Save Our NHS – 4th March 2017

March 4th, 2024

Save Our NHS – The NHS was under attack by the Conservatives before it was established in 1948 and has come under repeated attacks since by governments of both major parties particularly since the 1990s.

Save Our NHS

Providing universal healthcare costs and the current financial year (2023/24) figure of £160.4 billion is around one seventh of total government spending of around £1,200 billion. So it isn’t surprising that governments should wish to see that the money is being spent wisely. But that isn’t was most changes in government health policy have been about.

Save Our NHS

Even with that large sum, the UK is still getting healthcare on the cheap. According to Statista the spending per person is less than in the US, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Australia, France, Sweden, Luxembourg, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Ireland and Finland and roughly the same as in Iceland and Japan.

Save Our NHS

It’s perhaps not surprising given this that we often hear reports which compare the results of NHS care critically with those in other countries. But those reports on the BBC and in the papers seldom if ever mention the poorer funding the NHS receives than many of those with better health outcomes.

Save Our NHS

The US spend per person is considerably higher than all other countries and roughly two and a quarter times that in the UK. But many of the NHS reforms made this century have been based on making our health system more like the American model, which would be a disaster. But it would mean a great opportunity for private healthcare companies, particularly some of those US companies, to make huge profits at our expense.

A surprising number of our MPs have had some financial interest in healthcare either through shareholdings or by sponsorships. The Daily Mirror in 2014 published a list of 70 MPs with links to private healthcare firms which included almost every leading Tory and some from other parties. As well as then Prime Minister David Cameron, they included Former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, responsible for the disastrous Health and Social Care Act 2012, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, former Health Minister Simon Burns, the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan-Smith, William Hague, Philip Hammond, Sajid Javid, Oliver Letwin, Chancellor George Osborne, Priti Patel, Jacob Rees-Mogg and many other leading Tories, along with Lib-Dems then in the coalition government Vince Cable, Nick Clegg and Simon Hughes.

It’s these people who have introduced policies which have led to large areas of NHS services being provided by private companies, though still retaining the NHS logo and still providing services free to the public. But generally these are the kind of simple, straightforward services and the more complex areas are still left to the NHS.

There is still huge public support for the NHS, despite its problems some of which have been created possibly deliberately by government reforms to erode that support, though more clearly in a drive to make more of its services available to be taken over by private companies.

On Saturday March 4th 2017, thousands came to Tavistock Square, outside the BMA headquarters to march to Parliament Square in protest against the cuts and privatisation of the NHS which they said was at breaking point.

In particular they were protesting the Sustainability and Transformation Plans for hospital closures and cuts in services which had already caused many premature deaths. Doctors and other healthcare workers clearly saw these as a part of a rapid stealthy privatisation with medical services increasingly being run for private profit rather than public benefit.

In 2017 the STPs mutated into Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships and in 2018 these were told to transform themselves into Integrated Care Systems which have now replaced Clinical Commisioning Groups. These plan, buy, and provide health and care services in there areas and are subject to inspection under 70 performance metrics and can be put into ‘special measures’.

According to the Wikipedia article “A report from the Nuffield Trust in December 2021 found that there was very little evidence that integration policies across the UK – including pooling budgets and creating new integrated boards and committees – had dramatically improved patient experience, quality of services or supported the delivery of more care outside of hospitals.” But clearly they had diverted a considerable amount of expertise, time, energy and money away from the real business of the health service – and funding towards private companies.

Estimates for the number on the march varied even more wildly than usual, but it was clearly a large march. My guess was perhaps 30,000 but it could well have been twice that if not the 250,000 the organisers claimed. All the pictures in this post come from the march and the rally before the start, and I was too tired by the time it reached Westminster to photography the rally in Parliament Square.

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Extinction Rebellion Tries to Persuade Insurers

March 3rd, 2024

Extinction Rebellion Tries to Persuade Insurers – From 26th February to 3rd March 2024, Extinction Rebellion have been holding an ‘Insurance Week of Action’ with large peaceful protests and some non-violent direct actions directed at the insurance industry, particularly in the City of London,

London, UK. 28 Feb 2024. Only Fools Insure Fossil Fuels.

As the XR website put it:

“At the same time as Coal Action Network, Mothers Rise Up, Quakers UK, StopEACOP and Tipping Point, we will be targeting the global insurance industry – the people who could stop the fossil fuel crooks in their tracks overnight if they wanted to. 

Because no insurance = no more drilling for oil and gas.”

London, UK. 28 Feb 2024. Front of the march at Lloyds.

The City of London is still the world capital for the global insurance industry, with one company, Lloyds of London insuring 40% of the world’s fossil fuel production and it is also home to many other major global insurers.

London, UK. 28 Feb 2024. Insure Our Future – Not Fossil Fuels.

Monday was a training day for XR, with lectures about the lessons which could be learnt from the West Cumbria coal mine campaign and the importance of the insurance industry in maintaining the fossil fuel industry and why it was important to try to convert them away from this and towards supporting a future for human life on our planet. There were also a workshop on non-violent direct action, examining the theories behind it and how to create support systems and keep safe.

London, UK. 28 Feb 2024.

Nothing could be further from the comments made by the Prime Minister and other cabinet members about ‘mobs’. The protests are well organised and take considerable trouble to remain within the increasinly restrictive laws on freedom to protest. In contrast they make our government speakers seem a rabid mob, making hate speeches about hate protests and disruption. XR are trying to save our planet for future human life.

London, UK. 28 Feb 2024. A Faceless Financier.

