Posts Tagged ‘Fuel poverty’

Tax Robbery, Racism & John Lewis

Monday, March 21st, 2022

Tax Robbery, Racism & John Lewis. Saturday 21st March 2015 was another busy day for me in London, covering protests against the criminal activities of UK banks, a large march and rally against racism in the UK (and a few racists opposing this) and customers of John Lewis calling on the company to treat its cleaners fairly.


Great British Tax Robbery – HSBC, Regent St.

UK Uncut campaigners arrived at the HSBC Regent St branch dressed as detectives and robbers to highlight the bank’s crimes in causing the financial crash and tax dodging, which have led to drastic cuts in vital public services and welfare and attempt a ‘Citizen’s Arrest’.

UK Uncut had a clear message for both HSBC and the government, accusing them of being criminals:

The government told us they’d “protect the poorest and most vulnerable”. They said “those with the broadest shoulders will bear the brunt of the cuts”. And what have we seen? Dismantling the NHS and wrecking the welfare state. Cutting schools, youth clubs, sure start centres, domestic violence refuges and libraries. Slashing local council budgets. Attacking disabled people with inhumane ‘work capability assessments’ and cuts to vital benefits. Removing access to justice through legal aid cuts. Allowing the big six energy companies to push people into fuel poverty. Cutting jobs, wages and pensions. Selling off social housing and moving people away from their communities. Driving hundreds of thousands into food banks and making families choose between heating or eating

My London Diary, March 2015

The bank closed a few minutes before the protesters arrived and kept its doors shut as the protesters’ ‘forensic team’ chalked around ‘crime victims’ on the ground and put crime scene tape around the area, sealing off the door with a banner. There was a speech from a NHS campaigner from East London about the effects of the cuts on the NHS and ‘criminals’ with HSBC on their chests posed for pictures. After a few minutes the protest was ended as many of those taking part were, like me, joining the Anti-Racism protest.

Great British Tax Robbery


Stand Up to Racism March – BBC to Trafalgar Square

Thousands came to the Stand Up to Racism march from the BBC to Trafalgar Square to reject the scapegoating of immigrants, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and to celebrate the diversity of Britain, with the message ‘Migrants are Welcome Here!

The march began at the BBC, who campaigners accuse of having a policy of ignoring protests in the UK, especially those against government policies – such as the racist hounding of immigrants under their ‘hostile environment’.

Among those marching were DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts. Government policies have also targeted disabled people, cutting benefits and subjecting them to unfair ‘fitness to work’ tests which largely ignore medical evidence.

Stand Up to Racism March


Britain First Protests anti-Racist March – Piccadilly Circus

A small and rather sad extreme right-wing group stood on the steps around Eros waving flags and shouting insults at the anti-racist marchers as the thousands marched past. It was a reminder of the kind of bigotry the great majority were marching against.

Some of the marchers paused to shout back at them, while others followed the advice of the march stewards and ignored the small group. There were a few scuffles but generally police kept the two groups apart, though later I learnt that after I had gone past a group of anti-fascists had seized the Britain First banner.

Britain First Protests anti-Racist March


Stand Up to Racism Rally – Trafalgar Square

Lee Jasper holds up a large poster responding to Trevor Phillips saying he is not a criminal, murderer or thief

Several thousand who had marched to ‘Stand up to Racism’ through London stayed on to listen to speeches at a rally in Trafalgar Square.

Speakers included Owen Jones, Jeremy Corbyn, Zita Holbourne, Omer El Hamdoon, Lee Jasper and many others, whose photographs you can see on My London Diary.

Stand Up to Racism Rally


John Lewis customers support Living Wage – Oxford St

John Lewis is a company proud of its history and its reputation as a company based on its constitution as the UK’s largest employee owned business with both John Lewis and Waitrose owned in Trust by its 80,000 ‘partners’. They say everyone who works in its stores are not just employees, but a partners in the company, and in almost every year they enjoy a share in its profits.

