DESTROYING SOCIAL HOUSING FROM WITHIN

Last Friday (the 30th September), the Peabody Trust cruelly evicted one of its tenants, a woman who had been opposing them in court for several years. She has a very  painful and debilitating form of lupus, severe chest issues and earlier this year was admitted to hospital with pneumonia. At the time of her eviction, due to the stresses of the case, her condition had deteriorated dramatically and she was attending hospital as an out-patient.

Until recently, Peabody, a major London Housing Association established in 1862, had a stock of housing which they looked after and charged rents to cover their costs. It was a very simple process and did not rely on going into debt. If extra money was raised then additional houses were purchased and if there was a shortfall the government subsidised this.

However, in 2011, the Crown Estates decided to sell a large amount of their own social housing stock and Peabody agreed to take this on at a reduced price of £150 million, but this meant that they were no longer able to be social landlords in the way that they had been.

In order to raise the money to pay off this debt and interest to the banks, which had been forced onto them because the government subsidy had stopped, they had no other way but to raise rents. So they thought up the ploy to downgrade the assured tenancies of over 1,200 families, which are regulated by the government’s rent regime, to assured shorthold tenancies – which is probably illegal – so allowing them to charge intermediate rents which they can eventually raise to 80% of market rents. However, the category of intermediate rents only came into force on 1st April, 2012, some 14 months after Peabody had acquired the Crown Estate portfolio.

To justify this, Peabody are arguing that they can cease to be a public body and therefore no longer act as a social landlord when they are charging rents, which is absolute nonsense, yet they are saying this in court and the judges are buying it. They claim that they are now simultaneously both a social landlord and a commercial entity. They use the expression “hybrid” to describe this but, as the commercial purchase of the property portfolio was subsidised by the reduced sale cost, this meant that they could only be a public body in this transaction.

This woman has copious evidence to show that they are a public body and cannot legally do what they are doing and has put in a request for clarification to the European Commission. But the English judges have erred in ignoring this fact in their various judgements.

One other person, Ian MacLeod, has been opposing Peabody to try and prove these illegalities. He had legal aid and his team secured a judicial review where they were ruled against. However, major parts of the defence were ignored by the judge and his legal team believe they are in a strong position to have this reversed in the Court of Appeal. However, Legal Aid for this was refused, despite the wide social implications of the case. As Mr McLeod has no money, he cannot continue.

Before her eviction, she had been fighting her case as a litigant in person and has been given the right to an oral judicial review permission hearing. Despite this, Peabody went ahead with the eviction anyway, which was obtained by very dubious means including deliberately holding back information from the judge that may have resulted in a different ruling. The government are destroying social housing from within and have a lot to answer for.

Rhys Jolley

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WHAT MAKES A LEADER

The Labour Party faces an enemy with an incredible determination to destroy what is left of the socialist structure in this country for its own ends.

by Rhys Jolley

“Jeremy Corbyn is not a leader”, the cry still goes out, “he’ll destroy the Labour Party. Replace him!” Media pundits and plants repeat this mantra daily. Even the left leaning Mirror blasted out its front page demand “for the sake of your party and for the sake of your country, Go now!”  It is one thing to have to face up to your opposition, but another level of challenge altogether when your supposed friends turn on you so viciously.

Which does raise the question, if Jeremy will destroy the Labour Party should he remain leader, why doesn’t the Tory leaning press not encourage him to stay and do just that? The truth, of course, is that his policies are the ones that will threaten the hold of the ultra-rich over our country if implemented.

There are many qualities a leader needs: intelligence, toughness, determination, clear objectives and vision. But a leader with responsibility for the lives and welfare of an entire nation must also demonstrate exceptional moral fibre, standing up for clearly stated principles, even when under sustained attack from opponents, with dignity. That rather sounds like Jeremy to me.

Owen Smith, said all the things expected of a challenger. An end to austerity and the Tory nationalisation of private debt. “A more equal society, That’s the kind of revolution I’ll deliver,” he passionately declared. Fine words, but would he have had the guts to do what is necessary to achieve it? Such courage doesn’t come easily.

The great leaders of the past had to go through decades of preparation. Mahatma Ghandi underwent an extended initiation in South Africa where he first employed nonviolent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer involved in the resident Indian community’s struggle for civil rights. He was imprisoned many times. On returning home, he was called to stand up to the full force of the British Raj. He and his small army of ordinary people were able to face them down because he had honed the necessary moral stature and did not budge from his objective.

The Labour Party faces an enemy with an incredible determination to destroy what is left of the socialist structure in this country for its own ends. Already the multi-national corporate agenda has reached deeply into the fabric of our society with its network of CEO’s quietly strengthening their hold on the levers of power by employing devious and complex tactics while claiming the best of intentions. They enable the notorious 1% to profit from these hard times, promoting austerity, though not for themselves, of course, while herding the sick and the disabled to their deaths from neglect. Over 50% of the wealth of this country is seemingly not enough for them. They want it all and are willing to engineer the destruction of the much loved and much needed NHS and bring the profit motive further into our education system by economic sleight of hand. The Tory party and many of its elected politicians are firmly in their pocket.

David Cameron’s “Big Society” followed Tony Blair’s “Third Way” into oblivion. The country is more unequal than when they began. Theresa May recently said that she will bring about “a fairer society”, but unless she is willing to stand up to this hidden enemy, her efforts will be largely cosmetic. Equal rights for women is certainly a passion of hers, but there will be no fundamental change to the other basic inequalities. Her corporate paymasters won’t allow it.

The right wing press did direct some moral outrage at the bankers, but it was short-lived and little changed. They are still raking in their millions. The most recent scapegoat, Philip Green, is only one very visible and especially greedy example of his ilk. He broke no laws, so why have the laws not been changed? Something very easy to do, I would have thought. Many big multi-nationals pay little tax. Is Mrs May racing to close the loopholes. I don’t see it.

So, it is up to anyone with Labour leadership ambitions to go onto the front line of the social revolution started all those decades ago, and forensically expose the neoliberal agenda with detailed redistributive policies and promote legislation to cleanse Westminster of the corporate lobbyists who have such a hold behind the scenes on the philosophy and actions of the Westminster elite.

Donnachadh McCarthy’s excellent book, “The Prostitute State” clearly shows the extent to which many in the Labour Party have also been corrupted, through their directorships and other links to the companies they are there to regulate, gradually watering down the principles that Labour was set up to promote.

None of those who might wish to replace Jeremy have demonstrated the resilience and courage needed to expose the mechanisms behind the corruption embedded deep within our political, legal and financial systems. Be absolutely certain, should any of you start to succeed in this, your policies will be immediately gunned down by the right wing press and your personal baptism of fire will have begun. Withstanding ridicule and the inevitable personal attacks once the establishment bigwigs see that you are a serious threat to their power base is an essential part of your training.

Until this process has been completed, you will remain unsuitable for the highest office because you would cave in to the very first challenge from those ruthless corporates and water down your resolve in crucial ways. Show them that you cannot be swayed by their threats or their bribery. Earn your stripes and then we will embrace you as a leader.

Our London Mayor

In this context, it is time to take a look at the achievements of our current London mayor laying his apparent success as an efficient administrator with a big heart against his genuine Labour credentials. These two things are not automatically compatible. Sadiq could be seen as being to the right of Labour party, I view him as a member of the Establishment group within the party and not a true Grass roots Labour man at all.

Yes, his predecessor destroyed the 100 year-old Shepherds Bush Market and demolished 750 good quality council houses in West Kensington to make way for high-rise luxury flats, using his planning and regeneration powers against the wishes of residents and small businesses alike, there and in many other areas of London.

Yes, he was keen to take control of the London NHS but was silent in speaking out against hospital service closures at Charing Cross, Ealing or Lewisham. And what about those bloody buses? An expensive mistake if ever there was one. Clearly, Sadiq Khan is already a far more effective Mayor than his predecessor was.

He has the people and his party firmly behind him in his commitment to clean air, balanced regeneration and he must be applauded for his commitment to affordable housing. As a candidate, he termed the election a “referendum on housing. My first priority, ”he claimed,  will be tackling the housing crisis. We need to build more homes, including more genuinely affordable homes for Londoners, and fewer gold bricks for overseas investors”. Has he? Will he?

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Of course, the London mayor is limited in what he can do in taking on the corporate machine. Westminster holds the legislative clout that could rein them in. And I do accept that Sadiq is not there to destroy the City of London, but to manoeuvre it towards more social responsibility and much greater equality. But, again, is he doing this to any great extent?

The Tory orientated press is giving him a exceptionally easy ride so we can be sure he isn’t doing anything yet to bother the bigwigs ongoing power grab despite what he promised in his manifesto. As I said, to be a true Labour leader you must identify with the strugglers and the strivers in the lower half of the social scale, and have the courage to fight for their rights no matter what is thrown at you. So, Sadiq still has to go through his advanced moral endurance training by exposing the worst corruption at the heart of big business in the capital. Generalities are not enough. Ideas are two a penny. The one manifesto claim that he wants them to believe is that he’ll be “the most pro-business Mayor yet”, but how can he be this and at the same time follow Labour principles by not pandering to the City of London’s more acquisitive and controlling tendencies?

On that score, the evidence is not promising. Quite frankly, he might just as well be a Liberal Democrat.