Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’

Greenwich, Bikefest and the 1940s – 2004

Thursday, June 13th, 2024

Greenwich, Bikefest and the 1940s: Twenty years ago on Sunday 13th June 2004 I had a day out in London, beginning with a walk beside the Thames at Greenwich, then coming to Westminster for a bike festival in Trafalgar Square and then a rather peaceful ‘War in the West End’ in Leicester Square. You can find what I wrote then about all these a little way down the June 2004 page of My London Diary.

Greenwich to North Greenwich Walk

Greenwich, Bikefest and the 1940s

I’d decided to get up early on Sunday and take a walk by the River Thames in Greenwich. Unfortunately engineering work meant no trains were running there so I had rather a long bus journey from Waterloo to get there. At least there was little traffic to hold the bus up.

Greenwich, Bikefest and the 1940s

I began with a walk around the grounds of the former Royal Naval College, now Greenwich University before taking the path past the power station and along Ballast Quay an on.

Greenwich, Bikefest and the 1940s

The path was open to North Greenwich and I made my way along it. Some of the pictures I made are now difficult to locate as this whole riverside is getting replaced by blocks of flats.

I didn’t put many images on line in 2004, as most viewers were still on slow internet connections. Further on towards North Greenwich there is still – at least the last time I walked along here a couple of years ago – an aggregate wharf with huge piles of sand and gravel on the landward side.

One of the huge gasholders at Greenwich was still standing in 2004, since demolished, and across the river Canary Wharf tower for long the only tower on the site was now almost hidden by others sprouting around it.

Eventually I could see the Millennium Dome looming above the sand and gravel which I felt “perhaps looks more at home in this almost lunar landscape” and I knew I was not far from North Greenwich station where I could catch the tube to Westminster.

More pictures on My London Diary.

Bikefest – Trafalgar Square

Bikefest was the first bicycle festival in Trafalgar Square, but I was surprised to find that bicycles were not allowed on the square. Though perhaps they would have got in the way, but it would have been nice at least to have had some temporary secure bike parking.

Except of course those taking part officially in the event including Team Extreme performing on the half-pipe and some great cycle powered musical systems such as Rinky-Dink.

But I had agreed to meet one of my sons there and he managed to smuggle his unicycle in to the event. But by the time I found him he had already been hassled by the heritage wardens (who I described as ‘Ken’s SS’) but he still decided to have a go at riding in the fountains where he could not possibly be endangering the public.

But he had hardly got going when he was ordered out and made to leave the area, though he did so riding the unicycle after a few quick bounces to shake off the water.

I went back to watching Team Extreme and taking a few more pictures, although I found it hard to convey quite how extreme they were, before leaving to join the Second World War in Leicester Square.

More pictures begin here on My London Diary.

West End at War, Leicester Square

Westminster Council had organised a festival turning Leicester Square into 1940’s London for the weekend, going back 60 years to 1944.

Although 60 years ago bombs were still falling on Westminster and rationing made life difficult (though for the wealthy – and there were plenty in Westminster – the black market was flourishing) the West End was full of servicemen on leave and many servicewomen determined to have fun, “letting their hair down” in cinemas, on dance floors, in clubs, pubs and hotels.

I found the scene in the square rather sad, although obviously a lot of effort had been put into the displays and performances and there were a few 1940s dressed re-enactors among the crowds in modern dress.

60 Years earlier Allied troops had landed in France on D-Day to fight to reclaim Europe, but the previous Thursday we had seen a large vote here in the European Parliament election rejecting it with both Conservative and Labour votes well down and the Lib-Dems coming in 4th place behind the UK Independence Party.

Things of course got worse in 2016, when the leave vote gained a small majority over those wishing to remain. Although the vote was not binding, stupidly Tory Prime Minister David Cameron had promised to abide by it – rather than more sensibly pointing out that a major constitutional change such as this should require a substantial majority rather than a momentary electoral whim – as would surely have been the case if we had a written constitution. And for once a politician kept his promise.

The latest opinion poll (May 1st 2024) has 55% saying we were wrong to leave against 31% thinking we were right with 13% of Don’t Knows.

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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
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Goodbye & Good Riddance – September 2003

Friday, January 5th, 2024

Goodbye & Good Riddance – September 2003: Of course there were times in 2023 that I remember warmly, and the first week of September when I was with a group of friends in a holiday let in Barmouth was full of them, though getting there and back was harder going with a rail strike and several long rail replacement bus journeys. But even those long bus journeys had their compensations, with some splendid views and clean windows through which I photographed some of them.

Goodbye & Good Riddance - September 2003
Barmouth September 2023
The rail and footbridge across the estuary at Barmouth closed for major engineering work the day before we arrived so we came and left on a rail replacement buses. The footpath across was also closed, which was a dissapointment as it would have allowed more great walks.

The holiday had been a very welcome break, and we were very fortunate with the weather, but too soon we had to return home – starting with two bus journeys to Machynlleth and then on to Shrewsbury and I returned to photographing protests the following day.

Goodbye & Good Riddance - September 2003
Justice For Chris Kaba – One Year On. London, 9 Sept 2023.
Chris Kaba, a 24-year-old unarmed black man, was driving a friend’s car in Camberwell when police stopped the car and fired a single shot through the windscreen killing him. The CPS received a report on the case in March but have yet to decide if the officer should be charged. Hundreds came a year after his killing to support the family and demand justice at a march from New Scotland Yard and rally in Parliament Square.
Peter Marshall
Goodbye & Good Riddance - September 2003
March to End Fossil Fuels, London. 16 Sept 2023.
People march in London as a part of actions by millions around the world to demand the world leaders gathering in New York for the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Ambition Summit take the urgent action needed for a rapid, just and equitable end to the use of all fossil fuels.
Peter Marshall
Goodbye & Good Riddance - September 2003
Mahsa Amini Day – Woman Life Freedom, Iranian Embassy, Kensington. 16 Sept 2023.
Protests took place in London and around the world in support of the Woman Life Freedom revolution in Iran on the first anniversary of the killing of Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini by the IGRC. People in Iran are suffering immense oppression and injustice. There were protests at the Iranian Embassy and a march to Trafalgar Square where a rally and other protests were taking place.
Peter Marshall
Goodbye & Good Riddance - September 2003
Mahsa Amini Day – Woman Life Freedom, Trafalgar Square. 16 Sept 2023.
Protests took place in London and around the world in support of the Woman Life Freedom revolution in Iran on the first anniversary of the killing of Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini by the IGRC. People in Iran are suffering immense oppression and injustice. There were protests at the Iranian Embassy and a march to Trafalgar Square where a rally and other protests were taking place. Pictures are in the same album as those from the Iranian Embassy above.
Peter Marshall
March To Rejoin The EU, London. 23 Sep 2023.
Thousands march in National Rejoin March from Hyde Park calling for an end to Brexit and to restore freedom of movement and reverse the attacks on living standards, public services and workers rights Brexit has caused. The march was followed by a rally in Parliament Square.
Peter Marshall
World Wide Rally for Freedom. London, 23 Sept 2023.
More than a thousand people marched from Hyde Park in the World Wide Rally For Freedom of speech, movement, assembly, health and choice.The march included many anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers and others but was dominated by those condemning London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ expansion to include all of London. They called for mass non-compliance with this and other tyrannical government control.
Peter Marshall

The Rally For Freedom was in opposition to the various government bills and acts which have seriously restricted our freedom – such as those aimed at preventing protests and severely restricting the right to strike. But we urgently need to take action against climate change “FOR THE SAKE OF ALL OUR CHILDREN” and the vaccinations have certainly saved many, many more lives than few deaths they have caused. Any responsible mayor of London would be taking similar action to improve London’s air quality, and while there may be details in Khan’s approach which could have been better, he has proved a considerably better mayor for London than his predecessor, and deserves to beat the Tory candidate in the 2024 election.

More on the 2023 protests I photographed in later posts.

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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.

Votes, Love, Arms & Al Quds

Monday, July 3rd, 2023

Votes, Love, Arms & Al Quds: Sunday 3rd July 2016 was a busy day for me, photographing young people demanding the right to vote, a board remembering murdered MP Jo Cox, a picket against sponsorship of the London Transport Museum by one of the largest arms companies in the world and then the always controversial annual Al Quds Day march and its Zionist counter-demonstration.

16-17 Year olds demand the vote – Trafalgar Square to Parliament Sq

Votes, Love, Arms & Al Quds

Many young people who were not old enough to vote in the EU referendum were outraged at not being able to take part in the vote which will impact their future more than that of older generations.

Votes, Love, Arms & Al Quds

They point out that many of those who did vote will die before the worst effects of Brexit are felt, and that it was the vote of the eldest in the population to leave Europe than swung the vote. Young people, including those too young to have a vote were strongly in favour of staying in Europe.

Votes, Love, Arms & Al Quds

The march by several hundred people, mainly 16-17 year olds, called for a lowering of the voting age to 16. Most of the speakers at the rally in Parliament Square were teenagers.

More pictures at 16-17 Year olds demand the vote.

Jo Cox banner of love – Parliament Sq

Votes, Love, Arms & Al Quds

People were still coming to sign and write tributes on a giant board in Parliament Square to Labour MP Jo Cox, brutally murdered on 16th June on the street in Birstall where she had gone to hold a constituency surgery.

Cox, who had worked for some years at Oxfam GB as head of policy and advocacy had become an MP in 2015 and had founded and chaired the parliamentary group Friends of Syria, campaigning over the Syrian Civil War, and supported Palestinian rights and the BDS campaign. She was one of few MPs who stood up and campaigned for refugees and their rights.

Her murderer, a constituent with far-right white supremacist obsessions, shot her three times before multiple stabbings. He was sentenced to life with a whole-life tariff.

Jo Cox banner of love

Arms dealers out of LT Museum – London Transport Museum, Covent Garden

I stopped briefly outside the London Transport Museum to talk with and photograph campaigners from the London Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) who were holding a picket to demand the museum end its sponsorship by Thales, the worlds 12th largest arms company. Thales supplies missiles, drones and other military products, selling them to repressive regimes around the world including Saudi Arabia, Russia, Colombia, Kazakhstan and the UAE.