Everyone who works there, except the cleaners who play a vital role in the proper running of the stores. John Lewis gets out of making them partners by using other companies to employ them and provide the cleaning as a service, choosing its cleaning company through competitive tendering. Cleaning companies cut wages and conditions of service such as sick pay, maternity pay, pensions, holiday pay to the bone – usually the absolute legal minimum – so they can put in low tenders and still make good profits. They exploit the workers – a largely migrant workforce with limited job opportunities – while John Lewis can claim it isn’t them who are doing so and try to maintain their reputation as a good employer.

For some years the cleaners have been protesting to get a living wage and also for John Lewis to recognise their responsibility as the actual company the cleaners are providing a service to. They want to be treated equally with the others who work in the stores, rather than the second-class employees they are now. The least John Lewis could do would be to insist on contractors paying the living wage and giving employees decent conditions of service as a condition of tender, but they had refused to take any responsibility.

Many customers of John Lewis – a very middle-class group – back the cleaners’ case for fair and equal treatment, and a few had come to hand out flyers and talk to shoppers to back their case in a very restrained protest. One of them told me it was the first time she had ever taken part in any protest. They were supported by a few members of the cleaners union, the IWGB, who had brought some of their posters.

John Lewis customers support Living Wage


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Alevi, Flag Wavers, Fuel Poverty & A Party

Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

Alevi, Flag Wavers, Fuel Poverty & A Party – London on Saturday February 16th 2013


Alevi Protest Discrimination in Turkey & UK

The Alevi are Turkey’s largest religious minority, with between 10 and 20 million of them living in the country and worshipping in their own language. Their religion is Islamic but men and women worship together, and women are not required to cover their hair and poetry, music and dance are central to their worship. It is a distinct form of Muslim religion which is related to Shi’ism, which contrasts with the official Turkish Sunni practice.

It is a religion that cuts across Turkey’s ethnic groups, and although most Alevi are ethnic Turks about a quarter of Turkey’s Kurds are also Alevi. They have been persecuted in Turkey for centuries, often attacked and sometimes killed, and are not allowed to build worship houses. While Christian and Jewish children are exempted from the compulsory Sunny Islam religious classes in Turkish schools, Alevi are not.

Their protest in Trafalgar Square called for democracy in Turkey and an end to discrimination and persecution, and an end to the compulsory religious education. They also called for the UK government to live up to its responsibilities for all immigrant communities whose views they say are ignored here, calling on immigrants to ‘Unite and Fight’ to get political representation that would demand equal treatment over health and education and fighting crime.

Alevi Protest Discrimination in Turkey & UK


Defend the Union Flag

The Defend the Union Flag protest was called by the ‘South-East Alliance’ a small extreme right anti-immigration group of former English Defence League, whose leader Paul Pitt was thrown out of the EDL in 2012 to support Loyalists in Belfast who were protesting against a decision that the Union Flag should only be flown on the City Hall there on 18 designated days.

The protest was supported by other extreme right groups, notably Britain First, whose leader Paul Golding and Northern Ireland organiser Jim Dowson also spoke at the rally.

It was an uncomfortable event to photograph, and I received a number of threats and warnings from some of those taking party who I recognised from earlier protests I’d covered by the BNP, March for the Flag, EDL and Britain First, though many mistake me for another photographer who worked for Searchlight. A few who knew me were more friendly and came to talk with me. Although I’ve always made clear that I have different views, I’ve also tried to report these events objectively as a journalist.

Defend the Union Flag


Fuel Poverty Rally & DAN Roadblock

Back in 2013 we were also being faced with rising fuel bills, and Fuel Poverty Action had organised a national day of action. In London this began with a rally outside the Department of Energy and Climate Change on Whitehall and was then followed by a road block on Whitehall led by the Disabled Peoples Direct Action Network, DAN.

The rally on the pavement was crowded and was supported by Disabled People Against Cuts, Greater London Pensioners’ Association, Redbridge Pensioners’ Forum, Southwark Pensioners’ Action Group, Global Women’s Strike and others.

