Posts Tagged ‘Boris Johnson’

Students for democracy

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

After a lengthy rally in a packed Whitehall, so full that police asked the organisers to tell people at the end only to move out in the direction of Trafalgar Square to avoid the danger of people being crushed as the Parliament Street end was so packed, Youth Strike for Climate and other mainly young protesters decided it was time for some more direct action.

It had been a long rally, with speaker after speaker, and the crowd in front of the stage was so packed that I was unable to move through it as I usually do during the more tedious of the speeches. There were some good speeches, and some well-known speakers, but I now find standing in one place for a long time makes my legs start to itch and throb, inflaming my varicose eczema.

So when the Youth Strike moved off, I was more than happy to follow them, though I did hope they would not move too far. There were other groups that marched as well as those I was with, some going into the West End, but fortunately these marchers went to a rather more convenient place for my journey home.

As they marched up Whitehall, police appeared to be forming a cordon across the top of the street, and they turned right down Whitehall Place, then continuing up Craven Street to The Strand. Police made no further effort to stop them, with just a few officers marching with them as they made their way onto Waterloo Bridge and sat down, blocking the south-bound carriageway.

They began their own rally there, and there were several short speeches, but the lure of Waterloo Station just a short distance further on soon proved too great, and I left to go home. As I walked off the bridge, several vans full of police arrived and were doubtless about to attempt to re-open the bridge to traffic, but I’d had enough.

More pictures Students March to Defend Democracy.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Democracy under threat

Wednesday, February 5th, 2020

Democracy in this country is certainly not perfect, but what we have is the result of hundreds of years of history, of the fight for power between the monarchy and a parliament which has long represented the interests of the rich and powerful. An early victory along the road came with Magna Carta, when the barons who had spent the night just a few hundred yards from where I now live, forced King John to sign a document that outlined some basic freedoms and the principle that the monarch was subject to the laws of the land.

It wasn’t a document that did a great deal for the peasants or the serfs, though two years later another charter by Henry III did restore some of the rights of free men which had been appropriated following the Norman invasion.

Despite the rise in the twentieth century of the Labour movement, our democracy remains one that largely protects and serves the interests of the rich and powerful. And although theoretically we are all equal under the law, in practice this has never been the case. And although the constraints and enforcements are generally more subtle than in most countries we are still a feudal country in many ways, with power still residing in the ownership of land, including huge areas by the descendants of those Runnymede barons, as well as the ownership of media. And occasionally the monarchy and its agents still bites – as Dr David Kelly’s staged suicide shows.

Much of the more recent amelioration in areas such as worker’s rights has of course come from our membership of Europe, driven by countries which had the sense to behead their royalty or lost them in wars. There is a huge irony in the continual parroting by some working class Brexiteers that Brexit is “taking our country back“. It is – but giving it back to the rich.

Boris Johnson’s government is a part of this process of restoring control to wealthy elites, taking power away from Parliament. The government tried to close down debate on leaving Europe without a deal by simply shutting down Parliament. Eventually the Supreme Court decided that the move was illegal. Now that the Tories have a large majority it seems certain that the powers of the court will be limited to prevent such legal scrutiny occuring again. And already parliament is having its powers to debate any new trade agreements removed.

Although ‘Boris’ cultivates the image of a clown, it’s wrong to think he is one, or indeed that he is really in charge, rather than just a figure-head being allowed to perform by others with far more serous designs. And while some posters featuring the monarchy were amusing, the suggest that they carry that we would somehow be better off if the monarchy was more powerful is misguided. We may well be heading to become an unconstitutional ‘Banana State’ but we would be better fighting for a people’s republic.

More pictures: Defend democracy, Stop the Coup.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Not My Prime Minister

Saturday, December 21st, 2019

I’ve long believed it was time to reform our voting system, and recent events have reinforced that conviction.

The total UK population is thought to be around 67.7 million, of which around 53 million are old enough to vote, but only around 47.6 million are registered to vote. The other 5.4 million either are not eligible for some reason or can’t or haven’t bothered to register. Only 32million actually voted – 67.3% or roughly 2/3 of those registered. The number who voted in what the media calls a landslide for the Conservatives was just under 14million. Just over a quarter of the adult population.

It was of course more votes than the Labour party, though the actual number of MPs hugely overestimates the difference because of the way in which voters are distributed around the seats. Labour’s seats roughly represent their 32% share of the votes, while the Tories got around 28% more seats than their vote would suggest.

