Tag Archives: walthamstow

Skylar’s Naughty and Nice List 2015

naught and nice 2015

It’s Christmas Eve, the night that Santa makes his list and checks it twice before delivering presents to the children of the world. 2015 has been a chaotic year in which we’ve seen the best and worst of humanity. But who’s been naughty and who’s been nice? Here’s five of each!

naughty

5. Simon Danczuk

He’s terrible. From telling LBC that Jeremy Corbyn would face a “coup” on “day one” of his leadership (spoilers: he didn’t) to continually undermining Jez’s leadership in right-wing rags, Danczuk has shown that he’s less dedicated to ensuring a Labour victory in 2020 than he is to his own vainglorious spotlight. Far from the leader of the Blairites (that mantle goes to Liz Kendall, who has shown not only grace in defeat but a remarkable reticence and resilience), Danczuk has largely behaved like a petulant child in his Daily Mail columns, revealing details of meetings with Corbyn and basically throwing a national temper tantrum. Stop it, Simon. It’s not a good look. And it’s not helpful

4. The mainstream media

Fuck, where do I even begin? From questioning Jeremy Corbyn’s patriotism because he didn’t sing God Save the Queen to calling him a hypocrite because he said he would in the future, to complaining he didn’t bow deep enough at the Cenotaph (when he was the only party leader to hang around and talk to veterans) to labelling him a terrorist sympathiser without critically analysing his positions, to just yesterday claiming that he cancelled Christmas because he won’t have a Christmas Eve presser (looking at you, Telegraph), you’ve been so incredibly biased that a self-avowed Tory—Nick Robinson—has criticised your lopsided coverage. In America, the press has routinely trotted out tired tropes about Hillary Clinton, ignored the meteoric rise of Bernie Sanders, and allowed Donald Trump to spout of racist, xenophobic, and Islamaphobic bullshit with little pushback (this time looking at you, George Stephanopoulos). Indeed, the US broadcasters have built Trump up and covered him as though he were an event rather than a candidate for President of the United States of America. The mainstream press has done a horrible job of covering politics in an objective fashion this year. A pox on all your houses.

3. Iain Duncan Smith

The bedroom tax has been a failure, and IDS knows it. Thing is, he buried the damning findings under almost 400 other reports on the last day Parliament met this year. 75% of those affected by the bedroom tax have had to cut back on food; 40% of those affected have cut back on heating. He has gutted the welfare state with a glee not seen since the Grinch stole Christmas, and it’s been sickening. While we fight over Labour MPs abstaining from the latest round of benefits cuts, let’s never forget that it’s actually the Tories what done it.

2. Katie Hopkins

For the first time, we have a repeat. Katie Hopkins made my 2013 naughty list, and here she is again. Why? Because she’s fucking awful. Her heartless comments about refugees, from asking the press to show her bodies floating in the Mediterranean to calling migrants ‘cockroaches’ to fat-shaming people without really tackling the emotional and physical realities of obesity, Hopkins has time and time again proven that she is a heartless bigot who gives no fucks about the feelings of others or the consequences of her words. She routinely stokes xenophobia and Islamaphobia, most recently backing Donald Trump’s call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States and supporting the US ban on a Walthamstow Muslim family that was travelling to Disneyland. She’s horrible.

1. Donald Trump

The man is a monster, and no, I’m not referring to whatever is happening on top of his head. (Seriously Donald, what the fuck even is that?) I’ve never liked Donald Trump. He’s always seemed obnoxious to me. I’m from the American south, so that makes sense. Yankees are rude. But from the moment he announced for president, Trump has proven he’s a thoroughly despicable human being. Whether calling Mexicans “rapists” or making sexist comments about women (Megyn Kelly’s “bleeding out of wherever” or Hillary Clinton’s “disgusting” pee break), he’s been a bigot from the beginning. It’s hard to say which of Trump’s fascist, undemocratic comments was the most odious this year, but his call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States is a top contender. It is certainly the most un-American. We are a country founded on religious freedom and tolerance, one which has long embraced Muslims as our brethren. But this is the year that Trump decided nah, we weren’t going to do that anymore. What’s frightening is that so many Americans agreed with him. We do not have religious tests to patriotism in America, and the fact that Trump is trying to institute one to even enter the country is terrifying. He is the devil. He must be stopped. I am more scared for my country now than I was after 9/11. Trump. Must. Be. Stopped.

