Will Jeremy Corbyn take on Labour’s own ‘social cleansing’ of London?
By Jasmin Stone
It was great to hear Jeremy Corbyn speak about the need to fight social cleansing, during his victory speech earlier this month. The Focus E15 campaign has been on the front line of this battle for the past two years and while we congratulate Mr Corbyn on his new position, until he challenges the actions of Labour-run councils as well as government policy, we remain sceptical.
We've supported many people through very difficult housing problems including those who've been evicted and socially cleansed from east London. Many are moved far away from support networks and family to make way for luxury apartments no working class person could ever afford. The campaign has fought battles with private landlords, property investors, bankers and housing associations, but our biggest battle of all has been with the Labour-run Newham Council.
Corbyn has said he is against austerity and believes in socialism. This is welcomed but from our experience of meeting numerous Labour politicians it has become very clear that the Labour party on the ground is not very different to the Tories on this issue and is sometimes even worse.
It's great that Corbyn is willing to speak against against social cleansing but I wonder in practice how this will pan out. Will he really make a stand against his own councillors when they turf local people out of their homes and allow private landlords to move in and make a profit?
For housing campaigners and political activists to take Corbyn seriously, he needs to challenge those within his party who are contributing to the suffering and abuse of the working class.
He could start with the Labour mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales. In September 2013 when some of the 29 mothers who were being evicted from the Focus E15 hostel asked what support he would give us, Wales’ response was: 'If you can’t afford to live in Newham, you can't afford to live in Newham'. That says it all. How can Wales and Corbyn be in the same Party? Whose policies are going to win out on the ground?
The young mums and their children who lived at the the E15 hostel were evicted and offered homes as far away as Manchester and Birmingham. But some of us decided to fight back and after occupations, protests and marches we were offered housing in the borough, albeit on short term tenancies. And this is happening across London, there have been similar accusations of social cleansing by Labour-run councils in Lambeth, Greenwich and elsewhere.
Our conclusion is that we cannot rely on Corbyn to tackle this issue. He is opposed by most of his Shadow Cabinet and by many Labour MPs. For this reason we will carry on organising, getting out on the streets and taking direct action. We have to represent ourselves, we can't rely on politicians whether they are in Westminster or our local council.
I wish the new Labour leader well and would ask him to join us on the streets with the working class people who are taking a stand against social cleansing but for now it remains to be seen whether the rest of his party will follow his lead.
Jasmine Stone is a member of the Focus E15 campaign. You can follow them on Twitter here.
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