While the Conservatives benefit hugely from our voting system, and Labour don’t fare to badly, the smaller parties in England lose out hugely. The Lib Dems got 11.5% of the votes and only 1.7% of the seats and the Green Party with a 2.7% vote share only have 1 MP rather than the 17 or 18 that a fair share would give. Added to this is the fact that many people who might well vote for the Greens or Lib-Dems in a fair system know that a vote for them is wasted and instead vote for one of the major parties.

On 24th July the protest was not about the results of a general election, but of a Prime Minister who had been selected as the result of votes by Conservative MPs and then members of the Conservative Party alone, less than a hundred thousand people in all. It was difficult to argue against the conviction of the protesters that he had no mandate from the people.

Among those who spoke was the then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, and while I agreed with most of what he said, it was hard not to think that the reason we have such an unfair electoral system is that both major parties rather like its unfairness. It is rather harder for Labour to get MPs because of it, but it does mean that they have a better chance of an overall majority in those elections where they do well.

Of course the electoral system is only one factor that makes politics in this country unfair. We also have a system that allows the wealthy still to make huge political donations (and Labour benefits from the support of some trade unions, though on a smaller scale.) More important still is the way that we have a so-called ‘free press’ which is largely owned by a small group of billionaires who are allowed to get away with lies and misinformation about political parties, their policies and personalities.

It was Neil Kinnock, the Labour Party leader in 1992 who blamed The Sun as a major factor in his losing the 1992 election – it ended a long and relentless campaign of what he named as “misinformation and disinformation” with the famous election day headline, “If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights.” And at the following election when The Sun had changed sides to back Tony Blair, the paper again made its claim “It’s The Sun Wot Won It“.

And while it isn’t hard to think of fairer alternatives to the current electoral system – including some that retain a constituency connection for most MPs with a list approach to redresses most of the electoral imbalances, it is rather harder to think of some way to redress the irresponsibly used power of the press. It would be nice perhaps to have some kind of publicly funded media organisation (perhaps through a licence fee) which devoted itself to fair and unbiased editing and reporting! Unfortunately Lord Reith is long dead.

The rally in Russell Square was extremely crowded and I got very tired, and went home rather than face the march to Downing St, where the protest got rather more interesting (and certainly even more photogenic.)

I’d been to Downing St earlier and things had been very quiet, and protesters I’d expected to see there had already left. If I’d been thinking clearly I would have realised that they would return later and taken the tube back to Whitehall rather than missing out on the action there.

More at Boris J is not our Prime Minister

Grenfell scapegoat scandal

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

I hadn’t expected much of the official report into the Grenfell fire, but was still shocked when details of it were released that is was so clear and determined an attempt to shift blame onto the London Fire Brigade. Monumental scapegoating is no way to get at the truth, and hindsight is always cheap.

Had the LFB known what people in the TMO and Kensington and Chelsea council responsible for the cladding and the failure to properly maintain the building knew – and that the complaints by residents about fire safety had been ignored – or worse, they could be blamed for incorrect advice. But the council had deliberately hidden the truth about the building.

The Tory government too had played its part, cutting what it described as “red tape” over building regulations and allowing private companies to carry out essential safety inspections at cut price, which at best meant cutting corners and at worst simply not doing the job.

It was Boris Johnson as London Mayor who made sweeping cuts to the LFB, severely diminishing their capability to deal with fires such as this. Despite the number of high rise properties in London the service had to call on Surrey for an engine capable of dealing with a building of this height. Firefighters protested on the streets against the cuts to their capabilities driven by a Tory government and the Mayor.

Protest against closing fire stations in 2013

You can read the comments of an experienced and now retired fire-fighter on the “Stay Put” policy, who states he has attended “dozens upon dozens of fires in high rise residential buildings.” These buildings are designed to contain any fire within one flat, and would normally burn themselves out even without the fire brigade turning up. It didn’t work at Grenfell mainly becuase the building had been covered by cladding which some have described as “like petrol“. But the LFB didn’t know that. SteveDude68’s post includes a telling photograph of a serious high-rise fire he was in command of tackling in Bow in July 2018, “much more serious at the outset (than Grenfell) but extinguished within 20 minutes. ” Flames and a huge plume of black smoke pour out of the windows of the one flat, but nothing from the rest of the tower. Contrast this with the pictures of Grenfell.

