Secure Homes for All? The Labour Party Manifesto on Housing

Well, it’s brief, and says nothing that hasn’t been said before; so let’s get the housing component of the Labour Party Manifesto – published today under the title For the Many Not the Few – out of the way.

Titled ‘Secure Homes for All’, its focus is on house building, rightly identifying the housing crisis as one of affordability, but wrongly identifying the building of new homes as the solution. To this end the Manifesto promises the by-now familiar figure of 1 million new homes over the next Parliament should Labour be elected to power. And what will a Labour government build? 100,000 council and housing association homes a year, so half the five-year total, just as we have previously been told. And what will those homes be? For ‘genuinely affordable rent or sale.’

Let’s just pause here. Housing associations are not government run so half of these homes – in the absence of precise figures let’s say 50,000 per year – will be built by them to fit their requirements as private companies; though no doubt they will continue to receive the considerable subsidies they currently receive from central government agencies like the Homes and Communities Agency that the Manifesto promises to overhaul. So will a Labour government only provide those subsidies for the building of homes for social rent? The manifesto doesn’t say, and in the absence of any indication to the contrary we must assume housing associations will continue to receive public subsidies for building homes for affordable rent or sale at up to 80 per cent of market rate, for London living rent at a third of the borough’s average household income (so £680 per month per person in the borough of Haringey, £770 in Hackney, £895 in Lambeth, £950 in Southwark, and £1,170 in Tower Hamlets), for 25 per cent shared ownership, for shared equity, and anything else they can think of to supplant the council homes for social rent housing associations are either privatising or demolishing and building in their place. Indeed, ‘affordable’ is the only tenancy type and rental level the manifesto mentions.

Continue reading “Secure Homes for All? The Labour Party Manifesto on Housing”

Vote Labour? The Aims and Values of Estate Demolition

ASH has been told a lot recently – by people we know and by people we’ve never met – that ‘Now is not the time to be criticising the Labour Party!’  When is it ever in the eyes of Labour supporters? But the particular argument for not doing so now – as it is every time a general election is called – is that inspiring political call to arms: ‘At least we’re not the Tories!’ Now, at ASH we believe in doing our own thinking, whether about estate demolition or the political parties canvassing for residents’ votes; so let’s start by taking a look at this widely claimed difference between the Labour and Conservative parties. Here, in its own words, are the current aims and values of the Labour Party as laid out in Clause IV of the Labour Party Rule Book 2017:

1. The Labour Party is a democratic socialist Party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few; where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe and where we live together freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.

2. To these ends we work for:

A. A Dynamic Economy serving the public interest, in which the enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition are joined with the forces of partnership and co-operation to produce the wealth the nation needs and the opportunity for all to work and prosper with a thriving private sector and high-quality public services where those undertakings essential to the common good are either owned by the public or accountable to them

B. A Just Society, which judges its strength by the condition of the weak as much as the strong, provides security against fear, and justice at work; which nurtures families, promotes equality of opportunity, and delivers people from the tyranny of poverty, prejudice and the abuse of power.

Continue reading “Vote Labour? The Aims and Values of Estate Demolition”

A Vote for Labour is a Vote for . . .

This is Helen Hayes, until Parliament was dissolved the Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, speaking (you can listen to her here) against the Conservative government’s Housing and Planning Bill at a march organised by Lambeth Housing Activists on 30 January, 2016. Nice, isn’t she? Well, take a closer look.

Before being elected a Member of Parliament in May 2015, Hayes was a senior partner at Allies & Morrison, an architecture and planning company which, during her partnership, was part of the consortium that demolished the Heygate estate, resulting in the loss of over a thousand council homes and the social cleansing of an entire working class community from the Elephant & Castle neighbourhood. The Oxford-educated Hayes’ specialism at Allies & Morrison was planning, and between 2010 and 2015 she was also a Southwark Labour councillor, a conflict of interest shared by many of the people responsible for selling the Heygate land to property developers Lendlease in 2010 for a loss of £30.5 million. Allies & Morrison also drew up the supplementary planning documents for the Brixton Arches that recommended to Lambeth Labour council that they be regenerated’ by Network Rail, resulting in the eviction of the traders and the closure of the market for the next two years. And as the 35% Campaign has documented, her company has been involved in numerous other dodgy regeneration projects in Southwark and Lambeth. In 2015, when Hayes resigned from Allies & Morisson to take up her place in Westminster, she received capital growth payments totaling £71,443.

Continue reading “A Vote for Labour is a Vote for . . .”

Electoral Defeatism

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The widely held view that the result of the coming general election is a foregone conclusion has really brought out the desperation in the so-called radical left. We’ll leave aside the dreamers who have supported Jeremy Corbyn through his 18 months of indecision, inactivity and failure; but even those who have opposed Labour on everything from its vote to bomb Syria to its council estate demolition programme can now be heard calling for variations on the ‘lesser of two evils’ argument – as if this were anything new. In reality this is the only political argument Labour has ever put forward: ‘Vote for us or you’ll get the Tories!’ Since everyone knows that Labour hasn’t got a chance in hell of winning this election, Labour supporters from Ken Loach to Paul Mason now have the added comfort of believing that Corbyn is some sort of reincarnation of Clement Attlee, and that if only – by some magic – an electorate that has increasingly turned its back on him suddenly turns around and votes him into power, the Parliamentary Labour Party that has done everything it can to oust Corbyn from the leadership will suddenly – and equally miraculously – transform itself into the Party of Aneurin Bevan and build Jerusalem in England’s grey and mortgaged land.

Continue reading “Electoral Defeatism”

Stand Up To Labour: The Denials of Momentum

Corbyn Homes for Lambeth

And Peter remembered the words of Jesus, who said unto him: ‘Before the
cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.’ And he went out, and wept bitterly.

– Matthew, 26: 75

On 28 September, at the Labour Party Conference 2016, Jeremy Corbyn, the twice elected and now undisputed Leader of the Labour Party, declared to his audience in Liverpool:

‘Across the country, Labour councils are putting Labour values into action in a way that makes a real difference to millions of people, despite cynical government funding cuts that have hit Labour councils five times as hard as Tory-run areas. It is a proud Labour record, and each and every Labour councillor deserves our heartfelt thanks for the work they do.’

However disappointing this was to hear for residents fighting the demolition of their estates by Labour Councils across England, and however unlikely given that in June over 600 Labour councillors had called for Corbyn’s resignation in the lead-up to the failed coup by the Parliamentary Labour Party, it was not surprising. On the eve of the subsequent Labour Party leadership election in September, when it was apparent Corbyn would emerge as the winner, Andy Burnham, Corbyn’s former challenger for the leadership of the Labour Party and now its candidate for Mayor of Manchester, was reported in The Guardian as saying:

‘MPs should serve on Corbyn’s front bench and do so in the right spirit. The quid pro quo should be for Corbyn to stamp out all talk of de-selections of MPs or councillors by any supporters.’

By ‘supporters’ Burnham clearly meant Corbyn’s supporters in Momentum, who have been pursuing a policy of de-selection for some months, if not from their foundation. This tactic had been successfully used in December last year when Anita Ward, a Labour councillor in Birmingham, was de-selected by other Labour members and supporters of Corbyn. Equally clearly, however, Corbyn had now accepted the quid pro quo, and exchanged the call for de-selection of Progress councillors and Blairite MPs for a Parliamentary Party. Without the latter he has, quite clearly, been unable to rule even his own Party this past year, let alone aspire to rule the country; but without the former, his dream of turning the Labour Party into a pro-union, pro-nationalisation, anti-austerity political party will remain precisely that – a dream.

This olive branch, offered to MPS and councillors who despise him, was readily taken up by the interim Labour Shadow Housing Minister, Teresa Pearce, who gushed:

‘I want to say to Labour councillors up and down the country: thank you. In Labour-run councils you are making a difference, and I am proud of the ingenuity you have shown in the face of difficult choices, finding new solutions, demonstrating just what Labour can do in power. Our Councils are a vital source of Labour representation, and an increasing inspiration on policy. Innovating, forward looking, credible policy: that is Labour in power in local government.’

If Corbyn’s ingratiating appeal to Labour Councils hadn’t been enough, this was the final nail in the coffin of council residents’ hopes that – despite repeatedly refusing to condemn estate demolition for the entire year since his election to the leadership – Corbyn would now, finally, magically, speak out against its implementation by Labour Councils. And didn’t the Councils know it! Lib Peck, the Leader of Lambeth Labour Council, was quick to note Corbyn’s praise on Twitter that same day, saying she was ‘glad’ to hear it. Since ten days later the six Lambeth estates her council threatens with demolition, backed by campaigns against Lambeth library closures and the eviction of the Brixton Arches, were leading a march called Stand Up To Lambeth, this was all the ammunition she needed to call in the wagons around the Labour camp.

Responding on cue, Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, in response to Lambeth Momentum’s Tweet (subsequently deleted) inviting people to ‘Join us on 8th October to protest the destruction of services, homes, jobs and the rights of residents in Lambeth’, responded: ‘Genuinely thought the message of this week was unity against a Tory Government, not ‘mobilise against Labour councils. Puzzled.’ When the Save Cressingham Gardens campaign replied that ‘Lambeth Council is grossly mismanaged’, MP Buck stuck to her guns. ‘Really not the point I’m making, though. It’s that Labour shouldn’t campaign against itself.’ To which the despairing Cressingham Gardens asked: ‘Confused then. How does the Labour Party hold Lambeth Council to account for failings?’

How indeed? Such questions, however, do not concern the supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. Their leader had spoken, and the very next day, 29 September, Lambeth Momentum, which until then had put their support behind the Stand Up To Lambeth campaign, and who had been responsible, at the first organising meeting, for putting forward the call to deselect Lambeth Labour Cabinet, issued the following statement:

‘A leaflet produced this week for the Stand up to Lambeth Council demonstration with our name amongst the listed supporters does not represent Lambeth Momentum policy. Although we support the demonstration and continue to support campaigns by residents to defend local services and prevent council estate demolitions we have not, as this leaflet suggests, called upon the cabinet to resign.’

