Wednesday 27 November 2013

Chickens coming home to roost, or: the occupation of Margaret Thatcher House

Updated Thursday - see below

Mrs Angry called in to visit the occupiers of Margaret Thatcher House this morning, finding them in good spirits and keen for our local MP Mike Freer to accept their invitation to join them for a night in the cold, to experience what it is like for someone without a home to live out on the street. They have this morning sent him this letter:

Dear Mike 

We appreciate you taking the time to communicate with us, thank you for the permission from you and your office to conduct our peacefull protest on the front yard piece of land at 212 Ballards lane N12.

The protest at your constituency office is a result of us trying to engage with the parliamentary democratic process in which we followed your procedures,for a public consultation.
Lobbying campaigning and raising awareness,whereby 96% of the replies to the public Consultation said do not criminalise squatting.
Including  Judges, police and lawyers associations as well as homeless charities and housing NGOs  requesting the law not be enacted.
However your government chose to ignore their own  public consultation and press ahead undemocratically to criminalise sheltering (squatting) in empty buildings.

We are further concerned greatly by Chris Grayling the justice minister saying he may once again undemocratically criminalise non residential squatting.Which is one of the last safety nets for many homeless and landless people who are not helped by the housing system.

Part of serving your constituents is to represent all constituents including rich and poor this includes some of your homeless constituents currently evicted onto your front yard from a community centre around the corner the Bohemia.

We have many points of importance to raise with you around the issues of the Housing crisis,the rise in street homeless,the bedroom tax,the further criminalisation of non residential squatting etc.
The law you co sponsored sec 144 Laspo act is unfair, unjust, undemocratic, unlawful, unaffordable and unworkable,and is causing great misery by removing an ancient and basic human right to shelter.

Also leading to an increased number of people freezing to death over winter.Many of your constituents are facing urgent housing/homeless and medical issues,which we hope you are willing to address.

We have had numerous liaisons with the inspectors from Colindale police of the past days (which we have filmed recorded and logged ) who are happy for our protest to continue, acknowledging that:
We are not breaking any laws and that we have rights to peacefully protest and assemble under ECHR articles 10 and 11.

That at all times we are endeavouring to be polite, courteous,co-operative with police requests through regular Liason.
We are keeping the area clean and tidy and are aiming to install some plants and window boxes to make the area more beautifull and attractive.
We are keeping the main access way very clear to your doorstep all times.
We have trained health and safety managers who are monitoring the situation.

We politely ask you to meet with us to discuss matters of great national importance such as the housing crisis which we feel your sec144 is exacerbating.
We would like to invite you to spend a few nights camped out with some of your homeless constituents to discuss these and many other issues,over a cup of tea, in an atmosphere of co-operative democratic discussion.

Having been ignored by your so called democratic public consultation, we have taken this act of peacefull protest to facilitate direct discussion and to stimulate the debate in the national media.

We are, having met with you and shared our views with each other,and some of our conditions met, happy to discuss an end date to our protest in a reasonable and proportionate manner without recourse to the law.
We hope to avoid unnecessary court time and expense.
We shall be advised in all the matters by our good friends Bindmans solicitors.

Looking forward to a discussion of solutions to the housing crisis that we can all work towards together.

Yours sincerely

Bohemia Caretakers

Not backing Boris: the Bohemian occupiers of Margaret Thatcher House

One of the occupiers is Mordechai, a former director of the Jewish theatre of Budapest, who explained to Mrs Angry that he has been celebrating the first night of Chanukah, a festival of lights, but also commemorating an uprising against oppression. It seems a suitable festival to re-enact, in the circumstances. 

 Ma'oz Tzur, occupy style

And as Mrs Angry pointed out to Phoenix, even the Pope has made a point of speaking out yesterday on behalf of the plight of the homeless and dispossessed in a papal 'exhortation' issued yesterday:

No to an economy of exclusion

53. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Here is the testing point then, in the story of the occupation of Margaret Thatcher House. Who will win? The rule of might, and the interests of the powerful, or the voice of the excluded, and dispossessed?

Mrs Angry would suggest that Mr Freer accepts the invitation of the occupiers, and spends a night out in the cold, and demonstrates that he does have sympathies for those constituents beyond the boundaries of Hampstead Garden Suburb. 

Leaving Margaret Thatcher House and wandering up the road to North Finchley, Mrs Angry bumped into a local sympathiser who was taking some coffee and food to the occupiers. He commented that he had enjoyed the previous post, and the psychogeographical references. He was himself, he confessed, a former Situationist. Of course. This is Broken Barnet: the streets of are full of them.

And here in Finchley, in November 2013, we have the spiritual home of Conservatism, where now,  in the grip of this heartless government, we see the battleground of a war we are only just beginning to understand: the fight for the heart and soul of something whose very existence Margaret Thatcher denied: society, community, call it what you will - we want it back, and if it doesn't really exist anymore, we will have to re-invent it, won't we?

*Updated Thursday:

At 6 am this morning bailiffs evicted the occupiers from the forecourt of Margaret Thatcher House. 

Phoenix and his friends believe the eviction to have been 'illegal'. The action has been reported here on the website of the company that carried out the eviction, with a lovely picture:

Rejoice, rejoice: Margaret Thatcher House has been liberated: pic courtesy 'The Sheriff's Office'

 According to the bailiffs:

Mr Freer is very pleased with the work of The Sheriffs Office – he asked us to remove the protesters as he felt they were intimidating and deterring his constituents from coming to the door.

Oh. He asked us to remove them, did he? Hmm. 

And then, oh dear ... look at this email which, for some reason, perhaps accidentally, Mr Freer sent to Phoenix and the occupiers in reply to their invitation to join them for one night to experience what it is like to sleep out in the cold, as so many homeless people will be tonight, and every night this winter ...

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: FREER, Mike 
Date: Wed, Nov 27, 2013 at 7:20 AM
Subject: Re: Invitation for direct democratic
To: Bohemian 
err no

email told them to phone and we would follow our usual procedures. which they seem unable to do. I am mightily peed off at the Police. I feel like sending the BILL to the Commissioner saying your daft advice landed us with this Bill.

of course this will inhibit every other demo as we will simply refuse to allow anyone onto our property.

so tempting to say - you are all numb-nuts as i am not the owner of the property and it is they you should be dealing with about your presence!

Mike Freer MP Conservative Member of Parliament for Finchley & Golders Green

020 7219 7071 (Westminster)

 020 8445 5875 (Finchley)

Sent from my iPad, working in the move

Well: dear me. Speaking as someone who has always found the local police to be hard working public servants, dedicated to their jobs, and working under extremely difficult circumstances, under resourced and overstretched, Mrs Angry finds it rather objectionable to hear her local MP referring to them in such disrespectful terms. 

Remember when the Conservative party was the party of law and order? 


How times have changed. What would Lady Thatcher say?

Numb-nuts? And ... if Freer is not the owner of the property, was he entitled to call bailiffs in to have the occupiers removed, especially when a licence already appears to have been given to them to remain there?


Anonymous said...

Re: psychogeography (and sorry if you've mentioned this already)

It was in Ballards Lane, in 1950, that Harry Willcock was stopped by a policeman who asked him to produce an identity card. Willcock's response: "I am a Liberal and I am against this sort of thing" spelled the end of identity cards in the UK.

About Section 144, I'm a pragmatic anarchist and I'm against this sort of thing.

between the lines said...

Thanks for this. Inspirational. All best wishes to people standing up and making more voices heard.

Mrs Angry said...

How very interesting, Anon 1 - yes, I had read about that incident, didn't know it was here ... Goodness me, though, 'I am a Liberal and I am against this sort of thing' would hardly be a phrase used very often these days, would it, as they seem prepared to sanction every f*cking assault on liberty that their Tory chums propose.

Pragmatic anarchist? That you, Cllr Coleman? Clear off.

Anonymous said...

I live in Freer's constituency. He might care to remember that it's somewhat marginal. Do the good citizens of Fichley and Golders Green really want to vote for somebody who describes the local police as "knumb nuts".

Freer should take a leaf from his friend Coleman's book. It would make it more fun for the rest of us.

Mr Mustard said...

what's this

"working in the move" Mrs A?

has the English language moved on and I missed it?

Mr Mustard

Mrs Angry said...

In the move is what it says on the email, Mr M, but yes, our language is eternally evolving: the phrase 'numb-nuts', for example. Is that common usage? Or a medical condition?