More pictures at Arms dealers out of LT Museum.

Al Quds Day March – BBC to US Embassy

Several thousands, mainly Palestinians and Muslims from around the country, as well as other supporters of Palestinian freedom marched from the BBC to a rally at the US Embassy.

The final Friday of every Ramadan was designated Quds (Jerusalem) Day by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 as a day when Muslims around the world would demonstrate their solidarity in support of the Palestinians and call for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The London march takes place on the Sunday following.

A few supporters of Israel tried to protest against the march, holding Israeli flags and shouting at the marchers, but police kept them away.

Some of the marchers came with flags and t-shirts supporting the Lebanese Shia Islamist political party and militant group, Hizbullah (Hezbollah). Since 2019 this entire organisation has been proscribed in the UK, but in 2016 we still followed the EU in making a distinction between it as a political party with MPs in the Lebanese government and as a terrorist group.

Among the marchers were a group of Neturei Karta Orthodox Jews whose religious beliefs reject Zionism and the Israeli state. Their posters say Judaism is ‘G-dly & Compassionate’ while Zionism is ‘G-dless & Merciless’ and that ‘Jews True to their faith will Never recognise ZIONIST occupation’ and other similar statements.

At the US Embassy a large force of police separated their rally from a counter-protest by Sussex Friends of Israel, the Zionist Federation and the Israel Advocacy Movement. They displayed placards demanding ‘Peace Not Hate’ and Israeli flags.

This group reserved its loudest and most angry shouting for the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta Jews who came and stood facing them from a wall in front of the US Embassy.

Much more on My London Diary:

Al Quds Day March
Supporters Stand Up for Israel

Hate Crime & Brexit

Sunday, July 2nd, 2023

Hate Crime & Brexit: I tend to think of Brexit as a hate crime, inflicted on the British nation by millionaires out to make a quick buck (or rather a few million) like Mogg, but this title refers to two quite different protests on Saturday 2nd July 2016, both Brexit related.

Love Islington – NO to Hate Crime – Highbury Fields

Hate Crime & Brexit

This protest in Islington was called by Islington Labour Party in reaction to the increase in hate crime against racial, faith and other minorities following the Brexit vote.

Hate Crime & Brexit

Speakers at the event included local MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry, London Assembly members Jennette Arnold and Caroline Russell, faith leaders, including a gay Catholic priest, a leader of the Somali community, Richard Reiser of DPAC, the leader of Islington council and councillors.

Hate Crime & Brexit

They came to declare that Islington was proud to be a diverse, tolerant and cohesive community with good relations between all who live there, regardless of race, faith, sexual orientation, disability and transgender identity, and to urge everyone to stand up against hate crimes and report any incidents to the police.

Hate Crime & Brexit

For once one of my pictures was picked up by some of the national press, not to talk about the event or the problem of hate crimes and the role of the Brexit referendum in encouraging some very nasty characters out from under their stones, but to make snooty remarks about the jacket which Jeremy Corbyn was wearing. The obviously saw it as another Michael Foot donkey jacket moment.

Foot of course did not wear a donkey jacket at the Cenotaph in November 1981. He wore a short, blue-green Jaeger overcoat bought by his wife at Harrods so he would look smart, and on which the Queen Mother complimented him on. But the press was out to get him and the lie, invented by a right-wing Labour MP, stuck.

I had taken the pictures of Corbyn while wearing a jacket very similar to his, appropriate for the weather that rather cool July morning. Mine certainly didn’t come from a charity shop, and I’ve no idea whether his did but if so he was fortunate to find it and made a very sensible decision to purchase it.

Pictures of the other speakers and more at Love Islington – NO to Hate Crime.

March & Rally For Europe against Brexit

More than 50,000 people marched through London to a rally in Parliament Square to show their love for the EU and in protest against the lies and deception from both sides of the EU referendum campaign.

Many feel that the result did not truly reflect the will of the people and that the majority was too small to be a mandate for such a drastic change.

David Cameron had been so convinced that the result would be to remain in Europe that he had failed to act rationally. It was a decision that has dramatically changed our nation and one that in any sensible system should have required a truly decisive majority, rather than just creeping past halfway at 51.8%.

I was raised in a church where all decisions were made by consensus, with discussions continuing until all were willing to agree, often requiring considerable concessions on all sides. It was sometimes a rather slow process.

Since I’ve belonged to other organisations where constitutional changes required a two-thirds majority. Perhaps this is a little too high, but the Brexit vote was hardly a mandate with only 37.4% of those registered to vote backing it.

We’ve now begun to see what Brexit means in practice, with many of the problems dismissed as false by Brexit campaigners becoming evident, while few if any of the advantages they trumpeted have appeared. Last month an opinion poll showed that 55% now think Brexit a mistake while only 32% think it was a good decision, and their number continues to fall. But there doesn’t seem any easy way out of this mess, though perhaps a new government that understands how to negotiate would one day help ease some of the worst effects.