I was unable to go to the events on Monday or Tuesday when as well as some highly targeted actions including small groups of protesters protesting peacfully inside the foyers of some city offices there was a large rally on Tuesday followed by a Community Assembly on the subject “How do we Insure our Future?

London, UK. 28 Feb 2024. The march begins.

But last Wednesday I joined the XR supporters in Trinity Square Gardens at 10.30 for the start of the advertised “Insurance Mayhem – Wednesday Showstopper“. Some of them had followed the suggested dress code for the event, “business attire. Black suits with white shirts, preferably!” A group carried special and rather glossy small briefcases and there were banners and a few placards. Some in city dress had come with grey masks and labels as ‘Faceless Financiers’

London, UK. 28 Feb 2024. Extinction Rebellion supporters march

Little happened for the first hour or so, though there was a strong police presence in the area, and some officers came to talk with and warn protesters who told them they were not intending to break any laws.Finally at 12.15 the march moved off for a short march through city streets to the streets around the main Lloyds Building on Leadenhall Street and Lime Street. One man was arrested on the march, I think for setting off a smoke flare, which police left smoking on the ground.

London, UK. 28 Feb 2024. Extinction Rebellion

Protesters joined hands to surround the Lloyds Building on three sides, some holding banners and flags. They let people in and out of the building and tried to engage them in conversation about the urgent need to end fossil fuels. A few stopped to say they agreed but most simply walked past and there were a few angry remarks. It was lunchtime and quite a few city workers were out on the streets and stopped to watch what was happening and were clearly entertained, taking pictures on their phones of the speakers and the various events.

London, UK. 28 Feb 2024. EACOP – the East African Crude Oil Pipeline is an environmental and human rights disaster.

These included protests by ‘workers’ in red boiler suits against the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, a 900 mile long heated pipeline from Ugandan oil fields to the Indian Ocean in Tanzania which would cause “large scale displacement of communities and wildlife“, threaten water resources and contribution massively to global warming. 24 banks have already distanced themselves from financing the project, with only two remaining involved, and it will certainly not go ahead if insurers can be persuaded not to insure it.

London, UK. 28 Feb 2024. City dressed dancers outside Lloyds.

The ‘Faceless Financiers’ now all had their dull grey masks on and were standing together in a row in front of the building on Lime Street where most of the event was taking place, its closure causing little or no disruption to traffic. In front of them came a large troupe of dancers for their spirited performance and on the other side of the road was a washing line hung with items of children’s clothing letters on the garments spelling out the message ‘THEIR FUTURE’.

The “Insurance Mayhem – Wednesday Showstopper” was still continuing as I left for home. I was back for the next day’s very wet protest which I’ll perhaps write about in a later post.

More pictures of Insurance Mayhem – Wednesday Showstopper.

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Hands Off Iraq, George Galloway & Tony Benn

March 2nd, 2024

Hands Off Iraq, George Galloway & Tony Benn – Saturday 2nd March 2002 saw a huge protest against Britain becoming involved in the US plans to invade Iraq and depose Sadam Hussein.

Hands Off Iraq, George Galloway & Tony Benn

It’s hard to know how many marched that day, though I think there may have been around half a million of us on the streets of London,but it was certainly a very large march though not quite on the scale of that on 16th February 2003. Unfortunately I had to miss that one as I had only come out of hospital the previous day and could only walk a few yards.

Hands Off Iraq, George Galloway & Tony Benn

George Galloway, then Labour MP for Glasgow Kelvin, has come back into the news recently by winning the Rochdale by-election. He along with Tony Benn and others was one of the founders of Stop The War following the US invasion of Afghanisatan and the coalition organised this and other protests against the invasions of Iraq then being prepared by the US Miitary. Galloway was and still is a flamboyant figure and a powerful speaker, though I was rather more attracted to others in the movement such as Tony Benn, who appears in more of my pictures.

Hands Off Iraq, George Galloway & Tony Benn

But then as now, I wasn’t at the protest to photograph celebrities, but to tell the story of the event, mainly through photographs of the ordinary people taking part. Of course my pictures concentrate on those who caught my attention, sometimes by their expressions and actions, but more often through their banners and placards which link them to the cause they were marching for.

Hands Off Iraq, George Galloway & Tony Benn

Although I’d been photographing protests for some years – occasionally since the 1970s and more intensively since the 1990s, my pictures had simply gone into picture libraries and a few exhibitions and few had been used in the mass media.

Hands Off Iraq, George Galloway & Tony Benn

Shortly after Indymedia, a global network of independent news media was set up in 1999 I began publishing work on the UK site – and some of it may be still be available on the now archived site. This was of course entirely non-commercial, and had a very limited readership on the left, among anarchists and the security services.

But I also set up a new web site of my own, My London Diary, which is still available online, though its now several years since I have added new work. Although I have unlimited web space there is a limit to the number of files my web server can handle, and I was very close to this. Covid also played its part in various ways.

In the early years of My London Diary I was still working with film and only had a black and white flatbed scanner. So the pictures for Hands Off Iraq online were all in black and white, though I will also have taken some in colour, but so far I’ve digitised few colour images from these years. The 24 black and white images on My London Diary will have been made from 8×10″ black and white press prints submitted to a picture library and scanned on a flatbed scanner. In 2002 although many magazines were printed in colour the main sales for news images were still black and white, though things were rapidly changing, and I was soon to begin moving to working mainly in digital colour.

Here, with a few corrections is the text I put on line back in 2022 with these pictures:

The Stop the War, Hands off Iraq demonstration on 2 march was a large sign of public opinion. people were still leaving Hyde Park at the start of the march when Trafalgar Square was full to overflowing two and a half hours later.

