To Stratford again! where career mayor Robin Wales continues one of London’s leading Pillock of the Year campaigns…here he is at the recent Newham Mayor’s show running from the Focus E15 mothers and their kids when the mothers asked him again about social housing in the borough.
Video from the Focus E15 mothers:
“This [event] is a family day!” Wales barked at the mothers as they walked around the event with their – err, families. I wonder if I should even bother outlining the ironies in that one. I guess we can take it that when Wales says “families,” he means “families who are not campaigning for social housing for families.” For nearly a year now, the Focus E15 mums have been fighting for secure social housing for everyone who needs it, which is most people. The women want decent, secure social housing for all – places where people can settle for the long term and raise their families. It is actually hard to think of a more family-orientated campaign. (For more on the financing of Newham’s family days and other short-term crowd-pleasers, read Mike Law’s excellent blog on that council’s likely borrowing legacy here). Wales is under investigation now – a complaint was made about his behaviour towards the mothers at the mayor’s show.
So. Perhaps the real problem here is that Wales, Newham council and the political class generally find assertive, persistent women difficult. I thought about that again this week when I found a letter that Newham council sent to the NUJ about me earlier this year. I’d forgotten about this letter, so thought I’d share it with you before I throw on my pile of Fuck Off Kate correspondence from councils. All good.
Earlier this year, I asked the NUJ to complain to Newham council when security guards stopped me from attending a public council meeting. I’d completely forgotten that the council had sent a response, but remembered this week and hauled it out. In the letter, the council said I’d be denied entry to the council meeting because I was foul mouthed and aggressive to security guards. OUTRAGEOUS. Conveniently, I have a recording of the interchange between me and the security guards that evening. You can hear me challenging the guards – as well I might, seeing as they were denying me entry to a public meeting and pushing my press pass aside – and that I actually sound quite sweet, because I am. I am in person, anyway. Generally. I like to swear all the time on social media, not least because that’s an excellent way to let off steam after exposure to a twat like Wales. Anyway – I thought about all of this when I saw Wales racing away from the Focus E15 in the video above. Not for the first time, I wondered about Newham’s two-fingered salutes to assertive women. I’ve posted more videos of those salutes at the end of this article. The Focus E15 fight is a feminist fight, all right. These female campaigners have been dismissed categorically – by Newham, by Labour, by the political class and the press. They’ve kept going, though, and generated a great deal of interest and support. It is not easy to keep things going, but they have.
Let’s not forget that the Focus E15 mothers have good reason for their persistence. They have very good reason indeed. Like so many people, they are worried about housing. Battles are breaking out all over London, because people are so concerned about housing. Wales can’t keep running. Politicians generally can’t keep running. Campaigners won’t back down. They can’t back down. Nobody goes quietly when they have nowhere to live.
The Focus E15 mums face a new worry about eviction, too. They began their campaign almost a year ago when they were faced with eviction from their temporary accommodation at the Focus E15 hostel. They thought they’d be sent out of London, away from their families and support. Their campaign gathered pace and because of that, a number of the women were placed in private sector lets in London for a year. The problem now is those lets are coming to an end. The women have very limited options – private lets, probably, in a sector that people struggle to afford. They won’t get too much sympathy from the political class, either. They’re not from the right class. If you’re a Kate Middleton, you get a free pass. You can live in a palace and blow wads of public money on it. If you’re a working-class mother from Stratford, you can fuck off. Your role in life is to shut up and ask for nothing. It really is that simple.
Said Focus E15 mother Jasmin Stone to me when I saw her last week:
“My lease comes up in February. I’ve been concerned about it since the day that I moved in. I don’t feel that I am home at all. It’s not home. It’s just where we’re staying.
“I am scared to report repairs in case they evict me. I don’t want to be trouble…I have no idea what happens at the end of the tenancy. I guess they will send me a letter before that saying I don’t know what. If I don’t have anywhere to live, I will have to go to the council [and tell them I am homeless].”
At which point it all starts again.
The Focus E15 mothers’ campaign has been active for a year. The lack of mainstream support has been shameful. While the feminist commentariat has wittered on about the pros and cons of letting pubic hair bloom, these women have fought a real fight – mostly by themselves. Details of the campaign’s first-birthday celebrations are here.
Video: Robin Wales runs from the Focus E15 mothers campaign:
Robin Wales runs from me when I asked him why he attended a property fair in Cannes: