A Defence of Social Housing in a Resolutely Hostile Political Environment

The destruction of Robin Hood Gardens Estate, in Poplar, east London, photographed on December 12, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Tomorrow, Londoners will go to the polls to vote in council elections in the capital’s 32 boroughs,and across the UK there will also be elections in 34 metropolitan boroughs, 67 district and borough councils and 17 unitary authorities.

Voting ought to be a simple matter. The Tories, under Theresa May, are spectacularly useless and, wherever possible, cruel. Engaged in an effort to implement Brexit that seems to be destroying them, they are also gasping from one scandal to another — the latest being the Windrush fiasco, initiated by Theresa May, who is, to be blunt, a racist, and this whole racist disaster demonstrates quite how unpleasant they are.

And yet, if you care about fairness and social justice — in the specific context of housing, the biggest issue facing Londoners today, as well as many, many other people around the country — then voting for the Labour Party is not, in general, to be recommended, leaving a giant hole where participation in the democratic process ought to be. Read the rest of this entry »

The 34 Estates Approved for Destruction By Sadiq Khan Despite Promising No More Demolitions Without Residents’ Ballots

The destruction of Robin Hood Gardens estate in Poplar, March 13, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Anyone paying any attention to the sordid story of council estate demolitions in London will know how hard it is to take politicians seriously — and especially Labour politicians — when it comes to telling the truth about their actions and their intentions.

Perfectly sound estates are deliberately run down, so that councils can then claim that it’s too expensive to refurbish them, and that the only option is to knock them down and build new ones — with their developer friends who are conveniently waiting in the wings.

In addition, a collection of further lies are also disseminated, which divert attention from the fundamental injustice of the alleged justification for demolitions — false claims that the new housing will be “affordable”, when it isn’t; that part-ownership deals are worthwhile, when they are not; and that building new properties with private developers will reduce council waiting lists, when it won’t. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser: Still Seeking $2000 (£1500) for My Guantánamo Work, Housing Activism, Protest Music and London Photography

A screenshot of Andy Worthington calling for the closure of Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2018.Please click on the ‘Donate’ button below to make a donation towards the $2000 (£1500) I’m trying to raise to support my work on Guantánamo for the next three months!

 

Dear friends and supporters,

It’s Day 4 of my quarterly fundraiser, and I’m grateful to the friends and supporters who have helped me reach 20% of my target of $2500 (£1800) to continue my work on Guantánamo over the next three months. However, I’d like to ask you, if you can, to join in helping me, as, for the most part, a reader-funded journalist and activist, to raise the funds I’m seeking to enable me to keep working — writing the 50 or so articles I publish every quarter, plus all my social media work, and, when they happen, media and personal appearances.

I have no institutional backing for my work, and no revenue stream that comes through the mainstream media and its advertisers’ support, so almost everything I do is dependent on your financial support for me to continue — not just my writing and campaigning to close Guantánamo, but also my work in defence of social housing in the UK (including ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, the new documentary film that I narrate and am preparing to tour around the UK), my protest music, with my band The Four Fathers, and my London photography project, ‘The State of London.’

If you can help out at all, please click on the “Donate” button above to make a payment via PayPal. Any amount will be gratefully received — whether it’s $500, $100, $25 or even $10 — or the equivalent in any other currency. The donation page is set to dollars, because the majority of my readers are based in the US, but PayPal will convert any amount you wish to pay from any other currency — and you don’t have to have a PayPal account to make a donation.

You can also make a recurring payment on a monthly basis by ticking the box marked, “Make this a monthly donation,” and if you are able to do so, it would be very much appreciated. Read the rest of this entry »

Nine Months After the Entirely Preventable Grenfell Tower Fire, UN Housing Rapporteur Says UK Government May Have Breached Residents’ Human Rights

The Silent Walk for Grenfell, December 14, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Today, survivors of the Grenfell Tower Fire last June — and supporters from across London —  are taking part in a Silent Walk that begins outside the offices of Kensington and Chelsea Council and ends by the blackened skeleton of the tower, where over 70 people died. The fire should never have happened, but did so because safety standards have been fatally eroded over many years by those responsible for the safety of tenants and leaseholders — central government, local government, management companies that have taken over the management of swathes of social housing, and contractors.

For me, the fire was the defining moment of 2017, and in summer I wrote a song about it, remembering those whose lives were “so needlessly lost”, and calling for ”those who only count the profit not the human cost” to be held accountable. Three members of my band The Four Fathers — myself, Richard Clare and Mark Quiney, accompanied by my son Tyler beatboxing — were recorded playing the song by a German film crew in autumn. We released it as a video in December, and I’m pleased to note that it currently has nearly 1,500 views on YouTube (posted below) and on Facebook. Please watch it, and share it if you like it. We hope to make a studio recording soon, and would be delighted to hear from anyone in the Grenfell community who would like to be involved, as we would love it to be used to help the survivors.

Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating 300 Days of My Photo Project, ‘The State of London’

A composite photo showing the most recent photos in my photo project 'The State of London.' I began taking photos on daily bike rides around London in May 2012, and began posting a photo a day on Facebook in May 2017.Please feel free to support ‘The State of London’ and my photo-journalism with a donation, if you wish. I receive no institutional funding for it whatsoever.

 

300 days ago, on May 11, 2017, I began publishing a photo a day on Facebook as part of a photo project called ‘The State of London.’ I’d actually begun the project five years before, on May 11, 2012, when I’d first started cycling around London taking photos of whatever interested me, the intention being to create a photographic record of the capital at this particular time in its history — under Tory rule, with the Olympics about to begin as the project started, and with hideous towers rising up everywhere, as the latest phase of the primary focus of capitalism in London over the last 20 years — an endless, artificially-sustained housing bubble that is a disaster for almost everyone except the very rich, and, of course, the developers.

As I began cycling around London and taking photos, I decided that I would visit all 120 of inner London’s postcodes — the ones beginning WC, EC, SE, SW, W, NW, N and E — as well as trying to visit as much of outer London as possible. In the first rush of my enthusiasm, I hadn’t genuinely taken on board quite how big London is, and how long it takes to cycle across it, while being regularly distracted by photo opportunities. It took me until September 2014, if I recall correctly, to visit all 120 postcodes, and, to date, I’ve only visited a handful of the outer postcodes — in particular, those nearest to me, for example, designated BR (for Bromley) and CR (for Croydon).

As the project has developed, I suspect that some of my enthusiasms have become apparent. To some extent, I have come to regard myself as a barometer of the weather, because I cycle almost every day, whatever the conditions (which, along the way, has also helped to keep me healthy, and has made me realise that we are meant to be outdoors much more than we generally are), and the photos inevitably reflect that, with some photos capturing torrential rain, for example, which is generally quite rare, and others capturing the dullness of the typical overcast weather that defines so much of the British weather (and, by extension, the British psyche — once a heavy dose of Puritanism has also been added). Other photos capture the beauty and clarity of the many different types of sunlight — at different times of the day, and at different times of the year, and I freely admit that I’m always in search of the strong, low light and long shadows that can be found towards the end of the day, and that I particularly love. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington: An Archive of Articles About Guantánamo, My UK Housing Activism and Other Writing – Part 23, July to December 2017

A screenshot of Andy Worthington calling for the closure of Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2018.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

This article is the 23rd in an ongoing series of articles listing all my work in chronological order. It’s a project I began in January 2010, when I put together the first chronological lists of all my articles, in the hope that doing so would make it as easy as possible for readers and researchers to navigate my work — the nearly 3,000 articles I have published since I first began publishing articles here in May 2007, which, otherwise, are not available in chronological order in any readily accessible form.

I receive no institutional funding for my work, and so, if you appreciate what I do as a reader-funded journalist and activist, please consider making a donation via the Paypal ‘Donate’ button above. Any amount, however large or small, will be very gratefully received — and if you are able to become a regular monthly sustainer, that would be particularly appreciated. To do so, please tick the box marked, “Make this a monthly donation,” and fill in the amount you wish to donate every month.

As I note every time I put together a chronological list of my articles, my mission, as it has been since my research in 2006-07, for my book The Guantánamo Files, first revealed the scale of the injustice at Guantánamo, continues to revolve around four main aims — to humanize the prisoners by telling their stories; to expose the many lies told about them to supposedly justify their detention; to push for the prison’s closure and the absolute repudiation of indefinite detention without charge or trial as US policy; and to call for those who initiated, implemented and supported indefinite detention and torture to be held accountable for their actions. Read the rest of this entry »

My Band The Four Fathers Launch A Year of Political Gigs in Walthamstow This Saturday, In A Protest Against Another Divisive Private Development

The poster for the occupation of Walthamstow Town Square on February 24, 2018 at which The Four Fathers are playing.Check out all The Four Fathers’ studio recordings here, and the video of our song ‘Grenfell’ here.

Kicking off a year of varied gigs — involving a healthy dose of political events and community festivals — Lewisham-based band The Four Fathers are heading to Walthamstow this Saturday, February 24, to play a few songs (including ‘London’ and ‘Fighting Injustice’) at an occupation of Walthamstow Town Square by campaigners resisting plans to redevelop the square, primarily because of their opposition to the lack of genuinely affordable housing in the planned new development, but also because of concerns about the size of the towers that are proposed for the site, and the loss of public land in the centre of the town.

Please note that I’m also attending a screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK‘, the new documentary film about the housing crisis, directed by Nikita Woolfe, and for which I’m the narrator, at Harmony Hall in Walthamstow at 6pm, and also staying on afterwards what I hope will be a lively post-screening Q&A session. Further details here.

