Tag Archives: gerrymandering

Tory Election Fraud: The Clock Is Ticking.

The Cat wonders what’s happening with the investigation into the Tory Party’s fraudulent activities that took place during the 2015 General Election.  It seems to have gone rather quiet, save for the occasional appearance of the hashtag #ToryElectionFraud on Twitter.  Even Channel 4, which has been running with the story has been noticeably quiet recently.  The last entry on their website was back in November 2016 when it announced that the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Nick Timothy, had been drawn into the controversy.  So, what’s going on? It’s anyone’s guess.  The Cat suspects that the Tories will do all they can to obstruct and delay the investigation, meaning that the police forces involved could run out of time.

Prior to the General Election, The Cat was convinced that the only way David Cameron’s deeply unpopular Nouveau Tories could win was to cheat.  They did this in two ways: they under-claimed on their expenses and they scrubbed voters from the electoral registers.  In addition to this, they began the process of gerrymandering constituency boundaries, which they claimed was done out of ‘fairness’ and to supposedly eliminate safe seats.  What wasn’t explained was how the ‘safe seats’ they identified were mainly Labour seats in urban areas. Tory safe seats, such as those occupied by the likes of Matthew Hancock, would remain safe.

Interestingly, the Electoral Commission, the ostensibly  neutral body that redraws electoral boundaries, withdrew its investigation into the Tories last July.  The reason it offered was contained in this paragraph:

The Electoral Commission has today (15 July) announced that as part of its investigation into the Conservative and Unionist Party campaign spending returns it launched on 18 February 2016, it has withdrawn its application to the High Court for an information and document disclosure order. This means that there will be no hearing regarding the order. The Commission has made this decision because since issuing its application to the High Court on 12 May, it has received sufficient  material from the Party to proceed with its investigation.

This means that over 20 police forces up and down the country are now solely responsible for investigating the claims. Many constabularies were granted extra time to conduct their investigations but time is running out.

The Conservatives have already tried twice to stymie the investigation.  Once when Craig Mackinlay, the MP for Thanet South attempted to block it in the courts and again, when they dragged their heels when they were asked to submit  important documents.

The clock is still ticking.

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H&F Tories: A Sad Embittered Bunch Of Losers

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.

Bitchy. No?

Hill writes:

[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:

Headbanger JohnsonJohnson 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.

Headbanger Johnson1

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.

Gruntin Greg Smith1Mark 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.

Gruntin Greg SmithIt’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.

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The Nightmare Is Over!

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:

Headbanger JohnsonHe 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.

Copy of FR-crop-508x1024

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.

You can see the ward-by-ward breakdown of Labour’s victory here.

Even though Labour has won a smashing victory, The Cat will continue to hold the council to account.

 

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Helmet-head to stand in Hammersmith for Tories in 2015?

The self-styled classical liberal catches flies between meals

This self-styled classical liberal catches flies between meals

I’ve just seen this on Shepherds Bush blog.

In a Telegraph Q&A, Hon. Tobes told his followers (few of whom live in the borough) that:

The Hammersmith Conservative Association will shortly be advertising for a candidate to stand in 2015 and I am thinking of applying.

That’s just great. First, he sets up a free school in Hammersmith & Fulham with the full support of the ruling Tory group and now he’s considering standing as a candidate in the 2015 election.

The Tory ruling group would love Hon Tobes to win. In fact, they’ve been working hard to ensure that as many Labour supporters as possible are moved from the borough. This article from the Evening Standard’s Paul Waugh from 2009 tells us that:

Hammersmith and Fulham council is plotting a Dame Shirley Porter-style programme to move out the poor and replace them with private homes and retail developments, critics claim.

Residents hit out as secret documents, obtained by the Standard, revealed how the borough’s leader and officials worked on a radical policy to end “homes for life” and turn council housing into a safety net service for just the old and disabled.

Under the plans, new homes will be built to attract residents with higher incomes and areas that have traditionally voted Labour will be broken up as more than 3,500 flats and houses are demolished. Council leader Stephen Greenhalgh, who also heads Mr Cameron’s Conservative Councils Innovation Unit, believes council housing is “warehousing poverty” and entrenches welfare dependency.

Last October, the Council crowed on its website:

Council rips up the social housing rule book

It added:

Trailblazing Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council is to be the first local authority in the country to simultaneously introduce fixed term social housing tenancies and a maximum income cap for people wishing to access the housing register.

