Interview with Tottenham Community Press
I was delighted to be interviewed by the new local newspaper Tottenham Community Press for their January-February 2017 edition.
The interview is not online but a free copy can be picked up all over Tottenham including at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Marcus Garvey Library and St Ann's Library as well as in many shops and cafes.
We discussed a lot of local issues. I have copied a couple of excerpts from the interview below.
What are some to the biggest issues we face in Tottenham?
I think crime, gangs and anti-social behaviour. Nobody is saying that these things are happening everyday, nobody is saying that they want to be defined by that caricature but these are threats to cohesion and safety of our community and very large issues for 99% of our young people going to school and back from school and it’s something that parents in Tottenham worry about...
I think the other tensions are on regeneration and gentrification. That’s not new to Tottenham; that’s a story right across London but it is a tension and part of that is driven by a serious, chronic, debilitating, unacceptable lack of social housing and affordable housing. The local authority are unable to provide council housing any more because the government is not supporting it or giving grants. When they do, people are buying them straight away and they’re off the market.
My job is very much focused on the problems... but at the same time, [I am] determined not to talk my constituency into a hole and into a stereotype. Everyone who lives in Tottenham knows that it is a concentrated area of neighbourhoods, neighbourliness, cohesion, generosity, of vibe, of spirit, of culture. There’s a reason we’ve produced Skepta, Adele, Wretch 22, this is not by accident; this is a very powerful neighbourhood in London.
What are your views on unemployment in the area and can you see anything changing?
I get the unemployment figures every month and the figures say they are running about 4.4% and unemployment in Tottenham is nowhere near what is was in the 80s but having said that I am very suspicious of the figures. Because that is not what I recognise on our high-street! I think the government has done a lot of gerrymandering!
The other thing that’s gone on is – as anyone that’s seen I, Daniel Blake, will tell you – people have just given up. They’re not signed on. They’ve been sanctioned and they are not on the register. What we are creating is something that we see in the states, a work-less class and the consequences of a work-less class. It’s often men in their 20s and 30s and they are idle and the tendency towards criminality is obvious... That’s what I worry about.
That’s why I’m passionately against Brexit because in the end the only hope for these men is better economic times and the prospect of some work and Brexit is a serious risk to Tottenham... In the end any risk to the economy means more of those men walking the streets with nothing to do... I hate to be that negative but that’s how I see it. There are real mental health consequences to that kind of pressure, there are real challenges for addictions, particularly drug addiction with the aimlessness that goes with that to how people self-medicate to make themselves feel better… Those are big challenges that make me very vociferous.