Vole O'Speed

Subscribe to Vole O'Speed feed
Mostly about cycling in the
"Biking Borough"of Brent
and elsewhere in London,
but also touching on
environment, politics,
philosophy, science,
society, music and art
Updated: 5 min 19 sec ago

Antisemitism in Labour

3 May, 2016 - 20:18
Disclaimer: I'm not a member of the Labour Party, or a registered supporter. I'm not Jewish, but I have a Jewish background and live with a Jew.

The business of 'antisemitism within the Labour Party' is basically nonsense. The affair is clearly constructed to undermine Jeremy Corbyn by his opponents both inside and outside the party and fed off by an uncritical press. There's just no evidence for the accusation of real antisemitism being a significant trend in the Labour Party (unlike various types of racism being significant trends in several other major parties).

The worrying thing to me is that the very terrm is losing its meaning. People are forgetting what real antisemitism is. There appears to be an attempt by some to define critical comment on Israel as 'antisemitic'. This is an affront to freedom of speech and is illiberal.

Indeed, it should be possible to argue even against the existence of the state of Israel in its current form – that is, in favour of a completely different political settlement for all the peoples in that region of the Middle East – and not be accused of antisemitism. (I am not going to do that here, but it should be possible, according to the supposed maxim of Voltaire I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.) The states of the world are artificial creations and we must be able, in free and liberal debate to question, not merely the actions and policies, but the existence of any of them, or to argue that the world would be better not organised into independent states at all, but in some other way. After all, the way states cut across ethnic and religious divides is a problem all over the world, not just in the Middle East. It's wrong to try to shut down such debate with accusations of various kinds of racism. Racism, hatred and prejudice based on race, of which antisemitism is a special case, is nothing to do with this, indeed it lies at an opposite, irrational, pole of discourse.

Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone is not a racist in any way and I don't believe he is an antisemite. He does very make ill-judged comments. As has been pointed out in a perceptive piece by Adam Ramsay, though it is true that Hitler did at some stages of his career propose transporting Jews to Israel, to mention this is the flippant way he did, just before mentioning 'Zionism', risks, without much more detailed clarification, recalling a truly antisemitic conspiracy narrative of 'Zionists being being in league with Hitler'. I doubt Livingstone was aware of this, but he should have been aware of the fact that,  as Ramsay writes,
The speed with which conversations about anything relating to Jewishness in politics return to something relating to the man who murdered the parents or grandparents of many of the Jewish people around today must be deeply hurtful for huge numbers. It's generally not appropriate to turn such conversations to Hitler and Nazis without a very compelling reason.Saying in his next sentence Hitler had 'gone mad' in order to kill six million Jews (and many others) compounded the problem because 'madness', or insanity, is an argument used to try to reduce culpability for those accuse of murder and other heinous crimes: it is a legal defence that barristers try to use to diminish punishment for those accused. Nobody argues that Hitler was 'mad' in that sense, and I don't think Livingstone meant that, he was talking casually. But his words could be misinterpreted as an attempt to 'clean up' Hitler, which is actually the last thing I believe he was trying to do.

Livingstone's later attempted clarification of his remarks tended to make matters worse. Speaking on BBC Two he said:
A real antisemite doesn’t just hate the Jews in Israel, they hate their Jewish neighbours in Golders Green or Stoke Newington, it’s a physical loathing.Clearly if you 'hate the Jews in Israel' you are an anti-semite, full stop. And racism may not be a 'physical loathing'. It may be just a vague background framework of attitudes. But to build a case on the basis of these remarks for Livingstone himself being 'antisemitic' is loading far too much meaning on to flip comments and slips like the preposition in that sentence 'just'. I predict that Labour's investigation into him will end up exonerating him of the charge of antisemitism,  cautioning him to speak more carefully in future, and re-instating him to party membership.

There are bad eggs in every basket, but the Labour Party has actuially been fantastically hot at investigating all claimed cases of racism, including antisemitism, in its ranks, unlike other parties. This is in its tradition and nature. But we see, simultaneously, Conservative candidate for London mayor Zac Goldsmith running a thinly-veiled anti-Islamic campaign against the Labour candidate Sadiq Khan (A campaign which, I predict also, will do him very little good in this cosmopolitan city.)

Livingstone has often made silly and insensitive comments on various topics. They should be ignored and people should move on. This is not antisemitism. It's a storm in an anti-Corben and Conservative teacup.

I hope to return to London cycling matters shortly. In the meantime, I agree wholeheartedly with the voting recommendations (and rationale) of Londoners on Bikes.
Categories: Views

Demo on CS 11 tomorrow: show support for a cycle highway for NW London and a tranquil Regent's Park

10 March, 2016 - 19:51
When 'The Regent's Park' was laid out by John Nash and his associates in the early 1800s, the Outer Circle road was created, to quote a contemporary document, 'for the purpose of exercise'. At the time, this meant walking and horse-riding. When the villas around the park were built, it also provided access to them. When the wealthy who lived there aquired motor cars in the 20th century, of course they started using those on the Outer Circle. Because the Outer Circle remained connected to the roads around, via seven gates, it became a convenient cut-through for anyone using a motor car. There was no way to separate the cars of those who lived there from people passing through. Though the gates were closed late at night, and signs were put up banning commercial vehicles (but taxis were never banned), the Outer Circle became a rat-run, a dangerous and unpleasant barrier within the park, that greatly reduced its effective area, both through the noise and pollution experienced near the road, and because the road cut off the circle of the park outside it from the main body.
I've been campaigning to reverse this undesirable situation, with many other local people and groups, since around 2004. Note that I have not so far mentioned cycling. Though Camden Cyclists have been campaigning for the removal of through-traffic from the Outer Circle for all that time, the argument has never been primarily about cycling. It has been to resore the Outer Circle and Park to its rightful and proper purposes, as laid out by John Nash: an area for recreation and exercise, not traffic. An area free from noise and pollution. A park. The Outer Circle is needed for motor access to car parks, the zoo, to premises around the park, but it is not nededed as a through-road. It is closely paralleled by other roads that through-traffic should be using instead: Park Road (A41), Marylebone road (A501), Albany Street (A4021) and Prince Albert Road (A5025).

Finally, we now have a solid plan that will achieve our goal. The plans for Cycle Superhighway 11 (CS 11) from Portland Place to Swiss coittage, though falling short of the route we were previously promised, all the way to Brent Cross, at least in this phase, solve the problem of Regent's Park traffic to a considerable extent. They propose the closure of four of the gates: Macclesfield Bridge (Avenue Road),  Hanover Gate, York Gate and Park Square East and West, for most of the day, as shown below.

The other major element of this plan is a proposal to completley re-design Swiss Cottage gyratory system. This is another thing that so many in the borough of Camden and beyond have looked forward to for a very long time. All routes to the south of Hampstead and West Hapstead converge on this junction, with has long been a barrier to creating a decent cycle network in Camden. The plan for this horrible, filthy 1960s sea of traffic isolationg the famous Swiss cottage pub and the Odeon Cinema is that it should be removed entirely. The bulk of the traffic will be taken down an A41 made continuous, and two-way, on the west side of the current gyratory, while the eastern side, outside the Hampstead Theratre, the theatre school and the library, will be turned into a bus-only road, with wide pavements, trees down the middle, and segregated cycle tracks. This will be a massive environmental transformation of the area, and one for which many people have fought hard for a very long time.

How the CS11 plan will replace a sea of traffic with an oasis of calm at the north end of Avenue RoadThe section of Avenue road south of Adelaide Road will not be car-free, but it will become far less convenient a route for general traffic, as to reach it traffic from the north will need to turn left from Finchley Road thd then right. Furthermore, for most of the day, it will not give access to Regent's Park or towards the West End. It will represent a legely pointless detour for those who do not have specific business in Avenue Road or adjacent residential roads. We will see an end to so much traffic from the north, Finchley Road and Fitzjohn's Avenue, bombing past Swiss Cottage and into Regent's Park via Avenue Road. That traffic will largely stick to the A41, where it belongs.

The scheme is far from perfect in my view. We need the closures of the gates to be full time (there is an exception betwweren 11am and 3pm) and we really need the southern part of Avenue Road more fully closed to traffic (traffic can still turn left or right into Prince Albert Road under these plans) as there is only room for painted (mandatory) cycle lanes on the southern part of Avenue Road, not for segregated tracks, as we have seen on other recent Cycle Superhighways. However, this scheme gives so many of the big wins that campaigners (not just cyclists) have been looking for in this part of London for so long, we all need to support it. It represents a brave move by Boris Johnson, Transport for London, and Camden Council.

But the forces ranged agains CS 11 are strong. There has been a major campaign against it mounted by NIMBYs and those wedded to motor vehicle domination of London, with its attendent epedemics of pollution, isolation, exclusion and inactivity. 2400 people have signed a petition agains CS 11:


Furthermore, local papers have uniformly been reporting CS 11 negatively, in terns of 'howls of protest' supposedly emanating from many and various quarters: to give a flavour of the nonsense that's being spread here's extracts from some articles:

Clive Beecham, chair of the St John’s Wood High Street association said the plan to restrict vehicular access to Regent’s Park from 11am-3pm would create “traffic chaos” as drivers looked for alternative routes.

