Home as a Human Right: Ten Thoughts

On believing in everyone having a secure home as a human right. 

This is roughly the text of my talk to the Liverpool Walton Constituency Labour Party on the evening of 22nd May 2018.

From a lifetime working in and around housing and communities and at the request of the Walton Constituency Labour Party here in Liverpool, these are my ‘Top 10’ thoughts, a mixture of policies and practicalities, on how we might go about fixing the wide ranging housing crisis we are now in.

1 Establish having a secure home as a basic human right
2 Reinvent Council Housing
3 Be secure and safe from the cradle to the grave Continue reading “Home as a Human Right: Ten Thoughts”

The Preston Model and other questions?

Preston, here in North West England, is having a bit of a moment. A moment about doing things for itself. Obvious things, in some ways, but a combination of obvious things that no one else is doing in quite the same ways. Economic things, social things, using your own resources and imagination kinds of things that are getting it a good deal of curious attention. So I’ve decided to come and have a look, and a listen.

Though Preston is fairly close to Liverpool it’s a London journalist, Aditya Chackrabortty, who’s brought what’s happening here to my attention in his new series about alternative approaches to the economics of running our places. And it’s Aditya who’ll be leading this night’s ‘Guardian Live’ discussion. First though, a look round. Continue reading “The Preston Model and other questions?”

In Praise of Patience & Democracy

I first published this ‘Patience’ post early in March this year. Now, here in mid-April, I’m publishing this revised edition for two good reasons: To update you on how the garden is going, and because, while gardening, I’ve been thinking about democracy.

I’ve never been a particularly patient person, quite the opposite in fact. Often acting as if there is a virtue in getting things finished over and done with as soon as possible, if not sooner. Other people will often irritate me with such half hearted promises that they’ll try and do such and such a thing by some time soon that I’ll be driven into doing whatever it might be, in a storm of impatience, before they’ve even had the chance to start. Driven, that’s been me for a lot of my life.

Recently though I’ve been learning some patience in a place that simply refuses to be driven, on Sarah’s allotment.

I’ve been helping her to restructure her place for a few months now. Clearing, demolishing, burning, building and, particularly, digging up long overgrown grasses she’d decided to be rid of. I’ve written about some of this on here before and most of them are gone now. Except for the cordyline. Continue reading “In Praise of Patience & Democracy”

Granby 4 Streets: Talking with Aditya

‘Bearing in mind we’re ordinary people, what we’ve done is magnificent.’
Hazel Tilley

This morning in The Guardian Aditya Chakrabortty has published an article he’s been working on with a group of us over the past couple of weeks. I’ve decided to link to the article from this blog so it can be included on here in the story of what’s been done in Granby over these last few years. Also because I think the interview process itself, the chance to reflect with such a skilled and interested visitor, has helped me, for one, to be able to see the story so far with an objectivity that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible. Continue reading “Granby 4 Streets: Talking with Aditya”

Votes for Women? Liverpool 2017

Not a long ago tale of suffragette struggle but a dystopian story from the Liverpool City Region today, expressed as a heart warming seasonal song, via The Handmaid’s Tale.

WomensLGroup Image credit

Much more of the song later, first let’s talk.

Now I’ve got no particular problem with men. I’ve been one, at first a boy version of one, all my life. Furthermore I’m perfectly happy being who I am. Having said that, I’d never try to run anything or take any important decisions in my life without asking the women that I know. This would feel not merely wrong but also deeply unwise and self-defeating. Ignore half the people I know with all their knowledge, opinions and feelings? As if.

@WomensLGroup Image credit

Which brings me to the problem I want to write about. Devolution to regional city authorities and the exclusion of women from nearly all of their leadership groups. There’s a good article here at the New Statesman you might want to read for the full national picture on this. In summary, all of the head elected jobs as ‘Mayors’ in the devolved authorities are held by men. Then the article shows figures of 94% men having a vote in their running, with just 6% women.

In the Liverpool City Region, yes I’m mainly writing about Liverpool as ever, the percentage figure for men has been rounded up to an easy to comprehend 100%. Yes, no women. A City Region of around 1.5 million people, and therefore around 750,000 women, being run by a small group of men. Continue reading “Votes for Women? Liverpool 2017”

What kind of society do you want to grow up in?

Explaining social housing and the economy to young people. Many comments on this now in. See the evolving discussion with young people here.

For a long time I’ve thought and no doubt even said that if you really know your stuff, whatever that ‘stuff’ might be, you should be able to explain it clearly to anyone. Just this year, for example, I’ve been driven to so much distraction by some verbose inhabitants of the ‘social investment sector’ (their description of themselves) that I’ve had to publicly berate them for telling a room of people who actually do things that we need to ‘learn their language’ if we want them to consider investing in us.

Photo by Jane MacNeil

I’m saying this because this very week some of my own ‘stuff’ has been put to the test when The Economist asked me if I’d have a go at answering some questions. They run something called The Burnet News Club that’s specifically about involving both primary and secondary school children in discussions about the economy.

 

 

So they sent me five questions young people had submitted, generally around the subject of social housing, and today they’ve published my answers. Continue reading “What kind of society do you want to grow up in?”

Moving beyond ‘No’

Yes, I’ve been reading. But we’ll come back to that.

When I got talking to people in Granby in Liverpool, about seven years ago now, they asked me to help them get over a very specific problem:

“We all know what we don’t want. We don’t want our houses to be knocked down. So we’ve got very good, over many years, at opposing any and all plans to do this. The trouble is though, we can’t agree between us on exactly what it is we do want. So could you help?”

I said “Yes, maybe” and we began to work on something together, loads of us, that has largely worked. Not perfectly and it’s not finished. But we moved beyond that skilfully confident “no” to a curious and more friendly “yes,” and in so doing changed a piece of the Earth very much for the better.

What I hadn’t realised until this week was that in learning that lesson in Granby, that yes is stronger than no, we were beginning to learn something that may yet help to create a better future for the whole of the Earth, if we could be fairly quick about it. Continue reading “Moving beyond ‘No’”

Wake up and love more: Kate Tempest

 

“The myth of the individual
Has left us disconnected lost and pitiful”


I had no idea when I wrote this post that Kate Tempest was up for the Mercury Prize, but she was and I’m glad to see it bringing her so much more renown, followers and, I hope, sales.

If you’re listening much to the radio at the moment, well ok if you’re listening much to BBC Radio 6 Music, you might be hearing Kate Tempest’s current single ‘Tunnel Vision’ fairly regularly. It’s the one that starts:

“Indigeonous apocalypse
decimated forests
The winter of our discontent’s upon us”

And continues to take the likes of me, the older generation, to task for a catalogue of ills because:

“This is the future you left us”

At which point you might well think “Give us a break” and turn your ears away until something more positive comes on. Well I’m writing this to suggest that you don’t turn away. To suggest that you listen carefully and perhaps appreciatively to this thoughtful and opinionated woman who might well surprise you. Like she surprised me. Let’s step back a year or two. Continue reading “Wake up and love more: Kate Tempest”

Wirral West and its Shining Shore

Having spent much of yesterday afternoon and evening in Wirral West, as one of the many people there helping the local Labour candidate Margaret Greenwood get elected, I decide to go back to the constituency today, as I take a day off from all forms of working.

It’s such a beautiful place.
Always my favourite place for reflective, meditative walks.

Today I’m reflecting on my happiness that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters did such a good job and reintroduced ‘being yourself’ into a political system where that’s been thoroughly yet pointlessly discouraged for years.

It’s early summertime in the sandstone walls.

Continue reading “Wirral West and its Shining Shore”