All posts by Tony Gosling

Beginning his working life in the aviation industry and trained by the BBC, Tony Gosling is a British land rights activist, historian & investigative radio journalist. Over the last 20 years he has been exposing the secret power of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and élite Bilderberg Conferences where the dark forces of corporations, media, banks and royalty conspire to accumulate wealth and power through extortion and war. Tony has spent much of his life too advocating solutions which heal the wealth divide, such as free housing for all and a press which reflects the concerns of ordinary people rather than attempting to lead opinion, sensationalise or dumb-down. Tony tweets at @TonyGosling. Tune in to his Friday politics show at BCfm.

Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg’s wife’s ancestral home benefits from £7.6m state rescue

It was billed as an act of generosity — a decision that would “save” a “key piece of northern heritage” for the nation.

But Philip Hammond’s commitment in this week’s Autumn Statement to spend £7.6m on restoring Wentworth Woodhouse, England’s largest private home, also had a little-known beneficiary: the house happens to be ancestral home of the mother-in-law of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Conservative MP who is among the chancellor’s noisiest critics.

Mr Rees-Mogg said he had no involvement in the campaign to save Wentworth Woodhouse. But after hearing the Autumn Statement in which the funding was announced, he for once dropped his criticism of Mr Hammond and described his overall budget as “excellent”.

“I liked the fact that there was only one gimmick. The fact that the gimmick was Wentworth Woodhouse I liked more,” said the backbencher, one of whose children has Wentworth as a middle name.

The house is renowned as the inspiration for Jane Austen’s Pemberley, possibly erroneously given that there is no evidence that the author visited the estate. Its ill-repair dates from the post-war Labour government’s decision to allow coal mining in the gardens after the nationalisation of the coal industry in 1945. Mr Rees-Mogg described the move as “the most outrageous act of socialist envy”, although the Fitzwilliam family, the owners, had built their vast fortune from mining on their lands.

The Fitzwilliams moved out in 1946 and the house was put into a family trust. Lady Juliet Tadgell, the only child of the earl and now Mr Rees-Mogg’s mother-in-law, inherited the family fortune but not the home. She is one of the trustees of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, which has raised £7m to acquire the house.

Politicians involved with the campaign to save the stately home say they had no idea of Mr Rees-Mogg’s personal attachment to the property. “I am not sure he’s ever been to Rotherham but we’d be glad to see him here,” said John Healey, the local Labour MP. Robert Jenrick, the Conservative MP and heritage specialist, said Mr Rees-Mogg had “played no part in our lobbying of the chancellor”.

Located in south Yorkshire, Wentworth Woodhouse is not very well known, reflecting its limited opening to the public as well as its unglamorous location near the M1, among the area’s former mines.

The government funding, which will be used to address subsidence caused by the coal mining, is expected to create jobs in the surrounding area, which includes the town of Rotherham. “The factor that really secured the funding was making a major investment in a very deprived community,” said Mr Jenrick. The Fitzwilliam family continue to own much of the surrounding estate and have invested in restoring it.

Mr Healey said there was some irony in Mr Hammond’s rescue as the government had fought a long and finally successful battle in the courts to resist demands for £100m in compensation for the subsidence caused by the mining. The case failed in June.

Mr Rees-Mogg said he had “deliberately played no role in the campaign”. Nor had he been asked to contribute financially to the project: a recent report of his net worth being up to £150m was “not faintly true”.

The Trust expects to complete the acquisition of Wentworth Woodhouse early next year. It estimates that at least £35m more investment is needed over 15 years to make the house self-reliant, including the conversion of some areas into apartments and business units.

Mr Rees-Mogg said he had visited the house a couple of years ago at the invitation of the then owners, the Newbolds. The public will be able to visit from next spring.

Summer of 1645: Trials of the Leveller founder, Freeborn John Lilburne

The World Turned Upside Down: The Trials of Freeborn John


June and July are interesting months in the historical chronology of the Levellers. Three hundred and seventy two years ago next month sees the anniversary of the arrest of John Lilburne, the famous Leveller agitator, for the alleged slandering of William Lenthall, at that time the Speaker of the House of Commons. The grounds upon which the warrants were issued centred upon supposedly false accusations that Lenthall had been corresponding with Royalists. The fact that many of those within the English Civil War Parliamentary Movement, who were simultaneously members of the landed gentry and therefore represented the interests of wealth and privilege that had historically been aligned to the Crown, were ultimately seeking a compromise with the King and the establishment of a limited monarchy along modern constitutional lines, means that it is perfectly possible that these accusations were well founded. However, in the absence of hard evidence Lilburne had nothing to substantiate the claims that he had made and was therefore to find himself imprisoned.

That October, however, in spite of the gravity of what he had been accused of, Lilburne was to be released in the wake of a petition to the House of Commons which had been signed by over two thousand leading London citizens. This in itself would tend to suggest that many of the population, particularly among the limited classes who were at that time eligible to vote, not only shared his views but were willing to put their signatures to a document in order to defend them. Of further significance is the historic role of the London Citizenry in the crowning of each successive monarch in Anglo-Saxon times. Something that would feature much in the writings and discourse of many of those who were to become caught up in the Leveller Movement of which Lilburne himself was to all intents and purposes the founder.  A fact that is evidenced by reference to the transcripts of the Putney Debates.

But this was not to be the end of the affair by any means. The following year, in June 1646 Lilburne was to find himself arrested and imprisoned again. This time for slandering the Earl of Manchester, whom he had accused of protecting an officer who had been charged with treason. In addition to this he had also referred to Manchester, who had been Lilburne’s former commander prior to the latter’s resignation of his commission upon refusing to sign the Solemn League and Covenant, a matter we shall look at in detail in a future post, both as a traitor as well as a Royalist sympathiser.

