Our big fat fairness failure

Yoshka Pundrik on the pending eviction of traveller families at Dale Farm

August 22, 2011
5 min read


Dale Farm resident Barbara Sheridan cooking in her caravan. Credit: Mary Turner

When David Cameron was asked at Prime Ministers’ Questions in March by Tory MP John Baron about the threatened eviction of 86 Traveller families from Dale Farm in Essex – now scheduled to take place at the end of August – the Prime Minister remarked that many feel ‘there is one law that applies to everybody else and, on too many occasions, another law that applies to Travellers’.

Indeed there is, but not in the way Cameron sees it. According to the Commission for Racial Equality, more than 90 per cent of Traveller planning applications are initially rejected compared to 20 per cent overall. In fact, many Gypsies and Travellers in the UK are trapped in a web of overlapping, systemic failures to respect their customs and preferences. This is compounded by lingering racism (a 2004 Mori poll revealed that one third of the public admit to being personally prejudiced against Gypsies and Travellers) and the legacy of years of exclusion. The Prime Minister’s comments betray a failure to acknowledge, and comprehend, the challenges facing this community.

Government legislation, planning restrictions and sale of public land have decimated the number of safe and legal stopping places for Gypsies and Travellers. The estimated 20 per cent of Gypsy and Traveller families without a legal place to stop often have to prioritise finding appropriate sites over health and education concerns, resulting in higher child mortality rates and lowered life expectancy. Attempts to purchase land for themselves, such as that made by the Dale Farm residents, face insurmountable obstacles: applications are opposed by local residents, sometimes vociferously. We’ve seen this at Meriden in Warwickshire and expect to see the same as Dale Farm residents continue to try to find a legal place to live.

Dale Farm itself is officially greenbelt land, but was a scrapyard when a group of residents bought it and turned it into a home for their families. Half the site has planning permission, the other half, home to about 500 people, does not. It is this half of the site that faces demolition by bailiffs Constant & Co. If recent evictions at other local sites are any indication, the operation is likely to be brutal and executed without regard for people’s possessions, safety or human rights under the law. The Council of Europe has already expressed concern about the UK’s approach in this case – and about Constant & Co in particular.

So determined are Basildon District Council to go through with the eviction that they haven’t been put off by the costs, which stand at an estimated £18 million including £10 million for policing. They’ve asked the Home Office for £6 million towards this policing bill: the Home Secretary, Theresa May, might actually make UK taxpayers foot the bill for this unnecessary eviction. Furthermore, as Rita Izsák, UN Independent Expert on minority issues, said to the UN News Centre: ‘The irony of this case is that these costs do not appear to include the provision of adequate alternative accommodation for the evicted families, which are soon to be rendered homeless.’

Against the backdrop of austerity Britain, the expense is even harder to comprehend. We’ve been asked to pay for the financial crisis caused by the banks, and now we’re being asked to pay in order to deliberately make people homeless. And pay dearly – 100 Basildon Council jobs are likely to be axed to help the local authority cope with budget cuts which will leave it £2.3 million short. Playing fields are being sold off to developers. The green belt is being destroyed in order to supposedly protect it from Travellers. They are also cutting £505,000 to disabled services. The Council wants vulnerable people in the settled community to suffer in order to make Travelling people suffer. When we can find £18 million to evict families from land they own, but can’t find the funds to keep nurseries, libraries and youth centres open, something has gone terribly wrong.

The most ridiculous part? Dale Farm Travellers have offered to leave at no cost to the Council, they just need somewhere to go. John Baron and David Cameron say the evictions are upholding the law, but the law isn’t being applied equally. The Council demands that Travellers move to authorised pitches, whilst refusing to make any available… It’s almost like it’s one rule for the rest, and another rule for the Travellers.

Yoshka Pundrik is a member of Basildon Uncut and Dale Farm Solidarity. For more information see dalefarm.wordpress.com


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally

Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility

Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports

From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices

How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed

In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design

Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform


82