The Way things are done… A comment on Grenfell Tower and who is responsible.

The Way things are done… A comment on Grenfell Tower and who is responsible.

Some spontaneous thoughts after another few weeks of coverage….

(slightly modified 20.15)

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC)  is where the dichotomy between rich and poor is the gravest in London, perhaps in England or even Europe, with a long-entrenched history of disempowerment, discrimination, racism and political and economical cynicism and exploitation.


Whatever of the above ingredient you pick you will find twisted and dishonest ways, from the history of housing in Notting Hill to the demand for and the creation and mismanagement of the West Way Trust or the KCTMO and so on.


There is no doubt, that RBKC council felt that Notting Dale should be remoulded. In Andrew O’Hagan’s London Review of Books piece The Tower  Rock Feilding-Mellen, the former person to oversee decisions and financing of housing renovations denies to want to have wanted to kick out social housing tenants, but he does admit in the same stroke that he wanted to construct space for Kensington’s left out Middle classes, especially people in professional vocations who could not afford to buy, and were not catered for.


Whilst O’Hagan cites this almost in Feilding-Mellen’s defence, it is by itself an astonishing admission. To be clear social housing homes were to be demolished so those new denser units would make a little space for left out professionals. It is not that it was wrong to want to create such housing units for professionals. The question is rather, why were social tenants and their areas to bear that burden? Why were their houses seen as the legitimate sphere where things could be demolished and rebuilt in that way?


There are historical precedents of the council wishing to demolish against the wishes of locals. Take Frestonia for example, or sold churches and emptied and community centres and spaces. The Tabernacle, a Caribbean centre of activism in the 1970s only survived, and barely so, after a struggle to save it. What O’Hagan misses, when he talks of the battle for the local library, in whose place another was offered, is, that the fight to safe spaces is one that is based upon the experience and fabric of the area, and the distrust, that promises once made, won’t be changed in some way to the detriment or continued sell-out of the area and its people.


The movie Notting Hill, in which Hugh Grant starred so famously before he infamously was caught out in the act with the African American sex worker Divine Brown in the USA also had much to answer for.


The embarrassing incident of the actor might just as well be symbolic. The film of the area, world-famous for its Caribbean style carnival, was deprived of any African Caribbean characters, in fact, any meaningful characters with a darker skin colour. Notting Hill, the film that is,  was a fantasy of a European Eldorado was constructed by the film producer Duncan Kenworthy and director Roger Michell. It was certainly not innocent. Rather, it was created, like so many films, to maximise the profit value of the film in the parts of the world with lighter skinned people, who were then able to imagine themselves in Notting Hill without the risk of blackness. A vibrant area just waiting for you to move in. Notting Hill, that lie about the area, went on to win a BAFTA, a Brit Award and the British Comedy Award. Beyond being a laughing matter,  it was literally, in the Grant Hugh tradition, a proper f***-over Notting Hill’s black heritage and residents. Notting Hill’s estate agents were loving it. International white families who gained their extraordinary inflated salaries in the City – the very lot, that crashed the world in 2007 –  bought up, whatever they could in Notting Hill, filled the cafes and cramped up especially the areas around the state schools. Millionaires do not like to waste money when a school can be free if you want a cliche. But I know it to be true in some cases I witnessed myself. That is of course not a problem until some less fortunate kids are squeezed out of the catchment area for that school.

In  2014 the Strutt and Parker Estate Agent advertising went even further.  It stated, that some in Notting Hill – depicting a person of wider African – Caribbean background,  are “born to dance”, whereas others, explicitly, Jeremy Montagu-Williams, at the time property sales manager, a white English person,  “are born to sell flats.” That was the 2014 way of stepping over “No Negroes, No Dogs” of the 1950s. Community protest made this ad disappear from the streets of North Kensington and had any right to highlight it. It is unbelievable how much reality can be twisted. You can see it today in the cafes of Westbourne Grove, where you will struggle to see people of African Caribbean background. I saw it in the indifference of hordes of tourists on Portobello Road on Saturdays after the Grenfell disaster.


Of course, the film Notting Hill was but a symptom of a development that had started much earlier on. Already, in the 1970s buildings in which multiple families had lived and had rented, were being converted into single ownership villas for those with money to buy – but not quite enough to afford Knightsbridge, amongst them an ex-Rhodesian / South African family, escaping the onset of Black African rule, but bringing with them their wealth, and where the lady of the house became a long-standing Conservative councillor in Kensington (she has since moved up North where she continues to serve as a Tory councillor and even gained an OBE). 


The many years of attempted control over Notting Hill Carnival, cameras installed on Westway, questions over the carnival’s continuation, the constant regeneration of Portobello Road,and properties around. perhaps until all shops and cafes are global chains, the harassment of young black men with Sus Laws and Stop and Search policies, harassing anyone that did not fit the English white stereotype, all that created further antagonism towards the council, and what it allowed to happen, often enough, out of touch with residents, or so at least the feeling is. Feelings are important too, they are there to be disproven, and whilst there may be one or the other urban myth, or “narrative,” it does not need much to confirm the buying up of Notting Hill. 25 Million Pounds one property went for last year.

RBKC may have saved some social housing units, when other boroughs did not, but overall there was a deficit, not just in Kensington but all over London and England, created by national Conservative politics more than local perhaps, not much helped by Tony Blair’s new definition of affordable housing, and lack of investments under his watch.

The idea of a  redevelopment for the area around Latimer Road, however, kept coming up as an ambition by RBKC. A 2009 master plan for the area of Notting Barns South, in which Grenfell Tower stands, written on behalf of RBKC by the group Urban Initiatives overtly lies to achieve its ends. It misrepresents crime statistics, talks of irrational walkways, and presents wrongly the local community as near destitute.  Locals fought it, and won considerable battles. Sadly, Grenfell Tower was not one of these, though they rejected its demolition.

Any housing requires investment, repairs, modification to make it better, permanently. All over the country social housing estates were not receivers of generous repairs over the Thatcher years and beyond. That too must be remembered. A constant drop of water not fixed, can bring down a building. Funny how The Barbican, an almost entirely private high rise estate of the 1970s has no cladding, nor ever considered it.


Already in the 1980s, the local community was resolute that it wanted to have a higher hand in the management of the housing stock in RBKC so that things would get fixed when they need to. KCTMO was the answer all agreed to. But in the end, it was KCTMO that became resilient to consider the voices it was to consider, or so it appears. The inquiry will surely shed more light on that.


What we do know is that RBKC went ahead with reimagining Notting Dale. One sentence in the 2009 master plan for RBKC with surprisingly little evidence for it, judges, that “Grenfell Tower blights the view from Latimer Road.” What blights needs to be beautified. Cladding was the way to go, installed by others too. A massive high percentage of the refurbishment costs went into that.


You can picture those in decision making positions out for win win. In one go you could address heat insulation, and the shining metallic exterior, gave buildings a touch of ultra modern and contemporary, liked by all, including residents, for what did they know about grades of how flammable materials are. But ignorance in British law, especially by those who are employed or recruited to know, is no defence.


Residents had a list of other concerns, the usual stuff, really. Double glazing, leaks, functioning lifts, electric wiring, maintenance, cleanliness, fire safety, noise, better kitchen, cooking smoke extractors, hot water, and heatings, yes and some asked questions about fire safety too.


The windows installed in Grenfell were just as scandalous as the cladding, the cheapest possible plastic frames, and there were the fire doors, here low price trumped safety.  DId anyone ask questions?


You would think that legally, landlords are meant to be responsible for the standards of the houses in which they place tenants. Grenfell and houses like that, resembled in Rock Feilding-Mellens words, “savings in terms of risk management of the budget” rather than building risk management for residents. That was the two Pound saving per cladding panel to cut costs that degraded fire retardant to flammable.


And whilst there are 300 equally cladded buildings similar to Grenfell across the country, the ticking time bomb eventually blew up with  Grenfell Tower. The saga may be specific to Kensington and Chelsea but it is a symptomatic issue, beyond the borders of RBKC.


Not that there were no warnings. The Lakanal House Fire with its clear coroner’s recommendations being but one, and there were others. Nor that there were no guidelines on how to fit cladding, or whether to fit cladding at all  to high rise buildings. All this existed too. But it remained ignored and put aside by multiple agencies, all who could have raised concerns at any stage, if only one of them had.


As a result, unsafe buildings were constructed against evidence, and against best building practice, against best safety testing, because – well, because others did so, and because you could, everybody did. The man who jumps after the crowds who jump the cliffs also perishes. There are many people who bear a shared responsibility. If it will be builder, designer, fire tester, manager or owner, or even panel maker, who carry the largest responsibility that will be decided soon. It is a long chain and Grenfell Tower in RBKC is where it all blew up in murderous flames, exposing more than but just one ill, and consuming, no killing 72 people, some of whom were highly vulnerable.