The march was a huge one. I had arrived at Hyde Park Corner just as it was starting and it was over 90 minutes later that I left the end of the march as its end was getting close to Green Park station less than half a mile away. I took the Jubilee Line the single stop from there to Westminster and only arrived in time for the last few minutes of the rally which had begun and only heard the two final speakers, David Lammy MP and Bob Geldorf speaking to a packed Parliament Square. Marchers were still arriving there after the rally had finished but I went home.

Mand more pictures on My London Diary:
March For Europe against Brexit
Rally For Europe against Brexit

Brexit, Fridays For Future & Turkey

Wednesday, March 29th, 2023

I’d not been well for a few days in March 2019 and was still feeling rather weak and tired on Friday 29th March, but decided to go up to London and cover some events happening in and around Parliament Square. But I found I wasn’t really well enough, and had to leave and come home much earlier than I had intended, before things were expected to get rather livelier later in the day when extreme right protesters were expected to march join those already in the square.

Brexiteers protest Betrayal – Parliament Square

Brexit, Fridays For Future & Turkey
‘Clean out the Augean Stables’ was doubtless the kind of snappy slogan that would appeal to Rees-Mogg

Friday 29th March had been the original deadline for the UK to leave the EU established when Theresa May triggered Article 50 and this was approved by the House of Commons, officially notifying the European Council of its intention to leave.

Brexit, Fridays For Future & Turkey

But things had not gone to plan, Parliament had dithered and there had been no real attempt to make the necessary negotiations for our departure – and indeed these have only really been completed with the Windsor Framework more or less agreed a month ago. Boris Johnson won an election on his promise of an ‘oven-ready agreement’ but this turned out as might have been expected to be half-baked.

Brexit, Fridays For Future & Turkey

Even with the agreement over the Irish border – if it proves workable, much still need to be agreed to really sort out our relationship with the EU and get things back to normal, though even that will be rather unsatisfactory compared with EU membership.

Brexiteers came to Parliament Square to protest against this failure to leave by the deadline, holding posters and banners. Later a ‘Leave Means Leave’ march arrived with two Orange marching bands.

There was a lot of noisy shouting and some MPs who walked through the crowd were subjected to angry abuse, while a few who were ardent supporters of Brexit stopped riedly to talk with the protesters.

There were also a few Remain supporters, and while I was present they were largely ignored by the Brexiteers and the atmosphere remained generally calm. Among them was #EUsupergirl Madeleina Kay dressed as Britannia.

But after a couple of hours I was feeling very out of breath and weak and decided I was in no state to continue working, particularly as things were expected to get rather more heated as the extreme right Tommy Robinson and the Democratic Football Lads Alliance were expected to arrive shortly.

Brexiteers protest Betrayal

Fridays for Future climate protest – Parliament Square

Although the Brexiteers were the largest and noisiest group in Parliament Square, others were also protesting and I photographed them too.

The school strike for climate was one of many weekly #FridaysForFuture events taking place in many cities and towns across the world. These protests were inspired by the action of 15-year old Greta Thunberg who instead of going back to school at the end of the Summer break in August broke the law by protesting outside the Swedish Parliament.

Fridays for Future climate protest

Kurds support hunger strikers – Houses of Parliament

On the pavement in front of Parliament as I was getting ready to leave I photographed a group of Kurds who were protesting in solidarity with hunger strikers in Turkey, some of whom had been on hunger strike since November.

The strikes began on November 7th and were against the imprisonment of members of the HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) and the Free Women’s Congress, as well as many journalists, socialists and LGBTI+ campaigners. A number of Kurds in the UK have also gone on hunger strike in sympathy, including two of those taking part in this protest.

Leading the hunger strike in Turkey was HDP MP Leyla Güven, on indefinite hunger strike for over 110 days, vowing to continue until death unless the isolation of Kurdish Leader Abudullah Ocalan in prison was ended – and called an end to her hunger strike in May when this happened, having kept alive by consuming only Vitamin B and salty and sugary liquids.

The UK government continues to support Turkey as a fellow member of NATO despite the continuing human rights abuses there. Ocalan and many other Kurds remain in jail and many Kurds have been killed.

Kurds support hunger strikers

Brexit Day – 31 January 2020

Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

The UK finally left the on 31st January 2020. The wrong decision taken for the wrong reasons and one which we will continue to suffer from for many more years.

But having thrown out the baby the government are still busily throwing out the bath water. Three years on their are just some small signs that our government is beginning to realise this and finally get down to some serious dialogue with the EU over at least some of the problems it has caused rather than make threats and silly demands. Though any progress is still likely to be blocked by the Tory far right, at least until the next General Election.

But on that day, three years ago, there were groups in Westminster both celebrating and regretting Brexit, and I spent some time photographing both of them.

Brexiteers celebrate leaving the EU – Parliament Square

Brexit Day - 31 January 2020

I arrived in Parliament Square long before the more official celebrations were due to begin, but it was already beginning to fill up with Brexiteers, many with Union Flags, celebrating.

