Politicians distrusted? Ask Lambeth’s housing co-ops

Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Croydon North, says that it has taken him a year of working at Westminster to realise… People. Don’t. Trust. Politicians.

Power to the people! Has MP Steve Reed been channelling his inner Wolfie Smith?

Power to the people! Has MP Steve Reed been channelling his inner Wolfie Smith?

Is this what the acronym NSS* was invented for?

After all, Reed had spent a decade prior to becoming an MP as a elected councillor in Lambeth. The concept of distrust in politics might, just might, have occurred to him during that period.

Today, Reed was writing for the Guardian newspaper’s Comment is Free site, where he suggested that one of the reasons for the public’s distrust of politicians “is that most politicians don’t trust the people”.

Reed wrote: “Too many politicians think power is something for themselves rather than something to be shared with people and communities… ”

Anyone familiar with the career of Reed will already sense where he might be going with this. We’re heading towards the Lambeth co-operative council where, under Reed as its leader, “Lambeth became the fastest-improving [sic] council in the country”. That’s according to Reed’s profile on the website of Progress, the “party within a party” for unapologetic Blairites, and of which Reed is a vice-chair.

There’s a chance that Reed may have written his own profile for Progress. The reason for that supposition is that Reed’s Progress profile, like his Wikipedia entry, makes no mention of how the then leader of Lambeth ordered council staff to spy on the emails of his fellow Labour councillors. Big Brother was walking the corridors of Brixton Town Hall.

There’s no mention on his Progress profile, either, of how Reed had to face a misconduct hearing when he disclosed personal information about another councillor.

Nor is there any mention of how Lambeth’s “co-operative” council is sending in the bailiffs to enforce compulsory eviction of the tenants of…  housing co-operatives.

This eviction policy – which was introduced when Reed was still council leader – has created a massive amount of resentment in Lambeth where, not unreasonably, many “ordinary” people, the hard-working tax-payers, suggest that it is the action of a singularly unco-operative council.

Julian Hall, a Lambeth co-operative tenant for more than a decade, said: “These were self-reliant, autonomous communities swapping skills, repairing each other’s houses within their means: a living, breathing community. Few of its members are likely to live in such collaborative neighbourhoods again.” 

There is more about the Lambeth co-operative evictions in a detailed piece published last month in the New Statesman, here.

Right, left and centre: Croydon North MP Steve Reed OBE

Right, left and centre: Croydon North MP Steve Reed OBE

It is the sort of behaviour, others might suggest, that has seen the public come to distrust politicians. You know: saying one thing, but then doing another.

But according to Reed today, “Labour’s policy review is taking a radical new direction in seeking to hand power to the people.” Power to the people? For a moment, Reed seems like he has channelled his inner Wolfie Smith.

“It’s time for politicians to stop trying to manage people and start giving them what they need to take back control of their own lives.” A bit like the Lambeth housing co-ops, right, Steve?

“I was leader of Lambeth Council until my election to parliament 14 months ago. I was struck by how much better public services worked when the people using them had a bigger say over what they did,” he wrote, presumably thinking of the Lambeth housing co-operatives.

Reed in fact cites the example of a sink council housing estate in his former ward in Lambeth (the borough where he chooses to continue to live, with his two cats, since becoming MP for Croydon North). The housing estate has been transformed, Reed says. “Why? Because residents elected a board, who appointed their own housing managers. With direct accountability to tenants, services improved dramatically. The estate now has far higher standards of repairs and less crime, and is much cleaner than similar estates in the area.”

It all sounds very much like the housing co-operatives, from which Reed’s former council, Lambeth, is now having the disabled, OAPs and other tenants forcibly evicted.

“We need to change the way public services work, because they work best when they listen to their users. They provide better value for money that way too,” Reed said. “…That means letting go and handing people the power they need to build a better future for everyone.”

Just like the housing co-operatives in Lambeth?

And politicians wonder why people don’t trust them.

[*In case you didn’t know, NSS = “no shit Sherlock”]


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in 2014 council elections, 2015 General Election, Croydon North, Housing, Lambeth Council, Outside Croydon, Steve Reed MP and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Politicians distrusted? Ask Lambeth’s housing co-ops

  1. firegut says:

    “Reed in fact cites the example of a sink council housing estate in his former ward in Lambeth (the borough where he chooses to continue to live, with his two cats, since becoming MP for Croydon North).”

    Reaching a bit there. A snipe because someone who lives in Lambeth and becomes MP for Croydon doesn’t move a couple of miles down the road?

    • Not at all.

      In a piece that highlights politicians’ hypocrisy, it is important that the principal of expecting MPs to live in their constituency should be highlighted in all instances.

      Not one Croydon MP lives in his (they are all “hes”) constituency.

      We regularly criticise Ottaway for lying over his intentions (and profiting from MPs’ allowances) and chastise Barwell similarly.

      It is right, and relevant, that Reed’s practice in this respect should attract similar criticism

    • Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Croydon North, has been in touch to point out that he is no longer a Streatham resident.

      Since the New Year, he has moved to Croydon. But not, it seems, Croydon North. So Croydon’s record of not having a single MP living in their constituency continues…

  2. I agree that Councillors and MPs should live where they are elected to serve.
    People do not trust politicians because, once elected, a lot of them seem to believe they can do as they please and ignore the people who elected them.
    And, once elected, they also want to stay on forever. Not healthy.

  3. davidcallam says:

    Is this the same co-operative model that Labour proposes to introduce in Croydon if the electorate is silly enough to give it a majority in the forthcoming council elections?

  4. Pingback: Lambeth Council Cabinet members take time out from busy day jobs to have a look around the borough

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