Why We’ve Occupied the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford to Prevent Lewisham Council’s Demolition Plans

Join the Tidemill Occupation: an image I put together featuring a photo from the Old Tidemill Garden in Deptford on August 28, 2018, the evening the garden was occupied to prevent Lewisham Council from taking it back the day after, prior to its intended destruction.On Tuesday evening (August 28), campaigners occupied the Old Tidemill Garden on Reginald Road in Deptford, London SE8 to prevent Lewisham Council from taking it back on the Wednesday morning (August 29), and boarding it up prior to its planned destruction as part of the proposed re-development of the site of the old Tidemill Primary School.

The garden is a much-loved community space, and was developed by teachers, parents and pupils from the school 20 years ago. When the school closed, to be replaced by a new academy, the garden was leased to the local community, but now the council wants it back, to destroy it, and the 16 council flats of Reginald House next door, in order to build new housing with the housing association Peabody, some of which be for private sale, with the rest a mixture of Sadiq Khan’s London Affordable Rent (63% higher than social rents in Lewisham) and the scam that is shared ownership.

For many years, campaigners have been working to urge Lewisham Council to re-draw its plans to re-develop the old school site, which, astonishingly, were first proposed ten years ago. The campaigners have relentlessly pointed out that increasing the density of the development on the old school site will allow the council and Peabody to save the garden and Reginald House, but they’re simply not interested in engaging with the local community, or with the residents of Reginald House. 80% of residents do not want to lose their homes but have not been offered a ballot, despite Jeremy Corbyn’s promise last autumn that all proposed demolitions should involve ballots, a position since endorsed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Read the rest of this entry »

Brexit: Inspiring New Polling Analysis Shows Majority of Constituencies Now Support Remaining in the EU

A No Brexit badge, available via eBay.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

There was some rare good news in the Observer on Sunday, when, two years and two months since 37.47% of the eligible electorate voted to leave the EU (17.4m people, compared to the 16.1m who voted to remain), the impossibility of this proposal, and the realisation that the government tasked with implementing it is spectacularly, almost inconceivably incompetent, has finally led to a situation in which support has swung back significantly for staying in the EU. 

Just to be clear before I proceed with explaining why this is good news, I’m no enthusiast for the EU’s neo-liberal tendencies, or for the way the Euro project was used to strangle Greece, but pragmatically we are tied to the EU through 43 years of laws and treaties, and our economic health depends on our involvement in the single market and the customs union, which allow the frictionless trade with the EU that makes up by far and away our biggest trading market. In addition, the free movement of people across the EU is, in general, a positive development, and not the righteous target of the misplaced fears of those with a tendency to insularity, racism and xenophobia. We are all nations of immigrants, and immigrants have an overwhelming tendency to assimilate.  

Focaldata's analysis of the constituency shift from Leave to Remain since the EU referendum in June 2016 (via the Observer).The Observer’s headline that encouraged a surge of optimism on my part, and on the part of so many other Remain voters, was “More than 100 seats that backed Brexit now want to remain in EU”, and its tagline explained, “Major new analysis shows most constituencies now have majority who want to Remain.” Further spelling out the change, the text of the article confirmed the study’s conclusion that “most seats in Britain now contain a majority of voters who want to stay in the EU.”

The research was undertaken by the Focaldata, a consumer analytics company, which “compiled the breakdown by modelling two YouGov polls of more than 15,000 people in total, conducted before and after Theresa May published her proposed Brexit deal on 6 July”, itself an unworkable “soft Brexit” proposal, which nevertheless enraged the evangelical Brexiteers on the right of the Tory Party, whose arrogance and capacity for self-delusion apparently knows no bounds. 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 »

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 »

Finally! Theresa May and the Tories Suffer a Major Defeat on Brexit as MPs Secure a Meaningful Vote on the Final Deal

The Theresa May Brexit float, set up by campaigners for the UK to remain in the EU.

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Congratulations to MPs, who, yesterday evening (December 13), voted by 309 votes to 305 to give themselves a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal that Theresa May and her small clique of dangerous and deluded Brexit fantasists were planning to pass without including MPs at all.

In the end, the Labour leadership persuaded all but two of its MPs (Frank Field and Kate Hoey) to vote for the amendment, in a move that was obviously difficult for those from constituencies that voted Leave. The amendment was tabled by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, and its supporters in the Labour Party, and all the smaller parties except the DUP, were joined by eleven Tory rebels — as well as Dominic Grieve, Heidi Allen, Ken Clarke, Jonathan Djanogly, Stephen Hammond, Sir Oliver Heald, Nicky Morgan, Robert Neill, Antointette Sandbach, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston. Hammond, a vice chairman of the party, was almost immediately sacked, and the Daily Mail proceeded to damn the rebels on its front page, causing Keir Starmer to comment, in a tweet, “When judges uphold the law, they are branded enemies of the people. When MPs uphold democracy, they are branded traitors. Never has it been more important to reassert our values.”

