Burning Effigies of Tories at the Bonfire of Cuts in Lewisham, a set on Flickr.
On November 5, 2013 — Bonfire Night — I photographed effigies of members of the cabinet of the Tory-led coalition government — including David Cameron, George Osborne and others, as well as key Lib Dems and Labour politicians — as they were burned by activists in a brazier in the centre of Lewisham, in south east London. The caricatures were drawn by a member of the political group People Before Profit.
The activists in Lewisham were part of a day of action across the UK, in which numerous protestors held Bonfires of Austerity, initiated by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, an anti-austerity coalition of activists, union members and MPs, to protest about the wretched Tory-led coalition government’s continued assault on the very fabric of the state, and on the most vulnerable members of society — particularly, the poor, the ill, the unemployed and the disabled.
The borough of Lewisham, where I live, is famous for successfully resisting the government’s plans to severely downgrade services at the local hospital, and on Bonfire Night activists marched from Catford to an open space in the centre of Lewisham (by the main roundabout, and affectionately known as “the grassy knoll”), where they burned effigies of David Cameron, George Osborne, Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith and Boris Johnson. The protestors also burned effigies of the Lib Dems Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, key members of the disastrous coalition government, and Labour’s Gordon Brown and Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor. Read the rest of this entry »
On November 5, activists across the UK will be holding Bonfires of Austerity to protest about the wretched Tory-led coalition government’s continued assault on the very fabric of the state, and on the most vulnerable members of society — particularly, the poor, the ill, the unemployed and the disabled.
The British establishment has traditionally celebrated Guy Fawkes Night on November 5, marking the anniversary of the foiled plot by Guy Fawkes and others to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605, although nowadays, I’m glad to note, the anti-Catholic aspect of the festivities has largely disappeared, and the day is more generally known as Bonfire Night (even though bonfires are generally frowned upon in dull, modern-day, health and safety obsessed England).
Thankfully, the spirit of dissent lives on, and this year protests across the country have been initiated by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, a movement of political activists, union members and the handful of enlightened MPs who exist in Parliament. The movement was launched with a letter published in the Guardian in February, with signatories including Tony Benn, Len McCluskey, Mark Serwotka, John Pilger, Ken Loach and the late Iain Banks, followed by a press conference in March, where speakers included Caroline Lucas MP, journalist Owen Jones, comedian Mark Steel and disabled activist Francesca Martinez, and a meeting attended by over 4,000 people in Westminster Central Hall in June, following meetings and rallies across the country, at which a statement was issued that began as follows: Read the rest of this entry »
On Tuesday, the year-long struggle to save Lewisham Hospital from butchers in the government — and in the senior management of the NHS — ended in victory for campaigners, when the Court of Appeal turned down an appeal by health secretary Jeremy Hunt. The government sought to overturn the High Court’s ruling, in July, that Hunt had acted unlawfully when he approved plans for Lewisham put forward last October by Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator.
Appointed under legislation for dealing with NHS trusts in severe financial difficulties (the Unsustainable Providers Regime), Kershaw had proposed closing A&E and other frontline services and selling off over half of Lewisham Hospital’s buildings and land as part of a package of proposals to address the financial problems of a neighbouring NHS trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, which has three hospitals in south east London. The result would have been just one A&E Department for the 750,000 inhabitants of the boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley, and a disgraceful scenario in which 90 percent of the mothers in Lewisham (a borough with a population of 270,000) would have been unable to give birth in their home borough.
Responding to the news, Tony O’Sullivan, the Director of Services for Children and Young People at Lewisham, and a member of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, said, “This is a complete victory.” Referring to ministers and the Special Administrator, O’Sullivan added, “We always said they were acting unlawfully and undemocratically in using an emergency process to bypass meaningful consultation and destroy an excellent hospital.” Read the rest of this entry »
Since March 2006, I have been researching and writing about Guantánamo and the 779 men (and boys) held there, initially through my book The Guantánamo Files, and, since May 2007, as a full-time independent investigative journalist, assiduously chronicling the crimes of the Bush administration, and for the last four years and 10 months, President Obama’s failure to close the prison, as he promised, as well as the obstacles raised by Congress and parts of the judiciary.