But he denied it, saying: ‘I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest.’

– Mark, 14: 68

To anyone who has observed Lambeth Momentum’s complete absence of support for the six estates threatened with demolition by Lambeth Labour Council, this renunciation would come as no surprise. It has been Lambeth Momentum’s policy not to condemn any action by the Labour Council, no matter how repellant, no matter how many homes and businesses it threatened. In an e-mail leaked from the Kill the Housing Bill campaign in May 2016, Joan Twelves, herself a former Leader of Lambeth Labour Council and now one of the leaders of Lambeth Momentum, made clear Momentum’s policy with regard to the call from some quarters for Labour councils not to implement the Tory Government’s Housing and Planning Act:

‘Since there are no councils which will refuse to implement the Housing and Planning Bill, as to do so would be to act illegally, this is a totally unrealistic demand and seems to me to be being proposed solely as propaganda so that Labour councillors can be denounced by another political party, rather than to assist in the building of a mass campaign (which must include Labour councillors, the Labour leadership, Labour Party members and Labour affiliated trade unions if it is to have any hope of happening) of continued opposition to the measures contained in the Act. I recognise that the actions of some Labour councils (I do live in Lambeth after all!) are not making building a united mass campaign easy. But that doesn’t change the principle.’

Such high principles, however, didn’t stop members of Lambeth Momentum from being present at the organising meetings for Stand Up To Lambeth. Indeed, under their influence, the initial aim of the march, which was called by residents of Central Hill estate in order to draw wider attention to the estate demolition programme being pursued by Lambeth Labour Council, was suppressed for the louder call for the de-selection of the Labour Cabinet and, presumably, their replacement with members of Lambeth Momentum. In an excitable article published in The Observer in September, Joe Todd, a volunteer for Momentum revealed:

‘The idea is to take all these grassroots groups and position them as part of a broader movement. All of these local campaigns have been going on but now they’re part of something so much bigger.’

Unfortunately for them, the bigness of Momentum’s aims has been drastically shrunk by their saviour’s unctuous gratitude to ‘each and every Labour councillor’, and on the morning of 8 October, before the marchers for Stand Up To Lambeth had even assembled at midday, Lambeth Momentum’s Twitter account carried a message that is only too familiar to any resident whose homes are on Lambeth Labour Council’s demolition list:

‘It is Tory cuts to Lambeth Council budget that is forcing gentrification and desperation locally. Let’s stand up to Tory government!’

And after a little while another saw him, and said: ‘Thou art also of them!’
And Peter said: ‘Man, I am not not.’

– Luke, 22: 58

Finally, as the marchers gathered in Windrush Square in Brixton, the cock the Labour Party had been waiting for finally crowed. A speaker for the Revolutionary Communist Party, a group that has lent its support to both the Save Central Hill and Save Cressingham Gardens campaigns, was reported on Twitter as saying the Lambeth leadership ‘belong in the Thames with rocks around their ankles’. Ignoring the fact that Labour MPs had called for far worse to be done to Jeremy Corbyn over the year of his contested leadership, Labourites great and small, from the former Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls to Lambeth Labour Councillors Alex Bigham, Jane Edbrooke, Ed Davie, Pete Bowyer, Chief Whip Paul Gadsby and Press Officer Michael Stringer, began a concerted attack against the Stand Up To Lambeth march. Displaying the humourless humour of the political class, Labourites and Progress councillors queued up to call on Lambeth Momentum to ‘denounce’ the statement, to ‘distance’ themselves from communists and revolutionaries who wanted to ‘murder democratically elected politicians’, to feel ashamed and disgusted for ‘associating with such people’, to reveal the name of the speaker, and to report him to the police. We don’t know how they responded to the last two demands, which are certainly in line with Lambeth Labour Council’s procedure for dealing with residents who stand up to them at council meetings, but Lambeth Momentum fell over themselves in shame and disgust, denounced the statement, immediately distanced themselves from the published aims of the march, and renounced their opposition to the Labour council, repeatedly referring their critics to their conveniently handy leaflet of 29 September. ‘Not our event!’, they finally pleaded.

By that afternoon Lambeth Momentum were hurriedly deleting their previous tweets supporting the Stand Up To Lambeth campaign over the past few weeks, which were then gleefully reproduced by Labour supporters. Sensing a sinking ship, Unite the Union – whose logo, following standard union branding practice, dominated the official Stand Up To Lambeth placards and posters for the march – now fell over themselves denouncing the call for the resignation of Lambeth Cabinet. Alex Flynn, Head of media and campaigns at Unite, angrily declared:

‘Unite does not support these calls for resignations and is angered over the unauthorised use of our logo on the flyer.’

Unknown to the other protesters, it now turned out that just after 11 o’clock that morning, as marchers were on their way to the rallying point, Lambeth Momentum had issued the following statement on Twitter:

‘Neither Unite nor Lambeth Momentum were asked to be on Stand Up To Lambeth publicity. We want to unite with Lambeth Labour to fight Tory cuts.’

In a 180˚ turn that is certainly a characteristic, and perhaps the defining, movement of Labour Party policy, a campaign to ‘Stand up to Lambeth Council’ had now been turned into a desire to ‘Unite with Lambeth Labour’.

Again Peter denied it: and immediately the cock crowed.

– John, 18: 27

When the official poster for the Stand Up To Lambeth campaign (below), designed by a member of the Revolutionary Communist Group, was first printed, contrary to RCG practice the identification of the council to which people were being encouraged to stand up was missing. Lambeth Council is an administrative body, like the Government of the UK or the Mayorship of London; but nothing in the campaign’s literature called for its dissolution as the local authority for the borough of Lambeth. What was being opposed was the policies of its current administration and the decisions of its executive committee. Of its 63 current members, Lambeth currently has 1 Green Party councillor, 3 Conservative Party councillors, and 59 Labour Party councillors. At least 7 members of its Labour Cabinet, including the Council Leader Lib Peck, the Member for Housing Matthew Bennett, the Chair of the Overview Committee Ed Davie, the Chief Whip Paul Gadsby, the Member for Schools Jane Edbrooke, and the Member for Regeneration and Business Jack Hopkins, are members of Progress, the privately-funded right-wing Labour cabal whose council leaders are driving Labour Council estate demolition schemes in London. The Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and a succession of Labour Shadow Ministers for Housing, have all refused to condemn their Party’s estate demolition programme. And yet the one word missing from the ‘Stand Up To Lambeth’ poster was the word ‘Labour’.

On my asking the designer why, he said the reason was that the organisers, which now included representatives from Lambeth Momentum, didn’t want the event to be what they called ‘political’. But how can a struggle against a Labour Council implementing Labour Party housing policy that is socially cleansing the working class from their homes not be a political struggle? How can an event not be political when one of its organising bodies, with 17,000 members, is an arm of the Labour Party? At ASH we believe the point of community campaigns is to politicise residents to resist the attacks on their homes by both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, not to subsume their resistance into an internal struggle for the soul of a political organisation that is run by and for the middle classes, and whose primary function in British politics, as history has repeatedly shown, is to turn working class political action into the irrelevance of Parliamentary politicking. Even before this march happened, and all the subsequent betrayals, denunciations and distancing that would ensue, the first effect of Lambeth Momentum’s presence at the organising meetings was to censor its publicity campaign from identifying who and what it is that threatens the six Lambeth council estates and the homes of the thousands of residents that live on them.

I have previously written at length about the failings of the Kill the Housing Bill campaign, and warned against the consequences of Labour activists belatedly turning their attention to estate campaigns. From our own attendance and that of comrades from the RCG and Class War, we know that from the first organising meetings of Stand Up To Lambeth, members of Lambeth Momentum tried to use the march to call for the de-selection of the current Lambeth Cabinet and its replacement with members of Momentum. This changing of the Labour guard, and not saving the council homes of the residents, is the motivation for Lambeth Momentum’s sudden interest in the six estates they have ignored for so long. They weren’t there to oppose Lambeth Labour Council’s decision to demolish Cressingham Gardens in March 2016, when they were too busy discussing whether to defend Brixton Ward Councillor Florence Eshalomi from criticism of her support for the eviction of traders from the Brixton Arches. They weren’t there at the subsequent Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting in May that upheld the Cabinet’s decision. And they didn’t lift a finger to support Central Hill over the past year-and-a-half in which ASH, against every conceivable opposition from Lambeth Labour Council, has worked to design an alternative proposal to the demolition of the estate.

The Labour Party has a long and dark history of colonising genuine community resistance and turning it to their political advantage. Under the guise of Kill the Housing Bill they managed to disperse the popular resistance to the Housing and Planning Bill in less than seven months with their useless and divisive marches to Parliament to listen to Labour Party politicians telling residents whose homes are being demolished by Labour Councils to vote Labour. And their presence on the Tenant and Resident Associations of council estates across London is one of the greatest barriers residents face to opposing the Labour Councils trying to demolish their homes.

Otto von Bismarck, the first Chancellor of Germany, once warned: ‘If you like sausages and politics, never ask how they are made.’ But because of the decision by the organisers of Stand Up To Lambeth to invite Lambeth Momentum and Unite the Union to join the march against their own Party, and because for daring to ask how that decision was made we were deleted from the event page, ASH withdrew from formally taking part in the march, which we played no part in organising, although our name was initially included on some of the literature, and a member of ASH attended meetings and joined the march, though not under our banner. We only hope that everyone who did so now knows how Momentum activists and the Labour factory make their Party’s sausages.

