Socialist Worker

New Era tenants take their fight against eviction to Downing Street

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2432

New Era tenants and supporter Russell Brand at Downing Street this week

New Era tenants and supporter Russell Brand at Downing Street this week (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Tenants facing eviction and their supporters surrounded the plush West End offices of property investment fund Westbrook on Monday of this week.

Westbrook wants to kick them out of their New Era estate in Hackney, east London.

Two coachloads of families from the estate joined more than 250 protesters from the Unite union, Defend Council Housing and others.

Leslie-Anne, a student at London Metropolitan University, has lived at New Era almost all her life.

She told Socialist Worker, “It’s really scary when you realise what it could mean—that your whole family could soon be homeless.”

Under pressure after weeks of protests, Westbrook sent a letter to tenants last Sunday saying they won’t be kicked out until at least June.

Tenant Margret said, “It was absolutely patronising. It’s not easy to live in London as it is. 

“I recently lost my job and what they are doing puts our whole lives in doubt.”

The high profile campaign has struck a chord across Britain. 

The protest attracted people from all over London, including council tenants fighting plans to demolish their estates.

Fear

Many protesters said the fight at New Era symbolised their fear that rising housing costs would drive them out of London.

Rosie lives in social housing near the New Era estate. She said, “This isn’t just a local issue, it’s a universal one—everyone has a right to housing.

“It’s going to get so just the mega-rich can live here. People are going back into multiple occupancies because they can’t afford to live separately. And that’s not a lack of housing, it’s a lack of will to house people.”

Politicians from all parties have spoken out against Westbrook’s plans—but their policies led to the housing crisis.

Protesters gave short shrift to Tory chancellor George Osborne’s spin about his economic successes.

Rosie said, “Everything he says is bullshit. Prices are going up and I haven’t had a pay rise for ten years—it doesn’t feel like a recovery.”

Margaret added, “People like Osborne have no idea what it’s like to live at the bottom of the pile. 

“I really hope our campaign goes down as a victory for the people.”

Danielle Molinari was one of three tenants who went with celebrity Russell Brand to Downing Street to hand in a petition signed by 300,000 people.

She told Socialist Worker, “I don’t know if David Cameron got the message, but he’ll know that he can’t bloody ignore us now we’ve come down to his doorstep. 

“And Westbrook only had to look outside their window to see we’re not going anywhere.”


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