For that at least Kensington will also have to answer questions. To place people with physical movement restrictions and disabilities in some of the highest flats, in a building in which often enough the lifts failed, what sort of responsibility and care is at work here? Do people get paid for such incredible way of housing allocation indifferent to the facts in front of them?


Not just the history of Kensington, not just the history of council and social housing, not just the history of racism and marginalisation, but also complacency in the building and construction trade, amongst those who carry out safety inspections for example, or consultations with the desired outcome for those who finance it, and quite likely a fire service that was not as well prepared and equipped, as it should and could have been, given the amount of new high rise buildings in London.  The fire services are being furnished and paid for by the public purse, and so that too, in the end, goes back to people who make decisions on budgets, people like the former mayor Boris Johnson in London, who closed fire stations against much uproar and opposition, which perhaps contributed to Grenfell, before he gave the country Brexit.


When campaigners shout the Tories have blood on their hands and posters are hung up in Kensington with Conservative politicians as the main culprits, it can sound like an too easy vilification. Yes, there is a political battle out there, Labour for sure wishes to score points. But such accusations are neither without any truth. At least the previous Labour ideologists demolished the Heygate Estate or sanctioned the Tottenham  development. The headings are always the same, to regenerate, to help, to do good. Eleanor Kelly, Chief Executive of Southwark Council and, interestingly, designated leader of the government’s Grenfell Response Team, said, the Heygate Estate, was just not working. Many residents disagreed. The consultations and plans for Elefant Park the estate that followed Heygate, were similarly staged as in Notting Dale, and they were undersold to the developer Land Lease.  

What happened in Grenfell is too serious, to allow for monotone versions of blame or excuses from any one side. Thank goodness there is a public inquiry with competent lawyers and a criminal investigation too. Here at this time, one party after the other abrogates culpability. We just did as told, they say, pointing at the next person down. Well that, frankly, is no longer good enough in the light of so many dead. Let the lawyers and prosecutors deal with that.

Any person who has been given power that affects the lives of others has a duty to ask the right questions and as many questions as possible. What are the implications of this move? Is it risky? Is it best practice? Can it be checked again, and perhaps independently?  Can I rely on the independence of this body? Have I done the utmost rather than the minimum to warrant safety? What about external stairs, sprinklers, fire extinguishers, alarm systems, even drills? I

When people do not do that for a building that houses hundreds, you run into Grenfell Tower.   It is possible that the problem in Britain is not just one of a political and economic divide, but a true cavalier attitude to health and safety and best practice, often called Red tape and Nanny State by critics (there are lots of nannies about in Kensington, mind you).

Such behaviour rewards with quick gains without hard and solid labour, and without care or responsibility of the possible consequences.

That is also not exactly a condition fit for a country about to try to convince the world how good it is in doing things, as an independent nation outside the EU. Standards alone do not warrant themselves. They need to be safeguarded and tested.

When it comes to safety and best practice there can really only be but one standard. The standard that is safe for the most vulnerable person housed in a building. That standard exists in RBKC in many of the private flats, where pop and rock stars fight over the installation of underground swimming pools, when in the tower block a stone throw away the dry rise hydrants failed to carry water up to the flames.

The change that must follow Grenfell is therefore beyond the culpability of but a Conservative figurehead.  It is neither just about Labour or Tories. It must be a fundamental shift in how things are done regardless of who leads the country. It is about law too, like the Human Rights  (Article 25) that guarantee a standard of living adequate for housing and it is about robust and infallible safety standard bodies.

But of course, everybody knew how things have to be done, like former RBKC leader Nick Paget-Brown, the former head, from whom the sentence escaped, that in North Kensington the locals do not know how things are done. Evidently, for if they had 72 people would still be alive today – but some at least tried to do something, if only it was, in the end, but a bit of noise upsetting some know-it-all heads in the KCTMO!

Brexit Berichte – Brexit Reports

Diese Woche gab es zwei Berichte von mir zum Thema.

1.) Das Brexit Lager

2.)Wirtschaftliche und Sozialwissenschaftliche Konsequenzen des #Brexit


This week I reported twice about the topic.

1.) About the Brexit Camp

2.) About the economic and socio economic consequences!

London: Demolition of social housing flats causes anger.

Translation: Daniel Zylbersztajn: Abriss von Sozialwohnungen sorgt fuer Streit

originally published in German in Taz, die Tageszeitung, Tuesday, 16th February 2015


(translation Daniel Zylbersztajn) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ( 2016 / Daniel Zylbersztajn, 2016)

Great Britain: In the London area of Tottenham, a concrete social housing estate, erected in the 1960s, is to be demolished. They are supposed to be locations of social tension and drug dealing. The residents are scared of higher rents and being pushed out in the end.

Reporting from London, Daniel Zylbersztajn

In the centre of the estate with its many multi storey houses in Corbousier style, stands a playful concrete terrace block. The Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham, London, counts approximately 1100 housing units. Bad water pipes and some darker corners reveal that the concrete estate is worthy of an upgrade. A renovation should have been carried out years ago.

Broadwater Farm 4
Broadwater Farm, Courbusier Style at its best or worst.  Photo (c) Daniel Zylbersztajn, 2016  All Rights Reserved

But rather than renovating the estate, it appears that it is going to be “bulldozed down.” Not just that, no body lesser than the Prime Minister David Cameron has taken charge of this task. The 1960s buildings “with their dark alleys would be,” in his words, “a present for criminals and drug dealers and a poverty trap.” Decisively he argues for the bulldozing of the houses and the erection of totally new houses.

Arguments of that kind are not exactly new on the British socio-political landscape. In the 1960s many Victorian social housing units were demolished with similar types of justifications. Earlier, in the 19th century, large chunks of the London East End were “>>sanitized<< “for the welfare of the poor.”

One of the long standing residents of Broadwater Farm is Clasford Sterling, 57. His mighty appearance and deep voice give him a natural flair of authority. “Broadwater Farm’s image is historically conditioned”, he argues, and continues, “that this has not much in common with the reality.”

Sterling, decorated with an OBE from the Queen, was born in Jamaica. Even back in the 1970s nobody would dare to bully him, he says. With football and pots full of colour, in order to rejuvenate some of the houses, he encouraged many of the young people on the estate, who had lost hope and direction, to take their lives back onto a positive path.

Oase Sozialwohnsiedlung. Mit Farbtoepfen brachte man hier orientierungslose Jugendliche zur Verantwortung.  Broadwater Farm 5
Broadwater Farm Mural. Young people freshened up the estate with pots of colour and became constructive. Now it is all to go. Photo: Daniel Zylbersztajn, (c) 2015 All Rights Reserved

In spite of this, the estate entered national headlines in 1985, when young people from across the area became entrapped on the estate,following a march against police brutality. The police cattled the youths in, which caused bitter fighting to emerge between police and the youth. The result was the brutal murder of a policeman.

It was only in the 1990s and under John Major’s government that the estate would receive a renewed injection of help, with 33 Million Pounds worth of investments. A community centre was built, the local primary school rebuilt, and later, thanks to lottery funding, the adjacent park completely renovated, offering a huge amount of leisure and sport facilities.

As a result the crime statistics of the area is below the London average for many years. Sterling reports, that the transformation is so remarkable, that he has received countless visits from national and international delegations. Broadwater Farm became known as the success story in terms of social estates that once experienced a rough time.

Admittedly, there are a few residents who are now in favour of the demolition of the concrete houses, but they are the minority. Most residents, especially those in the less fancy blocks, seem to be happy. In fact, quite a few have chosen to invest in them, and now own their flat as leaseholders. It was Margaret Thatcher who allowed the purchase of social housing units by social tenants.

In spite of this, Haringey the local council, intends to knock it all down. Even the smaller garden houses at the edges of the estate, as well as the school, are to go. If the council is able to sell the area to a property developer in a good deal, it may fix some of the holes, that the 30 percent austerity cuts from the national government has caused to their local budget. But the sell to such a developer would also have an extra bonus, by freeing the council from the burden of the administration of the estate.

Examples of this kind exist everywhere in London. On the Heygate Estate in the South-East of London 1200 real social housing units were replaced with but 300 new ones, after the old estate had been knocked down. The remainder was offered on the private market or on much higher rents up to 80 percent of market rate, known as “affordable housing.” Officially it was argued, that the well off residents would pull the less well off up. This so called >>win-win situation<< rarely set in however. With new and much more affluent neighbours most local prices in the area also rose.

