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‘Fight for your lives’: Rallying cry of Islington tenants as hundreds march in Housing Bill protest

PUBLISHED: 15:10 13 March 2016 | UPDATED: 15:42 13 March 2016

Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury, joins residents and supporters outside Lincoln's Inn Fields. She led the final stretch of the march opposing the government's Housing and Planning Bill. Picture: Vickie Flores

Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury, joins residents and supporters outside Lincoln's Inn Fields. She led the final stretch of the march opposing the government's Housing and Planning Bill. Picture: Vickie Flores

Vickie Flores/Archant

Hundreds of furious Islington tenants today marched on central London to protest the government Housing Bill dubbed as “David Cameron’s poll tax”.

Islington residents and supporters gather outside the former Clerkenwell fire station as they prepare to take part in a protest opposing the government's Housing and Planning Bill. Picture: Vickie FloresIslington residents and supporters gather outside the former Clerkenwell fire station as they prepare to take part in a protest opposing the government's Housing and Planning Bill. Picture: Vickie Flores

Around 350 gathered outside the former Clerkenwell fire station in Rosebery Avenue before heading to Lincoln’s Inn Fields, where they joined thousands of fellow protesters from across London.

The Islington contingent was led by South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry, who passionately led loud renditions of “kill, kill, the Housing Bill”.

The government claims the Bill will boost home ownership, but Islington tenants are angry at its “pay to stay” policy. This would force councils to charge households earning more than £40,000 a year at the same rates as the private sector, which one man estimated would be an extra £400 a week. Many tenants fear they will be pushed out of their homes - and out of the borough.

Islington residents and supporters gathered outside the former Clerkenwell fire station before taking part in a protest opposing the government's Housing and Planning Bill. Picture: Vickie FloresIslington residents and supporters gathered outside the former Clerkenwell fire station before taking part in a protest opposing the government's Housing and Planning Bill. Picture: Vickie Flores

Leading Islington councillors attended today’s rally in support of the protest. Cllr Gary Doolan said: “This is David Cameron’s poll tax.”

In a rousing speech outside the fire station that was wildly applauded by the assembled crowd, tenant Julie Hunt, of Danbury Street, Islington, said: “I have never seen such an atrocious attack. I am being made to feel like a scrounger when I pay my rent every week.

“Make no mistake about it - you are going to have to fight for your lives. Organise your neighbours and bring this government down.

Islington residents and supporters march along Rosebery Avenue in a protest opposing the government's Housing and Planning Bill. Picture: Vickie FloresIslington residents and supporters march along Rosebery Avenue in a protest opposing the government's Housing and Planning Bill. Picture: Vickie Flores

“They don’t give a s*** about us and we have to stop them. They are coming to get you. Let’s bring this s***ty bill down.”

The march then moved onto the highway - holding up traffic - as it snaked through Theobalds Road, Camden, before arriving at Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

Mrs Thornberry, who led the final stage of the march, told the Gazette: “The more people who understand what this bill is about, the more angry people will be.

"Kill, kill, the housing bill!' A woman leads chanting against the government's Housing and Planning Bill as Islington residents and supporters marched towards Lincoln's Inn Fields this morning. Picture: Vickie Flores

“You can be a single parent who brings their son up properly, and who wants to get a job, only to be told he can’t because otherwise the rent will quadruple.

“Time and again, the Tories keep attacking social housing - but this is the worst of them all. What makes Islington unique is its mixed communities and we will not accept this social cleansing.”

Islington North MP and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was not present - he was said to be in the north of England today.

Emily Thornberry MP and Diane Abbott MP with Islington councillors in Lincoln's Inn Fields at a protest opposing the government's Housing and Planning Bill, before it moved towards central London. Picture: Vickie FloresEmily Thornberry MP and Diane Abbott MP with Islington councillors in Lincoln's Inn Fields at a protest opposing the government's Housing and Planning Bill, before it moved towards central London. Picture: Vickie Flores

‘How could the government be so nasty?’

Rich Cowley, 57, of Sebbon Street, Islington, was one of the first protesters to arrive at the fire station meeting point in Clerkenwell this morning.

He told the Gazette: “We live in a council flat and will mainly be affected by ‘pay to stay’. We are two adults and two children who are of working age. We are going to be charged market rent which means it could jump to an extra £400 a week.

Three generations of Islington residents (son Joe Cowley, dad Rich Cowley, grandma Maggie Paterson, son Sam Cowley and mum Bindy Cowley) prepare to take part in a protest opposing the government's Housing and Planning Bill outside the former Clerkenwell fire station. Picture: Vickie FloresThree generations of Islington residents (son Joe Cowley, dad Rich Cowley, grandma Maggie Paterson, son Sam Cowley and mum Bindy Cowley) prepare to take part in a protest opposing the government's Housing and Planning Bill outside the former Clerkenwell fire station. Picture: Vickie Flores

“It means we would have to consider leaving London or giving up work. That’s how ridiculous it is.

“I can’t believe the government could be so nasty, and mean-minded. I heard 90 Tory MPs are landlords - it’s as if they are doing this for their mates.

“I am hopeful we can defeat this if enough people stand up. Ordinary people are under attack and will not put up with it.”

George Jones, 57, a council tenant from Newington Green, said: “I am here to protest against the organised theft by this government - a criminal act to steal what belongs to the people of this borough and put in the hands of private capital.

“Islington Council has a moral duty to block this attack, regardless of the vote in Parliament. If they don’t do that, they will be betraying their constituents - although I appreciate they are in an awkward position.”


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