As we go to press we find that London has won the bid to stage the 2012 Olympics.
We imagine the headlines in tomorrow’s Sun — “Not so crap now, Chirac” etc. etc., and can only groan. But there are other things to bemoan in this result. What will Olympic “regeneration” really mean for London’s east end?
Students at the Clays Lane housing co-op in Stratford found that out when they received their eviction notices in May. They live right where the Olympic village is to be sited. And local traveller sites are also under threat.
And there are other problems.
As with the Dome, a lot of money for the Olympic regeneration will come from the Lottery fund. In other words the money will come out of the pockets of the mostly not well off people who buy lottery tickets. £1.5 billion in total. And £625 million will come from London council tax.
Of course the redevelopment might not stay in budget — most of these Olympic projects end up costing loads more than their original estimates.
What will the Lower Lea Valley development look like? The Olympic Park is going to be “1,500 landscaped acres”. But hang on a minute, this is an area with a natural network of waterways and already existing wildlife habitats? It doesn’t really need the landscaping...
But what about all the new jobs that will come to the area? Well that is based on the rather dodgy idea that the benefits of any “development” will automatically “trickle down” to local people. Looking at what was left behind with the Millennium Dome, it is not very convincing.
The promise of 4000 “affordable” homes has also to be taken with a degree of scepticism. “Affordable” is New Labour speak for homes for sale and homes at quite high rents. “Affordable” homes are not genuinely accessible social housing. And as we write the property prices are starting to rise in the area.
We could go on. There will need to be a lot of local community campaigning in the next few years to stop the inequalities that will arise out of the Olympic “regeneration”.
Asylum prison condemned
A new report by the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has slated conditions in Harmondsworth Removal Centre (where some of the Zimbabwean hunger strikers are held.
Among many other criticisms the report makes are these:
“Managers believed that up to a quarter of the population were ex-prisoners but the centre was not given information about detainees’ previous prison history, even though such a group could present risks to the general population of the centre.”
“… Detainees had difficulties in accessing legal advice.”
“… Those detainees involved in the fast-track process were particularly vulnerable due to the speed of the process.”
“… Detainees did not have direct access to racist incident complaints forms. When these were submitted, they were not logged or investigated by suitably trained staff.”
“…The testing for infectious diseases was inadequate, and the provision of a regime for mental health inpatients was poor.”
“… Little was done to prepare detainees for transfer, removal from the country or release. “
“… Most detainees had been detained unexpectedly, and many had been held initially in police stations, in poor conditions, and were unable to receive visits or have easy access to a telephone. “
“… Incidents of self-harm were not presented or discussed at any suicide prevention meetings. “
“… One member of staff said that if a detainee who did not speak English was distressed, they used sign language and continued speaking in English even if he did not understand.”
The anti-fascist magazine/campaign Searchlight has withdrawn from the United Against Fascism steering committee. In that committee the Socialist Workers’ Party and Socialist Action are politically quite dominant. We cannot independently assess what Searchlight says about UAF committee functioning, nor do we endorse all of their political reasoning, but their statement on the matter makes interesting reading. Affiliates of UAF should ask some sharp questions about their committee.
Searchlight’s statement: “We found it difficult to function when decisions were being made elsewhere. But the prime reason for our departure is because it is incompatible for us to be in an organisation that is pushing a different strategy to our own. We believe that localised campaigning on broader issues than racism, fundamental as racism is, is the key to turning back the British National Party’s electoral advance…
“Local campaigns should ideally be rooted in the trade union movement — because of its capabilities — which in turn should mobilise the broadest possible alliance of forces. And because fascism is about more than racism we simply do not believe that UAF’s concept of black leadership is appropriate for an anti-fascist organisation. Racism is just one part of what fascism is about and it cannot be reduced to it.
“Also, there was only ever so long that we could participate in an organisation which had leading figures conduct a whispering campaign about Searchlight being ‘Zionists’.
“Leaving UAF will allow us to get on with the work that we are doing with trade unions and local groups unhindered. We have no intention of engaging in an ongoing row with UAF or of setting up a rival national organisation. …”