Not quite a cycle lane but the indication of a cycling route. I spotted these freshly painted cycle icons today on Bridge Avenue in Hammersmith. This street is one-way and it not only encourages cyclists to ride in the wrong direction, it also gets them to ride too close to the parked cars. I know that it’s the end of the financial year but do councils really have to waste money on this kind of thing instead of building proper cycling infrastructure? Yes, it seems they do.
Category Archives: Hammersmith & Fulham
This is a new series in which I will talk about a topic that takes my fancy. Yesterday, Eric Pickles, the Community Secretary and pie-eater extraordinaire, sent a government hit squad into Tower Hamlets. This is unprecedented and given the level corruption in other councils (some of them Tory-run), this latest government move is suspicious and smacks of the centralizing tendencies of the current Tory-led government. It also reeks of racism and class disgust. Read on.
The Tories and their knuckledragging chums in The Telegraph have been running a vendetta against Tower Hamlets Council and, in particular, its mayor, Lutfur Rahman for the last four years. What upsets the Tories and their pals is that Tower Hamlets Council reflects the ethnic composition of the borough. But it’s the fact that a Bangladeshi is the twice-elected mayor of the borough is what upsets them even more. This excellent article by Chris Nineham, in the Socialist Review reminds us what Tower Hamlets used to be like:
From the moment of taking office the Liberals not only discriminated against the local Bengali population, but actively scapegoated them in a series of high profile publicity stunts. In 1987 they made national news by claiming that 52 Bangladeshi families living in bed and breakfast accommodation had made themselves intentionally homeless, simply by coming to Britain. They were therefore not entitled to benefit. This was too much even for the Tories, and the council was eventually beaten in the courts, but the damage had been done. The vile message had already gone out, ‘Immigrants are scroungers, they are taking our homes’.
That message was reinforced a year or so later when Tower Hamlets mayor Jeremy Shaw travelled to Bangladesh to tell the government there that immigrants were no longer welcome because the borough was full up. Nothing, of course, could have been further from the truth. Apart from the 900 empty yuppie flats on the Isle of Dogs, the council was sitting on 3000 empty properties, rotting from neglect. But the truth did not matter, the trip was a stunt for home consumption, and the local paper quoted Shaw’s claim in a banner headline.
When Derek Beackon won the Isle of Dogs by-election in 1993 for the BNP, there was shock and dismay. Beackon was elected towards the end of the Lib Dems’ eight year spell of running Tower Hamlets, and on the back of their blatantly racist “Sons and Daughters” housing scheme. After Beackon’s election there was a fear that the BNP would take more seats in the 1994 local government elections. Paul Anderson writing for The New Statesman said:
It is without a doubt the Lib Dems who have most explaining to do when it comes to last September’s debacle. As their national party’s inquiry into Tower Hamlets, chaired by Lord Lester, QC, made clear just before Christmas, their propaganda in the borough, particularly in the Isle of Dogs, has systematically pandered to racism, especially on housing.
What then styled itself the Liberal Focus Team took control of the council from Labour in 1986 after more than a decade of “community politics” characterised by populist anti-Labour rhetoric and assiduous wooing of tenants’ associations – a major force in a borough in which three-quarters of the population lives in council housing even after years of right-to-buy. Despite having a tiny majority, the Liberals implemented their decentralisation and council house-sales policies with missionary zeal. From the start, they courted controversy over race with their tough line on the council’s legal obligation to house the homeless (mostly Bangladeshi) and their “sons and daughters scheme”, giving priority in housing allocation to the offspring of people born in the borough, most of whom were white.
In 1994, I was one of a large group of comedians (along with with Lee Hurst, formerly of Red Action) who doorstepped and leafleted the Isle of Dogs in an effort to get the residents to turn their backs on Beackon and the BNP. You probably wouldn’t get a group of comedians doing that now, but in those days there was still a sizeable contingent of politically active comedians on the circuit. In any case, Beackon lost his seat and the BNP dogs went home with their tails between their legs.
What strikes me as odd is that when Lib Dem controlled Tower Hamlets engaged in blatant corruption, not a single Tory said anything. No hit squads were mobilized to assume control of the council’s operations and no one even suggested that the council be taken into special measures. As for the press, they were strangely quiet. These days, the likes of Ted Jeory and his partner-in-crime, Andrew Gilligan make a big deal out of the sizeable Bangladeshi population. They would, of course, deny that there’s a racial dimension to their interest in the borough. Gilligan, for example, often prefaces the name of Lutfur Rahman with the phrase “extremist-linked” or similar. It doesn’t take a Barthesian scholar in semiotics to work out what he’s trying to say. It’s pretty bloody obvious. Indeed, anyone who takes issue with Kennite’s sensationalist drivel is accused of supporting “terror”. Charming. The trick that Jeory uses to counter any Bangladeshi claims of racism is to accuse them of “cheapening the word”. It’s not as though Jeory ever faces racism on a daily basis though, is it?
Jeory and Gilligan have both accused Rahman of vote-rigging and electoral fraud for years. Even after investigations have concluded there were no irregularities, they persisted with this accusation. After this year’s local elections, there were similar accusations and two people were arrested. Curiously, there are no updates on this story and it may well be the case that the accusations were baseless. We shall see.
This whole episode began when Rahman was originally selected then deselected by Tower Hamlets Labour Party as their mayoral candidate. The whole selection issue was a messy business that was covered extensively by The Guardian’s Dave Hill. On 21 September 2010, Hill wrote:
There is a view in local Labour circles, one shared even by some strong opponents of Rahman, that had everyone seeking the nomination been allowed to enter the contest from the start – which is what eventually occurred – the quality of debate would have been both higher and more honest and the battle less divisive. More than one unsuccessful candidate takes the view that the publicity generated around Rahman helped him win by persuading some party members to rally round a man they considered to be a victim of smear campaigns and dsicrimination
The party then expelled Rahman from Labour for standing as an independent mayoral candidate against the wishes of the party, which preferred to impose candidates on the electorate rather than allow local parties to decide on their own candidates. As an independent, Rahman had the support of RESPECT and the former London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, who attempted without success to have Rahman readmitted into the party. Since then, there has been a steady drip feed of anti-Rahman stories from Gilligoon and Jeory.
I think we all need to remember that the PWC report did not find any evidence of fraud. That will piss off Gilligoon and Jeory, who were hoping for a scalp. From The Guardian Live Politics blog
The council, which is run by the independent mayor, Lutfur Rahman, said PWC did not find any evidence of fraud. In a statement to the Commons, Pickles said he did not know whether or not the PWC report amounted to evidence of fraud, but that he was sending it to the police anyway. He said the report exposed cronyism “risking the corrupt spending of public funds”. His decision to intervene was backed by Labour, and Tower Hamlets was strongly criticised by MPs from all sides.
My bold. As for “cronyism”, there was plenty of that in Hammersmith and Fulham when the Tories were running the council. Yet, Gilligan said nothing and nor did Pickles, who described Hammersmith and Fulham as his “favourite council”. That says an awful lot about The Sontaran’s judgement and Gilligan’s character.
When the Tories lost Hammersmith and Fulham a fortnight ago, instead of reflecting on what they did wrong, they entered into an immediate funk of bitchiness and self-delusion. The Guardian’s Dave Hill points out the Tories lack of grace, citing Greg Hands’ bitter tweet that was posted within minutes of their defeat. Hill also quotes the former cabinet member for housing, Andrew Johnson, who tweeted:
Await with interest what LBHF’s new housing policies will be under Labour. Last time they gave council house to Abu Hamza’s family for life.
[Greg] Smith has retweeted an expression of amazement that H&F residents “have voted to increase their council tax”, while at Conservative Home the Famous Harry Phibbs has attributed his party’s defeat in part to Labour’s picking up more disaffected Liberal Democrats, describing these as likely to be “public sector Guardianistas”. Harry! How impolite!
That’s not the biggest reason the Famous Harry gives – like many fellow H&F Tories he says Labour misrepresented government plans for Charing Cross hospital and unfairly profited accordingly. He also points to a national swing towards Labour. But while it’s easy to understand why H&F Tories are sore, perhaps they should look a little harder at themselves for reasons why they came so badly unstuck.
