Top Labour Party politicians avoided angry campaigners fighting to save their libraries at a party fundraiser in south London last night, Monday.
They had hoped to speak to Sadiq Khan, Labour’s candidate for London Mayor and Florence Eshalomi, Greater London Authority candidate for Lambeth and Southwark.
But Khan didn’t turn up to his own fundraiser, which was held in a restaurant in Dulwich, south London.
Some 2,000 people marched in Lambeth last Saturday to mark the end of the occupation of Carnegie library. Campaigners had occupied the library – which is one of three facing closure under Labour-controlled Lambeth council – for ten days.
Stewart King, one of the occupiers, was outside the fundraiser last night. He told Socialist Worker, “They’ve come up with this idea of putting a gym in the basement and reopen it early next year.
“I don’t see how they’ll manage that – it’s a grade two listed building.”
Another Lambeth resident said, “The library near me in West Norwood is already too small. Now they’re closing libraries, more people will be coming to it.
“They want to run the libraries with volunteers. Work for free, work for less than the minimum wage. It’s not good enough.”
Campaigners last night had plenty of support from passing cars, tooting their horns in support. But the response from some Labour members going into the fundraiser was less than friendly.
John McTernan, onetime adviser to Tony Blair, paused on his way in to the restaurant to shout at campaigners. “You Trots can say what you like,” he frothed.
His response was emblematic of the attitude that some Labour councillors seem to have for Lambeth residents.
Stewart said, “Some of the people I’ve spoken to going in tonight have been quite friendly. Others are clearly annoyed to see us here.”
Another campaigner and Labour Party member said, “When I joined Labour again I didn’t expect to have to be taking on a Labour council.”
Housing campaigners and Labour Party members Nicola Curtis and Karen Bennett were also at the lobby.
They have been fighting to save their homes on the Central Hill estate, which faces demolition as part of a Lambeth council “regeneration” project.
Nicolas said, “We’re here to give an open letter to Sadiq Khan about the estate. And if he wants to ignore us, he can do so at his own peril.”
She added, “They say the regeneration will benefit us. But we’ll lose our secure tenancies, some of the rents on the new flats will go up to market rents, and the bills will go up.”
Karen said, “They’ve promised they won’t sell the estate in the future. But they just treat us as something to be gotten rid of.
“We don’t believe a word they say anymore.