Posts Tagged ‘Theresa May’

Tories Out March – 1st July 2017

Friday, July 1st, 2022

Class War wrap a march steward in their banner at the start of the march

Tories Out March – 1st July 2017: Five years ago, shortly after the Labour right working inside the party had managed to prevent a Corbyn victory by sabotaging the campaign for the 2017 General Election, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity organised a march through London calling for Theresa May and the Conservatives to go.

Of course they didn’t go, and later when Boris Johnson called an election over Brexit, he gained a landslide victory, rather than the close call in 2017 which left Theresa May having to bribe the Northern Irish DUP, a deeply bigoted party with links to Loyalist terrorists to support her.

This reliance on the DUP has eventually led to the current problem over the Irish Sea border arrangements which Boris Johnson persuaded the EU to adopt as a vital part of his Brexit deal, and which the government is now pushing through a bill to enable us to renege on.

And the Johnson administration has continued and worsened the Tory policies which in 2017 should have resulted in a Labour victory. In my account of the protest march 5 years ago today I wrote

“The election showed a rejection of … austerity policies and the Grenfell Tower disaster underlined the toxic effects of Tory failure and privatisation of building regulations and inspection and a total lack of concern for the lives of ordinary people. The protesters, many of whom chanted their support of Jeremy Corbyn, say the Tories have proved themselves unfit to govern. They demand a decent health service, education system, housing, jobs and living standards for all.”

Rev Paul Nicolson from Taxpayers Against Poverty rings his bell

The full facts of the sabotage of the Labour election campaign from inside the party had not then come to light – and we are still waiting for the Forde inquiry into the leaked report which exposed the racism, hyper-factionalism and electoral sabotage by party officials as well as the misguided attempts of the Corbyn leadership such as the expulsion of Jackie Walker and the resignations of Chris Williamson and Ken Livingstone.

But although this was largely a march of Labour supporters there were still a number of groups on the march who were critical of Labour’s policies and the practices of London Labour councils, particularly on housing, where councils are “demolishing council estates and colluding with huge property developers to replace them with expensive and largely private housing. It is a massive land grab, giving away public land often at far below market value and pricing the former residents out of London in what they call ‘regeneration’ but is quite clearly a process of social and ethnic cleansing.”

It is also a process that has resulted in considerable personal financial advantage for some of those who have led it, with councillors and officers either leaving to work for the developers or in organisations set up by councils to manage their estates. Setting up organisations such as the TMO responsible for the unsafe condition of Grenfell Tower has enabled these bodies to hide information about such activites as using consultants to advise them on circumventing adequate fire inspections outside of the purview of Freedom of Information requests.

Most obvious among these groups was Class War, alway ready to make their views known and to challenge authority. At the start of the march close to the BBC they had a little run-in with the march stewards, which resulted in them briefly wrapping their banner around one of him – though of course they soon released him. Later at the rally in Parliament Square I unfortunately missed a confrontation in which Lisa McKenzie stood in front of both Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and loudly asked them the simple question ‘When are you going to stop Labour councils socially cleansing people out of London?’. Both men simply ignored her and walked away.

Much more about the event and many more pictures at Tories Out March.

DPAC Trash The Tories – Maidenhead

Friday, June 3rd, 2022

DPAC Trash The Tories – Maidenhead
Back when the Tories got back into power with the support of the Lib Dems in the UK 2010 General Election they decided to launch a policy of austerity, making deep cuts in the services and benefits that enabled the less wealthy in the country to get by and lead decent lives.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead
Paula Peters of DPAC argues with police as they block a road junction

The cuts they proceeded to make had relatively little effect on those in the better-paid jobs many of whom didn’t need or had opted out of public services such as the NHS and state education and didn’t live in public housing or working class areas. But in any case the Tories made sure these people were protected with increasing real salaries as inequality increased. The Office of National Statistics reported in 2020 “The gap between the richest in society and the rest of the population has widened over the 10-year period; the income share of the richest 1% increased from 7% to 8.2% between FYE 2011 and FYE 2020.”