On the eleventh of July 1646 Lilburne was brought before the House of Lords, and following a short trial, sentenced to seven years imprisonment. The Judgement of the House of Lords, dated the same day as his trial, that of 11th July 1646, is transcribed in full below:

“It is to be remembered, that, the Tenth Day of July, in the Two and Twentieth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King Charles, Sir Nathaniell Finch Knight, His Majesty’s Serjeant at Law, did deliver in, before the Lords assembled in Parliament at Westm’r, certain Articles against Lieutenant Colonel John Lilburne, for High Crimes and Misdemeanors done and committed by him, together with certain Books and Papers thereunto annexed; which Articles, and the said Books and Papers thereunto annexed, are filed among the Records of Parliament; the Tenor of which Articles followeth, in these Words:

“It was then and there, (that is to say,) the said Tenth Day of July, by their Lordships Ordered, That the said John Lilbourne be brought to the Bar of this House the 11th Day of the said July, to answer the said Articles, that thereupon their Lordships might proceed therein according as to Justice should appertain; at which Day, scilicet, the 11th Day of July, Anno Domini 1646, the said John Lilburne, according to the said Order, was brought before the Peers then assembled and sitting in Parliament, to answer the said Articles; and the said John Lilburne being thereupon required, by the said Peers in Parliament, to kneel at the Bar of the said House, as is used in such Cases, and to hear his said Charge read, to the End that he might be enabled to make Defence thereunto, the said John Lilburne, in Contempt and Scorn of the said High Court, did not only refuse to kneel at the said Bar, but did also, in a contemptuous Manner, then and there, at the open Bar of the said House, openly and contemptuously refuse to hear the said Articles read, and used divers contemptuous Words, in high Derogation of the Justice, Dignity, and Power of the said Court; and the said Charge being nevertheless then and there read, the said John Lilburne was then and there, by the said Lords assembled in Parliament, demanded what Answer or Defence he would make thereunto; the said John Lilburne, persisting in his obstinate and contemptuous Behaviour, did peremptorily and absolutely refuse to make any Defence or Answer to the said Articles; and did then and there, in high Contempt of the said Court, and of the Peers there assembled, at the open Bar of the said House of Peers, affirm, “That they were Usurpers and unrighteous Judges, and that he would not answer the said Articles;” and used divers other insolent and contemptuous Speeches against their Lordships and that High Court: Whereupon the Lords assembled in Parliament, taking into their serious Consideration the said contemptuous Carriage and Words of the said John Lilburne, to the great Affront and Contempt of this High and Honourable Court, and the Justice, Authority, and Dignity thereof; it is therefore, this present 11th Day of July, Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords assembled in Parliament, That the said John Lilburne be fined, and the said John Lilburne by the Lords assembled in Parliament, for his said Contempt, is fined, to the King’s Majesty, in the Sum of Two Thousand Pounds: And it is further Ordered and Adjudged, by the said Lords assembled in Parliament, That the said John Lilburne, for his said Contempts, be and stand committed to The Tower of London, during the Pleasure of this House: And further the said Lords assembled in Parliament, taking into Consideration the said contemptuous Refusal of the said John Lilburne to make any Defence or Answer to the said Articles, did Declare, That the said John Lilburne ought not thereby to escape the Justice of this House; but the said Articles, and the Offences thereby charged to have been committed by the said John Lilburne, ought thereupon to be taken as confessed: Therefore the Lords assembled in Parliament, taking the Premises into Consideration, and for that it appears by the said Articles that the said John Lilburne hath not only maliciously published several scandalous and libelous Passages of a very high Nature against the Peers of this Parliament therein particularly named, and against the Peerage of this Realm in general, but contrived, and contemptuously published, and openly at the Bar of the House delivered, certain scandalous Papers, to the high Contempt and Scandal of the Dignity, Power, and Authority of this House: All which Offences, by the peremptory Refusal of the said John Lilburne to answer or make any Defence to the said Articles, stand confessed by the said Lilburne as they are in the said Articles charged:

“It is, therefore, the said Day and Year last abovementioned, further Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords assembled in Parliament, upon the whole Matter in the said Articles contained,

“1. That the said John Lilburne be sined to the King’s Majesty in the Sum of Two Thousand Pounds.

“2. And, That he stand and be imprisoned in The Tower of London, by the Space of Seven Years next ensuing.

“3. And further, That he, the said John Lilburne, from henceforth stand and be uncapable to bear any Office or Place, in Military or in Civil Government, in Church or Commonwealth, during his Life.”

This passage, taken from the ‘House of Lords Journal Volume 8: 17 September 1646’, and subsequently published in the Journal of the House of Lords: volume 8: 1645-1647 (1802), pp. 493-494, presents the reader with a number of interesting legal anomalies: which may well explain the attitude of the defendant. The first of which is that the entire trial appears to have been conducted in the King’s Name, much as modern day criminal trials still are, by members of the English Civil War Parliamentary faction at a time when they themselves were engaged in armed struggle with the self same monarch in whose name Lilburne had been brought to trial.

The other interesting anomaly involves the fact that at no point in the trial transcript is there any mention whatsoever of the affair for which Lilburne was originally arrested. Namely, the accusations he is reported to have made against the Earl of Manchester. Indeed, this entire tract is suggestive of the fact that Lilburne was in reality on trial first and foremost for his ideas. And in particular those ideas which he himself had previously committed to writing. His’England’s Birthright Justified‘, published in October 1645, at about the same time as he had previously been released from prison, for example, defends the rule of law against arbitrary power. In it Lilburne argues that Parliament’s own power must be limited by law to protect the rights of the individual. The author also attacks the monopolies of preaching, in the form of the Established Church and its Ministers, the Merchant Adventurers who dominated the Wool Trade, and the Stationers’ Company who controlled the printing of all published books.

