Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

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

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe

How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency

Empire en vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy

Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network

Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker

In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing

After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry

Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again

Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood

7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.

After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani

If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945

On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.

Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow

The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite

Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

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


82