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead
Theresa May – Weak And Wobbly

In particular, the government continued to bail out the bankers, despite it being the bankers who had precipitated the 2008 financial crisis – and in the longer term had been responsible for creating instability by creating and exploiting huge loopholes in the world financial system established after the war. It was of course British banks and the City of London which played the leading role in this, making London the money-laundering capital of the world with former colonies at the centre of offshoring and enabling after the break-up of the Soviet Union Russians to legalise their illegal plunder and become oligarchs, with a huge influence in the Conservative Party.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

But the Tories came in determined to cut benefits and in particular looked at the amounts going to support disabled people and enable them to live in the community. They thought wrongly that disabled people would be an easy target because of their various disabilities. They were wrong on two counts. Firstly because many disabled people had experience of having to fight for their rights and secondly because they greatly underestimated the wide support for them among the general population. Tories may not have a heart (and certainly many Tories have demonstrated this in recent years) but the general public do.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

At the centre of the protests by disabled people is DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, formed by disabled people after the mass protests against cuts in Birmingham in October 2010 had been led by disabled people. On its web site it proclaims “DPAC is for everyone who believes that disabled people should have full human rights and equality. It is for everyone that refuses to accept that any country can destroy the lives of people just because they are or become disabled or have chronic health issues. It is for everyone against government austerity measures which target the poor while leaving the wealthy unscathed. It is for everyone who refuses to stay silent about the injustices delivered by wealthy politicians on ordinary people and their lives.”

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

On Saturday 3rd June 2017, five days before the General Election called by Theresa May, I joined DPAC for a protest in her constituency of Maidenhead. Her government was the first in the world the UN had found guilty of grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights. Tory cuts since 2010 had 9 times the impact on disabled people as on any other group, 19 times more for those with the highest support needs. DPAC call the policies heartless and say they are starving, isolating and ultimately killing the disabled who the Tories regard them as unproductive members of society. Though it was the cuts, particularly the axing of the Independent Living Fund, ILF, which had stopped many making a real contribution.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

It was a fairly small group that arrived at Maidenhead station for the protest. Travel by rail is often very difficult for disabled people. Few stations have step-free access and there are often large gaps between train and platform. Rail companies do make an effort to provide support but this needs to be booked in advance and is sometimes unreliable. And rail fares are an expensive luxury for people on benefits – who may also need a taxi to get to the station.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

They paraded a straw effigy of ‘Theresa May – Weak and Wobbly‘ and a hatchet with the message ‘Cuts Kill‘ to the High St for a rally, with speeches, loud chanting and handing out fliers calling on Maidenhead voters to vote for anyone but Theresa May before returning to the station.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

Most other photographers thought the protest was ended and some had rushed to get the train back to London, and the police had largely gone away, but I knew DPAC from previous events and stayed with them, taking photographs as they moved to block one of the busiest road junctions in the town for around 15 minutes as police tried to persuade them to move.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

Eventually they did get off the road, just in time for me to catch a bus to start my journey home. I was sorry to have to rush away, but the next bus wasn’t for a couple of hours. I changed buses in Windsor and got off in Staines, walked along the road and put my hand in my pocket for my phone and it wasn’t there. At home I went to ‘Google Find My Device‘ and saw on the map it was still travelling on the bus all the way to Slough, where fortunately the driver found it and handed it in to the office and I was able to cycle there and collect it the following Monday.

More on the protest at DPAC Trash The Tories in Maidenhead.


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Refugee Children, Dead Cyclists & A Squat

Friday, February 11th, 2022

Refugee Children, Dead Cyclists & A Squat – 11th February 2017

Dubs Now – Shame on May

Five years ago, on Saturday 11th February 2017, a crowd of supporters of Citizens UK and Safe Passage joined Lord Alf Dubs at Downing St to take a petition to Theresa May urging her to reverse the decision to stop offering legal sanctuary to unaccompanied refugee children.

The Tory government had been forced into an unusual humanitarian response when Parliment passed the Dubs amendment, and they were then given a list of over 800 eligible children – although there were known to be more whose details were not recorded. And because of Lord Dubs, around 300 have been allowed into the UK. But although twice that number remain in limbo, many in the Calais camps, Prime Minister Theresa May decided to end the scheme.

Lord Dubs speaks

Among those who spoke at the protest before an emergency petition with over 40,000 signatures was taken to Downing St were speakers from four London Labour councils who all said they had told the government they would take more children but their offers had not been taken up.

Dubs Now – Shame on May


Invest in Cycling – Stop Killing Cyclists

Cyclists and supporters met in Trafalgar Square to march to the Treasury on the edge of Parliament Square to call for a significant increase in spending on infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians on our streets.

That week five people were killed on London streets as a result of careless or dangerous driving – accidents are rare, but such deaths are made much more likely by a road system engineered around the needs of car and other vehicle drivers and cutting their journey times through the city. Facilities for cyclists and pedestrians have long been treated as secondary and chronically underfunded.

But these 5 killed, who were remembered in the protest and die-in are a small fraction of the numbers who die prematurely each week in London as a result of high and often illegal levels of air pollution – estimated at around 180 per week, as well as the much higher number of those whose lives are seriously affected by health problems – both figures including many who drive. Powerful lobbies for motorists and vehicle manufacturers have led to the domination of our cities by cars and lorries.

There are huge health benefits from cleaning the air by cutting down traffic and congestion, and also by encouraging healthy activities including walking and cycling. And the main factor discouraging people from taking to bikes for journeys to school, work and shopping etc is the danger from cars and lorries. Better public transport also helps, particularly in cutting pollution levels, and anything that cuts the use of petrol and diesel vehicles will reduce the major contribution this makes to global warming.

Invest in Cycling – Stop Killing Cyclists


ANAL squat in Belgravia

My final event that day was a visit to 4 Grosvenor Gardens, a rather grand house short distance from Buckingham Palace (and more relevant to me, from Victoria Station.) Squatting collective the Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians (ANAL) had taken over this house on February 1st after having been evicted from the Belgrave Square house owned by Russian oligarch Andrey Goncharenko which they occupied for a week.

I’d meant to go there a week earlier, but a domestic emergency had called me away earlier in the day from a protest at the US Embassy before a programme of workshops and seminars in the seven-storey squat had begun. There was nothing special happening on the afternoon I visited (though some things were happening in the evening) but I was welcomed by the occupiers, several of whom recognised me, and they were happy for me to wander around the building and take photographs.

Apart from being careful to respect the privacy of some of the occupiers who were sleeping or resting in a couple of the rooms I was able to go everywhere from the basement to the top floor, but the door leading onto the roof was locked, probably to stop any possible access from there by bailiffs. Like many other houses and hotels in the area it has a view into the grounds of Buckingham Palace, but I had to make do with the view from a rather dusty window, or the less interesting view from lower down where windows could be opened.

Few squats have blue plaques – this one for soldier and archaeologist Lieutenant General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers, but more recently it has been in use for offices, business meetings and conferences. The squatters have tried hard to cause no serious damage and had last week turned out some people who had come to make a mess of the place.

There are around 1.5 million empty buildings in the UK, many like this deliberately kept empty as investments, their value increasing year on year. The number is enough to enough to house the homeless many times over. ANAL say that properties like this should be used for short-term accommodation while they remain empty and they have opened it as a temporary homeless shelter for rough-sleepers.

It remained in use for almost month, with the squat finally evicted at 8am on 27th February. As I ended my post, “There clearly does need to be some way to bring empty properties back into use, and councils should have much greater powers than at present to do so. Until that happens, squatting seems to be the only possible solution.”

ANAL squat in Belgravia


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Legal Aid & Illegal Confinement

Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

Eight years ago on Saturday October 5th 2013 I turned up outside the Old Bailey to cover a protest against the governments proposals to demolish a vital part of our justice system, Legal Aid. The proposals will mean that justice becomes largely only available to the very rich, with one law for the rich and another for the poor.

Of course our system of law in the UK is one which has as its base the protection of the wealthy and the establishment and in particular the rights of property owners, dating back to the ideas of private ownership of land introudced and used for its appropropriation by our Norman conquerers, but legal aid has provided a small and important gesture towards equality. The rich and powerful can still use the law to protect their interests, with injunctions and threats of libel and other actions. They can still call upon the police to protect their property and rely on our secret services to work for their interests.