Dishonourable mentions: George Osborne, Ted Cruz, George Galloway 

nice

5. Jess Phillips

Wow. It’s rare that a new MP emerges as a rock star, but Jess Phillips certainly has. First elected in May, her maiden speech was on point. “I am deeply committed to improving our country’s response to victims of domestic and sexual violence and abuse in all its forms. Having worked for years in a service that operated refuges, rape crisis, child sexual exploitation services and human trafficking services, I know that we need to do more.” In the subsequent months, she has become an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and has gained a reputation as a straight talker, promising to knife Jeremy Corbyn in the front, rather than from behind—a far cry from her compatriot Simon Danczuk’s scheming. She’s got critics on the hard left, some of whom will likely chastise me for putting her on the nice list. But I believe Jess Phillips is the future of the Labour Party, and that given the chance, she can prove to be a key legitimiser of anti-austerity measures. This is a woman who gets it.

4. Iain Dale

Iain and I agree on almost nothing. I first started following him in 2010, when I was still a Tory. Now I’m a Corbynista. Yet over the past several months, I’ve listened to Iain’s LBC show rather religiously, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. He’s a journalist who lets his biases be clearly known, but also attempts to be as fair as possible given those biases. He has challenged people who have called in to slag off Jez for the unfair talking points advanced by the Murdoch press and Simon Danczuk, and he’s had an open and sympathetic mind to Jeremy. Sure, he doesn’t agree with him, but he sure does seem to recognise the innate bias against him and he often questions its fairness. This is unusual for a right-wing journalist (*ahem* Dan Hodges). Iain isn’t perfect, but he’s far better than most of his colleagues at covering Corbyn.

3. Owen Jones

Owen Jones got a lot of flack for the New Statesman cover trumpeting his trip inside “the Jungle”—their words, not mine. “The Jungle” is, of course, what the refugees stuck in the Calais migrant camp call their home, and coming from a white journalist can be seen as problematic. Thing is, as Owen routinely reminds us, he doesn’t write the headlines. Still, his reporting was enlightening and brought to the national consciousness the humanity at the heart of the refugee crisis. He did this, it should be said, before it was fashionable to write about refugees. He saw the writing on the walls and he went, and he challenged us. Owen did that all year, actually. In February, he made some enemies in the radical feminist circles when he (it must be said, finally) trumpeted public support for trans people. He hasn’t backed down since. And his steadfast support of Jeremy Corbyn has been remarkable considering he’s basically the only mainstream British columnist who actually had the fortitude to support—and continue to support—the beleaguered Labour leader. I’ve long been a fan of Owen’s (he was an honourable mention on last year’s nice list), but this is the year I became a stan.

2. Justin Trudeau

I rushed home from the airport to watch the Canadian election results come in. This is weird for me; though I write about international politics, Canada is somewhere that doesn’t often register in my analysis. Yet I knew this was a pivotal election. My neighbour to the north had, for a decade, been governed by a neocon who had pillaged its land (see: tar sands) and ignored its most marginalised. Trudeau, in less than two months, has begun to transform Canada back into that bastion of equality and goodwill we all know it is. He’s been photographed embracing Syrian refugees, he’s opened up investigations into missing indigenous women, and he’s appointed the most racially and gender diverse cabinet in the world. Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders hope to stoke the flames of international progressivism. Justin Trudeau has lit this shit on fire.

1. The people of Walthamstow

I don’t know where to begin. You have shown me the most kindness and the most hospitality of anyone this year. It was serendipitous that I wound up in E17 covering the general election in May. I crowdfunded at trip to London and needed a cheap hotel. What I didn’t know then, but I’ve come to appreciate, is that my cheap hotel is a massive part of the problem in Walthamstow. Regeneration is destroying a vibrant working class community, displacing thousands of people who have called the area home for generations. But the residents are fighting back, as I learned on my first day there—when I had the privilege of interviewing Nancy Taaffe and Sarah Sachs-Eldridge—and subsequently, speaking to local residents at Lloyd Park, the Goose, and this random gay night at a pub whose name escapes me but is somewhere on Hoe Street. The time I spent in Walthamstow was, by far, the highlight of my year. I felt at home, and I made a home, amongst these wonderful people. When news of the “Walthamstow Riot”—a street fight amongst 200+ teenage girls—broke, I laughed. Not because it’s funny, but because the media overblew the story and also because that McDonald’s was out of mozzarella sticks then as it was when I was last there in May. (Seriously, McDonald’s, get your shit together.) When the media was reporting that an anti-war protest marched outside of local MP Stella Creasy’s house, I was sceptical. My gut was right. Walthamstow doesn’t do that. They marched to her office. And the fact that a grassroots march organised so rapidly is impressive. It was peaceful and local, and it was magical. I’m constantly in awe of the amazing left-wing activists in E17 and the things that they’re doing. I admire you, I tip my hat to you, and I desperately want to join you. This has most recently been demonstrated in this amazing community rallying around a local Muslim family denied entry into the USA for reasons unknown. (Stella Creasy has tried to get answers from the US Embassy but they’re not acknowledging her, which is troubling.) Walthamstow, you made me feel like one of you. You supported me, encouraged me, congratulated me, and took me in. I never once felt like a stranger. Your activists showed me the true face of the British left—one the media should acknowledge—which is warm, inviting, kind, and generous. I love you. I want to join you. I want to be one of you. You are the best of Britain, full stop.