In a day of passionate debating in Parliament, which often saw the Tory right attacking their colleagues, as tends to be the way with Brexiteers, who are prone to threats and hysteria, Dominic Grieve gave a passionate half-hour speech regarding his amendment. He “warned that the bill as it stood would unleash ‘a form of constitutional chaos’”, as the Guardian described it. He “said he had sought to engage with ministers to find a compromise, but without success: ‘The blunt reality is, and I’m sorry to have to say this to the house, I’ve been left in the lurch, as a backbench member trying to improve this legislation.'” Labour’s Yvette Cooper said, “This is an important moment. The House of Commons has tonight voted against the government’s attempt to concentrate power and against letting a small group of ministers take crucial decisions on the details of Brexit without Parliament having a meaningful vote.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Crime of Destroying Social Housing in London – and the Significance (Or Not) of Jeremy Corbyn’s Response

A photo of the first stage of demolition on the Heygate Estate in Southwark, south east London, in April 2011 (Photo: Lotte Sheedy for the Architects Journal).This is my 2900th article since I began writing here on a full-time basis in May 2007. If you like what I do, please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

A great crime is taking place in London — the destruction of social housing estates by councils, who, squeezed of cash by central government, and, for decades, prevented from spending money on social housing, have entered into deals with private developers, in which housing — primarily estates — that the councils claim they have no money to refurbish are demolished, and replaced by new developments that offer huge profits for the developers, but that provide no social housing, or a risibly small amount.

In recent years, the purely private developers have been joined by housing associations, the preferred choice of governments, since the time of Margaret Thatcher, for managing social housing. However, with their central funding completely cut by the Tories since 2010, they have also been obliged to embark upon more and more developments featuring a large component of private housing to subsidise their properties for rent.

A further complication is that, in one of the most cynically breathtaking acts of spin in modern British history, the social housing provided is generally what is officially termed “affordable,” but which, in reality, is not affordable at all for most Londoners. Boris Johnson, during his eight destructive years as London’s Mayor, set “affordable” rents at 80% of market rents, and in most of London — if not all — market rents are so out of control that those on the median income in London (the level at which 50% of workers earn more, and 50% earn less) are paying up to 70% of their wages on rent, when the acceptable model — in pre-Thatcher days — used to be that no one should pay more than a third of their income, just as, before the insane bubble that has more or less existed since New Labour took office in 1997, the acceptable cost of a house was no more than three and a half times a worker’s income. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: Festival of Resistance Against the DSEI Arms Fair in London’s Docklands, Sept. 9, 2017

Stop the arms fair: a placard emerges from a sea of police at the Festival of Resistance against the DSEI arms fair in London's Docklands on September 9, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

See all my photos from the Festival of Resistance against the DSEI arms fair  on Flickr here!

Yesterday (September 9, 2017), the Campaign Against Arms Trade and Stop the Arms Fair organised a Festival of Resistance against the bi-annual international arms fair that takes place in London’s Docklands at the ExCeL exhibition centre, which I visited, played at, and took photos of. See my photos here. This UK government-backed orgy of trade in weapons of war and weapons of mass destruction tries to disguise itself by calling itself DSEI (Defence and Security Equipment International), but anyone perceptive can see through the PR-speak.

As the festival’s Facebook page explains, “As one of the world’s largest arms fairs, DSEI brings together over 1,500 arms companies and military delegations from over 100 countries. On display will be everything from crowd control equipment to machine guns, tanks, drones and even battleships.” Countries invited to take part, all with dire human rights records, include Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The resistance to the DSEI has involved protests all week in advance of the arms fair itself, which runs from September 12-15. Throughout the week, dozens of protestors were arrested stopping arms-laden vehicles arriving at ExCeL, and this pattern continued during the festival, as protestors locked on to each other in the road or locked on to vehicles. Protests are also continuing throughout the coming week — see here for further details. Read the rest of this entry »

Message to Jeremy Corbyn: You Represent Hope Not Just Because You Oppose Austerity, But Because You Must Save Us From Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn campaigning for the UK to stay in the EU prior to last June's EU referendum.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

It’s over a month since the General Election, which destroyed Theresa May as any sort of credible leader. Having called an election, despite repeatedly promising not to, she then showed a startling inability to meet ordinary people and to connect with them, in complete contrast to Jeremy Corbyn, and ended up losing her majority, instead of increasingly it massively, as was forecast, forcing her into a humiliating deal with the backwards religious fundamentalists of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party just to keep her government in power.

