Posts Tagged ‘general election’

Harmondsworth – A Middlesex Village

Tuesday, April 12th, 2022

Harmondsworth – A Middlesex Village

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village

Going back to Harmondsworth feels very much like going back to my childhood as I grew up only a few miles away and lived for years on a bicycle cycling out from Hounslow and along country lanes through villages like this on the edges of London, before the M25 and M4 chopped up the country around here and the growing airport at Heathrow produced both sprawling new housing estates and a huge increase in traffic in the area.

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village

From 2003 to 2009 I took part in the protests against the plans to build another huge runway for Heathrow, which now only uses two though it was built with more on its existing site. The shorter runways were abandoned partly because planes grew larger. I was very pleased when one closed as on the few days a year when there were strong cross-winds it brought planes at low heights over my current home a couple of miles away, sometimes low enough to shake the whole building. I think building Terminal 4 which opened in 1986 put an end to its use.

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village
A mural across where the airport would end

We celebrated in 2009 when plans for a third runway were dropped, but the lobbyists for Heathrow expansion didn’t take no for an answer and persuaded the coalition government to set up the Davis Commission to put the plans back on the table again. The protest in Harmondsworth on Sunday 12th April 2015 was before the report came out, but its conclusion was predictable – and the one it had been set up to come to.

John Stewart of HACAN

Since then and the government’s acceptance of the case it made for expanding Heathrow, the world has changed, or at least our understanding of the future has. The case for airport expansion has disappeared and we now know that we have to have rapid decarbonisation of the economy to survive. Instead of looking forward to exponential growth we need to find ways to stabilise and reduce demand and aviation is one of the most climate-damaging sectors.

While Davis took as its basis that expansion is necessary to continue growth, it is now clear that expansion would be a disaster. At last I think that message is beginning to get through to our government, though too often it is still thinking in terms of short-term financial benefits to the pockets of its members and their friends.

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village

Harmondsworth is still one of the most interesting of the small villages on the fringes of London, with a fine church in its churchyard, and although its village green is a pocket handkerchief compared to many it still has a couple of pubs and some picturesque cottages along its north side. But the real gem of the village is tucked away immediately to the left, its magnificent Grade 1 listed Great Barn, built in 1426 , the largest surviving example all-timber barn which Sir John Betjeman called ‘the Cathedral of Middlesex’.

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village

In agricultural use until the 1980s, it was then allowed to decay until a public campaign strongly supported by the local MP John McDonnell persuaded English Heritage to take it over in 2012. They carried out a substantial restoration leading to it being re-opened to the public free of charge on selected days and it is managed by the Friends of the Great Barn at Harmondsworth. My pictures of the barn are not available for any editorial or commercial use.

On the 12th April 2015, the Datchet Border Morris were dancing inside the barn and around the village green during the day. The campaign to save the village (again!) was launched with a huge mural and speeches from all but one of the candidates standing for the area in the general election the following month. The Lib-Dem candidate also supported the campaign but had been sent the wrong date for the rally. Also present were campaigner John Stewart of HACAN, and five polar bears who had held a protest a few weeks earlier with the banner ‘Any New Runway Is Plane Stupid‘.

Harmondsworth - A Middlesex Village

The weather was fine and it was an interesting day – and warm enough for me to sit outside and eat a quick lunch in the garden of the Five Bells, before rushing to photograph the Morris performing again outside The Crown. And before leaving for home I went to take another look around the interior of the parish church, parts of which date from the 12th century.

More at Heathrow Villages fight for survival.


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Class War, Murdoch and Cross Bones

Monday, March 28th, 2022

Class War, Murdoch and Cross Bones – three rather different events around London on Saturday 28th March.

Jon Bigger Class War South Croydon – Purley, London

Class War, Murdoch and Cross Bones
Jon Bigger

Class War had decided to stand candidates in the 2015 General Election, and among those who volunteered to stand was Jon Bigger, now Dr John Bigger and the publisher of The Journal of Anarchy “a repository of work from published articles to blog posts, videos and podcasts.”

Class War, Murdoch and Cross Bones

Croydon South was probably not the most fertile ground for anarchism which was perhaps largely why it was chosen as one of the handful of seats for the party to fight. On the southern fringe of London it remains spiritually in deepest true-blue Surrey, one of the Conservatives’ safest seats in London. Though there was also a particular distaste for the Tory candidate Chris Philp who had called for benefit claimants to be forced to undertake unpaid community work, as well as calling for Purley to get a grammar school.

