Posts Tagged ‘London Mayor’

Fire Service Cuts Cost Lives – 2013

Thursday, July 18th, 2024

Fire Service Cuts Cost Lives: On Thursday 18th July 2013 I photographed a march and rally by the Fire Brigades Union in London against cuts proposed by then London Mayor Boris Johnson. He had in 2010 repeatedly denied that he would make any cuts to London’s fire services, but the cuts which this protest was against led to the closure of ten fire stations in Greater London and the loss of over 550 firefighters in the force.

Fire Service Cuts Cost Lives

There was also a loss of the number of fire engines, at first of 14, but followed later by another 13, a cut of around 15%. Unsurprisingly the response times to fires across the capital increased. The first fire engine should arrive within six minutes of a fire being reported, and in late 2014 the figures showed that this was exceeded in around a third of London’s wards. Although the average increase in response times was only 12 seconds, in the worst case it went up by two minutes and 48 seconds.

Fire Service Cuts Cost Lives
Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union

Fast response to fires is essential in saving lives and cutting damage to properties, and although fortunately few lives are lost to fire in London thanks to our firefighters it seems that there was at least one fatality in the following year which was widely attributed to a slower response time. As I wrote in 2013, “7 out of 10 Londoners think that the Mayor’s proposed cuts will put public safety at risk, and the remaining 3 are just not thinking.”

Fire Service Cuts Cost Lives

In our great 2017 tragedy at Grenfell Tower, the fire service responded promptly, but it took over half an hour for a turntable ladder to arrive, and at the time the LFB only had ladders that reached under half way up that building. They called in a taller ladder from Surrey which took several hours to arrive. The LFB finally got its first 64m turntable ladder, the tallest in the UK, in 2021.

Fire Service Cuts Cost Lives
A Scottish band from Hull sponsored by the FBU and a photo of Boris

Appropriately the march began at The Monument, a 202ft column topped by a bright brass ball of fire erected shortly after the 1666 Great Fire of London as a permanent memorial to the event.

Fire-fighters, many in uniform, and supporters gathered in the area around, along with a fire engine and a small marching band with bagpipes sponsored by an FBU branch. London’s own firefighters were supported by some for other brigades, including at least a couple from the New York Fire Department as well as retired fire-fighters and anti-cuts protesters.

When the march which went across London Bridge to the London Fire Brigade HQ in Southwark for a rally outside where the cuts were being decided at a Fire Authority meeting I had gone up on top of the fire engine.

What I hadn’t realised was that I would be unable to get down until the end of the march, and although it gave me a good viewpoint it was in some ways a limiting one. I always like to take most of my pictures close to people using wide-angle lenses and during the march was unable to do so. And when the marchers sat down briefly to block London Bridge I could only watch from a distance.

I’d also not realised how much vibration there would be on the top of the fire engine, where we were in a fairly small enclosure made with scaffolding tubing on its top. I found myself having to hang on tightly in some of the bumpier parts of the roads, while trying to take pictures largely one-handed.

It was a rather uncomfortable and just a little scary experience, but it did take me close to some of those who had come to first and second floor windows to applaud the protest as it went past. But I was very pleased when we came to a stop at the Fire Brigade HQ and I could get back to ground.

You can read more about the rally at the end of the march and a long list of the speakers on My London Diary and there are photographs of most or all of them as well as many more from the event.

Fire Service March Against Cuts


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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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Turkey’s War on Kurds, Bunhill Fields – 2016

Monday, March 6th, 2023

Break the Silence! Turkey’s War on Kurds – BBC to Trafalgar Square

Turkey's War on Kurds

Turkey’s War on Kurds. On Sunday 6th March 2016, several thousand of Kurds and their supporters marched through London in solidarity with the Kurdish people calling for an end to the silence from Turkey’s NATO allies and the western press over Turkish war being waged against Kurds in northern Syria.

Turkey's War on Kurds

This area of Syria has successfully broken away from control by the Syrian regime under President Assad and set up a popular progressive participatory democracy under the name Rojava. Although Kurds form the majority, the impressive constitution of the new area guarantees the rights of all the minority groups and also has enshrined the equal rights of women. Many see it as a model for future democratic states elsewhere.

Turkey's War on Kurds

The Kurds also call for the UK to decriminalise the PKK Kurdish liberation Movement here, and for the release of their leader Abdullah Ocalan who has been in jail in Turkey since his illegal kidnapping in Kenya in 1999. In 2003 the European Court of Human Rights ruled his trial unfair, and called for a retrial. Turkey lost an appeal against this decision in 2005 but have still refused to hold a retrial.

The march began with around 5,000 people massing outside the BBC, who have consistently failed to cover the real issues over the Kurdish struggle and like to almost totally ignore any political protests taking place in the UK. True to form there appeared to be no mention of this large march in any BBC national or local news in the following few days.