Brexit Day - 31 January 2020

Some had placards and posters repeating the idle hopes on which much of the Leave campaign had encouraged – and lied about. By now perhaps some at least will be realising that much of what they had been promised was illusory. It’s really hard to find anything positive that has come out of Brexit which has left a huge trail of broken promises.

Brexit Day - 31 January 2020

Of course the people who made most of these never believed them. They supported leaving because it would enrich them greatly and never mind the nation. Some made huge profits, others were more concerned about protecting their obscene wealth from an EU that was beginning to tighten restrictions on offshore funds and other scams.

Brexit Day - 31 January 2020

But the in main, most just came with union flags and posters about being ‘free’, ironic when we now have a government that has done more to restrict our freedoms than any other in our history, and is still hell-bent on removing much of the protections on our liberty which came from not just the EU, but also from the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights which our government in 1948 played a central role in establishing.

The UK parliaments The Human Rights Act 1998 incorporated the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into domestic British law. In its new bill, the UK will join with Russia and Greece (when under military dictatorship), as the only countries to have abandoned the ECHR.

There were just a few of the more lunatic fringe present and I largely managed to avoid them. I left a couple of hours before the square really became crowded – the official celebrations were timed for much later in the day.

Brexiteers celebrate leaving the EU

British National (Overseas) Passport Holders – Old Palace Yard

There were more union flags a few yards away in Old Palace Yard, but this turned out not to have any direct connection with Brexit. Holders of British National (Overseas) Passports from Hong Kong were calling for the UK government to identify BNO holders as British Nationals and grant their children British Nationality.

BNO passports were a device invented in the talks between China and the UK over the future of Hong Kong, and give no right of abode in the UK and the special status is not passed onto children. Only those who could provide evidence of not being of Chinese origin qualified for them. These were sham passports, a compromise driven by both British institutional racism refusing to give full British citizenship to the Chinese and Chinese nationalism wanting to keep Chinese as citizens of China.

Further repression in Hong Kong led exactly a year later to the UK Government setting up an immigration route on 31 January 2021, providing British National (Overseas) passport holders from Hong Kong and their eligible dependants with the opportunity to come to the UK to live, study and work, on a pathway to citizenship. The government stated that this reflected the UK’s historic and moral commitment to those people of Hong Kong who chose to retain their ties to the UK by taking these passports.

British National (Overseas) Passports

Extremist Brexiteers Behaving Badly – Whitehall

Supporters of staying in the European Union had come to Downing Street for procession to the European Commission at Europe House in Smith Square to say goodbye. Extreme right wing Brexiteers came there to abuse and attack them, with police trying hard to keep the two groups apart.

A few tried to talk reasonably with the EU supporters, but most were there just to shout insults and gloat that we were leaving, calling them traitors and telling them they were not British, bad losers and more.

Police eventually moved them away to the centre of Whitehall facing the pro-EU group. There, surrounded by photographers they tried to set fire to EU flags. This proved difficult as the flags were nylon which doesn’t burn well and had to be assisted, mainly by a flammable aerosol spray.

Extremist Brexiteers Behaving Badly

À bientôt EU, see you soon

Finally the procession of EU supporters set off on their march from Downing Street to the European Commission at Europe House in Smith Square.

They went to “bid a fond farewell to our much loved friends in the EU, hoping that we will be united again one day soon“. As the organisers wrote, for many this “may be a sad day but let’s celebrate the 47 years we were in the EU and all we contributed and the positive influence it has on our country.”

The march had been organised to take place much earlier in the day than the official Brexit celebrations in an attempt to avoid any confrontation, but as well as the few extremists who came along to cause trouble at Downing Street there there were continued jeers from Brexiteers as they made their way down Whitehall and through Parliament Square.

At Europe House staff came out to greet them and were handed flowers as they bid goodbye, celebrating 47 years of cooperation and hoping that we will be reunited with Europe before too long. As they said outside Europe House, they are no longer remainers but rejoiners.

I finished my report: “I went home. I’d had enough of Brexit. We will have to live with its consequences for some years and I’m not looking forward to it. Times are likely to be tough for the poor, the disabled, the sick and for workers generally, including most of those who voted for it and were celebrating in Parliament Square. The wealthy will of course gain – not least by avoiding the clamp down on tax evasion which the EU is now beginning.”

À bientôt EU, see you soon

Save the NHS – Lewisham 2013

Thursday, January 26th, 2023

Save Lewisham Hospital March & Rally – Saturday 26 January 2013

Save the NHS - Lewisham 2013

On Saturday 26th January 2013 an estimated 25,000 people marched through Lewisham to save their hospital from closure and to protect the NHS, showing south London united against the closure on pure financial grounds of its highly successful and much needed A&E and maternity departments.

Save the NHS - Lewisham 2013

Now the whole NHS is facing a crisis, and a similar united response across the country is needed to save it. It becomes clearer and clearer that this crisis has been deliberately engineered in order to destroy our health service and hand it over to private providers, particularly the US health giants.

