Over 1,000 march for ‘Right to Food’ in Haringey

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A section of the 1,000-strong march on its way to Tottenham Green

Haringey Right to Food, organised a Hunger March through Tottenham on Saturday, 23 September.

A large crowd gathered outside the Spurs Football Stadium from 12 noon to hear speeches before the march set off down Tottenham High Road to Tottenham Green, big banners waving.

Chris Anglin, Tottenham College UCU branch chairman and member of the Workers Revolutionary Party, spoke of the severe economic crisis affecting the country and said that Tory cuts to local authorities are rendering them bankrupt, notably Birmingham City Council.

He warned that Local Authorities will be closing more and more facilities such as libraries and people would be faced with higher council tax, and renters would find more bailiffs coming round their homes.

‘The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate of inflation is 7.6%, the Retail Price Index (RPI) is 10% and food inflation is 13.5%. Prices are sky-rocketing in the shops.

‘Food is a basic right. Just like the right to clean water.

‘The University and College Union is balloting for national strike action.

‘This week, the junior doctors and the consultants came out against pay cuts of 35% over the last 15 years.

‘Also, the government announced the use of the new anti-union laws, the Minimum Service Levels bill – a law which enables an employer to sack a worker if they refuse to cross a picket line, and means a union can be fined a million pounds.

‘They are going to use this law against the doctors, and no doubt other workers like the teachers and local government workers.

‘The government is imposing so-called anti-inflationary pay cuts on the public sector. The trade unions must unite and call a general strike to defeat these measures, and set up Councils of Action, organisations like this, including tenants.

‘There is a public meeting of the Workers Revolutionary Party on 12 October in the Beehive pub in Bruce Grove to discuss the need to fight for the nationalisation of the food industry from commercial firms to the supermarkets. There has to be good food for all and action to defend tenants against evictions.

‘All the unions – from rail workers to lecturers to health workers – must unite to bring down the Tory government and go forward to a workers government and socialism.’

Sharon Noonan-Gunning of ‘Right to Food London’ announced there will also be a hunger strike march in Streatham, drawing supporters from the Elephant and Castle and the rest of south London.

She said: ‘The parliamentary “Right to Food Campaign” has been led by MP Ian Byrne from Liverpool West. Co-founders of this campaign have mobilised football fans to support food banks.

‘Ian works at a parliamentary level to get the right to food for everyone in law. We have to organise in all our communities and trade unions and build in every council estate in London.

‘London has great inequality, with areas of severe poverty, even where people are in work, especially affecting people of colour.

‘We organised during Covid to get food to the elderly. Life expectancy is now going down in this country, while infant mortality is stalling, and disease rates are going up. The NHS is falling apart.

‘We used to have Sure Start and community centres which could be hired out. 20 years ago, there was a network of school kitchens. But now these are outsourced to private companies like Sodexo. During the Covid pandemic, we had to rely on charities.

‘We want Sure Start, community centres and school kitchens restored to us. The right to food should be ensured in law.’

‘Every organisation must get onto the council estates and organise the food. Socialists have a duty to raise money to get that food into our council estates.

‘This is The Right to Food week. There are marches in Belfast and Liverpool as well as London. Ian Byrne insists that the first thing is to stop people starving.

‘Most London paediatricians will tell you that half the children in poverty are suffering from food deprivation causing illnesses like scurvy and vitamin D deficiency.

‘There are food drives by fans at Tottenham, Millwall and West Ham.

‘The Right to Food must be an issue at the London Mayoral elections and in the run up to the general election.’

An appeal was made by the partner of Marcus Decker for him not to be deported.

Decker and his co-campaigner Morgan Troyland organised the hanging of a ‘Just Stop Oil’ banner on the side of Dartford Bridge.

They were sent to prison for six months and then further sentenced to two years seven months, and three years respectively for this peaceful protest. Bt because German-borne Marcus does not have settled status, he is now awaiting deportation, leaving his partner and children in the UK.

Alison Davy, assistant organiser of the march and coordinator of Community Cook Up, spoke next, saying: ‘The many people forced to use food banks are hungry and angry. This is translated into feet on the ground in this march.’

She added: ‘Our first march was successful against the HDV (Haringey Development Vehicle – a massive private redevelopment of the centre of the borough).

‘If this had gone ahead it would have seen all the housing opposite Spurs Stadium being flattened and handed over for private development and the tenants scattered to the four winds like they were in the Aylesbury estate in South London.’

MD Hesketh, a youth worker and activist in Black Lives Matter, said: ‘Activism is the only way. We’ve seen the role of the guys in power during the pandemic. These are our streets. It’s our road. We have to take charge.’

Phil from Haringey National Education Union (NEU) said: ‘It’s marvellous to hear people demanding the right to food. We’re the fifth richest country in the world – it’s a disgrace that people have to use food banks.