Cuts and price rises meant then that one in four families now has to choose between heating their homes adequately or eating properly. Many children now go to school hungry and even the wealthiest suburban areas now need to have churches and others setting up food banks for those unable to buy food.

The government had cut services and cut benefits as a part of their austerity programme. Their energy policy is largely dictated by the Big Six energy companies, who continue to increase their profits while the consumers of energy suffer and had largely ignored the pressing need to increase renewable energy and cut power generation for gas and coal that was powering global warming.

When DAN blocked the road, with some in wheelchairs chaining them together, the rally continued and police stood back and watched, diverting traffic away. After around 15 minutes they came to try and persuade them to leave the road. The arguments continued for around another 15 minutes, after which the protesters agreed they would leave in around a further 10 minutes. But I had to leave before they did so as I had a party to go to.

Fuel Poverty Rally & DAN Roadblock


Reclaim Love Valentines Party

The 11th Reclaim Love free Valentine’s Party took place around Eros in Piccadilly Circus, aiming to spread peace and love around the world, and to reclaim love from its commercial exploitation.

I had been held up photographing the DAN roadblock and had missed the major part of the event when several hundred people held hands in a large circle around Eros, chanting together ‘May All The Beings In All The Worlds Be Happy & At Peace’. But it was good to meet up with some friends and take some pictures.

Venus Cumara, the originator of this annual event in 2003 told me this was this was the last she would organise and I made sure to get plenty of pictures of her. We occasionally talked about producing a book on the event together, but it hasn’t happened, though perhaps I might do so on my own one day.

As I wrote back in 2013:

There are really very few such spontaneous events in London like this, and this is unique in central London. I’ve photographed most of these events and I hope that they will continue with others taking over the running in future years.

Reclaim Love Valentines Party

You can read more about all four events and see many more pictures on My London Diary:
Reclaim Love Valentines Party
Fuel Poverty Rally & DAN Roadblock
Defend the Union Flag
Alevi Protest Discrimination in Turkey & UK


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Fuel Poverty and Independent Living 2014

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Disabled activists were prominent, along with pensioners at the Fuel Poverty Action FPA) protest outside the British Gas AGM taking place at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster. And when that protest ended they made their way to the Dept of Work & Pensions protest against plans to end the Independent Living Fund.

There were over 10,000 excess deaths in Winter 2013-4 because people could not afford to heat their homes, the situation exacerbated after British Gas raised its prices in November, gas by 10.4 %, electricity by 8.4 %. Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, made £2.5 billion in 2013.

FPA call for an increased investment in renewable energy, which in the long term will result in cheaper energy and will help us tackle climate change. But this isn’t popular with the big six energy companies (and the government which is led by their lobbyists) as it enables greater local generation and control of energy, threatening their monopoly of energy production and profits.

They say “Our energy system & economy are run to make private profit at all costs – our rights to warm home and a safe climate are sidelined. We’re being ripped off and left to freeze. We say: things have to change. We need and affordable. sustainable energy system owned by us, not big business.”

At the protest they launched their ‘Energy Bill of Rights’ with the following statements:

  • We all have the right to affordable energy to meet our basic needs.
  • We all have the right to energy that does not harm us, the environment, or the climate.
  • We all have the right to energy that does not threaten health, safety, water, air, or the local environment of a community.
  • We all have the right to a fair energy pricing that does not penalise those who use less.
  • We all have the right not to be cut off from energy supply.
  • We all have the right not to be forced to have a prepayment meter.
  • We all have the right to energy that is owned by us and run in our interests.
  • We all have the right to properly insulated, well repaired housing that does not waste energy.

They were joined by an actor carrying a skull, one of a group which had entered the Centrica AGM and performed Hamlet’s iconic monologue ‘To Heat or Eat, that is the question’ and repeated this for the protesters.

For a final photo opportunity, the protesters planted 100 small windmills made of British Gas bills in the grass outside the centre.

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) helps over 18,000 disabled people who have high support needs to live an independent life in the community rather than live in residential care. The funding is ring-fenced and is highly cost-effective compared with the costs of residential care, the care package costing on average £300 per person per week.