This also worries people on Broadwater Farm Estate. They fear that sooner or later they would have to settle in regions far away from here and out of town. Facing such prospects, the community has decided to put up a fight to rescue the estate. The responsibility for the actual implementation of the sell off lies with the City Council of Haringey, a Labour borough, and it currently supports the measure wholeheartedly.

Lotteriegelder sanierten den Park mit vielen Freizeit und Sportmoeglichkeiten Broadwater Farm 6
Park Facilities, at Broadwater Farm

Sterling is unable to comprehend what on earth is supposed to be wrong with the estate. With a tired stare out of his office window, he insists that, “there is no good reason whatsoever, why this community should be destroyed. It is not criminally inclined, nor is it a poverty trap,” he says. The political winds of austerity rid Broadwater Farm of many of their former community workers. Sterling is now doing many of their jobs without pay and alone.

Broadwater Farm Clasford Sterling 3
Clasford Sterling in front of the Community Centre. Photo: Daniel Zylbersztajn, All Rights Reserved (c) 2016


For my report in taz, I also visited other estates. I felt that Broadwater Farm summarized what I found elsewhere. So above was the full published article. But for those, who like to read more background, here is the remainder of my research.

Packington Estate in Islington. Solutions for broken pipes and broken lives

There were supposed to be many social problems affecting the original 540 residents of the original 1960s Packington Estate. In deed some families were living an endless life of crime over several generations. When it emerged in 2003, that there were also problems with the gas pipes of the houses, the landlord, the city council of Islington, decided to sell the entire estate to a housing management company and developer, tasked with its rebuilding.

Packington Estate 1
Packington Estate Old and New. Photo, Daniel Zylbersztajn (c) 2016, All Rights Reserved

What is different on this particular estate, is that there was an insistence that the majority of the former residents should get rehoused here after the rebuilding had ended.

Bad Construction and Banned from town.

Many of those who already moved into new units, state that they are more or less happy, even though moving itself was a painful and difficult process, that lasted much longer than hoped and promised. Georg Smith, 80, argues that his new basement flat is rather beautiful. Still, he is not the only one, highlighting the fact, that the old units may have been chilly, but at the same time much were more solidly built than these new houses. “These are rather cosmetic”, he judges. “I am certain that they will have to be renovated again in 20 years, as the walls are totally thin, whilst the old houses were built of solid bricks.”

Another occupant, she is mother of three children, knows, that the schema was also used to rid the estate of >>bad families<<: “Residents who were known to be anti-social, were rehoused out of town,” she reports and adds “That is neither fair, nor does it solve the problems these people had,” But referring to the block with the private residents, she continues, that it would be the wealthy, who broke the lift recently, after a rather wild house warming party.

Packington Estate 3  Am Ende kann ich nicht klagen sagt George Smith, 80 vor seiner neuen Sozialwohnungsbleibebleibe1
George Smith, 80 is happy wit his new garden flat on Packington Estate, but says the new building won’t last long. Photo Daniel Zylbersztajn (c) 2016, All Rights Reserved

Packington Estate finds itself in an area of London, that once was poor and derelict, but where a studio flat today can cost up to 750.000 Pounds. Units that are sold on the open market are therefore very profitable. Every year the new estate takes longer to complete, the market price goes up by an average of ten percent. The developer is in no hurry, the completion already about five years overdue. Soon it will be like in the South-West of London, where property prices are sky rocket high.

South-West London: Wandsworth. Profit 40 storey high avoided!

South of London’s busiest train inter-junctions, Clapham Junction, lies the huge Winstanley Estate. It too has many social buildings erected in the 1960s and 1970s. For quite a while the local council has intended to profit from the location in the name of regeneration. Eight years ago, they intended to built two 40 storey-high private residential towers next to the station. Local residents up in arms about the proposals, were able to prevent it in a long and protracted campaign, aided by the financial melt-down. But Wandsworth continues to take up the argument of “rotten buildings and anti-social people.”

Winstanley Estate 3 Dieses Gebaude ist bereits zum Niederiss verbannt
Bad pipes but outstanding neighbours! Condemned to be knocked down on Winstanley Estate.  Photo: Daniel Zylbersztajn  (c) 2016, All Rights Reserved

After years of battle with the local government, Cyril Richert, 43, of the Clapham Junction Action Group, has lost any hope of being heard by the council. “They do not listen to us,” he notes. This forced him and others to seek allies from the outside, in order to indirectly put pressure on the council. Occasionally there are even little victories, like when the investigation of Transport for London and established, that yet another tower Wandsworth had planned, stood exactly where a future exit is to be. Still, Richert accepts, that the total destruction of Winstanley Estate South of the station can not be halted any longer.

Good Life between murder and garden-houses

If one looks closely, there are but three eight storey blocks on the massive estate, that are in a real bad way. Occupants talk of bad windows and pipes, and yet report many outstanding and trustworthy neighbours. Many of the other houses are two storey high, and many even have generous gardens. Violent crime, even murder are not unheard of though, and still not a daily occurrence. The last murder happened three years ago. All this is not as bad as it was over 15 years, when it was, people say, really rough. But security measures such as cameras, security operated doors, and fencing stopped most of that.

Winstanley Estate 1
Cameron and the local council  call this a sink estate. The residents were not asked, it seems. Photo, Daniel Zylbersztajn (c) 2016 All Rights Reserved

All claim, that the community spirit and life is good here. The feeling of it being a bad estate, residents say, is but a feeling by external visitors, who mostly do not know the estate and its people. That sounds very much like what Clasford Sterling said about Broadwater Farm. Accordingly high is the amount of people on Winstanley Estate who bought their own council flat. “Poverty Trap?”, asks a 30-year old lady, when she learns of Cameron’s arguments to knock down 100 of the worst estates, including this one. “I grew up and went to school here, and today I am a medical doctor.” She adds, that it would be wrong to idealise life here, even her brother was mugged here not so long ago, “but it isn’t much worse than elsewhere in London,” she insists.

At the same time the 102 Million Pounds that Cameron wishes to spend to enable renovations on 100 estates are not much money at all, unless one makes deals with property developers.

Secure Tory Votes

In parts of Chelsea and Kensington the majority of councils homes these days are private property, courtesy of Margaret Thatcher’s >>Right to Buy << schema. That appears to be the dream of Wandsworth too. Winstanley is not that far from lucrative regions such as Nine Elms or the stretch along the Thames. The station itself is a good selling point. Tony Belton, councillor of the Labour Party for over 40 years and representing Winstanley, believes it is all but a political game. “The amount of social housing units relate directly to how many people will vote Labour or Conservative,” he explains. Cities with less poor and more private properties ensure secure votes for the blue party, so he believes.

Winstanley Estate 5 Orofitraechtig, Schon jetzt macht ein Markler an der Haltestelle Werbung
Too profitable to leave poor people here. Winstanley Estate as seen from Clapham Junction Station. Photo Daniel Zylbersztajn, (c) 2016 All Rights Reserved


Tear the Housing Bill apart like once the bust of Lenin!

(c)  2015 Daniel Zylbersztajn,  All Rights Reserved

This 1954 famous council building by Berthold Lubetkin near King’s Cross in Central London used to be called “Lenin Court.”Lubetkin tried to bring “the quality housing for all” principle from the USSR to England. There was even a statue of Lenin inside the courtyard. But it was destroyed so often by anti-Communists that in the end the council (at the time Finsbury) decided to rename the building. The building was meant to give social housing council tenants the best available at the time, and the building still stands proudly 60 years on, still serving many people on “lower incomes” in London.

The contemporary residents are quiet and mostly well behaved and take care of the surroundings with wild flower gardening for example. Many are small families of working people. It is projects like these that will become full private estates, if the Tory Housing Bill remains unchallanged. A council tenant unfortunate enough to earn just over £40.000 (London rate) is supposed to rent here on “full or near market-rate” under proposals of the new Housing Bill (…/fair-rents-will-ensure-higher-earning-…). A flat (one bed) costs between £2000-£3000 to rent a month in this area of Central London. Go telly up, if a small family with a combined income of about  £45.000 can afford this?

People on such incomes are instead brandished as suckers and the policy is being sold to the country as “fair.” Naturally it is to raise money towards the national debt, approx £250 million a year, we hear. That not being enough, the new five year lid on the right to live in council and housing association flats, will create uncertainty and lack of care for the neighbourhood or the building. Gone will be the wild flower community projects, or safety for pensioners in the confidence of knowing all the neighbours.

Who thought out a policy such as this? Only people with no connection to realities of people’s lives, in other words a bunch of a certain species of elected politicians. You do not need to be a Communist to understand that this does not come from a caring and sound political mind, but from ideologists prepared to sacrifice small families and lower waged people. Yes In Central London £45.000 in a small family budget is perhaps more than some but still low. But Brandon Lewis the Housing Minister calls it totally just and”fair” to take away some £25-35.000 of that.