He said: “By redirecting traffic through St John’s Wood what you are doing is storing up traffic chaos for the next ten to 15 years. “If they shut off Avenue Road it will be a complete nightmare. As residents we should have the right to use the route through Regent’s park. He added: “It’s also going to be the worst possible thing for the High Street because the impact of traffic in one area is like a domino affect on others. As a community we need to rebel against it.------------- Stephen Lewis, who lives in Lyttleton Close, Swiss Cottage, said bicycles could be like “cholesterol clogging up London’s arteries”. “If London were a human body, it would be facing an invasion of cholesterol which threatens the arteries,” he said. “In this case, for cholesterol read cyclists. We are slowly being strangled by measures implemented to facilitate the journeys for cyclists but at the cost of slowly squeezing out other road users.”Swiss Cottage resident Ian Braidman said: “St John’s Wood and Primrose Hill, to the east and west of Avenue Road and Finchley Road, will become a rat-run for cars endeavouring to escape the traffic congestion this is designed to create.” ------------- Actor Tom Conti, who is campaigning against the project, told the West End Extra: “It will cause mayhem. The whole area will be destroyed – but it will not happen. We are going to make this a national issue. A bike lane from Portland Place to Brent Cross will be absolutely massive. There will be a solid queue to Hatfield. Cyclists should be made to pay road tax. If they want a special road, they should have to pay for it. “This is the beginning of some kind of Soviet idea to ban all vehicular traffic from London.”---------

There's loads more like this, and it's not just the reporters on the local press, or fossilised white males breathing petrol fumes who are opposed. A group calling itslf "NW8 Mums; a community for all our mums' (seemingly without irony) has published this exhortation:
We cannot understand how this scheme was ever even thought of, let alone that it might be allowed to go through. We must all work hard and together to make them see sense and drop it, before all our lives are ruined.' Worse, Westminster Council seem to be doing all they cvan to stop the plan. They have organised higly biased 'public meetings' where offiers have briefed against TfL's plans and have given no real platform for the supporters of CS11, who have been howled down by angry mobs. Westminster's Councillor Robert Rigby has said at one of these meetings, as reported by my correspondent (and this is likely to be the official view of Westminster Council):
· Residents do not believe the results of modelling [TfL modelling that demonstrates little increase on traffic on other local roads]. · The Outer Circle can accommodate all road users. · If a cycle track can be created along Birdcage Walk, despite heritage considerations, something could be done for cyclists on the Outer Circle [Note he doesn't explain what]. · Pollution will get worse, both on main roads and on side roads. · No account has been taken of HS2. · Closing the park gates is a step too far.Local politicians are hearing the noise and nonsense arguments from the opponents of CS 11 too loudly. This has to be challenged, or the scheme will fail. London Cycling Campaign, Camden Cyclists, and the others who support CS11 and  traffic-free Regents Park, including Camden Friends of the Earth, the Canal and River Trust, and Westminster living Streets, have decided enough is enough, and we are organising a protest to make some noise in support of cycling, CS11, a clean, green park, and less domination of NW London by motor traffic.

The protest and ride is at 6:00-7:0pm tomorrow, Friday 11 March, starting at Park Square East. Everyone is welcome on bike, foot, wheelchairs, or mobility scooters. Bring banners ands make a noise. We will be riding slowly a circuit including Park Square East and West, Outer Circle and Marylebone Road.

If you can come, and also if you can, be absolutely sure to fill in the consultation by 20 March. Don't only to only tick the overall/first section “support” button, but also tick Swiss Cottage support, gate closures, Portland Place segregated tracks etc., support specifically. More responding hints from LCC here.

We know that proper, serious, cilty-changing cycle schemes are massively popular: witness the 60-80% approval ratings for the consultations on vareious sections of TfL's East-West Cycle Superhighway, currently cutting a dramatic swathe through Parliament Square. But they also create fear, noise, and misguided panic in a place that has been so long in thrall to the car and the concept of engineering the environment around it, rather than around people on foot and bike.

Protest, ride, write to the papers, lobby your councillors, answer the consultation, and help make London a little bit more like the clean, civilised New Renaissance city that visionary architects and planners of the past, like Nash, and Christopher Wren before him, dreamed of. Please support CS11.

Here comes Madge!* Cycling infrastructure and roads reclaimed from motor traffic help all those who are excluded by a motor-dominated transport system, not just 'cyclists'.

*She may not really be called that.
Categories: Views