Police estimates of the number were risible as usual – and can only reflect an attempt to marginalise the significant body of opinion opposed to the war or a complete mathematical inability on behalf of the police.

Tony Benn told me and other photographers it wasn’t worth taking his picture – “it won’t get in the papers unless I go and kick a policeman” but he didn’t and he was quite right.

More pictures on My London Diary

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Against Worldwide Government Corruption – Free Asange – 2014

March 1st, 2024

Against Worldwide Government Corruption – Saturday 1st March 2014, ten years ago, saw a small but lively protest “organised, attended and led by people who are appalled at the present state of the UK and the world, and who are convinced that a better world is possible if we got rid of the greedy and corrupt who currently are in change – the party politicians and their governments, the bankers and the corporations, the warmongers and the spies.

Against Worldwide Government Corruption

Of course the world is dominated by the rich and powerful and the organisations they have set up and the laws they have established to maintain there domination, though these at least in some places also offer some protection for the poor and powerless. But I don’t really believe that protests like this offer any real hope of changing the situation.

Against Worldwide Government Corruption

But they perhaps do show us that another world is possible one with “justice and a fairer society, one that doesn’t oppress the poor and disabled, that doesn’t spy on everyone and doesn’t use the media and the whole cultural apparatus as a way of keeping blind to what is really happening.

Against Worldwide Government Corruption

It’s the kind of spirit that led to the emergence of the Labour Party and inspired many of its leaders even into my youth – and was in part rekindled by the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, propelled into the leadership of the Labour Party in 2015 by huge support from the ordinary membership. But Labour had long lost its way, its organisation and many MPs sponsored and supported by companies and wealthy individuals inherently opposed to its ideals and dedicated to the maintenance of the status quo.

Against Worldwide Government Corruption

The protest was a wide-ranging one, and on My London Diary I quoted at some length from the speech before the march by one of the organisers, Mitch Antony of Aspire Worldwide (Accountable System Project for International Redevelopment and Evolution.)
At the end of it he gave a long list of things the march was against:

We march against Global Government Corruption
We march against ideological austerity
We march against privatisation for profit
We march against the bedroom tax
We march against bankers bonuses
We march against the corrupt MPs
We march against state spying on the people
We march against state controlled media
We march against government misrepresentation
We march against warmongering
We march against global tyranny
We march against state sponsored terrorism
We march against the military industrial complex
We march against the militarisation of the police
We march against the suppression of alternative energies

Against Worldwide Government Corruption

The march got off to a poor start, as the advertised meeting point in Trafalgar Square was closed to the public that day, being got ready for a commercial event the following day. Not everybody who came found the new location – and there were aggrieved posts on Facebook from some who failed, though I think they cannot have tried very hard.

Police often find reasons to delay the start of marches, but these protesters were definitely not taking advice from them and set off on the dot at 2pm to march west to the Ecuadorian Embassy where Julian Assange was still confined despite being given political asylum.

On the way the several hundred marchers caused no problems and aroused some interest among those on the streets, mainly tourists. A misguided attempt by officers to stop the march on Piccadilly led to a sit down and was soon abandoned.

When they came to Harvey Nicholls in Knightsbridge some joined in the protest against the store by the Campaign Against the Fur Trade for a few minutes, and a crowd gathered around the main door shouting at this company that still deals in fur and fur-trimmed garments.

But soon people moved on to the Ecuadorian Embassy where Assange was still trapped. Police filled the steps to the building, guarding the door and stopping anyone from entering.

There were far too many people to fit inside the small penned area for protesters on the pavement opposite the Embassy. The protest here in support of of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden and other whistle blowers and over the continued refusal to grant Assange safe passage to Ecuador, continued for around an hour. Many of the protesters then saw the refusal as a personal vendetta against him by then home secretary Theresa May, but it is driven by a continual British failure to stand up to the USA.

Since then we have seen the continued persecution of Assange by successive Tory governments and his arrest and incarceration in the maximum security Belmarsh prison after a changed Ecuadorian government withdrew its protection. Attempts to extradite him to the US where he could be executed or given a 170 year prison sentence are continuing, and it seems likely he will die in prison either here or in the US for publishing material that made clear to the world the war crimes being committed by the US.

At the end of their protest in front of the Ecuadorian Embassy (it occupies only a few rooms on an upper floor of the building) marchers were leaving to go back to Westminster for another rally in Parliament Square, but I’d had enough and took the tube to make my way home.

More about the protest and many more pictures on My London Diary: Against Worldwide Government Corruption.

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Charterhouse, A Diary, School, Church & Houses

February 29th, 2024

Charterhouse, A Diary, School, Church & Houses continues my walk on Friday 4th August 1989 in Battersea from the previous post, St Peter & St Paul, Candles, A Pub & Distillery. My walk began with Council flats, Piles of Bricks, A House Hospital and Brasserie.

Charterhouse Works, Eltringham St, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-65
Charterhouse Works, Eltringham St, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-65

I turned south from York Road into Petergate and turned int Eltringham Street where I think I took this picture of the Charterhouse Works. It’s hard to read the peeling paint of the notice on the side, but I think these were once the works of Sandle Brothers, Manufacturing Stationers, Wholesale & Export with City Offices & Showroom at 4 Snow Hill EC4. You can see more about them on Spitalfields Life.

There appears to be a very long list of current occupants on the front of the building and on the full size image I can make out some of the names of what appear to be small businesses with workshops or offices in the building.