Such is their arrogance, that they have spent the last fortnight whining about how Labour is going to “trash” the borough. There is no palpable sense of irony on display here. In the eight years that the Tories controlled Hammersmith and Fulham, they presided over a massive, to use their word, “trashing” of the borough. Examples of this trashing include: threatening the tenants of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates with eviction, because they wanted to build luxury flats on the land they hoped to flatten around Earl’s Court. The selling off of the Irish Centre, The Shepherds Bush Village Hall and the eviction of 22 groups from Palingswick House to make way for Toby Young’s West London Free School. Tobes’s free school has already lost three headteachers in as many years. Then there was The Sulivan Primary School in Fulham, which the Conservatives decided they’d close and hand over to a free school.
Here are some of the tweets I found on Andrew Johnson’s timeline. This one claims:
Johnson believes, as does the rest of his party, that all the Tories need to do is offer people the right to part buy their council homes and they’ll come flocking back. This is nothing less than self-delusion. Johnson even wants to extend Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants, but hang on, wasn’t this done when Nu Labour were in power? None of the Housing Association properties that were sold were replaced. What HAs like Peabody did instead was to build new properties to buy or part buy and ignore those who can’t afford to buy.
Here Johnson, who lost his Fulham Reach seat along with the insufferable bully and chinless wonder, Peter Graham, claims that the new Labour ruling group is not committed to providing homes for local people. Yet, when his party was in power, they joined with developers like St George to build flats for overseas investors. Johnson’s words ring rather hollow.
Phoghorn Phibbs produces perhaps the most chilling statement in the title of his blog at Conservative Home. It reads like a line from The Terminator:
The Conservatives will be back in Hammersmith and Fulham
I really hope that never happens again. Phibbs complains that Labour didn’t fight the Tories on their “record”. That record, as if you didn’t know by now, dear readers, included selling off council flats at inflated prices, denying shelter to a heavily pregnant woman who was forced to sleep on a bench in a local park, and lying about the proposed downgrading of Charing Cross and Hammersmith Hospitals (according to the Tories, a GP-led clinic is the same as an Accident and Emergency department). On balance, I think not only did Labour fight the Tories on their dismal record, but the voters had also had enough of the Tories’ autocratic style of leadership and decided to vote them out.
The Conservative’s loss means a change at the top. Greg Smith, member of the Young Britons’ Foundation (The so-called Conservative madrasah) has now been elected to replace the Nick Botterill as the leader of the Tory group. Botterill, himself, had been elected to replace Stephen ‘Decent Neighbourhoods’ Greenhalgh in 2012 when the latter was appointed by Bozza to become the Deputy Mayor for Policing – a job he’s done rather poorly in my view. Curiously, Botterill’s Twitter timeline has been quiet since 15 April.
Mark Loveday, the new Tory chief whip, is also a member of YBF and is, according to the Tanfield Chambers website, a barrister who specializes in “property litigation”. So when the Tories sold off land and council properties that weren’t supposed to be sold off, it was his job to find loopholes and create legal blocks to any attempts to reverse their reckless planning decisions. Lucy Ivimy, who was once accused of racism when she accused “immigrants” of throwing litter out of tower block windows, becomes Smudger’s deputy.
I also found these tweets on Smith’s timeline. Notice how the first tweet suggests that Labour will “deprive h&f of 7500 new homes”. What he doesn’t dare tell you is that these homes were for rich first time buyers and foreign investors. The lack of honesty from these Tories is as breathtaking as their arrogance and ruthlessness. The threatened demolition of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates was perhaps the most blatant attempt at gerrymandering a ward since the Homes for Votes scandal in the 1980s. Shirley Porter, it could be argued, was H&F Tories’ patron saint.
It’s no surprise that Smith, a truly nasty piece of work, would retweet the dismal, Thatcher-worshipping, rent-a-gob, Katie Hopkins. What Hopkins and her admirer refuse to recognise is how Right to Buy contributed to the current housing crisis. Their solution to the housing crisis is, in effect, no solution.