And they tore down Lenin’s bust because his ideologies were unsound during the cold war? There can be no doubt, Lenin was an unruly ideological tyrant, but how come the Conservatives, who thought this one out, can escape political judgement of something so evidently unethical and unsound?

And if you think this is going to boost home ownership, think again. A family on even 50.000 Pounds can neither buy outright nor purchase a share, if the remainder is to be served up on market rate.

When ideology affects negatively real lives so fundamentally (as it has done with people in social care too), than the public must wake up and tear down the posters of the Neocon leaders too, just like with the Lenin bust or at least shred their Housing Bill to pieces!

Jüdische Wähler und Kandidaten in Großbritannien: Auf dem Weg nach Westminster – Jewish voters and Jewish candidates in the UK: Traveling to Westminster:

Was jüdischen Wählern wichtig ist, und was Abgeordnete sagen und jene die es sein wollen.


Exclusive for the German Jewish national Juedische Allgemeine an article that assesses what iss important to Jewish votersm MPs and wonna be MPs in Great Britain.


Wahlnotizen aus Essex – Election Notes from Essex

Zusätzliche Bilder und Text aus Essex zum Taz Wahlvorbericht Großbritannien (Johnson / Zylbersztajn) (Hier:!159231/)

Pictures and text supplementing the pre-election text in the German taz weekend (read here Johnson / Zylbersztajn:!159231/)

Haltestelle Benfleet.  Viele arbeiten in der Londoner City

“Mitten in Essex liegt Benfleet, eine dreiviertel Stunde mit dem Zug entfernt von Londons Finanzbezirk. Die meisten der fast 50.000 Einwohner sind Wohnungseigentümer mit einer ungewöhnlich niedrigen Anzahl von Sozialwohnungen unter fünf Prozent.”

In the Middle of Essex you find Benfleet, 45 minutes by train from within the London financial district. The majority of the 50.000 residents are home owners, with an unusual low figure of socially rented flats.

Typische raktionaere Fans. Ein Waffenladen in Benfleet mit Ukip Poster.

“Auch hier bestrafte man letztes Jahr die Torys mit den lilafarbenen Pfundsymbol gewappneten Männern.”

It is here too, that the tories were punished by the men wearing the purple emblem.

Konservative Abgeordnete beim Lamentieren im Wahlbuero in benfleet

Rebecca Harris, die hier seit dem Jahr 2010 den Sitz Castle Point, zu dem auch Benfleet gehört, in Westminster vertrat, will einen Sieg des Ukip Kandidaten in den Nationalwahlen verhindern. Sie erzählt von immer wieder heruntergerissenen Plakaten und wie Ukip versuche mit Gerüchte und irrelevanten Argumenten Punkte zu sammeln, beispielsweise mit der Tatsache, dass sie nicht in der Gegend lebe. „Der Ukip Kandidat ist selber erst im März hier hergezogen und gibt sich jetzt als Einheimischer aus. Der Kandidat der aber hier am längsten wohnt ist der von Labour!”

Rebecca Harris is the Conservative MP of Castle Point,of which Benfleet is a part. She wants to prevent Ukip entering parlament. She states that many of her posters are torn down, and how UKIP creates rumours about her, and would point at the fact that she would not live here. “However,” she points out, “the UKIP candidate only moved here in March, and now claims he is a native. The only person who lived here for a long time is the Labour man.”

Will Ukip waehlen, Schellackpollierer Lee O'Brian, 56, Benfleet

Polierer Lee O’Brian, will eigentlich Ukip wählen. Doch das Argument, dass eine Stimme für Ukip die schottischen Nationalisten mit Labour in die Regierung bringen könnte macht ihn Sorgen.

The French Polisher Lee O’Brian wants to vote for UKIP. “Most jobs in the building industry are undercut by Easter Europeans,” he argues. But an entry of the SNP into government alongside Labour worries him.

Strasse in Benfleetmit Ukip und Konservativen Plakaten

Obwohl die Konservativen und Ukip überall plakatieren und vehement Wahlkampf  führen, ist der Enthusiasmus für die einen oder die anderen begrenzt.. Bei den Lokal-und-Europawahlen im letzten Jahr gaben hier 69% Prozent keinen Wahlzettel ab. Köchin Kerry Bird, 46, wird verrät, dass sie genausowenig einen Stimmzettel abgeben werde, wie der neunzehnjährige Spielplatzgestalter Lian Kavaha. Der hat sich noch nicht einmal registrieren lassen, damit er wählen kann.

Altough Ukip and the Conservatives put up placards all over the place, and the battle seems real, many people feel they can not get enthused by all the fuss. At the last elections in 2014 69% of the locals did not vote at all. Cook Kerry Bird, 46, does not want to vote at all. Lian Kahava, 19, a play ground designer, has not even registered to vote, he says.


Doch diese Herren im “Conservative Club” von Benfleet sind sich sicher, dass sie für die Conservatives wählen werden.

But these gentlemen in the Conservative Club of Benfleet say they will vote only for the tories.


Markiert durch die unmittelbare Nähe zur Themse, mit kommerziellen und Privaten Anlegerstellen und Fabriken wie der Pharmakonzerns Proecter Gamble, sieht man im unauffälligen Stadtzentrum merklich viele Ein-Pfund Billigläden und „Cash Converter“, Geschäfte in denen man Gebrauchtes für Geld eintauschen kann. Grays, ein paar Hanltestellen von Benfleet entfernt,  ist auch die Geburtsstadt des Komikers und bekannten Lobbyisten Russell Brand. Er forderte, dass keiner wählt, und so beim politischen Spiel nicht mitzumachen, und einige vor Ort bestätigen diese Ansicht, obwohl sie das nicht wegen ihm tun, sondern aus eigenem Missmut zur Politik.

Being near to the Thames, with many commercial and private harbours, and many factories like the pharamceutical company Proecter Gamble, Grays is a town that is not very distinct from many others, except for its unusual high amount of One Pound shops and cash converter stores.  It also the former home of Russell Brand, who argues famously that people should not vote. Many echo his views here, though their non affection for the political game is genuinely theirs.

(c) Daniel Zylbersztajn
(c) Daniel Zylbersztajn

Trotzdem liegt Ukip Kandidat Tim Aker laut Vorhersagen vier Prozent vor Labour und fünf Prozent vor den Konservativen.

In spit of this the UKIP candidate Tim Aker is leading the polls.

(c) Daniel Zylbersztajn
(c) Daniel Zylbersztajn

Mitten in der Fußgängerzone steht Ukip zu trotz ein Einwandererladen „Europa“. Die rumänische Verkaufsassistentin Elena Nistor, sagt die Engländer beschreiben uns so, wie sie selber sind.

Amidst the pedestrianised centre stands a Europe store, as if to spite UKIP.  Romanian shop assistant Elena Nstor claims that the English describe them in a way, that applies much more to themselves.

(c) Daniel Zylbersztajn
(c) Daniel Zylbersztajn

Auch Barkan Ozgur, 22, mit türkischen Familienhintergrund, der im türkischen Grilllokal Asya Mangal gleich neben dem Bahnhof von Grays arbeitet, behauptet. „Grays ist ein Scheißloch“!  „90 Prozent leben hier von der Sozialhilfe, und davon sind viele alleinstehenden Eltern“, weiß er zu wissen“. Obwohl dies übertriebenen ist, nur 13% der Bewohner erhalten Sozialhilfe, nationaler Durchschnitt, stimmen ihm die vier anderen Anwesenden zu. Vielleicht liegt es daran, dass der Großteil der Sozialwohnungen, bis zu 14-Stoeckige graue Hochhäuser, fünf Minuten von hier stehen. „Wir sind die einzigen, die hier arbeiten!“, behauptet auch Wesley Mears, ein 32-jaehriger Projektmanager, dessen Eltern aus der Karibik stammen und weiter „Die weißen Jungs wollen weder für einen Job an einen anderen Ort reisen, noch haben sie oft die notwendige Ausbildung“, glaubt er, und wieder sind sich alle einig.

Barkan Ozgur, 22 who works in a Turkish grill opposite the station says, “Grays is a shit hole. 90 percent of the people who live here do not work here.”  That is exaggerated, as only 13 percent of the residents receive benefits, that is quite the national average. But maybe it is because a lot of the council flats of the area are situated five minutes behind the shop, including some 14 storey high tower blocks. Wesley Mears,32, of African-Caribbean background argues, that white English boys are inflexible when it comes to work: They don’t like travelling to another place for work and often lack the right qualifications. We are the only ones who work here.”