It shouldn’t have taken this long to get at the truth about the fire – and of course it didn’t. Architects for Social Housing released their report The Truth about Grenfell Tower around 5 weeks after the disaster, and little has changed since then. After a similar fire in Japan, those responsible were in court just over a month later.

I’ll end with a quote from a comment today from the Facebook group Grenfell – The truth is out there :

Please remember the names of those directly responsible for what happened:
RYDON
ARCONIC
EXOVA
CEP
KCTMO
Please remember that the residents warned the KCTMO for years about their concerns.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Boris’s Biggest Blunder?

Monday, June 24th, 2019

Earl’s Court

Probably the largest desert in London – thanks to Boris!

Boris Johnson’s time as Mayor was in many ways a disaster for London, but while the media obsess about his sexual peccadilloes and to a lesser extent his racist comments, little is said about his more important failures, which may have enriched some of his city friends but whose consequences will remain to impoverish Londoners for many years after he has left office. One of these, and probably the biggest, is the stalled £12 billion Earls Court redevelopment, which makes even the £53 million Garden Bridge Fiasco fade into insignificance.

The vacant site where one of London’s iconic 1930s building once stood

It’s wrong of course to call it a blunder. It was a deliberate scheme for the enrichment of a few, undoubtedly including friends and financial supporters of the Conservative Party at the expense of London and Londoners, aiming to provide a huge high-rise development of investment properties largely for sale to foreign investors, a huge empty triangle in what was once a thriving part of London, contributing greatly to the local area and more widely, housing several thousand people who would lose their homes and removing jobs from the area.

Along with Boris, and Transport for London, then a part of his fiefdom, the villains in this £12 billion scheme are developers CAPCO, (Capital & Counties Properties) whose development proposals bear no relation to the considerable history, needs of the area and its locality and the contribution it would pay to the local economy, simply wiping the whole area clean and imposing a solution based on maximising profit to the developers. As soon as they acquired the site in 2008 they applied to English Heritage for a Certificate of Immunity from Listing for the 1930s Earls Court Exhibition Centre, granted despite its iconic status – and the fact that some aspects of it were apparently already listed.

We look at the site of Earls Court 2, with a photograph before demolition

The site falls into two London Boroughs, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham, both when the project began under Conservative control. Hammersmith and Fulham council agreed to sell off the two council estates which cover a large part of the area to Capco in 2012. Since Labour took over in H & F in 2014 they have set up an inquiry into the decision to sell and have called for Capco to return the two housing estates. In February 2019 the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, stated that he wanted the two estates to be transferred back to the council by Capco unconditionally after they demanded unacceptable planning permission in return for their release.

Empress Place would make a fine entrance to a new estate – but Capco will knock it down

There are two large office blocks on the site, both visible in the top picture. The tower at left has already been sold and is now occupied by the Metropolitan Police. The smaller block, at right, belongs to TfL and is a part of their site which also includes extensive workshops; it seems that they have so far failed to find suitable alternative sites for these essential facilities.

Thanks to determined opposition from local people the scheme has so far failed to materialise, and the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates are still there, along with the TfL workshops, but the demolition of the two exhibition centres has created the largest desert in London. The cleared area, left as dusty bare cleared rubble is a local eyesore and pollution source, with wind carrying dust into local homes and businesses, creating thick and possibly dangerous grime.

West Kensington, a well built and much loved estate that Capco would demolish

Opposition to the demolition of the exhibition centres is led by the Earl’s Court Area Action Group, one of whose members took me and other journalists on a tour of the area last week. They now demand the demolished area be developed with a replacement venue for the demolished iconic Earls Court Exhibition Centre as a large green space for exhibitions, sports and cultural events, along with “low rise, high density, exemplary green housing with a wide range of housing options including social housing, green space, community and social infrastructure, reflecting the demographic and unique characteristics of Earl’s Court.”

The residents of West Ken & Gibbs Green estates have been campaigning against the demolition of their homes since 2009, and as a part of their campaign for ‘The People’s Estates’ commissioned Architects for Social Housing (ASH) who in 2016 produced ‘the People’s Plan’ for improvements and new homes on the estates without demolition. They want the estates to be transferred to community ownership.

Gibbs Green estate also well built, loved and in good conditions and under threat of demolition by Capco

Earl’s Court Area Action Group
WKGGCH – West Ken & Gibbs Green Community Homes
ASH – Architects for Social Housing


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images