The subsequent campaign to free Lilburne from prison was to lead to the establishment of the entire Leveller Movement, including the political party of the same name. Following the spreading of false rumours that the Levellers, who wanted a complete end to the Monarchy and the House of Lords, were conspiring with the Royalists to overthrow the new republican government, which had come to be dominated by the landed classes, Lilburne himself was accused of incitement. On 26 October 1649 he was brought to trial yet again. This time at the Guildhall in London, where he was charged with high treason and with inciting the Leveller mutinies within the Army.

At his trial Lilburne spoke eloquently in his own defence: ‘Sir, will it please you to hear me? and if so, by your favour thus. All the privilege for my part that I shall crave this day at your hands, is no more but that which is properly and singly the liberty of every free-born Englishman, viz. The benefit of the Laws and Liberties thereof, which by my birthright and inheritance is due unto me; the which I have fought for as well as others have done, with a single and upright heart; and if I cannot have and enjoy this, I shall leave this Testimony behind me, That I died for the Laws and Liberies of this nation; and upon this score I stand, and if I perish I perish.’

Once again his was released from prison just as he had been on 14th October, 1645, this time after being acquitted by a jury. Of further interest is the fact that during his previous trial before the Lords it had been ruled that ‘the said John Lilburne be sined to the King’s Majesty in the Sum of Two Thousand Pounds’. This refers to a fine of £2000 that he had been ordered to pay on being found guilty.

The particular point of relevance here is that following his previous release from prison in October 1645, John Bradshaw, who would himself rise to prominence as President of the High Court of Justice for the trial of King Charles I and as the first Lord President of the Council of State of the English Commonwealth, had brought a case before the Star Chamber on Lilburne’s behalf in the matter of a large sum of back pay that he should have received while serving as a Colonel in the Parliamentary Army. The sum that  Lilburne was awarded as a result of this case, which amounted to some £2,000 in compensation for his sufferings, was never paid by Parliament and appears to have been at the heart of the later decision to arrest him in the affair of the Earl of Manchester. It is interesting to note then that the money he had been owed, and the sum he would later be fined, amount to precisely the same amount.

Image credit: original Civil War pamphlet scanned by Tony Gosling

The Autonomous City by Alexander Vasudevan review – in praise of squatting

This international history makes the case for squatting as a radical alternative to neoliberal urbanisation and a shared vision of the city

Thursday 16 March 2017

In February this year squatters moved into a £14m mansion near Buckingham Palace. It was the third such luxury property occupied in a matter of weeks by members of the Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians, or Anal for short, part of a campaign to highlight the scandal of empty properties at a time when homelessness and inequality are soaring. The number of people sleeping rough in England has risen steadily for the last six years.

Alexander Vasudevan’s study is the first comprehensive attempt to reconstruct the history of squatting as “the expression of an autonomous understanding of shared city life”. Each of his eight chapters takes a specific city and charts the evolution of squatting since the radical social movements of the 1960s, showing how the occupation of buildings became a way of reimagining the city “as a space of necessity and refuge, experimentation and resistance”. As well as providing an instant solution to the need for housing, squatting was also a way to reclaim the city in the face of gentrification and urban renewal schemes that were stripping it of public spaces and displacing working-class populations.

But Vasudevan goes further, claiming that squatters were also urban pioneers who explored a new kind of lifestyle, reclaimed spaces and asserted, to use Henri Lefebvre’s phrase, a universal “right to the city”. Squats became laboratories in which people experimented with new identities and collective living. In cities across Europe and the US, squats were places “where one could build an alternative world”.

Vasudevan sees his book not merely as a dry contribution to urban history, but as celebration of the vital ideas and achievements of those squatters who dared to imagine an alternative vision of life, an alternative to the neoliberal city and the urbanisation that is still engulfing the world. His highly original argument is that the history of squatting reveals “the potential reorganisation of our cities along more collective, socially just and ecologically sustainable lines”. Using archives created by squatters themselves, documenting their evanescent experiments, Vasudevan demonstrates that “the squat was a place of collective world-making: a place to express anger and solidarity, to explore new identities and different intimacies, to experience and share new feelings, and to defy authority and live autonomously”.

His opening chapter on New York City explores how a squatting movement emerged out of tenant activism. By 1960, 30% of New York’s non-white population were living in dilapidated housing and a series of rent strikes helped to draw the community together, giving tenants the confidence to fight for improved standards. In spring 1970 a squatter movement appeared called Operation Move-In. By the summer it had placed 150 working-class families, mostly of African American or Latino background, in abandoned apartments scheduled for demolition as part of a plan to build housing for middle- and upper-income families. One parent told a reporter: “We’ve been living in horrible places with horrible people for a year. This is … a nice community.”

Initially the city responded by destroying the plumbing and fixtures in all its empty properties. But eventually Operation Move-In forced the authorities to back down and allow the squatters – who had repaired and renovated their homes – to stay. Nearly a thousand housing units were also added to the urban redevelopment plan on the Upper West Side. Operation Move-In was a success, not only winning more housing but raising the issue’s profile through publicity stunts such as a “Housing Crimes Trial” attended by 1,500 people. The movement encouraged “new ways of thinking about and inhabiting the city as a space of political action and self-organisation”.