Honourable mentions: David Lammy, Mhairi Black, John Oliver

Whichever list you find yourself on this year, I hope you have a very merry Christmas. Thank you for reading my work, whether here, in the Gay UK Magazine, at the Daily Dot, or elsewhere. I appreciate your support and encouragement. I have one or two more blog posts that’ll be coming before year’s end, so watch this space. Until then—Happy Christmas from The Curious American.

x. Skylar

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In Walthamstow, Nancy Taaffe challenges Labour from the left

Nancy Taaffe. Image: The Socialist Party

Nancy Taaffe. Image: The Socialist Party

Walthamstow, a quiet working class community in North-East London, is as safe a constituency as they come. Labour control the local council, and the party has held the seat consistently since the 1990s, and has only lost one election since 1972. In the 2010 election, Stella Creasy—widely touted as a possible future party leader and the current Shadow Minister for Crime Prevention—commanded over 50% of the vote with a nearly 10,000 vote majority. It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that the community has not heavily featured in the media’s election coverage.

But Walthamstow is a community at a crossroads. Gentrification has pushed more and more people from central London to the area, at the terminus of the Victoria Line, which is in turn pushing up housing prices and pushing out residents who for decades have called this area home. According to the Financial Times, property values increased 22.3% over the course of 2014. A new development, known as The Scene, has seen the demolition of social housing to make way for a brand new cinema, restaurants, and flats which are now priced at £500,000, according to local resident Sarah Wrack. These businesses “are not aimed at the poor people of this area,” but rather “the people they’re trying to attract,” she says.

“It’s not for the people who live here at the moment, it’s to move people in and literally move people who used to be in that social housing out.”

Sarah Sachs-Eldridge agrees, another Walthamstow resident, agrees. “It’s impossible to get a decent home in this area. All of us have difficulties with housing.”

She blames the cutting of council tax benefit and housing benefit for forcing residents out, something Ms Wrack also believes is making Walthamstow unaffordable for many of its residents. Ms Wrack grew up in Tower Hamlets, in Inner-East London, which at the time “had the highest rate of child poverty in Europe,” she says. “It was a poor place.” The redevelopment of Canary Wharf forced Ms Wrack out, something she sees being repeated now in Walthamstow. ““In an area like this, almost everyone is poor,” she says. The same process which brought her here is “being repeated, as people are forced out further and further.”

Both women were out on Monday campaigning alongside Nancy Taaffe, who agrees with their assessment of the housing crisis in the constituency. It “is an expression of accumulation of loss of council homes that have come together in a sort of economic crisis of not being able to get a job or not being able to get enough money to buy,” says Taaffe, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition candidate challenging Ms Creasy for the seat.

TUSC was formed weeks before the 2010 general election “to enable trade unionists, community campaigners, and socialists to stand candidates against the pro-austerity establishment parties,” according to its website. They are standing in 135 parliamentary elections across the country. Bob Crow, the late National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers (RMT) leader, was one of its founders.

“Historically the socialist party which is part of TUSC was inside the Labour party,” Ms Taaffe says, noting that the Socialist Party left Labour “just before the ascendency of Tony Blair,” a time she claims Labour was “expelling all trade unionists (and) good socialists.”

Ms Taaffe: “They purged organisationally, they pushed socialists out and then they reconstituted themselves as a neo-liberal party.”