I think this is now the site of Charterhouse Appartments at 21 Eltringham St, a large modern block.

Nicholson & Co, 115, 119, Plough Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-52
Nicholson & Co, 115, 119, Plough Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-52

I made my way through the back streets to Plough Road, probably going along the footpath beside the railway line, Tours Passage. On the way I passed a heap of black sacks of rubbish with horse that had come from a fair roundabout, which I photographed but have not yet digitised.

Going under a railway bridge and walking down the road took me opposite the works of Nicholson & Co Ltd at 115-7 Plough Road, Heating – Ventilating – Air Conditioning Engineers established in 1904. Next door at 119 is a rather more ornate building with the date 1902 in its gable. The 2013 Survey of London tells me this was a former diary “designed by William Clinch Poole for the Dairy Supply Company Ltd.”

Plough Road School, Plough Terrace, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-53
Plough Road School, Plough Terrace, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-53

Plough Road School is Grade II listed as Highview Primary School and was built in 1889-90 (the date 1890 appears on it though not in my picture) designed for the London School Board by its architect T J Bailey who was proud of his work and exbibted the designs at the Royal Academy in 1891.

My view is of the back of the building, probably because much of the rest was covered by scaffolding when I made it, but perhaps becuase I thought the architectural influence was more evident. At the right of my picture is a little of the schoolkeeper’s house built at the same time.

St Pauls, Church, Community Centre, Vardens Rd, St John's Hill, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-54
St Pauls, Church, Community Centre, Vardens Rd, St John’s Hill, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-54

At the bottom of Plough Road I turned right into St John’s Hill and took this picture of St Paul’s Church from the corner of Vardens Road, I think to contrast the slender spire with the pillars of the corner doorway of 129 St John’s Hill. This block, shops with flats above has a rather more delicate entrance to the flats, Harvard Mansions, on Vardens Road. Those pillars seemed unusual in that they clearly were not supporting anything – with a top looking like a chimney. The block was built in the late 1890s in an Arts and Crafts style.

Although this is on St John’s Hill it was built in 1868 as St Paul’s church, as a part of the parish of St John’s Battersea which was on Usk Road. It was needed to accommodate the growing number of worshippers in the area which was beginning to expand rapidly. Later numbers fell and St John’s closed in 1950. This church became part of the parish of St. Peter & St Paul Battersea. Chad Varah who founded the Samaritans was its vicar from 1949-53.

Designed by H E Coe this Victorian Gothic church was build in a Decorated style using Kentish ragstone. Despite some on-line statements it appears to be only locally listed. When I made this picture it was in use as a community centre for the local residents association and as a nursery and it seems only to have been formally de-consecrated in 2013 to allow parts to be converted to flats.

Houses, 13-17, Spencer Rd, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-55
Houses, 13-17, Spencer Rd, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-55

I walked west to the next turning on St John’s Hill and went down Spencer Road where a short distance down I found these splendid Victorian villas. Much of the housing in the road is interesting but I was particularly interested in these for their combination of Victorian Gothic and Dutch gables.

Spencer Road presumably gets its name from the various Spencers who were Lords of the Manor in this area. The street was laid out before 1871 but was developed piecemeal and these houses are I think probably a little later.

This walk will conclude in a later post.

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Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike – 2018

February 28th, 2024

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike – London hasn’t had a great deal of snow for some years, but when I got off the bus on Wednesday 28th February 2018 close to London University I found myself walking into a blizzard. There was a couple of inches of snow underfoot and the biting wind was driving dense snowflakes into my face making it both difficult to walk and hard to see where I was going.

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

I slipped a few times and almost fell as I walked through Byng Place, only just managing to stop myself and my camera bag falling into the snow, and for the first 15 or 20 minutes after I reached the meeting point for the march it was difficult to take pictures, with snowflakes landing on the lens surface as soon as I took away the cloth I had stuffed against it inside the lens hood and raised the camera to my eye.

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

Most of the pictures from the start of the protest were ruined by snow on the lens making some areas soft and diffuse. It might sometimes have been an arty effect but wasn’t what I wanted. Fortunately after a while the snow died down and I was able to work more normally, though the occasional flake kept coming and there were a few thick flurries later on the march.

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

HE and FE march for pensions and jobs

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

The UCU was on the fifth day of a strike to try and get the universities to talk with them about pay and pensions. On this march to a rally in Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, close to the Houses of Parliament, they were joined by staff from London FE colleges on the first day of a two-day strike over pay and conditions. And plenty of their students had come along to show their support.

Although students are now paying high fees for their university courses, the pay of university teachers has not benefited from this, and has not kept up with inflation. Much more teaching at universities is also being done by graduate students and others on part-time or often zero hours contracts.

What particularly inflamed the situation was the intention of the universities to end the long-established pension scheme, replacing it with one that would greatly reduce pensions, and their refusal to discuss this with their union, the UCU.

The 5 day strike was supported overwhelmingly by UCU members and had shut down 61 UK universities, despite draconian threats by the management at some of them such as Royal Holloway (RHUL). Pickets had stood in the freezing weather and few people had crossed the picket line.

The move away from the pension scheme was largely driven by a small number of universities, particularly the Oxbridge colleges. Many of these are extremely wealthy, some owning huge areas of land including large parts of London and having vast reserves, not least in their wine cellars. A number of college principals had given their support to the union.

The dispute between the employers and the UCU continued for five years and was only ended in October 2023 when the employer body UUK made an offer of full restoration. This came after 69 days of strikes by the UCU and was a historic victory for UCU members and reversed further cuts made in 2022.