As I feared would happen when the organisers of Stand Up To Lambeth first invited Lambeth Momentum to join them, the media response to the march has been dominated by the seemingly endless internal squabbling within the Labour Party, and the issue of Lambeth Labour Council’s programme of estate demolition, which had already been sidelined by Momentum’s subsequently dropped policy of de-selecting Lambeth Cabinet, has been almost entirely ignored. London SE1, which had initiated Momentum’s denials by reporting the comment by the member of the RCG, confined their report exclusively to the contrasting views of Labour Council Leader Pick Peck and Labour MP Kate Hoey. Brixton Blog led with an exaggerated report of a Central Hill campaigner ‘violently dismantling’ a Labour Party stall, repeated the comment by the RCG member without a hint of irony, and concluded with the statement sent by MP Kate Hoey. And the London Evening Standard, true to its commitment to cutting-edge journalism, focused exclusively on the disruption to traffic when the march blocked a main road near Clapham Common. Apart from the usual plethora of photographs posted on social media, that was it. It was left to the RCG to produce the only informative report on the march; so far, nothing has been released by Stand Up To Lambeth.

It’s an old Latin motto that if you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas, and two thousand years later nothing’s changed. If you invite Labour into your campaign, your campaign becomes about Labour, and nothing else. Until residents whose homes are threatened by Labour councils refuse to have anything to do with the Labour Party, its supposedly grass-roots activists and the organisations that have infiltrated their campaigns, the fight to save their homes will not even begin, let alone be won. A battle cannot start until the lines are drawn, and at the moment residents and campaigners alike have invited the enemy into their ranks. The fiasco of the Labour Party’s involvement in Saturday’s march against a Labour Council, like the seven months of marching with the Labour activists of Kill the Housing Bill to hear Labour politicians tell us to vote Labour, has to be learned from. We cannot go on repeating these farces and pretending they constitute a campaign of resistance, rather than another ridiculous sideshow to Labour’s ridiculous year.

As the Stand Up To Lambeth march has demonstrated, the Labour Party, from its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, through its welfare cuts-voting MPs, its Progress-membership Council Leaders, its estate-demolishing Cabinet Members for Housing and its Corbyn-backing unions, all the way down to its activists in Momentum, Axe the Housing Act, and all the other Labour fronts, are liars and traitors who have abandoned and betrayed the council residents of England for a sniff of Parliamentary power.

You don’t work with your enemy. You don’t form an umbrella campaign with your enemy. You don’t build a united front with your enemy. You don’t put aside your differences with your enemy. You don’t try to make friends with your enemy. The only thing you do with your enemy is get stabbed in the back. And the Labour Party – as I hope this weekend has shown beyond all doubt – is our enemy. Stand Up To Labour!

Simon Elmer
Architects for Social Housing

14352116_10154599188409571_7973254247172407837_oPoster by Andrew Cooper

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: Inequality, Housing, Renting, Evictions, Homelessness and House Prices

Andrew, Eating

We’ve been compiling these statistics over the past two years and longer, and we try to keep them updated as often as possible as things grow rapidly worse; but any corrections will be investigated, and any new additions that can be substantiated are welcome. The conclusions we draw from them are our own, but will hopefully be shared, one day, by the millions of people whose homes and lives they describe.

PART 1: INEQUALITY

THE WEALTH OF THE RICHEST 1 PER CENT OF THE BRITISH POPULATION IS EQUAL TO THE WEALTH OF THE POOREST 55 PER CENT.

THE 5 RICHEST BRITISH FAMILIES ARE AS WEALTHY AS THE POOREST 20 PER CENT OF THE BRITISH POPULATION.
* That’s 12.6 million people.

THE WEALTH OF THE RICHEST 1000 PEOPLE IN BRITAIN HAS DOUBLED IN THE PAST TEN YEARS TO £658 BILLION.
* More than a third of the annual economic output of the entire U.K.

BRITAIN HAS 134 BILLIONAIRES, THE MOST PER CAPITA OF ANY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.
* That’s one for every 489,000 people, more per head of population than any other nation in the G20.

LONDON’S 80 BILLIONAIRES IS THE MOST OF ANY CITY IN THE WORLD.
* With a total wealth of £325 billion, more than the GDP of Ireland or South Africa.

THE £9 TRILLION OF PRIVATE WEALTH IN BRITAIN IS HELD BY JUST 34 PER CENT OF THE POPULATION.*
* The remaining 66 per cent holds no positive financial assets at all.

THE GAP BETWEEN RICH AND POOR IN BRITAIN IS THE LARGEST IN THE WEST.
* The poorest 40 per cent of the British population share a lower proportion of the national wealth, only 14.6 per cent, than in any other Western country.

THE INCOMES OF THE RICHEST 20 PER CENT OF THE BRITISH POPULATION IS 105 TIMES HIGHER THAN THE POOREST 20 PER CENT.

JUST 0.3 PER CENT OF THE BRITISH POPULATION – 160,000 FAMILIES – OWN TWO THIRDS OF THE LAND.
* Making Britain second only to Brazil as the country with the most unequal land distribution in the world.

IN 2014-15 13.5 MILLION PEOPLE, 21 PER CENT OF THE UK POPULATION, WERE LIVING IN POVERTY, COMPARED TO 12 MILLION IN 2004-05.
* Yet over the same period the number of households living in poverty with one or more adults in work rose from 2 million to 7.4 million.

OVER 1,000,000 PROVISIONS OF THREE DAYS’ EMERGENCY FOOD WERE HANDED OUT AT FOOD BANKS IN BRITAIN OVER THE PAST YEAR.
* Including 415,866 to children.

391 PEOPLE IN THE UK DIED OF MALNUTRITION IN 2015.

THERE HAS BEEN A 71 PER CENT INCREASE IN HOSPITAL ADMISSIONS FOR PATIENTS SUFFERING FROM MALNUTRITION.
* From 3,900 admissions in 2009-10 to 6,690 admissions in 2013-14.

IN 2013-14 MORE THAN 86,000 HOSPITAL ADMISSIONS INVOLVED PATIENTS DIAGNOSED WITH GOUT CAUSED BY A LACK OF VITAMIN C.
* An increase of 78 per cent in five years.

CASES OF SCARLET FEVER ADMITTED TO HOSPITAL DOUBLED LAST YEAR FROM 403 TO 845.
* With a rise in other illnesses such as scurvy, cholera and whooping cough caused by malnutrition.

BRITAIN HAS THE SIXTH LARGEST ECONOMY IN THE WORLD.

PART 2: HOUSING

26 OF THE 100 RICHEST PEOPLE IN THE UK LIST PROPERTY AS A MAJOR SOURCE OF THEIR WEALTH.
* 10 make their money from finance, 10 from investment, 7 from retail and 6 from industry.

THERE ARE 164 PROPERTY MOGULS IN THE RICHEST 1,000 PEOPLE IN BRITAIN, WITH A COMBINED WEALTH OF £143.7 BILLION.
* Financiers, by contrast, are worth £65.2 billion.

THE AVERAGE PRICE OF A HOME IN GREATER LONDON IS NEARLY HALF A MILLION POUNDS.
* Currently £488,729, and around £726,000 in Inner London.

2 PER CENT OF NEW-BUILD HOMES IN CENTRAL LONDON IN 2014 WERE BOUGHT BY NON-U.K. RESIDENT OWNERS.

61 PER CENT OF NEW-BUILD HOMES IN GREATER LONDON ARE BOUGHT AS AN INVESTMENT.

IN 2015-16 PUBLIC SECTOR SPENDING ON HOUSING CAME TO £28 BILLION.

PROPERTY WEALTH IN BRITAIN INCREASED BY NEARLY £400 BILLION IN THE TWO YEARS UP TO DECEMBER 2015.
* And the wealth of the richest 10 per cent of UK households increased by 21 per cent.

THE ESTIMATED TOTAL VALUE OF THE HOUSING STOCK IN ENGLAND IN 2015 WAS £5.6 TRILLION.
* An increase of £1 trillion since 2010, and now nearly 60 per cent of the UK’s entire net wealth.

THE 80 PER CENT MARKET RATE ON SO-CALLED ‘AFFORDABLE HOMES’ IN LONDON’S NEW-BUILD HOMES REQUIRES A SALARY OF £44,500.
*The median household income in London is £30,500.

IN 2015, 5,300 TWO-BEDROOM HOMES WERE SOLD IN LONDON FOR BETWEEN £650,000 AND £1 MILLION.
* Compared with only 2,000 for less than £300,000.

59 PER CENT OF DEMAND IN LONDON IS FOR PROPERTIES PRICED BELOW £450 PER SQUARE FOOT, BUT ONLY 25 PER CENT OF HOMES BEING BUILT ARE ON SALE AT THIS PRICE.
* The average price per square foot across the UK is £211.

IN 2017 BUILDERS STARTED WORK ON 1,900 APARTMENTS PRICED AT MORE THAN £1,500 PER SQUARE FOOT, OF WHICH ONLY 900 HAD SOLD BY 2018.
* As of January 2018, there are an additional 14,000 unsold apartments on the market for between £1,000-£1,500 per square foot.

THE TOTAL NUMBER OF UNSOLD LUXURY (OVER £1 MILLION) NEW-BUILD PROPERTIES IN LONDON HAS REACHED A RECORD HIGH OF 3,000.
* Yet property developers have a further 420 residential towers (at least 20 storeys high) planned.

THE RATIO BETWEEN HOUSE PRICES AND PERSONAL DISPOSABLE INCOME IN LONDON IN 2016 WAS THE HIGHEST IT HAS EVER BEEN.
* Surpassing levels before the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2007.

PART 3: RENTING

64 PER CENT OF HOMES IN ENGLAND ARE OWNER-OCCUPIED, 18 PER CENT ARE PRIVATELY RENTED, AND 17 PER CENT ARE SOCIALLY RENTED.

LESS THAN 10,000 HOMES FOR SOCIAL RENT WERE BUILT IN ENGLAND IN 2014-15.
* The lowest number since records began in 1991-92.

THE AVERAGE PRIVATE SECTOR RENTS IN LONDON ARE MORE THAN DOUBLE THE NATIONAL AVERAGE.
* £2,216 per month for a two-bedroom home.

AS OF MARCH 2017 THE AVERAGE MONTHLY RENT IN LONDON WAS £1,203.
* The average in England was £833 per month.