In London, the roots of squatting go back to the immediate postwar period when war veterans and Communist party activists occupied empty properties in 1946. For a time squatters even moved into luxury flats in Duchess of Bedford House, Kensington. But it was not until the 1960s and 70s that squatting became a more widespread phenomenon. At one point, a group living in a row of derelict GLC properties on Freston Road, west London, declared independence from the UK. The Free Independent Republic of Frestonia even wrote to the UN requesting a detachment of peacekeepers to prevent their imminent eviction. The UN didn’t respond, but the publicity generated by the squatters led to negotiations with the GLC and eventually the site was given to the Notting Hill housing trust.

Vasudevan’s argument is compelling and supported by impressive research. His account takes in the “alternative self-organised community” of Christiania, established in an abandoned barracks in Copenhagen in 1971, and the Berlin pensioners who occupied their community centre which was threatened with redevelopment, as well as the vibrant scene in Amsterdam where as many as 70,000 people were squatting between 1964 and 1999. Vasudevan shows how the occupation of vacant properties became “a radical urban social movement”, shaping the recent development of many cities. By occupying and renovating derelict houses, and – as happened in Berlin’s tenement buildings – creating a whole alternative social infrastructure with cafes, day care centres, workshops, concert venues, clinics, cycle repair shops and even a children’s petting zoo, squatters provided their cities with examples of collective living and social transformation.

It is, of course, deeply ironic that this “makeshift urbanism” – the radical repurposing of defunct urban spaces to create alternative communities – has now made cities such as Berlin highly attractive to businesses and gentrifiers: revolutionary ideas reduced to urban “branding assets”. As the moneyed classes and developers move into an area, the authorities begin clearing squatters. Indeed most of the spaces Vasudevan discusses have long since been redeveloped and the occupants evicted. In part, therefore, his project is an attempt “to reconstruct and reanimate these spaces”, preserving their “alternative vision of collective city life”.

The role of squatting has changed – it’s less about the wider housing movement, more to do with diverse protest cultures
In recent years the role of squatting has changed, becoming less about the wider housing movement and more to do with diverse protest cultures, such as the anti-globalisation campaign. Vasudevan points out that in the wake of the financial crisis “a sustained and systematic attack on alternative forms of living and working has taken place in cities across Europe and North America”. As rents and house prices soar, homes have become commodities and cities have been turned into “sites of intense displacement and inequality, exploitation and poverty”. Many people have been left without adequate housing, and radical housing movements have re-emerged in Berlin, New York and Paris, as well as in Greece, Italy and Spain, where 20% of the country’s housing stock now lies empty. In London, too, the age of austerity has prompted a revival of squatting, embodied in groups such as Focus E15 in Newham and Sisters Uncut in Hackney. However, on 1 September 2012 it became for the first time a criminal offence to squat a residential building in the UK.

The implications of the legislation are poignantly illustrated by the fate of Daniel Gauntlett, who was charged under the new anti-squatting laws. He froze to death outside an empty bungalow in Aylesford in 2013. As Vasudevan’s scholarly and illuminating study shows, for today’s squatters as for their predecessors, the urgent issue of housing is part of a broader concern. For squatting – in its radical incarnation – is about the future of our cities and about how all of us, as citizens, have a right to remake them into fairer, more humane places in which to live.

• PD Smith’s most recent book, City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age, is published by Bloomsbury. The Autonomous City: A History of Urban Squatting by Alexander Vasudevan is published by Verso. To order a copy for £16.99 go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99.

Sweden has just listed the entire country to stay at for free on Airbnb

From a London Eye capsule suspended 443 feet in the sky to a luxury indoor forest, you may have seen some unique listings on Airbnb over the years. Now, there’s an entire country up for grabs.

Sweden has turned its entire country into a listing on the holiday rental website.

A collaboration between Airbnb and Visit Sweden, the listing is an effort to promote the country’s “freedom to roam” principle, or “allemansrätten,” which gives people the right to freely explore all public spaces across the country.

The idea, protected by Swedish law, is that people don’t need to book accomodation to visit the country — they can just grab a tent and freely access any of the publicly owned land. Private gardens and lands under cultivation are the only exceptions, although a “do not disturb, do not destroy” rule applies.

“It’s a home with all the necessities and amenities that any great home should have,” the listing reads. “It’s a place where you can eat berries from the ground, sleep under the stars, swim in the lakes and roam freely.”

There are a number of specific locations suggested on the site, including a “Rustic Forest Retreat in Vintage Style” located in a “historic and mysterious forest in western Värmland” which “offers high quality accommodation and a memorable stay.”

“Go to bed with the midnight sky above your head and if you can’t fall asleep, try counting the stars. It usually helps!” the listing reads. “In the fall there are wild mushrooms that you’ll enjoy foraging – from August to November you’ll find a lot of delicious chanterelles on the ground.”

It adds that it is available 365 days a year, accomodates everyone, has unlimited beds, and check-in of “whenever.”

A statement from Airbnb said: “Every lake is your infinity pool, every mountaintop your granite terrace, every meadow becomes a garden and every forest a pantry filled with mushrooms and berries. Feel free to take a morning jog or bike ride across open fields or trek through challenging mountain terrain. Should you want an upgrade, you do not need to ask anyone, just find the best location that suits you and your mood.”

Victory for Tent City homeless as judge slams Bristol City council

Judge criticises Bristol City Council as Tent City homeless people celebrate victory in banning case

By Tristan_Cork | Friday August 26, 2016

Bristol City Council solicitor Shazia Daya’s signature on court papers
A senior judge has criticised Bristol City Council for attempting to effectively banish a group of homeless people from the entire city, after the group won a major victory in court to stop the ban.
Council chiefs backed down in their attempt to impose a court injunction on the so-called ‘Tent City’ group of around 10 homeless people who have been camping for months in a park in Easton, and agreed a deal with them.

