Lambeth Shame

Jeremy Corbyn on the banner really looks three-dimensional in this picture

Last Thursday’s local election results in Lambeth make rather sorry reading for democracy. It seems you can fool most of the people most of the time, and a 55% vote for Labour means that they now have 57 of the 63 councillors. There is a little good news in that 5 of the remaining 6 are Greens, including Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley, and it’s heartening that the Conservatives lost 2 of their three seats, though sad that both went to Labour.

One of the new Green councillors, Pete Elliott, elected for Gipsy Hill was pictured at the count in a ‘Save Cressingham Gardens’ t-shirt, and I think Gypsy Hill is the ward which includes another loved and under threat estate, Central Hill. One result that particularly saddened me was for Coldharbour ward – the heart of Brixton – where Rachel Heywood, the only Labour councillor who stood up for the future of the Brixton Arches (and for other things) was kicked out by Labour and stood as an Independent, failed to get elected. It would have been good also to see the Green candidates for this ward who were also active in trying to save these and other community assets elected, but Labour had a convincing victory, apparently helped by a rather doubtful endorsement alleged to have been extracted under threat from a black community leader.

There really is no good argument against electing local councils by a proportional representation which would give councils that far more truly represented the views of the population. Labour would still control Lambeth, but there would be a far more significant opposition on the council, which has for some time effectively been a one-party state.

An anarchist approach to playing the ukulele as Andrew Cooper speaks

Lambeth hasn’t really been a Labour council, but a Progress council, run by members of the right-wing Labour group. Its policies are not those which were in the Labour Party manifesto at the last election, but closer to those of Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher. Members of Progress have actively campaigned against the current Labour Leader and are the source of most of the smears against him which have dominated the news since he became leader. Unfortunately the Labour right-wing still hold key positions in the party machinery which have meant that complaints over the behaviour of Progress members have no been investigated, while similar actions sabotaging the party from the left would have led to speedy expulsions.

The protest in December pointed out the huge cuts the Labour party have made in services for the disabled, mentally ill, youth and community and social services generally, as well as the closing down of traders in the railway arches at the centre of Brixton and the process of social cleansing in demolishing council estates and rebuilding them with developers largely as private housing at market prices and rents, forcing former tenants and lease-holders out of the area.

Lambeth work with Savills to turn council estates into private property

The event was also a vigil in memory of Ann Plant, one of the leading campaigners to save Cressingham Gardens, Ann Plant who died of cancer in December 2016, spending her final months still fighting to prevent the demolition of her home and her community by the council.

Photographically I had no problems in recording the event, with some fine banners and placards by Class War, Andrew Cooper and others livening up the images. But this must be one of the coldest street corners in London and there was a truly biting wind. Even with an extra layer of thermal underwear covering me from ankle to neck and a windproof hood over my Thermolactyl beanie I was shivering, and the two layers of gloves – silk underneath and wool on top – were not enough to keep my hands warm. Silk gloves are thin and great for operating cameras, but soon tear but are still useful if it isn’t too cold, and the wool add a little insulation while still allowing normal operation of mechanical camera controls. Thicker gloves would keep my hands warm, and I wear them for some things, but those I have don’t allow me to properly control a camera.

More pictures at Stand Up to Lambeth protest and vigil

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