PRIVATE RENTS IN BRITAIN HAVE RISEN TO DOUBLE THE COST OF COUNCIL PROPERTIES.
* To an average of £192 per week (£309 in London) for private rents, compared to £102 per week (£132 in London) for social and council housing.

A QUARTER OF PEOPLE RENTING IN BRITAIN RELY ON HOUSING BENEFIT TO MEET THE COST OF ACCOMMODATION.

£20.9 BILLION WAS SPENT ON HOUSING BENEFIT IN ENGLAND IN 2015-16.

IN THE TWO YEARS LEADING UP TO 2016, ALMOST 59,000 HOUSEHOLDS HAD THEIR BENEFITS CAPPED TO A MAXIMUM OF £26,000 PER YEAR.
* Nearly half of those households were in London.

A THIRD OF HOMES IN THE PRIVATE RENTED SECTOR DO NOT MEET THE GOVERNMENT’S DECENT HOMES STANDARDS FOR HEALTH, SAFETY AND HABITABILITY.

A THIRD OF PEOPLE LIVING IN POVERTY IN ENGLAND AND WALES LIVE IN PRIVATE RENTED ACCOMMODATION.
* Up a fifth from a decade ago.

OVER THE PREVIOUS FIVE YEARS, THE NUMBER OF RENTED HOUSEHOLDS IN ENGLAND AND WALES THAT WERE EVICTED HAS MORE THAN TREBLED.
* To 18,000 households evicted in 2014/15.

46 PER CENT OF 16-34 YEAR-OLDS WERE RENTING FROM PRIVATE LANDLORDS IN 2016.
* Up from 21 per cent in 1996

IN 2014-15, 40,000 HOMES WERE BUILT IN BRITAIN BY HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS.
* 5,464 were for social rent, 5,205 were for private sale, and 8,797 were for ‘affordable’ rent, up to 80 per cent of market price.

IN 2015-16, GOVERNMENT FUNDING THROUGH THE HOMES AND COMMUNITIES AGENCY BUILT 602 HOMES FOR SOCIAL RENT.
* In 2009-10 it provided 28,859.

BETWEEN 2012 AND 2015, THE NUMBER OF HOUSING ASSOCIATION HOMES FOR SO-CALLED ‘AFFORDABLE’ RENT ROSE FROM 7,354 TO 123,264.
* With 76,259 converted from homes for social rent.

THE TOTAL RENT PAID BY TENANTS IN THE UK IN 2017 ROSE TO £51.6 BILLION, AN INCREASE OF £1.8 BILLION ON THE PREVIOUS YEAR, AND MORE THAN DOUBLE THE £22.6 BILLION PAID IN 2007.
* By comparison, the amount homeowners paid for their mortgages fell from £63.8 billion in 2008 to £57.4 billion in 2017

MILLENNIALS, BORN BETWEEN 1977 AND 1995, SPENT £30.2 BILLION ON RENT IN 2017, MORE THAN THREE TIMES THE £9.7 BILLION THEY PAID IN 2007.
* And 46 per cent of 25-34 year-olds live in private rental accommodation, compared with 27 per cent in 2007.

OVER THE NEXT QUARTER OF A CENTURY RENTS ARE PREDICTED TO RISE AT TWICE THE RATE OF INCOMES.
* And renters will be twice as likely to live in poverty (i.e. living in a household with less than 60 per cent the median UK income).

THERE ARE AN ESTIMATED 2 MILLION PRIVATE LANDLORDS IN THE UK WHO OWN A TOTAL OF ROUGHLY 5 MILLION PROPERTIES.
* From which they earn an average of £20,000 per year from rent.

PART 4: EVICTIONS

THERE WERE 37,839 COURT-ORDERED EVICTIONS IN ENGLAND AND WALES IN 2014/15.
* Four times the 8,034 mortgage repossessions. 19,539 of these evictions were by social landlords.

THERE WERE UP TO 200,000 REVENGE EVICTIONS IN BRITAIN IN 2013.
* In response to tenants complaining about housing standards.

NEARLY 42,000 FAMILIES WERE EVICTED FROM RENTAL ACCOMMODATION IN 2014.
* The highest number since records began in 2000.

42,226 REPOSSESSION CLAIMS WERE MADE BY LANDLORDS IN THE FIRST THREE MONTHS OF 2015, UP 10 PER CENT ON THE PREVIOUS QUARTER.
* 64 per cent of claims were made by social landlords.

A TOTAL OF 42,728 HOUSEHOLDS IN RENTED ACCOMMODATION IN ENGLAND AND WALES WERE EVICTED BY BAILIFFS IN 2015.
*The highest number since records began in 2000, and a 53 per cent increase from five years ago.

IN THE FIRST THREE MONTHS OF 2015, COUNTY COURT BAILIFFS IN ENGLAND AND WALES EVICTED 11,300 FAMILIES.
* An increase of 8 per cent on the same period last year, and 51 per cent higher than five years ago.

16,500 HOMES WERE REPOSSESSED IN LONDON IN 2014.
* 94 per cent were rented properties repossessed by social or private landlords.

EVICTIONS FOR RENT ARREARS FROM HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS IN BRITAIN INCREASED FROM 7,535 IN 2010 TO 9,425 IN 2015.

IN THE THREE YEARS UP TO APRIL 2015, MORE THAN 50,000 FAMILIES WERE FORCIBLY MOVED OUT OF THEIR LONDON BOROUGH.

PART 5: HOMELESSNESS

AS OF APRIL 2016, 1,183,779 HOUSEHOLDS WERE ON LOCAL AUTHORITY HOUSING WAITING LISTS IN ENGLAND.

AS OF MARCH 2016, 71,500 HOUSEHOLDS IN ENGLAND WERE LIVING IN TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION.

AS OF JUNE 2017, 307,000 PEOPLE IN BRITAIN, ONE IN EVERY 200, ARE HOMELESS, AN INCREASE OF 13,000 OVER THE PREVIOUS YEAR.
* 281,000 are in temporary accommodation, 21,300 are in homeless hostels or social services housing, and 4,500 are sleeping rough.

IN LONDON, 1 IN EVERY 59 PEOPLE ARE HOMELESS.

IN THE PREVIOUS FIVE YEARS, THE NUMBER OF HOUSEHOLDS PLACED IN TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION IN BRITAIN HAS RISEN BY A QUARTER.

THE NUMBER OF FAMILIES LIVING IN BED AND BREAKFASTS IN BRITAIN MORE THAN TRIPLED IN FIVE YEARS.
* From 630 in 2010 to 2,040 in 2015.

280,000 HOUSEHOLDS IN BRITAIN ARE CURRENTLY AT RISK OF HOMELESSNESS.

250,000 HOUSEHOLDS IN LONDON ARE ON HOUSING WAITING LISTS.

240,000 HOUSEHOLDS, WITH 320,000 CHILDREN, ARE LIVING IN OVERCROWDED ACCOMMODATION.

53,343 LONDON HOUSEHOLDS, WITH OVER 90,000 CHILDREN, ARE HOMELESS AND LIVING IN TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION.
* A 9 per cent annual increase, and 75 per cent of the national total.

592,000 CHILDREN IN LONDON ARE LIVING BELOW THE POVERTY LINE.
* 37 per cent of all children in the capital.

THERE WERE 36,540 BED SPACES FOR SINGLE HOMELESS PEOPLE IN ENGLAND IN 2015.
* 7,115 fewer than in 2010.

THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE SLEEPING ROUGH IN LONDON INCREASED BY 6 PER CENT IN 2015-16 TO AN ESTIMATED 8,096 PEOPLE.
* More than double the 3,673 in 2009-10.

MORE THAN 200,000 HOMES IN ENGLAND WITH A TOTAL VALUE OF £43 BILLION WERE EMPTY FOR AT LEAST SIX MONTHS DURING 2016.

AS OF FEBRUARY 2016, 22,000 HOMES IN LONDON HAVE BEEN LEFT EMPTY FOR MORE THAN SIX MONTHS.*
* More than a third, 8,560, have been empty for over two years; and 1,150 homes have been empty for over a decade (not including the City of Westminster, which withheld figures).

MORE THAN A MILLION UK HOUSEHOLDS ARE AT RISK OF BECOMING HOMELESS BY 2020.

PART 6: HOUSE PRICES

AVERAGE HOUSE PRICE IN LONDON BY BOROUGH
* In November 2015

Kensington & Chelsea: £1,658,563
City of Westminister : £1,385,797
Camden: £1,049,673
Hammersmith and Fulham: £951,328
City of London: £804,600
Wandsworth: £789,115
Richmond upon Thames: £773,433
Islington: £700,625
Southwark: £637,274
Merton: £633,739
Haringey: £613,292
Barnet: £611,318
Ealing: £606,001
Hackney: £589,164
Lambeth: £559,716
Brent: £543,277
Tower Hamlets: £515,588
Kingston upon Thames: £513,695
Hounslow: £504,562
Harrow: £489,725
Bromley: £456,810
Greenwich: £447,187
Lewisham: £431,060
Hillingdon: £422,290
Enfield: £416,049
Redbridge: £415,639
Waltham Forest: £411,215
Sutton: £376,388
Croydon: £362,518
Havering: £342,354
Newham: £340,670
Bexley: £311,097
Barking and Dagenham: £258,631

THE AVERAGE HOUSE PRICE IN GREATER LONDON IS £597,860.

THE AVERAGE HOUSE PRICE IN CENTRAL LONDON IS £970,892.

PART 7: THE HOUSING AND PLANNING ACT

A £450,000 ‘STARTER HOME’ IN LONDON REQUIRES A SALARY OF £77,000.
* And a deposit of £97,000.

‘STARTER HOMES’ ARE UNAFFORDABLE IN 98 PER CENT OF THE COUNTRY FOR PEOPLE ON LOW INCOMES.
* And in 58 per cent of the country for those on middle incomes.