The council had tried to evict the 10 from the park and pass an injunction which would have meant they would be committing a crime if they slept rough of camped on council-owner public spaces anywhere else in Bristol effectively banning them from the city.
The original injunction made it a crime for them to sleep rough anywhere in Bristol
But just minutes before the case at the Bristol Civil Courts, council legal chiefs backed down. Instead, the out-of-court deal they agreed with the homeless people was that they would be evicted from the Peel Street Park in Pennywell Road in 28 days, and that the injunction would only apply to that park, not the whole city, and only for six months.
Judge Roderick Denyer QC welcomed the climbdown, criticised the council and praised the homeless people, who included an injured ex-serviceman, for challenging it.
“The injunction as sought initially was far too wide, that was the view I had two weeks ago,” he told the court. “I take on board fully that the ex-serviceman, for instance, served his time in the armed forces, was badly injured and spent a long time in hospital.
“I’m pleased it’s been able to be resolved. There’s a limit to what I can do in this situation. I don’t have any magic powers to deal with Bristol’s homelessness crisis and I would like to thank all the homeless people and the supporters for coming today. It’s an emotional area but I am very, very grateful, and I am pleased that this injunction is now in a much, much more sensible form,” he added.
The group of people living in the park had been supported by Bristol Housing Action Movement (BHAM), and an online crowd-funding appeal raised enough money to hire Derek McConnell, from South West Law, to represent them in court.
He slammed the council too, for the way officers had treated the homeless people. “There are other issues not covered, including the extent to which the authorities advise people if they don’t have local connections that is quite wrong legally, and the sooner the authority get away from this gate-keeping mentality to people presenting themselves as homeless the better,” he told the court.
The ex-serviceman, who asked not to be named in reports, said he was hopeful now that a home could be found for him. “I’ve gone from being told to get out of the city entirely, to now being told I’m an urgent priority, which is a good thing,” he said.
“They tried to put me in one of the ‘crash pads’ for homeless, but they are a hell-hole. We have people coming from those crash pads to stay at the tent city for a bit of peace and quiet. I’ve felt a lot safer there, and I’m going to stay with the lads until I’m sorted we’ve got a good community down there,” he added.

Another Tent City resident, a Polish man called Hubert, said he was pleased the council backed down. “I’ve been in England 12 years and worked and paid taxes for ten years, but ended up homeless after I lost my documents and can no longer work legally. When I get the documents again, I’ll be back on my feet,” he said.
“I’m really glad that the council aren’t doing this. I was feeling that they were going to force me out of the city, so I’m happy. I’m glad a lot of help and support from the local community, and from Richard and that can influence a judge and the council,” he added.
“It’s a definite victory,” said BHAM’s Richard Lloyd. “The residents of Tent City were going to be faced with a real problem in that they were going to have nowhere to live and nowhere to even be homeless in Bristol.
“It would’ve added a huge problem but now they can at least carry on trying to make a life for themselves here in Bristol. The judge said the original injunction was far too wide, and several times that a court can’t pass an injunction that it knows cannot be enforced. No one wants to jail homeless people.
“An injunction just for the park itself and just for six months is reasonable. The council lacks the resources to meet the need out there, but there needs to be a better dialogue between housing officers and the homeless people, and the likes of BHAM and Acorn Bristol on what homeless people’s rights are and what support they can get,” he added.
Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees, said the council ‘always tries to avoid’ taking court action against homeless people. “We always try to avoid taking this sort of action and we have spent a great deal of time engaging with the people in Peel Street Park since we first made contact with the camp back in April,” he said.
“However, we do not permit camping or sleeping rough in tents within our parks and open spaces, as we have to protect these areas and make sure they are available to everyone. The council and its partners understand that sometimes tents or temporary shelters are erected by vulnerable people in need of help and support. Those camped on the land have all been offered the support of St Mungo’s Outreach Team which is commissioned by the Local Authority to provide support to people sleeping rough.
“St Mungo’s visited the camp more than 18 times and spoke to 15 different people. In addition the council’s Streetwise team, which deals with anti-social behaviour issues, has visited the camp five times.
“At least three members of the camp have been supported into accommodation, with one of them also finding employment. A number of people were found to have connections with other areas and they were offered help with travel to that area and information on how to access further support once there. This offer was not always taken up, with some people choosing to remain in the camp. Those with a local connection to Bristol or no local connection to any local authority area, were offered a bed in a night shelter. An action plan was also drawn up for each person.
“The council works closely with its partners to ensure that those that are homeless are supported to access help and accommodation in the city. This support is ongoing and we will continue to engage with the people still left at the camp.
“The Rough Sleeping Partnership and other agencies are working to address the issue of homelessness in the city, as we believe that no one should be forced to sleep rough in Bristol. A number of extra bed spaces have been made available thanks to the partnership, with another two guardianship properties set to open in the coming weeks. We will continue to look at how we can all work together to support people and help them off the street as quickly as possible, as this remains one of our key priorities,” he added.