Hammersmith and Fulham’s residents are relieved that the most ruthless Tory council in living memory has been shown the door. But the Tories refuse to learn any lessons from their defeat and seek to apportion blame elsewhere. The defeat of this flagship Tory council is perhaps an indication of what could happen in next year’s General Election. Tory Hammersmith and Fulham was, for all intents and purposes, the Tory-led government in microcosm.
I wish the new Labour administration all the best as they try to reverse the Tories’ disastrous policies in the borough. In four years time, let’s hope more Conservative councillors find themselves out of a job.
The Tories have lost Hammersmith and Fulham and the borough has been returned to Labour. The Tories’ loss is easy to understand. They lost because they sided with the government over the closure of Charing Cross and Hammersmith Hospitals after pretending to support efforts to save them. They lost because, for the last 8 years of their tenure, they’ve worked hard to force working class and low-waged people out of the borough. They lost because they were supremely arrogant and waged a class war against the borough’s poorest inhabitants.
Labour won 11 seats from the Tories. One of the wards where the Tories’ were wiped out was Fulham Reach, where Charing Cross Hospital is located. Former councillor, Peter Graham, spent the entire two months before the election lying about the closure of Charing Cross Hospital, even going so far as to redefine the meaning of the word ‘hospital’. Graham works for Four Communications, a lobbying firm whose clients include property developers, The Berkeley Group, who build apartment blocks for rich foreigners. His colleague, Andrew Johnson, the former cabinet member for housing tweeted:
He talked about selling off council flats and then claimed his Tory group supported building “affordable to buy homes”. Nothing could be further from the truth: all the properties in the developments that are currently under construction will cost you upwards of £950k. That’s affordable, but only if you have the bank balance to match.
Let’s remind ourselves of this glorious faux pas by Fulham Reach Tories, who thought that having the Hammersmith Cemetery as a backdrop was top idea.
Yesterday I took a cycle ride around the southern half of the borough and was surprised to see only two posters for the Conservatives. Those posters were in the window of a posh riverside flat in Fulham Reach.
On the GetWestLondon website, which has replaced the Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle, Greg Hands, the Tory MP for Fulham and Chelsea, blamed “Labour lies” for their defeat. The only real liars came from his own side, who first claimed to support efforts to save the borough’s hospitals but then went in to reverse gear and supported the government position. Pot-kettle-black.
Even though Labour has won a smashing victory, The Cat will continue to hold the council to account.
Tory-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham’s slogan is the “Borough of Opportunity”. It’s a slogan that’s proclaimed from lamp post banners in the borough to its new glossy magazine. But it’s gloriously misleading. Hammersmith and Fulham is a borough of opportunity but only for property developers. Anyone who lives in Hammersmith and Fulham will have noticed the number of building projects popping up around the borough. It’s a boom time – and I mean that most sincerely, folks – in Hammersmith and Fulham. Interestingly, all of these developments are in Hammersmith and White City, while in Fulham and other leafier parts of the borough not a single tower crane is anywhere to be seen. Is this a coincidence? I don’t know. You tell me.
I’ve taken a tour of the borough and photographed many of the current developments and those that have just been completed. Many of us in Hammersmith already know of the fabulous structure on 10 Hammersmith Grove that faces onto Beadon Road. Look at those lines! Look at its shininess! Shame its upper floors are completely empty.
10 Hammersmith Grove was built with the intention of housing the offices of Pernod-Ricard, but they had other ideas and decided to move to the ever-expanding Chiswick Park instead. The ground floor is occupied by a couple of posh eateries. Fancy an artisan burger? How much dosh have you got to splash out on one?
Do you fancy living in a former multi-story car park next to the District and Piccadilly Lines and the moderately busy Glenthorne Road? Well, now you can. Here’s the sales office for St George’s rather posh-sounding Sovereign Court development. Stupid name if you ask me. Flats here will set you back upwards of £950k. The question is: where are shoppers going to park their cars? The council has no answer to this and other questions.
You see that crane in the background? Well, here it is again just above this empty office block on Glenthorne Road. This is a pretty big site.
This office block on Lyric Square once had loads of occupants when I first moved here, but I’ve no idea what happened to them. As far as I can make out, it’s been mostly empty for a few years.
