Monday, 9 March 2009

Changing the world, one estate at a time

I’m learning all the time about the history of the area that I now represent – there’s nothing I’m more grateful for than a resident who’s willing to tell me how their area has changed over time, for better or for worse, especially now, when all the estates in Mile End East have been or will be changed significantly, as they have all transferred to RSLs who are now undergoing regeneration work.

A woman I spoke to on Saturday told me that she gave up being interested in politics because under Thatcher it was clear that no one cared about what people like her thought. She went to school in the 1970’s, and at an all girls school women’s lib changed how she thought about things, she felt like you could do stuff. Thatcher crushed that. She and others were proud of their estate when they first moved on to it, but decades of underinvestment, and changes being made despite rather than with residents, has meant a loss of that pride, creating anger and frustration.

I have to change that. I was elected as a councillor in November. There are plenty of people ready to use this woman’s sense of isolation to make political capital for themselves. I have to get her and others on the estate to make the most of the chances they have to shape this phase of local development – take the risk that they might be able to make a difference against the certainty of fruitless protest.

There is still a lot of East End working class pride in Mile End. Thatcher didn’t manage to crush that completely. I am determined that control of change on their estate is going to be given back to the residents, who must then work together to make sure all voices are heard in the battle to improve their area. Wish me luck.

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