It wasn’t a very successful visit as although we went to what was considered to be the centre of Purley there were very few people about, and Bigger’s campaign speech was delivered to the small group of Class War supporters and one rather confused elderly gentleman at the Conservative Party Office. We found only a few more outside a nearby supermarket, where most customers seemed to be in two much of a hurry to get back into large cars to hear anything political.

As I wrote:

“Probably all of Purley was by this time slaughtered at home in front of the TV as the sun was definitely over the yard arm. Wherever they were it wasn’t where we were on Brighton Road, except for a few desperate souls at the bus stops on each side of the road trying to escape. But Class War made the best of it, handing out their election flyer to the police posse still devotedly following their progress (though mainly sitting in their van enjoying the overtime), the occasional local youth and elderly demented.” Perhaps some of them were among the 65 who voted for Jonathan Bigger, but somehow 31,448 came out of the woods to vote for the Tory.

Jon Bigger Class War South Croydon


Murdoch on Trial – Guilty as charged – News International, London Bridge

I arrived rather late back from Purley for the People’s Trial of Rupert Murdoch being conducted by activists on the sixth day of Occupy Rupert Murdoch week outside the News International building at London Bridge, just in time to hear the last witnesses before the jury gave its guilty verdict and Judge Donnachadh McCarthy pronounced the sentence.

But though the sentence was to remove his power base and treat him with love there seemed little chance of it being carried out for real, and his organisation continues to spread its disinformation and messages of hate.

Max Keiser then spoke about the economic fraud and the basis of our economic system, with London at its centre, the world’s largest tax haven. The system, which allows the rich to borrow on the basis that they have borrowed before is rather like the Emperor’s New Clothes, and it began to fail in 2008. Whether the StartCOIN scratch cards he handed out with free money on them (“The currency of the revolution”) will prove more stable I can’t say as I lost mine.

I was told that more would happen later, but I was getting tired and decided to leave, missing the rush to occupy News International at around 7pm. As I wrote, “The rush past security proved successful and the occupiers managed to stay in the building for around 20 hours, although there was surprisingly little coverage in even the non-Murdoch news media. Those 5 billionaires obviously stick together and the BBC always seeks to marginalise any UK protest. Probably there was some important news about a minor celebrity hiccoughing.”

Murdoch on Trial – Guilty as charged


Cross Bones Open Day – Cross Bones Graveyard, Redcross Way

Two well-dressed men with Southwark poet and playwright John Constable in the Crossbones Graveyard

I’d seen one of the men on the left of the picture earlier opposite News International and talked briefly with him and he had told me he was waiting for a friend to go to the Open Day at the Cross Bones Graveyard and I decide to call in their on my way home. Here’s what I wrote in 2015, along with some pictures.

I’d been to the graveyard before, the first time years ago when I’d wandered in and the whole site was in a complete mess, with loads of rubbish and rubble. I’d read about its use for hundreds of years as a place where outcasts, particularly the ‘Winchester Geese’, prostitutes who were licenced to carry out their trade on the south bank on the Thames, in Bankside surrounding Winchester Palace, formalised by the Lord Bishop of Winchester in 1142, and providing a considerable income for the clergy through taxes and fines for several hundreds of years thereafter.

These ‘single women’ and their children, along with paupers and miscreants were buried in this patch of ground until some time before it was formally closed in 1853 as too overcrowded to continue. Plans to build over it were stopped in the 1880s by the e Disused Burial Grounds Act 1884, and it remained largely unused and forgotten until disturbed by the Jubilee Line extension in 1990, when the Museum of London made some excavations. Their survey of the site suggested that up to 15,000 had been buried there, half of them children.

I’d walked past it earlier and assumed like some other areas of waste ground that it was a bombsite, but then became aware that ribbons and other tokens were being tied to the railings. Later I read about the site in various places.

Apart from the mysterious phantom gardener, the other figure responsible for increasing interest in Crossbones was local writer John Constable who revived the story of Cross Bones through his cycle of poems and mystery plays, ‘The Southwark Mysteries’. Various events began to be organised around Crossbones, and although I never got to them, the ribbons on the fences multiplied.

My London Diary

I was pleased to be able to give the appeal for the creation of a new public garden by the Bankside Open Spaces Trust a little publicity.

Cross Bones Open Day


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Keep Corbyn – June 2016

Sunday, June 27th, 2021

Emergency protest on the day of the coup

It’s probably never a good idea to say “I told you so”, but it was clear to many of us that that after Jeremy Corbyn became the leader of the Labour Party he represented the party’s only hope of winning a general election in the foreseeable future – and probably within my own lifetime.

And although he lost the 2017 election, it proved the case. It was an election the Labour Party could and should have won. They would have won had not many officials and MPs been actively sabotaging the campaign, diverting resources away from marginal constituencies and failing to give the party their full support. Some even went as far as seeming to celebrate the loss.

Ever since Corbyn won the leadership in September 2015 many officers and MPs had been fighting against him, some openly. Things came to a head in 2016 after the EU referendum when he was accused of only giving lukewarm support to the Remain campaign, though he had certainly spoken against leaving the EU at numerous large rallies. The issue was picked up as a pretext for a coup attempt that had long been in planning.

This began on 25th June when Hilary Benn contacted other shadow cabinet ministers telling them he had lost confidence in Corbyn and was sacked. On 26th June 11 other members of the shadow cabinet resigned with another eight leaving the following day.

The emergency protest on the day the coup attempt began was small, but two days later more than ten thousand grass-roots Labour supporters filled Parliament Square in a rally organised by Momentum to vigorously oppose the coup. All except the top picture come from the rally on 17th June.

Angela Rayner and Richard Burgon both came to support Corbyn

Corbyn was able to form a new if rather smaller shadow cabinet with a number of joint portfolios, including 13 new members. But on the 28th June the 229 MPs in the Parliamentary Labour Party passed a motion of no confidence in him by 172 votes to 40.

It was hard to find anyone to stand against Corbyn, but finally on 11 July Angela Eagle launched a leadership challenge and was followed by Owen Smith. Opponents of Corbyn tried to get him left off the ballot, but a secret ballot of the Labour National Executive Committee confirmed by a small majority that the incumbent leader should automatically be listed, in line with party rules, and their decision was later confirmed by the High Court. Eagle dropped out as Smith got more nominations, though neither was particularly popular.

In the leadership ballot that followed, Corbyn confirmed his popularity. He was supported by 285 Constituency Labour Parties, with only 53 CLPs supporting Smith, and ended up with 61.8% of the vote to Smith’s 38.2%.

Jeremy Corbyn smiles after speaking at the rall

It should have been a clear message to MPs and party officials to get behind Corbyn and stop undermining his leadership. A united Labour Party could have fought the prejudices of our predominantly right-wing media including a BBC increasingly dominated by right-wing commentators and editors. Their continued opposition to him and some popular manifesto commitments threw away the chance of winning the next election – whenever it was called. Though it was only the weak and disunited state of Labour that convinced Theresa May to gamble on 2017; but even then had the party got fully behind the campaign we would have been saved the shameful Tory governments that have followed since then.

More on My London Diary:
Thousands rally to Keep Corbyn
Keep Corbyn – No Coup


Election Day 2010

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Thursday 6th May was also an election day in 2010 with a UK general election that saw Labour losing over 90 seats to end with 48 fewer MPs than the Conservatives. But back then we still had a Lib-Dem party with 57 MPs who, after five days of horse-trading agreed to form a coalition government with the Tories – a decision that condemned them to oblivion, losing all but 8 seats in the 2015 election.

I spent most of election day – after voting in the early morning – in and around Parliament Square, where there was also considerably politics taking place. Three distinct group were camping in the square.

Brian Haw

Brian Haw and the Parliament Square peace campaign had been there for 3260 days since 2nd June 2001 and was still there despite an Act of Parliament designed to remove him, attacks by individuals with connections to the police and security services, illegal police raids, provocations, assaults and arrests by police officers and more.

Barbara Tucker

A year earlier Haw had dissociated his Parliament Square Peace Campaign (PSPC) from the ‘Peace Strike’ protest in the adjoining area of the square led by Maria Gallestegui “by mutual consent”, wanting to end any confusion between the two campaigns. The Peace Strike had not been harassed by police to the same extent and was allowed a greater physical presence in the square, and were regarded by some, probably incorrectly, as being partners with the establishment to discredit the PSPC.

Since May Day the square had also been home to ‘Occupy Democracy’ who saw themselves as supporting the PSPC by their presence. But the PSPC suspected some of them too of being agent provocateurs in police pay to provide a pretext for more draconian police action against them. Certainly some of these more temporary occupiers were breaking the rules against drinking alcohol in Parliament Square, despite the Democracy Camp notices banning this.

In my account I wrote:

“At one point the dispute between the camp and the PSPC deteriorated with a man on the camp’s sound system making what were possibly intended as humorous put-downs of Barbara Tucker who was then attacking the Tory Party for the backing it receives from the oil giants. Clearly some of the campers were distressed by this and he was asked to desist, and some of those present tried to calm the situation.
But generally the camp’s activities were more positive, and while I was there considerable work was taking place making banners and placards, as well as people discussing and dancing.”

Election Day in Parliament Square

Shortly before I left around 6pm, people from Democracy Village walked with placards to College Green where the TV media have their tents and cameras to cover political events and had been conducting interviews about the election. There had been little if any media coverage of Democracy Village or the peace campaigns and they wanted to make a point of this. But most of the media simply ignored the protesters, and eventually police came to talk with them and they returned to Parliament Square.

Protests in the UK are almost never seen by the mass media as news – unless police are injured or property destroyed and they can run negative stories. Occasionally if a celebrity takes part they may get a mention, or some particularly quirky and preferably non-political event captures their whimsy. But political protests are largely only news if they take place overseas against regimes which our government disapproves of.

The government that resulted from the election was led by a party that got just under a third of the votes and once again demonstrated the iniquities of our first past the post electoral system. A year later we had a referendum on an alternative voting system, but this was largely scuppered by Conservative opposition and a lack of real support from Labour.

The 2010 election had left the Tories holding the whip hand in the coalition, and they certainly made use of it, both through imposing drastic and ill-considered cuts on public and in particular local authority expenditure and in attacks on protests such as those in Parliament Square. The current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill takes these attacks on human and civil rights, the right to protest, migrants and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people to new levels, incompatible with any free society.

Election Day in Parliament Square


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.


A Day Out with Class War

Sunday, March 14th, 2021

Lisa McKenzie’s election address in Chingford

Class War had decided to stand candidates in the 2015 General Election, and a handful of people had volunteered to stand under their banner including in three constituences around London. These included Lisa McKensie, then a research fellow at the LSE who was standing against Tory minister Iain Duncan Smith in his Chingford constituency on the north-east border of London. An on Saturday 14th Mar 2015 I went with Class War for the launch in Chingford of her election campaign to give his constiutents a chance to kick out him and the evil policies he represents, which inflict misery on the poor and disabled. Unfortunately few in Chingford seem to care much about the poor or the disabled and although there was an almost 5% swing away from the Tory in the election only 53 votes went to Class War.

Police take away Class War’s election banner

What Class War didn’t have with them for the launch of their campaign in the constituency was their banner showing pictures of their banner stating clearly their opinion of leading politicians, which controversially police had ripped from their hands at a protest earlier in the week because of its large text ‘ALL FUCKING WANKERS’ rather than the disturbing faces of party leaders. Some months later they were directed to return it, but somehow had managed to lose it – I hope Class War were re-imbursed.

Police had turned up in some force at Chingford station to welcome the group of around 20 supporters who had turned up for the launch, and continued to harass the group as it made its way along the street, stopping occasionally for speeches.

A police officer threatens a man with arrest for holding a poster

There were remarkably few people on the streets of Chingford and none of them made complaints about the posters that were being held up, though there were one or two who made ‘V’ signs and shouted obscenities, largely from passing vehicles. But most of the few who walked by either failed to notice the protest or pretended to, with others expressing similar views to Class War of their MP, in seat since 1992.

Lisa puts a leaflet in the door at the Chingford & Woodford Green Conservative Party office

There was a convenient space in front of the Methodist Church for Lisa to give her election address, and there were other speakers, including Class War’s candidate for South Croydon Jon Bigger, all watched intently from across the road by a police officer, though there were now fewer following the event. After the speeches the group wandered back up the road towards the station, with Lisa stopping to put a leaflet through the door of the local Conservative Association office before most of us made our way into a local pub to celebrate the election launch.

After a drink or two we made our way across the road for the train back to central London, with police still following us until the train pulled out of the station. Some of those present including the two candidates were on their way to the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark to show solidarity with occupiers who continue to highlight the shameful treatment of residents whose homes there are being demolished, and I went along with them on what was a rather hilarious journey.

It was a little tricky to get into the estate as Southwark Council had tried to block all the entrances, but fortunately we met some activists who were able to show us a rather lengthy detour to gain access. It did at one stage involve swinging across a small gap, made a little more difficult by the heavy camera bag I was carrying, but eventually we were there and something of a party was taking place. The occupied flat was on the top floor and had splendid views of south London.

I didn’t take many pictures, as undertandably many of the activists did not want to be photographed. It was the kind of curious situation where many were taking pictures on their phones, but I was shouted at for using a camera – though carefully framing so only those who I had permission to photograph have their faces shown.

Much more about an interesting day out on My London Diary:
Class War go to Aylesbury Estate
Class War celebrate Election Launch
Class War Chingford Election Launch


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.