Tag Archives: Harry Phibbs

H&F Tories: Still Bitter After Seven Months

Hammersmith and Fulham’s Tories are still crying over their defeat seven months after May’s local elections. The Cat has noticed that, with little to complain about, they’ve resorted to accusing the Labour administration of not doing enough about litter on the borough’s streets.

I stumbled across the rather neutral-sounding Hammersmith and Fulham Forum the other day and wasn’t surprised to discover it was run by the local Tories. This blog claims:

Many residents have noticed how the streets are less clean in Hammersmith and Fulham since Labour took control in May.

“Many”? How many, exactly? It doesn’t say. If H&F Tories are complaining that the new Labour administration isn’t taking litter seriously, may I remind them that they didn’t do much with regards to litter either – in spite of their claims to the contrary. On many occasions I saw lots of litter blowing about on Queen Caroline Street as well as dumped rubbish on Fulham Palace Road while they were in power. It seems to me that these Tories haven’t really got much to complain about and are looking for any excuse, no matter how feeble, to ingratiate themselves to the borough’s residents, most of whom voted them out. Here’s another Phibbs special titled “Devenport Road under Socialism”. “Socialism”? Really? You’re taking the piss, pal.

I used to live in Devonport Road, in Shepherd’s Bush, and one of the motivations I had for standing for the council in 2006 was the filthy state of the streets when Labour were running the council.

I thought you were motivated by power and prestige, so don’t try and fool us, Phoghorn.

The hard won improvements during the eight years that the Conservatives did not come about by accident. Nor did they involve increased spending.

Hilarious.

The Conservatives may be in opposition but we will not be passive. We are planning a programme of “Grotspotting” throughout the borough to demand that Serco honour their contract. Councillors will be encouraging those involved in  residents associations and “community activists” to help with this task.

You’re kidding me. This is all you have? Christ, these people are desperate. Phoghorn has even coined a stupid wee word too. “Grotspotting”. It’s all about the message and cute soundbites. As for real ideas, you won’t get those from a bunch of no mark, chinless wonders who regard council flats as “vertical slums”.

In another blog, which begs the question “Is the council consulting you on planning applications”, they claim… well, Phoghorn Phibbs claims:

If we are to have new buildings in our borough that make it more beautiful rather than more ugly then it is important for as many residents as possible to make their views known.

Is that why your party approved the Fulham Reach development? Is this why your party wanted to build skyscrapers all over the borough and destroy a third of Furnival Gardens to build a bridge from the Town Hall to the Thames? The Phoghorn conveniently forgets how his party rode roughshod over residents’ concerns when they approved the building of luxury apartment blocks around Hammersmith and sold off council properties to their developer chums. Yet here’s Phoghorn telling us that the council should consult residents over planning applications. The powerful stench of hypocrisy emanates from his every word.

By the way, H&F Tories are still claiming that A&E services will remain at Charing Cross Hospital in spite of the fact that Imperial NHS Trust intends to demolish the hospital and sell off the site to developers. 

Meanwhile, former councillor Andrew Johnson tweeted:

Labour’s housing proposals represent a grave threat to future of council housing in H&F Stock transfer not the answer, improved service is.

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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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Nightmare On King Street (Part 20)

Last week’s BBC Question Time was recorded at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, a stone’s throw away from a massive development at Fulham Reach. I will be writing a blog on that development and the others that are springing up around the borough in due course.

Billy Bragg was on the Question Time panel and mentioned how the Charing Cross Hospital site was being earmarked for redevelopment when it closes. The Tories have always denied this.

This morning, however, Phoghorn Phibbs let the cat out of the bag in this Twitter exchange with Billy Bragg.

Phibbs phucks up

 

You read it here first: Charing Cross Hospital will be demolished to make way for luxury flats.

Cllr Peter Graham, who works for lobbying firm,  Four Communications, whose clients include the Berkeley Group (parent company of St George) told me that “three blocks of flats” were already there. When I told him those were nurse’s homes, he claimed that [medical] students lived there (fair enough) as well as “others”. However, he wouldn’t clarify what he meant by “others”. Do you ever get the feeling you’re being lied to?

Graham, whose ward includes Charing Cross Hospital, also spoke in favour of the Fulham Reach development.

Peter Graham

Coincidence?

Next month use your vote wisely. Kick the Tories out.

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Weasel words from Phibbs

Foghorn Phibbs: apparently he never wore the T-shirt

This blog seems to have attracted a few views over the last several days. With Nelson Mandela close to death, perhaps it was inevitable. It was also inevitable that many people would remember the Tories’ attitude to Nelson Mandela and their support for South Africa’s apartheid regime during the 1980s. Many also recall that the Federation of Conservative Students (FCS) proudly wore ‘Hang Mandela’ T-shirts and referred to him as a ‘terrorist’ while they, not only supported the continuation of apartheid, but also gave their support to the Pinochet regime and the Nicaraguan Contras, a terrorist group that was financed by arms sales to Iran.

I was reading this article in The Independent when I spotted this:

Harry Phibbs, a Hammersmith councillor who was then prominent in the FCS, says: “A group of people at Warwick University made stickers that were a parody of the stickers people were wearing saying ‘Free Nelson Mandela and all ANC prisoners’, which said ‘Hang Nelson Mandela and all ANC terrorists’.

Foghorn continues:

“The motive was to disrupt the conference of the National Union of Students [NUS]. It was never proposed by the FCS officially. I suspect that it wasn’t even a view really held by the people who produced that sticker. It was a rather immature way to stir things up.”

A couple of things: first, he claims that the ‘Hang Mandela’ T-shirts were ‘parodies’. Now that the FCS is dead and has been reincarnated as the Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF), it was only inevitable that Phibbs would employ the ‘youthful hi-jinks’ get out clause. There was nothing parodic about these people wearing T-shirts that demanded Mandela be hanged. They meant every single word of it. Second, he claims that this view “wasn’t even a view really held by the people who produced that sticker. It was a rather immature way to stir things up”. This is what The Cat refers to as the ‘Jeremy Clarkson defence’. The “it was all just a joke, honest” line, cuts no ice.  We only have Phibbs’s word that the FCS were just being, er, playful and frankly his word is schmutz at Nowhere Towers.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council is now home to former FCSers, some of them have gone on to join the YBF, even though they are no longer young. Some, like Aidan Burley, have become MPs and achieved notoriety through their boorish, oafish right-wing predilections for a certain kind of attire and their hateful denunciations of tolerance and equality .

Here, Phibbs reminisces about the good old days of the FCS. Perhaps the strongest indication of the FCS’s support for authoritarian regimes comes from Foghorn himself, when he writes:

Under the new regime campaigns took place in solidarity with those fighting Communism around the world, whether Eastern European dissidents or groups fighting civil wars in Africa and Central America. A shocking policy was adopted in support of a students loans scheme. The battle of ideas was fought for freedom and the free market, against socialism and state control.

Remember, authoritarian regimes are fine as long as they’re ‘anti-communist’. Right-wing terrorists are transformed into ‘freedom fighters’ on account of their anti-communism, and Pinochet’s and Suharto’s atrocities are casually waved away as mere inconveniences. Sometimes right-wingers will try and engage in a pissing contest by claiming that the Left has been more responsible for the deaths of millions more and will even try and aggregate Hitler’s atrocities with that number. The groups the FCS supported on the African continent were UNITA in Angola and RENAMO in Mozambique. The latter organization was founded in Ian Smith’s Rhodesia and supported by South Africa.

At the end of the article, he signs off by telling us:

Harry Phibbs is a journalist.

I can think of loads of things to call him and ‘journalist’ isn’t one of them. Cabinet Member for Propaganda is probably closer to the mark. Oh hang on, he’s no longer in that position but he still churns out propaganda on the Council’s behalf on Conservative Home, where he is the “the local government editor”. It tells us:

While he is not an anarchist, Harry is strongly on the libertarian/ classical liberal wing of the Conservative Party.

No! Really? Remember what I said about ‘classical liberals’? He also writes propaganda for the local Tory blog; the deceptively titled ‘Residents First’.

Here’s an interesting article from Suzanne Moore in yesterday’s Guardian. Naturally, the article has attracted knuckledraggers repeating the usual mush but they never dare to mention the atrocious apartheid years.  I wonder why?

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Tory youth wing ‘Conservative Future’ still singing “Hang Nelson Mandela” at meetings

Conservative Future (who look to the past) are still singing “Hang Mandela”. It’s interesting how this particular comment appeared on Harry ‘Foghorn’ Phibbs’ blog on Conservative Home. Phibbs, as you may recall, was once a member of the Federation of Conservative Students, the former rabid right youth wing of the Tory Party. Their mantle has been recently assumed by the Young Britons Foundation.

Pride's Purge

(not satire – it’s the Tories!)

Well at least until 2006 they were.

Let’s remind ourselves what the Tories used to openly say about Nelson Mandela.

‘Hang Nelson Mandela’ – Federation of Conservative Students

‘Nelson Mandela should be shot’ – Tory MP Teddy Taylor

‘The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation’ – Margaret Thatcher

‘This hero worship is very much misplaced’- Tory MP John Carlisle

‘How much longer will the Prime Minister allow herself to be kicked in the face by this black terrorist?’ – Tory MP Terry Dicks

etc etc etc

OK – that was a long time ago. Most people would say the modern Conservative Party has completely changed now.

Well , maybe.

Strange then that over at the Conservative Home website – a Tory supporter calling him or herself ‘Thatcher’s Stormtrooper‘ – states that members of today’s Tory youth wing ‘Conservative Future’ were still…

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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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Council Tax Benefit cuts spell further hardship for the low-waged, poor and vulnerable

Are we about to see a repeat of this?

Just when you think this venal government couldn’t get any crueller, I read today that the Con Dems are to scrap Council Tax Benefit (CTB) and leave it to local councils to make their own arrangements. This is what they describe as “localism”, which in an earlier blog, I described as a “marketing gimmick to sell council cuts”. It would appear that my initial fears have been proven correct. The definition of the word, “empowerment” in the Tory lexicon, is to grant local authorities the power to screw the poor.

This article from today’s Guardian tells us that Lord Snooty faces a rebellion in his own constituency over this issue.

David Cameron is facing a revolt in his own Oxfordshire “backyard” as local Tories join a national outcry over council tax reforms that they say will cost people on low earnings more than £420 a year from next April.

Tory-run West Oxfordshire district council, which covers the prime minister’s Witney constituency, has decided to go it alone and keep the existing system throughout next year, effectively snubbing Cameron’s government.

Council Tax, like the hated Poll tax before it, is not based on an individual’s ability to pay but on local property prices, which are themselves, inaccurate. In some areas, Council Tax is high and in other areas, it is lower. Often, in those areas where Council Tax is low, services have been slashed. Take Hammersmith and Fulham, for example, a council controlled for the last 6 years by the Tories, who have cut local services and forced out community groups out of Palingswick House to make way for Toby Young’s free school. This is evidence enough of how H&F council views those who are not materially wealthy. Here the Council Tax is apparently low but only because of the cuts and the stealth taxes imposed on the local population. These stealth taxes include, ramping up parking charges and charging to cart away bulky items of rubbish, a service that was once offered for free. The borough discount leisure card was scrapped almost as soon as they took power.

The last leader of the council, Stephen ‘Dear Leader’ Greenhalgh made it clear that he wanted more rich people to move into the borough. When in power, he approved the sale of council homes and he has leant on Housing Associations to sell any properties that become void. Property prices have increased dramatically  over the last 5 to 6 years with some properties in the borough selling for as much as £1m. It is unlikely that a council, like Hammersmith and Fulham, which is wholly committed to making life easier for their rich chums, would have its own version of CTB because it despises anyone who is poor or on a low income. Instead, those on low incomes will be forced to move out of the borough.

Polly Toynbee tells us that,

300 councils must each devise their own criteria. Each becomes a mini DWP, establishing its own means test without having access to people’s earnings. Each must divide its benefit pot between varying numbers of claimants each year. Miserly authorities can keep much of it for other purposes. Each decides who is “vulnerable” or whether to include disability living allowance, child benefit or personal savings in declaring who is eligible for how much.

Hammersmith and Fulham is one of those “miserly authorities” and I can expect someone like Foghorn Phibbs or Peter Graham to trot out social Darwinian clichés in defence of the council’s niggardly attitude to those who are on low or no incomes.

I found this interesting site that was set up by the students on the MA Investigative Journalism course at City University.

Hammersmith and Fulham is the fourth most expensive borough in the country, both to rent and to buy property. New developments will not include any more council housing, but will instead provide a large number of properties for rent at the 80 per cent level. That offers little opportunity for current residents on lower incomes to afford to live in the borough independently. Coupled with the Government’s benefit cap, large numbers of people may be forced out of the area.

The scrapping of CTB is the latest in a long line of poorly-conceived ideas to have come from this government, which in spite of its protestations, remains firmly committed to supporting and extending the powers of the rich at the expense of those who can least afford it.

The Worksop Guardian reports that 5,000 families could be at risk in Bassetlaw.

The Salford Star tells us that the mayor could be forced to implement cuts that may affect 20,000 people.

Before the Liberal Democrats accepted the poison chalice of governmental power, they told us that they wanted to scrap Council Tax and replace it with a fairer system of local income taxation. This idea was quietly dropped when Nick Clegg walked through the door of 10 Downing Street.

This government’s justification for CTB cuts is best illustrated by the intellectually-challenged Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, who claims that the cuts will “make work pay and promote local enterprise”. With wages stagnant,  prices increasing week on week, banks reluctant to lend businesses money and living standards falling, how does he see this happening?

This latest wheeze from the government will force even more people into poverty and debt and may even force people out onto the streets. Indeed, this could be another Poll Tax moment for the Tories with people taking to the streets to protest and much else besides.

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