University teachers continue to fight for better pay, more appropriate workloads and job security. FE teachers, marching because of the loss of 15,000 jobs in the sector particularly as adult education has been savaged by austerity, and whose wages had been cut by 21% since 2009, continue to be treated unfairly.

I went into the rally in Central Hall largely to try to get warm after the freezing march, and was fortunate to arrive early enough to get inside – many of the marchers were left outside the the cold where the speakers went outside to speak after making their contributions in the hall.

The event was running late because of the larger than expected number of people on the march, and by the time the main speakers, John McDonnell and Frances O’Grady had performed I’d missed the time for another event I’d planned to cover, the handing in of some NHS petitions at the Department of Health. I But I was pleased to be able to stay longer in the warm.

HE & FE rally for pensions and jobs
HE and FE march for pensions and jobs

Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers – Home Office

I left the Methodist Central Hall and walked down to the Home Office where an emergency protest was taking place to support the hunger strike and refusal to work by the 120 women and a few men in immigration detention at Yarl’s Wood.

They had begun their action a week earlier to demand the Home Office respect the European Convention of Human Rights and end the separation of families, end indefinite detention with a 28 day maximum detention period, end charter flights which deport people without notice, and end the re-detention of those released from detention.

Their statement also called for an amnesty for those who have been in the UK for more than ten years and for the Home Office to stop deporting people before cases and appeals have been completed, as well as making full disclosure of all evidence to immigration tribunals.

They called for those in detention centres to be treated with dignity and respect and be given proper health care and an end to the detention of highly vulnerable people. They also want an end to employment in detention centres at ‘prison wages’ of £1 an hour.

Among the groups supporting the protest were the Movement for Justice, All African Women’s Group, Queer Strike and No Borders. Some of those taking part in the protest had previously served time in detention centres and knew first hand about the shameful way the UK treats them and some spoke at the event and several of those taking part in the hunger strike were able to speak to the protest from inside Yarls Wood by mobile phone.

Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers

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Refugee Rights & Stop Trident – 2016

February 27th, 2024

Refugee Rights & Stop Trident – On Saturday 27th February 2016 I photographed two large protest marches in London. The first was part of a protest across Europe calling for safe passage for refuges and the second was against government plans to replace the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons which recently for a second time failed a test launch in 2023.

European March for Refugee Rights – Hyde Park

Refugee Rights & Stop Trident

Several hundred protesters, including many who had been to aid refugees in Lesvos and at the Calais camps and some who had volunteered in Syria with Medicins Sans Frontiers, marched from Hyde Park Corner to a rally at Speakers Corner before going on to Trafalgar Square as part of a day of protest in cities across Europe calling for safe and secure routes for all refugees and asylum seekers seeking protection in Europe.

Refugee Rights & Stop Trident

They want an end to the deaths in sea crossings and other borders and for refugees to be allowed to keep their possessions and be reunited with their families.

Refugee Rights & Stop Trident

Groups supporting the protest included the Syria Solidarity Campaign, Solidarity with Refugees, London2Calais, Migrants’ Rights Network, SOAS Solidarity with Refugees & Displaced People Soc, Wonder Foundation, Calais Action, UK Action for Refugees, Refugee Aid Initiative, No Borders and the Greece Solidarity Campaign.

Refugee Rights & Stop Trident

A woman who had volunteered at Lesvos came a child’s life-jacket worn on the dangerous sea crossing to there, more suitable for a beach holiday; others wore similar life-jackets on the march which have become a symbol for the refugees and those who drown on the journey from Turkey to Lesvos. Refugee support groups from Brighton brought a splendid banner they had made based on Picasso’s Spanish Civil War painting ‘Guernica‘.

I marched with them through Hyde Park to Speakers Corner where there was a short rally before they marched on to Trafalgar Square in front of the CND Stop Trident march which was then beginning to march from Marble Arch.

Some then decided to join the CND march but others decided to march in front of it. CND stewards at first tried to stop them but then halted the Stop Trident march for around ten minutes to leave a gap between the two marches which were following the same route.

More at European March for Refugee Rights.

Stop Trident March – Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square

Around sixty thousand had come to Marble Arch to join the march to a rally in Trafalgar Square against government plans to replace the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons at a cost of £180 billion or more.

CND say Trident is immoral and using it would cause catastrophic global damage. These weapons of mass destruction don’t keep us safe and divert resources from essential spending on services like the NHS, schools and housing.

In 2024 CND estimates that the total cost of building and maintaining Trident has been £205 billion. The UK has hung on to nuclear weapons largely as a matter of prestige and to justify its position on the UN Security Council and it has never been an important deterrent – and the recent test failures make it even less of a credible threat to other countries.

I arrived late for the official photocall before the start of the march on Park Lane because the crowd of marchers was so dense and we were soon moved well away from the front banner and those holding it by stewards in the usual somewhat unfriendly ‘Stop the War’ manner.

At the southern end of Park Lane the march halted for around ten minutes to make a gap between it and the marchers for Refugee Rights who had come to join them. I went to take a few pictures of this march and then returned to the ‘Stop Trident’ march.

After taking some pictures of the marchers, working my way through the crowds I had to leave and take the tube from Green Park to Charing Cross for the start of the rally, meeting the head of the march as it arrived at Trafalgar Square.

It was a long rally with a long list of distinguished speakers including Nicola Sturgeon, Caroline Lucas, Leanne Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Bruce Kent, Christine Blower, Mark Serwotka, Tariq Ali and many more including some younger activists, and you can see photographs of most of those who spoke. They all opposed the renewal of Trident which they dismissed as out of date, totally irrelevant to our defence and a complete waste of money which could be put to so much better use providing proper jobs and services.