Victory for Tent City homeless as judge slams council


Tent City triumph

Bristol 24/7 – Tilly Haines, August 26, 2016
The residents of the so-called ‘Tent City’ in Easton have been given a reprieve as a judge criticised the city council for effectively attempting to expel the group of homeless people to outside the city borders.
The group were praised by the judge at Bristol Civic Courts for standing up for themselves with the council backing down at the last minute from threatening to evict them from their encampment in Peel Street Park.
Previously, the council had issued the residents with an injunction forbidding the defendants from rough sleeping, camping or the parking of any caravan or vehicle within the park off Pennywell Road, or in any other public open space within Bristol.
Around £1,500 was raised to help with their legal fees so that those living in the park could contest the case, which only lasted around 15 minutes on Friday morning, with some 10 protesters outside the courts.
An out-of-court negotiation was reached between a council representative and the defendants’ lawyer Derek McConnell which gives the residents of the park 28 days to be able to find somewhere else to live and now only applies to Peel Street Park.
Judge Roderick Denyer QC agreed that the injunction was now “in a much more sensible form” and recognised the need for Bristol to help the homeless.
Judge Denyer told the court: “There’s a limit to what I can do in this situation. I don’t have any magical powers to deal with Bristol’s homelessness crisis and I would like to thank all of the homeless people and the supporters for coming today. It’s an emotional area but I am very very grateful.”

The defendants and their supporters who attended the hearing were all pleased with the result.
Richard Lloyd from the Bristol Housing Action Movement said: “We’re very very happy. The injunction the council originally applied for was draconian and unhelpful and there was no way that was going to get through court, whereas the revised injunction they just conceded a lot down to a level that is really quite reasonable.”
An ex-serviceman and resident of Tent City who asked to remain anonymous told Bristol24/7 that he was badly injured and spent a lot of time in hospital.
Another resident, a Polish man who gave his name only as Hubert, said that he has lived in Bristol for 12 years but added that he lost all forms of ID and can no longer work legally.
The residents now have 28 days to leave Peel Street Park and move elsewhere, whether this be to another spot in their tents or into accommodation provided by a housing association.
Bristol mayor Marvin Rees said that the city council tries to avoid taking court action against homeless people and has spent “a great deal of time” engaging with the people in Peel Street Park since first making contact with the camp in April.
“However, we do not permit camping or sleeping rough in tents within our parks and open spaces, as we have to protect these areas and make sure they are available to everyone,” Rees said.
“The council and its partners understand that sometimes tents or temporary shelters are erected by vulnerable people in need of help and support.
“Those camped on the land have all been offered the support of St Mungo’s Outreach Team which is commissioned by the local authority to provide support to people sleeping rough.”

Michael Davitt and the Land League: an Irish Revolution

LookLeft: Ultán Gillen’s original article – Citizen Press Ltd., 24a/25 Hill St, Dublin 1.

Michael Davitt (1846-1906) is one of the most important figures of modern Irish history. A member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (the Fenians) from the 1860s, Davitt went on to play a leading role in the Land War of the 1880s that helped break the power of the landlords in Ireland and eventually led to the transfer of the ownership of the land of Ireland to the people. Thereafter, he advocated socialism. His success came from mixing direct struggle by the people for social justice with political action, writes Ultán Gillen.

Early Life

Davitt was born in Straide, County Mayo in 1846. The Great Famine was devastating Ireland’s poor. Between 1845 and 1851, the population fell by 2 million through death and emigration. A culture of emigration took hold that lasted for over a century, and which is now raising its head once more. Many landlords took advantage of the Famine to evict tenants to make greater profits. Davitt’s family was evicted, and soon emigrated to Lancashire. The atrocious conditions of the working class there, including the Irish emigrants, were recorded by Frederick Engels in his famous The Condition of the Working Class in England (1844). Aged only 10, Davitt began working in one of the area’s “dark satanic mills”, and lost an arm in an accident at 11. From birth, Davitt suffered the problems that have plagued modern Ireland – the poverty and emigration caused by inequality, and by government in the interest of a few and not the many. He experienced the worst effects of capitalism on both town and country. These experiences radicalised him.

The Fenians

In 1865, Davitt joined the IRB. The Fenians aimed to establish a democratic, secular republic by revolutionary means. Many Fenians were urban working class radicals, and they had links with Marx’s International Workingmen’s Association, the First International. Their secularism and their social radicalism made them enemies not just in the government but also in the Catholic Church, which excommunicated them. After the failed revolution of 1867, Davitt and others continued their struggle. Arrested in London in 1870 and jailed until 1877, he then emigrated to America.

The New Departure

In jail, Davitt’s belief that Irish political independence meant little without social change grew. He was both part of the early European socialist movement, and building on ideas that had been part of Ireland’s revolutionary tradition since the United Irishmen. He saw that the major problem facing the Irish people was the landholding system. Davitt and others persuaded the Fenians that social agitation was essential to gaining popular support. The other important change the New Departure brought about in republican thinking was a willingness to forge an alliance with Parnell’s Home Rule party, and to mix pressure inside and outside Parliament to bring about real change.

Davitt returned from America in 1879. The potato crop had failed again, and Famine once more threatened the poor farmers of the west. Tenants simply couldn’t meet the rents demanded by landlords. Mass resistance was organised until fair rents were agreed. Davitt and the agrarian radicals saw their chance. On 16th August 1879, the National Land League of Mayo was formed. On October 21st the Irish National Land League was founded in Dublin. Parnell was President and Davitt as one of the Secretaries. A national campaign of withholding rents, social and political agitation, and Parliamentary action began. Davitt himself was elected to Westminster. During the three years of the Land War, despite the jailing of Davitt and others, the Land League secured the “Three F’s” – Fair Rent, Fixity of Tenure (the right not to be easily evicted), and Free Sale.

The Land Leaguers had demonstrated the power of the united action of the poor to achieve real change that improved their lives. They blended familiar methods with new strategies and ways of thinking, and broke the dominance of the landlords. Davitt later wrote the history of the Land League revolution. He called it, The Fall of Feudalism (1904). After the Land War, the transfer of the land to the people was inevitable; this social revolution created the conditions for the struggle of 1916-1921.

