Making some points on the housing crisis

Getting the banners out at the start of the action at Potters Field next to City Hall

On Saturday 24th February, we joined activists from Class War and the Revolutionary Communist Group in an action to highlight the dire consequences of the housing crisis in London. Regular readers of this blog out in Essex may ask why we went on an action in London when we have more than enough issues relating to housing out here along the estuary. Simply, it’s because what happens in London with housing has a direct impact on the situation out here in southern Essex: A house in Vange owned by…Local Space Stratford

What exacerbates the housing crisis in London is the construction of block after block of high specification luxury apartment blocks which are all too often left empty to be just brought and sold as investment vehicles by the global super rich. Building homes for the ordinary Londoners whose work keeps the capital functioning is way down on the priority list to kowtowing to the wealthy elite. Sure, there have been promises by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan to address the problem and build more ‘affordable’ homes but the pitiful results do not in any way match the rhetoric.

We have the obscenity of workers on low wages with precarious employment conditions being forced to sleep rough. Go to the Stratford Centre (next to its more prestigious neighbour at Westfield) on any evening and you’ll see plenty of rough sleepers trying to get some kip in the relative warmth before undertaking a day’s work. These people are the lucky ones in that they have managed to find some kind of shelter. Many just have to survive as best they can on the freezing streets of London, constantly in fear of assault from those who have swallowed the poison from the right wing media about the ‘undeserving’ poor. One of the speakers at the start of the action pointed out that with the bitterly cold weather to come over the next week or so, we could be witnessing a ‘slow Grenfell’ with scores of rough sleepers freezing to death on the streets of the capital.

The protest started at the privately owned Potters Field next to the Kuwaiti owned City Hall which is where the Greater London Authority (GLA) is based. This was to draw attention to a) the lamentable record of the GLA in providing genuinely affordable housing and b) to how many buildings and what seem to be, but aren’t, public spaces that are owned by the super rich. After a few rousing speeches and a brief stop right outside a windswept City Hall, we proceeded through a luxury housing development down to Tooley Street. We then took the road until London Bridge station before turning a sharp left and making our way to Qatari owned Shard where there was a protest earlier in the month: They couldn’t stop the protest at The Shard There were more speeches highlighting the obscenity of empty luxury apartments at the top of The Shard while the homeless freeze in the surrounding streets. The action was finished off with a swift advance to the front of the News Corp building to express our disgust at the demonising of the poor carried out by Murdoch’s papers.

Okay, the numbers who turned out weren’t what we were hoping for. That meant that certain things that were planned couldn’t happen. It was a case of thinking on our feet to deploy what numbers we had in the most effective way possible to get the points about the housing crisis across in the most direct and clearest way possible to the members of the media who turned up to cover the event. The speeches and the interviews left the media and the watching public in no doubt as to what we think of the super rich poncing off the capital while a growing number of Londoners struggle to get a roof over their heads. As for the disparity between the numbers who shared the posters and memes about the protest on social media and those who actually turned up, that’s something we’ll be writing about on our sister blog, On Uncertain Ground sometime later this week.

Security at the front of the News Corp building experiencing a moment of frisson as we approached the entrance

One pile of shite (The Shard) framed by another pile of Shite (the News Corp building) – an axis of evil if ever there was one


Join the people’s fight tonight!

From the Save Southend NHS Facebook page:

We shall be making our feelings known to the Joint Council Committee by holding a peaceful protest outside the Southend Civic Centre All welcome. We are coming close to the end of an incredibly poorly delivered public consultation by the Mid and South Essex STP who want to downgrade our general hospital and risk the lives of critically ill local residents by centralising services at Broomfield and Basildon. #NotSafeNotFair #CutsCostLives #SaveSouthendNHS

We got our hands dirty…

Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG) facilitated by Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) and supported by a number of residents got their teeth into the community clean up on the ¾ estate today (Saturday 17.2). The main areas of focus were Oldwyk and the top end of Dewsgreen at the top end of the estate and Gambleside and Sturrocks at the bottom end.

These are areas where VHCG and BASHA have an active presence and are working to establish what are effectively ‘zones of control’ where we can move forwards from fire fighting with rubbish clearance onto enhancements such as pocket community gardens. The idea of establishing these zones is to set an example of what can be achieved by residents working together which will hopefully inspire other people across the estate to do the same. This is already working as we were able to expand operations down into Sturrocks with residents coming out to clean up their close. The long term aim is to start linking these zones up and to start really transforming the estate.

The pocket community garden on Oldwyk

Gambleside looking a lot better as a result of active resident involvement

More work was undertaken on the small community garden that’s been created at the top of Oldwyk and there was bulb planting, strimming and tidying undertaken on Gambleside and Sturrocks. As you can see from the images below, a lot of rubbish was collected. A heck of a lot of rubbish considering the small area we were operating in…

There was an agreement with Basildon Council to pick up the rubbish we had collected. The Oldwyk pile was eventually collected. At the time of writing, the pile at the end of Gambleside hadn’t been collected. To say this is disappointing is an understatement as it makes a mockery of all the hard graft that was put in today. VHCG are already chasing up Basildon Council to ensure that the pile at Gambleside is collected as early as possible on Monday.

The rubbish collected from Oldwyk and Dewsgreen

The rubbish collected from Gambleside and Sturrocks

All in all, it was a reasonably successful day. However, it was just one day in a long campaign to start to turn round the fortunes of an estate that has more than its fair share of problems. A campaign that will only succeed when residents really start to turn out in numbers on clean up days and in between, do what they can to keep the estate maintained. That means a combination of doing it themselves and working with VHCG to put pressure on Basildon Council to do their job. We will be back to support the work of VHCG and BASHA as and when required in the months to come.


From the Defend Our NHS – Chelmsford, Mid-Essex Facebook page –

Midday (near Lloyds/Waterstones)

Health campaigners will be in the middle of Chelmsford High Street (near Lloyds/Waterstones) this Saturday (17th February) from midday to protest against plans to a cut a further £400 million from health budgets over the next few years, and a proposal as part of these plans to merge Broomfield Hospital with the hospitals in Southend and Basildon. The protest will be addressed by health campaigners, and passing members of the public will be asked to sign letters of protest for their local MPs. The protest comes during an ongoing consultation into proposed changes into health services locally.

‘Our NHS is not failing, but it is being failed by this government’s underfunding’, said Defend Our NHS Chelmsford campaign coordinator Andy Abbott. ‘We will be sending out a clear message on Saturday. No Cuts. No privatisation. No merger.’

‘After seven years of cuts our NHS is already bleeding and on its knees’ continued Mr Abbott. ‘It will not survive further cuts via the government’s so called Sustainability & Transformation Partnership [STP] programme. Despite all the spin, a look at the Mid & South Essex STP’s current consultation document reveals the truth, as it talks about “closing our financial gap”, “address[ing] the financial challenges”, “to live within our means” and “more economical ways” to deliver local health services. Even in their own words, and despite previous promises by the government to keep the NHS free from austerity, the proposed changes are driven by cuts.’

‘It is also worth noting at what the same consultation document says about merging Broomfield, Basildon, and Southend hospitals,’ Mr Abbott pointed to. ‘While it talks about a closer working relationship, it warns about “averting the disruption caused by a formal merger at this time”. So why have they changed their minds? And why so quickly? What has changed in just a few months? The proposed merger also makes something of a mockery of the current consultation process.’

Doing the Lambeth Walk (through Southwark)

Saturday 24th February, 1pm at City Hall then off to The Shard

This isn’t your normal point A to point B housing activists march with mass produced placards and the usual speeches at the final rally before everyone dutifully goes home thinking they’ve done their bit. This is a Class War protest. It will be VISUAL! Let’s face it, have you ever seen a protest where everyone is doing the Lambeth Walk? No, of course you haven’t! Well, you’ll have a chance to not only see but be a part of a mass Lambeth Walk. It will be irreverent, taking the piss and with absolutely no respect for authority. Did the owners of The Shard (and all the other owners of ghost apartments across London) think that after we beat the odds and had our protest outside The Shard on Thursday 8th February, we’d just sit back on our laurels thinking it was job done? We’ve got news for them – the job is not done and won’t be done until housing provision is back in the control of ordinary Londoners and not the super rich parasites who’ve been poncing off the capital for far too long. Every pissed off Londoner and militant housing activist needs to be on this action – feel free to share this far and wide and let’s get the numbers out for this one…

Just to whet your appetite, here are the words (and chords) for the Lambeth Walk:)

[C] Any [F] time you’re [C] Lambeth way,
Any [A7] evening, [Dm] Any day,
You’ll find us [Dm7] all [G7]
Doin’ the Lambeth [C] Walk [G7] Oi!
[C] Ev’ry [F] little [C] Lambeth gal,
With her [A7]little [Dm]Lambeth pal,
You’ll find ’em [Dm7] all [G7]
Doin’ the Lambeth [C] walk.[G7]
[Am7] Every thing [D7] free and [G] easy,
[D7] Do as you darn well [G] pleasey,
[Em] Why don’t you [A7] make your [G] way there,
[Am7] go [D7] there, [Dm7] stay [G7] there.
[C] Once you [F]get down [C] Lambeth way,
Ev’ry [A7]evening, [Dm]Ev’ry day,
You’ll find your[Dm]self [G7]
Doin’ the Lambeth [C] Walk.[G7] Oi!

They couldn’t stop the protest at The Shard

As we wrote in our previous post, the owners of The Shard were doing everything they could to stop the protest called by Class War highlighting the obscenity of the existence of tower after tower of empty luxury apartments – all too often acting as investment vehicles for the super rich – while London is experiencing a severe housing and homelessness crisis. This included dragging Ian Bone to the High Court and having the nerve to ask him to pay their court costs!

Well as you can see from the photographs above, the protest did go ahead. It was undertaken in the usual irreverent Class War style with the to the point Lucy Parsons banner and a number of heartfelt speeches from seasoned housing and class struggle activists. Numbers were bolstered by other activists outraged at the lengths the owners were going to in an attempt to scupper the action. For the record, Ian Bone didn’t have to pay the court costs of the owners.

Despite the desperate attempts of the owners of The Shard, they were held to account in no uncertain terms for their part in exacerbating the housing crisis in London. A crisis that now sees low paid workers on zero hours contracts having to sleep rough because they cannot afford a roof over their head in a city that fetishises housing as an investment as opposed to the basic right it should be for everyone. The action at The Shard cannot be a one off. There has to be an ongoing series of protests across the capital pointing out the obscenity of luxury apartments built and left empty as investment vehicles while people are forced to sleep on the streets.

As for the owners of The Shard, on their own terms, they screwed up monumentally. They not only failed to stop the protest, with their attempts to throw the weight of the law at Ian Bone and the subsequent media coverage that was largely sympathetic to him and the reasons for having the protest, they created their own public relations disaster!

On Thursday 8th February, one section of the global super rich who thought they were invincible and could solve any perceived threat to their privilege by waving lawsuits at their opponents were found to have gaps in their armour. Note what the headline on the latest print edition of The Stirrer says: 2018 – EVERYTHING TO GAIN (and everything to lose) – we don’t normally like to blow our own trumpet but given what has happened, we think it’s an apt comment.