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 »

Video: The Peaceful Occupation and Violent Eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford

A photo by Anita Strasser of th eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford on October 29, 2018.

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Today marks six days since the violent eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, which campaigners, myself included, had been occupying for two months to prevent its destruction by Lewisham Council for a housing development — one that could be built elsewhere in the borough if the will existed to do so.

Throughout the occupation, and for many years before it, we have endlessly tried to impress on the council that it is unacceptable to destroy the garden, a vital community green space, and a hugely significant environmental asset, which mitigates the worst effects of pollution on nearby Deptford Church Street, which regularly reaches six times the World Health Organisation’s recommended safety levels, and that it is also unacceptable to destroy Reginald House, a block of 16 structurally sound council flats next door. The council, however, has never shown any interest whatsoever in engaging with us or in listening to our demands for them to go back to the drawing board, and to come up with new plans that spare the garden and the flats.

Unusually, I haven’t published anything here on my website for five days, since I posted my immediate impressions of the eviction the day after, in an article entitled, The Violent Eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden: Lewisham Councillors Make Sure They Will Never Be Welcome in Deptford Again.

It’s fair to say, I believe, that myself and other campaigners have been struggling to cope with the fallout from Monday’s violence. We have no intentions of giving up, of course, but we’ve all been emotionally drained, so as I continue to recover I’m posting below, via YouTube, a 12-minute film of the occupation and the eviction made by the Peckham-based Rainbow Collective, which, at the time of writing, has had nearly 4,000 views on Facebook. Read the rest of this entry »

The Violent Eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden: Lewisham Councillors Make Sure They Will Never Be Welcome in Deptford Again

A photo taken during the violent eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford on October 29, 2018 (Photo: Harriet Vickers).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Yesterday was one of the most harrowing days of my life, as the jackboot of authority stamped with shocking violence on the occupiers of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, a beautiful community garden and environmental asset in Deptford, evicting it prior to its intended destruction.

No one from Lewisham Council, which initiated the destruction, showed up yesterday; instead, their hired goons — 130 bailiffs from County, a Bexley-based company — arrived at dawn and sent their shock troops into the garden, wearing masks and screaming at the occupants who had stayed overnight to resist the invasion, and violently evicting them.

I missed the initial text to supporters, and was only alerted at 6.30am when Heather Gilmore, one of the most prominent campaigners, with whom I’ve been working closely since the occupation began two months ago, called and left the following message: “Please come down now. The eviction has started. It’s really nasty. It’s horrible.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Full Horror of the Tideway Super-Sewer Excavations at Deptford Creek and the Clear Need for All Housing Developments, Including Tidemill, to be Stopped

Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaigners photographed wearing gas masks to highlight the environmental costs of the proposed re-development of the old Tidemill school site, including the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

In Deptford, in south east London, the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign that I’m part of is involved in a significant struggle against three aspects of the current housing crisis that are a microcosm of what is happening elsewhere in the capital and across the country, and that cry out for concerted resistance.

The first is the destruction of precious green space for a housing project that could easily be built elsewhere. The second is the destruction of structurally sound council housing, as part of the proposed development, that has no purpose except to do away with genuine social housing, and to replace it with a new form of allegedly affordable social housing that, in fact, is considerably more expensive and offers fewer protections for tenants. The third involves issues of pollution and environmental degradation that are already at crisis pint, and that will only get considerably worse if councils’ and developers’ mania for ‘regeneration’ continues unchecked.

On this third point, the work of campaigners — who have been occupying the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden since August 29, to prevent its destruction — has successfully enabled large numbers of people to understand that the garden (created 20 years ago as a beautiful landscaped garden for the local primary school, and leased to representatives on the local community for the last six years, since the school closed and moved to a new site) is an important bulwark against the horrendous pollution on the nearby A2 and also on Deptford Church Street, a dual carriageway that is one of two main routes to Greenwich and that also provides access to the Rotherhithe Tunnel. 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 »

Celebrating 500 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

The most recent photos from my photojournalism project 'The State of London', 500 days since the project started.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Yesterday marked 500 days since I began publishing a photo a day on my Facebook page ‘The State of London’ — photos drawn from the extensive archive of photos that I’ve built up over the last six years on bike rides in all of London’s 120 postcodes (those which begin SE, SW, W, NW, N, E, EC and WC), plus some of the outer boroughs. You can see all the photos to date here.

I began publishing a photo a day on the fifth anniversary of when my project started, when I first began consciously to document the capital in photos, cycling from my home in Brockley, in south east London, down through Deptford to Greenwich, and then, in the weeks that followed, cycling relentlessly around south east London, much of which was unknown to me, and also finding routes I didn’t know to take me to central London and beyond. At the time, London was beginning to be under siege — by central government and the Mayor, Boris Johnson — in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, with bikes banned on trains across the capital, and to get anywhere I had to cycle, which wasn’t always convenient, but it was certainly a good way of getting to know London’s streets.

The Olympics, of course, showed the Tory government in its full jingoistic, corporate and authoritarian malignancy. A bottomless pit of public money was opened up to pay for the Games, even as Tory-inflicted austerity was beginning to crush the capital’s poor, the River Lea was socially cleansed around the Olympic Park in Stratford, and, although I didn’t quite realise it at the time, the heavily-marketed “sexiness” and “cool” that come with being an Olympic city meant that it would be possible to establish a turbo-charged “property bubble” in the capital, even more giddily out of control than the one that had been cultivated by the New Labour government in the ten years before the crash. 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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