Rachel Sylvester in the Times (£) - Privileged, out of touch and patronising — Momentum merely pretends to have working people’s best interests at heart:
In Hackney, you can get jellied eels in the pie and mash shop on Broadway Market or order avocado tartare and espresso martinis from the cocktail bar a few doors down. There is prosecco on tap at the café by the canal as well as pints on offer at the traditional East End pub.
This socially mixed London borough, where Victorian terraces fan out around 1960s council blocks, is a case study in gentrification. When I moved to the area 16 years ago, it was notorious for its “murder mile” where gangs clashed and gun and knife crime was rife. Although there are still stabbings, tech entrepreneurs have begun to open businesses along the route. The local economy is booming, and the schools are among the best in the country. At my son’s state primary, where almost a third of the children are eligible for the pupil premium, a measure of poverty, the results are impressive and lunches are cooked by a former Ottolenghi chef.
House prices have risen but there is plenty of social housing, and job opportunities have also grown. Instead of being a ghetto for the poor, Hackney has become a cosmopolitan area where wealthier families also want to live. This is surely a good thing but to leftwingers who have taken over the Labour Party, regeneration is something to be resisted at all costs. Jeremy Corbyn made a point of speaking out against “forced gentrification and social cleansing” in his party conference speech last year.
In neighbouring Haringey, the Labour council leader Claire Kober has been forced out after a campaign by leftwingers against a £2 billion redevelopment involving a public-private partnership that would have created 6,500 new homes. Although most of the residents of the crime-ridden, crowded estates who stood to benefit from the plan support it, it is being blocked by members of the left-wing pressure group Momentum who themselves live mainly in leafy middle-class streets....
The truth is that aspiration is being subsumed by ideology. Claire Kober believes there is a “left-wing version of nimbyism” that romanticises poverty and is every bit as reactionary as the tweed and wellies brigade that opposes housing developments in the Tory shires. This is elitist nostalgia masquerading as a campaign for social justice.
There is also a strong element of liberal paternalism. One Haringey councillor, out door-knocking in wealthy Muswell Hill, was told that those living in the borough’s most impoverished estates needed to be made to understand the “bigger picture” about the evils of public-private partnerships. The sense of the ends justifying the means may help to explain the violent undercurrent on the left where bullying, intimidation and political manipulation is widespread. If the “bigger picture” is more important than personal respect, then anything goes.
Nora Mulready, a welfare rights adviser who resigned her Labour Party membership over the Haringey row, thinks there has been a deliberate attempt to stoke division. “Gentrification is not social cleansing, it’s social mixing, but they don’t want that because they believe in class war,” she says. A key component of New Labour’s success in the 1990s was to associate the party with individual aspiration, which had long been the political property of the Tories. But now that same desire for self-improvement seems to be frowned upon by some on the left.
In his famous conference attack on the Militant Tendency in 1985, Neil Kinnock criticised the “rigid dogma” that was irrelevant to people’s real needs. “You can’t play politics with people’s jobs and with people’s services or with their homes,” the Labour leader said. Now it’s Momentum that is putting politics before people’s lives. The Marie Antoinettes of the left say “let them wave placards” while blocking regeneration schemes from the comfort of their own lovely, inherited homes.