London is a city at war with its poor, governed by a political class apparently bent on demolishing enough social housing that oligarchs, bankers and property developers might be left alone to carve it up for their own savage, greed-crazed reasons.
So last week, sitting with almost 100 people gathered at the Osmani community centre in Whitechapel to launch a manifesto crowd-sourced from some of the city’s most marginalised people felt like a fundamentally different way of doing politics.
Take Back the City are a group loosely modelled after the Spanish socialists who were so successful in their country’s municipal elections last year. In Barcelona, housing activist Ada Colau was elected Mayor as part of the citizens’ platform Barcelona en Comú, while in Madrid a similar group named Ahora Madrid took 32 percent of the vote, becoming their council’s second-largest party.
Although Take Back the City were publicly endorsed by Barcelona en Comú yesterday, they cannot hope to match those victories. For a start, they’re only running one candidate for the London Assembly, in the City and East constituency. She is Amina Gichinga, a charismatic 26-year-old singing teacher who says the fact that Spanish activists are now in city hall at least tells voters the model can work.