Month: May 2017

10 Myths about London’s Housing Crisis

This piece from our mates at ASH was commissioned by the Guardian but never used. That’s the Guardian’s loss and they’ll have to live with that… Anyway, in a bid to get this piece read by as many people as possible we’re re-blogging it and would encourage anyone who has a blog to do the same. Yes, it’s about the housing crisis in London – as we’ve written numerous times before, what happens in the capital with housing has a direct impact all the way out here along the estuary. Not only that, there’s this old fashioned thing called solidarity which we’d like to show to housing activists and tenants in London fighting against social cleansing…

architectsforsocialhousing

This text was commissioned from ASH by the Guardian’s Housing Network, which subsequently refused to publish it. This is the second time an ASH piece has been commissioned and refused by the Guardian, which since Katharine Viner took over as editor in March 2015 has moved further and further to the political right, and whose articles on housing have increasingly resembled press releases for the councils, mayors, housing associations, property developers, builders, real estate firms and architectural practices feeding at the housing table – so we weren’t surprised. The last two years has shown ASH that there is nothing the mainstream press would publish that we would consider writing, and nothing we would write that they would consider publishing. Here is the text as rejected.

  1. There is no housing crisis, if by crisis we mean something out of control. The shortage of housing and the corresponding boom in UK house prices…

View original post 599 more words

The Estuary ALTERNATIVE

As regular readers of the blog may have gathered, we’re a bit spiky, gobby and love getting in the faces of certain political enemies to wind them up something rotten. However, we realise that in the project of bringing about radical change, there are times when positive alternatives that are about building the new world in the decaying one that we currently endure need to be promoted for all they’re worth. The Stirrer is NOT the appropriate vehicle to do this! So, in order to promote positive alternatives, we’d like to introduce The Estuary ALTERNATIVEhttps://theestuaryalternative.wordpress.com/

Please note that this blog is very much a work in progress – as you can plainly see from the fact that currently, there are only three posts that have been published! As for the links in the sidebar, we have only just scratched the surface… So, if your grassroots project isn’t featured, feel free to drop us a line at: seradicalmedia@protonmail.com with some information about what you do and the all important URL and we’ll feature you…

Election ‘fever’

Campaigning for the general election taking place on Thursday June 8th has resumed. An inept election campaign from Theresa May which even has the Tory supporting Spectator voicing its concerns: This is the worst Tory election campaign everhttps://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/05/this-is-the-worst-tory-election-campaign-ever/ and: Could Theresa May blow this general election?https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/05/theresa-may-blow-general-election/ is leading to excitable talk from the Corbynistas in the Labour Party that a win could well be possible. It would seem that for many on the left, any political activity that’s not devoted to the election of Saint Jezza is a betrayal of the ’cause’. As for us here at the Stirrer, we can’t wait for this diversion to be over and for the focus to return to resistance on the estates, in the workplace and the colleges and last but by no means least, out on the streets…regardless of who wins…

Regardless of who wins…because even if by some weird fluke Corbyn scrapes a narrow victory, as far as the housing activists we know in London are concerned, there’s going to be no honeymoon period. Unless every so called ‘re-generation’ scheme (a.k.a. social cleansing) that’s currently been set in motion by Labour councils such as Lewisham, Southwark, Lambeth, Hackney, Haringey and Newham to name just a few of the culprits is halted with immediate effect by a Corbyn government, then not only will resistance continue, it will intensify. So bollocks to any talk of letting Saint Jezza get his feet under the table before a decision is made on calling in the social cleansing schemes that London Labour councils have been complicit in!

As things stand, it’s most likely that May will scrape back in but not with the significant majority she was hoping for – Karma coming back and biting her on the bum… Which means there will be an enormous army of demoralised Corbynistas at a time when we warned that we’ll be needing activists prepared to carry on and escalate the real resistance against a system that’s broken: Three more weeks of hot air and then what?https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/05/18/three-more-weeks-of-hot-air-and-then-what/

What do we mean by real resistance? Here are just a few examples… Architects 4 Social Housinghttps://architectsforsocialhousing.wordpress.com/ who have consistently exposed the role of Labour councils in London in facilitating social cleansing through ‘re-generation’. Focus E15https://focuse15.org/ who have harried Newham Council at every opportunity over their dismal record on social housing, social cleansing and allowing three tower blocks on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford to sit empty for over half a decade while they await the right offer from a developer. United Voices of the Worldhttps://www.uvwunion.org.uk/ – a grassroots union empowering marginalised workers who are often on zero hours contracts to fight for better conditions and pay. The list of groups and organisations offering real resistance at the grassroots goes on…

If you want to go out and vote on June 8th it’s your decision, whatever the justification. All we ask is you recognise that fighting for a better world involves a heck of a lot more than putting a cross in a box every few years. It certainly involves a lot more than putting all of your trust in one politician to sort out the problems of the world – Corbynistas, please take note!

Trying to understand terror…

It would have been all too easy to come up with an instant knee-jerk response to the atrocity committed after the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena on Monday 22nd May. Since Tuesday, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking in a bid to get to grips with the twisted thinking used to ‘justify’ attacks such as this. The reason I want to understand why anyone could even contemplate, let alone pick the target they did is to start to work out how an ideology as poisonous and toxic as this can be taken on and defeated. These are the commentaries I’ve read so far that have played a part in helping me to achieve some sort of understanding – needless to say, the one by Kenan Malik was the most illuminating.

The Jihadi State of Mind (Kenan Malik – The New York Times) – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/24/opinion/the-jihadi-state-of-mind.html
Terrorists see reason in madness of targeting public events (Jason Burke – The Guardian) – https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/may/24/terrorists-see-reason-in-madness-of-targeting-public-events
Why terrorists attack concert halls (Alyssa Rosenberg – The Washington Post) – https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/act-four/wp/2017/05/23/in-manchester-orlando-and-paris-terrorists-are-trying-to-kill-our-relationship-to-art/
Why The Manchester Attack Was an Attack on Girlhood (Charlotte Alter – Time) – http://time.com/4790753/manchester-attack-ariana-grande-girlhood/

Obviously there are other aspects of this atrocity and its aftermath that need to be considered. These are the raising of the terror alert level to critical, the (temporary) suspension of the general election campaign, the deployment of troops on the streets and the cumulative effect of all of this on the outcome of the election. So, in a few days, I may well be posting up another reading list… Eventually, once I’ve had the chance to discuss the implications of Monday’s atrocity face to face with trusted comrades, I’ll be writing one or more commentaries for our sister blog, ON UNCERTAIN GROUND.

Dave (the editor)

Dragging party politics into the campaign against the Lower Thames Crossing

Back in February 2016, we attended a packed and very lively meeting at the Tilbury Cruise Terminal to discuss the options on the table for the Lower Thames Crossing. Campaigners against the crossing such as George Abbott were there in force. Highways England were there to attempt to sway what was a largely hostile audience – they failed miserably! Also present were councillors and MPs from across the political spectrum. In the fractious world of Thurrock politics, it seemed that for one brief moment, divisions had been forgotten and we were all united against the crossing. The one thing we took from that meeting was the desire of the campaigners against the crossing to keep party politics out of it.

Fast forward to the present and we have this: Thurrock UKIP claim to be only party to “reject Thames Crossing proposals”http://www.yourthurrock.com/2017/05/20/thurrock-ukip-claim-party-reject-thames-crossing-proposals/ Yup, Tim Aker has attempted to hi-jack a non-party political campaign in a cynical bid to boost his election campaign in the Thurrock constituency. Aker is up against John Kent, the former Labour leader of Thurrock Council who’s also on record as being opposed to the crossing and the sitting Tory MP, Jackie Doyle-Price who was in favour of Option C, Route 4 that mainly went through the neighbouring South Basildon and East Thurrock constituency.

Supporters of Labour have waded into the debate refuting Aker’s claims to be the only party against the Lower Thames Crossing: Letter to Editor: UKIP wrong over Lower Thames Crossinghttp://www.yourthurrock.com/2017/05/21/letter-editor-ukip-wrong-lower-thames-crossing/ Fair enough, Labour have a right to counter the crap that Aker is coming out with but there are issues with this… Namely that responding in this way has turned the campaign against the Lower Thames Crossing into a party political football in what is a bitter election battle in the Thurrock constituency.

As much as we have occasionally questioned George Abbott’s strategy and tactics in the past, our sympathies go out to him and the other campaigners on the ground who want the crossing stopped and don’t want the fight against it sullied by petty political point scoring in an election clash. Dragging this campaign into the squalid realm of party politics and the squabbling and bickering that goes with it is going to damage it. That seems to matter little to the politicians who seek to exploit the issue to gain an advantage for their respective parties, regardless of the consequences. This is why we as anarchists want nothing to do with party politics and the system as it stands and why we prefer to work with grassroots campaigners whose concern is the issue they’re dealing with and not seeking political advantage…

No More Fake News! This is reality

No More Fake News! This is reality

Well, our previous post: Three more weeks of hot air and then what?https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/05/18/three-more-weeks-of-hot-air-and-then-what/ has certainly generated a reaction…one that was quite hostile to our position! A fair bit of that hostility has come from Corbyn supporters and people intending to vote Labour. If these people seriously think Labour has the answers to the housing crisis in London, they need to look at the dismal record of Labour run councils in Greater London and their complicity in the social cleansing resulting from so called ‘regeneration’ schemes. This post from the Stratford based Focus E15 campaign shows up the complicity of Newham council in social cleansing. Bear in mind that Newham council have been sitting on three empty tower blocks on the Carpenters Estate for years waiting for the right offer from a developer while they continue to move people out of the borough and homelessness in the area continues to soar. As we’ve written before, what happens in London as a result of so called ‘regeneration’ and the subsequent social cleansing has a direct impact on the housing crisis in the area we operate in along the Thames estuary: The housing domino effect…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/the-housing-domino-effect/ So this is why despite the ardent pleadings of Corbyn supporters, we cannot in any way, shape or form, endorse the idea of voting for Labour in the coming general election…

Focus E15 Campaign

Robin Wales and his parallel universe of lies and deception!

Focus E15 campaign went along to Newham’s Annual Council Meeting on the 18 May. This is a big gala event.  250 people heard Robin Wales make vainglorious speeches about how wonderful he has been for Newham.  It was grotesque. Robin Wales made a speech about his work programme for 2017/18 and spoke of Newham having the best services in London, compared to 25 years ago when the borough was, an “incompetent backwater”. It was hard not to feel sick.

He  then went on and blamed the housing crisis on the Tories and explained that Newham Labour are standing up against criminal and rogue landlords. He promised that Newham Labour are putting “power into the hands of the residents”. Robin Wales ended his speech by concentrating on the Newham borough motto, which is, ironically, considering the amount of social cleansing that has been going…

View original post 294 more words

Three more weeks of hot air and then what?

If all of the hot air emanating from the ongoing election campaign could be captured and put into a combined heat and power scheme, it would make a significant contribution to this country’s energy needs. We make no apologies for sounding cynical – as the saying goes, if voting could significantly change things, it would be abolished. Real change leading to a more equitable, sane and sustainable world doesn’t come about by putting a cross on a ballot paper every few years, it comes through concerted action at the grassroots as people and communities work together to start to gain control over what happens in their neighbourhoods.

Over the last few weeks, it seems that many of our so called comrades have forgotten all of this as they get sucked into a desperate frenzy of supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. Wise up people – the powers that be and their mates in what is a predominantly right wing media have no intention of letting Corbyn win. The way the system and media are rigged in this country means that Labour has sod all chance of winning and the time and energy expended supporting Corbyn’s vision is being wasted.

Not only that, if you want to know what Labour is like in power, take a long hard look at what Labour councils in London are doing in the name of ‘regeneration’. Ask any of the former tenants of estates such as the Aylesbury and Heygate in Labour controlled Southwark what they think of a council who demolished their homes and relocated them miles away from their communities and you’ll hear some pretty frank language. Ask any of the current tenants of estates such as Broadwater Farm in Labour controlled Haringey what they think about the council’s plans to demolish their homes and break up their community and you’ll get a sense of the anger that’s brewing.

For a forensic expose of what Labour’s housing policies really mean, we recommend this piece from Architects 4 Social Housing: Secure Homes for All? The Labour Party Manifesto on Housinghttps://architectsforsocialhousing.wordpress.com/2017/05/16/secure-homes-for-all-the-labour-party-manifesto-on-housing/ To put it bluntly, there’s no way we could endorse a vote for Labour and ever be able to look a London based housing activist in the face again.

What will unnerve the powers that be will be a low turnout and / or a high number of spoilt ballot papers. If the turnout is 55% or less, then we could have a situation where less than 25% of the total electorate will have voted for what is inevitably going to be another Tory government. Looking at those kind of numbers, we’ll have every right to claim that the government has no meaningful legitimacy. When we have a government that has been elected on a low turnout and has no legitimacy, we have the justification to lob multiple spanners into the works and make this country ungovernable.

The energy that’s currently being expended and wasted by some of our so called comrades in supporting Corbyn’s Labour party would be far better used in planning how we resist and frustrate the operation of the next government. Rather than experiencing the feeling of utter dejection on June 9th that will inevitably follow the rout of Corbyn, surely it’s better to conserve our energy and plan for the long term struggle to come?

The deliberate neglect of Brooke House

Brooke House is the iconic looking tower block right in the middle of Basildon town centre. While it may look iconic from the outside (and from a distance), when you get inside, it’s a different, considerably grimmer story altogether as you can see from the images above…

Phil Turner, the Tory leader of Basildon Council, has come up with some grandiose schemes for Brooke House, none of which take any account of the wishes of the residents currently living in the block. One such scheme was converting the building into a hotel! When ‘consultations’ were held about the future of the town centre, the residents of Brooke House were not included despite them living right in the middle of the area to be ‘transformed’.

While the powers that be attempt to formulate a plan for the town centre, Brooke House continues to suffer from a policy of deliberate neglect. The images above from public areas of the block show missing ceiling tiles, rusting hand rails and blocked up rubbish chutes to name just a few of the indignities residents have to endure.

While the long term future of Brooke House is being decided, Basildon Council appear to be totally uninterested in spending any money on maintenance of the block. The council are giving the impression that they regard the current residents of the block as a nuisance they wish would go away.

This is part of Basildon Council’s plan to gentrify the area with the aim of turning it into a Tory voting commuter town. They hate the idea that the iconic Brooke House is inhabited by social housing tenants instead of young professionals. It would seem that the policy of deliberate neglect is aimed at driving the social tenants out so they can pull in a developer to ‘transform’ the block.

All of this shows the twisted priorities of Basildon Council who seem to be more concerned about the image of the town centre and socially engineering and cleansing the area, than they are about the residents currently living in Brooke House. This is what we get in a political, economic and social system that views housing as an asset rather than the basic right it should be…

Shafted…

Here’s an example of how a community can get shafted by a planning decision that will wreck their quality of life for up to ten years: Wennington community lose fight against gravel extractionhttp://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/wennington-community-lose-fight-against-gravel-extraction-1-5016045 This means up to 200,000 tonnes of gravel going out and 300,000 tonnes of infill material coming in every year plus up to 270 HGV movements a day from Monday to Friday and up to 136 on Saturdays. Do the maths on what goes and and what comes back in – the extra 100,000 tonnes coming in clearly indicates that landfill is going to be a prime income generator for the operators, Ingrebourne Valley Ltd.

For as long as we’ve lived in the area (and that’s a good few decades!) the southern part of Thurrock and neighbouring Havering has been blighted by gravel and sand extraction and the subsequent landfill that takes place. The quality of life for any residents near extraction and landfill sites has been wrecked by gravel and waste lorries thundering down roads and lanes that were never designed to take the volume of traffic or weight of vehicles. Verges are churned up and coated with mud and dust for years on end. Forget about a stroll down the lane or even a bicycle ride – thundering gravel and waste lorries put paid to that! Yet, despite all of this and that fact that residents across the region are fed up to the back teeth of living with the impact of the extraction and landfill ‘industries’, planning permission is still granted to these operators.

Here we have a planning system that pays lip service to the interests of residents but nearly always lets the extraction and landfill operators have their way. It’s a planning system that’s geared to the needs of the bottom line with issues such as quality of life and the environment always seeming to be given a lower priority. A planning system that only serves to further alienate residents from the already flawed, unaccountable and creaking system of local governance that we have to put up with. Basically, a system that’s not fit for purpose…

The fact that we’re still getting blighted with gravel extraction and landfill operations ought to make people pause and think about an economic system that’s still over reliant on unsustainable use of mineral resources and land to dump unwanted (but potentially recyclable) materials. An economic system that has yet to fully wake up to the fact that we live on a finite planet with finite resources. An economic, political and social system that is unsustainable, toxic and as far as we’re concerned, way past it’s use by date…