(c) Daniel Zylbersztajn
(c) Daniel Zylbersztajn Ukip Poster in der Mitte. Wohnung in einem Sozialwohnungsbau in Grays. | “Ukip Poster in the middle” Housing Estate in Grays

Der Antikenhändler Mark Johnston, 53, sieht das vollkommen anders, er wir Ukip seine Stimme geben: „Mein jüngerer Sohn hat keinen, der von uns bevorzugen Grundschulplätze bekommen.“ Johnston behauptet, das liege an der Einwanderung von den Osteuropäern. Er sei kein Rassist, hätte sogar polnische Freunde, aber er versteht Grays als bedroht, weil Osteuropäer aus den dort ärmsten Gegenden hier her kämen und sich dementsprechend unmanierlich benehmen würden.

The antique dealer Mark Johnston, 53 wishes to vote for UKIP.  He says he could not get his preferred choice of primary school for his younger son and blames Eastern Europeans for that. He claims he is not a racist, and that he  even has Polish friends. But Grays would be threatened by Eastern Europeans who come from the  poorest areas of Eastern Europe and they would behave themselves accordingly, he says.

(c) Daniel Zylbersztajn Conservatives Wahlplakat in Benfleet  | Poster of teh Conservatives in Benfleet
(c) Daniel Zylbersztajn Conservatives Wahlplakat in Benfleet | Poster of the Conservatives in Benfleet

Ian Davies, 39, in der Tierhandlung gegenüber, umzingelt von Fischtanken, beschreibt sich als den Konservativen verbunden. Seine Stimme kriege jedoch nur jene Partei, welche in den nächsten Tagen am wenigsten dreckigen Tricks spiele. Seine zur Wahl skeptischen erwachsenen Kinder musste er zur Wahl überreden „Das geht nur“, meint Davies im Hintergrund eines kreischenden Papageis, „wenn Politik glaubwürdig und aufrichtig bleibt“.

Ian Davis from a small animal shop argues he is committed to the Tories. But he will only give those the vote who play fairly in the next few days. He says he had to convince his parents to vote and continues, whilst a parrot makes itself heard in the background, that this would only be possible if politicians remain trustworthy and truthful.

(c) Daniel Zylbersztajn
(c) Daniel Zylbersztajn

Seltener sind die Spuren der Labouranhänger!

Much rarer are traces of Labour supporters.

Manifesto Review. UKIP, LIBDems, SNP, Labour and Tories.

Below you will find my notes on Lib Dems, Conservatives, The Greens, and UKIP Manifestos.

Many people speak about the budget, the austerity cuts and the NHS, and truly that is what bost people in Britain look for in the manifestos, except when you are a UKIP supporter and the only measure of things is the membership to the EU.  However reading the manifestos has actually high merit because one recognizes the general political zeitgeist.

One of the really positive things from most manifestos is the drive towards more equality on gender and sexuality and general tightening of discrimination. Even UKIP cough up references on tolerance. The Greens make equality their main theme, but it is also a theme for the Lib Dems and Labour.

However both Conservatives and of UKIP could mean that Britain soon leaves the European Human Rights Court and the guarantees it gives, not to speak of European migration issues and the freedom of movement.

One point UKIP fails but all other parties more than recognise on is actually another, a comprehensive and deep understanding on climate change. Not one of the four others excludes the topic. Whilst the Conservatives are less specific and comprehensive on on it  than the Lib Dems, and the Greens the two most elaborate parties on this, as well as Labour, you have a feeling that they felt they needed to act, both on grounds of negotiated global targets and because of the accusation that their aims as the new green party on the block announced last time around where not acted upon.

Education is another key area beyond the budget and the NHS. All parties seem to believe more child care is better, though there are huge differences in outlook.  The Conservatives believe in an increase of free schools and tight testing.  Labour on the other hand is against free schools. The ib Dems and the Greens are the only two who would take school curriculum development  away from state, whilst the Greens are the only party that talks about school to start only at 7 like around the world, and that there must be a new emphasis on the inter-social.

If you like a breath of fresh air it is well worth saving through the Lib Dem and the Green party manifestos. Labour, whilst more socially attune than the Conservatives are not as radical and several issues as Miliband makes us believe. However the reality of the questionable first past the post system will have it that this will remain a race between Labour and the Conservatives.

Of course at the end it is the deficit and austerity and how much needs to be cut that many people ask.  The Conservatives stand alone with a fast repay, followed by the Lib Dems in their thought on necessity. Labour remains rather vague on how much the deficit will go down, whilst the Greens feel it is time to invest as the economy changes and new jobs and relationships will transform society.

As a press person I also noticed the Lib Dem reaction to Wikileaks and similar. Newspapers and the Media should be able to argue for exceptional special freedoms in court if their investigative journalism brings to light corruption, and human rights abuse, and infringements on liberty and the like. Most other parties at mention references to Leveson and the need of a charter.

The best policy that UKIP offers and biannual people’s referenda on major policy issues, however such votes whilst they increase democracy, will also come with a price tag.

Many parties are making huge promises on the NHS, even UKIP finds somehow 12 Billion Pounds, the largest amount of all parties.

on with my notes which were first shown on my facebook.


So read the ‪#‎UKIP‬ Manifesto. Here are some of the points I picked up:
The ‪#‎UKIPManifesto‬ is interesting to read because it is not as far removed from reality as some may believe to be, though some policies may let some raise eye brows, such as their cavalier attitude towards the climate change targets (they are not mentioned. Their key policy is the stop of EU membership which has a set of consequences. Their trade vision is global, and they talk of Japan, China and the U.S. alongside Europe as equal partners. They also want to leave the European Court of ‪#‎HumanRights‬.

But it insists that Britain is and UKIP is a as a party tolerant. One of its policies states however to work against policies in the name of “multiculturalism that are divisive.”

They are against the keeping of data of innocent people, but the DNA samples and similar foreigners to be sentenced abroad are to be kept.

They like the budget for the ‪#‎NHS‬ to be lifted to £12bn and reintroduce housing benefit for the under 25s. To save costs it wants to abolish three departments, and offices, the Environment and Climate Change department, the National Service Office and the Big Society Office, the the Department of Overseas Aid.

They like to see an increase to police and security personnel
and a moratorium on ‪#‎unskilled‬ migration for 5 years. Generally they want an Australian point system on migration.

On housing they support new builds on brown fields and they support the right to buy option.

Big housing projects should be able to be opposed with 5% of local votes, there are to be biannual referenda on the most important issues of parliament to give back democracy. They are pro fracking and want to abolish incentives in wind and solar power as only hydro would work, they say. To solve the airport crisis they suggest the opening of a small airport that was closed. HS2 is to be scrabbed, and there are several pro car policies such as a 25 yr rule on classic cars excise duty release, ending toll roads, and decreasing speed cameras. They also are opposed to any pay as you drive schema, part of some environmental policies of others.

The ‪#‎Smokingban‬ is to be reviewed according to UKIP to add smoking rooms to pubs, and micro-breweries are to be assisted. As ‪#‎FGM‬ is non-British, it is specifically mentioned in the section on “British culture” as an issue that needs to be watched by all agencies involved. Similarly they specifically mention sham marriages and honour killings as to be watched. I wonder if it tells us something about how UKIP views certain migrants and how they position themselves against them?
They support the NATO 2 percent investment (they still like to be member of that) and support the nuclear deterrent option and ‪#‎Trident‬.
They are big on animal welfare but also pro GM.

Taxationwise they have a three tear system between normal tax, 30% for mid level earners and 40% for high earners

Those studying Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine will be excluded from tuition fees. They like to create schools that look after kids between 08.00 and 18.00 and during the holidays.



The #LibDemManifesto. The first thing to mind is the size of the Manifesto of the #LiberalDemocrats. 158 pages, almost double the amount necessary by Labour, the Conservatives or the Greens, whilst there are thinned down easy read versions available I thought!

Once you have a look at manifesto number four (after Greens, Conservatives, Lib Dem), it becomes clear that all parties have decided on several key areas which are the same, based on assessments of what they thought are important. With the Lib Dems you even recognise this on the cover page. #LowCarbon Economy, Education, fight climate change, raise personal allowance, £8 bn for #NHS, emphasising in particular the Mental Health system, it says in colourful blocks.

The comprehensive copy of the LibDem Manifesto is well worth reading. It is mature and understands global challenges such as on the climate. It also knows how to work things out from the inside. But they do mostly without the dogmas of other parties work hard gain much, although their policy is not that much different it aims to emphasise positives. As LibDems their policies on the economy but also on rights in general,, democracy and human rights shine out as much as an incredibly strong drive on meeting the climate change targets, though some will be disappointed about their position on nuclear.

