Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Labour play the housing race card

The scale of the collapse of Labour's support in many traditional white work class areas is really worrying Labour. The rise of the BNP vote in towns and cities in the north and north west is truly shocking. Barnsley for example saw the BNP gain more than 30% of the vote. It is for this reason that Labour today has suggested that Council's can give greater weight to 'local people' waiting for a long time on housing weighting lists. This move is clearly pandering to the racist view that politically correct local authorities are housing people from outside the community -i.e. foreigners, refugees and asylum seekers. The move is likely to be open to legal challenge and judicial review. The reality is that 99% of desperately needed social housing is allocated to those on the housing register, families in acute housing need facing homelessness, chronically over-crowded and those who have to be moved to allow blocks of flats to be demolished to allow decent homes to be built. In reality their is no housing waiting list -rather a housing register. People are registered and an assessment is made of peoples housing pressures and people given a "banding". Strict criteria apply -eligibility to public funds, a local connection, photographic ID, often a home visit is made to ensure people are telling the truth. Most local authorities now operate choice based letting schemes www.lewishamhomsearch.org.uk People self select and express an interest in a property and make a bid according to their banding. Successful matches of people to property are allocated the property strictly according to date order. The welcome, but limited news that local council's can in the future retain receipts from sales of council houses is good news. This however is a drop in the ocean of housing need. Only 110,000 homes are planned. Millions are waiting for an affordable home and on housing registers.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Destructive property speculators

We have a chronic housing shortage, of affordable homes in the borough. More than 17,000 people are on the housing register, hundreds are severely over-crowded, 40 families are in unsuitable B&B accommodation, 350 families are in hostel accommodation and 2500 households are in temporary accommodation. Only 1300 properties become available each year for social letting. This government, despite some recent suggestions that it might relax the rules, still does not allow local authorities to build desperately needed council housing. Less than 350 housing association homes are built each year. This means that people will be waiting years for a social housing property and in reality most will never be housed. I recently learned of one couple so desperate for a home that they have moved into the garden of their Mothers property and are living in a tent!!! Yet strangely we have more than 200 long term, mainly private properties empty properties blighting the borough. Three such properties are in Tyson Road. For over a decade a private property speculator has been repeatedly submitting overly dense plans, to demolish these x3 properties, to allow access to also an acre of land and cram in as many flats as possible in 7 Hugh blocks -potentially slums of the future but likely to be very expensive boxes -with little amenity space. The proposals would destroy an important natural habitat and 'green lung' in the heart of Forest Hill. I understand that despite the plans being repeatedly turned down the developer has not taken on board any of the advice from planners and is going to appeal. The lure of massive profits, often extracted from young people desperate for their first home, even in the current down turn of the housing market has not put them off.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Reclaiming streets from cars

I had an occasion to travel to Kensington High Street today. Hardly the place were you would expect a clash of interests between the rich powerful vested interests of the car and transport lobby and pedestrians and cyclists. Amazingly this Tory borough, or rather the highway engineers of the council, have introduced some radical changes to the street scene. The space given over to road users has been "pinched" and pedestrians are free to step and cross into the road when they think it is safe to do so. Drivers become aware that pedestrians are not confined behind railings, enclosing the pavements -all have been removed! A mass of clutter and signs have been removed so drivers are not distracted and have clear lines of sight of other road users. Kerbs have been dropped at all road junctions and crossings. The centre of the road has been widened for cyclists to leave bikes. Clearly their is a level of recognition that the street is not just for vehicles but must be shared with other road users. This experiment & thinking is apparently gaining ground amongst street engineers. I have long been a supporter of such thinking -including the concept of home zones -radical traffic calmed streets, where cars are a visitor to residential streets and are reduced to a walking pace through radical traffic calming measures.

Construction employers seek to break workers resolve

The notorious anti union employers in the construction industry seem to be flexing their muscles in the current 'down turn'. People may recall that recently many of the companies in the building and construction industry were unmasked at buying into a comprehensive "listing" of activists and trade unionists -denying employment to trade unionist or workers who simply raised concerns of heath and safety in a highly dangerous industry. The sacking of hundreds of skilled construction workers at the Lindsey Total oil refinery in Lincolnshire is a throw back to the lock outs of the 1930's and 1980's. The earlier successful action to defend trade union agreements on employment conditions and organisation was a set back for the employers to 'hire and fire' whoever they like. A former Sydenham resident, Eleanor Marx, of Jews Walk, was in the forefront of the defence of workers rights. Active in the many dockers actions and gas workers strikes. A wave of sympathetic walk-outs and solidarity actions have speard through the industry -it is likely that some of the large contruction projects in London could be affected. If any action breaks out locally I will seek to show solidarity by joining workers on the picket lines.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Paper clips Jim

The South London Press reports on its front page today the habit of Jim Dowd MP, each and every month, without fail to claim the full un-receipted £250 for "petty cash" Alone amongst South East London MP's Jim Dowd has claimed his full entitlement. Not content with his £5,5000 monthly salary he needs his £250 top up. £12k has been claimed as "petty cash" over the past four years. Jim Dowd informs the SLP that rather than submit invoices from suppliers and contractors like other MP's, he simply claimed his £250 to pay for stationary, office running & cleaning costs. In addition to his £250 "petty cash" £131,165 was claimed last year for staffing, office and publicity costs. £250 per month just happens to be the amount of job seekers allowance paid to workers who have lost their jobs -provided they have paid the full national insurance stamp.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

A private school shuts each week -good!