The flagship council will be ripping up the social housing rule book from April 2013 when it will introduce a number of radical policies which seek to increase low-cost homeownership, tackle the social and economic divide in the borough and give a far greater priority for council housing to people who are making a community contribution.

Further down, they tell us:

Currently most social housing tenants have the right to stay for life unless the tenancy is brought to an end because of a breach. Once the tenant passes away, the right of succession passes onto a family member even if the housing need of the individual is less than other potential applicants.

The council believes that this does not promote personal aspiration or provide tenants with any incentive to try to move into home-ownership and fails to take into account the fact that a household’s need for social housing may be temporary.

From next year, the council will issue fixed-term tenancies of five years for new social housing lettings. This would be reduced to two years in certain cases.

One rule for the rich, eh?

The West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates are about to be bulldozed and new developments like this one are springing up everywhere. I guarantee you that none of these building projects will have homes for rent.

The Tories, in spite of their libertarian-sounding rhetoric, are not only deeply reactionary and authoritarian; they also want to create a one-party state. In Hammersmith and Fulham, they have pretty much achieved that, albeit on a smaller scale. After all, this is the borough that is seen by the government as its social laboratory.

Knowing the Tories of this constituency, I’d say Helmet-head’s candidature is in the proverbial bag. These people would move heaven and earth for him. Remember how they served eviction notices on 22 charities in Palingswick House to make way for Tobes’s free school? Well, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, baby!

Of course becoming candidate is only half the battle. Convincing voters of his integrity is another matter.

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Nightmare on King Street (Part 14)

Yesterday, as I was looking at my Twitter timeline, I saw this tweet from H&F Council’s propaganda department,

H&F propaganda1

So I followed the link to this article on the Council’s website. I will quote the first two paragraphs,

A judge has thrown out a legal challenge that threatened £1billion worth of community benefits to North Fulham and Earls Court, describing it as ‘absurd’.

West Kensington Estate resident Harold Greatwood, applied to court to launch a judicial review of Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council’s decision to enter into a Conditional Land Sale Agreement with EC Properties to include the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates in the wider regeneration of Earls Court.

Gloating? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

Finding that the challenge to the Council’s consultation was “not reasonably arguable”, Mr Justice Mitting said: “The analysis of the consultation responses put to cabinet on 23 April 2012 and 3 September 2012 was balanced and fair. The suggestion that the results of the consultation were hidden is unwarranted”. He went on to say that “The time for the consultation – nine weeks – was adequate” and that “The suggestion that because the defendant did not address the consultation documents to tenants by name or to the ‘tenant’, the process was flawed, is absurd.”

Justice? Justice only exists for those who can afford to pay for it. As for justice being “blind”, that’s another myth. Judges are ideological too. I suspect the Council has a dedicated legal team whose job is to deal with this and other property and land deals.

I saw another tweet on H&F Council’s Twitter timeline.

H&F tweet

This isn’t riding roughshod over the majority of the tenant’s wishes, it’s getting into a steamroller, putting a brick onto the accelerator pedal and running over the tenants again and again. I clicked on the link.

There’s a quote from Council Leader, Nicholas Botterill.

Cllr Nicholas Botterill, Leader of H&F Council, said: “We believe that the residents living on the estates have negotiated the best deal of any regeneration scheme in the country. They will only have to move when their new home is ready to be occupied. That new home will be the same area as they are already living in. People will be compensated and we will keep support groups and neighbours together.

Whoa! Hang on! Botterill says, “The residents living on the estates have negotiated the best deal of any regeneration scheme in the country”. Which “residents” are these? Not the residents who oppose this development and he can only mean the astroturf group of residents that was set up by the Council to give the impression of a consensus for the redevelopment project. It’s an old PR con trick that Edward Bernays would have admired.

Here’s some more,

“Residents, their current and future children will be living in an even better, safer neighbourhood environment with access to new leisure and community facilities. Most of all local people will benefit from the thousands of new job opportunities that will be created”.

“Local people”, says Botterill. Most of those “local people” will be forced out of their homes to make way for the affluent and those who will take, at face value, the words of the developer and the vendors who will sell shoebox properties that have a luxury price tag on them.

At the end of the article, which was quite possibly written by the Council’s propaganda minister, Harry Phibbs, it asks,

What happens next?