The rally went on longer than expected as we were waiting for the final address by Jeremy Corbyn who was travelling down from Sheffield where he had been speaking at a conference. He arrived on the platform to an enormous round of cheering and applause and gave a rousing speech ending the protest on a high note.

Many more photographs of the march and rally on My London Diary:
Stop Trident Rally
Stop Trident March

St Peter & St Paul, Candles, A Pub & Distillery

February 26th, 2024

St Peter & St Paul, Candles, A Pub & Distillery continues my walk on Friday 4th August 1989 in Battersea from the previous post, River Thames, St Mary’s, Church Rd, Chelsea Harbour & A Bridge. The walk began with Council flats, Piles of Bricks, A House Hospital and Brasserie.

St Peter & St Paul, Church, l21, Plough Road, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-74
St Peter & St Paul, Church, 121, Plough Road, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-74

I left the riverside and walked down Lombard Road and crossed York Road into York Gardens probably to find a pleasant spot to rest a while and eat my sandwiches before going through the gardens to exit on Plough Road close to the church.

St Peter’s Church is still very much alive now on Plough Road, but SPB looks very different to my picture in 1989. The first St Peter’s Battersea was built in 1875 but was seriously damaged by fire in 1970 and the church moved into the building in my picture which had been its church and school hall.

According to ‘Clapham Junction Insider’ Cyril Ritchert, the demolition of this Grade II listed building, “an accomplished example of the free gothic style“, was opposed by the Ancient Monuments Society, English Heritage, the Battersea Society and the Wandsworth Society but was approved by Wandsworth Council in 2010. The developers made a second application in 2015 before any building on the site had started. Google Street View shows the church still in use in 2012.

To finance the new church the developers had been granted permission for an 8 storey block of flats also on the site. Local residents were angered that the developers managed to game the planning system to eventually build a 10 storey block of housing with minimal affordable housing on the site.

Shop, St Peter & St Paul, Church, Flats, Holgate Ave, Plough Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989

The view of the church from Holgate Avenue shows clearly the position of the church on the edge of the Winstanley Estate to the north of Clapham Junction station. The view of the tower block Sporle Court is now blocked by the new 10 storey block on the church site. The trees at left are in York Gardens.

There is still a billboard and a shop on the corner of Holgate Avenue, but what was then BRITCHOICE is now SUNRISER EXPRESS POLSKI SKLEP. Holgate Avenue was until 1931 known as Brittania Place or Brittania Street and took its name from the Brittania beer house which was possibly in this shop, part of a group of two buildings at 38-40 Plough Lane which are the only remnants of the original 1860s development of the area.

Apparently the Revd Chad Varah, the founder of The Samaritans, was vicar at Saint Peter’s during the 1950’s. St Peter’s was amalgamated with St Paul’s at some time after 1969 – and St Paul’s had been amalgamated with St John in Usk Road in 1938.

Houses, Holgate Avenue, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-75
Houses, Holgate Avenue, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-75

According to the Survey of London, “Holgate Avenue, started in the 1920s, was Battersea’s first
successful slum-clearance scheme
.” Poorly built Victorian houses from the 1860s were replaced by these three-storey tenements built by Battersea’s Labour Council in 1924-37 to high standards with some impressive brickwork and detailing. Probably more importantly for the residents they were provided with electric cooking, heating and lighting facilities, unusual luxury for the time.

There was little land in Battersea for building and while the council would have liked to build single family homes it had to compromise with these. But at least tenants at most had only to walk up three flights of stairs, while most new council building by the LCC in the interwar period was in five-storey tenement walk-up blocks.

Price's Candles, York Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-62
Price’s Candles, York Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-62

I walked back up Plough Road to York Road, and continued my walk towards Wandsworth Bridge. There was no access to the River Thames on this stretch before the bridge, as the area was still occupied by industrial premises.

Price’s Candles on York Rd was built on part of the site of York House, the London residence of the Archbishop of York from which York Road got its name. You can read more than you will ever want to know about York House in All about Battersea, by Henry S Simmonds published in 1882 and now on Project Gutenberg, which also has a long section on the Belmont Works or Price’s Patent Candle Factory.

Price’s Candles was begun in 1830 by William Wilson and Benjamin Lancaster who had purchased a patent for the separation of coconut fats. They chose the name Price for the business to remain anonymous as candle-making was not at the time a respectable occupation.

They moved to this site in 1847 setting up a large factory and workforce, making candles, soap and other products with stearine wax for the candles and the by products of glycerine and light oils coming cocunuts grown on a plantation they bought in Ceylon. In 1854 they began to import large quantities of crude petroleum from Burma and developed paraffin wax candles. Later they developed processes to work with other industrial wastes, animal fats and fish oils. By 1900 they were the largest candle manufacturer in the world.

The company was taken over by Unilever in 1919, and became owned by other oil companies including BP, who sold part of the site which opened in 1959 as the Battersea Heliport. A few of Price’s buildings remain, though most with added floors, and the rest of the site is mostly new blocks of flats.

York Tavern, pub, 347, York Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-63
York Tavern, pub, 347, York Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-63

The York Tavern was on the corner of York Road and Usk Road in the late 1850s but was given a makeover later in the century in the typical 1890s Queen Anne style with fake gable facades. I can’t find a date for the closing of this pub but it was clearly very shut when I made this picture. The building was demolished in 2003.

