I grew so rich that I was sent
By a pocket borough into Parliament.
I always voted at my Party’s call,
And I never thought of thinking for myself at all.
— Gilbert and Sullivan
Identifying which election hustings is the most boring you’ve ever attended is a bit like being asked whom you’d prefer for a dinner date out of Matthew Bennett, Tom Copley and Alan Strickland . . . ‘Hmmm, I’ll get back to you on that one.’ But last night’s hustings at St. John’s Church, Waterloo, has to be up there with my less successful evenings out on the town.
It was presided over by the local vicar, chaired by someone who couldn’t arrange a dining table, and attended by candidates from the Liberal Democrat Party, the Green Party, the Conservative Party, the Brexit Party and, eventually, the Labour Party — the latter of whom who turned up precisely 23 minutes late without the hint of an apology, which I thought was a strong indication of how she regards her constituents. But she needn’t (and clearly didn’t) mind, as the half-full church was flocked almost entirely by slack-jawed Labourites who clapped every lie that came out of her lying mouth with enthusiasm.
But the evening wasn’t a total waste of time. The Brexit candidate was a sort of scarecrow nutter whose increasingly unpleasant and then ludicrous views he conveyed with growing amusement. He was the sort of bloke you’d enjoy having a pint with but wouldn’t trust to mind your cat in case he fed it to next door’s dog and then explained to you that it was ‘feeling sick, anyway’. I told him he should do stand-up comedy and that I was going to hire him for my local publican to get the more reluctant punters out at closing time.
I also got to challenge the aforementioned Labour candidate, Florence Eshalomi, on some of the bigger porkies to come out of her mouth, such as why, if — as she claimed — she supported local businesses against corporate chains, in her current capacity as the Labour Member of the London Assembly for Lambeth and Southwark she was supporting the demolition of the Elephant & Castle shopping centre; or why, if — as she claimed — she supported community services, she had led the Labour council’s committee on privatising Lambeth’s libraries; or why, if — as she claimed — she supported local plans put forward by residents, she supported the demolition of the Cressingham Gardens estate, and the Central Hill estate, and Knight’s Walk, and the Fenwick estate, and the South Lambeth estate, and the Westbury estate.
It’s been my displeasure in the past to suck in the same air as Ms. Eshalomi in more than one Lambeth Cabinet meeting, and she’s always played the part of the shy one fluttering her eyelashes at the back while her mentors have blatantly lied to the estate residents in the audience whose homes they are demolishing. And in May 2017, when ASH started publishing our list of the 195 London council estates being demolished by Labour councils, she was one of several Lambeth councillors — led by her now fellow Labour London Assembly Member Tom Copley — who trolled us on Twitter. But last night I got a chance to listen to her lie for a good two hours straight. And I can report back that she’s as untrustworthy in person as she is on the Curriculum Vitae I recently published about her, and which — from the look she gave me, which would have curdled Boris Johnson’s mother’s breast milk — I strongly suspect she’s read. To this CV I can now confidently add my assurances to any future employer that, in my opinion, Florence Eshalomi would see every council estate resident in Lambeth on the street if it got her a seat in Parliament, and is, therefore, an ideal candidate to represent the Labour Party for the Vauxhall constituency. But if you vote for this careerist and obedient servant of Labour’s Parliamentary aspirations who has always voted at her Party’s call, you must be nodding.
And finally, at the end of the hustings, I went to introduce myself to the Liberal Democrat candidate, Sarah Lewis. I’ve got as much time for the housing policies of the Lib Dems as I do for those of the Conservatives or the Labourites, but she had spoken several times about opposing the Labour council on its programme of estate demolition, which is more than the Labour MPs in Lambeth such as Helen Hayes have ever done. The funny thing is, as I approached her she said ‘Hello Simon’. I asked if we’d ever met before and she said no, but that she feels like she knows me as she reads (she said) everything I publish on the ASH blog — not, she hastened to add, that she agrees with it all! I told her that, if she gets elected Member of Parliament for Vauxhall we’ll be asking for her help in opposing the Labour council’s 6-estate demolition programme, and she responded ‘Yes, make sure you do. And’, she added, ‘please hold me to account on my housing policies.’ I assured her we would.
This, basically, is what I wrote in my article on Tactical Voting: A Socialist Option, in which I recommended voting to break up the monopoly that some political parties — which in Inner London means the Labour Party — have in Council and Parliament, which has led to the unopposed social cleansing of large swathes of Inner London boroughs, and increasingly the outer boroughs as well.
Despite me sending in my question last Friday, and — unlike half the authors of the questions that were read out — actually attending this two-and-a-half hours of my life that I’ll never get back, the Chair didn’t read out my question on housing. He took questions on climate change, neighbourhood planning, small businesses, transparency, public transport, high streets and the price of beer, but not on housing . . . So when, with only a few minutes to go, he asked if there were any more questions, I raised my hand and reminded him and the Congregation of the Labour Faithful that there was, still, a housing crisis in this city. So he grudgingly allowed me to ask my question, which was as follows:
‘Until Brexit and climate change knocked housing down the hierarchy of concerns in the manifestos of our Parliamentary parties, the crisis of housing affordability was the biggest political concern in London. In reality, however, housing brings into focus not only the social, but also the environmental, the economic and the political values of our would-be leaders. Their policies on housing will determine the ability of ordinary people to keep on living in London every bit as much as Brexit. Just as what we build in London — with the building industry producing up to 40 per cent of the country’s carbon emissions — will determine our ability to reduce our impact on the environment.
‘The Labour Party — as exemplified by Lambeth Labour council’s appalling record on the privatisation of the borough’s public land and assets — but also the Liberal Democrat Party, the Conservative Party and, increasingly, the Green Party, are all committed to London’s programme of council estate demolition and redevelopment as unaffordable properties for market sale. This has led to, and will continue to result in, not only the loss of tens of thousands of homes for social rent in the middle of a crisis of housing affordability, but also to the release of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of C02 into London’s already polluted air.
‘In a constituency in which the replacement of council housing by investment opportunities for global capital is unchecked, why should we vote for any of them?’
As you can imagine, this went down like a fart in a spacesuit with ‘For the many, not the few’ picked out in red pin stripes. In fact, a Labourite at the rear of the hall then berated me about how long my question took to ask for at least as long as it had taken me to ask it. And although the Green candidate, the Liberal Democrat candidate, the Brexit candidate, and even the Conservative candidate all made attempts to answer the question (although the latter concluded her promises, somewhat confusingly, with ‘So we all need to build more housing for home ownership’), the Labour candidate, Florence Eshalomi, did not. Which sort of confirms what I’ve been saying for some time now:
On the 12th of December don’t forget to remember: A vote for Labour is a vote for estate demolition, the social cleansing of estate communities, the eviction of small market traders and local businesses, the marketisation of our social services, and the privatisation of housing provision that places the value of the land our council homes are built on above the housing security and affordability of the residents that currently live in them.
Architects for Social Housing
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