Corbyn, meanwhile, thrived on the campaign trail. Finally freed from the liberal media’s shameful negative portrayal of him (which had been pretty relentless for two years), because of the liberal establishment’s accepted need for something more closely resembling objectivity on the campaign trail, he was revealed as a leader with the common touch, able to connect with and empathise with ordinary people effortlessly. His supporters always knew this about him, but it had been suppressed by the media — and by Labour rebels — since his election as leader two years ago.

Some of Corbyn’s success came about because of Theresa May’s uselessness. She scored a huge own goal by refusing to debate with him on live TV, and she made colossal errors of her own beyond her woodenness and her apparently very real fear of actually meeting people: the so-called “dementia tax”, for example, an effort to address the costs of care for elderly people that was immediately seized upon — by Conservative voters and the right-wing media, as well as almost everyone else — as a classic “nasty party” attack on the security, savings and assets of the elderly. Read the rest of this entry »

My photos of ‘Not One Day More’, a Huge Protest Against Theresa May in London, July 1, 2017

"F*ck off back to your wheat field": a great placard from the 'Not One Day More' protest against Theresa May and the Tories in London on July 1, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

See my photos on Flickr here!

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Today (July 1, 2017), I cycled into central London with my son Tyler to support the ‘Not One Day More’ protest called by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, and to take photos. We caught the march on Whitehall, as the tens of thousands of protestors who had marched from BBC HQ in Portland Place advanced on Parliament Square, and it was exhilarating to stand by the Monument to the Women of World War II in the middle of Whitehall, near 10 Downing Street, as a wave of protestors advanced, chanting, “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” and “Tories, Tories, Tories, out, out, out.”

Many of the placards, understandably, dealt with the Grenfell Tower disaster two weeks ago, when an untold number of residents died in an inferno that should never have happened, but that was entirely due to the greed and exploitation of the poorer members of society that is central to the Tories’ austerity agenda, waged relentlessly over the last seven years, and the neo-liberalism — insanely, unstoppably greedy, and utterly indifferent to the value of human lives — that has been driving politics since the 1980s.

The Guardian noted, “When the march reached Parliament Square, a minute’s silence was held ‘in memory and respect’ to the victims of Grenfell Tower. Tributes were also paid to the emergency services who responded to the fire with a minute’s applause.” Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said, “To the victims of Grenfell Tower we pledge now, we will stand with you and your families all the way through. We bring you sympathy but more importantly we bring you solidarity. We will not rest until every one of those families is properly housed within the community in which they want to live. Grenfell Tower symbolised for many everything that’s gone wrong in this country since austerity was imposed upon us.” He also “slammed the Tories for praising the emergency services ‘every time there’s a tragedy’ but then cutting jobs and wages.” Read the rest of this entry »

As Brexit Talks Begin, It’s Clear That We’re Doomed Unless We Ditch the Tories

Brexit alphabet: a photo from the Unite For Europe march and rally in London on March 25, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

What an embarrassing and disgraceful position we find ourselves in, as the deluded representatives of an illegitimate government (the shambles that is the minority Tory government headed by “dead woman walking” Theresa May) begin official negotiations for our departure from the EU, following last year’s EU referendum, when a slim majority of those who could be bothered to vote, in a referendum whose outcome was not legally binding, and that didn’t meet the threshold for referendums on issues of major constitutional change, voted for us to leave the EU.

Crucially, the referendum failed to ask voters what they felt about how we should leave the EU and what damage to our economy was acceptable. Can we, for example, stop free movement, as voters seemed to indicate they wanted? Is it feasible, and if it is, would it be damaging to the economy? (the answer to the latter question is a resounding yes). What about the role of the free market and the customs union? Largely ignored in the Leave campaign’s lies, but explained here by the Economist, both are an essential part of our trade with the EU, which is our main market — not just in goods, but in people, services and ideas — and leaving either will almost certainly damage our economy significantly. Is that worthwhile for some spurious notion of regaining “sovereignty,” which in reality, is nothing more than the anguished, meaningless cry of backwards-looking isolationisists?

As Ian Dunt, author of the very necessary Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? explained in his column for Politics.co.uk on Thursday, aptly entitled, ‘Brexit talks start on Monday and we have no idea what we’re doing,’ the start of negotiations has once more brought the suicidial pointlessness of Brexit into sharp relief. “We are now about to go into the most challenging negotiations since the Second World War,” Dunt wrote, “with no government, no overall aim, no plan to achieve it, no functioning department to deliver it, no confidence at home or abroad with which to pass it, no trade expert capacity to negotiate it, and no time to manage it.” 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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