The first week of my new year was dominated by demonstrations.
After the joy of Christmas and New Year, I started the year by joining with others to express our concern about the Tory/Lib Dem government’s cuts to legal aid. These ideological cuts undermine the basic right of all individuals, whatever their income, to stand up to authority: just sometimes the system gets things wrong. In London, where millions of pounds are spent on legal fees in the property and financial sectors, it feels particularly unjust to restrict access to expert legal advice. If the government gets its way, the system will become even more weighted against the poor. It feels like another step backwards towards a Dickensian London of two halves.
Talking of Dickens, the Clerkenwell Fire station, which in the time of Dickens was next to the Coldbath Prison (now Mount Pleasant Post Office), closed its doors for the last time on Thursday. This was oldest operational firestation in Europe, closed by the Tory Mayor of London as part of a 10 station closure programme. He intends to sell off the magnificent 1830’s building. This is cultural vandalism of the highest order. The image of our firemen in tears on Thursday morning will stay with me for a long time. Our firemen had been working there for up to 29 years, putting their lives at risk, to keep us safe. Despite London’s growing population, the ever present threat of terrorism and over 90 % of those surveyed saying ‘no’ to the plan, it was still closed.
This is why I am determined to do all I can to make sure we win against this Tory/Lib Dem government, with its vision of perpetual austerity as the only alternative. Other people share my view: I have been pleased to receive offers of help for my campaign from a growing number of people in the last month. Together we can fight for a fairer London.