Dan Langley looks at the Haringey Development Vehicle – a privatisation plan in north London, which is being resisted by local residents and Labour Party activists. Labour councillors must fight against social cleansing, not encourage it!
Just like their peers at Southwark Council, right-wing Labour councillors in Haringey are embroiled in dodgy dealings with private development companies. These developers and their friends on the council are responsible for the social cleansing of London, putting profit and careerist ambitions above the people they allegedly ‘represent’.
There are deep divides in the Labour Party. Nothing quite demonstrates this as clearly as the microcosm that is the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) plan.
Started last July, the HDV is just a euphemism for privatisation and the selling off of houses, libraries, schools and other buildings owned by the council.
Privatisation is ravaging our transport system, schools, and the NHS. Putting millions of pounds of public assets into the hands of private vultures is not only jarring – it is putting lives at risk. Unsurprisingly, therefore, Labour members overwhelming back public ownership.
After furious backlash, the HDV was left in the hands of a high court judge. Haringey residents stated that the council has “failed its public sector equality duty”. Regrettably – but not surprisingly – the courts have taken the side of big business, supporting the gentrification of the borough.
As Mayor of London, Boris Johnson once promises that, “The last thing we want to have in our city is a situation like in Paris where…the less well-off are pushed to the suburb. That is not going to happen in London”. And yet, with homelessness already up 41% and home ownership figures for this generation in decline, the Haringey councillors are helping to do precisely this as they continue to prioritise the rich.
Organising the fight back
Haringey Labour members are taking matters into their own hands, voting to replace the councillors with representatives who will oppose the HDV. The right wing of Labour have screamed bullying and have labelled the pushback as a ‘Momentum plot’. But, as always, these are just desperate smears.
The disgraceful deal by the sitting council has led to campaigning groups – such as Haringey Housing Action and Stop HDV – springing up in response. Contrary to the lies promoted by the Labour right wing and their friends in the press, these are not part of a ‘Momentum plot’. They are examples of the working class organising itself. And that terrifies the Blairites like nothing else.
At the beginning of this month, Claire Kober, the current council leader, stated that she wouldn’t run for re-election. This was framed as simply being a resignation, but it was in fact due to pressure from below. Like all of the right-wing representatives in the Party, these councillors are clearly no longer welcomed by the rank and file. Nevertheless, Kober is unfortunately still in her post until May 2018, when the local elections take place.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) has called for a halt to the HDV and are supporting ‘mediation’ in the local party.
But a halt isn’t enough. And mediation isn’t possible, as the views of the pro-HDV councillors are irreconcilable with Haringey residents and the principles of the Corbyn-led Labour Party.
Such deals need to be completely stamped out. And anyone involved in pushing through privatisation should face de-selection.
Drive out the parasites
If Corbyn wants to implement any of the policies of the Manifesto, which calls for nationalisation and public ownership, then parasitic developers must play no part in the question of housing. We have already seen the repercussions of these devastating policies and ‘partnerships’, which are nothing more than an attempt to fleece from the public purse.
One of these repercussions is that this council (along with others) have left London filled with ‘ghost towers’ – luxury empty properties built by private building firms.
According to the Guardian, London councils have given the green light to 26,000 unaffordable homes, with price tags of £1 million upward. There are 420 more towers in the pipeline, and yet there are already over 15,000 high-rise luxury flats unsold.
The properties that do get sold aren’t to those who need a home either. Instead, they are bought up by overseas investors looking to speculate or avoid taxes back home.
The private developers who build these homes always feign interest in providing for our basic needs by offering 3-9% as social housing. But their contracts always contain escape routes from these commitments. Even Houdini would be impressed by their ability to wriggle out of these binds.
The meagre target of ‘35%’ affordability Sadiq Khan is problematic on two fronts. Firstly, 100% of housing should be made affordable to the working class. Housing should not be a privilege. And, secondly, this target offers tacit support to private firms in their drive to continue making excessive profits at our expense.
For mass action and socialist policies
Corbyn and the Labour NEC are correct to denounce and disapprove of Haringey Council. But denunciation didn’t save Heygate. And disapproval won’t stop 26,000 more luxury flats towering over working class locals who must now move to find an affordable home.
Words need to be turned into action – not just against one council, but against all those councillors (whether Tory or Blairite) who toy with the lives of their constituents just to make a quick cash grab.
Explaining the way to fight the housing crisis, Ted Grant once wrote the following words, which still reverberate today:
“It was only through extra-Parliamentary action by the workers of Glasgow, that rent reforms were brought in during the First World War. It was only mass action that resulted in large scale council house building. Mass demonstrations and mass action, including industrial action, by council and private tenants, can defeat the Tories.”
As homelessness rises and ghost towers haunt us, capitalism clearly has no answers to the housing crisis that the market and the profit system have created. And yet the answer is clear:
- Expropriate these empty properties, with no compensation to the parasitic developers. House the homeless and the working class!
- Nationalise the building companies and put the key levers of the economy in workers’ hands!
- Break with the market! For a socialist Labour government!