Wednesday, 26 November 2014

My response to Hackney winning the right to demolish Dalston Lane

(This is a copy of what I sent in to Hackney Citizen when they asked me to write something short for them.)
I wonder how it is that elected representatives can think they are doing a good job on behalf of the people, when they spend years neglecting fine historical buildings, longstanding tenancies and then spend thousands of pounds in court to justify demolishing the buildings with the argument that it was their neglect that made it necessary! And it's not as if tenants and concerned people didn't warn them and plead them and come with alternative ways of safeguarding Dalston Lane - going back over decades. To my own personal knowledge, I know that longstanding tenants, like the Austrian baker at the Star Bakery and newer tenants in the supermarket - and others - pleaded with Hackney to be able to renovate their shops but all Hackney could do was talk big about 'strings of investors' who would come in and bulldoze the lot and put up buy-to-rent blocks with chain stores down below. They were refused permission and packed their bags. 

What we need all over London are local authorities who are prepared to build communities from the bottom up, supporting tenants and freeholders who want to do up the places they live and work in, supporting the longstanding networks of family and friendships, supporting housing for need. It shouldn't be the job of a local authority to smash up the spaces we live and work in simply because it suits big corporate developers.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Dalston Lane is an example of how urban planning is for greed not need

The socialist scholar, David Harvey, remarked some years ago that one of the sites for the way in which working people are squeezed is through the contest over space. This is of course through housing itself, but it's also through 'planning', 'development' and 'regeneration'. Big companies are involved in re-ordering cities so that they can make money from land. Quite often, this involves moving tenants out of dwellings, demolishing buildings and creating new enclaves which cost more to rent or buy than the previous tenants could pay. Again, quite often, councils - Labour, LibDem or Tory (or their equivalents all over the world) will bow to the will of developers pumping out propaganda about how this will 'improve the area' or 'regenerate the district' etc. All they are saying is that they moving poor people out and moving more well-off people in. Then when the chain stores come in and the better off people come in, they say, 'Look how we've improved the area!'. So, this justifies e.g. compulsory purchase, running down old stock housing, bulldozing, torching, bullying of tenants, lying about viability of historic buildings, etc etc. It may well also involve hidden subsidies to big corporations through absurdly low prices for land sales, waiving of local taxes, interest free loans, etc etc.

This whole process - often aided by legislation from central government (e.g. the Pathfinder legislation, brought in by John Prescott) - has been painstakingly documented and fought by OpenDalston and the heroic Bill Parry-Davies. Today was bad news…OPen Dalston contested in court the latest round of council vandalism in aid of corporate greed, altering the spaces we live in for the sake of profit not need…but lost.

There are parallel and analogous episodes going on all over UK and round the world. Please read this blog. We have to support each other in this or they will go on and on wiping out our living spaces without improving them. All they are doing is squeezing the poor by moving them on. It's not planning for all. It's planning for the well-off and the super-rich. As Harvey said, it's class war in another guise.

Friday, 21 November 2014

David Whelan, money and Jews.

Dave Whelan (owner of Wigan Football Club)

who says that Jews chase money more than anyone else

should be asked if he chases money…

If not, he must be the first football club owner in history not to.

If he does chase money, then what's he complaining about?

Chasing money, in his book, must be 'good'. No?

Who cuts wages? Immigrants or employers?

I keep hearing that immigrants cut wages.
So who's that sitting in the board room fixing the wage levels?
Or employers?
Let's try that again, then..
Who cuts wages?

"Pressure on services" - immigrants or bankers?

I keep hearing that immigrants put pressure on services.
For the past four years, we've had government ministers explaining why and how they are putting pressure on services. They're cutting services. They have to do this because the international financiers say that it must be done.
So it's not immigrants putting pressure on services.
It's international financiers.
Funny that they don't say that.

UKIP: immigrants 'welcome' or not?

If I was someone who thought that it would be a good idea to 'send immigrants home' , would I think that UKIP might do that for me?


Why would I think that?

Because of many comments that UKIPers have said about immigrants e.g. Farage complaining about the Romanians talking on the train to Reckless's comments about 'looking sympathetically' at those who've been here a long time and/or might do his plumbing.

So if I was someone who thought UKIP was going to 'sort out immigration' what would I make of Reckless saying that European migrants are 'welcome'?

Does this mean that UKIP are going to let me down?

Or does it mean that UKIP give everyone a big nod, to say, yes we are anti-immigrant, er…we can't say that totally openly…but actually if we get into power, we'll get down to work shipping people out…????

Thursday, 20 November 2014

New poem: Tomato

They’ve opened up a new cafe round our way

so I thought I’d give it a try. You go up to the

counter to choose and the menu is high up

on the wall. I saw ‘Homemade Tomato’.

I said, ‘I’ll have the Homemade Tomato, please.’

‘Anything else?’ the man said.

‘I’ll have a cup of tea with that, please.’

‘Usual?’ he said.

‘I haven’t been in this cafe before,’ I said.

‘I know you haven’t,’ he said, ‘I meant do you

want the tea you usually drink.’

‘Yes please,’ I said.

‘And what kind of tea is that?’ he said, ‘I don’t

know what kind of tea that is.’

‘That’s what I thought,’ I said, ‘I’ll have English


‘I’ve got a breakfast tea here,’ he said, ‘but it

doesn’t say that it’s English.’

‘ I’m not bothered about the English,’ I said.

‘Oh aren’t you?’ he said, ‘It’s all got a bit political,

hasn’t it?’

‘I tell you what, I said, can I have a coffee? Black


He winked. I winked back. I wasn’t sure why I

winked. It felt like the right thing to do at the time.

I sat down.

A few minutes later he came to my table. He had

the coffee and a plate with a tomato on it. He

turned and went back to behind the counter. I

drank some coffee and started on the tomato. He

hadn’t brought a knife and fork, so I reckoned that

the best way to eat it was like you eat an apple.

Pick it up and bite into it. I took pretty small bites

because I’d been caught out like that before. You

take a big bite into a tomato and you end up with

tomato all over yourself. To tell the truth I’m not

mad keen on tomato by itself. I really like it with

bread. Or cut in half and grilled with toast. Or

chopped up with cucumber and Greek parsley

and a bit olive oil and lemon juice. He didn’t

have that on the menu.