Save the NHS - Lewisham 2013

Two years ago, US health insurance giant Centene Corporation took over 49 NHS GP surgeries and practices. Now as Jeremy Corbyn posted a couple of days ago on Facebook, “US health insurance giant, Centene, is the single largest provider of NHS primary care in England. Privatisation is the cause of — not the solution to — the NHS crisis. Stop wasting money on private contracts and start investing in a fully-public NHS instead.

Save the NHS - Lewisham 2013

Unfortunately both Tory and Labour parties have taken part in the move towards privatisation of the NHS, though Tories have been more open in their support of such changes as suggesting the introduction of charges to see a doctor. But both parties have introduced changes which have brought private companies into providing NHS services, have taken large donations from private health companies, and have leading members who profit from them.

It was under Labour that the NHS took on poorly thought out Private Finance Initiative contracts that have landed many local health trusts with huge debt repayments, many of which extend to the middle of the century, and it was these which led to the crisis in Lewisham.

The PFI contracts were negotiated by civil servants and were and are a bonanza for private companies. Under them we pay totally ridiculous charges for simple jobs – such as Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust paying £8,450 to install a dishwasher because they are locked into maintenance contracts. Changing a light bulb can cost a couple of hundred pounds.

Lewisham Hospital wasn’t directly affected by PFI, but it was in 2009 put into the South London Hospitals Trust, which had two hospitals at Orpington and Woolwich whose PFI contracts saddled the trust with debts of over £60 million a year until 2032.

Lewisham Hospital was successful both medically and financially, but Health Secretary Andrew Lansley appointed a special administrator to the trust with a remit to drastically cut the trusts costs. And Matthew Kershaw decided to do so by closing the highly successful and much needed A&E and maternity departments at Lewisham.

It was a decision that made no sense. There wasn’t the spare capacity at other hospitals to cope with those no longer able to get treatment at Lewisham – the system was actually working in the other direction, with these other hospitals having to send patients to Lewisham.

Financially it made no sense – the patients would still require treatment and this would cost more elsewhere. The small annual savings the closure would give would be more than offset by increases in costs elsewhere – though some of these might be in other trusts.

The proposal generated an incredible amount of local opposition, with the campaign to save the hospital supported by all local MPs and policitician both in the area and across south London. Community groups and organisations all came together to save the hospital – Millwall football club even changed their weekend fixture to Friday night so the team and supporters could join the march.

As I wrote back in 2013, “The fight to save Lewisham Hospital isn’t just a local issue, but very much a national one, with the provision of medical services that form the bedrock of the NHS under attack. If the government can close down services at Lewisham, no other successful hospital in the UK is safe in their hands.”

Nurses and ambulance workers are now striking not just for a better deal for themselves, but for the future of the NHS, which the Tories have deliberately run down with drastic underfunding and a deliberate failure to train and recruit staff. Perhaps their most obvious action was the removal of the bursary for nurse training, but as well there has been the continuing decrease in real salaries with below inflation wage rises over the years. Together with the failure to keep European staff in this country after Brexit and the impact of Covid the results have been disastrous – except for those private companies providing agency nurses and doctors, often at horrific cost to the NHS.

If the NHS is to be saved it will need the kind of public mobilisation that saved Lewisham Hospital, with the people as a whole getting behind the nurses and doctors and others who are fighting to save it. We need to fight the policies and greed of the Tories and of Labour and of the billionaire press to preserve the NHS as a national service free at the point of use and organised for the national good rather than for profit.

More pictures at Save Lewisham Hospital

Striking Days

Saturday, December 24th, 2022

London, UK. 15th Dec 2022. Around a thousand people, including nurses and supporters came to a lunchtime protest outside St Thomas’s Hospital on the approach to Westminster Bridge

I’ve been sitting in front of my computer for around half an hour wondering what I should write about for Christmas Eve. I tried looking back at what I’d done in previous years – all in the blog archive on the right of this page which goes back to 2006 (though I didn’t post anything on December 24th until the following year) but all that did was depress me as so many of my earlier posts seemed rather more interesting and better written than more recent entries, and much wider in scope.

London, UK. 15th Dec 2022.

This year seems likely to be a very quiet Christmas for me, and the reason is largely Covid and other infections. Although Christmas and Boxing Day will be much the same both my sons have cancelled planned visits home with their families because of the huge prevalence of disease at the moment and the risks they might cause both to vulnerable adults like us (I’m an ancient diabetic) and their families.

London, UK. 15th Dec 2022.

Of course I’ve had all the Covid jabs – I think four so far – and the flu vaccination and it’s perhaps why I seem at the moment to be doing better than some of my mainly rather younger friends. Last Wednesday four of us cancelled a final get-together before Christmas for a meal together as one had Covid and another was in bed with another virus.

London, UK. 15th Dec 2022.

But I do feel very depressed and angry. Mainly at the terrible mess our government have made of the country particularly in the last year, but also over the longer term. Truss’s nightmare government which resulted in the waste of many billions in a few days, Sunak as Chancellor and now PM and the longer term disastrous effects of Brexit and austerity. And longer term still the truly crazy privatisation of key industries such as gas, water, electricity, railways and the creeping back-door privatisation of the NHS with ‘reforms’ which have been largely about opening it to private profit.

