest of this entry »

‘No Social Cleansing in London’: Campaign Launch and Fundraising Gig for the Tidemill Campaign in Deptford at the DIY Space in Peckham, Fri. Oct. 12

An image for the launch of 'No Social Cleansing in London' - and a fundraiser for the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign - on Friday October 12 at the DIY Space for London in Peckham.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

If you’re in London and concerned about the unprecedented scale of London’s housing crisis, I hope you’ll come along this Friday to the launch of ‘No Social Cleansing in London’, a new campaign group that I’m setting up to provide a focal point for struggles against the destruction of social housing, via “regeneration” projects, involving the destruction of council estates, that are designed to socially cleanse poorer residents, and to provide largely unscrutinised profits for builders and developers, and an unfettered private rental market that, for the first time in London’s modern history, is pricing all manner of people out of the capital.

The launch is taking place at the DIY Space for London, a volunteer-run social space at 96-108 Ormside Street, Peckham London SE15 1TF, on an industrial estate just off Ildeston Road, and close to the Old Kent Road, where evangelical churches, traditional industries and young creative types cluster in the shadow of the monstrous Old Kent Road re-development plans of Southwark Council, whose mania for unwanted and unnecessary high-rise housing developments betrays a complete lack of understanding about the nature of employment in 21st century London, and the tens of thousands of workers who can only survive in their businesses on an around the Old Kent Road because they are not exposed to the full greed of the corporate market.

Friday’s event is intended to, in the first instance, provide an opportunity for housing campaigners to come together from across London’s 32 boroughs to meet and mingle and to come up with strategies of resistance. In the weeks to come, I’ll be setting up Facebook and Twitter pages for the campaign — and, hopefully, a website — so if anyone wants to be involved, please do get in touch. Read the rest of this entry »

Shame on Peabody: Calling on the Former Philanthropic Social Housing Provider to Abandon Its Plans to Destroy the Old Tidemill Garden and Social Housing in Deptford

'Shame on Peabody': a banner held by campaigners in the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, which has been occupied since August 29, 2018 to prevent Lewisham Council and Peabody from destroying it - and 16 structurally sound council flats next door - as part of a housing project (Photo: Andy Worthington).Since the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford began, on August 29th, we’ve been so busy focusing on Lewisham Council’s shameful role as the would-be destroyers of a crucially important environmental and community green space, and the wilful destruction of 16 structurally sound council flats next door, in Reginald House, for a new housing development, that we’ve failed to shine a light on their development partners, Peabody.

This is unfair, because, although Lewisham Council owns the land, Peabody are fully implicated in the plans to destroy the garden and almost all of the 74 trees in the garden and on the wider development site, and to demolish the 16 flats of Reginald House and to replace them with a new form of social housing that is not the same as what they’re proposing to destroy.

Of the 16 flats in Reginald House, three are leasehold, meaning that tenants bought them via the ‘Right to Buy’ introduced by Margaret Thatcher, while the other 13 are council flats let at social rents, which in Lewisham, are, on average, £95.54 for a two-bedroom flat. In the proposals for the site, these homes will be replaced with new flats that will be let at ‘London Affordable Rent’, initiated by London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan, which, in Lewisham, are 63% higher at £152.73 a week. That difference, of course, is huge for lower-earning families who are already struggling to make ends meet, and yet the shift to ‘London Affordable Rent’ is fully endorsed by the council and Peabody, leading to the unerring conclusion that both organisations are actually committed to destroying the entire system of social rents, and establishing ‘London Affordable Rent’ as the lowest rents that will be available in future. Read the rest of this entry »

30 Days into the Occupation of Deptford’s Old Tidemill Garden, Campaigners Celebrate Court Ruling Delaying Eviction Until Oct. 24

Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaigners at Bromley County Court on Thursday September 27, 2018.Yesterday marked 30 days since campaigners — myself included — occupied the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, a much-loved community garden in Deptford, and it was a day of celebration, as we secured a court ruling allowing our occupation to last for at least another month.

Campaigners have been occupying the garden since August 29, to prevent Lewisham Council from boarding it up prior to its planned destruction as part of a housing project with the developer Peabody.

Lewisham Council sought to evict the campaigners at Bromley County Court, but although the judge confirmed the council’s right to possession of the garden, he ruled that it cannot take place until seven days after a High Court judge holds an oral hearing at which campaigners will seek permission to proceed to a judicial review of the legality of the council’s plans. This oral hearing will take place on October 17 (and please, if you can, make a donation to our crowdfunder for our legal fees).

Andrea Carey, a member of the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign, said:

This is great news, as it was clearly unacceptable for the council to seek possession of the garden while a legal challenge to the legality of its plans was in progress. We urge the council, and the developers Peabody, to take this opportunity to do what they have persistently failed to do: to go back to the drawing board, and to work with the community to come up with new plans for the old Tidemill school site that spare the garden and the 16 structurally sound council flats next door, in Reginald House, and that deliver new homes at social rent.

Read the rest of this entry »

Check Out My Novara Media Article About the Occupation of the Old Tidemill Garden in Deptford, Plus Updates About the Campaign

A photo of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, which campaigners have occupied to prevent its destruction by Lewisham Council and Peabody, photographed on September 16, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Last week I was delighted to get the opportunity to write an article for Novara Media, an online news organisation established in 2011, about the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford to prevent its destruction by Lewisham Council and the housing association Peabody, as part of their plans for the re-development of the old Tidemill school site — plans that also involve the destruction of 16 structurally sound council flats in Reginald House, a block next to the garden.