The Cause of Labour

Davitt saw that inequality would not disappear with the disappearance of the landlords. He advocated land nationalisation, and set about organising workers in both town and countryside. He established the Irish Democratic Labour Federation in 1890, and contributed greatly to the formation of the British Labour Party. Like the United Irishmen before him, Davitt saw the struggle for true democracy and social justice in Ireland as part of an international revolutionary movement. Like James Connolly after him, he believed that painting the postboxes green was not enough – real freedom meant freedom from starvation and poverty, as well as independence. Davitt moved the Fenians away from narrow militarism to a truly revolutionary programme that embraced political struggle to put real power in the hands of the plain people of Ireland. His legacy is his example.

Poole council lied, DID issue tent eviction notice, despite initial claims it was ‘fraudulent’

AN EVICTION notice served to a homeless man after he pitched a tent up at an empty shop doorway WAS served by the Borough of Poole despite initial off-the-record claims the notice could have been fraudulent.

The Borough of Poole had first claimed that the notice had not come from the council until they were sent a photograph of the document, provided by the Daily Echo.

Even until Friday afternoon council staff were unwilling to confirm or deny they had issued the enforcement notice, arguing that an urgent investigation had been launched into the matter.

It was suggested that an unknown person working for the authority had helped to create the eviction notice, possibly by releasing the Borough of Poole’s logo.

A day later, it was confirmed that the tent had been served a notice by an officer working for the Borough of Poole after the Daily Echo pushed the council to confirm its actions.

“A notice would be an extreme measure,” a spokesman confirmed, adding that it was not in line with the council’s normal procedure.

“Borough of Poole works in conjunction with Bournemouth and Poole Rough Sleepers Team to offer services all rough sleepers in the Poole area,” the spokesman said.

“These services include physical and mental health advice, accommodation, and support.

“There are a small number of rough sleepers who persistently refuse the services offered and continue to put themselves and others at risk.

“The notice on the tent was served by a Borough of Poole officer following a request from Bournemouth and Poole Rough Sleepers Team, who had received a number of complaints from members of the public.

“These notices are rarely used and we will be reviewing our procedures to see if any lessons can be learned from this incident.”

The council had also claimed that it was a “complicated” issue as the tent had been pitched on private property, despite the eviction notice claiming the reason for the enforcement was because “camping is not permitted on Borough of Poole land”.

The Bournemouth and Poole Rough Sleepers team refused to comment on the matter.

Resident Karl Blanch contacted the Daily Echo to voice his outrage at the eviction notice after reading Friday’s story.

“Maybe this man doesn’t want to go into accommodation. Maybe he has a dog,” he said.

“Hopefully he will go into accommodation and everything will have a happy ending. But a lot of people don’t have a choice about what happens to them.

“This has really stuck in my mind.”

The tent had been removed from the shop entrance when the Daily Echo returned to Poole High Street on Saturday.

Sally Harvey, of the AOK Rucksack Appeal, said council staff were probably “doing the best they can” under the circumstances.

“They haven’t got the money with all the government cutbacks but they are trying very, very hard,” she said.

“Homeless people should not be evicted but they do need places to go. The ones who sleep in tents tend to have dogs and can’t be housed. It’s a very difficult situation.”

Squatters’ Handbook 14th edition (2016) – a 21st century entrepreneur’s bible

Fully up-to-date as of late 2016 and including everything you need to know to stay as long and as comfortably as possible in your new home. Squatting is a 21st century growth industry as The City encourages house price inflation and increasing use of ‘property’ as ‘investment’ for those on the QE ‘funny money’.

Chapters on: squatters’ rights; property guardians; first steps; finding a place; securing the place; dealing with alarms; proving it’s not residential; visitors to your place; dealing with the police; immigration; dealing with security guards; a note on filming; dealing with ‘owners’; fixing your place up; electricity; defending your home in court; enforcement of possession orders; enforcement of possession orders when places have been previously squatted; railway property; living in vehicles; gypsies and travellers; debt collectors; injunctions; organising; some squatting history; glossary of jargon and terms; further resources

Available from and

‘Squat Belgravia’ target Qatari general’s £17m townhouse hours after being evicted from £15m mansion

‘Squat Belgravia’ target Qatari general’s £17m townhouse hours after being evicted from £15m mansion

mansion.jpgThe occupied mansion in Grosvenor Gardens PA

Squatters who occupied a Belgravia mansion hours after being evicted from another property now plan to use a neighbouring house owned by a Qatari ex-general as a “community centre”.

Activists from the Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians were ejected from a £15 million base in nearby Eaton Place yesterday by police and bailiffs.

Within hours they were bringing bedding and furniture into a seven-storey property once owned by the Victorian archaelogist Augustus Pitt-River. It  has since been converted into offices.

The group also intend to use the empty mansion next door on Grosvenor Gardens as a community centre for talks, film screenings and events.

Squatters enter the £17m mansion (PA)

According to Land Registry documents, that house — which has 18 bedrooms — was bought for £17 million in cash on June 22 by the former head of Qatar’s armed forces. Hamad bin Ali Al Attiyah supplied Libyan rebels in the 2011 civil war and is now president of Qatari football team El Jaish. The group said they were not intending to sleep in his house as it is a residential property and they would be quickly evicted. Tom Fox, 23, said the group had spotted the Pitt-Rivers house before moving into the Eaton Square address 10 days ago.

He said: “We thought we’d take Eaton Square first because it would be a better starting point but this one turns out to be worth much more. We will get into Buckingham Palace at this rate.

“We’re not here to cause damage and the courts know that.”

The group says it has taken in homeless people to provide them with food and accommodation during the cold winter nights. Mr Fox said: “We have to be a little bit selective about who we help because we don’t want the place turned into a crack den. We’re a family and everyone has to work together.”

