Protesting under shadow of dangerous Walthamstow tower blocks

by Nancy Taaffe, Waltham Forest Socialist Party.

Nancy is also chair of the ‘Save Our Square’ campaign.

Our local campaign group ‘Save Our Square’ met under the shadow of the two newly constructed lift shafts for the two monster blocks being built in Walthamstow, East London. Our campaign has held these buildings at bay for eight years.

As these lift shafts have risen from the earth, residents are looking up and pointing at them, like some monstrous spaceship that has landed from another planet. They can be seen from almost anywhere in Waltham Forest.

Save our Square protest, Walthamstow.
Save Our Square protest on 30 September.
Photo: Save Our Square

On 30 September, 40 people protested.

It should be criminal — in the true sense of the word — that the Labour council has not paused construction until the Grenfell Inquiry has reported. Criminal, because it is expected that new regulations will ensure that no more tall buildings are built with only one stairwell and one lift – like these in Walthamstow. But the Labour council has rushed to establish ‘facts on the ground’.

Some people ask us: “Why do you bother to continue campaigning when these towers are being built?” We answer “We have to be bothered; for all those that will live in them, for our environment that is being destroyed, and for those in housing need, who these towers offer nothing to.

A number of people approached us to say that they had been passive onlookers in this campaign. But since the towers have gone up, they now want to be more actively involved.

Save Our Square has challenged any ruling Labour politician to come to a public debate on 4 November to defend this private model for housing. If councils are going to passively accept it, then they should have the gumption to come and defend it.

What’s the point of another Labour councillor?

Nancy is the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate in the Higham Hill by-election on 26 October. This is an edited extract from her leaflet.

Labour already has 45 councillors in Waltham Forest. Instead of voting for one more to put their hand up to cut our services and jobs, why not vote for a socialist fighter?

Nancy has campaigned to save libraries and youth services, campaigns for council homes instead of blocks of expensive flats, and isn’t afraid to stand alongside workers striking for a pay rise.

Nancy says:

“Many Labour councillors just trundle along to the council chamber, collect their expenses, and lead no resistance or make any stand against the devastating cuts, for fear of losing their positions and their potential future careers. We don’t need any more councillors like that.

There are many campaigns outside of election times, where our elected Labour councillors are nowhere to be seen. Like campaigns against the super-incinerator, cutting Higham Hill library service, the decimation of youth services, the fight for good community schools instead of business-run academies, or the rent and council tax rises.

People who are elected to stand up for us should be leading the fight against deteriorating services, and the impoverishment of more and more families. The profits of the rich are protected, and cuts cascaded into poor wards like Higham Hill.

But the Socialist Party and TUSC are not like that.

On every important issue that effects Higham Hill, Socialist Party members have been part of the campaign or have led the campaign. We are not only seen at election times, we can be seen every Saturday down the market, campaigning against low pay, supporting strikers, or campaigning against the monster blocks in the town square.”

You don’t have to vote Labour to keep out the Tories in Higham Hill. There’s no risk of the Tories winning. TUSC got more votes than the Tories in the 2022 Higham Hill election.

In the Socialist Party, we think it is clearer than ever that working-class people need a party of our own.

“Nancy was solid and unwavering in support of 63 tenants who fought a year-long battle from being evicted. We could not have won the battle without Nancy.” Butterfields residents.

“Nancy is a brilliant campaigner, who puts local people and services at the heart of all she does.” Sue Wills, chair of Save Higham Hill library.