In an effort to make it as easy as possible for readers and researchers to find my work, I began, three years ago, to put together chronological lists of all my articles, in the hope that they will provide a useful tool for navigation, and will provide researchers — and anyone else interested in this particularly bleak period of modern history — with a practical archive. Unfortunately, time restraints left me unable to find the time to make lists for my work from the start of 2012 onwards, so I’m remedying this now with a list covering all my articles from January to June 2012, and will follow up soon with two further articles covering July to December 2012 and January to June this year.
In this period, as well as relentlessly covering Guantánamo, I was also involved in campaigning to try to save the NHS from a full-on assault by the Tory-led government here in the UK, intent of privatising it, as well as, more broadly, resisting the age of austerity cynically introduced by the Tories to wage a disgusting and disgraceful civil war against the poor, the unemployed and the disabled. These are themes that continue to inform my work, as well as the horrors of Guantánamo, torture and indefinite detention. As a famous saying states, “The mark of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable members.” Read the rest of this entry »
On Saturday September 29, disability activists, the Very Rev. David Ison, the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the MP Michael Meacher and representatives of the Occupy movement held a protest in Parliament Square entitled “10,000 Cuts and Counting,” at which and John McDonnell MP and Louise Irvine, a GP and member of the British Medical Association (BMA) and the National Health Action Party, also spoke.
The event was described as “a ceremony of remembrance and solidarity for those who have had their lives devastated by the austerity programme, including more than 10,000 people who died shortly after undergoing the Atos Work Capability Assessment, the degrading test used by the government to assess the needs of people receiving benefits related to disability and ill health.”
In my many articles about the Tory-led government’s relentless and disgraceful assault on the disabled, I refer to the assessments as a process designed to find mentally and physically disabled people fit for work, when they are not, as it has been clear from the beginning that Atos has been hired not to conduct objective evaluations, but to cut financial support for disabled people on the orders of the government. Read the rest of this entry »
Please sign the petition to the British government to end the “War on Welfare,” which currently has over 55,000 signatures but needs 100,000 to be eligible for a Parliamentary debate, and, if you can, come to the ‘10,000 Cuts & Counting’ protest in Parliament Square on Saturday September 28.
The British government’s assault on the poor, the ill, the unemployed and the disabled is so disgraceful that it’s often difficult to know which particular horror is the worst, although every time that their attacks on the disabled come under the spotlight I’m reminded of the importance of the saying, “The mark of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable members” — attributed, in various forms, to Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill and Harry S. Truman — and it strikes me that the most disgusting of all the oppressive policies directed at the most vulnerable members of society by sadistic Tories masquerading as competent politicians — backed up by their Lib Dem facilitators and the majority of the mainstream media — is their war on the disabled.
The people behind these assaults overwhelmingly identify themselves as Christians, even though no trace of Christian values exists in their policies, and they are, instead, waging war on the very people that Christ would have told them are in need of their protection most of all.
I have been covering the government’s war on the disabled since 2011 (see my archive of articles here and here), and a brief explanation of what has been happening can be found in an article I wrote last August, in which I explained: Read the rest of this entry »
Well, what a lovely place Britain is these days. For the last two weeks, Raquel Rolnik, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on housing, has been visiting the UK to “monitor and promote the realisation of the right to adequate housing,” visiting London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast and Manchester, where, as a UN press release explained, “she met with government officials working on housing issues, various human rights commissions, academics and civil society.” She “also carried out site visits, where she heard first-hand testimonies and discussed with individuals, campaigners and local community organisations.”
However, when she dared to criticise the deteriorating state of Britain’s social housing provision, and to call for the “bedroom tax” to be scrapped, she was laid into by senior Tories, and by the right-wing media, in a series of vile and hysterical outbursts that ought to be a disgrace to any country that claims to be civilised.