She stood for the seat in 2010, winning less than 250 votes. But she felt it was important to stand again. “The working class is disenfranchised. It doesn’t have a socialist voice,” she says, noting that “the Labour Party is no longer a socialist party.”

Ms. Taaffe’s comments, and indeed her candidacy, are part of a broader story that has dominated this election. Britain was, for nearly a century, a largely two-party system, with the Liberal Democrats a smaller but ever-present third party. Over the past decade, though, more and more voters have become disillusioned with what they felt were false choices between the Conservatives and Labour, and have migrated to smaller parties, including UKIP and nationalist parties such as the SNP in Scotland and Plaid Cymru in Wales. In England, where nationalism lacks the cache on the left, the Green Party has largely picked up the progressive slack, with parties like TUSC emerging to carry the banner of the traditional, if dwindling, socialist agenda.

“Allegiances to Labour are fragmented,” Ms Taaffe says, “and you can see that in Scotland,” where the SNP look poised to completely wipe out Labour, which may lose more than 40 seats in the country tomorrow.

“The austerity cuts have been absolutely devastating for women and the public sector. A million jobs have gone. So in Scotland where these jobs are going, on top of its history of losing manufacturing jobs, the betrayal — I mean all around Scotland now they’ve got stickers saying ‘Red Tories,’” she says. “It’s like a perfect storm of 30 years.”

According to Ms Taaffe, it’s the same across the country, including in Walthamstow. “Labour completely controls this area. £65 million pounds worth of cuts. We’ve lost 1000 jobs to those cuts.” One of those jobs was Ms Taaffe’s. She worked for years at the local library, but was made redundant in phase 12 of the cuts.

Ms Taaffe: “When I debated with Stella, I said to her ‘I was a single parent with two children. And you call yourself a feminist… and yet you wouldn’t make a statement about us losing our jobs at the hands of your party?”

“The least you can do if you stand in the tradition of the suffragettes is to speak for the thousands of women who are losing their jobs, the women who rely on public service for social care for their families, who have been pushed back into the home. It’s been like, we would argue it’s regressive what’s happening to women, because we rely disproportionately on the services that are going. So if you’re a feminist, you’ve got to fight the cuts.

“She said ‘we can’t stand up to Eric Pickles’. Eric Pickles is a bullying conservative man.”* Mr Pickles, the Conservative Secretary for Communities and Local Government, led the coalition’s efforts to slash the budgets of local councils over the last parliament.

Earlier this year Ms Creasy, along with the majority of Labour MPs, voted with the Coalition for an additional £30 billion in cuts to benefits and services, a move which fellow Labour MP and London mayoral candidate Diane Abbott at the time called a “great disservice” to the working class.

While it is extremely unlikely Ms Taaffe will defeat Ms Creasy in tomorrow’s vote, she is looking ahead to the next battle. “We’re going to be fighting for the existence of our local hospital,” she says. “Stella (and) the local councillors are not being honest…. our local hospital is in debt to the tune of £90 million. The plan and the details of the cuts won’t be released until June, which is a month after the general election.

“It’s just an outrage. 340,000 people use the hospital.”

And though Ms Taaffe and TUSC hope that Ms Creasy and her party will fight alongside them, she is not optimistic.

“The fight now is outside the Labour Party.”

(The Curious American reached out to Stella Creasy for comment, particularly on the allegations she said she and Labour did not want to stand up to Eric Pickles, but as of the time of publication has not received a response. However, Ms Creasy did address the issue of housing with the Walthamstow Guardian: “The price of housing is driving many out of our area and leaving others in overcrowded accomodation… Only Labour is committed to building the homes that we need and ending unfair agency fees to provide a city fit for all.”)

Updated 2/12/2015: Last month, Stella Creasy responded to this piece on Twitter, asking us to remove the following statement made by Nancy Taaffe: “She said ‘we can’t stand up to Eric Pickles’. Eric Pickles is a bullying conservative man.” The Curious American wishes to to clarify this statement. Ms Taaffe repeated a quote she alleges is from Ms Creasy (‘we can’t stand up to Eric Pickles’.) This was in inverted commas and followed by a full stop, indicating an end to the alleged quote. Ms Taaffe then went on to offer her on analysis, which is that “Eric Pickles is a bullying conservative man.” Because this statement was made by Ms Taaffe, and because The Curious American reached out to Ms Creasy for comment on this specific alleged quote, we will not remove it. However, Ms Creasy has denied the comment on Twitter: