Ken Livingstone in Leyton

   Ken Livingstone in Leyton by Fugueur 

Monday evening I went along to Leyton Town Hall (now Orwellianly renamed Leyton Management Offices – what are they managing I worry?) to attend Ken Livingstone’s ‘Tell Ken’ event.
I took the liberty of recording a few bits which you can listen to above.

Overall I found Ken’s tone very positive – I had become disillussioned with his last term as mayor towards the end, with his seemingly too cosy relationship with the corporate interests of the City of London and his love of skyscrapers and big developments. He seemed to have long forgotten the Red Ken that I met when chairing a Labour Students public meeting during the City Poly occupation of 1991.

Maybe I had primed myself for disappointment by using the Labour Party’s refusal to select Ken as its mayoral candidate in 2000 and his subsequent expulsion as the long overdue catalyst for leaving the party I’d viewed as a birthright.
The fact that he later rejoined the party and stood for Mayor as a Labour candidate in 2004, even after the invasion of Iraq at a time when Labour was very much the belicose Party of war, was a bit too much for me at the time.
(Some unfortunate young Labour candidates knocked on my door around this period and received a rant about how they were no better than members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party with hands drenched in the blood of Iraqi children – they didn’t seem to see this coming for some reason).

However, he atoned slightly this evening by repeating his commitment to wealth redistribution – and using whatever means at his disposal to help bring that about – such as giving free travel to kids as 40% of children in London are from families living below the poverty line.

He would also look to expand the capital’s social housing sector – although I wasn’t clear whether he can build housing as mayor – and return housing estates as the kind of mixed communities they once were (such as I grew up in), rather than now where you need to be homeless and jobless to be eligible for housing.

Ken explained that the only reason he signed up to the Olympic bid was to get £8bn worth of investment into the East End. He talked about how the land south of the Olympic Park to the Thames would be the next big development area with capacity for 40,000 new homes and 50,000 jobs and that the mayor should be selling this opportunity to the growing markets in China, India and Brazil.

I asked him about Trams – and whether he would revive his proposals to extend London’s Tram network beyond Croydon. To this he conjured up a beguiling image – a tram route that would follow the North Circular from Wembley arcing across the north of London to Waltham Forest.
That romance of that vision alone is almost worth my vote.

There’s more info about Ken’s campaign to be re-elected mayor here.
Do you think there’s any chance that we’ll be able to write-off the Boris years as some kind of bizarre collective halucination?


Communists finally storm City Hall

After the false dawn of socialism that was Ken Livingstone’s eight years in charge of London as Mayor, a bone fide Marxist has made her way into the government of our great city. The Evening Standard made great play of the fact that several members of Livingstone’s team had alleged links to far left groups – despite the fact that, gesture politics aside, this manifested itself in a decidely pro-capitalist regime.
I read with interest today in the Standard that Munira Mirza has been appointed as Boris Johnson’s Arts and Culture spokesperson. Ms Mirza is part of a clique that emerged from the Revolutionary Communist Party now based around the website Spiked Online and the Chianti quafing cabal known as the Manifesto Club.
The Revolutionary Communist Party are best known for their publication of Living Marxism magazine that was closed down after being sued for libel by ITN. They were also notorious in my student days for what was termed ‘horizontal recruitment’ – a flatmate of mine experienced this first-hand after a ‘Troops Out’ meeting above a pub in Islington. Their wrath was mainly aimed at others on the Left and they were so divisive that many believed that the RCP was in fact a CIA/MI5 front organisation. Maybe Munira Mirza’s elevation to the ranks of Boris Johnson’s Junta confirms our paranoid suspicions as it’s not clear what qualifies Munira Mirza in the realms of Arts and Culture beyond editing a couple of dodgy corporate-sponsored reports.
Could it be that the famously fruity Boris Johnson couldn’t resist the tales of ‘horizontal recruitment’ in his attempt to recreate the spirit of the knocking shop that was the Spectator under his editorship.


How Will I Vote?

The question of how will I vote may be answered by the absence of a polling card and lack of clear info on actually where to vote – I found the polling station address eventually and it gives me an excuse to examine the architecture of the Connaught School for Girls first hand.
I’ve only had one discussion on which way to vote in these elections and it happened by chance in the Director’s Bar at West Ham FC stood right next to Mike Ashley, owner of Newcastle FC. It was with my mate Eddie De Oliveira who I suspect will vote for Ken. He challenged my belief that Ken wasn’t the automatic choice and fired off a “what’s he done wrong?” line. I spluttered for a bit in the way that a computer does when you press too many buttons. “What has he done right” would be a better question and one I still can’t answer.
But the simplest answer for Eddie may come this Saturday when/if Fulham lose to Birmingham (I hope they win incidently) after their stirring fightback against Man City – because should they fail now they will have offered their supporters hope then robbed them of it – that it what Ken has done wrong above all else. Above the crime of making London a developer’s paradise (I shall never forgive him for surrendering Spitalfields to the City barons) – everybody who has ever fought against an unpopular planning decision endorsed by the mayor may well get their revenge tomorrow. Also above the fact that he has resolutely avoided the issue of housing until this election – until a credit crunch that has wounded his City pals – housing, this city’s biggest issue, an issue he built his early political career on -that alone is enough not to give him our vote.
That said, anyone who even considers for a blink of an eye voting for Boris Johnson should be expelled from the city and made to go and live in Stevenage or maybe Slough.
I could go on but I shall stop because when I go out tomorrow/today I want to vote For something not Against something.


