This is Helen Hayes, until Parliament was dissolved the Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, speaking (you can listen to her here) against the Conservative government’s Housing and Planning Bill at a march organised by Lambeth Housing Activists on 30 January, 2016. Nice, isn’t she? Well, take a closer look.
Before being elected a Member of Parliament in May 2015, Hayes was a senior partner at Allies & Morrison, an architecture and planning company which, during her partnership, was part of the consortium that demolished the Heygate estate, resulting in the loss of over a thousand council homes and the social cleansing of an entire working class community from the Elephant & Castle neighbourhood. The Oxford-educated Hayes’ specialism at Allies & Morrison was planning, and between 2010 and 2015 she was also a Southwark Labour councillor, a conflict of interest shared by many of the people responsible for selling the Heygate estate land to property developers Lendlease in 2010 for a loss of £30.5 million. Allies & Morrison also drew up the Supplementary Planning Documents for the Brixton Arches that recommended to Lambeth Labour council that they be ‘regenerated’ by Network Rail, resulting in the eviction of the traders and the closure of the market for the next two years. And as the 35% Campaign has documented, her company has been involved in numerous other regeneration projects in Southwark and Lambeth. In 2015, when Hayes resigned from Allies & Morisson to take up her place in Westminster, she received capital growth payments totaling £71,443.
In the bi-election for the Gypsy Hill ward in June 2016, Hayes actively campaigned for Luke Murphy, Lambeth Labour council’s candidate. Murphy, who won the campaign by a margin of only 36 votes out of just 2,814 cast in a ward turnout of only 27 per cent, is a member of the right-wing Labour cabal Progress, and has consistently supported the Progress-dominated Cabinet’s decision to demolish the 456 homes on Central Hill estate. During the campaign, Hayes was joined in her support for Murphy by his fellow Progress member Matthew Bennett, the former Lambeth Labour Cabinet Member for Housing, and Lambeth’s most hated man for his role in signing off the six estates threatened by the council’s estate demolition programme.
Among its many fabrications, the Labour campaign accused the Green Party – which came second in the bi-election with 1,184 votes after winning nearly 80 per cent of the votes from Central Hill residents – of waging a campaign based on lies and spreading fear. They also characterised the election as a fight between Labour and Tories in a ward with no Conservative voting base (they won a mere 210 votes). They also wheeled out the disgraced former Chair of the Central Hill Tenants and Residents Association, Jean Haley – who had been sacked by residents for recommending the regeneration of the estate without consulting them first – and presented her as the current TRA Chair, then publicised her slanderous attack on the Greens and her support for Labour.
Despite all this – despite her backing for the councillors and Cabinet that threaten the homes and lives of thousands of residents on Central Hill and five other Lambeth estates, including the already condemned Cressingham Gardens, and despite her long professional involvement with and financial profiting from the social cleansing of working class communities in Southwark and Lambeth – a week later, on 18 June, Hayes saw fit to attend the ASH-organised Open Garden Estates event being hosted by the Central Hill community. We found her chatting to what she called ‘her constituents’; but when we challenged her on her record and asked what she was doing there, Hayes shamelessly tried to use the recent murder of Labour MP Jo Cox to avoid answering our questions, then ran off.
Later that day Hayes had dried her tears sufficiently to post on Twitter the caption: ‘Good to catch up with Central Hill residents at the open day, thank you for having me.’ In response to this piece of charlatanism, one of the residents of Central Hill estate and leaders of the Save Central Hill Community campaign wrote this open letter to Hayes:
‘Helen Hayes has done absolutely nothing to actively support our campaign. She has made some noises about being sympathetic to our plight, to the point of saying that she would expect the residents to be properly consulted, but that she would not do us any favours by openly opposing the scheme, as this would be detrimental to the position she has of being able to attend and monitor the process within the council meetings pertaining to the regeneration scheme; and that she would be more effective by not kicking up a fuss and instead make some recommendations through the process to try to ensure some fairness.
‘No, Helen Hayes, it’s called sitting on the fence – not making waves with the council but at the same time hijacking our event by turning up, feigning interest in the alternative designs proposed by Architects for Social Housing, and grabbing a photo opportunity of you talking to residents, so that when we win you can claim some glory by saying you came to our Open Garden Estates event to support us.
‘No, Helen Hayes, if you were genuinely concerned with this issue, you would have come to talk to the residents, and not just with the Resident Engagement Panel, to find out for yourself what residents have been told and what they want. But you haven’t. You’ve only come to this event for personal publicity.
‘You are a fraud, Helen Hayes, a betrayal as an MP to the people who need you to speak on their behalf via the channels available to you, to demand a fair consultation as part of the democratic process which, by it’s own definition, must consider the rights and wishes of the people affected by these proposals.
‘You have failed to be our voice, despite the Resident Engagement Panel calling meetings with you to outline our serious concerns about the people of this estate being bullied by the Council into submitting to their dictat of demolishing our homes. You have stood by and watched as the council have spewed lie after lie, but done nothing. You are nothing more than a puppet of the council, yet sitting on the fence, waiting to see how this will fall, to make sure you come out of this smiling either way.’
Nine months later, on 23 March this year, against the wishes of 79 per cent of residents and the opposition of the Crystal Palace community, Lambeth Labour Cabinet voted to demolish Central Hill estate.
This is Helen Hayes, the Labour candidate for Dulwich and West Norwood, canvassing for the general election on 8 June. Not so nice now, is she? Still want to vote Labour?
Architects for Social Housing