London, UK. 20 Dec 2022.

Things do now seem to be coming to a head, with workers seeing wages clearly leaving them unable to cope with increases in prices of energy and food, as well as rises in rents and mortgages, and strikes across the public sector as well in the privatised postal service. Even some of the right-wing press have begun to desert the Tories for their incompetence – as Labour has moved and is beginning to look like a more economically competent right-wing party. And even the BBC has begun to pick up some of the more blatant lies made by ministers about the nurses.

London, UK. 20 Dec 2022.

One thing I’ve not posted much if at all about this year is my continuing photography on the streets of London, largely covering protests. I don’t do as much as I did in earlier years, but I’ve still been going out and working a few days each month since the lock-down ended. And although I’ve not been keeping My London Diary up to date, as well as filing the pictures to Alamy I’ve also been putting them in albums on Facebook.

London, UK. 20 Dec 2022.

The cold spell made it difficult for me to get out earlier in the month and rail strikes have made it impossible for me to get to some other events. But both days when the nurses were striking I went to photograph them, on the first strike day outside St Thomas’s Hospital and the second a rally at University College London Hospital followed by a march. The pictures with this post are from these two events. You can view more from both days by following the links in the previous sentence and see these pictures larger by right-clicking and choosing to open them in a new tab.

Rainy London – XR Strength in Grief Procession

Wednesday, October 12th, 2022

Rainy London - XR Strength in Grief Procession

Saturday 12th October 2019 was a rainy day in London, but that didn’t stop people coming to take part in Extinction Rebellion’s Strength in Grief procession from Marble Arch to Russell Square, although probably it rather kept the numbers rather lower. I don’t like photographing in the rain, but in London you have to be prepared for it, though I still have problems.

While you can try to keep cameras dry, you can’t take pictures without exposing the front of the lens to the weather. It’s less of a problem if you work with long lenses that have lens hoods that help to keep raindrops off the lens, but if like me you mainly use wide-angles anything that would help much to keep the lens surface dry would be in the picture.

I work clutching a cloth or chamois leather in my hand and try to wipe off any drops immediately before taking each picture, but still a proportion of them are ruined as rain falls before I press the shutter release. But worse still, with humidity high lenses steam up on inner elements and become unusable – zoom lenses more so as zooming draws in or expresses air from the lens. On some occasions I’ve been left only able to use a fixed focal length fisheye, or simply have to go somewhere warm and dry for to restore lenses to use.

Trade Unionists join the Rebellion – Trafalgar Square

Rainy London - XR Strength in Grief Procession
Ian Hodson, National President of the Baker’s Union BFAWU

My working day began in Trafalgar Square, where trade unionists were holding a rally to show their solidarity with Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikers. Unlike the government they recognise that the climate and ecological emergency means that the very future of life on this planet is at stake and we need to take radical action without delay to avoid catastrophe.

Rainy London - XR Strength in Grief Procession

They joined the huge number of scientists and others in what Liz Truss has now stigmatised as the ‘anti-growth coalition’ of those who haven’t firmly buried their heads in the ground to realise that we need deeds not words urgently. As David Attenborough put it, “Anyone who believes in indefinite growth on a physically finite planate is either mad, or an economist.” Though a shortsighted economist. Many of those present went on to join XR’s procession later.

Trade Unionists join the Rebellion

Brexit unfair for EU citizens – Trafalgar Square

Also in Trafalgar Square were protesters from the 3million organisation who had come to express their love for the UK and to remind the Prime Minister of the broken promise made to them on 1 June 2016 when Vote Leave had stated “There will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK. EU citizens will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be treated no less favourably than they are at present.”

Instead they have had to apply for permission to remain, and many who have applied have not been granted settled status. Recently Government minister Brandon Lewis had stated that they are at risk of deportation.

They had come prepared for the weather with ponchos in the blue and yellow colours of the European flag. They held up copies of Vote Leave’s broken promise and tore it up.

Brexit unfair for EU citizens

XR Strength in Grief Procession

October 12th is the Day of Indigenous Resistance on the anniversary of Colombus’s landing in the Americas. The procession began with a rally at Marble Arch where speakers included those from various indigenous communities and women from the Global Women’s Strike who spoke about the climate crisis which is already killing thousands in the Global South as well as others who spoke on the power of grief.

Eventually the funeral procession set off past Marble Arch and along Oxford St, led by XR’s Red Brigade.

Behind them came skeletons, a jazz funeral band and many people carrying coffins, banners and placards and expressing their profound grief at the extinction of species taking place due to global warming and which threatens the future of human life.

I began at the head of the procession, then stopped on Oxford Street to photograph the rest of the marchers as they came along the street.

By now I was wet, my cameras were getting wet, and I was getting cold and I decided to leave rather than continue with the procession to its final rally in Russell Square.

Much more at XR Strength in Grief Procession.

End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out!

Saturday, July 16th, 2022

End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out! The main event I covered on Saturday 16th July was a march and rally organised by the the People’s Assembly and Stand Up To Racism as an emergency demonstration after the Brexit referendum result a few weeks earlier. But I also photographed three other events, two on the edges of this and the first totally unrelated.