On the economy the Lib Dems intend to balance the books, but like Labour intend to do it in a fairer way. In that way they intend to upkeep taxation as a way to reduced the budget and be able to use a more sustainable percentage from 2017/2018. They say that would be the fairer way forward. They feel that further cuts to public services would be unsustainable. A big diagram states they will cut less than the Tories and borrow less than Labour.

Many of their policies are based on what has already been set during the coalition, including building on new banks, the New Green Investment Bank, and the building of #HS2 and double innovation in the next government. One of the familiar themes, supported by most parties is their drive to apprenticeship increase and the regional growth fund, which they label success. The financial policies are directional rather than specific, like wanting to support more alternative financing like crowdfunding and supporting an independent #Banko England. If they had their wy they would like to introduce Land Value Tax. Interesting is their commitment to set a zero carbon economy by 2050, they want more legally binding targets on pollution and inadequate resource use and put the Green agenda on the list of the NHS and school priorities. They have the most interesting policy on airport expansion, being opposed to the expansion of any of the London airports and rather seeing this as an issue for Britain as a whole. Airports should not interfere with the 2050 zero carbon policy. Like the Greens they specify of the need of energy reduction. By 2030 60% of the energy should come from renewables, however they remain open on nuclear energy and on fracking but insist on stringent safety. 70% of waste should be recycled they argue. They also like to create more national parks where local communities want it. One tree is to be planted fpr each baby born, amounting to 750.000 trees a year. They like to support all EU emission and pollution standards. They will introduce a Green Transport Act, a Zero Carbon Britain Act, and a Green Buildings Act (to include insulation regulation). 300.000 new homes to be built per year with new rent to own housing and 10 new Garden Cities. They like to ban letting agent fees to keep rental costs down and consider licensing rental, and rent repayment orders where rental properties are deficient of standards.

Their increase of #personalallowance is the same as the Conservatives, £12500 and they state they like to introduce free child care for two year olds, and free child care of up to 20 hours fr children up to 4 years old and expand the shared paternity leave and make child care up to £2000 tax free. Like Labour they support a mansion tax set at a £2 M threshold and wish to ensure there are no ore tax loopholes. On benefits they support the Tories Universal Credit. The fuel allowance and TV licence for pensioners is to be means tested. The Lib Dem education policy is based on fairness and access and making sure qualified teachers ensure set standards in numeracy and reading and writing. However interestingly they mention the #Education Endowment Foundation in order to establish what world in education rather than pre assume politically what works (e..g. Tories grammar schools), and an Educational Standards Authority that is totally removed from ministerial interference. They also specifically mention the teaching of religious and non religious views. Other policies they mention are for looked after children and a 2/3 reduction on bus for young people between 16-21 years. The abolish tuition fees promise is gone, they focus instead on making the student debt repay as fair as possible and helping those who most need it to study.

On rights they would like a digital bill and freedom of rights act introduced to protect from undue governmental interference or spying. They champion equality on gender and sexuality and like to see a continuation of it, with targets of 30% of women in companies boards. They also like to increase legislation for secular ceremonies allowing humanist weddings for example. To make employment more equal they like to have name blank recruitment in the public sector. Interestingly on freedom of press, they like to allow journalists special and exceptional powers to break the law in order to expose and judicial approval before journalists have to give free their sources. They are generally supportive of penal reform, including special education programmes for drug offenders, and to review both #LegalAid. They also want to permit cannabis for medical use and review the experiments on legalisation elsewhere. They support on the other hand strong border checks (exit and entry) and want to continue employment and school checks. But #EUmigration is not to be interfered with, although they will tighten some rules like on child benefit to children abroad. Loss of life in the Mediterranean trafficking is supposed to be worked with on a united approach. Despite having lost out on parliamentary reform in the last government they want to continue to work for a reform of the house of lords an proportional governmental representation. Parliament must also become more family friendly with more job shares on offer. Naturally they support the devolution and decentralisation processes. Their foreign and defence policies are mature with many specific examples. They explain why they kept the NATO 2% spending requirement and know what challenges lie ahead. However crucially they see defence as a partnership with others arrangement rather than one of sole lead. Economically they support the EU market and #Ttips. Their overseas Aid is supposed to be kept at 0.7% with aims on eradicating poverty and discrimination and promote sustainability.

The Greens

The #GreenPartyManifesto spends much time explaining its rational, going through the fact that resources are finite, and that if all people on earthy consumed the same as in the UK we needed three earths, if as much as in the US four earth.  They seem most closely to understand voters apathy and dissatisfaction with current politics.   Their starting thesis is that they do not believe that the economy is a dire as indicated. More important than growth they argue is equality. They like to stop measuring the UK by GDP but instead by Adjusted National Product which would take into account the environment and unpaid work performed at home. The policies are in part well argued, it looks like experts are behind many of them, for example on the school policy, certainly on their environmental policy.  The #Greens surprise with costing at the end of the chapter though whilst they save 21 bn the costs of spending will go up, but it is assumed that the economy will improve through the equality based and environmental system they propose. If the policies of Labour and the Conservatives may only excite in part as new approaches, the Greens come up with a wealth of ideas and policies missing from current political debates.  On the other hand some of their policies may need proper checks if they are not to be abused, such as their family unification policy for immigrants. Without prospects of the Greens becoming the winning party in May, some of what they propose could be a useful point of departure in potential coalition or even as a guide to the larger parties how they could enrich their thinking. The Greens make use of pointing at failures over the New Labour and the Conservative / Lib Dem coalition, for example the privatisation of Royal Mail.

Some ideas are merely directive, but others are very clear we will, we will not, many with a price tag. What the Greens do further well herein is to explain the background to each policy, as many people may read such ideas for the first time. Greens want to use the opportunity and interest in them to be understood and pass on their message of a alternative.The policy I disagree with is their call for a boycott of Israel. Here they have fallen in the trap of the anti-Israel lobby.  It is singular, as they only ask this of Israel, and sets in the footsteps of a long racist history of boycotting and excluding Jewish people.  They would be much better of to engage with all those progressive organisations and parties that exist in Israel.

Should they become coalition partners one or the other policy may enter the actual political discourse.
Some of the bits I picked out:

Local #CreditUnions are to provide alternatives to banks and credit sharks.
Ban on cages in poultry
CCTV in all #slaughterhouses
ban on foe gras, cloning.and ending genetic selection on fast growing animals
protection of UK farmers from low welfare imports
stop non medical animal experiences,
stop #GM animal breeding,
end puppy farming,
review dog legislation.
Publish free publicly funded scientific research,
prevent gene patenting, banning waste food and organic material to landfill,
recycle 70% of domestic waste by 2020 and move towards zero waste,
tighten targets on #CO2emissions taking consideration of the fact that the UK has used above its world population share over many decades. Cut energy demand by ½ 2020, by   ½ 2030,  2/3 by 2050
free nationwide retrofit house insulation to avoid fuel poverty,  costing £45 bn but creating 100.000 jobs.
£4.5bn into research less energy costing processes over one parliament, priority on community base energy creation.
Invest up to £35bn in renewable grid in next parliament
All public buildings to have solar panels by 2020
up to £2.5bn into research of alternative energy, such as tidal and wave power
phase out all carbon fuel by 2023, exit nuclear within 10 years, ban all fracking, expand electricity storage capacity, prevent new builds on flood plains.

More policies:

  • Reinstate finding for equality and human rights commission,
  • Equality and diversity education to be compulsory in all schools,
  • continue to tackle #institutionalRacism,
  • 40% of all public bodies to be made up of women,
  • £100M over course of gov. to nationwide rape crisis centres
  • retain independent living fund
  • provide 0.5bn for free social care for 18
  • increase disability living allowance by £1bn per year
  • increases carers allowance by 50% (=£1.2bn per year) 6.5 M careres saves state £119 bn
  • end external testing of disabled persons,
  • free local transport to all young people and students (£4bn/yr)
  • raise criminal age to 14, lower voting right to 16, make higher education free,reinstate beneft
  • for under 25 yr olds
  • free NHS prescriptions for all, abolish #TVlicence, but support BBC
  • Repeal Health and social care act 2012, gov needs to provide comprehensive health service,
  • NHS have to declare financial interests and conflict of intr, stop further PFI, increase /
  • re-establish public governance,
  • NHS budget incr by 12bn icr tobacco and alcohol taxes
  • access within one month to talking therapy
  • schools: democratic accountability, comprehensive system of which grammars should be part!
  • Local authority to decide how they want to spend education money , play, social cohesion, confidence building for 6yr.  compulsory educ. to start at age 7, abolishment of SATS, broad balanced and enriching curriculum, coherent 16-19 framework and mix between vocational and academic, increase outdoor,
  • Power to #BankofEngland to limit mortgage size, make buy to let less incentful through taxes, scrap help to buy schema,
  • 500.000 new sociallyrental homes,
  • 35 h. week, end 0 hours contracts, living wage, #RobinHoodTax, encourage small firms to thrive because they are closer to local community,
  • 45% GDP to spend on public goods
  • Wealth tax of 2% on the 1%
  • make tax avoidance hard
  • introduction of a basic income as opposed to benefit
  • double child benefit
  • #Billofrights with reform of house of lords,
  • reintroduce legal aid
  • no cap on council tax. And new taxes, eg. Tourist tax,
  • devolution
  • human rights and press freedom
  • renationalise and electrification of railway, but no expansion at Gatwick and Heathrow,
  • Migration. International policies to help stop war and crisis
  • family reunification facilitated because of family benefit
  • allow foreign students to work for 2 yrs after graduation
  • trafficked migrants: no immediate fear of deportation
  • corporations not to take over African food market,
  • smaller prison system, right to vote etc
The Conservatives

Overall the Conservative Manifesto is a mature and strong manifesto that can build on the strength of being in government.  It is quite strong on facilitating business, other sections noteworthy are its elaborative points on immigration and migration control and conserving the natural environment. Its £8 bn. commitments on the #NHS and the inheritance allowance for properties worth up to £1M have been mentioned in the news, as much as the commitment to enlarge the Right to Buy.   It aims to abolish the European Human Rights Charter with a Bill of Rights, create English votes for English issues as well as Scottish Devolution and renegotiate the relationship with Europe.

The manifesto of the Conservatives strikes almost as a financial academic document. Its language is held somewhat more governmental and business jargon. The first chapters strike in the way it is mindful of anything that enables and could ease business, including expansion of transport infrastructure such as HS2. Interestingly the document fails to mention the real benefit of the rail links which is not the increase in travel time, but the freeing up of the old tracks for commercial transport. The plan looks at all areas of business and how these can be made better, for example increasing cutting of red tape plus many business incentives.

They argue to have found a good formula for benefit recipients with the universal formula and explain that to make work pay they will lower the threshold for benefit entitlement to 23.000 Pounds.

The Conservatives recognise that the reliability on the finance sector has been detrimental for Britain. They aim to invest in more manufacturing and establish a Northern power house. In order to help the poorer they higher the threshold for income tax to £12.500 annual earning.

Their section on immigration is elaborate and detailed. EU Migrants will have to wait up to four years for certain benefits like housing and there are safe guards that are directly linked to successful employment. Failure to work after six months will mean that people will have to leave, a direct infringement on the current treaty rights, which the Conservatives wish to renegotiate. Exit controls are to be implemented and people to be deported are to be satellite tracked.

On education they on the one hand continue to support free schools, but on the other continue increased statistical evaluation with set standards for progress from age 11 that are relatively narrow on basically maths (timetables) and reading (a book) and writing a concise well punctuated report.  Social and Creative skills are not mentioned, but they like to increase the amount of teachers that teach Mandarine and increase science teachers. A first is a phD and postgrad loan system, truly missing in the education system.

On the NHS their 7 day NHS have been well advertised, as has their promise of an additional £8bn into the system for the next five years. The conservatives too mention the new cancer taskforce as a priority.  Insufficient cancer treatment made the headlines in the weeks prior to the manifesto launches.

The manifesto is mindful of the games in Rio and mentions support to school sport with £150M per year so that all children have two hours of sport each week.

The Big Society also returns with national civic service for 16-17 year olds.  The Manifesto also specifically talks of pardoning all wrongly convicted LGBT people in British history along the example of Alan Turing.

A further £25-30bn savings until 2020 on government services that are wasted or inefficient including a reduction of MPs to 600. Further on governance they want to introduce English votes for English laws. They promise to honour the devolution agreement on Scotland and add to it a promise for Wales and continue to work on Northern Ireland.

On housing 200.000 new starter homes for first buyers under 40, a help to buy ISA and the extension of buying your own housing association home.

There is an emphasis on protecting the Green Belt areas and a program on developing small parks, they promise to do more on air pollution but what and how they would do that is not elaborated. However there appears to be an understanding of re-establishing a more valuable natural habit, including flood defences and a Thames Tidal Tunnel and a Blue Belt, a marine protection area.

Its energy policy is supposed to go slowly off carbon, but still has nuclear listed with Hinkley. Due to the lack of public support they will stop subsidies for onshore wind farms.
The sex abuse cases of recent years have found themselves into the manifesto too. Like Labour the Tories promise to make sexual crime and protecting women an issue, and particularly mention the lessons of Rotherham.

The Conservatives want to scrap the #HumanRights Accords (Abu Qatada) and introduce a British Bill of Rights, which will have enshrined issues such as Press Freedom.  They mention the right to deport people, and the prisoners voting issue, that has been an issue with the European Court of Human Rights, to be addressed by the new Bill of Rights. A tighter relationship between security and police on data is supposed to be crucial to prevent against terrorism, and the Tories wish to be less tolerant on non violent extremism here.

Properties worth up to £1M will go out of inheritance tax and continued freedom to spend pension on what pensioners like.

On defence  £160  billion in new military equipment over the next decade is to be spent, including six new destroyers, seven submarines and the Joint Strike
Fighter, Scout armoured vehicles, and frigates. The word Trident is absent but probably included.

0.7% of national income are to continue go to international development and aid in line with UN targets.


Firstly to note t is well written. Much easier on the eye than Conservatives, the Greens and UKIP and less voluminous that the Lib Dems Manifesto. I would call it softer in impact, distanced from the Tories with some social initiatives, though crucially not super radical in areas of housing and families.  State child care still ends at age 4, and parity is mainly an issue of paternity leave after birth.  This is a far way from the #Nordic progressive economies. On #schools Labour is more obsessed with the state sector’s governance rather than with radical reform in line with progressive research on education, except with reducing class sizes for the 4-7 year olds. They also talk of more freedom for heads and structural control issues.  It deals with alternative free schools by simply not wanting any more, though the policy on private schools having to work with the state education sector in order to maintain some benefits like tax cuts is not a bad idea.  On #mentalhealth #Labour has made good suggestions, equalizing psychological access to drugs. The overall commitments on the environment, defence and the international overseas aid are in line  with what one expects but not excessively radical either.  Interesting is that #TTIPS should not affect the #NHS.  Labour maintains a rise of 2.5 bn in the NHS budget with 48 h GP guarantees and on the same day if need. The most progressive point here is a special cancer commission that will make the best and most up to date cancer treatments available in the UK, a reaction to UK’s bad record on cancer. Further, Labour’s commitment on the increase in the minimum wage, reductions on business rates for smaller businesses and a 50% rate for people on incomes over £150.000 is part of its idea that bigger companies and earners should pay their share rather than receive preferenced treatment. There is also a reduction in university tuition fees.  Labour talks also about continuing devolution including in England and be guided to end top down policy, making extra money for local communities available. Labour stresses its manifesto is fully costed and will reduce the debt, though it does not give a figure by how much.  Interestingly it talks about a programme to rehabilitate #radicalised Britons who return from fighting in #Syria. On #socialhousing #affordable homes,using the new buzz word that can get rents up to 80 percent market rate and not proper social housing (council flats). They promise to build more homes (not necessary affordable) and put some checks on estate agents commissions and the rental market.I could not help feeling that its message on the front cover sounded like an old Lutheran church heading, work hard gain God’s grace.  As a German I feel there is lack of emphasis on life being more than work, and that means investments in leisure services, free time off work, and good cities to live in after work.  END I will try to read the other manifestos as well as they come but can’t promise that always immediately as they come up.


In Bullet points is my reading of the SNP referendum. It is a progressive manifesto, with a probably workable increase of spending. However the SNP is rather thinly spread on the specific details of education, NHS, policing, and equality. The main principles are there, but compare this with the breath of especially the Lib Dem Manifesto and aspects of the Greens it lacks in thoroughness in my opinion, though it gives clear directions. The Manifesto has a clear intent: Aim of the SNP is to achieve financial independence of Scotland. Hereby lies the interesting question, if one can trust a the progressive honey of a nationalist party, if you do not support complete independence.