  • Hammersmith & Fulham Council will make an application to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government  for consent for the transfer of the estates to EC Properties. This is likely to be considered in March.
  • When the Section 106 agreement with the developer is firmed up, the Planning Authority will refer the planning application to the Mayor of London, while the Secretary of State also has the discretion to call it in.

The Secretary of State, the immensely rotund Eric Pickles, is already on board and so is Emperor Bozza. It looks like a done deal… or is it? The Council, in its arrogance, believes that it can do no wrong. We’ll see.

The former Council Leader, Stephen Greenhalgh, is facing a criminal investigation over the alleged “VIP list” where tenants who signed up to support the redevelopment were promised preferential treatment. If this investigation goes ahead, I expect other councillors and council officials to face charges. For all the Council’s gloating, the VIP list could come back to bite them. The Council and Greenhalgh deny any wrongdoing.

Funnily enough, when I click on any link on the pages I’ve linked to, I get the following message,

http://www.lbhf.gov.uk is unavailable or may not exist.

Amusing. No?

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Anti-democratic Tories pin their hopes on boundary changes

Tories don’t like opposition. That much was made plain in 1986 with the passing of the Local Government Act. This act abolished the metropolitan county councils – all of which were Labour-controlled – and effectively left large areas of the country without any form of unified administration. The Act also contained the notorious Section 28, which forbade councils from “promoting” homosexuality. Abolishing local authorities because of their political complexion is the sort of thing that we have come to expect in countries where the rule of law comes from the barrel of a gun. Not here. Not in Britain?

When the Tories went into coalition with the Lib Dems, they announced that they were going to impose boundary changes on the country. Why? Well, they don’t like losing in the inner cities.  Their rationale – such as it is – is that it’s simply unfair and beastly that Labour continue to win in the inner cities and they cannot.  Rather than accept that they will never be popular in such areas, they resort to crooked means to get what they want.

However, the issue isn’t so much the boundary changes but the reduction in the number of Commons seats.  Under the proposed changes, the Tories would gain 12 seats and Labour would lose 25. This idea for a reduced number of seats comes straight from the pages of Hannan and Carswell’s The Plan, from which the majority of the Tories craziest policies have originated. “We want to get rid of safe seats”, declare the book’s authors. What they really meant was “we want to abolish safe seats that are controlled by other parties”. Be assured that the ideas laid out in The Plan have little or nothing at all to do with democracy (as we know it) and has more to do with refashioning this country in the image of the United States but, more importantly, creating a system that rewards the Tories with governmental power for eternity.

What the Tories fail to grasp is the fact that they are by far, the least popular party in the country. Since the 1979 General Election, more people have voted for Labour or other parties than the Tories who, under the present electoral system, are allowed to govern with a lower percentage of votes than the opposition parties combined. For example, in the 1987 General Election the total percentage of votes for the opposition when added up was 50.7%, the Tories won the election on a paltry 43.9%. Under a proportional system, the Tories would have been in opposition. Indeed after the Murdoch-rigged 1992 election, the Conservatives would have found themselves on the opposition benches for a generation or two.

No one should believe the excuses that come from Lord Snooty and his pals that these changes will result in more ‘balance’ in the Commons. When Tories talk about “balance” and “fairness” they really mean a playing field that is skewed in their favour.

In the last couple of weeks, Cameron has been talking about what his party is going to do after the next General Election. This is revealing because it completely exposes the lack of ideas that I’ve been talking about on this blog for the better part of two years. Bereft of intellectual gravitas and a philosophical anchor, the Tories can only fantasize about what might happen in years to come.  Lord Snooty has talked about moving even further to the right after 2015 but he wilfully ignores the fact that no one, except those in his own party, has the stomach for any more public sector cuts and privatizations.

Lord Snooty knows that his backbenchers are restless and so he offers the Europhobes a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU on the same day as the election. To hear them talk, anyone would think that a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU is more important than any discussion about the lack of housing or jobs. Moreover, we get a referendum on this issue but what about the issues that really matter? Did any of us get a say as to whether or not we wanted the wholesale privatization of our national assets or whether we wanted ‘free’ schools? No.

The Tories failed to win an outright majority in 2010 (they won 36.1% of the vote while Labour won 29% and the Lib Dems were on 23%). They believed that this was because Labour continues to win in the much-coveted inner cities, not because they are seen (and rightly so) as the party of the rich and the privileged. Furthermore they cannot see themselves winning the next election without resorting to some kind of ‘fix’. When all else fails, cheat.

Finally, from The New Statesman,

The awkward fact for Conservative strategists remains that Cameron and Osborne struggled to beat Gordon Brown, a reviled incumbent, in an election when the left vote was split by disillusioned Labour voters backing Nick Clegg. For all Ed Miliband’s weaknesses as a candidate, he has acquired a higher, plumper cushion of a core vote from Lib Dem refugees. Cameron, meanwhile, hasn’t made much progress in the north or Scotland or among swing voters who considered backing the Tories last time but weren’t quite persuaded.

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Hammersmith & Fulham and the Tory money-go-round

It has the dubious distinction of being Private Eye’s Rotten Borough a record 13 times. But Hammersmith & Fulham Tories aren’t bothered; they revel in their bad guy role.

Recently a council property was sold at auction and was featured in BBC1’s awful Homes Under the Hammer. It was sold because the council claims that it didn’t have the money to refurbish it. But the money that it’s made on the sale will go where exactly? On council housing? No. This will become a second home for someone. Which reminds me, why would anyone want a second home in Hammersmith? It’s not Cornwall or Wales.

Shepherds Bush blog also has the story

I found this Telegraph article that appeared on 9 September 2011 about big construction companies funding the Conservative Party. The party has what it calls “donor clubs”  one of which is The Property Forum, which exists to bring together party bigwigs and property and construction moguls.

Mr Slade, who has donated more than £300,000 to the Conservatives individually and through Helical Bar, has claimed that the club plays a key role in shaping the party’s planning policy.

The Cowan Report also has the story.

Helical Bar, along with Grainger plc, are involved in the King Street development, which aims to transform the area around the Town Hall into a London version of Basingstoke.

Slade is also the Chairman of The Property Forum . Annual membership costs a mere £2,500, which presumably grants the donor access to a bag-carrier rather than a minister. Access to someone like that will doubtlessly cost more.

For key players within the property industry to meet senior Members of Parliament over breakfast, discuss current topics and learn about related issues.

I found this on the same page.

Unlike Labour, we are not funded by the Trade Unions. Instead, we rely on the generosity of our committed members. We want to build a broad network of donors, who pay regularly by direct debit which allows us to plan our campaigning activities with greater certainty.

Party Patrons will help us to campaign more effectively in a number of ways:

  • Transmitting our message right across the country to gain support – for the Conservative Party, there’s no such thing as a no-go area.
  • Encouraging existing Conservative voters to join the Party
  • Millions of people vote Conservative, but we want to attract more members who will champion our cause at local level.

This is shameless stuff. The Tories admit that they’re supported by unaccountable and undemocratic bodies which will then dictate policy to the party but, at the same time, attack Labour because of its links with the trade unions, which are democratically elected and accountable institutions – unlike millionaires and corporations.

Slade has been less than flattering about Housing Minister, Grant Shapps

 “He’s just a kid – why should he know what goes on in local authorities?”

Not only is Shapps “just a kid”, he’s a pretty dimwitted kid who regurgitates soundbites on command.

Slade also has a close relationship with Emperor Boris.

He is a close ally of Boris Johnson and donated £20,000 to his campaign to become Mayor of London.

He has previously claimed to have helped shape Mr Johnson’s plan to see 50,000 new affordable homes built in London.

Asked by a newspaper interviewer whether his donations were intended to influence the Mayor’s building policy, he reportedly said: “You do run the thin line of someone saying, ‘I’m only doing this to have access and influence’, but that was what politics was always about. It’s a little unfair, but there must be 20 per cent truth in it.”

“Affordable homes”? Those aren’t council houses, by the way.

Property Week carried this story in 2008.

Mike Slade, chief executive of Helical, said: ‘Despite the current market difficulties, this is an outstanding opportunity for a mixed use regeneration scheme in a borough close to home, where we enjoy other substantial interests.’

Yes, they “enjoy other substantial interests” in the borough. Might these interests have something to do with forcing people out of their homes under the pretense of making “improvements”? Remember this story from HF Conwatch?

Here’s the cabinet document relating to the disposal of Edith Summerskill House.

Nowhere Towers does not have any further information pertaining to the sale of Edith Summerskill House but we suspect that it will be sold to one of the council’s construction ‘partners’.

As we can see, the same companies that fund the Tory Party also do business with Cameron’s favourite asset-stripping council. There’s an old saying: “one had washes the other” and there is no better example if this than the connection between the construction industry and the Tory party.

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