40 PER CENT OF EX-COUNCIL FLATS SOLD THROUGH ‘RIGHT TO BUY’ ARE NOW BEING RENTED OUT MORE EXPENSIVELY BY PRIVATE LANDLORDS.

214,000 HOUSEHOLDS WILL BE AFFECTED BY ‘PAY TO STAY’ ACROSS ENGLAND.
* And in London, most of the 27,000 households affected will be unable either to afford to rent privately or to buy in the same area.

ALMOST 113,000 COUNCIL HOMES IN ENGLAND WILL BE FORCIBLY SOLD AS ‘HIGH VALUE’ HOUSING.
* 78,778 of these homes will be lost from the 20 most affected local authorities, with half of these in Central London.

THE PROPOSED VALUES OVER WHICH ‘HIGH VALUE’ HOMES IN LONDON WILL BE SOLD IS:
* 1-bedroom: £340,000; 2-bedroom: £400,000; 3-bedroom: £490,000; 4-bedroom: £790,000; 5+ bedroom: £1,205,000.

THE PERCENTAGE OF HOMES OVER ‘HIGH VALUE’ THRESHOLDS IN CENTRAL LONDON IS:
* Kensington & Chelsea: 97 per cent; Westminster: 76.2 per cent; Hammersmith & Fulham: 50.3 per cent; Camden: 49.8 per cent; Islington: 24 per cent; Southwark: 9.5 per cent; Lambeth: 9.4 per cent.

THE TOTAL NUMBER OF HOMES IN CENTRAL LONDON ABOVE THE ‘HIGH VALUE’ THRESHOLD IS:
* Camden: 7,494; Westminster: 5,830; Kensington & Chelsea: 4,369; Hammersmith & Fulham: 3,951; Southwark: 3,755; Islington: 3,711; Lambeth: 2,337.

IN THE 20 BOROUGHS LIKELY TO BE HARDEST HIT, 159,014 PEOPLE ARE ON COUNCIL HOUSING WAITING LISTS.
* With 22,371 children living in temporary accommodation.

PART 8: WHAT CRISIS?

THERE WAS NO FINANCIAL CRISIS –
There is a Class War being waged by the rich.

THERE IS NO HOUSING CRISIS –
There is a Class War being waged through housing.

THERE IS NO DEFICIT CRISIS –
There is a Class War being waged against the poor.

THERE IS NO BENEFITS CRISIS –
There is a Class War being waged on the vulnerable.

THERE IS NO ECONOMIC CRISIS –
There is a Class War being waged against workers.

THERE IS NO N.H.S. CRISIS –
There is a Class War being waged against the sick.

THERE IS NO EDUCATION CRISIS –
There is a Class War being waged against students.

THERE IS NO POPULATION CRISIS –
There is a Class War being waged against immigrants.

THERE IS NO URBAN DENSITY CRISIS –
There is a Class War being waged in the inner cities.

THERE IS NO ELECTORAL CRISIS –
There is a Class War being waged politically.

THERE IS NO SOCIAL CRISIS –
There is a Class War being waged across society.

And we need to win it . . .

Architects for Social Housing

Illustration by Andrew Cooper

Brexit Diary

Andrew, Brexit (line)

22 June

DEMOCRACY

Is there something important happening tomorrow? Everyone seems to be getting very upset about which group of bureaucrats they want to rule over us. The point, I seem to remember Marx saying, is to change the world, not choose your preferred master. The servility of the people dressed up in their democratic best. Dance, dance, like a dancing bear, screech like a parrot, chatter like an ape, cry like a red-nosed clown, pink bows on our shoes, a ruff around our neck. But the eye of an ass watches us from behind.

24 June

APRÈS NOUS, LE DÉLUGE

Suddenly, everyone is so political. But where were you when Ian Duncan Smith was killing the disabled in their thousands? Where were you when George Osborne cut £12 billion to welfare? Where were you when Jeremy Hunt sold the NHS into private hands? Where were you when Brandon Lewis abolished social housing? Where were you when Teresa May turned Britain into a police state? Where were you when David Cameron sold the land we stand on to the highest bidder and turned this country into a knocking shop for foreign investors?

But they mess with our travel plans and suddenly everyone’s up in arms. Not that I expect anyone to get up and do something about it. Maybe a candle-lit vigil in Trafalgar Square, and, of course, a wave of hatred in the press against the racist, politically manipulated, white working class we’ve been happily shitting on for decades; but then it’s back to naked restaurants in the Elephant & Castle, a new i-Phone app that wipes our arses for us, and screwing our fellow man over for a living.

Someone once said that every nation gets the government it deserves, and we definitely deserve what we’re going to get.

STEREOTYPES

I just got off the phone with my mate. She was telling me about a foreign businessman who was welcomed with open arms by the Hackney community in which she lives, but who has never employed locals, and instead uses foreign workers on crap pay with no employment rights in his now thriving business. I presume that now makes her a racist, even if she herself is mixed race.

Then I went to the shops and had a chat with the Indian woman behind the counter about how the price of the Guardian has gone up yet again. Then had a joke in the shop next door with the Turkish guy, who said he’d have to start charging me for plastic bags now we’ve left the European Union. On the way back I passed a team of Polish workers digging up the road to lay more bloody cable. And at the top of my street I waved hello to the Pakistani guy I always chat with when I go to his takeaway.

Everything’s fine here. No random acts of racism in the street or sudden descent into barbarism. Perhaps the middle classes should stop projecting their class stereotypes and fears onto the working class they’re so fond of patronising – white, black and brown. Read the Guardian, that’ll cheer you up. Buy an EU ribbon and stick it in your lapel so everyone knows how un-racist you are. Or go on a march and talk to each other about Britain First. Anything – except think about the capitalist gang-bang of Britain’s poor you’ve been doing so well out of this past decade and more.

AND IN OTHER NEWS: THE REFERENDUM

I’ve been too busy lately to follow the whole EU referendum spectacle, and in the limited time I had to devote to it I didn’t find a single thing to read that wasn’t a hysterical version of ‘But surely you can see I’m right!’ As a consequence, I didn’t vote yesterday. But having followed what is being done to Greece and visited the country last year, I struggle to see the European Union as a force for good. It’s an uncomfortable fact that each of the 10.7 million Greek nationals’ share of the country’s €376 billion debt is 35,000 Euros, payable by every man, woman, child, infant, grandmother, grandfather, disabled, sick, unemployed and bankrupt member of the European Union that was supposed to make them so wealthy. Nor do I see the past ten years in Europe as a model of democratic accountability, workers rights and free croissants, which apparently we’re all going to lose now. On the other hand, I don’t want to see my friends who would otherwise have the right to live here struggle to justify their presence in this country according to whatever new laws we come up with.

However, I am a little surprised by the mass hysteria that has followed the vote to leave the European Union. As far as I can make out, we can still import goods from other countries, so the croissants will still be available; and while I sympathise with the plight of nationals from other countries in the European Union, my friends from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and other nations also not in the EU have had to overcome the same obstacles and managed to do so. I also note that the London middle classes haven’t been up in arms about the treatment of immigrants to this country not from the EU. I’ve yet to see them resisting the racist snatch squads on the streets of Camberwell, or marching to demand the release of the refugees from non-EU countries imprisoned at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. So you’ll excuse me if their sudden appeal to the right to live here in the name of civilisation, democracy and the fight against racism sounds just a little selfish.

As for the slightly less lofty claims that leaving the European Union has already knocked billions off the value of the pound and will drive foreign investment and businesses out of the UK (or more accurately out of the City of London), I never noticed that the past ten years of austerity politics imposed on the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society were ever lessened by a Britain with the fifth strongest economy in the world being in the European Union. Nor has it been glaringly apparent to me that London being the financial capital of the world has sent a stream of riches ‘trickling down’ – I believe the complex economic theory goes – into the outstretched hands of the undeserving poor.

Finally, I do not recognise the champion of human and workers rights in the European Union that stood by and nodded in approval as the Tories and their collaborators, Liberal Democrats and Labour alike, presided over the dismantling of our welfare state and the erosion of our civil liberties these past ten years. Nor did it stop David Cameron, the lead campaigner for staying in Europe, introducing a new British Bill of Rights for the current session of Parliament, the proposal of which, once again, drew no response from those now so offended by this curb on their own freedom of movement within the European Union.

What I have noticed, though, and that almost universally, is that the vote to Leave has been uncritically claimed as being motivated by racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, lack of education, lack of a work ethic, and political manipulation by the tabloids – in short, by all the usual stereotypes about the working class that are so central to the sense of entitlement that is at the heart of middle-class identity and its never-ending struggle to exonerate itself of culpability in the more obscene inequalities and injustices of capitalism.

With one or two exceptions, everyone has been united in dismissing, without question, the possibility that the working classes they seem so sure voted for the UK’s exit from the European Union are fed up having their salaries and employment rights undercut by a workforce imported to do precisely that; that being treated as a semi-feudal labour and service industry for the financial elite is not their idea of citizenship; and that, like the workers in Greece, they don’t want their pay packets and pensions being set by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

As I said, I have not looked into the choices this referendum presented closely enough to have voted either way; but please, dear bourgeois, save your sanctimonious outrage and your barely disguised class hatred for Islington’s dinner parties, when you can sit around and talk about how ghastly England is becoming these days and discuss what part of the world you’re thinking of moving to. The rest of us, who can’t afford a second home and monthly trips to the continent, have to live here.

And some of us, as you’ll see if you look up from photographing your elegantly arranged dinner plate, are fighting for this rotten stinking country that you’ve sat on your arses and watched turn into an offshore tax haven for the filthy rich without lifting your pinkies off your decaf lattes – not with little ticks in boxes every four years, but on the street, and for the homes and lives and culture of the people who have been under attack by the government of an EU Britain for decades.

So please, dear disgusted of North London, put up, or shut up, because your bitching is slightly pathetic, and just as self-centred, class-driven and politically manipulated as the motives being attributed to those nasty, racist, uneducated, ignorant, violent, lazy, work-shy hooligans you’ve never met but seem to know so much about.