The Crook, The Toff, The Cop and The Fascist

An anarchist perspective on the London Mayoral Elections: ” We all know politicians are lying, corrupt, self-serving parasites – its time we let them know. This is our London, not their, their party’s or their paymasters’.
– noticeable that the Greens still get left out.
I stopped to chat to the Left List canvassers outside Leytonstone Station the other day greeting them with the line, “I thought you lot didn’t believe in bourgeois democracy”, which seemed to catch them slightly unawares. The SWP must have changed a bit since I was a lad when all SWSS members were thoroughly indoctrinated with the line on the futility of elections. I perused their stall, being a sucker for political paraphernalia, and looked at the latest edition of Socialist Studies that included an article on ‘Reality TV: the Big Brother phenomenon’. “What’s Big Brother got to do with socialism”, I scoffed, before noticing that the lady I was talking to, and at this point looking slightly sheepish, was former Big Brother contestant (and local celebrity) Carole Vincent.


Note to all London Mayoral Candidates

“The London County Council is probably the most remarkable attempt of modern democracy to build a local governing machine which will produce a highly expert staff of bureaucratic specialists controlled by a general council elected by practically every class of the community. The achievements of the London County Council are the results of this great experiment in scientific democracy; whereby we often put in an illiterate slum elector at one end of the machine and turn out an expert administrator at the other.
So complicated has the art and science of government become since men ceased to be wandering hunters.”
G.R. Stirling Taylor, The London County Council (published in ‘Wonderful London Vol 3circa 1920))

the photo shows the Council Chamber at County Hall (before it was turned into an amusement arcade with a McDonalds


If Voting Changed Anything….

So the official Mayoral Campaign has begun. What you’ll read about in the newspapers and see on the telly is the cartoon contest between ‘Not So Red’ Ken Livingstone and ‘Barmy Bouncy Bonkers’ Boris Johnson with a cardboard cameo appearance from ‘Stoner Gay Copper’ Brian Paddick.
This isn’t the real election.
Ken launched his campaign with a warning that this wasn’t Celebrity Big Brother. He’s quite right because Celebrity Big Brother presents voters with a reasonable choice of candidates representing a diversity of race, gender and neuroses. This is possibly why more people vote in Big Brother evictions than in local elections.
This week saw the pitiful sight of Boris and Ken squabbling over how many ‘unaffordable homes’ they wouldn’t build – between the ineffective 50% minimum introduced by home-owner Livingstone and the scrapping of that by multiple home-owner Johnson (Canonbury and Henley at that – two of the most sought after locations in the South East) who merely wants 50,000 “cheaper” homes. What both targets miss is whether these mythical dwellings are “affordable” or “cheaper” they are both still far too expensive for the vast majority of Londoners.
I shall try to track the election on this blog and although I jest a bit I’m saddened by the lack of any kind of viable candidate who aims to speak for Londoners rather than the City, the developers, and the two main parties. This election is being transformed into a phoney war between the Tories and Labour in the tussle for the bigger prize of national power – London as a third world client state over which the super-powers fight.
Where’s Rainbow George when you need him.


The Future of London

Saturday night I went on the excellent Russell Brand Show on BBC Radio2 to debate with Rainbow George who is trying to persuade Russell to stand for Mayor of London. Now Rainbow George is a bona fide London character, should HV Morton or Gordon S Maxwell be chronicling the London of today I’m sure they’d seek George out. He’s the Hampstead eccentric who as Peter Cook’s neighbour taped over 100 hours of their conversations. He also claimed ownership of his Hampstead mansion after his landlord disappeared, he sold it for £710,000 3 years ago and has since blown it all on his political campaigns.
So really maybe he has a vision of London that we could learn from.
Sadly he offered Russell only a series of poetic puns based on a new currency of Gasps and Wonders issued by the Bank of a Zillion Wonders. Other than that his vision is for a “Brand Spanking New London Party. The transformation of London into an inter-dependent leisure oriented – self-governing cash-free wonder City with Hampstead as its capital”
I’m afraid I gave George short shrift, I invited him to advocate the collectivisation of private assets and he returned to Gasps and Wonders. A Squatter City is far more appealing to me than a Wonder City – which we already have.

Thinking about the Mayoral election and George’s bonkers take on it did make me go back to William Margrie of the London Explorers Club. He had a vision for London and maybe Rainbow George could take a leaf out of his book. This is what he wrote on 1934:
The Metropolitan Free State
“London government is muddle-headed, chaotic, idiotic.”
The Metropolitan Free State will include Greater London and five or six Home Counties and the Thames.
– emulate Mussolini and give Londoners plenty of dramas, pageants and shows to wake them up
– if one wants to do anything important in this stodgy world he must be a realistic artist
– foster local spirit and patriotism by means of art, music, flower shows, and athletic combats

And what was I going to propose you may well ask, well this is what I scribbled down in my notebook on my way to the Great Portland Street studios:
– ban all traffic from the congestion charge zone and grass it over
– promote and subsidize walking as primary means of transport
– no new buildings – there are around 75,000 empty homes in London – turn them over to Squatters Groups
– planning decisions to be based on principles of psychogeography with the preservation of the city’s natural topography to be given special priority
– The recovery of London’s lost rivers of the Fleet, the St. Clement’s, the Walbrook, The Langbourne, the Oldbourne, the Effra, the Ravensbourne, and the Hackney Brook with the digging up of roads etc. where necessary
– Scrap the Olympics
– An annual parade of the ‘Mocking of The Rich’ with the unfortunates of the city to lead a procession through Mayfair, Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea (see Class War’s Notting Hill ‘Toffs Out’ march on November 3rd)