The “bedroom tax” is a widely reviled policy dreamed up by the millionaires in the Tories’ cabinet, which provides financial penalties for people living in social housing and in receipt of benefits who are deemed to have a spare room. It is forcing many people to move from homes they have lived in for decades, even though there are very few smaller properties to which they can move. Read the rest of this entry »
Next week (from June 29 to July 5) is “Justice for Lewisham Week” in the London Borough of Lewisham, where the hospital that serves the 270,000 inhabitants has been under threat since last October, when Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator appointed to deal with the debts of a neighbouring NHS Trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, through legislation known as the Unsustainable Provider Regime, decided that one way of doing so would be to severely downgrade services at Lewisham (unconnected to the SLHT except by geographical proximity), shutting its A&E Department and axing 90 percent of maternity services along with all acute services.
At the end of January, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, approved the recommendations, but the people of Lewisham — myself included — refused to give up. Campaigning has continued relentlessly, and two judicial reviews were launched in response — one launched by Lewisham Council, and another by the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign. £20,000 was needed for the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign’s judicial review, which was raised by supporters of the hospital, including Millwall F.C. and other people (including 6,000 supporters of the campaigning group 38 Degrees) who understand that Lewisham is a test case for what the would-be butchers of the NHS can get away with (both in the NHS’s own senior management, and in government).
The judicial reviews will be taking place in the High Court in London from Tuesday July 2 to Thursday July 4, and the campaign is calling for people from the community to attend the hearing each day, and also for a big group of people to be there at the start of the proceedings on the morning of July 2nd. Please email Dagmar to sign up. Read the rest of this entry »
Please note that my books Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield are both still available, and I also wholeheartedly recommend Travelling Daze: Words and Images from the UK’s New Travellers and Festivals, Late 1960s to the Here and Now, Alan Dearling’s epic review of the traveller scene (to which I was one of many contributors), which was published last year, and is essential reading for anyone interested in Britain’s traveller history.
Every year, on the summer solstice, I am confronted by two particular questions, as, I’m sure, are many people old enough to have spent their youth growing up under Margaret Thatcher, or in the years previously, under Ted Heath’s Tory government, and the Labour governments of Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan, when an unofficial civil war was taking place in British society.
Those two questions are: what happened to my youth, and what happened to massive, widespread societal dissent?
The former of course, is an existential question, which only young people don’t understand. It’s 29 years since the last Stonehenge Free Festival, an annual anarchic jamboree that lasted for the whole of June, when Britain’s alternative society set up camp in the fields across the road from Stonehenge, and it’s 39 years since the first festival was established, by an eccentric young man named Phil Russell, or, as his friends and admirers remember him, Wally Hope. Read the rest of this entry »
I just have time to throw out a quick reminder that tomorrow, Tuesday June 11, there’s a Carnival Against Capitalism taking place in London’s West End, beginning at 12 noon, at the start of a week of action against the G8, which takes place on June 17-18 in Northern Ireland. There are two suggested meeting points — one at Oxford Circus and one at Piccadilly Circus — and this is what Milena Olwan, a social worker, told the Guardian about the protests against the G8, echoing what many people think, as politicians meet, who, at best, are deluded, and at worst, like the Tories, are revelling in the opportunity to impose savage austerity cuts on the most vulnerable members of society.
“The G8 are anti-democratic, unaccountable, and they represent an extinct world order,” she said, adding, They embody the old ways of protectionism, imperialism and greed … [W]e will show them that ordinary people coming together taking action can forge alternatives that do not destroy lives but create a life beyond capitalism.”
This is how the organisers describe the Carnival Against Capitalism:
This action will only be as effective as the people participating in it. We have not negotiated with the police and we will not be controlled. If we look after each other, stay mobile, don’t get caught in kettles and are ready to make quick decisions about what to do next we can make the most of the day. Read the rest of this entry »
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