I’m in. Are you?

IMMIGRANTS, REFUGEES AND BREXIT

Figures for UK immigration in the year ending December 2015 were:

British immigrants: 83,000
British emigrants: 123,000
Net migration: –39,000

EU immigrants: 270,000
EU emigrants: 85,000
Net migration: 184,000

Non-EU immigrants: 277,000
Non-EU emigrants: 89,000
Net migration: 188,000

Total immigrants: 630,000
Total emigrants: 297,000
Net migration: 333,000

Which means slightly more than half of all non-British immigrants into the UK last year were from non-EU countries; raising the question of to what extent the UK leaving the EU will stop people emigrating here.

In 2015, a total of 1,321,560 immigrants and refugees claimed asylum in Europe, including in non-EU member countries Norway and Switzerland. About 360,000 of these came from Syria, 180,000 from Afghanistan, 120,000 from Iraq, 70,000 from Kosovo, 60,000 from Albania, 45,000 from Pakistan, 40,000 from Eritrea, and the rest from Nigeria, Iran and Ukraine.

A total of 292,540 of these were accepted into the EU, of which 13,905 came to the UK in 2015, while it was still a member of the European Union. David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Britain when it was in the EU, agreed to accept a grand total of 20,000 refugees from Syria over the next five years.

In other words, there is no connection between the UK leaving the EU and our feeble response to the refugee crisis. That lies with the right-wing governments we have repeatedly elected to power, and whose military interventions in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa we have consistently given a mandate to with that democratic vote we’re so proud of.

None of this fits into the narrative being written by the supporters of the same European Union that has backed and financed the wars that caused the refugee crisis, and whose aggressive neo-liberal economic policies are one of the key causes of immigration to the UK by EU nationals, the vast majority of which are not, as they like to think, Italian performance artists working as cappuccino waiters in Soho, but rather Romanian cleaners, Spanish nannies and Polish construction workers labouring on zero-hour contracts to clean up our mess, look after our kids and build our homes for half what we should be paying them.

25 June

THE VOTE THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME

Statistics on the referendum are emerging, with the votes for remaining and leaving the European Union divided by everything from age to education to ethnicity to religion to region to nation. But what there are no figures for – in this, the most socially divided country in Europe – is how voting was determined by class.

In place of which we are fed the following conclusion to console us in our time of grief. The provincial working classes voted out because they are stupid and racist (cue interview with Northerner telling us from between his fag that he hates the bloody Romanians); and the urban middle classes voted in because they are heroic defenders of multiculturalism (cue interview with French student in London telling us between tears that we all have to learn to live together).

No hint of class interests here, no economic determination of ideology, no thought of the middle classes voting to feather their already well-bolstered beds, no suspicion of the working classes voting in protest at the destruction of their world, and definitely no class analysis from our independent, middle-class and very pissed-off press.

And how the middle classes eat it up!

MULTICULTURALISM, CLASS AND BREXIT

Under the New Labour government of Tony Blair the policy and laws on immigration in this country were changed to allow an enormous rise in the number of work permits granted to migrant workers. With the expansion of the European Union in 2004, UK labour markets were opened to workers from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. This was not done out of a sudden conversion to the politics of peace, love and harmony between peoples, but to drive down the rising cost of the labour of the working-class population of the UK. By 2014, ten years later, 43 per cent of workers in elementary process-plant occupations (industrial cleaning and packers, bottlers, canners and fillers), 33.6 per cent of workers in cleaning and housekeeping, and 32 per cent of process workers in the food, drink, tobacco, glass, ceramics, textile, chemical, rubber, plastic and metal industries were foreign-born. The increase in the share of migrant labour has been greatest among process workers, up from 8.5 per cent in 2002 to 32.0 per cent in 2014.

The situation we have today, where a UK worker’s request for unionisation, a living wage or a contract is legal grounds for dismissal, is a direct result of this flooding of the labour market. When outraged protesters ask how it is possible that Phillip Green can buy a third luxury yacht with the pensions of 20,000 ex-BHS workers, or sack any employee who strikes for a wage she can live on, they might want to consider where the employment rights, recourse to industrial action and wage bargaining power of the working class in this country went.

Capitalist employers call it ‘competition’, and back it up with eagerly received propaganda in the media and entertainment industries denigrating the British working class as lazy, making a choice to live on benefits, and lacking in a work ethic for not accepting the same conditions of employment as Polish construction labourers and Romanian cleaning women. Even these are now standing up and protesting against those conditions. But those same workers who have had the economic value of their labour and skills undermined by the deliberate importing of migrant labour into the UK, who have had their unions made impotent or illegal by successive governments in thrall to the City, and who have seen the social services on which their increasingly impoverished communities rely cut by the politics of austerity, know exactly what it is: the means by which the rich have grown richer beyond avarice and the poor have been driven into greater and more abject poverty.

What the middle-class technocrats of neo-liberal capitalism call ‘multiculturalism’, which has been adopted and propagated as the ideology of our brave new world, is nothing more than the unregulated movement of capital through global markets by multinational corporations that have no country, pay no tax, are bound by no government, concede no rights to their workers, demolish our homes for profit, write our laws to legalise their theft, and determine our governments. And the free movement of labour acclaimed by middle-class liberals as the economic realisation of this ideology is nothing more than the means by which the resistance of workers to their impoverishment has been taken away from them by the influx of a surplus labour force.

In response to all this, which has seen the working class of this country reduced to political and economic impotence and servitude, we now have the lamentations of the European middle classes complaining bitterly about ‘not feeling welcome anymore’ in the UK and proclaiming themselves the defenders of that entirely illusory Britain they have done so much to create, which sees no contradiction in describing itself as built on tolerance, multiculturalism and economic opportunity, while presiding over the greatest assault on the living and employment conditions of the working class in this country in a generation.

It is unfortunate that the working class have had to make this political choice in tandem with the racist right-wing of the Leave campaign – which isn’t to say that the Stay campaign wasn’t just as racist and right-wing; but it’s not as if they’ve been offered anything resembling an electable political party that has cast more than a condescending glance in their direction for several decades now – if ever. But for the politically-correct middle classes to continue to dismiss that vote as based on racism and xenophobia, and to ignore its actual economic determinations, is to play into the hands of the politicians, bankers, international financiers and media moguls who want to drive this country further to the right, both economically and culturally. More than that, it is a continuation of the political betrayal and economic exploitation of the working class, and the unquestioning embrace of monopoly capitalism, that has been the defining quality of Britain’s London-centric, multicultural middle classes this past decade and more.

28 June

WHITE-VAN MAN & MIDDLE-CLASS RACISM

I was walking along Old Street today when two Home Office Immigration Enforcement vans pulled up on the other side of the road. Ahead of me I noticed a black African (not black British) man moved carefully to put the bus shelter between him and them, while watching the vans nervously through the glass partition. I could see through the windows of the vans that the immigration officers were a mix of white, black and brown. I was giving them the finger when another white van pulled up between me and them, and the two white men inside shouted out: ‘Go on, lads, lock ’em up!’

Another example, one might think, worthy of the Guardian’s website, of the racism released by Brexit. But these vans and their snatch squads have been patrolling our streets since April 2012, pursuing not Eastern Europeans but immigrants from outside the European Union. They have come up against community resistance in Shadwell, Camberwell, Deptford and many other places with communities that have refused to be intimidated by their tactics. But I can’t say I’ve noticed the European middle classes that are so outraged by Brexit’s threat to their freedom of movement among them. In fact, I haven’t noticed London’s middle classes look up from their decaf lattes and artisanal burgers long enough to notice any of the attacks on our civil and human rights this right-wing Tory government has instigated over the past six years.

So please, if you’re going to splutter and rage at whatever new laws on immigration Brexit may bring, at least be honest about why, and don’t dress it up in a suddenly discovered love for the community of man. Perhaps, if our British bankers, French restauranteurs and Qatari property developers had paid their Polish builders, Romanian cleaners and Spanish nannies a living wage, gave them a contract, and allowed them to join a union, the racists in those vans – on both sides of the street – wouldn’t be roaming our streets now.

THE NEW PLEBISCITE AND THE LIMITS OF PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY

The Labour Party has 229 democratically elected Members of Parliament. 172 of those have just voted to support a motion of no-confidence in their democratically Party leader, 40 voted against the motion, and 17 abstained or were absent. Despite this, Jeremy Corbyn still has the backing of the unions that finance the Labour Party and of its membership, which under the new rules that elected him 9 months ago with 59.5 per cent of a 76.3 per cent turnout – over 251,000 members – determines the Party leadership on a one member-one vote electoral system. Never before in the history of the Labour Party, which has seen more than its share of farces, has there been such a divide between the membership of the Party, which currently fluctuates around 388,000, and its representatives in Parliament.

I believe we are about to see the limits of our Parliamentary democracy exposed – not, as some entertained, in the Tory Government’s refusal to trigger Article 50 that will initiate the UK’s exit from the European Union; nor in the fact that the next Prime Minister of the UK and its 64 million subjects will be elected by the less than 150,000 members of the Conservative Party; but in the refusal of the parliamentary wing of the Labour Party to permit its members to chose their own leader. How anyone who has any commitment to social change in this country can still continue to support the Labour Party, or have faith in the Parliamentary system to bring that change about, beggars belief; but it will be interesting watching their illusions vanish, and seeing what straws they will clutch at in their wake. Anything – anything! – but face the political truths of our times.

A THOROUGHLY UNEXPECTED AND UNPLANNED SITUATION

On Channel 4 News this evening, Jon Snow was interviewing some Labour politicians on a platform outside the Houses of Parliament when a crowd of mostly young, mostly white protesters came marching down the street and into the Old Palace Yard. I wonder who decided to let them through? If we’d tried to get anywhere near that side of the yard, which lies behind concrete barriers within a restricted security area, we’d have been aggressively stopped by the police. So somebody wanted them there.