Falun Dafa march against Chinese repression – Regent St

End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out!

I hadn’t been aware that practitioners of Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong), an advanced Buddhist practice of moral rectitude, meditation and exercise founded by Mr Li Hongzhi in 1992, were to be marching through London to protest the continuing torture and repression they have experience in China since 1999, and simply came across them as I walked up Regent Street towards the BBC where the People’s Assembly march was gathering.

End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out!

I think I had first photographed Falun Gong when they took part in the Westminster New Year’s Day Parade back in 2004 but I had taken pictures of them quite a few times since then, both at major events and the regular protests that they hold. They have maintained a small permanent 24 hour protest opposite the Chinese Embassy in Portland Place for many years.

End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out!

In China, Falun Dafa have been subjected to forced labour, psychiatric abuse, torture and even execution to supply human organs for Chinese transplant operations since they were targeted in an antireligious campaign by the Chinese Communist Party in 1999. In earlier years the party had encouraged the movement and the spiritual practices from which Falung Dafa emerged as an extremist form. While Falun Dafa is a cult with some beliefs that endanger its adherents and many would find abhorrent this in no way justifies their criminal persecution in China.

Falun Dafa march against Chinese repression

End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out! – BBC, Regent St

The People’s Assembly and Stand Up To Racism march had chosen to start outside the BBC, as I wrote “in the forlorn hope that they might for once cover a protest in Britain properly. Many marching and at the rally showed great support for Jeremy Corbyn as our next prime minister – and the only hope of a future for the Labour Party.” Unfortunately that was not to be – and we are suffering now.

Many of those urging the public to vote to leave Europe in the months leading up to the referendum had represented this as a way we could control immigration to this country, and had deliberately stirred up racist fears. The result had been an increase in racist and other hate attacks, particularly directed against refugees and asylum seekers. Many were on the march to support the human and civil rights and show solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers against the upsurge in racism and hate attacks.

The Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, first announced in 2012 by then Home Secretary Theresa May was cited, according to Wikipedia, “as one of the harshest immigration policies in the history of the United Kingdom, and has been widely criticised as inhumane, ineffective, and unlawful” with the UN Human Rights Council finding it fostered xenophobia and the Equality and Human Rights Commission finding it broke equalities law – and of course it led to the Windrush scandal.

I took pictures of the people preparing to march and walked with it a short distance down Regent Street before leaving to cover two other events before returning to the rally at the end of the march.

End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out!

Cleaners Flash Mob at CBRE London HQ – Marylebone

One of the groups taking part in the march were United Voices of the World supporters including some of those taking part in the long strike – then on its 38th day – at 100 Wood Street in the City of London.

Ian Hodson, BFAWU

They had told me they were going to leave the march for a short ‘flash mob’ at the headquarters of the CBRE who run 100 Wood Street which was around a quarter of a mile from the march route.

I’d stayed behind for a few minutes photographing the marchers before I left to run after them. When I arrived they had already gone into t he office foyer and were protesting inside, but the doors had been locked. I took a few pictures through the large glass doors but was then able to get inside for a minute or two as some started to leave. After taking a few pictures of the group in front of the offices I ran off to find a small protest by the EDL which had been organised to oppose the day’s big march with a rally in Hyde Park.

Cleaners Flash Mob at CBRE London HQ

EDL march and rally – Hyde Park

Few EDL members had turned up for the event, well under a hundred, but they were easy to find as there were several times as many police who had turned up to prevent any trouble between them and anti-fascists and were marching as a loose cordon around them down Park Lane.

A few anti-fascist had come to oppose them, but most had left to join the main march after seeing how few of the EDL had turned up. Police escorted the EDL into the park, where they had set up a pen for their protest, but they refused to march into it. After some heated arguments with police the the EDL stewards calmed down the others and they agreed to hold their rally in front of the pen instead of in it.

There was a small incident when a woman walked past on the opposite side of the protest to me and shouted ‘Black Lives Matter’; stewards rushed towards her and manhandled her rather roughly away while a large group of police stood by watching but failed to intervene.

EDL march and rally

Peoples Assembly/Stand Up to Racism rally – Parliament Square

Jeremy Corbyn was there on a hat

I took the tube to Westminster and joined the crowd relaxing after the march in a sunny Parliament Square. Whereas the Hyde Park rally had been full of bitterness and hate, here the mood was much warmer and positive, though there was considerable anger expressed against government policies by the many speakers.

Zita Holbourne of BARAC and PCS holds up her ‘We Stand with Jeremy Corbyn’ poster

But while I’d been kept out out the small crowd in Hyde Park by police and stewards, here I was free to walk around and people were happy to be photographed. It was a totally different atmosphere.

I didn’t photograph every speaker, but you can see I think thirteen of them in my pictures from the event, as well as many pictures of the others standing or sitting on the grass to listen to them. Perhaps the most interesting was an asylum seeker, brought to the microphone by Antonia Bright from Movement for Justice, who spoke briefly about her experiences in our racist asylum system.

Peoples Assembly/Stand Up to Racism rally