‘The housing crisis has spread to everybody’, says former boss of Shelter

Isabelle Fraser – 8 JANUARY 2017

From the roof of the east London office of the charity Shelter, you can see the remnants of over a century of the capital’s housing policy. Old terraced houses, turn of the century estates, oppressive Sixties tower blocks, the Modernist grandeur of the Barbican, and the knot of skyscrapers in the City beyond.

Years before he became chief executive of Shelter, Campbell Robb lived in a Peabody estate, much like the one below. Well-built and available at affordable rents, these kinds of homes are increasingly unavailable for London’s burgeoning Generation Rent, which PwC estimated that will increase from 40pc in 2000, to 60pc in 2025.

Downstairs in Robb’s office, there is a poster with ‘Enough is Enough!’ written in big red letters, commissioned for the charity’s 50th anniversary this year. Shelter started life campaigning for the millions of ‘hidden homeless’, who lived in slums; it was the same year as Kathy Come Home, Ken Loach’s famous film about homelessness.

It is now a powerful voice calling for ways to help solve the housing crisis, and ameliorate conditions those renting privately or struggling to find anywhere to live. Recent victories include the Government’s announcement in the Autumn Statement to ban letting fees for tenants; the charity continues to campaign for long tenancies for renters and runs a helpline for homeless people.

Now, Robb is leaving his post after seven years in the top job to head up the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. “One of the biggest challenges has been…to get enough people to recognise this was a housing crisis that was beginning to impact every bit of society. People thought it only affected certain kinds of people, the very poorest in slum conditions that Shelter was founded on,” he says. Since he joined, housing has made it way up the public’s priority list. When he arrived in January 2010, housing came in 18th on Ipsos Mori’s survey which finds the “single biggest issue” for Britons. In November 2016, it came fifth.

“The reason for that is affordability,” he says. The housing crisis “has spread to everywhere. It’s not just poor people, or those who are just managing, it’s right up there.” The average house price in the UK has climbed 29.4pc in the last seven years; in London it has soared by 69.6pc, far ahead of wage increases.

As a result, it has become a hot potato. “It’s a political issue that has become real for a lot of people across the country. Not just in Labour seats, but Conservative MPs have people in their constituencies who are saying my children can’t afford to buy,” he says. “We have a group of people who are in their 50s and 60s for the first generation since the Second World War, looking at their children’s housing prospects, and they are worse than their own.”

Not only is there political pressure coming from voters, but also from big companies.

Deloitte and KPMG both bought flats in the capital for their graduates to live in, and Shelter has teamed up with companies such as Starbucks to introduce a rental deposit scheme which workers can pay back, interest free.

It could have been even worse, he says. “In the last seven years, if interest rates had gone up by 2 or 3pc you would have seen a raft of repossessions like those in the 80s. You would have seen a crisis beyond what we already have. So in some ways housing policy has been lucky.”

This affordability crisis has been compounded by a “failure of certain policies”, he says, as well as the financial crisis and the austerity that followed. The previous governments, including New Labour and the coalition, all failed to build enough and put little focus on the supply side, he argues. They all “believed the way to solve the housing crisis was on the home ownership and on demand side, to effectively make money available cheaply through Help to Buy-type products, [which enables first-time buyers to purchase a home with a 5pc deposit] and less so in direct investment in house building.” Help to Buy was a crucial policy after the downturn, designed to get house builders moving again by stimulating demand. But that policy has continued, even while house builders are posting record profits once again.

There’s a problem with this model of solving the housing crisis, says Robb: “it’s broken”. “With the death of public housing and local authorities, the private house builders have had to carry that weight and they can’t,” he says. Part of the problem is due to the land market; the high cost of land forces developers to keep upping prices and making homes smaller. “You can’t criticise them for doing what they were set up to do, they are there to maximise profit for their shareholders,” he says. “That doesn’t necessarily translate into the best housing policy for Britain. That’s why you need more small builders, more land available – public and private – and you need public building”.

With the new Government, the rhetoric has changed noticeably. “This is a government that’s got more sense of a failed housing market than any of the previous ones,” he says. It has become more interventionist, even pinching policies from the Labour party’s manifesto, as was the case with banning letting fees. There is less focus on the importance of home ownership, and more money for affordable homes and talk of other types of housing, such as the private rental sector. Now, after seven years, the “house building budget has come back to what it was in 2008,” he says. “So we have seen a very big cycle”.

Part of the policy shift is a recognition that the market has changed remarkably during that time. “Over those seven years there was a massive growth of people in the rental sector, and the Government is finally catching up with the need to regulate that.”

Another change is the recognition of housing being a form of infrastructure, which Robb describes as “a big step”. “It’s never done that – it’s always separated it from roads and transport. They seem to finally recognise that investment will be an improvement to the economy like other types of infrastructure.”

Small movements and policy tweaks such as these are key to making up the deficit of homes that must be built, rather than big, sweeping changes, he argues. “It would be good if the Government had lots of different small things [planned for the upcoming housing white paper] because actually with a bit of investment, and a bit of policy and political will you can make this happen.”

Where others may see as an insurmountable challenge, Robb is hopeful about ending the housing crisis. “I am optimistic that it can be fixed. Having waited seven years, I have a government whose public pronouncements… are more nuanced and thought through than many of the previous governments’,” he says. With a promising Autumn Statement which promised billions to affordable housing, and a housing white paper on the way, “they may be swallows that don’t make a full spring but we can begin to hope that if they follow those things through, we might begin to see a start… I’m optimistic until I’m proven otherwise.”

a Landrights campaign for Britain

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