The Guardian has reported that nationally a private prep school closes each week -this is splendid news. Many middle class parents have been hard hit by the 'economic downturn' and horror of horrors have had to place their children in state schools! Those seeking to buy their children's education seek to purchase privilege and status. Aiming to buy into an 'old school tie' network. Many prep school are just that -a hot housing cramming process aimed to get pupils through entrance exams where pupils are fast tracked into exclusive universities. Often the reality of many private schools is a very poor level of education -many failing to live up to the expectations of parents. In my home town in the West Midlands, Leamington Spa, was full of private schools. When I attended the local FE college dozens of students were fall outs from these institutions who had obtained very poor grades and had to take a couple of years out to improve on their grades to get into university.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Blackheath Kite & Bike Festival

I very much enjoyed going along to this very pleasant event over the weekend. A very interesting range of bikes were on display -some could be tried out, even some historic penny farthing bikes were on show. Also some wonderful kite displays were demonstrated, including fighting kites from Malaysia and Indonesia. I am told Obama when a lad in Indonesia really got into kite flying. However the event was marred by the presence of the Army and Air Force trying to drum up recruits. Thankfully their stalls did not seem to attract much interest -even the very expensive hi-tech flight simulator do not have a queue. The horrific deaths and terrible injuries young people are returning with from Afganistan brings home to people the real cost many solders are paying. What are we doing in this county- it is time to bring home our troops.

Pensioners take on Joan Ruddock and I am partly responsible!

Got in from the allotment after work today to find a really great leaflet from DAGE (Deptford Action Group for the Elderly) laying into Joan Ruddock for failing to support the Fuel Poverty Bill. "Joan Ruddock MP rats on Labour's promises to end Fuel Poverty" Thousands of pensioners in the winter have to choose between heating and eating. We have more than 25,000 unnecessary pensioner deaths each year -far more than many other European countries with far colder weather. I feel partly responsible for Deptford's MP failing to support some of the most poorest in her constituency. In the mid 1980's, when Labour was a mass party of working people and still has a commitment to socialism, my wife and I were very active in Deptford Labour Party. I was a member of the CLP selection conference from my ward, (Marlowe) in choosing the new MP for Deptford following the unexpected death of Lewis Silkin. Along with around a dozen delegates, our delegation switched our vote from Amelda Inyang, a fiery radical former surcharged Lambeth Councillor, who was eliminated, to Joan Ruddock on the final vote. To my deep regret, we failed to support Cliffton Graham, a local councillor and electrician with deep roots in the local community. I am sure Cliffton would have been in the forefront of campaigning for pensioners.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Finally -socialist MP's may break from Labour!!!

The BBC today carries a report that the Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of left MP's, John Macdonell and other un-named MP's may run on their own separate and distinct 'Labour change' election manifesto if Labour continues its right wing course. For many years the right have seen Macdonell and the Campaign Group as a real pain. This move is likely to be jumped upon by the party machine as a means for expelling or at very least withdrawing the party whip. The numbers involved in this move are however likely to be very small. John Macdonell is one of the few remaining principled socialist MP's left in the Labour party. However a break of a number of MP's from the Labour party is highly significant and is most welcome. Clearly John Macdonell has seen the writing on the wall for Labour. Not only does he see it loosing the next election but even failing to be a serious political force with any support or base in the working class. Hopefully they will take the best of their local CLP's with them and form local branches outside the Labour party. It would be expected that they will want to link up with any emerging left formation in the run up to the general election. Events, events, are moving swiftly!!!!

BNP good egg

The fall in the Labour vote in the two northern Euro seats is what resulted in the BNP gaining their seats. As a percentage their vote actually went down in Yorkshire and Lancashire. However it would appear the BNP have now made connections with deprived white working class communities in a number of northern towns, Barnsley and Doncaster and not just in former cotton mill towns like Burnley. Well this is what happens when Labour moves to the right and plays the race card and tries to out BNP the BNP -calling for 'British jobs for British workers'. Adopting a punitive, hostile and aggressive approach to asylum seekers, illegal immigrants, over stayers and whipping up hostility towards Muslim youth. Labour's collapse in its core vote is however national.
I am gob smacked however that Jim Dowd has such low profile in the seat. I seriously cannot recall the local rags last carrying some copy - reproducing a press release, giving him a mention. I never see a visable presence of the Labour Party in the borough -on the streets with a stall or at one of the community festivals in the borough. This is because the right of the Labour party hold working people's votes in contempt. They have argued that working people will always vote Labour as they have no serious alternative to vote for. Now they have -the growing BNP and as is more likely in Lewisham -staying at home!

Thatcher and Boris take a tumble

Apparently Lady Thatcher had a nasty fall over the weekend and broke her arm. (What a shame!) She is being detained in hospital for observations. The State is deterimed to give Thatcher the full honour of a state funeral. Those on left should aim to distrupt any such planned event. I have some very large bully beef tomatoes growing on my allotment. I only hope they are going to be ripe in time for when she finally pops her clogs. Another right winger has taken a tumbel, Boris, when doing some river cleaning in the Ravensbourne river in Ladywell, Lewisham -things are looking up

Benefits from the housing market crash

One interesting outcome arising from the current housing market crash is that housing associations have been able to purchase land again in the borough for development and to provide much needed social housing. When the market was booming, local RSL's were priced out of the market, as national and local speculative developers, fought to get their hands on often poor and small parcels of land -often near busying roads or railway embankments. Often even these private developers were beaten in the race, by land speculators who would then 'flip' (something our MP's know all about) the plot of land to interested developers - making thousands, for doing very little, but adding to ever increasing property prices. Now the tables are turned! Land is selling again, as those who have land banked land find the value falling and can only release their tide up capital by selling at realistic prices. The only people currently able to buy land are housing associations. Labour's housing policy has been very dependent on section 106 agreements -private developers being forced by planning rules to make some social housing available as part of the development. As the housing market has crashed these added social housing units numbers have fallen off a cliff.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

More MP's stuff their pockets!

The BBC have discovered that a number of MP's, on top of the £65K salary they cream in also take money from vested lobbying interests. A Labour MP has found to have asked questions in the House on the governments energy and coal policy, but failed to declare they were being paid a retainer by the coal industry interests. A Tory MP, was repeatedly asking questions on behalf of carvaners, but again failed to reveal they were being paid by the Caravan Club! These two MP's are likely to be the tip of the iceberg. Not content with their fat salaries -many other MPs pocket thousands, holding directorships and carrying out advisory roles for business.

Greens come second in Lewisham !

Voting figures released by the Council for the Euro elections show the Greens beat the Lib Dems, Tories and the right wing UKIP! The Labour vote in the borough fell to an historic low of 26%. The combined left vote amounted to almost 3%.

The implication for next year's Mayorial vote, under a limited transferable voting system, if the Greens again win second place, could result in the Greens running Labour very close. Labour are unlikely to pick up may second preference votes from Tory or UKIP voters. Many Lib/Dems are likely to place the Greens second.

The implications for the Council elections would also suggest the Greens are likely to pick up additional wards in the borough. If significant numbers of Labour voters are deserting then Perry Vale and Crofton Park could join Ladywell and Brockley in turning Green.

Details were:-Labour 13,927 26.07%
Green 9,435 17.66%
Tories 8,440 15.80%
Lib/Dem 7,197 13.47 %
Socialist vote 1460 2.725

Monday, 8 June 2009

A new left party ?

Those calling for the formation of a new left party have been reading the ruins of the Euro election results for the very small left parties and groupings. No2EU, with its terrible position on Europe, little different from the BNP, UKIP -even the English Democrats. No2EU was competing in a very crowded appeal for anti Euro vote and with Scargill's SLP. The 1 % gained by both was poor. The reality is that the left in Britain are incapable themselves, even with the biggest left organisation the SWP, of establishing and maintaining a new Left party. They just don't have the critical mass and social weight of forces, unlike in Germany and France. A new sustainable left party is only going to arise when the leading left wing trade unions, like the RMT, the postal workers and Fire Fighters decide enough is enough, bash heads together and establish a new party of Labour.

Socialist independent challenge in Bolton

Valarie Wise, the former leader of Bolton Council has decided to contest one of the seats in Bolton City parliamentary seats. Valarie accepted the decision of her party in 2000 to select a right wing wing Blairite but evidence from the MP's expenses scandal has encouraged her to reconsider her position and contest the election. Valarie is the daughter of Audrey Wise the former left wing socialist MP for Bolton and also Coventry. The significant Respect organisation in the city, who have a presence on the council, have agreed to give full backing to Valarie Wise.

Working people desert Labour in droves

The Tories beat Labour in Wales! The SNP beat Labour in Scotland! The Greens beat Labour in the South East & South West region! These are truly shocking results for Labour. In some of the most deprived and depressed areas of the country, where industries and jobs have collapsed the BNP have gained seats. We could see a real danger, in next years local elections, that some cities and towns could even seen the fascists gain control of some town halls -Burnley and Stoke on Trent for example. The right in the Labour party have not realised that simply changing their leader is not going to save their seats. The Greens have gained thousands of votes, 100,000 in the South East, but the very limited regional list system has failed to reward its massive increase in support.