The article, The Battle for Deptford and Beyond, provides a helpful introduction to the struggle, and I hope that, if you haven’t already been alerted to it via social media, where we’ve been promoting it, you’ll check it out now, share it if you find it useful, and even print off copies to let other people know about the campaign.

I’ve been so busy since its publication that this is my first opportunity to promote it via my website — in part because I’ve been playing some gigs and doing other media (including a Wandsworth Radio show on Saturday night, and a No Social Cleansing in Lewisham gig at the Birds Nest on Sunday night, to raise money for the campaign), but also because of my ongoing involvement in the occupation. Read the rest of this entry »

Ten Years Since the Global Financial Crash of 2008, We’ve Been Screwed by Austerity, and Now The Predators Want Our Homes

An image summing up the global economic crash of 2008.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Yesterday, September 15, marked the 10th anniversary of the day the new world order that started under Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and continued under Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, blew up spectacularly when the banking giant Lehman Brothers went bust, precipitating a global economic crash that was the worst since the Great Depression of 1929.

The crash came about because investment banks like Lehman Brothers had been involved in risky, toxic deals that should never have been legal, primarily involving “sub-prime mortgages” — lending money to buy homes to people who couldn’t afford them, and then packaging those toxic debts up in other complex financial packages.

The collapse of Lehman Brothers, with debts of $613bn, started a domino-like collapse through the entire financial sector, which had previously thought of itself as infallible, and had been supported in this absurd notion by politicians and economists.

In response, governments spent billions bailing out the banks, while everyone else suffered. No senior banking executive faced prosecution for their crimes, but individuals lost money, businesses folded, unemployment was rife, and the easy credit on which so many people depended dried up. Immediately after the crash, it was at least obvious that others were suffering too — building sites across London, for example, lay abandoned, and even the rich felt the squeeze, but salvation, in the UK at least, was soon at hand when the Tories, with the support of the Liberal Democrats, were able to form a government after the general election in May 2010, and immediately set about creating a new narrative — that the problem was government spending, not bankers’ crimes, and that the solution was to cut public spending. Read the rest of this entry »

Year 2, Day 100 of My Photo Project, ‘The State of London’, Recording A City Gutted by Greed Since the Olympics

The latest photos from my photo project, 'The State of London', marking one year and 100 days since I first began posting a photo a day on Facebook.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Yesterday, August 18, marked one year and 100 days since I began posting a photo a day on ‘The State of London’, a Facebook page I established on May 11 last year, marking five years since I first began cycling around London on my bike, taking photos of whatever interested me. You can see all the photos to date here.

In the six years and three months since I began this photo-journalistic project, I have been out on my bike almost every day, cycling many thousands of miles across all of London’s 120 postcodes, and discovering that what interests me are the changing seasons, the changing weather, the River Thames and the capital’s other rivers, its canals, its parks, and my own idiosyncratic take on the built environment, in which I’m drawn to the old, the odd, the idiosyncratic, the run-down, the derelict and the abandoned, and also to social housing — the great post-war estates, currently facing an unprecedented threat from councils across the political spectrum, who, financially squeezed by central government, are entering into deals with property developers to demolish their estates and to build over-priced new developments from which almost all the existing tenants are priced out, an epidemic of social cleansing that is largely unnoticed by those who are not directly affected by it. 

When these homes are destroyed, social rents (generally set at around a third of market rents) are also conveniently wiped out, replaced by properties for private sale, for market rent, for “affordable” rents that aren’t affordable at all, being set at 80% of market rents, and for shared ownership, an alarming scam designed to fool renters into believing that they are property owners. To add to Londoners’ woes, housing associations, which have increasingly taken over councils’ housing role since the Thatcher years, have also been severely squeezed, and many have, in response, also joined the private property development gravy train. Read the rest of this entry »

Resistance to Social Cleansing: Screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ in Bristol, August 9, 2018

Poster for the screening of 'Concrete Soldiers UK' in Bristol on August 9, 2018.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

It’s over a year since the defining event of 2017 in the UK — the Grenfell Tower fire, in west London, in which 72 people died because everyone responsible for their safety — central government, local government, the management company that had taken over the management of their homes, and the various contractors involved in a refurbishment of the tower that ended up being lethal — put cost-cutting and profiteering before safety.

The Grenfell survivors, and the wider community in north Kensington, are still awaiting anything resembling justice. The official inquiry is crawling along at a snail’s pace, many of the survivors are still in temporary housing (even though the Independent revealed, just yesterday, that over a hundred council homes in Kensington and Chelsea are lying empty), and up and down the country people are still living in tower blocks (470 at the latest count) that are enveloped in the same dangerously flammable cladding that turned Grenfell Tower into an inferno.

The Grenfell disaster showed, fundamentally, how in modern Britain those who live in social housing — even those who bought their council homes under Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ policy — are perceived as second-class citizens, whose very lives are disposable. Those in power argue that this is not the case, but Grenfell reveals this to be the case, and elsewhere politicians’ and housing professionals’ actions reveal their fundamental dishonesty. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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