Despite this and a Court of Appeal ruling that the minister had not specifically considered the duties imposed by the Equality Act, and that the proposals were unlawful, the DWP announced in March 2014 that the scheme will end in June 2015. Responsibility for care will pass to the local authorities, and provision will be subject to the usual constraints and cuts of local authority expenditure.

At the centre of the protest was a small cage, with the message ‘NO ILF – NO LIFE’ across its top, and below the barred window ‘Without Support We Become Prisoners In Our Own Homes – Save the Independent Living Fund’. Squeezed into this was Paula Peters of DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, the group who had organised the protest.

Many at the protest were going on to lobby their MPs, and one who had travelled from Newcastle had phoned Mary Glindon, the Labour MP for North Tyneside, who came down the the protest. She tried to deliver a letter from the protesters to the DWP but was at first refused entry by the DWP security, though eventually they allowed her to do so through a side entrance away from the protest.


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.


November 2014 (3)

Friday, November 27th, 2020

Fortunately there was nothing in my diary for the last Thursday in November 2014, as I think it was probably past 2am before I had finished editing and filing my pictures from the two events on Wednesday evening. But on Friday it was another early start for me, though not very early, catching the first train on which I can travel at reduced – but still excessive – rail fares.

I’m fortunate to be reasonably well-off, largely thanks to pension contributions paid during 30 years of full-time employment, though by no means rich. More importantly I live in a house which we finished paying for around 25 years ago, and which, though not grand serves its purpose. It means that we can afford both to eat and to keep warm – though I’m typing this with an extra jumper on in a room that is sometimes cold enough for me to wear a woolly hat.

But for many – and particularly many who are elderly and disabled – the choice between keeping warm and eating is a desperate one, eased only slightly by the annual ‘Winter Fuel Payment’ of £200 per household. As I wrote in 2014, ‘The official statistics show that in the year 2012/2013 over 10,000 people died from fuel poverty, including thousands of people in London, and figures for last winter are likely to be higher.’

The protest by pensioners, Fuel Poverty Action and No Dash for Gas was against Energy UK, the lobbying organisation of the Big Six energy companies who together made profits of £3.7 billion in 2012/3, and they marched from Charing Cross Station to their Regent St offices, stopping on the way for a short action outside the Institute of Directors on Pall Mall.

They then held a 15 minute die-in stopping traffic on the road outside the Energy UK offices before continuing with a rally.


Later in the day I joined the Palestinian Prisoners Campaign for a protest outside the City offices of Hewlett Packard. Saturday was the ‘UK Stop Arming Israel’ day of action, but they came on Friday as the HP offices are closed at the weekend. HP is one of the 20 top US armaments companies and has a $6 billion investment in Israel where they provide the IT backbone for the entire Israeli war machine – from the army, to the navy, to the Ministry of Defense, as well as for the prisons and intelligence services, backing up the repression, imprisonment and torture of Palestinians.

The group protests regularly at companies providing support for the Israeli regime, and includes a number of Palestinian and Jewish protesters and is supported by the Islamic Inminds Human Rights Group which has links with Iran.


Finally I made my way to the Mexican Embassy in Mayfair for a protest over the disappearance and almost certain massacre of 43 Ayotzinapa college students in Iguala on 26 September who appear to have been arrested by police and handed over by the local mayor to the local crime syndicate Guerreros Unidos (“United Warriors”) to be murdered.

It was now quite dark and the street was badly lit – with most of what light there was coming from the windows of the buildings around. Many held posters with pictures of the missing students and asking in Spanish ‘Where are they now?’ but in seems very unlikely that any are still alive. Although the scale of this massacre caught the attention of the Mexican people – and briefly that of the world – unfortunately similar murders are not unusual in Mexico.

Two embassy staff came out to receive a letter to the Mexican government from the protesters and spent some minutes on the steps listening to the speeches.


More about all three events on My London Diary:
Solidarity with Mexican students
Stop Arming Israel protest at HP
No More Deaths from Fuel Poverty


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.