John Watney & Co Ltd, Wandsworth Distillery, York Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-64
John Watney & Co Ltd, Wandsworth Distillery, York Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-64

Wandsworth Distillery on York Rd was founded by Richard Bush at Gargoyle Wharf around 1780. By 1874 it was owned by John and Daniel Watney. Gin was produced here, having become popular after heavy taxes were imposed on French brandy, and later particularly in the colonies to counteract the unpleasantly bitter taste of the anti-malarial quinine.

Acquired by Guinness, the distillery was demolished in 1992, and I photographed its occupation as the ‘Pure Genius Eco Village‘ by The Land is Ours in 1996. It was redeveloped as Battersea Reach housing from 2002 on.

More from this walk in another post.

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Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

February 25th, 2024

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth – On Wednesday 25th February I photographed a number of protests in London, starting in Westminster with the Free Shaker Aamer campaign, striking firefighters and welfare rights activists, then with tube workers at Edgware Road and finally outside Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton.

Free Shaker Aamer – Parliament Square

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

A protest opposite Parliament called for the urgent release of London resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo, where he has been held and regularly abused for 13 years without charge or trial.

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

The Free Shaker Aamer Campaign had been holding weekly protests opposite Parliament whenever it was in session to remind government of the need for act over his release. He had long been cleared for release but was still held in the illegal prison camp with both US and UK governments dragging their feet as his testimony would be embarrassing to their security agencies, making clear their involvement in torture.

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

The protest was longer than usual as an international event was taking place at the nearby QEII centre and they wanted to remind delegates there of Shaker’s torture and imprisonment. Eventually the long campaign of protests by this and other groups led the UK government they needed to back his release in practice and he was finally released on 30th October 2015.

More pictures: Free Shaker Aamer at Parliament

Striking Firefighters block traffic – Westminster

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

Firefighters in England held a 24 hour strike on 25th Feb 2015 against the unworkable pension scheme the government intended to implement. They say that the devolved governments had recognised the problems in the scheme and made improvements but in England government ministers were refusing to talk with the union, simply ignoring requests for meetings. They accused the government of lies about the union, saying they were being labelled as militants despite them being ready and willing to enter into negotiations at any time.

After a rally in Westminster Central Hall, several thousand striking firefighters protested on the street outside Parliament before marching to Downing St. Their protest brought all traffic in the area to a standstill until they marched away.

They stopped outside Downing Street and refused to move, saying they would wait there until someone came out to talk to them. A senior police officer come to talk with Matt Wrack and the other FBU leaders there and was extrememly politie, taking Wrack’s mobile number before going away to see if anyone could be persuaded to come out from Downing St to meet the protesters.

I left them leaning on the barriers and looking into Downing Street waiting for someone to come and see them, though I doubted if anyone would ever emerge.

The Fire Service has also suffered like other public services from government cuts; in London these led to Mayor Boris Johnson making dangerous reductions, closing some fire stations and reducing equipment and staffing, which left the London Fire Brigade ill-equipped to deal with major disasters such as the Grenfell fire.

The FBU union later won a number of legal cases against the government over the changes that were made to the pensions scheme, leading to significant compensation for some members.

More at Striking Firefighters block traffic.

Welfare Advocacy not a Crime – DWP, Westminster

Welfare activists protested outside the Dept of Work & Pensions in Caxton Street as a part of the national day of action over the arrest of welfare rights activist Tony Cox. He had been arrested when he tried to accompany a vulnerable claimant to her job centre interview to argue for a fairer claimant agreement.

As well as several banners, one man was gagged in protest. By law claimants are allowed to have and adviser present with them at the interview, but when a claimant turned up with Cox, his interview was cancelled.

Cox and the claimant then left the job centre, but later in the day police arrived at his him and arrested him, charging him with threatening behaviour.

Welfare Advocacy not a Crime.

RMT protest Underground Job Cuts – Edgware Road Station (Bakerloo)

Around 20 RMT members handed out fliers at the busy Edgware Road Bakerloo Line station against the proposed 50% cut in station staffing and the closure of the ticket offices which they say will endanger the safety of both passengers and staff.

They got a very positive reception from many of the public going in and out of the station or walking past, although a PCSO came to harass and try to stop their picketing. Most of the public seemed to realise that staff do far more than sell tickets and offer service and protection to the travelling public.

Many promises were made to Underground staff and the public about how they would be protected when cuts were made, but most were later broken.

RMT protest Underground Job Cuts

Lambeth against £90m cuts – Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton

After taking some photographs of the protesting RMT staff I got on the Underground there, changing at Oxford Circus to take me to the end of the Victoria Line at Brixton.

There I walked down to Lambeth Town Hall on the corner of Acre Land to join around a hundred trade unionists, pensioners, library and other council staff, social housing tenants and other residents who were gathering for a lively rally outside Lambeth Town Hall.

A lively rally took place urging councillors who were arriving for the council meeting to reject library closures and other £90 millon cuts which were being passed there by the large Labour majority on the council. Labour then held 59 of the 63 council seats. Among the speakers at the rally was the only Green Party councillor, Scott Ainslie, who was to vote against the cuts. The Green Party gained four more seats in the 2018 council elections but lost three of these in 2022. Right-wing Labour councillors still have an overwheming majority and the council continues its policies which fail the community.

Lambeth’s finances were stretched by the development of a new Town Hall or Civic Centre the cost of which roughly doubled from the original contract of £55 million ot £104 million. Policies such as the closure of libraries and the demolition and sale of popular and well-built council estates like Cressingham Gardens had already produced a great deal of protest in the borough.