Lee Jasper

The protest came after the government had been consulting on the changes to the legal aid system which proposed making it more restrictive and also cutting the fees to solicitors and barristers. Our combative in nature system of law is complex, time-consuming and allows those who can pay large fees to prolong litigation and have a better chance of success, with costs in some cases being in £millions. It’s a system that favours not the establishment of truth, but those who can employ the most persuasive liars.

From the Old Bailey the march made its way to the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, where I rushed ahead to find DPAC (Disabled Activists Agains Cuts) already making their way onto the pedestrian crossing to block the road. “They stopped on it and began to padlock together to form a block. The far half of the crossing was blocked by a line of figures dressed in gold, one holding the (plastic) Sword of Justice, and another her Scales.”

Police came and asked them politely to move but they didn’t respond. The marchers arrived for a noisy protest and then a mock trial of Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. A number of witnesses were called, some giving testimony of how without Legal Aid they would have been unable to fight their cases, and others reading written testimony from others, and then there was more chanting and drumming as well as poetry and some legal advice before the inevitable guilty verdict.

Police had been getting more impatient and insistent about the protesters leaving the road. They don’t like to arrest people in wheelchairs, partly because it looks bad in the photographs and videos, partly because of the difficulty of providing suitable transport, but also because like the rest of us (except possibly Tory ministers) they have a human sympathy with the disabled. “The DPAC activists in wheelchairs who were still blocking the road consulted with each other and decided it was time to leave, and that they would have a final five minutes of protest and then all leave together.”

I left for Parliament Square where a peaceful vigil was marking a year since British poet Talha Ahsan was extradited to the US. Those taking part, including his brother Hamsa and other family members said that his long-term solitary confinement comes under the UN definition of torture and call for him to be returned home and unjust US-UK extradition laws repealed.

As I wrote:
“Talha Ahsan, an award-winning British Muslim poet and translator has been detained for over seven years without trial and was extradited to the USA on 5th October 2012 with his co-defendant Babar Ahmad. Although he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, the Home Secretary Theresa May refused to prevent his extradition, unlike that of Gary McKinnon, raising suspicions that this relected an anti-Muslim predjudice.”

Talha is a UK citizen and his supporters say that he should have been tried in the UK. Eventually in the US he accepted a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to one of the several charges and was sentenced. The time he had already served meant he was then free and was returned to the UK. His six years before extradition in detention without trial or charge here remains among the longest in British legal history.

More at:

Bring Talha Ahsan Home
UK Uncut Road Block for Legal Aid

Tories Out! July 1st 2017

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

It was the so-called Democratic Unionist Party, the DUP, a deeply bigoted party with links to Loyalist terrorists, that saved Theresa May’s bacon after the 2017 election, bribed to give their support after an election result which showed a rejection of the toxic austerity policies of the Coalition and Tory governments.

And in response, Boris Johnson agreed a Brexit deal which put a border in the Irish Sea which the DUP are now up in arms about. Probably the EU will agree to some relaxation of the rules – and exporters will eventually get used to making the changes in the ‘paperwork’ (surely mainly now digital) which will be required and the Tory government may eventually realise that they need to respect and implement treaties that they sign up to. But it seems inevitable that the sea border will remain, and probably eventually lead on to a united Ireland.

A Grenfell resident holds up some of the flammable cladding

Grenfell had also recently underlined the toxic effects of Tory failure and privatisation of building regulations and inspection and a total lack of concern for the lives of ordinary people.

A huge number of groups came together for the Tories Out march, organised by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, with around 20,000 gathering outside the BBC (who if they deigned to mention the event in any of their extremely lengthy news broadcasts will probably have called it ‘several hundreds’) to march to a Parliament Square rally calling on the Tory Government to go, saying they had proved themselves unfit to govern, and demanding a decent health service, education system, housing, jobs and living standards for all.

Had the DUP not sold themselves to the Tories, another election seemed inevitable, and perhaps having seen the closeness of the result, at least some of those Labour MPs an officials who had been actively campaigning against their leader might have decided to change sides, backing Labour and the popular policies which had led the Party to its highest vote share since 2001 (40%) and got behind a leader they had previously discarded as ‘unelectable’ to get back into power.

There was certainly huge support for Corbyn on the march, much expressed through that rather inane singing (which I suspect he finds embarrassing.) But there were a significant number who also showed their anger at the housing policies of London Labour boroughs who are demolishing council estates and colluding with huge property developers to replace them with expensive and largely private housing.

Lisa from Class War greets Victor from the United Voices of the World

One of those groups was Class War, and later at the rally, unfortunately after I had left, Lisa Mckenzie confronted both Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, asking the simple question ‘When are you going to stop Labour councils socially cleansing people out of London?’. Both men simply ignored her and walked away, though Corbyn did look a little shame-faced. His eccentric brother, Piers Corbyn, has long campaigned on the issue, and I suspect Jeremy, like others on the Labour left, would like a change in policy.

More on My London Diary: Tories Out March.

Strangers Into Citizens 2007

Friday, May 7th, 2021

One of the great failures of British politicians in my lifetime has been over immigration. Since Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in Birmingham in April 1968, both major parties have engaged in a desperate contest to show they are tougher on immigration than the other.

Immigration as we moved from Empire to Commonwealth wasn’t just a moral issue of living up to the promises the country had long made to its overseas subjects – but had failed to live up to. It was also a matter of economic and social need, for workers, nurses, bus conductors, doctors and more to keep the United Kingdom running. By the 1960s, a third of junior doctors were from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and in 1963 Enoch Powell, then minister of health launched a campaign which recruited a further 18,000 doctors from India and Pakistan.

Immigration controls had of course begun earlier, but the 1962 Conservative Commonwealth Immigrants Act began a new series of anti-immigration measures. Labour followed this with their 1968 Act, a panic measure to restrict the arrival here of Kenyan Asians. The 1971 Immigration Act and further legislation restricted even restricted the numbers of foreign nurses – who the NHS was and is still very reliant on.

On and on the politicians have gone, increasing the restrictions and playing the numbers game promoted by racists rather than adopting a positive approach and stressing the great advantages that immigrants have brought to this country. While in the Tory party attitudes have largely been driven by straight-forward racism and the residues of imperialism, Labour’s policies seem more cynical and solely based on middle-class electoral assumptions about working-class racism.

Of course there are working-class racists. But there is also working class solidarity that crosses any lines of race, and which could have been fostered by the Labour Party and the trade unions. Instead they have left the field largely open to the likes of the EDL and the lies of the right-wing press. In this and other ways Labour has not lost the working class, but abandoned it.

The vicious and racist policies imposed in recent years by Theresa May against migrants, particularly those here without official permission but also those with every right to be here but without a huge archive of paperwork by which to prove this – the Windrush generation have met with opposition from some mainly on the left in Labour, but they built on the policies of the New Labour government before here.

Labour have abstained rather than voted against so much discriminatory legislation, and their opposition to Priti Patel’s draconian bill which aims to criminalise Roma, Gypsy and Traveller lifestyles and increase the surveillance powers of immigration officers as well as introducing new ‘diversionary cautions’ against migrants to allow police to force them to leave the country has at best been half-hearted.

Of course there are exceptions. Honourable men and women in both parties who have argued against racist policies, and MPs who have voted with their consciences rather than follow the party line – and sometimes lost the party whip. And of course those in some of the smaller parties and outside parliament, particularly various religious leaders, some of whom took a leading role in the Strangers into Citizens March and Rally on May 7th 2007 which called for all those who have worked (and paid their taxes) here for more than four years to be given a two year work permit, after which if they get suitable work and character references they would be given indefinite leave to remain.

Although this still would not change our terrible mistreatment of those who arrive seeking asylum, it did seem a pragmatic solution to a major problem which governments have found intractable. But as the organisers of the event and many of the speakers insisted, it needed to be part of a wider package of fair treatment for those applying for asylum or immigration. But the political parties were not listening and seem only able to think of more and more restrictive, racist and authoritarian policies which drive us further into becoming a police state.

http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2007/05/may.htm


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