The protest was called by his protest was called by Stop the War on the Kurds and supported by a huge array of groups, which I listed on My London Diary. Here it is again.

Peace in Kurdistan, Kurdistan National Congress (KNC), Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan, Day Mer, GIK-DER/RWCA, National Union of Teachers (NUT), Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union (RMT), Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), Trade Union Congress – International Section, Greater London Association of Trade Union Councils (GLATUC), Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN), Unite Housing Branch, Unison Islington, Stop the War Coalition, People’s Assembly, Unite Against Fascism (UAF), Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Resistance, Plan C, Revolutionary Communist Group, Left Unity, Green Party, Kurdish Community Centre, Halkevi, Roj Women’s Assembly, Kurdish Students Union, Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL), Anti-Fascist Network (AFN), National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), Democratic Union Initiative & PYD and other groups.

The march slowly went down Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus where the head of the march stopped and briefly sat down, blocking the junction. A few minutes later they got up and marched down Haymarket to a rally in Trafalgar Square. I left them to go to another event as te rally began.

More pictures on My London Diary: Break the Silence! Turkey’s War on Kurds.


Bunhill Fields Under Threat

Bunhill Fields is one of the City of London’s most special places, a Grade I cultural heritage site owned by the City of London and enjoyed by many nearby office workers in the area as a quiet space for their lunch breaks, though I think these are rapidly becoming, like the cemetery a thing of the past, with many working from home or snatching a quick sandwich at their desk still staring at a terminal.

William Blake was buried a little this side of the tree on the far side of the path. His wife on the south side of the cemetery close to Susannah Wesley

It’s a quiet place, a sanctuary and every similar cliche you like to throw at it, and of course always under threat from rapacious developers (are there any other kinds?) Although the cemetery itself is protected by its listing, I’d signed a petition against a development immediately on the north-east boundary which will result in this small and important site being overshadowed by a large and inappropriate development.

Tomb of John Bunyan

The proposed 10 and 11 storey skyscrapers would set a precedent soon to be followed by others and would severely change its nature, depriving it of light and altering its micro-climate. Islington Council had rejected the planning application but it was called in by then London Mayor Boris Johnson who allowed it to go ahead, along with other damaging schemes around the city.

Bunhill Fields was a burial ground mainly for nonconformists who could not be buried in Church of England churchyards and cemeteries and was in use from 1665 to 1854. It is best-known as the burial place of William Blake, Daniel Defoe, Isaac Watts, George Fox and John Bunyan, as well as others including Susannah Wesley.

Susannah Wesley’s stone is brilliant white. Now you can only walk along the path by it if accompanied by an attendant

The cemetery, which has a public path through its centre, is opposite Wesley’s Chapel on the City Road, with the path leading through to Bunhill Row. Most of the monuments in it, many listed, are in enclosed areas behind fences and can only be viewed from the paths, though years ago it was possible to wander more freely. There is still a garden area at the north of the site, where many, including Blake, were buried, with a lawn and seating.

More pictures at Bunhill Fields Under Threat.


Firefighters and Nurses – 2015

Friday, December 2nd, 2022

Key Workers were protesting in London on Wednesday 2nd December 2015, but their protests were ignored by government and then Tory Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Since then we have seen that the warnings of the protesters were real and the consequences of Tory policies have led to disaster. It’s a failure of our system of government that allows dogmatism and class interests to pursue such irresponsible policies at both local and national level, and one hugely facilitated by a media largely controlled by a handful of billionaires.


Firefighters say cuts endanger London – City Hall, Wednesday 2nd December 2015

Firefighters and Nurses

Firefighters and supporters protested at City Hall against plans to get rid of 13 fire engines and slash 184 firefighters in the London Fire Brigade. These came on top of previous cuts and station closures which have already led to increases in the time taken for firefighters to arrive at fires which have lead to people who would otherwise have been rescued dying in fires.

Firefighters and Nurses
The People of Shoreditch Say… Bozo Don’t take or Fire Engine Away! – Bozo the Clown of County Hall’

Trade unionists and others came to support the firefighters and some spoke at the rally along with speakers from the FBU. It took only a little persuasion to get George Galloway to speak. Members of the London Assembly had put forward an alternative plan to make savings and avoid the loss of the fire engines but these were dismissed by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Firefighters and Nurses
George Galloway came to show support

One of the consequences of the cuts to London’s fire services came sadly and disastrously with the loss of 72 lives at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017. We found then that London simply didn’t have a single fire engine capable of dealing with a fire in the upper floors of the building. Fortunately Surrey, although it has far fewer high rise buildings had kept one which could be called in to help, or the death toll would have been even higher.