The £90 million cuts passed at the council meeting later that evening have had a disproportionate impact on children, old people and the disabled who always rely on local services more than the average person. Council employees at the rally opposed the cuts not only because they feared for their own jobs, but because they knew those that remain in post will not be able to offer the public the same quality of service that they do at present.

Lambeth against £90m cuts

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Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies 2009

February 24th, 2024

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies – Tuesday 24th February 2009 was a long and varied day for me and included some serious issues that are still at the forefront of current news as well as some lighter moments – and I ended the day enjoying a little unusual corporate hospitality with some free drinks for London bloggers.

Al-Haq Sue UK Government – Royal Courts of Justice

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies

First came Palestine, with Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq filing a claim for judicial review before the High Court of England and Wales challenging the government’s failure to fulfil its obligations with respect to Israel’s illegal activities in Palestine.

They were calling on our government – then New Labour under Gordon Brown – to publicly denounce Israel’s actions in Gaza and the continuing construction of the separation wall, to suspend arms related exports and all government, military, financial and ministerial assistance to Israel and to end UK companies exporting arms and military technology.

They also asked them to insist the EU suspends preferential trading with Israel until that country complies with its human rights obligations, and for the government to give the police any evidence of war crimes committed by any Israelis who intend to come to the UK.

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies

Of course the court refused Al-Haq’s case, declining to deal with the UK government’s compliance with its international legal obligations and stating that their claim would risk the UK’s diplomatic “engagement with peace efforts in the Middle East“, something which seemed at the time to be absolutely zero if not negative. They also refused Al-Haq any right to bring the claim because it was not a UK-based organisation and “no one in the United Kingdom has sought judicial review of United Kingdom foreign policy regarding Israel’s actions in Gaza“.

Al-Haq Sue UK Government

Worshipful Company of Poulters Pancake Race – Guildhall Yard

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies

It was Shrove Tuesday and I couldn’t resist the Pancake Race organised by the Worshipful Company of Poulters, and held – with the permission of the Chief Commoner, in the Guildhall Yard.

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies

As I said, “It’s a shame that the Pancake Race is unlikely to feature in the London 2012 Olympics, because it’s perhaps the one sport in which Britain still leads the world, and we seem to have plenty of talent in training.

Poulters Pancake Race

Keep the Post Public – Parliament Square

Postal workers came out from a rally in Methodist Central Hall against government plans to privatise Royal Mail. The government argued they needed to do this to protect pensions and modernise the service.

Postal deliveries had been deliberately made uneconomic by earlier measures which have allowed private companies to cream off the easily delivered profitable parts of the service, while leaving the Royal Mail to continue the expensive universal delivery service – including the delivery of its competitors post at low regulated prices to more difficult destinations.

The government picked up the responsibility for the pensions when the post was privatised and the privatised post office has been allowed to fail on its delivery obligations. We now get deliveries on perhaps 3 or 4 days a week rather than 6, few first class letters arrive on time, and the collection times for most pillar boxes are now much earlier in the day – now 9am rather than 4pm at our local box. While privatisation was supposed to result in more investment it largely seems to have resulted in large dividends and higher pay to managers and the Post Office is in a worse state than ever.

Keep the Post Public

London 2012 Olympic Site – Stratford

I had time for a brief visit to the publicly accessible areas in and around the Olympic site where a great deal of work was now taking place with the main stadium beginning to emerge.

There were some reports at the time that the landmark building Warton House, once owned by the Yardley company with its lavender mosaic on Stratford High Street was to be demolished, but fortunately these turned out to be exaggerated, with only a small part at the rear of the building being lost. But all the buildings on the main part of the site had gone. Some others south of the mainline railway were also being demolished for Crossrail.

Olympic Site Report
London Olympic site pans

March of the Corporate Undead – Oxford St

I made my way back to Oxford Circus for the ‘March of the Corporate Undead’, a Zombie Shopping Spree complete with coffins, a dead ‘banker’, posters, various members of the undead and a rather good band.

Police watched in a suitably deadpan manner (I did see one or two occasionally smile) as the group assembled and applied large amounts of white makeup before making its way along the pavement of Oxford Street, to the astonishment (and often delight) of late shoppers and workers rushing home.

We stopped off at Stratford Place, opposite Bond Street Station to toss some fried bankers brains in the frying pans and then there was a pancake race, holding up a Rolls Royce that was prevented by the police from driving through while we were there.

The parade continued, stopping for a minute or two under the bright lights of Selfridges before continuing to Tyburn, or at least Marble Arch, with more zombies joining all the time.

Hanging the already dead banker seemed a great idea, but getting a rope up over the arch was tricky. Eventually a severed hand gave sufficient weight to enable a rope to be thrown over the ornamental iron-work and the banker was soon hoisted up to dangle over the continuing revels below.

March of the Corporate Undead

This was an anticapitalist event and in particular aimed against bankers and the huge amounts of cash given to them to in the aftermath of the 2007-8 financial crisis which was seen as rewarding the very people who had caused the mess the system was in. The mass of the population was having to suffer cuts in services under a severe austerity programme while bankers were still pigs in clover. The UK has become a very unequal society over the years since 1979 when Thatcher became Prime Minister. The the top 10% got 21% of the UK income, by 2010 it was around 32%.

I left to go to a meeting of London bloggers – and enjoy a few free drinks thanks to Bacardi. The blue and green Breezers seem to me just right for zombies, though I’m afraid after tasting one I went for the beer instead. But I think the zombies on Oxford Street were more alive than those in the corporate world.

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