Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The East End Blues.

We headed further east - past Limehouse but the tunnel was closed for a Triathalon and we got stuck in a big holdup. We crossed the huge Royal Docks, saw the giant Excel centre and London City Airport - all heralded as the great triumphs of the regeneration of Docklands.

Then we ended up here at Silvertown, at The Thames Barrier which stops London flooding when there's a high tide or a North Sea surge. 

The circular part rotates to bring up the barrier which is normally under water;

The Barrier was built by Ken Livingstone's Greater London Council and has been a great success.

By contrast, The Thames Barrier Park gardens next to it, completed in 2000, are probably the only thing done by The London Docks Development Corporation which aimed to benefit the people of the East End;

With trendy planting, they tried to repeat the waves of the Thames with undulating yew bushes.


More importantly, this was supposed to be a cool fashionable park of the 21st century, a park for the young professionals the LDDC wanted to attract to the area.

15 years on and the yew is a bit ragged, the decking has decayed, the boards are breaking up and the area by the awning closed off to the public.

People use the park but are excluded from most of it.

Perhaps this is not surprising, the site was once the most polluted land in the country - a former chemical plant. That may well be why there are private flats all around the site but just far enough away.....

The LDDC was created by Margaret Thatcher to take the derelict Docklands out of local democratic Council control and place it in the hands of an unaccountable body.

Bob Mellish, a right wing, racist Labour MP was appointed deputy head even though his party opposed the creation of this body.

Thatcher was so desperate to get someone (anyone?) from Labour that Mellish was given the unique opportunity to start work whenever it suited him. This was because MP's have to resign when they take up paid posts.

He waited until the moment when he could cause maximum damage to his own party and then defected to the new Social Democratic party, took up his highly paid post at the LDDC.

Mellish was corrupt throughout his life accepting, for example, £4000 from a fraudulent businessman towards the £7000 cost of his home in the 1960's.

He was entertained royally by the corrupt politician T. Dan Smith who was a publicist for John Poulson, a corrupt architect. Between them they persuaded local councils around the country to buy defective, substandard Tower Block housing for their council tenants.

The LDDC squandered the great legacy of the Docks and sold off the land at knock down rates to assorted speculators and developers.

The result is that the whole area is dominated by expensive private housing locals couldn't afford and commercial buildings that don't employ local people.

The tragic irony is that the Labour movement fought for a century to end casual labour in the docks - a battle that was only finally won in the early 1960's - by 1968 the Docks were closing and all the jobs lost.

It's no coincidence that almost as soon as the workers won some basic rights the London Docks were closed down.

Imagine the beautiful new city that could have risen from the ashes of the Docks - a garden city of parks and leisure facilities, community facilities, surgeries, schools and colleges, small industrial units, extensive affordable council housing and an infrastructure that suited the local area and not the needs of the City of London and Canary Wharf.

The emphasis should have been on jobs and housing for the people who already lived there and broadly that's what the local councils would have chosen if they had had any say in what happened. It's certainly what eastenders would have wanted if they'd had any choice.

Mellish prospered and, inevitably, ended up in the House of lords as 'Baron Mellish'.

He's long dead now although his name lives on in a surprising number of streets named after him by a grateful LDDC.

His corrupt and corrupting influence are played out in the movie 'The Long Good Friday' in which Harry Shand (played by Bob Hoskins) is an old fashioned London gangster who tries to go legitimate by redeveloping the derelict Docklands with finance from the American mafia.....his ambition is to hold the Olympic Games on the ruins of the docks.

How absurd to think anything like that could ever happen in real life?

Now here's a brand new development of luxury flats;

I knew Pennington Street well, just off The Highway, Wapping - I attended many mass pickets of Rupert Murdoch's 'Fortress Wapping' there on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the 1980's.

I was charged by truncheon wielding Police Horses, nearly run over by TNT lorries, attacked by ferocious Police Dogs.

We had a fine old time there in 1986 trying to protect the rights of the sacked News International print workers.

Looks nice now doesn't it?

Rupert Murdoch had a deal with Thatcher - he was allowed to buy The Times and The Sunday Times to go with The Sun and The News of The World he already had, without a reference to The Monopoly Commission. In return, his papers backed the Tories in elections.

With the profits he made he plotted to destroy the Print Unions and with the help of millions of pounds of taxpayers money spent on 2000 police a day, he was able to fire the 6000 people who had helped him build up his business.

9 striking Printers died that year and one local youth was killed by a speeding TNT lorry coming out of Murdoch's heavily guarded plant.

Here's an irony;

We had some real battles down there and unfortunately we lost, or rather the 6000 printers, cleaners etc and their families lost out.

All this was possible with the help of the right wing electricians union who stole the jobs and a Tory government that went to any lengths to protect Mudoch.

By 1991, the drivers at TNT had lost their jobs too. Now the electricians, the Wapping plant, the searchlights and the razor wire have all gone, the land sold off and nice new flats are going up in it's place.

Of course since then we've learnt what was really going on in there; how thousands of people were having their phones hacked, their personal details stolen, culminating in the discovery that Murdoch's journalists had hacked into murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's voice mail.

Nice work Rupert!

I remember when I was at University having endless arguments with an aspiring Journalist who seriously told me that the print workers were holding everything back - preventing the expansion of profitable newspapers.

He told me how with the printers gone and the new technology adopted the papers would be cheaper, bigger and better.

That's not exactly how it all worked out, is it?

With the super profits Murdoch made out of his British papers he was able to take up US citizenship and expand into Sky and Fox.

But just as with everything else, it was working people who paid for all this with lost livelihoods.

Here's a view of 'The Shard' at London Bridge on the other side of the river;

Built with Gulf money, The Shard is just one of many extraordinary new buildings going up in the City or nearby.
The Shard is unusual, the money that paid for it was legitimate oil money.
However, most of the new developments are paid for with one form of money laundering or another; the Saville Row suited financiers are reliant on money stolen from Russia, China, Drug money, Mafia money - whatever.
Don't believe me?
This is part of a recent report in 'The Independant';
Billions of pounds of corruptly gained money has been laundered by criminals and foreign officials buying upmarket London properties through anonymous offshore front companies – making the city arguably the world capital of money laundering.
Some 36,342 properties in London have been bought through hidden companies in offshore havens and while a majority of those will have been kept secret for legitimate privacy purposes, vast numbers are thought to have been bought anonymously to hide stolen

The flow of corrupt cash has driven up average prices with a “widespread ripple effect down the property price chain and beyond London”, according to property experts cited in the most comprehensive study ever carried out into the long-suspected money laundering route through central London real estate, by the respected anti-corruption organisation Transparency International.
Some sources claim it has skewed developers towards building high-priced flats and houses rather than ones ordinary people can afford. While corruption and tax evasion are likely to be the biggest sources of the illicit money, drug dealing, people trafficking and sanctions busting are also common, police say.
 Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

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