The Hammersmith Palais was a legendary music venue and former dance hall that was immortalised in the The Clash’s White Man In The Hammersmith Palais. Here it is before it was demolished.
Within a year of the Tories taking control of the Council in 2006, it was announced that the Palais would be demolished and replaced with expensive student accommodation. In the distance there’s another development next to the Laurie Arms pub. This is what stands on the site of the Palais.
This isn’t a new development, rather it’s a curious development. This is Mackenzie Trench House, a 60s council block on Lillie Road that’s been “acquired” by Cherwell, a property development company. It’s going to be demolished to make way for a “part 4 / 6 storey building of 30 flats (Class C3) comprising 5 x one bed, 20 x two bed and 5 x three bed; Excavation to provide basement car park for 14 cars with vehicular access from Purcell Crescent and associated landscaping”, according to the Council’s website. Of course it is entirely possible that the residents of MacKenzie Trench House were leaseholders and they were ‘made an offer they couldn’t refuse’, rather than being lowly tenants… and we all know how H&F Tories feel about council housing and council tenants.
I’ve already tweeted about the Fulham Reach or, should I say, the Fulham-out-of-the-Reach-of-ordinary-people Development. Here it is in all its monstrous glory. And don’t you dare go near the jetty. That’s for landing crooked Russian oligarchs, Singaporean gambling moguls and bloodthirsty Bahraini princelings who have come to gaze upon their assets.
The sales office for this monstrosity, well, looks a little like the sales office for Sovereign Court (you’re still serious about that name? excuse me while I split my sides). It’s a brand, you see. St George are part of the Berkeley Group of companies and many of those companies have saints’ names. Don’t ask me why. St Edward, for example, has built a huge swanky development on the former site of Charles House, a local tax office on Kensington Road. Behind Charles House there once was a wonderful little pub that sold Everard’s Ales. It was called the Radnor Arms and I may be wrong, but it was the only Everard’s pub in London. It is no more.
More student accommodation, this time sandwiched between John Betts Primary School and a council block on Dalling Road. This is a Balfour Beatty development. Balfour Beatty is the company that was implicated in the Potters Bar rail crash along with Network Rail. The company is also member of the Conservative Property Forum.
New planning laws make it easier for companies like Balfour Beatty and St George to influence local planning decisions (the Tories refer to this as “cutting red tape”). In Hammersmith and Fulham, these companies have a sympathetic Tory council that is more than willing to please them. According to the Government website, the new planning ‘reforms’ are supposed to give communities a say in local planning decisions. What we actually tend to find is that developers and councils alike use a great deal of PR muscle in an attempt to win over people. In some cases, such as the ongoing Earl’s Court gentrification plan, the Council or PR company in question will use all the tricks in the property playbook, including the manipulation of statistical data, rigged surveys and so forth, to produce ‘reports’ that appear to suggest a consensus.
If the Tories win the council election next week, Charing Cross Hospital will disappear and will be replaced with luxury flats and a GP’s surgery. There will be no A&E. You’ll have to travel miles through heavy traffic to get to one. Anyone who knows Fulham Palace Road will tell you that the traffic is often bumper-to-bumper from the Lillie Road junction to the one-way system.
The Tories have also been making noises about demolishing the Queen Caroline Estate. Yet, when anyone suggests that the issue of social class plays a part in their ‘thinking’, boy do they howl with indignation. But this is what we’re witnessing in Hammersmith and Fulham: a class war that is being waged by powerful interests, aided and abetted by the Tories, against the working class, the low-waged and the vulnerable. They can tell you that the idea of social class is “outdated” but they would be liars, because they are the biggest class warriors of all and they will fight tirelessly for the interests of their class.
Vote out the Tories next week.
The three Tory candidates for the Fulham Reach ward chose a rather bizarre, if not revealing, location for their photo-shoot. The location? The Hammersmith Cemetery, which is conveniently located behind Charing Cross Hospital.
Clearly, no thought went into their choice of location. That’s the Tories for you. They don’t think. Kick them out on 22 May.
Hat tip to Crispin Flintoff.