‘MPs should be organising that this is a country where people do not have to use food banks.

‘In the NEU, we believe all children should have free school meals. We have this awful system where some children are entitled to them and others not. No child should not be entitled.

‘I know the people in power don’t care. We, as teachers have to co-fund “luxuries” – like dictionaries, and ceilings falling down. It’s shameful that portacabins have to be used to hold lessons in.

‘Workers of the RMT, in the NHS and traffic wardens are fighting back. Winning better pay helps the fight against food poverty.

‘The NEU organised individual days of action. What is noticeable is that, yes it was about pay, but it was also about decent funding for education, books and other essentials. This is a brilliant campaign.’

Steve Ballard, Chair of Enfield and Haringey Trades Council said: ‘The poor are getting hammered by the Tory government. It is corrupt and not remotely democratic. The Labour movement tries to be democratic. The problem is too many Labour MPs don’t have a clue, called on by a leader not to support picket lines. My union Unite has called many strikes.

‘My personal belief is that without abolishing private ownership of the land, we’ll never get enough food for ordinary people.’

Gary McFarlane from ‘Haringey Stand up to Racism’, said: ‘This government deliberately whips up racism to divert people’s attention.

‘One third of kids in London do not have enough food to eat.

‘The government is deliberately driving up the backlog of refugees and putting them in detention centres and trying to put them in barges with deathly diseases.

‘There are fascists in the Swedish and Italian governments and Le Pen is very active in France.

‘The strikes in Britain show that black and white unite. The UAW (United Auto Workers) is engaging in a big strike in the US. Even the US president, faced with an election coming up, had to join the workers on the picket line. The doctors are still striking in this country.

‘There is a conference on the 24 October in which Daniel Kabede (NEU) and Mick Whelan of ASLEF are speaking on fighting racism, and fighting fascism.

‘The real enemy in this country is the rich and powerful. Those like Braverman and Sunak are evil and need to be driven out of office.’

Reuben from ACORN Haringey said: ‘There is also a debt crisis in Haringey.

‘Haringey has 100,000 council tenants and refers 8,000 people a year to the bailiffs. One of these privatised bailiff companies posted a 67% rise in profits last year. They get paid £300 every visit, and they get this cut first before any of the debt gets paid back to the council.

‘Other boroughs, like Hammersmith and Fulham Council have got rid of bailiffs and come to agreements with tenants instead. Using bailiffs is a medieval way of dealing with debt in this borough.

‘There is a meeting at the Bernie Grant centre on Thursday 7.00pm on Food, Wages and Bailiffs.’

Anne Grey from Haringey Over 50s Forum said: ‘The triple lock should apply to everyone for all benefits, not just pensions, but for Universal Credit and benefits for the disabled.

‘Housing, benefits and social care for all ages must be a right.’

Nicola Taylor, Labour Councillor in Erith and member of the Right to Food Campaign said: ‘Every day more people go hungry.

‘Apsana Begum MP for Poplar and Limehouse, and other MPs, will continue to fight for the right to food. 11 million people in the UK go hungry, two million of them in London including many children.

‘Hunger is a political choice. Such people will also be hungry for change. The Tories have been making cuts for 13 years. We should really be cutting the Tories.

‘There should be free school meals. We should highlight the plight of the elderly. One in four elderly who go into care homes suffer from malnutrition. There are not enough care workers in these homes, and they are on minimum wage and have to use food banks themselves.

‘Ocado donates to a food project, but their workers do 12-hour days.

‘The situation is now a perfect storm with this housing crisis. So many have to spend what little they have on processed cooked food. One Tory MP, had the cheek to say: “We just need them to learn to cook properly.”

‘Does he know what it’s like to have to share a kitchen with 14 others, to have a single ring cooker and find that the electricity runs out halfway through cooking. People ask us for food that does not need a refrigerator because they can’t afford the electricity.

‘Every borough across London is involved in the Right for Food.

‘We are working for the day when food banks will be underused. That workers can buy their own food should be a fundamental right.

‘We shall bite the hand that doesn’t feed us!’

The march down Tottenham High Road to Tottenham Green ended in a festival of resistance with food, and more speeches.

The WRP banner read: ‘Call a general strike now to kick the Tories out,’ slogans which were shouted by its supporters and taken up by many on the march, as well as ‘Nationalise the corporate food industry and the supermarkets. Food is a basic right’.

Haringey Right to Food is sponsored by Unite Community Haringey and Barnet branch, Right to Food London Haringey, and Haringey Community Action Network.

Many organisations contributed to the event providing food, tables and chairs, banners and stewards etc, including Tottenham Food bank, PCS and Unite unions, ‘Community Cook Up’ and many others.

Haringey Right to Food is a campaigning group of residents who want everyone to have access to good quality affordable food, and an end to the need for food banks.