The Observer picked up on the story this weekend, in large part because of Walthamstow’s proximity to Haringey, where, last month, council leader Claire Kober announced her resignation, after an extraordinary grass-roots campaign to stop the council from entering into a unprecedented £2bn deal with the international property developer Lendlease, which would have seen much of Haringey’s social housing, and other assets, put into a 50:50 development project with Lendlease, known as the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV). Read the rest of this entry »

Two New London Screenings of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, Documentary Opposing the Destruction of Council Estates, in Hackney Wick and Walthamstow on February 20 and 24

Concrete Soldiers UK: an image by street artists the Artful Dodger, who has created the imagery and logos for the film.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

In December, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, a new documentary film about Britain’s housing crisis, was released, for which I was delighted to have been asked by the director, Nikita Woolfe, to be the narrator. As we explain on the film’s website:

“‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ is a new documentary film by Nikita Woolfe, looking at an under-reported scandal in London and across the country — the social cleansing of council estates. Starved of funds by central government, councils and housing associations are entering into deals with private developers in which, instead of renovating estates, they are being demolished and rebuilt. The developers make huge profits, but existing tenants, and leaseholders are squeezed out, socially cleansed from their homes, and often from the boroughs in which they have lived for years, for decades, or for their whole lives.”

The film looks in particular at three struggles currently taking place — on the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark, and Central Hill and Cressingham Gardens in Lambeth — and is particularly concerned to provide a voice for those resisting the destruction of their homes. As we put it, “The film encourages viewers to have hope, and a belief that a fairer future is out there.” And with good news of late — Haringey residents seemingly victorious over their council, which sought to put all the borough’s social housing into a development vehicle with the rapacious Australian-based international property developer Lendlease, and with both Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan backing residents’ ballots before any demolitions can take place — it is to be hoped that 2018 will be the year that the tide finally turns on the social cleansing that has threatened to become an epidemic in recent years. Read the rest of this entry »

Over 1,200 Views for The Four Fathers’ ‘Grenfell’ Video, Remembering Those Whose Lives Were Lost, and Calling for Those Responsible to be Held Accountable

The Silent Walk for Grenfell, December 14, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Last month, at a party of activists in Brooklyn, towards the end of my annual US visit to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on the anniversary of its opening (the 16th anniversary of its opening, on January 11), I played ‘Grenfell’, the song I wrote after an entirely preventable inferno consumed Grenfell Tower, a residential tower block in west London last June, killing 71 people.

I wasn’t sure how much the small audience of human rights activists knew about it — how much news of distant disasters spreads around the globe, despite the notion that technology has made us all inter-connected — but I realised when introducing it that it was, for me, the defining moment of 2017, and I’m sure my passionate rendition of it helped one small corner of Brooklyn to understand.

I wrote ‘Grenfell’ last summer, as my response to the disaster, and played it with my band The Four Fathers for the first time in September at a benefit gig for campaigners in Tottenham, as part of their opposition to the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), a deeply unpleasant proposal by Haringey Council to enter into a £2bn deal with the rapacious international property developers Lendlease (the destroyers of Southwark’s Heygate Estate), which would involve the council transferring all its social housing to the HDV, with the ensuing destruction of entire estates, and their replacement with new private housing, from which most of the existing tenants would almost certainly be excluded. Read the rest of this entry »

Haringey Leader Claire Kober’s Resignation Ought to Signal an End to Labour’s Frenzy of Council Estate Destruction, But 70 Labour Leaders Disagree

On the left: Claire Kober, the leader of Haringey Council, who announced her resignation on January 30, 2018 after profound grass-roots opposition to her plans to transfer all the council's social housing to a 50:50 development vehicle between the council and rapacious international property developers Lendlease. On the right: a poster by the Stop HDV campaign, which led a brilliant grass-roots campaign against the proposal.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

There was great news on Tuesday, as Claire Kober, the Labour leader of Haringey Council, announced her resignation, explaining that she will not be standing in May’s elections. Kober — and her close associates, like Alan Strickland, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing — had imperiously decided to hand over all of Haringey’s social housing to the predatory international developer Lendlease, in what was laughingly described as a 50:50 partnership. Lendlease, however, has all the money, and what was intended to happen, via the £2bn deal for Haringey, was a large-scale version of what Southwark Council arranged for Lendlease at the Heygate Estate in Walworth: the destruction of council estates and their replacement with private developments for sale, or for rent at unaffordable prices.

At the Heygate, as I explained in an article last September, 1,034 homes, housing around 3,000 people, were demolished, most of which were socially rented, costing around 30% of market rents. 2,704 new homes are being built on the Heygate’s replacement, Elephant Park, but only 82 of those will be for social rent, with the rest laughably described as “affordable” in the biggest scam in the developers’ current lexicon. “Affordable” rents were set at 80% of market rents by Boris Johnson, in his miserable tenure as London’s Mayor, but that is actually unaffordable for the majority of hard-working Londoners.

As Aditya Chakrabortty of the Guardian explained when describing the Haringey proposal, known as the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), in July, “Haringey plans to stuff family homes, school buildings, its biggest library and much more into a giant private fund worth £2bn. It’s the largest scheme of its kind — ‘unprecedented’, in the words of backbench councillors. Together with a property developer, it will tear down whole streets of publicly owned buildings and replace them with a shiny town centre and 6,400 homes.” 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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