Saturday, 23 August 2008

"In Good Company"

My local newspaper (Newham Recorder) last week carried a report that alleged; two neighborhoods are among 15 council wards with the highest number of criminal residents. Revealed apparently by the Metropolitan Police in a new bid to cut offending. Police say each one of the wards contain hundreds of serious criminals - who are believed to lore others into a life of crime.

Canning Town North and Forest Gate South were identified by analysis of criminals' home address. The report concluded by saying that there is a plan to monitor and assist people released from prison in these areas, with the aim of preventing them falling back into crime.

I moved to Canning Town North about two years ago having been 'decanted' by the council from my previous residence, so as to make way for the 2012 Olympics. So you can imagine how delighted I was to discover that I'd moved into a neighbourhood of good company. I love living in Canning Town, it's got history, character and plenty of atmosphere, despite it being in the top 5 per cent of the most deprived areas in the UK with local people suffering from poor health low education and poverty, a recent report to Newham council stated that 1 in 2 children live in poverty.

In 1809, an Act of Parliament was passed for the construction of the Barking Road. Originally known as Hallsville, the area is thought to be named for the first Viceroy of India, Charles John Canning, who suppressed the Indian Mutiny about the time the district expanded. Today Canning Town is changing and soon it will look very different as the area is currently undergoing a 1.7 billion regeneration. Looking down Barking Road I always notice the huge Banks and buildings of Canary Wharf, home to the real criminality in the world, and if I look out of my living room window I have a view of the Royal Docks City Airport and the ExCel international exhibition and conference center, the host venue for the British Motor Show, the London Boat show and the International Arms Fair an exhibition of the latest in weapons of mass destruction. This event sponsored by our own government, has in the past invited defence officials from countries with questionable human rights records, including Libya, Saudi Arabia, China and Indonesia. Incidentally the ExCel center is now owned by the United Arab Emirates government who acquired it for £318 million.

Things certainly ain't wot they use to be - or are they? The other day I shared a table with this nice OAP in the cafe in Rathbone Market, he recalled unlocked front doors, gossiping grannies sitting outside on their chairs along the street, the cheery market banter, barrel organs, knife grinders, street cries, pie-and-eel shops, chestnut vendors, pawn shops, the old pianos wheeled out on to the pavement, beer flowing and the neighbourhood knees up mother Brown, kids swinging on lamp Post, skipping calling every other person 'auntie' or 'uncle' a sense of community spirit he said; "so powerful that not even the bombs and doodlebugs could break it." But behind the nostalgia he said: "Things were, so bad at home money-wise we were actually starving. I used to go to school in bare feet in frost." This wonderful old man left me with the impression that the working class East Ender in particular found something that money can't buy, and children never doubted where they belonged or who they were. I remember that the late Queen Mother said something about looking the East End in the eye after the palace received a bomb courtesy of Hitler, during the war. But the truth is that the ruling class have never been able to look workers in the eye when committing its daily great crime in the world as a whole. Increasing international competition is creating a 'race to the bottom' in labour rights, resulting in straightforward exploitation for many and increasing stress at work and job insecurity for others. The under-funding of health and education is resulting in declining public services for many in both North and South. Overall, poverty is rising in many countries - while inequality is increasing almost everywhere. The proof of the evils and inadequacies come when capitalism blames the workers.

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