  • 0.5% increase above inflation per year yielding at least 140bn investment
  • 0.50 tax for high earners
  • Mansion Tax
  • tax on bankers bonuses
  • bank levy
  • abolition of non-dom status
  • reversal of married couple allowance
  • NHS +9.5bn above inflation and increase of NHS budget 24bn by 2020-21
  • no further privatisation of NHS
  • raise pension by 2.5%
  • keep winter fuel allowance
  • scrap trident, but yes to maritime defence, purchase some aircrafts to get carrier going, more transperency and full costing at MOD, frigates to be build in Scotland
  • min. wage up to 8.70 by 2020
  • no cuts to child welfare / benefit and 30h per week free child care
  • increase carer’s allowance and no cuts to disability living allowance, pilot carer’s leave
  • scrab bed room tax
  • reduction of tuition fees in England
  • oppose EU withdrawal
  • introduction of post study work schema for migrants
  • annual house building of 100.000 units per year
  • increase employment allowance from 2000-£6000 per year
  • abolish zero hour contracts
  • lobby for lower energy bills
  • moratorium on fracking
  • 50% representation if women on all boards and drive towards equal pay
  • abolish house of lords in its current form, abolish first past the post
  • SNP will always support Scottish independence
  • wants to protect oil and gas sector but work towards carbon reduction, increase offshore wind, and hydro-power as well as community based energy gain.

  • Devolution to include broadcasting, increase of support of BBC Scotland by 100M
  • Supports HS2 and wants it connected to Scotland
  • Protection of Royal Mail universal service and ensuring gov keeps 30% of shares
  • support LGBTI throughout the world, overseas aid should not undermine public services in developing countries, debt relief
  • In drive for equality VAT on sanitary products to be removed
  • invest in mental health 100 M in next three years
  • 25 M extra for people with motor neuron diseases
  • continue school refurbishment / investment with £1.8 bn
  • expand educational maintenance allowance
  • Wants to move towards fully financially independent Scotland

Ukip on the Block (Taz. Die Tageszeitung)

Benfleet Haltestelle

A short intro paragrah in English can be found at the end!

Mein Bericht über das Städtchen Benfleet in Essex, dass die Populistenpartei Ukip als Lösung ihrer lokalen (!) Probleme auserkorren hat:


Was nicht in die Zeitung kam und weitere Beobachtungen:

  • Wikingerdenkmal BenfleetIm 5. Jahrhundert von Sachsen gegründet, wurde Benfleet im Jahr 893 zu einer Festung dänischer Wikinger, doch bereits im darauf-folgenden Jahr wurden diese von den Sachsen angegriffen, besiegt und letztendlich vertrieben. Mehr als 1.000 Jahre später ist nun eine Partei an der Macht, die sich, gemäß der frühen Geschichte der Stadt, stark gegen die Einwanderung Fremder einsetzt.
  • Ian und Ann Brown in ihrem Suesswarenladen in BenfleetAuch politische Apathie muss bezüglich dieser Wahlen erwähnt werden. In einem Wahlsystem, dass keine Mindestwahlbeteiligung kennt, bemühten sich im gesamten Shire Essex nur 27.6 % der über eine Millionen registrierten Wähler ihr Zettelchen abzugeben. In Benfleet selber waren es 31.4 % der insgesamt 13.159 Wahlberechtigten. Ian Brown, 48 ist einer der Leute die nicht wählten. “Sie sind alle gleich, machen Versprechungen, die dann nicht gehalten werden“, urteilt der 48-Jährige, der auf der Hauptstrasse Benfleets einen Laden mit traditionellen Süßwaren führt. Auch seine Frau Ann wählte nicht, aber nur weil es diesmal zeitlich nicht geklappt hat. Normalerweise, versichert sie, wähle sie kritisch, „jedes mal je nach politischer Lage und dem was die Politiker sagen“. Das andere MitbürgerInnen jetzt Ukip wählten, bedauert die Geschäftsberaterin. Sie verstehe aber, dass manche zu kurzschlüssigen politischen Haltungen kommen. Sie erzählt, wie Ihr Mann Ian wegen der Rezession und der gleichzeitigen Konkurrenz billigerer europäischer Arbeitskräfte nicht mehr als Gipser, sein eigentlicher Beruf, überleben konnte. So kam es vor zwei Jahren zu dem Süßwarenladen.

  • Die Stadtflucht weißer Engländer, meist aus den ärmeren Vierteln Londons, ist nahezu legendär und führte zur Metamopphorse des ehemaligen gehänselten typischen Cockney Londoner, zu „typischen Essex Männern“ und „Essex Blondinen.“ Diese sind nach dem vorurteilshaften Stereotyp, neureiche Londoner aus der Arbeiterklasse die nach Essex zogen. Ihnen wird eine angebliche einfache politischen Meinung, die von oberflächlichen und angeberischen Konsum getrieben wird, angerechnet.

  • „Richte dem Mann aus, dass Mr Campbell ihm sage, er spiele mit dem, was hinter Nellys Schwanz ist.“ (‘Nelly der Elefant’, engl. Kinderlied). Der 77 jährige gebürtige Jamaikaner, der dies verkündet, kam 1955 nach England. Er erinnert sich noch an die Schilder vor Mietwohnungen in London. „Keine Schwarzen, keine Iren, keine Kinder!“. Vor 30 Jahren zog er nach Benfleet, da er in einer nahegelgenen Ölraffinerie arbeitete. Die Antieinwanderungspolitik Ukips macht ihn wütend: „Einst sprach mich jemand auf der Straße an und beschuldigte mich, dass ich ihm seine Arbeit genommen hätte. Da fragte ich ihn: ‘Welchen Job habe ich Dir genommen, den Du je gewollt hättest?’“

  • Kampagnenflugblatt gegen neue Siedlungen im "Greenbelt", BenfleetEssex bleibt aber nachwievor von den Konservativen,mit 42 Sitzen dominiert. Labour ergatterten neun Sitze, und die Grünen konnten ihre ersten zwei Sitze in Essex feiern (auch hier hatte es etwas mit geplanten Bau in geschützten Grünzonen zu tun).
  • Clr. Alan Bayley, Ukip, BenfleetMit den nationalen und persönlichen Erfolg Ukips im Rücken, erkundigt sich Alan Bayley, neugierig wie es mit den Chancen für Alternative für Deutschland steht.

  • Dem Benfleeter Bewohner David Bowden bereitet das alles Sorgen. Der Medizinfotograf im nationalen Gesundheitssystem versteht sich als Sozialist. „Was mich am meisten stört ist, dass einige meiner Nachbarn, die enthusiastisch von Ukip reden, Veteranen sind, die einst durch ihren Einsatz die Welt vor dem Nationalsozialismus retteten. Ich glaube sie haben vergessen, worum es damals ging. Zu jedem der Ukip wählte sage ich: „Seid vorsichtig was ihr Euch da wünscht!“

  • The owner of a tatoo and barber shop on the high street, where a man greeted me who had the three swards of Essex tattooed on his cheek, told me after explaining myself, that “I was in  the wrong shop.”  After I said that I was interested in their opinion, they said, we are trying to politely tell you you to go,!” which I did.
  •  Im “Conservative Club” Benfleet, der der konservativen Partei gehört ist eine populäre Bar. Mehrere Konservative gestanden dort Ukip hat recht, und manche sogar dass sie für Ukip gewählt haben.  Insofern spielt sich die Rebellion unter den Konservativen im Unterhaus auch in den lokalen Parteivereinen ab.

Conservative Club Benfleet ist nicht mehr der beliebteste Club der Stadt.


Benfleet in Essex is a typical town in Essex.  It is one of nine areas in Essex were Ukip was voted in during the May 2013 local elections.

My article introduces the political outlook here, which is pretty much the same across the country where UKIP managed to get 25%

of all votes.  In my opinion UKIP knows pretty much what to say and what not to say, even on local level, although one of the local Essex candidates has been reported in the gay press as having made remarks concerning gay marriage.

Ukip seems to attract two kind of voters.  One group are disgrunteled voters of the main parties, the others hopeful voters of the right, including the far right.  Ukip says they would not let any BNP member become a Ukip member and in that they would be the only party to do so in the country.

Benfleet is a place with relatively few immigrants.  It has however a population that is part of the “Essex man syndrome”, that is former Londoners who openly state that they did not want to remain in diverse London, and rather take their kids in schools “where English was not the minority.”  I felt that most who were vocal about immigrants had a rather negative view of these, not appreciating advantages and contributions made.

At the same time, as anywehere else in Europe the EU debate is alive here.  However rather than just focusing on currency and the problems of the market , it focuses much on Eastern Europeans.

In the German bit above, you can also read what did not make it into the paper and extra observations.

Link:!116246/ use googletranslate to enter this link and get a reasonable translation.


Taz: Wahlrecht für Häftlinge in GB. Weggesperrt und entrechtet! Prisoners voting rights in Britain: Logged up and deprived of rights!

David Cameron prepares for the last Prime Mini...
David Cameron prepares for the last Prime Ministers Questions (Photo credit: conservativeparty)

Weggesperrt und entrechtet berichtet über die  britische Haltung bezüglich dem Wahlrecht von Strafgefangenen in Großbritannien.!104667/

Logged up and deprived of rights reports on the UK governments stance regarding voting rights for prisoners in the UK.!104667/