Firefighters say cuts endanger London


Save NHS Student Bursaries – Dept of Health, Whitehall, Wednesday 2nd December 2015

George Osborne had decided to scrap NHS student bursaries from 2017. Nurses and other healthcare students have to spend around 50% or their time working in hospitals for the NHS during training and so are largely unable to take on part-time work as many other students do. They only payment they get for this work is through the bursaries.

It seems totally unfair to ask them to take out student loans and work for the NHS for nothing as well. And since many of the jobs they go into are not particularly well-paid, it makes little financial sense as many would probably never fully repay their loans.

Always plenty of money for our arms manufacturers

But what nurses said it would do was to lead to a reduction of students applying for healthcare courses, particularly the many single mothers and more matures students who are enabled to take the courses by the bursaries. And to take this action at a time when there was a critical shortage of medical staff was sheer lunacy.

Of course they were right. The situation in the NHS is even worse now partly due to this axing of bursaries. Of course there are other factors too – including a racist immigration policy which has been made much worse with Brexit. And the continually increasing privatisation taking place.

The NHS has so far suffered various areas of breakdown caused of exacerbated by various government policies – including some under New Labour who promoted disastrous PFI schemes that have brought some hospital trusts to financial ruin. Covid was another savage test and things look set to get far worse in the coming winter months. And given the years of below inflation pay offers its hardly suprising that nurses are now about to strike.

The problems with scrapping the student bursary were so intense that the government was forced to set up a new bursary scheme in 2020. But while the previous scheme had a maximum of £16,454 a year, with a minimum of £10,000, the new scheme was considerably less generous, at a standard £5000, with additions for shortage areas and childcare giving a maximum of £8000.

Save NHS Student Bursaries


Focus E15 Mums at City Hall 2014

Monday, February 21st, 2022

Focus E15 Mums at City Hall 2014. Focus E15 mothers and children, threatened with eviction from the Mother and Baby Unit at the Focus E15 hostel in Stratford came on a decorated bus to City Hall, holding a party outside and trying to hand in a petition and card to then city Mayor Boris Johnson.

I’d met the Focus E15 Mums the previous month when they partied inside the Stratford offices of East Thames Housing Association who run the hostel, but the eviction notices had come in October 2013 because Newham Council had decided to cut the funding for the hostel.

Newham was then at the centre of a post-Olympic housing boom, with both private developers and East Thames building large blocks of flats around the area. But the great majority of these are for sale or rent at market prices, and many were being bought not to live in but by overseas investors keen to cash in on the steeply rising prices of housing in London. Even housing associations build mainly for those on good salaries who can afford shared ownership schemes, with minimal homes at council-level rents.

Newham Council Mayor Robin Wales told the mothers there were no properties available in the area at council rents. He made it clear than if you are poor, Newham doesn’t want you, and they were offered rented accommodation far outside of London, in Birmingham, Manchester, Hastings and even Wales – “expensive, sometimes poor quality, insecure one year private rents” – with the threat that anyone who turned down the offers would be regarded as having made themselves intentionally homeless and get no help from the council.

The mothers in the hostel decided to stand together and fight the council, demanding they be placed within suitable socially rented accommodation in Newham. Among other areas they point out that there is good quality council-owned housing on the Carpenters Estate, a short walk from their hostel, which Newham council have left empty, in some cases for ten years, as they try to sell off the area for development – despite having the highest waiting list for social housing in London.

As I wrote in 2014, London Mayor Boris Johnson Boris Johnson “has made it clear that he is opposed to the gentrification of London, stating: ‘The last thing we want to have in our city is a situation such as Paris where the less well-off are pushed out to the suburbs’ and promising ‘I’ll emphatically resist any attempt to recreate a London where the rich and poor cannot live together…’ But these turned out to be typically Johnsonian empty words and during his time as London Mayor he did nothing to help those in housing need and stop those cleared from council estates having to move miles further out.

The card Boris Johnson wouldn’t accept

On the day of the protest the mothers tried to deliver a card to him, but his office simply refused to take it. The assistant director of the affordable homes programme in London, Jamie Ratcliff did come down to meet them and took their petition, but had little to say to them, giving them his card and telling them to email him.

Mothers go in to deliver the card but no-one would accept it

More on the event on My London Diary at Focus E15 Mums at City Hall.

The Focus E15 Campaign eventually got all or most of the mothers and children rehoused locally, and they continue to compaign in Newham for Fair Housing For All, holding a street stall despite harassment from council and police every Saturday on Stratford Broadway, helping homeless families get proper treatment from the council, protesting for those in terrible conditions in temporary accomodation and stopping evictions, and taking part in protests and campaigns for social housing in London and elsewhere.


Grenfell scapegoat scandal

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

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

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

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

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

Protest against closing fire stations in 2013

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

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

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

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


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.

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Boris’s Biggest Blunder?

Monday, June 24th, 2019

Earl’s Court

Probably the largest desert in London – thanks to Boris!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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