When we were organising the demonstration against the Housing and Planning Bill in January I looked into the security arrangements in this area, and legally you can’t pass wind without a copper’s permission. You definitely can’t pass into the east side of Old Palace Yard, as this march did; you’re not allowed to use megaphones, as they were; and you’re not allowed to march, as opposed to a standing protest, without prior permission from the Mayor of London, which they didn’t have. So the idea of this being a spontaneous march from Trafalgar Square down Whitehall, past Downing Street, through Parliament Square and onto Old Palace Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament is very suspicious. The whole route lies within the Government Security Zone, where the MET has free reign to arrest and otherwise beat the crap out of you on the mere suspicion that you’re about to do something anti-social, let alone illegal. The last time I marched with a crowd of kids like this, on the anti-Tory demonstration last May after Cameron got in, the riot police first baton charged then kettled us for three hours outside the Ministry of Defence. Here, there was barely a MET officer in site, and when they did arrive they filed politely down the side. If this bunch of middle-class protesters got this far, it’s because someone in power wanted them and their pro-EU chants on national TV. ‘A thoroughly unexpected and unplanned situation’, as Jon Snow helpfully told us, it wasn’t.

29 June

REDUCTIO AD HITLERUM

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Yesterday, during Nigel Farage’s farewell speech to the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgium Prime Minister and current MEP, compared UKIP’s already infamous poster of Syrian refugees along the Slovenian border to the propaganda of the Nazis. This is known as Godwin’s law, after the US attorney Mike Godwin, who argued that ‘as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazism or Hitler approaches’.

Adolf Hitler, who was born on the border between Germany and what was then Austria-Hungary, had a Lower Bavarian accent that appears to have given him, in the ears of North Germans, an impression of sincerity rather than provincial uncouthness. Though I don’t like to admit it, I experienced a similar impression recently when listening to Susan Williams, otherwise known as Baroness Williams of Trafford, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, during the debates in the House of Lords, where she led the Conservative peers in their support for the Government’s Housing and Planning Bill. An attractive woman of 49, born in Cork, educated in Huddersfield and a politician in Greater Manchester since 1998, it was difficult to reconcile her warm Northern accent with the vilification of and attacks on the working-class that came out of her lying mouth.

I haven’t heard Nigel Farage speak often, but listening to him yesterday I was suddenly struck by his accent, which beneath the stock-broker’s patter sounds a lot like an uncle of mine. Uncle Den was the spitting image of Eric Morecambe, had a similar sense of humour and a flair for draftsmanship, and worked for a graphic designer. I wouldn’t be surprised if he voted for Farage; and although my own family, as my Welsh grandmother once declared, ‘is like the United Nations’, I’d bet he voted to leave the European Union.

That said, the irony of a member of an organisation that is stripping Greece of its land, property, assets and self determination, which has politically and financially backed every war pursued by the US and EU nations in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa over the past few decades, and which has sat on its bank balance while thousands of refugees from those wars drown in the Mediterranean or are herded into concentration camps – the irony of a member of such an organisation using a Reductio ad Hitlerum to champion the civilising benefits of the European Union would not have been lost on old Uncle Den.

30 June

CULTURAL VEGANISM IN THE COACH & HORSES

By mistake I was out in Soho last night, a place I usually avoid like the plague. After a few pints I dropped into the Coach & Horses with a mate. I never liked this place, was never a proper regular, but went once or twice a week in the 90s. Norman, the self-styled rudest landlord in London, was a miserable bastard who treated his staff like shit, and the place was full of bitter old queens who looked askance at us youngsters when we leaned against their particular two feet of bar. But it was, at least, a pub, full of sound and fury, with its own divisions and revisions. I haven’t been there for a long time, but had no illusions about what awaited us as we walked though the doors. Norman’s long gone, of course, though they still use his name on the menu. The sign reading ‘Sandwiches £1’ that was so prominent in the stage play of Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell has gone too. And I think I can safely say that no-one like Jeff would be seen dead in the place.

I ordered two pints of the only ale they had on tap, and as I always do asked that it be poured in a mug. The boy behind the counter looked confused at my request, and waved a lager glass at me. He was of indeterminate nationality, just another of the bored as fuck Euro-trash clones that have taken the place of our barmaids. But I don’t blame him. Employment by a corporate owner who can fire you on a whim from a zero-hour contract at £6.50 an hour doesn’t inspire either humour or duty. Loathing and fear of getting the sack was all I recognised in his eyes. I could see, behind his blank stare, the seconds ticking down before he could run off to G-A-Y, or more likely take two night buses home to his bedsit in Deptford. I knew he had no idea what our national pub-snack was, but asked him anyway if he had any pork scratchings. I think he thought I was taking the piss, which I wasn’t; but when he turned away with a shake of his head a punter next to me handed me a menu and told me it was a vegan pub.

Now it was my turn to be confused. Like a man blindly thrashing his way through his own nightmare I held the menu up to my eyes. He was right. Norman’s Coach and Horses: London’s First Vegetarian & Vegan Pub:

  • Sauteed Wild Mushrooms on Toast (V.O): £6.95
  • Beetroot salad (VO, NFO,GF): £10.95
  • Portobello Mushroom Burger (VO,NF): £11.75
  • Celeriac, Chestnut and Parsnip Sausages (V,MF): £11.75
  • Chard Leaf Curry (NF): £11.50

I was just digesting this information, and trying to work out what VO, NFO, NF and MO meant, when I suddenly became aware that a troupe of cockney performers was standing around an upright piano in the corner of the bar, banging on pan lids with wooden spoons, and generally doing their best Dick van Dyke impression of what the clientele of West End yuppies, European hipsters and confused American tourists think London’s working class look, sound and act like. They played the usual songs we know and love from a hundred Hollywood movies, including my all-time most hated Maybe it’s Because I’m a Londoner, with many a ‘knees up mother brown’, ‘lawks, misses, is that an ankle I spy?’, and ‘spare us a penny, guv’nor.’

I began to think they barman had slipped something into my drink, and waving the menu in the face of the nearest cockney performer spluttered out: ‘It’s a fucking vegetarian pub!’ as if this would find some outraged response, or at least a roll of his eyes. But he just looked at me and said: ‘Aren’t you a vegetarian?’ I’d paid for the pint, so sat down with my mate and drank it, but when the same performer went round with a glass mug (no doubt they’d brought their own) asking for some change, I couldn’t let the matter drop and asked him if he was a vegetarian. He told me no, but that his son was.

That was enough for me. I downed my pint and left. Outside, where the sound of the cockney band starting up again met the sounds of the street, a row of people sat at the chunky wooden tables and stools so beloved of their class. The men were dressed in dark business suits, the women in the same. There wasn’t even a hipster to spit at. In front of them stood discreet halves of continental lager, large glasses of bad Chianti, and heavy china plates adorned with dishes I didn’t recognise or could afford.

When people say they want their country back, I would guess they mean from something like this. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say they want their culture back: back from this generic, global, corporate, monolithic, homogeneous, middle-class imitation of culture; back from the exploitative relations of production behind its facade of inclusiveness and equal opportunity; back from the stupidity, blandness and banality into which we have willingly sunk for nothing more than the promise of a vegetarian burger that costs two hours’ labour on the minimum wage for the workers who make it.

The consumers and class for whom this ersatz culture has been made, who have grown rich from the economic relations of its production, who are employed to propagate its ideals in our media, press, and entertainment industries, and who are refashioning our cities, countries and identities in its likeness, call it ‘multiculturalism’, and attack anyone who doesn’t dutifully take their place within its cultural logic as a racist. And I can see why. What confuses me, however, is why everybody else can’t.

Can I get some marinated tofu with that?

1 July

THIS CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE PROTEST!

The country is in turmoil. Nobody, it seems, wants to lead it. The Prime Minister has fallen on the bloody sword he has wielded over our heads for six long years. Boris Johnson, who shirked no ignominy that might have brought him closer to the crown, has just renounced his life-long ambition to place it on his head. The most likely pretenders to the throne are nobodies with the charisma of a fired geography teacher. Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, not to be outdone in idiocy, is tearing itself apart, deaf to the voices that voted for it. The most popular leader in Labour’s history is under attack from his own parliamentary wing, which directs all its energies to a self-immolation worthy of the Party’s Methodist credo. Yet they, too, cannot muster an alternative candidate not tarnished by the history of their shameful support for whatever lie might have brought them to power. The vultures that have straddled our sodden isles, one foot planted firmly on the Continent, have lost billions on the back of a vote by the working class they despise and exploit. Trillion pound trade deals that would have consigned us to obedient serfdom have collapsed in a day. And the political union that is one of the greatest instruments of neo-liberal economics looks on in terror as the fabric of its police state tears along the Brexit seam.

Faced with all this, with every political and economic institution against which it has railed the past decade standing on the edge of a cliff we thought we’d passed long ago, when the supposedly irresistible absolutes on which monopoly capitalism rests have never appeared so shaky and open to change – what does the so-called Radical Left do? It organises a march to demand that workers from counties obedient to the European Union be allowed to work in the UK under the same exploitative relations of production as the rest of us . . .

In a few weeks this will all be wrapped up. The Tory Government will have a new Prime Minister. The Labour Opposition will have a new leader. The bankers will be back in the driving seat. And the Brexit disaster of 2016, like the financial crisis of 2008, will be just another excuse for further austerity measures, an increase in police powers, and the herding of more sheep into the corrals of neo-liberalism. Plus, of course, an opportunity for our middle-class intellectuals to write their next book or make their next film about the imminent downfall of capitalism.

We weren’t ready, and we never will be until we build the revolutionary working-class movement that alone is capable of overthrowing capitalism and bringing a new world into existence. The rest – the holier-than-thou Puritanism of identity politics, the anarchists who want to be ruled by Brussels, the earnest debates on post-capitalism in university halls, the getting very excited about the Second Coming of Jeremy Corbyn, the rise of Saturday protesting as the new clubbing, the empowered and empowering discourses of the other policed by middle-class students, the networked individuals who are gonna change the world one click at a time, the endless petitions to some benevolent god out there in our collective imagination – is bullshit.

2 July

THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGING

Brexit map

On the left: how post-Brexit UK is being depicted in our press and media. Let’s call it the Guardian view of the world: a once United Kingdom divided now by region; multicultural London, the cosmopolitan Scots and the loyal Irish alone in a sea of Little-England isolationism, xenophobic racists, pheasant-eating fox hunters and benefit-scrounging council tenants.

On the right: something closer to how the UK actually voted. A referendum is not a general election, and the votes are not counted by geographic constituency. So Scotland didn’t vote to stay in the European Union, and Wales didn’t vote to leave. Right across the UK the electorate voted both to stay and to leave, with no more than a 60-40 split either way in most regions. But in the largest turnout in British electoral history, 17.4 million people, 52 per cent of voters in a 72 per cent turnout, chose to leave. Leaving aside the fox-hunters, the Paki-bashers and the Telegraph-readers, that’s still a huge number of people who made a decision to vote against the trajectory the UK economy has been taking for many years now, and which they associate, rightly or wrongly, with our membership of the EU. Our two-Party Parliament and our first past the post electoral system has constitutionally prohibited anything approaching this level of democracy before. And for the first time in a very long time, the working class have had an opportunity to make their voices heard, with each individual vote directly counting towards the result of the referendum.

For the middle-classes of London, which is to say, the British establishment in Parliament, in the City, in the press and in the media, to dismiss this vote as the deluded, manipulated expression of racist oiks, to call for a second referendum, to feverishly consider the legal and constitutional loopholes to triggering Article 50, and all the other ways they have spent this week trying to turn back the clock on their worst nightmare, is perhaps the clearest demonstration yet of the utter contempt in which that establishment holds the working class of this country and its complete indifference to their impoverishment under this Government. No surprise there. But that the so-called Radical Left have uncritically and without hesitation added their hysterical voices to this middle-class outrage has shown very clearly where they stand in the class war, and no amount of marching and bleating about refugees and immigration and racism will hide their loyalty to their class, their Party and the economic relations about which, as usual, they have nothing to say.

3 July

THE MIDDLE CLASSES STRIKE BACK

Hipsters for the EU! Snotty-nosed middle-class students for the EU! You won’t fool the children of the revolution for the EU! Radical Left People’s Assembly for the EU! Young upwardly mobile professionals for the EU! Young hooded anarchists for the EU! Sons and daughters of the urban middle-classes for the EU! People with enough money to spend their weekends in Barcelona for the EU! Non-binary poly-sexual cis-gendered women’s caucus performance artists with a gallery in Marylebone for the EU! Home-owners who’ve just seen the value of their homes plummet for the EU! Decaf latte with vegan burger and celeriac side-salad for the EU! Very pissed off middle-class twats who didn’t realise there were any working class people left in this god-awful country for the EU! Terribly busy people from Islington worried about who’s going to clean their £1 million homes for £6.50 an hour now for the EU! Oh what a bore do I really have to apply for a work permit like the rest of the world for the EU! Acolytes of the Cult of Jeremy Corbyn for the EU! Signatories to the Tony Blair isn’t a war criminal fan club for the EU! David Cameron wasn’t such a bad guy after all historical revisionists for the EU! This is our first ever protest and gosh isn’t it fun for the EU! Here’s another amusing pun on EU/YOU from an 80s pop-song for the EU! All cops are bastards but these ones seem really nice for some reason for the EU! I’ve sat on my arse and done fuck all while the working class have been ground into poverty but don’t mess with my travel plans for the EU! Londoners for immigrants as long as they all live in Bradford for the EU! All Brexiters are white racist benefit-scrounging hooligans I mean poor deluded victims of the Daily Mail wot don’t know their own minds for the EU! At the end of the day Greece needs to pay its way in the world Deutschland über alles for the EU! Smug bastards on the side of the bankers but at least we’re not racists for the EU!

Etc . . .

8 July

JEDERMANN SEIN EIGENER FUSSBALL

I watched the semi-final of the Euros between Germany and France last night. It was one of the strangest footballing experiences I’ve ever had, not only because Germany actually lost a football match, but because I watched them lose with a bunch of Germans, having arrived in Berlin on the 5th. We’d walked north from the S-Bahn at Ostkreuz, and this was easily the biggest crowd with the best atmosphere we’d encountered, though that isn’t saying much. I know Friedrichshain isn’t exactly Football Central, but the behaviour of the crowd still took me by surprise. There were at least as many women watching as men; except for one black man, everyone was white; except for the barmaids and a squatter who’d wandered by from Rigaer Straße, everyone was middle-class. Lots of German team shirts, long wooden tables, tall glasses of beer, etc. And within a minute of turning up, even though the match had already started, a smiling German waitress came up and asked us what we’d like to drink.

But the crowd’s reaction to the game was the strangest thing. I know reaching the semi-final of the European or World Cup is a bi-annual event for the Germans, but the atmosphere was more like a group of parents watching their children play an egg-and-spoon race at the school fundraiser. No shouting, no swearing, no real cheering, no tension (I guess because they all expected to win), and very little excitement. As opposed to the straining faces of Englishmen, who stare like Dante’s damned at the role-call of their own judgement, the Germans sat around and chatted politely about the rise of the Deutschmark and the price of Lederhosen, occasionally turning to catch a few completed passes before nodding soberly in approval and returning to their beer. What got the most reaction was a well-timed tackle, of which there were many. These received not the full-throated roar of an English crowd mingled with cries of ‘KILL HIM!’, ‘BREAK HIS LEG!’, etc, but a polite round of applause, the kind you hear at the Opera when a middling soprano makes his entrance. Even when Schweinsteiger gave away the contentious penalty that gave the dastardly French the lead, I honestly think I was the only person in or outside the entire bar debating whether it was ball to hand or hand to ball.

At half time, when English TV typically dissects every missed pass (of which there are many), bungled shot (ditto) and referee decision against them (cause we woz robbed!), German TV switches ― I shit you not ― to the latest in politics from the European Union (Brexit) and a weather report (cloudy). I can’t imagine a single TV screen in a single pub in England surviving this.

Midway through the second half, when it began to look like Germany were in ein bisschen die Mühe, the table to my left broke out into song. ‘Ah!’ I thought, ‘now we’ll see some German Angst! Not so cool, calm and collected when they’re losing, are they?’ Alas, in response to me asking my German friend what mildly Francophobe football song they were chanting, she replied that it was a birthday song for one of their party, who stood up on cue and took a bow, blocking the view of the screen for half the bar. Frankly, if this didn’t result in his immediate glassing in an English pub I’d do it myself.

As the last five minutes were signalled and France were still 2-0 up, and even the German players appeared to have a bead or two of sweat on their quizzical brows, the one black man present stood up and politely waved his hand at the screen in exasperation. The final seconds ticked down. Were they really that confident about scoring not one but two late goals? Maybe I’d read the clock wrong and there was still half an hour to go. Germany were about to go out of the semi-final of the European Cup, a stage England last reached twenty years ago and has only achieved twice in major finals since 1966, and not a voice was raised, not a swear word was shouted at the referee, not an umlaut was dropped. I saw grown men weep into urinals when England were knocked out of the quarter finals of the 1998 World Cup by Argentina. I’ve seen crowds of English supporters look more distraught by England losing yet another penalty shootout than if you’d told them China had dropped a neutron bomb on the US. But here . . . nothing. No anger, no despair, no blame, no conspiracy theories, no interrogation of the national character, no drowning the collective sorrow in Jägermeister bombs and a quick shag in the girls’ toilets. Just an acceptance that ― although Germany were clearly the better team ― France had nicked the game, more on the back of German mistakes than by their own skill.

To the waitress’s polite enquiry, the crowd soberly decided they had an early start the next day doing whatever it is Berliners do for a living, and declined a third pint of Pils. Within five minutes of the final whistle the bar was empty. The chairs were neatly stacked. One glass had been broken, not in anger or violence, but knocked over by a moved chair. ‘Alles gut!’ they smiled. ‘We’ll win next time!’ And I have absolutely no doubt they will.

The question arising, of course, is this. Is the German nation so accustomed to success in football that both supporters and players never lose their cool and presence of mind, on or off the pitch, while the English, fans and players alike, run around like headless chickens in an agony of repeatedly crushed hopes? Or is it because they keep their cool ― and don’t really see what all the fuss is about a game they just happen to be extremely good at but fall short of seeing as the embodiment of their national character ― that the Germans are so good at football; whereas the English ― who run around like headless chickens in an agony of renewed despair ― try desperately to find the dubious glory of their long-lost Empire, a stiff upper lip in the face of disaster, and all the other cliches of their former national character in their current abject ineptitude at all sports, but in this one above all others?

As a nation, a people, a culture, a gene pool, Germany is so clearly superior to us in everything they do that it’s slightly embarrassing. The average girl on the street has the figure of an athlete. The kids are polite and speak seventeen languages. In Berlin, at least, nobody seems to work, everybody drinks in moderation, and even the punks say ‘bitte’ and ‘danke’. It’s no surprise that even after 2 World Wars, 1 Holocaust, and 39 years of the Stasi, they’re still running Europe. Where the Panzer failed the Euro has conquered. Like the British in India, the Germans have learnt that you don’t need to invade a country when you can strip it of every asset and reduce its citizens to penury and servitude with a Central Bank and a bunch of bureaucrats. But I can’t shake the feeling that this is what Tony Blair and Angela Merkel, not to mention Jean-Claude Juncker and the rest of the European Commission, want us to be. And if it’s a choice between 4 World and 3 European Cups versus a packet of pork scratchings, a pint of warm ale and a pub full of screaming, swearing, fighting, pissed-up, one-eyed cockneys weeping into their urine at full time, I’m slightly ashamed to say I’ll take the latter.

Everyman his own football.

Simon Elmer
Architects for Social Housing

Illustration by Andrew Cooper